Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

What is happening to our country? Right now, we are headed in a very wrong direction. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, we are seeing mass shootings at a rate that is hard to believe. But it’s true. We’ve become a country dominated by guns. Republicans have developed a sickness that can’t be explained just by the NRA and its donations to politicians. Awhile back, I read this piece by Noah Berlatsky and Aaron Rupar at Public Notice, and I hope you’ll check it out. Berlatsky argues that Republicans have development an obsession with guns and violence that goes far beyond a money motive.

The GOP’s gun obsession goes deeper than campaign donations. Republicans aren’t posing for AR-15 family photos because of money.

The GOP has not been corrupted by capitalism. It would be more accurate to say it’s been corrupted by fascism. Guns are part of white Christofascist identity politics. The GOP supports guns as part of a principled commitment to a death cult, not because they need NRA money to win elections.

Focusing on NRA money obscures the real danger from the GOP. It also can lead gun control proponents to pursue confused and ineffective tactics. We need to understand why the GOP embraces guns if we’re ever going to have a hope of opposing them.


Rep. Thomas Massie and his family at Christmas

The first sign that the NRA is not driving gun policy with its political contributions is the fact that it simply doesn’t spend that much money in political races. That $1.3 million Blackburn received is, again, money taken in over the course of her entire political career, which stretches back to her first election as a Tennessee state senator in 1999, almost 25 years ago. In comparison, in the 2018 campaign in which Blackburn first won her Senate seat, her campaign and outside groups spent $30 million. Even if the NRA had donated that $1.3 million all at once, Blackburn would barely have noticed it in the blizzard of cash.

Blackburn isn’t unusual; NRA contributions are typically a tiny fraction of candidate contributions, as Philip Bump at the Washington Post explained back in 2016. He found that for most candidates, NRA donations were less than .5 percent of direct donations to campaigns. Even if you look at the category of independent outside expenditures, which cannot be coordinated with the campaign, the NRA gives only about 15 percent of donations, coming behind organizations like the Republican senatorial committee and the Chamber of Commerce….

The small size of the NRA’s donations makes it unlikely they’re meaningfully bribing politicians. Nor do GOP politicians behave as if they’ve been bribed. When politicians vote their donors over their constituents, they don’t tend to boast about it.

GOP politicians don’t treat guns like dirty stock trades, and don’t try to hide from constituents after gun votes. On the contrary, they tout their pro-gun credentials every chance they get. Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents the district where the Nashville shooting took place, sent out a Christmas card showing himself with his wife and children standing in front of a tree. They’re all grinning and holding assault weapons.

As communications professor Ryan Neville-Shepard explains at the Milwaukee Independent, guns on the right have increasingly become a symbol of white masculinity — and I’d argue of white Christian masculinity. Guns stand for defending home and family against “criminals” — a term which, in the dogwhistle rich environment of the right, means “non-white people.” In addition, Neville-Shepard notes, guns in right-wing political ads during the Obama administration became a symbol of (violent) opposition to Democratic government. Marjorie Taylor Greene ran an ad touting a gun giveaway in 2021 in which she promised to “blow away the Democrats’ socialist agenda.”

I found Berlatsky’s argument convincing. It really seems to me at this point that Republicans simply see guns–and specifically assault rifles–as part of their identities. I think the gun obsession began after Obama was elected. The notion of a Black president was just too much for these people. Then came Trump, who gave them permission to be overtly act out the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic feelings they previously felt the need to hide in public. I’d be interested to know what you guys thing about this argument.

There have been more mass shootings since this article was written–after the Nashville school shooting, which happened in late March.

There is quite a bit of information available about the latest mass shooter, who mowed down people at an Allen, Texas outlet mall. There’s no doubt at this point that he was a white supremacist, despite being Hispanic, and a Nazi. He had large Nazi symbols tattooed on his body.

This article is by  and 

A social media page appearing to belong to a gunman who killed eight people at a Dallas-area outlet mall had shared extremist beliefs with rants against Jews, women and racial minorities posted since September, as well as posts about struggling with mental health.

Mauricio Garcia, 33, maintained a profile on the Russian social networking platform OK.ru, including posts referring to extremist online forums, such as 4chan, and content from white nationalists, including Nick Fuentes, an antisemitic white nationalist provocateur.

Garcia's tattoosIn the weeks before the attack, Garcia posted more than two dozen photos of Allen Premium Outlets, where an officer killed him after the shooting Saturday, and surrounding areas, including several screenshots of Google location information, seemingly monitoring the mall at its busiest times.

Many of his posts referred to his mental health. In his final post, he lamented what his family might say and wrote that no psychologist would have been able to fix him.

In another post, he made disturbing comments about what makes a mass shooting “important” and praised a person who opened fire at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, this year, killing six people, including three children.

The shooter also posted a series of links to other sites, including a YouTube account that featured a video published the day of the shooting. In it he removed a “Scream” mask and said, “Not quite what you were expecting, huh?”

He also posted photos of a flak vest emblazoned with patches, one of them with the initialism for “Right Wing Death Squad,” a popular meme among far-right extremist groups. Another post included a series of shirtless pictures with visible white power tattoos, including SS lightning bolts and a swastika.

I don’t want to spend too much time on Garcia; but if you’re interested, you might want to read this Twitter thread by Aric Toler:

Garcia used a Hitler emoji

A few more interesting articles:

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Timothy McVeigh’s Dreams Are Coming True.

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Incel nation.

The Washington Post: Texas gunman fantasized over race wars on social media before mass killing.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Why non-White people might advocate white supremacy.

Men like Garcia are frightening, but now–thanks to Trump–their horrifying ideologies have infiltrated Republican political culture.

From Media Matters: Hitler-promoting antisemites will speak at Trump’s Miami hotel alongside Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and other Trump personalities.

The Trump National Doral resort will host two antisemites who have promoted pro-Adolf Hitler propaganda and spread virulently antisemitic conspiracy theories. They will be speaking at an event in Miami alongside numerous Team Trump personalities, including Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Devin Nunes.

Trump Doral speaker Scott McKay, who has a streaming show on Rumble, has claimed that Jewish people orchestrated 9/11 and were responsible for the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and William McKinley. He has also said that Jewish people routinely torture children and eat their hearts.

He has praised Hitler for supposedly trying to take down a Jewish banking system and said, “Hitler was actually fighting the same people that we’re trying to take down today.”

Trump Doral speaker Charlie Ward, who also streams a show on Rumble, has shared posts praising Hitler for supposedly “warning us” about Judaism; claiming that “VIRUSES are Man (JEW) made”; and attacking the alleged Jewish media for supposedly lying about the Holocaust.

The two are featured speakers in the “ReAwaken America” tour, which is set to stop at  Trump’s Miami hotel on May 12 and 13. Scheduled to speak alongside McKay and Ward are numerous members of Trump’s orbit, including: Eric Trump, Lara Trump, former Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former senior Department of Defense official Kash Patel, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes, and Trump ally Roger Stone.

Numerous other far-right conspiracy theorists will be speaking, including Stella ImmanuelMel KLiz CrokinAnn VandersteelMike Lindell, and Patrick Byrne.

Media outlets have previously noted that the tour, which has been holding events across the country, has also featured QAnon supportersconspiracy theories, and Christian nationalist rhetoric.

The tour was initiated by Michael Flynn.

Rachel Maddow talked about this on her MSNBC show last night. Watch the segment at Yahoo News: Rachel Maddow Names Pro-Hitler Speakers Appearing At Same Event As Eric Trump.

rape trialThe E. Jean Carroll vs. Donald Trump rape trial will go to the jury today. A few stories on that:

Erica Orden at Politico: The Trump rape trial is headed to the jury. Here are the questions jurors will weigh.

In more than four hours of closing arguments, lawyers for both sides offered a series of questions for the jury to consider. Here are some of the most critical. [NOTE: I’ll provide a couple of paragraphs from each question. Read the rest at the link.

Is Carroll credible?

Carroll’s attorneys made their client’s threeday appearance on the witness stand the centerpiece of their case, and during closing arguments her lawyer Roberta Kaplan said her client’s testimony was “credible, it was consistent and it was powerful.” Kaplan told the jury that “every single aspect of what she said is backed up or corroborated by other evidence,” including not just the alleged incident at Bergdorf Goodman, but also Carroll’s account that she told two friends about it contemporaneously.

Kaplan pointed to the testimony of those two friends, saying details from their testimony rang true. One of the friends, Lisa Birnbach, testified that when Carroll called her and told her of the attack, Birnbach was busy feeding dinner to her two young children and went into another room to avoid uttering “rape” in front of them. “The fact that she left the kitchen, by the way, is a very telling detail,” Kaplan said. “It’s the kind of detail you don’t make up.” [….]

Is the “Access Hollywood” tape a confession of sexual assault or “locker room talk”?

Carroll’s attorneys showed, referenced or described parts of this tape at least five separate times during their closing arguments. Kaplan argued that Trump’s infamous commentary captured on a hot mic constitutes a roadmap he has used to repeatedly commit sexual assault. The tape is from 2005 and resurfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign….

“What is Donald Trump doing here? Telling you in his very own words how he treats women,” Kaplan said to the jury. “It’s his modus operandi, M.O.” Or as Ferrara put it: “It was a confession.” [….]

Do other Trump accusers prove a pattern, or are they unrelated?

Kaplan told the jury that the accounts of two other women, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, who testified that Trump sexually assaulted them, demonstrate that Trump’s actions are part of a pattern of sexual assault.

“Three different women, decades apart, but one single pattern of behavior,” Kaplan said. She displayed a chart with photographs of Leeds, Stoynoff and Carroll accompanied by columns titled “semi-public place,” “grab suddenly” and “‘not my type,’” along with checkmarks. Trump has suggested all three women are not the sort to which he would typically be attracted….

How should Trump’s decision not to attend the trial reflect on him?

Carroll’s lawyers seized on Trump’s decision not to attend the trial, testify or put on a defense case.

Trump, Kaplan said, offered “no one to back up a single thing he said.”

“You only saw him on video,” she added. “He didn’t even bother to show up here in person.” [….]

Tacopina used what he described as Carroll’s vagaries about the date of the alleged incident to help explain why Trump didn’t offer any witnesses. “Who are we going to call, someone who wasn’t in Bergdorf Goodman at some unknown date?” Tacopina asked….

Tacopina also told the jury that Carroll could have called his client as a witness, but chose not to. “Instead, what they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts,” he said.

Two more stories on the rape trial:

CNN: What E. Jean Carroll has to prove to win her case against Donald Trump.

Raw Story: ‘I been practicing for 42 years’ and never had a ‘harasser’ talk as Trump did in deposition: legal analyst.


Judge Juan Merchan

One more Trump legal story, before I wrap this up. From NBC News: Trump prohibited from posting evidence in hush money case to social media, judge rules.

The New York state judge presiding over the criminal hush money case against Donald Trump issued an order Monday restricting the former president from posting about some evidence in the case on social media.

Judge Juan Merchan largely sided with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg by limiting what Trump can publicly disclose about new evidence from the prosecution before the case goes to trial.

The order says that “any materials and information provided by the People to the Defense in accordance with their discovery obligations … shall be used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense in this matter.”

Merchan’s order said anyone with access to the evidence being turned over to Trump’s team by state prosecutors “shall not copy, disseminate or disclose” the material to third parties, including social media platforms, “without prior approval from the court.”

It also singles out Trump, saying he is allowed to review sensitive “Limited Dissemination Materials” from prosecutors only in the presence of his lawyers and “shall not be permitted to copy, photograph, transcribe, or otherwise independently possess the Limited Dissemination Materials.”

In addition, the order restricts Trump from reviewing “forensic images of witness cell phones,” although his lawyers can show him “approved portions” of the images after they get permission from the judge.

That’s all I have for you today. Please feel free to discuss any these or any other topics in the comment thread.

Lazy Caturday Reads: Cats Stealing Food and (Mostly) January 6 News

Still Life with Cat. Alexandre-Francois Desportes, 1705

Still Life with Cat. Alexandre-Francois Desportes, 1705

Happy Caturday!!

Because it’s Caturday, I’m going to begin with a story about cat shows by Jonathan B. Losos at The Literary Hub: Cuddly, Cute, Curious Cats: On the Beauty and Diversity of the Feline Species.

Mention a cat show and most people think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: smartly dressed trainers parading their beautifully coiffed and perfectly behaved charges around the ring; madcap agility trials in which speedy canines zip through challenging obstacle courses with nary a misstep. A feline equivalent is unthinkable.

And yet, cat shows do exist. I know, because I’ve attended many of them, both as a spectator and as a participant with Nelson. Cat shows are simpler than dog shows. There is no cat promenade and the competitors in the agility competitions (which are a relatively recent addition) generally lack the single-minded zeal of their canine counterparts.

Nevertheless, cat shows are still a spectacle. Imagine two hundred, or even eight hundred, yowling, purring, and snoozing cats packed into a show hall, showcasing the variety of the modern cat. The venues range from shabby high school gymnasia and bare-bones veterans’ halls to hotel banquet rooms and large show halls.

The rooms are filled with rows of long tables, jam-packed with colorful kitty condos; the competitors lounge inside their fabric walls, waiting to be called to the judging tables. Siamese cats yowl incessantly. Occasional shouts of “cat out” or “cat on the ground” lead to a few moments of excitement until the wayward puss is retrieved….

Still Life With a Cat by Sebastiano Lazzari, 1760

Still Life With a Cat by Sebastiano Lazzari, 1760

If you remember the zany characters in the dog-show mockumentary Best in Show, you’ll be disappointed to discover that the exhibitors are just ordinary folk with a passion for cats and a willingness to let their lives revolve around driving—or sometimes flying—to events weekend after weekend throughout much of the year. Like any group that gets together frequently to compete and socialize, there are deep friendships, intense rivalries, gossip, complaints about the judging, and all sorts of hijinks.

Fascinating as the people at cat shows are, let’s focus on the main event: the cats! The contestants on display are mostly refined and elegant; it’s hard to beat a Siamese for savoir faire or a Norwegian for reserved dignity. Some will charm you with their looks or manner; you’ll be surprised at the unexpected features of others. But above all, what these events display is the amazing variety of catdom. The long, sinuous fluidity of the Oriental, the regal majesty of a Maine Coon, the pantherine sleekness of an Abyssinian. Fluffball Himalayans. Pixie-faced Devon Rexes.

Cat shows reveal that Felis catus is not one cat, but many diverse brands of feline. And the cat cornucopia is growing rapidly. Breeders have capitalized on naturally occurring mutations to develop new breeds unlike anything previously imagined, including the curly-haired Devon Rex and the Ragdoll, named for its penchant for going limp when picked up. Some enthusiasts are looking in a different direction for new sources of variation, mating domestic cats with other feline species to produce the gorgeous spotted Bengal, the long-legged Savannah, and others.

It’s a fun article. Read the rest at the link if you’re so inclined. Losos is the author of the book The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savanna to Your Sofa.

On to the news of the day . . .

The Wall Street Journal has an article with a tantalizing headline: In Trump Probe, Special Counsel Zooms In on Possible Criminal Charges. Prosecutors’ revisiting of earlier witness testimony points to effort to tie up loose ends.

Special counsel Jack Smith is racing through a roster of interviews in his wide-ranging investigations related to former President Donald Trump, including with former Vice President Mike Pence and other top aides, as he contemplates filing charges, according to people familiar with the matter.

Still Life With Cat And Fish by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, 1728

Still Life With Cat And Fish by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, 1728

The steps prosecutors are taking, the people say, suggest Mr. Smith is in the late stages of his inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election. The special counsel is also considering whether the former president tried to obstruct a separate probe into the handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort by withholding material sought by the Justice Department.

The testimony by some witnesses, often a second or third session and sometimes brief, appears to point to efforts by Mr. Smith’s team to determine whether a crime was committed and decide whether to file charges in the coming months, people familiar with the questioning said….

Earlier this week, Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s former deputy chief of staff for communications, testified for eight hours before a Washington grand jury, according to a person familiar with the matter, weeks after a federal appeals court rejected Mr. Trump’s bid to block his testimony and that of other top aides.

Mr. Pence testified for several hours last week, with Mr. Smith in the room, a person familiar with the matter said, one day after an appeals court also dismissed Mr. Trump’s objections to that and paved the way for that high-level testimony. Mr. Smith’s presence at Mr. Pence’s testimony was earlier reported by CNN.

Prosecutors were interested in Mr. Pence’s interactions with Mr. Trump and the former president’s advisers in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the person said, adding that Mr. Pence largely reiterated the account he provided in his memoir. In the book, Mr. Pence said Mr. Trump had tried to pressure him to delay or block the certification of Joe Biden’s win, something he refused to do….

Mr. Smith has also pushed forward on his inquiry into the handling of classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, calling back witnesses who had previously spoken to investigators, some of the people said. Those efforts resulted in a maid who had worked at the complex in Palm Beach having to fly in from abroad to testify, they said.

That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard anything about the Mar-a-Lago maid before. The article wasn’t behind a paywall when I clicked on the link at Memeorandum, but I’ve given you the gist.

Trump appears to be getting very anxious, according to Raw Story: ‘It is a dangerous time in America!!!’: Trump has overnight meltdown over Jack Smith investigations.

Donald Trump took to his Truth Social account in the wee hours of Saturday morning to lash out at special counsel Jack Smith as reports grow that he is closing in on witnesses at Mar-a-Lago over the stolen documents recovered by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago.

Still Life With a Cat And a Mackerel On a Table Top by Giovanni Rivalta, 18th century

Still Life With a Cat And a Mackerel On a Table Top by Giovanni Rivalta, 18th century

The former president had a bad week as the E. Jean Carroll rape and defamation trial was wrapping up, it was reported late Friday that 8 accused fake Trump electors in Georgia took immunity deals, and the DOJ investigations into both his activities around the Jan. 6 insurrection and the Mar-a-Lago inquiry are ramping up.

Special counsel Jack Smith took the brunt of the former president’s meltdown, with the Trump declaring him a “persecutor.”

The former president also ominously warned, “It is a dangerous time in America!!!”

He first wrote, “The Special ‘Prosecutor,’ Jack Smith, who is harassing, threatening, and terrorizing people who work for me, probably illegally, and totally at odds with the way Crooked Joe Biden is being treated, will no longer be known as the Special ‘Prosecutor,’ but rather, the Special ‘Persecutor.’ He is a Trump Hating SLIMEBALL who is going far beyond the original instructions of the Department of Injustice. The Witch Hunt continues, as it always will, with the Radical Left, Country Destroying, Lunatics!”

Moments later he added, “All of these Fake Prosecutions are merely being done to Interfere with, and Influence, our Elections. It is a dangerous time in America!!!”

More on those electors who have agreed to cooperate in the Georgia election interference case in Georgia from The Washington Post: At least eight Trump electors have accepted immunity in Georgia investigation.

At least eight of the 16 Georgia Republicans who convened in December 2020 to declare Donald Trump the winner of the presidential contest despite his loss in the state have accepted immunity deals from Atlanta-area prosecutors investigating alleged election interference, according to a lawyer for the electors.

Still Life by Abraham van Beijeren, 17th centuryProsecutors with the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) told the eight that they will not be charged with crimes if they testify truthfully in her sprawling investigation into efforts by Trump, his campaign and his allies to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, according to a brief filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court by defense attorney Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow.

Willis has said that the meeting of Trump’s electors on Dec. 14, 2020, despite Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s certification of Biden’s win, is a key target of her investigation, along with Trump’s phone calls to multiple state officials and his campaign’s potential involvement in an unauthorized breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, Ga….

Among the questions both Willis and federal investigators have explored is whether the appointment of alternate electors and the creation of elector certificates broke the law. Another question is whether Trump campaign officials and allies initiated the strategy as part of a larger effort to overturn Biden’s overall victory during the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Read more details at the WaPo. And a bit more from Kyle Cheney at Politico:

It’s the latest indication of Willis’ advancing investigation, which she recently revealed could result in charges — possibly against Trump himself and a slew of high-profile allies — as soon as July.

Trump and his inner circle orchestrated a plan for GOP electors in seven states he lost to sign documents claiming to be legitimate presidential electors. Those false electors became a component in a desperate last-ditch bid by Trump to overturn the election on Jan. 6, 2021. Citing the certificates signed by the false electors, Trump and a cadre of fringe attorneys claimed there was a conflict that only Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence could resolve on Jan. 6….

Not all of the false electors across the country were equally involved in Trump’s effort — and dozens have contended that they had no knowledge their signatures would be used as part of Trump’s Jan. 6 effort. Rather, they said they were advised that they were signing “contingent” certificates that would only be used if courts reversed Trump’s defeat. They argued that similar tactics were used in 1960, when Democrats signed contingent certificates amid a recount in Hawaii. (The recount ultimately reversed that state’s results and the contingent electors were counted.)

But some of the false electors were also state party chairs and key Trump allies who played larger roles in Trump’s bid to stay in power.

More at the link.

Insurrectionist Peter Schwartz has received the longest sentence so far in the January 6 investigation. ABC News: DOJ secures longest sentence yet for convicted Jan. 6 defendant.

Peter Schwartz, whom prosecutors termed “one of the most violent and aggressive participants” in the Jan. 6 riot, was sentenced to 14 years behind bars and 36 months of probation in a decision announced by Judge Amit Mehta on Friday. Earlier, federal prosecutors argued he should be sentenced to 24.5 years (or 294 months) in prison, three years of supervised release, $2,000 restitution and a fine of $71,541.

Still Life With Fish And a Cat by Alexander Adriaenssen, 1631

Still Life With Fish And a Cat by Alexander Adriaenssen, 1631

“This sentence is at the midpoint of Schwartz’s Sentencing Guidelines range and takes account of his repeated violence against police on January 6th, his substantial violent criminal history, his utter lack of remorse, and his efforts to profit from his crime,” the government’s sentencing memorandum said….

Schwartz, prosecutors said, was the first person to throw a chair at officers, creating an opening within the police line at the Capitol. His actions — which included stealing chemical munitions such as pepper spray — led to hundreds of rioters overwhelming officers at a key police line forcing them to retreat, prosecutors alleged.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Schwartz was on probation for at least one other case that involved both assaultive conduct and illegal firearms possession. He has maintained his innocence in several interviews.

His threats against officers date back to 1991, and he has been convicted on 38 charges. The cases range from a 2019 conviction for terroristic threats “for threatening police officers who placed him under arrest for domestic assault” to a 2020 conviction for domestic violence after he bit his wife on the forehead and punched her multiple times, according to court documents. He previously had four separate convictions of assault or threatening police officers.

The Feds want an even longer sentence for Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhoades. The Washington Post: U.S. seeks 25 years in prison for Rhodes in first Jan. 6 sedition case.

U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a federal judge to sentence Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes to 25years in prison and eight of his followers to at least 10 years behind bars startinglater this month, in the first punishments to be handed down to far-right extremist group members convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“No January 6 case sentenced to date is comparable to the scope and magnitude of these defendants’ convictions and conduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler wrote for a prosecution team, asking U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta to apply “swift and severe” punishment, including an enhanced terrorism penalty, for the Oath Keepers’ actions that were intended to intimidate or coerce the government.

Kitchen Still Life With Fish And Cat by Sebastian Stoskopff, 1650Rhodes, a top deputy and four others were found guilty at trials in November and January of plotting to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden. Three co-defendants were acquitted of that count but convicted of obstructing Congress as it met to confirm the results of the 2020 election, among other crimes. Both top offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison,but prosecutors asked the court to stack sentences to exceed that total for Rhodes and the Oath Keepers’ Florida leader Kelly Meggs….

In a 183-page government sentencing request covering all nine defendants, Nestler noted that Judge Mehta has called it “one of the great tragedies in the history of this country” to see “ordinary, hardworking Americans” turn into criminals in the Jan. 6 attack and suffer the consequences. “These defendants are in part responsible for that national tragedy; they played significant roles in spreading doubt about the presidential election and turning others against the government,” the prosecutor wrote.

Rhodes “exploited his vast public influence” over the anti-government extremist movement and used his talents for manipulation to lead “more than twenty other American citizens into using force, intimidation, and violence to seek to impose their preferred result on a U.S. presidential election. This conduct created a grave risk to our democratic system of government,” Nestler wrote.

One of the most wanted January 6 insurrectionists was recently identified by a former boyfriend. NBC News: Jan. 6 rioter in pink beret identified after ex spotted her in a viral FBI tweet.

The breakthrough in the FBI investigation started inside a Joann Fabric and Crafts store. Last weekend, a clothing designer was standing in the checkout line waiting to purchase a needle for his sewing machine when his buddy saw something funny on his phone.

It was a tweet from the FBI’s Washington Field Office featuring two striking images of the 537th person added to the bureau’s U.S. Capitol Violence webpage, which has functioned as a “most wanted” list of Jan. 6 participants since the investigation began more than two years ago.

Still Life With Fruits And Ham With a Cat And a Parrot by Alexandre-François Desportes, 18th century

Still Life With Fruits And Ham With a Cat And a Parrot by Alexandre-François Desportes, 18th century

No. 537 on the FBI list is a woman wearing a white coat and black gloves, carrying a black Dolce & Gabbana purse, who has been the subject of Jan. 6 conspiracy theories. In one image, with her eyebrow arched, she looks dead at the camera like she’s Jim from “The Office.” In another, she’s standing near the Capitol, appearing to direct rioters with a stick.

Atop her head: a pink beret.

“I stopped dead in my tracks,” the designer, who asked not to be named to avoid harassment and threats, recalled in an interview with NBC News. “I’m like, ‘That’s Jenny.’”

He sent in a tip to the FBI. On Monday, he said he got a call from the bureau, confirming they were investigating Jenny. By Friday, a law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News that the bureau had identified “Pink Beret” as the clothing designer’s ex, Jennifer Inzuza Vargas, of Los Angeles….

The designer had dated Vargas four years ago and was able to identify her to the FBI thanks to the tweet’s popularity. Recent posts from the FBI Washington Field Office on Twitter have gathered 10,000 to 20,000 views. The tweet about the woman in the pink beret received more than 7.2 million. Among those millions of viewers was his friend in Joann Fabric.

I’m going to end there and turn it over to you. Please feel free to discuss any topic in the comment thread. I hope you all have a terrific Caturday!!

Fabulous Friday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

The shoes keep dropping in the long effort by the judicial system to hold Trump accountable for his multitudinous crimes. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the verdicts in the Proud Boys trial, the developments in E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against Trump for raping her in the 1990’s and defaming her when he was president, and the new investigation of whether surveillance tapes from the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents case were altered before being turned over to DOJ. She also wrote about the latest ProPublica revelations about Clarence Thomas and his billionaire sugar daddy Harlan Crow. Later Thursday, there were more developments in all four of these stories.

Merrick Garland made a public statement about the January 6 investigation yesterday afternoon. From the DOJ website: Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers a Statement Following the Jury Verdict in the Proud Boys Trial. Relevant excerpts:

Today, the Justice Department secured the conviction of four leaders of the Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

In addition, those defendants and a fifth member of the Proud Boys were all convicted of felonies including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results and conspiring to prevent Congress and federal officers from discharging their duties.

The evidence presented at trial detailed the extent of the violence at the Capitol on January 6th and the central role these defendants played in setting into motion the unlawful events of that day.

Today’s verdict makes clear that the Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and American democracy….

We have secured the convictions of defendants who fought, punched, tackled, and even tased police officers who were defending the Capitol that day; who crushed one officer in a door and dragged another down a flight of stairs; who attacked law enforcement officers with chemical agents that burned their eyes and skin; and who assaulted officers with pipes, poles, and other dangerous or deadly weapons.

We have secured the convictions of defendants who obstructed the certification of a presidential election as well as the subsequent criminal investigation in the events of January 6th.

And now – after three trials – we have secured the convictions of leaders of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy – specifically conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power.

Our work will continue.

“Our work will continue.” Trump should be shaking in his boots right now, because the importance of the conviction of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio for seditious conspiracy is that he was not in the Capitol on January 6, or even in Washington DC. He was convicted because he was involved in the planning for the insurrection. Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and other Trump pals and advisers also were not in the Capitol, but they were involved in planning for the day. Trump himself literally directed his followers to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” It’s also significant that the Proud Boys referred to Trump’s requests for their help throughout the trial.

From NPR: Jury convicts Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys on seditious conspiracy charge.

“Politics was no longer something for the debating floor or the voting booth,” prosecutor Conor Mulroe told jurors in his closing argument last week. “For them, politics meant actual physical violence. … And they liked it and they were good at it.” [….]

Tarrio and the other defendants, who have been held in federal custody in the course of the trial, face as many as 20 years in prison on the most serious charges against them.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers played the jury a video of Trump calling on the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate, a moment that made the club jubilant and produced a flood of new membership inquiries.

Lawyers for Tarrio — who spent Jan. 6 in a Baltimore hotel room, but who monitored the action from afar — argued he was a mere “scapegoat” for the Justice Department and a far easier target.

“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6 in your amazing and beautiful city,” defense attorney Nayib Hassan said. “They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power.”

But prosecutors reminded the jury that after a mob overtook the Capitol that day, Tarrio sent a message that read, “make no mistake, we did this.”

So the Proud Boys testified that they acted on Trump’s urging, and the jury convicted a participant in the conspiracy even though he wasn’t physically present during the commission of the crime.

Some news from the E. Jean Carroll case. Yesterday, Trump opened his big mouth and claimed he planned to cut short his trip to Ireland in order to confront Carroll in court. His attorney had already rested his case without any witnesses.

Raw Story: Trump and lawyer disagree if he is returning to ‘confront’ rape accuser.

Donald Trump on Thursday told reporters in Ireland he “has to” cut his trip short because he needs to “confront this woman” in court.

“This woman” is journalist E. Jean Carroll, who is suing the ex-president in a civil court case for rape and defamation.

“I’m going back to New York. I was falsely accused by this woman, I have no idea who she is – it’s ridiculous,” Trump said, according to the Irish Examiner. “I’ll be going back early because a woman made a claim that is totally false, it’s fake.”

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan for weeks had been trying to get Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, to let the court know whether or not the ex-president would appear in court and whether or not he would testify….

“I have to go back,” Trump told reporters in Ireland, the New York Daily News adds, “and confront this woman.”

“I have to leave early,” he added. “I don’t have to but I choose to.”

But the Daily News adds, “Trump’s own defense lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed the ex-president will not attend the civil rape trial, which is expected to wrap up early next week.” [….]

“It’s called false accusations against a rich guy,” Trump complained, “or in my case, against a famous, rich, and political person.”

Judge Kaplan decided to call Trump’s bluff and give him an opportunity to reverse his lawyer’s decision to end the defense case. He gave Trump until 5PM on Sunday to petition the court to allow him to testify. Yahoo News: Judge gives Trump until Sunday to change his mind about testifying in his rape and defamation

Lawyers for the prosecution and defense both rested their case Thursday in the rape and defamation lawsuit brought against former President Donald Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll, but testimony in the case may not yet be over.

Judge Lewis Kaplan said late Thursday that he would give Trump until 5 p.m. Sunday evening to change his mind about taking the witness stand in his own defense to rebut Carroll’s testimony that he raped her in a changing room in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s and then lied about it. If Trump decides to testify, his lawyers must file a motion to reopen the case “for the sole purpose of testifying,” the judge said. Kaplan clarified that he will not necessarily grant the motion, simply that he would consider it.

In response to questions from the judge, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said that he had communicated to his client that he had the right to appear in court and testify in the civil case, and that Trump had voluntarily waived that right. Tacopina told the judge he last spoke to Trump about this matter shortly before entering the courtroom earlier that morning.

But hours earlier, Trump spoke to members of the media at one of his golf courses in Ireland and indicated he was considering returning to the United States to participate in the trial….

If Trump’s lawyers fail to file a motion to reopen the case before the Sunday deadline, Kaplan said, “that ship has irrevocably sailed.”

And new today, the entire Trump deposition was released in a court filing, according to CNBC. See also this story on the deposition at the New York Times: In Rape Trial Deposition, Trump Says Vulgar Tape Simply Reflects Truth.

The latest on the documents investigation–there is now an insider witness! From the New York Times: Justice Dept. Intensifying Efforts to Determine if Trump Hid Documents.

Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents have obtained the confidential cooperation of a person who has worked for him at Mar-a-Lago, part of an intensifying effort to determine whether Mr. Trump ordered boxes containing sensitive material moved out of a storage room there as the government sought to recover it last year, multiple people familiar with the inquiry said.

Through a wave of new subpoenas and grand jury testimony, the Justice Department is moving aggressively to develop a fuller picture of how the documents Mr. Trump took with him from the White House were stored, who had access to them, how the security camera system at Mar-a-Lago works and what Mr. Trump told aides and his lawyers about what material he had and where it was, the people said.

At the heart of the inquiry is whether Mr. Trump sought to hide some documents after the Justice Department issued a subpoena last May demanding their return.

The existence of an insider witness, whose identity has not been disclosed, could be a significant step in the investigation, which is being overseen by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. The witness is said to have provided investigators with a picture of the storage room where the material had been held. Little else is known about what prosecutors might have learned from the witness or when the witness first began to provide information to the prosecutors.

But prosecutors appear to be trying to fill in some gaps in their knowledge about the movement of the boxes, created in part by their handling of another potentially key witness, Mr. Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta. Prosecutors believe Mr. Nauta has failed to provide them with a full and accurate account of his role in any movement of boxes containing the classified documents.

In the past few weeks, at least four more Mar-a-Lago employees have been subpoenaed, along with another person who had visibility into Mr. Trump’s thinking when he first returned material to the National Archives, according to people briefed on the matter. Two people said that nearly everyone who works at Mar-a-Lago has been subpoenaed, and that some who serve in fairly obscure jobs have been asked back by investigators.

Prosecutors have also issued several subpoenas to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, seeking additional surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, his residence and private club in Florida, people with knowledge of the matter said. While the footage could shed light on the movement of the boxes, prosecutors have questioned a number of witnesses about gaps in the footage, one of the people said.

But hoping to understand why some of the footage from the storage camera appears to be missing or unavailable — and whether that was a technological issue or something else — the prosecutors subpoenaed the software company that handles all of the surveillance footage for the Trump Organization, including at Mar-a-Lago.

There are gaps in the surveilance footage!! That is a BFD.

Also in the NYT story is this little nugget:

One of the previously unreported subpoenas to the Trump Organization sought records pertaining to Mr. Trump’s dealings with a Saudi-backed professional golf venture known as LIV Golf, which is holding tournaments at some of Mr. Trump’s golf resorts.

It is unclear what bearing Mr. Trump’s relationship with LIV Golf has on the broader investigation, but it suggests that the prosecutors are examining certain elements of Mr. Trump’s family business.

Did Trump share any of the stolen documents with the Saudis in return for the golf deal?

Finally, there is an updates in the Clarence Thomas corruption story. From The Washington Post: Judicial activist directed fees to Clarence Thomas’s wife, urged ‘no mention of Ginni.’

Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.

Leo, a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges, told Conway that he wanted her to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” the documents show. He emphasized that the paperwork should have “No mention of Ginni, of course.”

Conway’s firm, the Polling Company, sent the Judicial Education Project a $25,000 bill that day. Per Leo’s instructions, it listed the purpose as “Supplement for Constitution Polling and Opinion Consulting,” the documents show.

In all, according to the documents, the Polling Company paid Thomas’s firm, Liberty Consulting, $80,000 between June 2011 and June 2012, and it expected to pay $20,000 more before the end of 2012. The documents reviewed by The Post do not indicate the precise nature of any work Thomas did for the Judicial Education Project or the Polling Company.

The arrangement reveals that Leo, a longtime Federalist Society leader and friend of the Thomases, has functioned not only as an ideological ally of Clarence Thomas’s but also has worked to provide financial remuneration to his family. And it shows Leo arranging for the money to be drawn from a nonprofit that soon would have an interest before the court.

Clarence and Ginni certainly do have a lucrative racket going. Here’s Kellyanne’s “explanation.”

That’s finally it for me today. I hope I’ve found something you hadn’t already heard.

Tuesday Reads: The Debt Limit and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

The Republicans have been playing Russian Roulette with the U.S. debt ceiling; and yesterday Janet Yellen announced that the situation is becoming dire.

Politico reports:

President Joe Biden invited Congress’ top four leaders in both parties to a May 9 meeting after the Treasury Department delivered a stark Monday warning: The nation could hit its existing debt ceiling as soon as June 1.

Biden called Hill leaders following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s warning that the U.S. could default on its $31.4 trillion in debt in as little as 30 days. Yellen’s stunning forecast piles new pressure on Hill leaders and the White House to strike a bipartisan fiscal deal as cross-party talks remain deadlocked.

While the secretary’s letter was sent after markets closed on Wall Street, the prediction landed hard on the Hill, where lawmakers hoped they’d have months to maneuver past the current impasse between Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Now, they could have only a few weeks before a potential economic catastrophe.\

On Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer teed up two pieces of legislation: the debt-limit bill House Republicans passed last week that includes significant spending cuts and one that would suspend the debt limit through the 2024 election with no strings attached. While his actions don’t guarantee a floor vote on either, a Schumer spokesperson said “this process will ensure that once a clean debt ceiling is passed, the House bill is available for a bipartisan agreement” on spending and taxes “as part of the regular budget process.”

Biden’s invite included Schumer, McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The president’s calls were first reported by The Washington Post….

“Given the current projections, it is imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments,” Yellen said, noting that it is impossible to predict the exact date the nation could default.

Predictably, the press is reporting this news as if Republicans are being reasonable–as if Biden just needs to give in to their demands for disastrous budget cuts in order to stop them from crashing the global economy. I’m hoping Mitch McConnell will be the adult in the room on the Republican side. As of now, he claims the House crazies are on their own.

The Hill: McConnell insists he’s sitting out debt talks — to disbelief.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) insists he will not come up with a rescue plan this time as Republicans and a Democratic president battle over the debt limit.

McConnell has a long history of negotiating with President Biden on high-profile issues, such as extending the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2010, avoiding a national default in 2011 and avoiding the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012.

But McConnell says Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) need to work out a deal on the debt limit among themselves, arguing any proposal that originates from the Senate can’t pass the House.

“The president knows how to do this. … Until he and the Speaker of the House reach an agreement, we’ll be at a standoff,” McConnell told reporters. “We have divided government. The president and the Speaker need to come together and solve the problem.”

Republican aides say McConnell’s strategy has the advantage of also keeping Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), whom Republicans see as a tougher negotiator than Biden, out of the talks.

A Senate Republican aide says Schumer also has more “leverage” than House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), who is in the minority and was recently elected to the House Democrat’s top leadership job.

McConnell’s insistence that he won’t step in at the last moment to cut a deal with Democrats to extend the nation’s borrowing authority is being met with widespread skepticism, however, even from fellow Republican senators.

See also this piece at Bloomberg by Matt Yglesias: Only Mitch McConnell Can Save the US From Default. It’s fairly long. Biden has made it clear that he won’t negotiate about raising the debt ceiling. He will insist on a clean bill.

Politico: Biden won’t move on debt ceiling terms even as he seeks to restart talks.

The debt ceiling crisis has arrived on President Joe Biden’s doorstep — and left his administration with far less time than anticipated to solve it.

But don’t expect the White House to change tactics any time soon.

Administration officials on Monday insisted that Biden has no plans to drop his demand for a clean debt ceiling increase, even after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s warning that Congress may only have until June 1 to avert a disastrous default.

The new calculation drastically raised the stakes of the ongoing standoff over the nation’s debt limit, turning what officials expected would be a monthslong political fight into a brutal four-week brawl with the fate of the U.S. economy on the line.

“If you need to hear again that it’s your responsibility to address the debt ceiling without conditions and a ransom,” said a senior administration official who spoke about internal thinking on condition of anonymity, “then he can say that again.”

The stance reflects the West Wing’s belief that they can not set a template for having the debt ceiling serve as a point of political leverage for the opposition. It also reflects continued confidence that Biden still holds the stronger hand in a debt ceiling staredown, and that it was always a matter of when — not if — the two sides reached a crisis point.

Biden has vowed for months not to negotiate over the debt ceiling, deriding Republicans’ demands for concessions as “hostage taking” that risks tanking the country’s global reputation and economic stability.

Don’t mess with Dark Brandon.

More on the Democrats’ strategies:

The New York Times reports:

The only clue to the gambit was in the title of the otherwise obscure hodgepodge of a bill: “The Breaking the Gridlock Act.”

But the 45-page legislation, introduced without fanfare in January by a little-known Democrat, Representative Mark DeSaulnier of California, is part of a confidential, previously unreported, strategy Democrats have been plotting for months to quietly smooth the way for action by Congress to avert a devastating federal default if debt ceiling talks remain deadlocked.

With the possibility of a default now projected as soon as June 1, Democrats on Tuesday began taking steps to deploy the secret weapon they have been holding in reserve. They started the process of trying to force a debt-limit increase bill to the floor through a so-called discharge petition that could bypass Republican leaders who have refused to raise the ceiling unless President Biden agrees to spending cuts and policy changes.

“House Democrats are working to make sure we have all options at our disposal to avoid a default,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, wrote in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The filing of a debt ceiling measure to be brought up on the discharge calendar preserves an important option. It is now time for MAGA Republicans to act in a bipartisan manner to pay America’s bills without extreme conditions.”

An emergency rule Democrats introduced on Tuesday, during a pro forma session held while the House is in recess, would start the clock on a process that would allow them to begin collecting signatures as soon as May 16 on such a petition, which can force action on a bill if a majority of members sign on. The open-ended rule would provide a vehicle to bring Mr. DeSaulnier’s bill to the floor and amend it with a Democratic proposal — which has yet to be written — to resolve the debt limit crisis.

The New York Times: Is the Debt Limit Constitutional? Biden Aides Are Debating It.

A standoff between House Republicans and President Biden over raising the nation’s borrowing limit has administration officials debating what to do if the government runs out of cash to pay its bills, including one option that previous administrations had deemed unthinkable.

That option is effectively a constitutional challenge to the debt limit. Under the theory, the government would be required by the 14th Amendment to continue issuing new debt to pay bondholders, Social Security recipients, government employees and others, even if Congress fails to lift the limit before the so-called X-date.

That theory rests on the 14th Amendment clause stating that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Some legal scholars contend that language overrides the statutory borrowing limit, which currently caps federal debt at $31.4 trillion and requires congressional approval to raise or lift.

Top economic and legal officials at the White House, the Treasury Department and the Justice Department have made that theory a subject of intense and unresolved debate in recent months, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

It is unclear whether President Biden would support such a move, which would have serious ramifications for the economy and almost undoubtedly elicit legal challenges from Republicans. Continuing to issue debt in that situation would avoid an immediate disruption in consumer demand by maintaining government payments, but borrowing costs are likely to soar, at least temporarily.

Read more at the NYT link.

More stories to check out today, links only:

The Guardian: Women to testify they can corroborate E Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump.

The New York Times: Six Dead After Dust Storm Causes Crashes on Interstate 55 in Illinois.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The ‘Woke Mind Virus’ Is Eating Away at Republicans’ Brains.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Culture wars are lots of fun until you kneecap your economy.

The Washington Post: Bill would require disclosure of AI-generated content in political ads.

BBC News: AI ‘godfather’ Geoffrey Hinton warns of dangers as he quits Google.

NBC News: U.S. military is tracking another mysterious balloon.

AP: Loneliness poses risks as deadly as smoking, surgeon general says.

CNN: Trump to appear at CNN town hall in New Hampshire.

The Washington Post: Trump urges customers to drop AT&T to punish CNN over its coverage of him.

Vanity Fair: “Get Him Out of Here”: Donald Trump Tossed NBC Reporter’s Phones During Tirade Aboard Campaign Plane.

Have a great Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!

Extra Lazy Caturday Reads

473b277dad9eff36e81fba404ff73d61Happy Caturday!!

I’m getting a very slow start this morning. It feels like everything is kind of awful today, as it often is lately. The politics news is bad enough, but sadly there’s been another mass shooting and the perpetrator is still at large. Not surprisingly, it’s in Texas, and of course the weapon was an AR-15.

ABC News: 5 dead in Texas ‘execution-style’ shooting, suspect armed with AR-15 is on the loose.

Five people are dead after being shot in a Texas home by a suspect armed with an AR-15 style rifle in a horrific series of “execution style” shootings, police said.

A manhunt is currently underway for the suspect, identified by police as 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza, according to ABC station KTRK in Houston.

A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Oropeza and assigned a $5 million bond. Authorities believe Oropeza left by walking or on a bicycle and is currently within a two mile radius of the scene, KTRK reported.

Police said the incident occurred at 11:31 p.m. local time on Friday when officials from the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office received a call about harassment in the town of Cleveland, about 55 miles north of Houston.

When authorities arrived at the location, they found several victims shot at the property, police said. Three of the deceased were females and two were males, including the youngest, an 8-year-old boy.

Two female victims were discovered in the bedroom lying on top of two surviving children, authorities told ABC News.

Three minors were located uninjured, but covered in blood. They were transported to a local hospital.

Police said they believe the massacre occurred after neighbors asked the suspect to stop shooting his gun in the front yard because there was a baby trying to sleep.

“My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said ‘Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that’s trying to go to sleep,” and he had been drinking and he says ‘I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,'” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.

WTF?! I’m at a complete loss for words. There’s more insanity at the link.

Yesterday we got more shocking news about our out-of-control Supreme Court.

Sammy Alito gave a pathetic, whiny interview to James Taranto and David Rivkin of The Wall Street Journal: Justice Samuel Alito: ‘This Made Us Targets of Assassination.’

Justice Samuel Alito was supposed to speak to law students at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., but when they showed up, he wasn’t there….

9aa83ebeb995f6bafe57b1776432ff9fIt wasn’t a lingering fear of Covid-19. In a mid-April interview in his chambers, Justice Alito fills us in on the May 12, 2022, event: “Our police conferred with the George Mason Police and the Arlington Police and they said, ‘It’s not a good idea. He shouldn’t come here. . . . The security problems will be severe.’ So I ended up giving the speech by Zoom,” he says. “Still, there were so many protesters and they were so loud that you could hear them.”

By now a noisy mob of law students may sound like any other school day, but last May also was a tumultuous time for the court. The preceding week, someone had leaked a draft of Justice Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a landmark abortion case that wouldn’t be decided until late June….

He now says that the leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. . . . But it was damaging.”

It was damaging for millions of American women and for doctors too, but Sammy is oblivious to that. Alito also believes he knows who the leaker is.

“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” he says. He’s certain about the motive: “It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft . . . from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside—as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”

That campaign included unlawful assemblies outside justices’ homes, and that wasn’t the worst of it. “Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” Justice Alito says. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.” On June 8, an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh; the suspect was later charged with attempted assassination and has pleaded not guilty.

This man is delusional. No one suggested preventing the decision by murdering one of the justices. People peacefully demonstrated outside their homes. One crazy guy showed up outside Kavanaugh’s house and then turned himself into to police without doing anything.

He adds that “I don’t feel physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He is “driven around in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.” Deputy U.S. marshals guard the justices’ homes 24/7. (The U.S. Marshals Service, a bureau of the Justice Department, is distinct from the marshal of the court, who reports to the justices and oversees the Supreme Court Police.)

He’s a lot safer than women who are refused care after miscarriages until they are at death’s door, but Sammy couldn’t care less about them. He is also ignorant of the history of protests against Supreme Court justices.

Anyway, read the interview at the the WSJ if you can stomach it.

Yesterday, Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz broke a story about John Roberts ethical problems: Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show.

Two years after John Roberts’ confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot. After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms.

Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was now the highest-ranking judge in the country. “There are many paths to the good life,” she said. “There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.”

And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least for the years 2007 to 2014. During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated a whopping $10.3 million in commissions, paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them.

That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.

4ada9d7836abbc6a3e80723eb5df741d“When I found out that the spouse of the chief justice was soliciting business from law firms, I knew immediately that it was wrong,” the whistleblower, Kendal B. Price, who worked alongside Jane Roberts at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Insider in an interview. “During the time I was there, I was discouraged from ever raising the issue. And I realized that even the law firms who were Jane’s clients had nowhere to go. They were being asked by the spouse of the chief justice for business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there was no one to complain to. Most of these firms were likely appearing or seeking to appear before the Supreme Court. It’s natural that they’d do anything they felt was necessary to be competitive.”

Roberts’ apparent $10.3 million in compensation puts her toward the top of the payscale for legal headhunters. Price’s disclosures, which were filed under federal whistleblower-protection laws and are now in the hands of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, add to the mounting questions about how Supreme Court justices and their families financially benefit from their special status, an area that Senate Democrats are vowing to investigate after a series of disclosure lapses by the justices themselves.

No wonder Roberts is resisting any serious ethics rules for his powerful court. Unfortunately he’s not alone. Even the liberal justices don’t want ethics rules. The three branches of government are supposed to be equal, but the Supremes are behaving as if their branch is more equal than the other two.

ABC News: All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says.

There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code.

All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal.

The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.

“The justices … consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues,” the members of the high court said in a document titled “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices.”

It appears to be the first time an entire court has publicly explained its approach to ethics issues and attested to specific parts of federal law governing their conduct.

f3efce571e715e3b2632bf8d1e12467dThe justices’ statement, appended to a letter from Chief Justice John Roberts to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appears squarely aimed at answering critics’ concerns and demands from some for outside oversight.

“Without a formal code of conduct, without a way to receive ethics complaints and without a way to investigate them, the Supreme Court has set itself apart from all other federal institutions,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a left-leaning judicial watchdog group that has been lobbying Congress to mandate a high court code.

Durbin said Thursday in a statement that the justices’ explanation of their approach to ethics “raises more questions than it resolves.”

“Make no mistake,” he said, “Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not.”

I hope Durbin is prepared to keep pushing this.

Two stories on Trump’s crimes:

The New York Times: Prosecutors in Jan. 6 Case Step up Inquiry Into Trump Fund-Raising.

As they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.

The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.

In the past several months, prosecutors have issued multiple batches of subpoenas in a wide-ranging effort to understand Save America, which was set up shortly after the election as Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising entity. An initial round of subpoenas, which started going out before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in the 2024 race and Mr. Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in November, focused on various Republican officials and vendors that had received payments from Save America.

But more recently, investigators have homed in on the activities of a joint fund-raising committee made up of staff members from the 2020 Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, among others. Some of the subpoenas have sought documents from around Election Day 2020 up the present.

Prosecutors have been heavily focused on details of the campaign’s finances, spending and fund-raising, such as who was approving email solicitations that were blasted out to lists of possible small donors and what they knew about the truth of the fraud claims, according to the people familiar with their work. All three areas overlap, and could inform prosecutors’ thinking about whether to proceed with charges in an investigation in which witnesses are still being interviewed.

Read the rest at the NYT.

da00270fd0aae91e71450a17636b215bDennis Aftergut at Justia: Trump’s Nonsensical Letter to Congress Attacking the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago Case Shows He Has No Defense.

On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a desperate, 10-page letter to Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The punch line comes in its conclusion: “DOJ should be ordered to stand down” in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump for obstructing justice in his 18 months of stonewalling the return of classified documents improperly held at Mar-a-Lago.

Of course, Congress has no such power. Ironically, the letter achieved something completely unintended. It effectively confirmed that Trump has no viable defense against the likely Justice Department charges for Trump’s obstruction.

The letter also revealed for the first time that the classified documents recovered in the August 7, court-approved search of Trump’s country club home may include briefings of foreign leaders.

It’s hard to know what Trump was trying to achieve beyond “spin.” No crimes to see here, the letter lamely contends.

His lawyers assert that Trump didn’t knowingly possess or retain top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. His aides were just sloppy, the letter says, in the rushed process of leaving the White House, and Trump didn’t even know the classified documents were there. Even Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden inadvertently took classified documents after their time in office.

If these contentions are a preview of Trump’s defenses to an indictment from Smith’s grand jury, Jack Smith can rest easy. The arguments are so abysmally weak that they leave any knowledgeable observer with a simple inference: Trump and his lawyers know an indictment is coming soon and there’s nothing they can do about it but offer smoke and mirrors.

Like asking Congressman Turner to investigate the need for legislation to address the lack of controls on classified documents that elected officials unintentionally take when leaving public service. Here’s the problem for the former president and his letter: Jack Smith has mountains of evidence that contradict Trump’s claim that his improper possession and retention of those classified documents was inadvertent.

Read more at the link.

I haven’t been following the war in Ukraine very closely, but this NYT headline caught my attention: U.S. Wires Ukraine With Radiation Sensors to Detect Nuclear Blasts.

The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect‌‌ bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.

d52b6e6c5e029561b4f8d41f96bb95f2In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago, experts have worried about whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would use nuclear arms in combat for the first time since the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The preparations, mentioned last month in a House hearing and detailed Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Energy Department, seem to constitute the hardest evidence to date that Washington is taking concrete steps to prepare for the worst possible outcomes of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s second largest nation.

The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation.

In a statement sent to The New York Times in response to a reporter’s question, the agency said the network of atomic sensors was being deployed “throughout the region” and would have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion.” Additionally, it said the deployed sensors would deny Russia “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution.”

Read more details at the NYT.

I’m going to end there. What else is happening? What stories have captured your interest today?