Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley stepped into the hallway after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday to supporters asking for selfies and autographs — and, from others, a less friendly greeting.
“We love Trump, we love Trump!” a crowd around her started chanting. Some Haley supporters shouted her name back as the former U.N. ambassador escaped with staff to an elevator.
The dust-up showed the risks of taking the primary fight to what has clearly become Trump’s home turf. Though CPAC has long been seen as a big-tent forum for the conservative movement and a mandatory cattle call for presidential hopefuls, the annual conference has increasingly grown into a stomping ground for the 45th president and his “Make America Great Again” wing of the GOP. Trump will speak at the event Saturday.
“Remember, you’re not at CPAC, you’re at TPAC,” John Fredericks, a pro-Trump talk radio host broadcasting from the sidelines here, said in an interview Wednesday. He said potential 2024 rivals opted to skip the conference rather than risk getting booed or losing the straw poll. “We own this thing, it’s ours,” he said. “No Trump, no CPAC.”
This year’s lineup was heavy with Trump family members and acolytes — such as Lara Trump, Donald Trump Jr., former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, losing 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — to the near-total exclusion of the party’s other voices.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: March 4, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: CPAC, Dominion lawsuit, Fox News, George Conway, gossip, Joe Biden, Kellyanne Conway, Merrick Garland, Michael Beschloss, odds and ends, Ron De Santis, Rupert Murdoch, Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine 23 Comments
I’m not finding a lot of exciting stories today, which is actually fine with me, because I’m going through one of my periods of being burned out on political news. So once again, I’m offering a mixed bag of odds and ends that I found interesting. Here goes…
CPAC is still in the news and, as Dakinikat indicated yesterday, it’s even more bizarre than ever before.
Steve Reilly and Maggie Severns with a long read at Grid: Why does CPAC seem extra weird this year? How CPAC went from launching the Reagan era to “Schlapp Inc. and the Trump grifters.”
Its sponsors include multiple organizations founded by convicted criminals. Key speaking slots are filled with prominent election deniers. Many top Republicans are keeping their distance.
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the most troubled parts of the conservative movement were on full display.
“It has transformed itself into a Donald Trump-supporting group fully engaged with election deniers, culture wars and indicted guests,” said Al Cardenas, who led the American Conservative Union (ACU), which produces the event, from 2011 to 2014.
“It’s Schlapp, Inc. and Trump grifters,” said GOP strategist Dennis Lennox, who has attended CPAC since 2007, referring to CPAC and Matt Schlapp, the current head of the ACU, who faces his own legal problems.
Sponsors in years past have included blue chip companies like Google and pillars of the conservative movement like the Heritage Foundation, the National Review and the Washington Times.
Among this year’s CPAC sponsors: America’s Frontline Doctors, whose founder Simone Gold was sentenced to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the #WalkAway Foundation, whose leader Brandon Straka was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and admitting he recorded himself telling Capitol rioters to “go go go.”
Other sponsors include New Federal State of China, a lobbying group cofounded by former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was convicted in July 2022 of contempt of Congress. Real America’s Voice, a network that broadcasts Bannon’s “War Room” program on which 2020 election falsehoods continue to prevail, is also a sponsor, with a large booth for broadcasting outfitted in red, white and blue signage.
Reilly and Severns trace the history of CPAC beginning in the 1970s and describe how it has devolved over the years.
Isaac Arsdorf and Meryl Kornfield at The Washington Post: Haley heckled as Trump movement asserts its dominance at shrunken CPAC.
It’s a mystery to me what these people see in Trump. He has only sunk deeper into dementia over the past two years, but he symbolizes something for these strange people–maybe it’s just that he gives them permission to hate.
Daniel Dale at CNN: Fact check: Republicans at CPAC make false claims about Biden, Zelensky, the FBI and children.
The Conservative Political Action Conference is underway in Maryland. And the members of Congress, former government officials and conservative personalities who spoke at the conference on Thursday and Friday made false claims about a variety of topics.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio uttered two false claims about President Joe Biden. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia repeated a debunked claim about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama used two inaccurate statistics as he lamented the state of the country. Former Trump White House official Steve Bannon repeated his regular lie about the 2020 election having been stolen from Trump, this time baselesly blaming Fox for Trump’s defeat.
Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida incorrectly said a former Obama administration official had encouraged people to harass Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina inaccurately claimed Biden had laughed at a grieving mother and inaccurately insinuated that the FBI tipped off the media to its search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Two other speakers, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka, inflated the number of deaths from fentanyl.
And that’s not all. Here is a fact check of 13 false claims from the conference, which continues on Saturday.
Head over to CNN to read the detailed list of lies with corrections.
Fallout continues from the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.
The Hollywood Reporter: Rupert Murdoch, Fox Corp. Sued For Sharing Biden’s Presidential Ads Before They Aired.
A complaint has been filed against Fox Corp. and chairman Rupert Murdoch over allegations that the network chief gave confidential information in 2020 to former president Donald Trump’s campaign.
In a suit filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, progressive watchdog group Media Matters claims that Fox made an illegal contribution to Trump’s political action committee when Murdoch shared then-candidate Joe Biden’s campaign advertisements with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. The liberal nonprofit seeks the maximum fine allowable for violations of campaign contribution laws and “appropriate remedial action” against Fox, Murdoch and the Make America Great Again PAC for a “nefarious attempt by people in power to operate a press entity as a political organization.”
A filing in Dominion Voting System’s defamation suit against Fox included claims that Murdoch gave Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public. It cited a deposition from Murdoch and internal company communications.
The Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits campaign contributions from corporations, including direct or indirect gits of money or services. The FEC considers information about advertising, messaging and other campaign strategy a contribution, according to the complaint.
While there are press exemptions for violations of the FEC Act, the suit alleges that Fox wasn’t acting as a press entity. It stresses that the ads hadn’t aired at the time Murdoch provided the information to Kushner and that the ads were covertly shared to hide the alleged misconduct.\
“This ‘distribution’ is diametrically opposed to Fox Corporation’s regular press activity broadcasting news programming through television and radio outlets and online publications,” writes Angelo Carusone, a lawyer for Media Matters in the suit. “Murdoch’s secret conveyance of the Biden advertisement is even less like press activity than a cablecasting company sending campaign flyers in its bills – and neither can be protected by the press Exemption.”
Politico: Dems want to cut Fox off after lawsuit revelations.
The thunderclap of stories showing Fox News’ role in pushing 2020 election fraud conspiracies and aiding Donald Trump’s campaign has intensified calls among Democrats to black out the network.
The revelations, made public as part of a $1.6 billion lawsuit brought against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems, showed that some network hosts and executives endorsed lies about Trump’s loss, hosted conspiracy theorists whom they thought were unhinged, and overtly prioritized the company’s profit over truth. A related deposition of the media empire’s chair, Rupert Murdoch, revealed that he shared private intel about Joe Biden’s campaign TV ads and provided debate strategy with top Trump advisers.
For years, Democrats have been engaged in a debate over whether the party should shun the cable news giant or grudgingly use its airwaves to run counterprogramming. But in the midst of the latest saga, a newer type of reaction has emerged: that they should sever all ties, including any money spent advertising on the network.
“There is nothing in those documents to show they operate like a real news organization,” said Doug Gordon, a Democratic strategist. “If you are running a campaign in 2024, how do you in good faith hand your ads to Fox when you know they handed them over to Republicans? If there are any general election debates, how do you let Fox be a moderator?”
There is no indication, at this juncture, that major Democratic entities are ready to halt their ad buys on Fox News, let alone its many affiliates. But that is partially because few Democratic campaigns or causes are currently spending ad money. In the interim, the Dominion lawsuit revelations have led to louder calls for the party to make a firm break from any involvement with the cable channel, whom they view as functionally a campaign arm for Republicans. Democrats spanning the ideological spectrum have even started calling on the White House Correspondents’ Association — the group of news reporters advocating for press access — to boot Fox News reporters from the briefing room.
I’m skeptical that the wimpy Democrats will actually follow through on any of this, but I’d love to be surprised.
Politico: The Trump world-Fox News war gets nasty.
In his first minute onstage at CPAC on Friday, Steve Bannon identified one of his top targets of the moment, an entity he claimed is opposing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at its own peril: Fox News.
The host of the popular War Room podcast and longtime Trump hand started by ripping the conservative channel for announcing that Joe Biden had won Arizona on election night in 2020.
“Fox News illegitimately called it for the opposition, and not Donald J. Trump,” the Trump adviser-turned-talk show host told the crowd in National Harbor, Maryland, an audience full of diehard MAGA supporters.
Ten minutes in, Bannon went after the network again, rousing the audience to their feet as he called out Fox for not having Trump on since he announced his campaign in November. He called out Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. founder who sits atop the media empire.
“Murdoch, you’ve deemed Trump’s not going to be president,” Bannon continued as the crowd roared with applause. “But we deem that you’re not going to have a network, because we’re going to fight you every step of the way.”
Far from random broadsides, Bannon’s screed against Fox News was the latest in what has become a hot war between MAGA world and the longtime conservative channel. Trump himself has gone off on Fox News before, often for coverage he has deemed unfair. But the current state of affairs — coming at the start of what promises to be a deeply contested GOP primary — is as strained as it has ever been.
Some news out of Ukraine
The New York Times: The U.S. attorney general meets with Zelensky during a surprise visit to Ukraine.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Friday to reaffirm America’s commitment to help hold Russia responsible for war crimes, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
Mr. Garland held several meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and foreign law enforcement officials in Lviv, while attending the United for Justice Conference, the department said in an email.
During the conference, Mr. Garland “reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbor,” the email said.
Mr. Zelensky, in his nightly address, said the thrust of the conference was to hold Russia’s leadership to account for atrocities committed by its army, a position he has hammered home repeatedly over the last year of war. “The main issue of all these meetings and the Lviv conference is accountability,” he said.
Mr. Garland’s visit, which was not public in advance for security concerns, comes on the heels of President Biden’s trip to Kyiv last month — and two days after Mr. Garland told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was determined to hold Russians accountable for war crimes they are committing in Ukraine.
Mr. Garland, a former federal judge whose family escaped the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, singled out Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Moscow-allied Wagner paramilitary group.
“Mr. Prigozhin, who runs this thing, is in my view a war criminal — and maybe that’s inappropriate for me to say as a judge before getting all the evidence,” Mr. Garland told the committee.
Mr. Garland added that he believes the group “is responsible for the attacks on Ukrainians in the Donbas” and accused them of using prisoners from Russia “as cannon fodder” in Ukraine.
A few gossipy odds and ends
NPR: Russia’s foreign minister gets laughed at over Ukraine remarks at a global conference.
Ever since Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, it has become rare for major international conferences to invite Russian officials. So, when an Indian think tank welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to speak, it made for some awkward exchanges.
This week, India’s Observer Research Foundation gathered academics, business executives and diplomats from the G-20, or Group of 20 economies, for a conference in Delhi known as the Raisina Dialogue.
On Friday, Lavrov took center stage of a Q&A session, where he voiced Moscow’s views on the war in Ukraine.
In one exchange, Lavrov received loud applause for accusing the West of having a double standard, noting its heavy criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite Western powers having invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. In another, the reaction was less positive.
“The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people,” he said.
Before Lavrov could finish his sentence, the audience laughed and groaned — loud enough for the foreign minister to pause and stumble on his words.
“Of course it influenced the policy of Russia, including the energy policy. And the blunt way to describe what is the change, what changed, we would not anymore rely on any partners in the West,” Lavrov added.
Page Six: Kellyanne Conway and George Conway to divorce after 22 years of marriage.
Page Six hears that Kellyanne Conway, the longtime advisor to President Donald Trump, and George Conway, the longtime tormentor of President Trump, have decided to divorce after 22 years of marriage.
Beltway insiders tell us that they’ve both lawyered up and that the two sides are hashing out the details of the split.
During the 2016 elections, Kellyanne served first as a campaign advisor to candidate Trump and then as his campaign manager, while her husband co-founded the Lincoln Project with the express purpose of keeping Trump out of the White House.
After the inauguration, she became senior counselor to the president, while George continued to lambast Trump at every opportunity on social media.
In 2022, Vanity Fair wrote that, “One of the greatest mysteries of the 21st century is the marriage of Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George — specifically, if they hate each other as much as their public commentary would suggest, or if the whole thing is some kind of three-dimensional chess designed to further their own interests.” [….]
The pair wed in 2001 and share four children, but their political differences during the Trump administration took a toll on their relationship.
In her 2022 memoir “Here’s the Deal,” Kellyanne said that she considered George’s steady barrage of criticism of the then-president a betrayal of their marriage, calling it “cheating by tweeting.” She also said that Ivanka Trump had suggested couples therapy.
Read the rest at the link.
The Washington Post: White House physician says small lesion removed from Biden’s chest was cancerous.
President Biden had one cancerous skin lesion removed from his chest on Feb. 16, his longtime doctor Kevin C. O’Connor said in a letter Friday. O’Connor said that all cancerous tissue was successfully removed, and no further treatment is needed.
The headline is a bit misleading, as Beschloss didn’t actually call Trump a cockroach; he just compared Trump’s ability to survive with cockroaches.
CNN Politics: DeSantis appointee to new Disney oversight board suggested tap water could turn people gay.
An appointee to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new oversight board in control of Disney’s special tax district called homosexuality “evil” last year and shared a baseless conspiracy theory that tap water could be making more people gay.
On Monday, the Republican governor appointed Ron Peri, an Orlando-based former pastor and the CEO of The Gathering – a Christian ministry focused on outreach to men – as one of five people who will now oversee the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body that has given Disney unique powers in Central Florida for more than half a century.
DeSantis signed a bill in February that allowed him to replace the district’s existing board – mostly people with ties to Disney – with a five-member body that he hand-picked. The move to remove power from Disney comes nearly a year after the company spoke out against a Florida bill – which DeSantis later signed into law – to restrict certain classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
A CNN KFile review of Peri’s past comments found that he frequently made derogatory remarks about the LGBTQ community.
“So why are there homosexuals today? There are any number of reasons, you know, that are given. Some would say the increase in estrogen in our societies. You know, there’s estrogen in the water from birth control pills. They can’t get it out,” Peri baselessly said in a January 2022 Zoom discussion, later put on YouTube. “The level of testosterone in men broadly in America has declined by 50 points in the past 10 years. You know, and so, maybe that’s a part of it.”
“But the big part I would suggest to you, based upon what it’s saying here, is the removal of constraint,” he continued. “So our society provided the constraint. And so, which is the responsibility of a society to constrain people from doing evil? Well, you remove the constraints, and then evil occurs.”
Read more at CNN.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?