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House Republicans’ Annual Retreat Sure Was a Total Disaster

“They should have opened the casino,” one GOP lawmaker bluntly said.

Mike Johnson speaks at a podium outside. Steve Scalise behind him holds his hand to his forehead.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Less than half of the Republican caucus opted to go to its own retreat at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort this week, resulting in an event jam-packed with unused room keys and empty tables rather than people—but even the small cohort that did attend went away unhappy.

“They should have opened the casino,” one GOP lawmaker told The Daily Beast, referring to a gambling hall in the basement that party leaders decided to keep closed.

The poorly attended event was just another mar on the record for a disjointed conservative party, which found itself condensing a two-and-a-half-day schedule into roughly 24 hours thanks to the tiny turnout. Rather than talk shop and make nice, lawmakers spent the day away at the hotel bar or out golfing, while others dipped out shortly after arriving. One GOP aide described attendance as “abysmal” in comparison to the weekly conference meetings, according to the outlet.

Invited guest speakers also opted not to join, including GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and marquee speaker Fox News Business host Larry Kudlow, who pulled out of the event at the last minute.

Party members blasted Speaker Mike Johnson and the rest of the GOP leadership team for the lackluster affair, pointing to a lack of cohesion and unity that some claimed stemmed from the very top.

“Unity starts at the top,” one Republican told the Beast. “If you’re not unified as a leadership team, you’re not going to be unified as a body. It’s just not going to happen. So I think they need to build cohesiveness.”

Another claimed that Johnson didn’t have the same political pizzazz as his predecessor, ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was capable of pulling information from all sectors of the Republican caucus via a team of informants.

“I’m not sure that Speaker Mike Johnson has that or has even tried to bring that together,” the lawmaker said.

But Johnson had his own complaints, reportedly telling the conference that he’s been running on three hours of sleep since taking the gavel and battling “internecine warfare” between Republicans, according to Punchbowl News.

Altogether, it’s another bad omen for the health of the legislature, which is witnessing resignations en masse, citing similar complaints of Republican infighting and lack of competency. On Tuesday, Colorado Representative Ken Buck submitted his resignation in a hurry, giving less than two weeks’ notice for the historically coveted job, which surprised everyone, including his boss, Speaker Mike Johnson.

Trump-Backed MAGA Senate Candidate Linked to Gay Hookup Site

Ohio’s Bernie Moreno is trying to blame someone else for his presence on the site.

Joe Maiorana/AP Photo

The leading candidate in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary has been linked to a profile on a gay hookup website, sparking in-party fears that he could cost them the race.

Entrepreneur Bernie Moreno is one of three men running to face off against Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in the fall. So far, Moreno is the front-runner, and his far-right stances opposing abortion access and LGBTQ rights have earned him an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

But in 2008, someone used Moreno’s email address to make an account seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex” on the casual sex website Adult Friend Finder, the Associated Press reported late Thursday.

“Hi, looking for young guys to have fun with while traveling,” the bio reads. The account, which does not have a profile picture, goes by the username “nardo19672.” This appears to be a reference to Moreno’s first name, Bernardo, and the year and month of his birth, February 1967.

The AP was able to confirm that the linked email address is Moreno’s, through a review of AFF records that were leaked during a data breach. The AP was unable to confirm whether Moreno himself made the account, only that someone with access to his email did. Records also show the last time the profile was accessed was about six hours after it was created.

Moreno’s campaign told the AP that a former intern, Dan Ricci, had created the account as a prank. Ricci also provided a statement saying he made the profile as “part of a juvenile prank.”

But senior Republican operatives and elected officials in both Washington and Ohio are worried that the account’s mere existence will taint Moreno’s candidacy beyond repair. Seven people described the rampant frustrations to the AP, which got so bad that some Republican Party officials requested a formal data review to see if Moreno really was linked to the account. That review found the profile had been made with Moreno’s work email.

The Ohio race is highly contentious, as control of the Senate hangs in the balance. If Republicans manage to flip Brown’s seat, they could also flip the chamber. And so far, the party has struggled to put forward a solid contender.

Before Moreno took the lead, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was expected to clinch the GOP nomination in the primary next week. LaRose, of course, suffered a humiliating defeat last year, when state residents voted to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. LaRose had pulled out all the stops to block the abortion referendum but was overwhelmingly turned back.

Beyond Moreno’s link to a queer sex website, voters may also be put off by his flip-flopping on LGBTQ rights. Moreno’s oldest son is gay, and he expressed support for LGBTQ rights and anti-discrimination legislation as recently as 2020.

But starting in 2021, when Moreno first ran for Senate, he began to distance himself from his past positions. During this campaign, he has spouted common Republican talking points, including accusing LGBTQ rights advocates of pushing a “radical” agenda of “indoctrination.”

Moreno was endorsed by the anti-LGBTQ group Ohio Value Voters and accused LaRose of backing a “radical trans agenda.” He even ran an ad calling LaRose untrustworthy because he was “left-wing” and “pro-trans.”

GOP Candidate Who Called for Obama’s Execution Proceeds to Double Down

Michele Morrow is running for office in North Carolina—and she sees nothing wrong with calling for the execution of Barack Obama.

Michelle Morrow speaking during a CBS 17 interview. Chyron says her name.
Screenshot/CBS 17

The Republican nominee to become North Carolina’s public school superintendent has a social media history that would undoubtedly get her detention.

Michele Morrow pulled off a local upset last week, winning the nomination over her incumbent GOP opponent, superintendent Catherine Truitt. But Morrow’s social media posts on X and the conservative alternative Parler reveal a wannabe politician with a harrowing history of violent beliefs, espousing QAnon conspiracies and calling for the executions of several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and Joe Biden, shortly after he won the 2020 presidential election, reported CNN’s KFile.

“I prefer a Pay Per View of him in front of the firing squad,” she wrote in a tweet from May 2020, responding to a conspiracy theory to ship Obama to Guantánamo Bay. “I do not want to waste another dime on supporting his life. We could make some money back from televising his death.”

In another post responding to an image of a fake Time magazine cover with Obama sitting in an electric chair, Morrow wrote, “Death to ALL traitors!!”

In December 2020, Morrow came down on Biden after the soon-to-be president said that he would sign an executive order to make federal employees comply with Centers for Disease Control guidelines and mask for 100 days.

“Never. We need to follow the Constitution’s advice and KILL all TRAITORS!!! #JusticeforAmerica,” she wrote.

In other posts, Morrow targeted Representative Ilhan Omar, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. She frequently lauded QAnon conspiracies, suggesting in one post that actor Jim Carrey was drinking the blood of children, and sharing the cult’s catchphrases.

But Morrow’s political platform is similarly alarming. In February, the GOP candidate advocated for an amendment to get the state Board of Education abolished, effectively handing the power to craft school policy to the superintendent—and the GOP-controlled state legislature.

“I’d like to see a constitutional amendment to get rid of the state Board of Education,” she said. “If the superintendent is elected and works under the legislature—knowing that they’re accountable to the legislature to oversee the [North Carolina Department of Public Instruction] and to oversee and have impact into the superintendents in the 115 districts, I think we would be so much better off because you don’t have all these extra people right in mix.”

Fani Willis Can Go After Trump in Georgia on One Condition, Judge Says

Georgia Judge Scott McAfee says D.A. Fani Willis can still prosecute Donald Trump... so long as someone else steps down.

Alex Slitz/Pool/Getty Images

Georgia Judge Scott McAfee refused Friday to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from her election interference case against Donald Trump, and said the trial can proceed as soon as Willis cuts ties with her special prosecutor.

Willis has been accused of an improper relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, who has billed her office—and thus county taxpayers—for more than $728,000 in legal fees. McAfee said Willis must resolve the appearance of impropriety by either recusing herself or removing Wade from the case.

“The Court finds that the Defendants failed to meet their burden of proving that the District Attorney acquired an actual conflict of interest in this case through her personal relationship and recurring travels with her lead prosecutor,” McAfee wrote in the ruling. “The other alleged grounds for disqualification, including forensic misconduct, are also denied. However, the established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team—an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options.”

McAfee chastised Willis for what he described as a “tremendous lapse in judgment” and suggested he was open to issuing a gag order against her and her team, preventing her from discussing Trump’s case in public.

While the ruling is a win for Willis, it still partly benefits Trump. Trump’s strategy has been to delay every single one of his legal battles as long as possible, in the hopes that he is reelected in November and can use his newfound presidential powers to shield himself from prosecution. The arguments for and against Willis, and now the decision she must make, have dragged out proceedings in the Georgia case, possibly delaying Trump’s day in court.

Trump and several of his co-defendants in their Georgia election interference case accused Willis of an improper relationship with Wade. Trump’s team says that Willis and Wade began dating in 2019, while the couple says they didn’t start seeing each other until 2022, after Willis hired Wade for the Georgia case.

Trump’s lawyers argued the romantic relationship provides a legal basis to disqualify Willis and throw out her case against Trump entirely. Trump’s legal team alleged that Willis and Wade had an “improper intimate personal relationship,” and accused the couple of taking extravagant vacations that Wade paid for in part by billing Willis’s office.

Willis denied the allegations. She says the relationship began in 2022, after Wade joined the case, and that they each paid their own share of the vacation bill. But the most important thing to remember, Willis has stressed, is that Trump and his co-defendants are currently on trial for “trying to steal an election.”

McAfee sided with Willis, particularly after Team Trump’s case fell apart in late February. Lawyers Ashleigh Merchant and Steve Sadow questioned Terrence Bradley to try to establish a timeline of the couple’s relationship. Bradley is Wade’s former law partner and divorce attorney, and was meant to be a key witness in the case against Willis.

On the stand, Bradley repeatedly stated that he didn’t know a thing, including when Wade and Willis actually began dating, how the relationship began, and the trips they took together. Bradley repeated that he had only been speculating so many times that many people on social media began to point out that he seemed more like an office gossip than a credible witness.

Judge Cannon Immediately Kills One of Trump’s Desperate Legal Ploys

Judge Aileen Cannon has struck down one of Donald Trump’s arguments in the classified documents case. TBD on the other.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After a full day hearing arguments related to two motions by Donald Trump’s legal teams to dismiss his classified documents case, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has denied one motion without prejudice.

That ruling was in relation to Team Trump’s claim that it wasn’t clear at the time Trump took the sensitive material if the act was illegal or not, claiming there was “unconstitutional vagueness.”

The argument had little sway with the Trump-appointed judge.

“Although the Motion raises various arguments warranting serious consideration, the Court ultimately determines, following lengthy oral argument, that resolution of the overall question presented depends too greatly on contested instructional questions about still-fluctuating definitions of statutory terms/phrases as charged,” Cannon wrote in a two-page order, further noting that the issue of constitutional vagueness would be better brought up with “jury-instruction briefing and/or other appropriate motions.”

Her ruling, however, leaves wiggle room for Trump’s attorneys to potentially reargue the position down the line.

Even though the motion is off the table for now, Trump still has several other attempts to dismiss the trial in the works. The rest of Thursday was spent arguing another such motion on the basis that the classified documents could be considered “personal materials” rather than presidential under the Presidential Records Act—a defense that special counsel Jack Smith’s office roundly rejected. 

Smith’s office also claimed that Trump’s “personal records” argument was suggestive that the GOP presidential nominee believes he’s beyond reproach and above the law. Cannon herself expressed skepticism at leveraging the statute to dismiss the case outright, though ultimately she determined that the issue would be better left for a jury to decide.

“It’s difficult to see how this gets you to the dismissal of an indictment,” the judge told Trump’s attorney Thursday afternoon.

But the trial, which was originally set to begin on May 20, still does not have a renewed court date.

Legal analysts have worried that a strategy of continual delays could be the Trump-appointed judge’s way of surreptitiously dismissing the trial altogether.

“She has yet to issue a scheduling order setting a trial date,” MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin said on Morning Joe on Thursday. “I’m not a betting person, probably would make a miserable one, but the fact she set oral arguments on two motions to dismiss makes me think maybe she thinks she can get rid of this case without setting a trial date. That is frightening, given the gravity of the charges here and the evidence that supports those charges.”

Unfortunately More on Trump:

Matt Gaetz Will Have to Testify Whether He Is a Massive Creep

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz just got served a subpoena.

Matt Gaetz outside the Capitol. Women reporters surround him.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Matt Gaetz has been subpoenaed to sit for a deposition in a civil defamation lawsuit, by lawyers representing a woman whom the Florida representative is accused of having sex with when she was just 17.

Lawyers for the woman, who is identified in the lawsuit by the initials “A.B.,” served Gaetz the subpoena on Thursday, ABC News reported, citing anonymous sources. The Republican congressman is slated to sit for deposition on April 5, and he will likely be asked questions about his alleged sexual activity, including whether he paid a minor for sex.

The subpoena is part of a larger defamation and racketeering suit brought last year by Gaetz’s friend, former Florida state Representative Chris Dorworth, against A.B. and Joel Greenberg, another former Gaetz associate. Dorworth accused Greenberg and A.B. of conspiring to falsely accuse Dorworth of “child sex trafficking, sex with a minor, prostitution, obstruction of justice, and an illegal ghost candidate scheme,” the lawsuit said.

Gaetz is not a party in the lawsuit, but the filing mentions him and the allegations against him several times. A.B.’s lawyers have subpoenaed him to establish that the woman was not Greenberg’s “partner in crime,” as Dorworth alleges.

Greenberg was convicted of sex trafficking following a Justice Department investigation, and in 2022, he was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. But he cooperated with the department when it launched an offshoot investigation into Gaetz in March 2021. Greenberg alleged that Gaetz had paid him via Venmo for sex with a 17-year-old girl, which the congressman has denied.

The federal investigation ended in February 2023 with no charges, in part because the Justice Department had credibility issues with Greenberg and another key witness. But the House Ethics Committee opened a probe into Gaetz in July for alleged misconduct including sexual misconduct and illicit drug use.

And Gaetz’s testimony could also prove particularly damning in the House Ethics investigation, which already does not seem to be going all that well for him. In February, a potential witness came forward alleging that she had had sex with the lawmaker at a drug-fueled party in 2021, when she was older than 21 years of age. The woman said she was paid to attend the event and has texts to prove her claims.

Trump Pushes Totally Asinine Delay Tactic in Classified Documents Case

Donald Trump appeared in court yet again—where his legal team made some seriously unbelievable arguments.

Donald Trump yelling
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Donald Trump and his attorneys took another stab at attempting to wholly dismiss one of his criminal trials on Thursday—except this time the judge heard them out.

Trump stayed surprisingly mum as his attorneys argued two motions before Judge Aileen Cannon at a Florida courthouse. In one, they claimed that it wasn’t clear at the time Trump took the sensitive material if the act was illegal or not. In the other, they argued that the classified documents could be considered “personal materials” rather than presidential under the Presidential Records Act.

The latter defense was roundly rejected by special counsel Jack Smith’s office, which pointed to a transcript of Trump’s own words in which the former president acknowledged the records definitely were not personal.

Cannon, meanwhile, described the argument as “forceful.”

“Your arguments might have some force, again, as it comes to a trial defense,” Cannon said, though she noted that the end result would effectively gut the statute and allow future presidents to designate obviously presidential documents as personal.

Altogether, Cannon appeared skeptical of the defense and its ability to dismiss the case outright, ultimately deciding that the issue would be better left for a jury to decide.

“It’s difficult to see how this gets you to the dismissal of an indictment,” the judge told Trump’s attorney Thursday afternoon.

It’s possible that Trump’s legal team knew these arguments wouldn’t work, but his legal strategy in every case against him has been to delay trial proceedings.

The day ended without an official decision on the matter. Cannon said she would consider the motions “under advisement” and would issue a ruling “promptly.” Some experts worry Cannon is dragging out the trial start date as much as possible.

In Remarkable Twist, Trump’s First Criminal Trial Could Be Delayed

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has signaled it is open to a delay in Trump’s hush-money case.

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s New York hush-money case signaled that they would be open to a 30-day adjournment, hinting at a possible postponement just 11 days before his first criminal trial was set to begin.

On Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office cited an enormous caseload for its reasoning, including more than 100,000 pages’ worth of documents issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office, 31,000 of which were released the day before, with another truckload expected sometime next week.

“Based on our initial review of yesterday’s production, those records appear to contain materials related to the subject matter of this case, including materials that the People requested from the USAO more than a year ago and that the USAO previously declined to provide,” wrote Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a three-page notice.

“Nonetheless, and although the People are prepared to proceed to trial on March 25, we do not oppose an adjournment in an abundance of caution and to ensure that defendant has sufficient time to review the new materials,” he concluded.

Trump’s team, meanwhile, had originally asked for a 90-day delay upon the reception of the initial 73,000 pages on March 4. Ultimately the decision will be up to Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, who has ignored the former president’s previous delay tactics, citing the lack of concrete trial dates for any of Trump’s other criminal cases.

It is currently unclear when Merchan might rule.

Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He’s facing 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Cohen, who is anticipated to be a star witness in this trial, has no doubts that the former president will be found guilty in this case.

“I can tell you from everything I know about it, he’s going to be found guilty,” Cohen, the former Trump lawyer, said during The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit in October.

Bob Menendez, Out of Options, Considers the Kyrsten Sinema Route

The senator might run for reelection as an independent, imperiling a Democratic seat.

Bob Menendez
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Senator Bob Menendez

Senator Bob Menendez, whose corruption charges seem to increase each week, may choose to run for reelection as an independent in an effort to fundraise for his legal bills.

Menendez and his wife face 18 federal counts of accepting bribes in exchange for using his position to benefit the Qatari and Egyptian governments. The New Jersey Democrat has so far refused to resign from the Senate, although he did step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Despite previously indicating he would not run for reelection, Menendez is now considering running as an independent, NBC News reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources.

One of the main reasons to run again is that Menendez is reportedly racking up hefty legal bills. The senator has already been hit with two superseding indictments, increasing the number of charges he and his wife face. If he is a candidate, he would be able to fundraise and use that money to pay for his legal fees. (Sound familiar?)

It would be hard for Menendez to get on the Democratic ballot, as he would need to gather 1,000 supporting signatures by March 25. But if he runs as an independent, he would have until June 4 to gather just 800 signatures. He is already making calls to allies to promote his candidacy, according to NBC.

Menendez denied that he intends to run as an independent. “I don’t have to declare what I’m doing, everybody will know,” he told NBC. “When I decide to declare whatever my path is, I will do it then. I don’t have to do it on television for you.”

If Menendez does rebrand as an independent, it would be remarkably reminiscent of a move pulled by his Senate colleague Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema announced in December 2022 that she was switching her party affiliation to independent. Her decision threatened to set up a three-way race in Arizona and risked splitting Democratic and centrist votes between her and Democratic challenger, Ruben Gallego, ultimately handing the state to a Republican. Sinema decided in early March not to run for reelection.

Similarly, Menendez’s decision could cost Democrats his seat. The race to replace him is getting crowded, with Representative Andy Kim and New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy vying for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side is a local mayor with ties to Donald Trump and a penchant for plagiarism.

Kim said it was “really alarming” that Menendez might be considering an independent run, calling it “just another clear example of putting his own personal benefit ahead of what’s right for this country.”

“There is no way that he can win this seat,” Kim, who is currently leading in the Democratic polls, told NBC. “But what he could do is jeopardize this seat and give Republicans a chance.”

More on 2024 election hell:

Surprise, Surprise: AIPAC Flips Out Over Schumer’s Netanyahu Comment

Who could have guessed this one?

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee stood firmly behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Thursday, following a scathing critique of the Israeli prime minister by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Israel is an independent democracy that decides for itself when elections are held and chooses its own leaders,” AIPAC posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “America must continue to stand with our ally Israel and ensure it has the time and resources it needs to win this war. Hamas bears sole responsibility for this conflict. The hope for a brighter future for the Middle East begins with Israel’s decisive defeat of Hamas.”

Those comments bore a remarkable similarity to a statement issued by Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

“Israel is a sovereign democracy,” wrote Herzog. “It is unhelpful, all the more so as Israel is at war against the genocidal terror organization Hamas, to comment on the domestic political scene of a democratic ally. It is counterproductive to our common goals.”

In a heated speech on Thursday morning, Schumer argued for a new election in Israel and the end of Netanyahu’s reign. Schumer said the prime minister had “lost his way” and criticized him for fraternizing with far-right extremists.

“Nobody expects Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the things that must be done to break the cycle of violence, preserve Israel’s credibility on the world stage, and work towards a two-state solution,” Schumer said.

Schumer’s words appear to resonate more with the Israeli people than with their lobbyists and ambassadors. Only 15 percent of the population wants Netanyahu to stay on as prime minister once the war concludes, according to a poll published in January by the Israel Democracy Institute.

For decades, the U.S. has proved to be Israel’s biggest ally, supplying more than $130 billion in military aid in the 76 years since the nation was founded and helping to create one of the world’s most comprehensive missile defense programs, better known as the Iron Dome. Since October 7, experts believe the majority of the bombs that have dropped on Gaza and aided in the deaths of more than 31,000 Palestinians are of U.S. origin.