President Biden rips into Herr Trump, honors John McCain

Remember:  Senator John McCain was a Navy pilot, shot down over Norths Vietnam, captured, held captive for seven years, tortured to the point that he was in constant pain from injuries to leg and arms.  Trump attacked McCain, saying:

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”


In Tempe, Arizona, today, President Joe Biden spoke at the dedication ceremony for a new library, named for the late Arizona senator John McCain, who died in 2018. Biden used the opportunity not only to honor his friend, but to emphasize the themes of democracy and to call out those who are threatening to overturn it. While Biden has made the defense of American democracy central to his presidency, he has never been clearer or more impassioned than he was today.

Biden recalled that when McCain was dying, he wrote a farewell letter to the nation that he had served in both war and peace. “We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain wrote. “Americans never quit…. We never hide from history. We make history.”

Biden reiterated the point he makes often: that the United States is the only nation founded on an idea, articulated in the Declaration of Independence, that we are all created equal and have the right to be treated equally before the law. While “[w]e’ve never fully lived up to that idea,” he said, “we’ve never walked away from it.” Now, though, our faith in that principle is in doubt.

“[H]istory has brought us to a new time of testing,” Biden said. “[A]ll of us are being asked right now: What will we do to maintain our democracy? Will we, as John wrote, never quit? Will we not hide from history, but make history? Will we put partisanship aside and put country first? I say we must and we will. We will. But it’s not easy.”

Biden laid out exactly what democracy means: “Democracy means rule of the people, not rule of monarchs, not rule of the monied, not rule of the mighty. Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections; accepting the outcome, win or lose. It means you can’t love your country only when you win.”

“Democracy means rejecting and repudiating political violence,” he said. “Regardless of party, such violence is never, never, never acceptable in America. It’s undemocratic, and it must never be normalized to advance political power.”

“Today,” he warned, “democracy is…at risk.” Our political institutions, our Constitution, and “the very character of our nation” are threatened. “Democracy is maintained by adhering to the Constitution and the march to perfecting our union…by protecting and expanding rights with each successive generation.” “For centuries, the American Constitution has been a model for the world,” but in the past few years, he noted, the institutions of our democracy—the judiciary, the legislature, the executive” have been damaged in the eyes of the American people, and even the eyes of the world, by attacks from within.

“I’m here to tell you,” Biden said: “We lose these institutions of our government at our own peril…. Democracy is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.”

“[T]here is something dangerous happening in America now,” Biden said. “There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy: the MAGA Movement.” After high praise for his Republican friend McCain, and recollections of working with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation throughout his career, Biden made it clear that he does not believe “every Republican,” or even “a majority of Republicans” adheres to the MAGA extremist ideology. But, he said”

“[T]here is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.”

The MAGA Republicans, Biden said, are openly “attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.” They are “banning books and burying history.” “Extremists in Congress [are] more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done.” They are attacking the military—the strongest military in the history of the world—as being “weak and ‘woke’.”

They are “pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him: This president is above the law, with no limits on power. Trump says the Constitution gave him…’the right to do whatever he wants as President.’ I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Biden accurately recounted the plans Trump has announced for a second term: expand presidential power, put federal agencies under the president’s thumb, get rid of the nonpartisan civil service and fill positions with loyalists. Biden quoted MAGA Republicans: “I am your retribution,” “slitting throats” of civil servants, “We must destroy the FBI,” calling the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a “traitor” and suggesting he should be executed. These extremists, he said, are “the controlling element of the House Republican Party.”

“This is the United States of America,” Biden said. “Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.”

“The MAGA extremists across the country have made it clear where they stand,” Biden said. “So, the challenge for the rest of America—for the majority of Americans—is to make clear where we stand. Do we still believe in the Constitution? Do we believe in…basic decency and respect? The whole country should honestly ask itself…what it wants and understand the threats to our democracy.”

Biden knew his own answers:

“I believe very strongly that the defining feature of our democracy is our Constitution.

“I believe in the separation of powers and checks and balances, that debate and disagreement do not lead to disunion.

“I believe in free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

“I believe there is no place in America…for political violence. We have to denounce hate, not embolden it.

“Across the aisle, across the country, I see fellow Americans, not mortal enemies. We’re a great nation because we’re a good people who believe in honor, decency, and respect.”

Pointing to the fact that the majority of the money appropriated for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has gone to Republican-dominated states, he added: “I believe every president should be a president for all Americans” and should “use the Office of the President to unite the nation.”

The job of a president, he said, is to “deliver light, not heat; to make sure democracy delivers for everyone; to know we’re a nation of unlimited possibilities, of wisdom and decency—a nation focused on the future.”

“We’ve faced some tough times in recent years, and I am proud of the progress we made as a country,” Biden said, “But the real credit doesn’t go to me and my administration…. The real heroes of the story are you, the American people.” Now, he said, “I’m asking you that regardless whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent, put the preservation of our democracy before everything else. Put our country first…. We can’t take democracy for granted.”

“Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle,” Biden said. “They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn the threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned, tired, alienated.”

“I get it,” Biden said. But “[f]or all its faults…, American democracy remains the best…[path] forward to prosperity, possibilities, progress, fair play, equality.” He urged people not to sit on the sidelines, but “to build coalitions and community, to remind ourselves there is a clear majority of us who believe in our democracy and are ready to protect it.”

“So,” he said, “let’s never quit. Let’s never hide from history. Let’s make history.” If we do that, he said, “[w]e’ll have proved, through all its imperfections, America is still a place of possibilities, a beacon for the world, a promise realized—where the power forever resides with ‘We the People.’”

“That’s our soul. That’s who we truly are. That’s who we must always be.”

NY judge effectively wipes out Trump’s business empire in NY

Read the full ruling here. Man, it’s ugly. A lot of words that you NEVER want to see from a judge.  Best part is page 35 where the judge strips Trump’s businesses in NY of their licenses to do business, then, he schedules the appointment of receivers to evaluate Trump’s property and sell it off.

Donald Trump’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2023 just got a lot worse. Next week, he’s slated to face a civil suit brought by state attorney general Letitia James alleging Trump and his real estate company fraudulently inflated their assets by. On Tuesday afternoon, a New York judgeissued findings of factthat found Trump had indeed inflated the value of his assets. More seriously, the judge effectively stripped Trump of nearly all of his authority over his beloved real estate empire.

Former President Donald Trump, his top executives, and heirs were declared completely liable of “persistent and repeated fraud”—and the real estate empire was unceremoniously stripped of its business licenses in New York—after a judge’s powerful ruling Tuesday ahead of a massive trial that seeks to hit them with more than $250 million in penalties for bank fraud.

And in a stunning development, the judge has already ordered the complete dissolution of the fabled Trump Organization–the tycoon’s pride and joy, the empire that made him famous and elevated him into the White House. The Trump Organization and its sister companies will be sent into receivership to be under the control of a court-appointed officer.

In so doing, New York judge Arthur Engoron granted James request for a partial summary judgment. This move will make it a lot easier for James to pursue her goal of not only making Trump and his sons cough up over $250 million in fines, but strip them of the remains of the Trump Organization.

Engoron’s ruling contains language that no one wants to see from a judge.

In his 35-page opinion, Justice Arthur F. Engoron tore apart what he called the Trump family’s “bogus arguments” and obstreperous conduct. And he summed up the entire defense as “a fantasy world, not the real world.”

“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land, restricts can evaporate into thin air… all illegal acts are untimely if they stem from one untimely act; and square footage [is] subjective,” he wrote.


On Tuesday, Engoron ripped the Trumps—and their lawyers—apart for dragging this on so long with legal arguments that wasted the courts time by repeatedly questioning whether the AG even had the authority to hold them accountable this way.

Those arguments “glaringly misrepresent” the law and trying them again and again “invoke the time-loop in the film ‘Groundhog Day,’” the judge wrote, calling attempts to topple the case this way “pure sophistry.”

As the lawyers here know, when a judge says your arguments exist in “a fantasy world” and are based on “pure sophistry,” he’s not just saying you’re wrong. He’s saying you have no case at all.

Trump still has a chance to delay or defang the case by suing Engeron. However, if an appeals court rules against him later this week, Trump will face a really steep hill to climb at trial. After all, Engeron, not a jury, will determine whether the Trumps will not only face whopping fines, but also be barred from serving as officers or directors and be stripped of their corporate charters.

Engeron has already made it clear that he isn’t happy with Trump. In the same ruling, he tore Trump a new one for not allowing a court-appointed independent monitor to properly do her job. The monitor, a retired federal judge, had been tasked with making sure Trump didn’t improperly shift assets. Despite that, Engeron wrote that he found evidence of “false and misleading information while conducting business.” He also slapped Trump’s lawyers with $7,500 each in sanctions for making frivolous arguments.

So for the second time this year, a Black female prosecutor may be poised to cut Trump down to size. Remember, for almost as long as James has pursued Trump, Fulton County, Georgia DA Fani Willis has been building up a devastating case against Trump for his attempts to steal Georgia from Joe Biden. While Willis has amassed enough evidence to potentially put Trump in prison for life, James may be poised to land a devastating blow to Trump’s checkbook.

Let’s put this is simple, straightforward terms:  Trump’s businesses in NY — which are the businesses the generate the money he uses to buy groceries — are finished.  

All of Trump’s certificates of operation or incorporation in the State of New York are cancelled immediately by this fraud conviction.

Any entity in NY controlled or operated by Donald Trump, his two sons, or Allen Weisselberg is effectively out of business. Trump has over 700 different companies* in NY, many with their own subdivisions.

In addition, the Trump trust which hold most of his assets which he uses to conduct business is finished. So is the Trump Organization his father gave him. It’s over and done.

All of his holding companies there are finished, including his building management companies, and his liability companies which hold title to his buildings, like 40 Wall Street and Seven Springs.

Trump has 10 days to name three independent receivers who can oversee the dissolution of existing NY incorporated and LLCs companies in Trumps’ name, including the Trump Organization.

The case likely won’t go to trial right away, due to an almost certain ask and appeal by the Trump team for a stay before taking it to a 5-member appeals court.

But this is a pretty solid case and this should all come to pass in the end. The trial phase will be where the judge will determine the amount left to be allocated away from the four defendants. For now, absolutely no business in New York for Trump – the home of his most lucrative assets.

Hunter Biden sues Giuliani: There was no laptop

Hunter Biden has filed a civil suit against Rudy Giuliani, a number of shell companies through which Giuliani does business, and Giuliani’s attorney Robert Costello. The suit charges Giuliani and Costello with violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically accessing Hunter Biden’s personal information “without authorization or exceeding authorized access,” resulting in the “total annihilation” of his digital privacy.

Additionally, the suit reminds the court—and everyone else—that for all the talk of “Hunter Biden’s laptop,” there is no laptop. There never was. Instead, “Defendants themselves admit that their purported possession of a ‘laptop’ is in fact not a ‘laptop’ at all. It is, according to their own public statements, an ‘external drive’ that Defendants were told contained hundreds of gigabytes of Plaintiff’s personal data.”

According to Giuliani, the data on that drive came from John Paul Mac Isaac, the former owner of a computer repair shop, who claimed to have data taken from one of Hunter Biden’s laptops and who offered to send it to Giuliani. According to the lawsuit, neither Isaac nor Giuliani ever maintained any kind of chain of custody on this data, and the data they have has been not just accessed but also tampered with, manipulated, altered, and damaged.

The basis of the lawsuit is the claim that Giuliani and Costello violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by accessing the data stored on the external drive sent to them by Isaac. Hunter Biden specifically does not admit that all the data on the drive was ever in his possession, or that Isaac was ever actually in possession of a laptop that Biden had owned.

What the lawsuit alleges of Giuliani seems patently obvious.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges for the past many months Defendant Giuliani has spent many hours hacking into and manipulating data that he claims to have been obtained from Plaintiff, making copies of the data for himself and others to access and analyze, and further altering, impairing and damaging the data through his unlawful hacking and manipulation. In public interviews and media appearances and during podcasts, Defendant Giuliani has not only admitted but bragged about downloading data from Plaintiff’s “laptop” (even though he only had a hard drive) onto his own computer; about using his own computer to access, tamper with and manipulate the downloaded data; and about maintaining multiple copies of the data for his and Defendant Costello’s personal use.

The bigger challenge for Hunter Biden will be showing that the case belongs in California, where he has made the claims in part because of that state’s greater protections for digital privacy, and showing that Giuliani and Costello violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

It’s clear that both men have repeatedly accessed the information, that Giuliani has hired others in an attempt to recover more information from the hard drive, and that the data has been altered and tampered with at least to the extent of being edited into pieces that Giuliani has provided to the media or used on his own podcast.

The move to try the suit in California is particularly important for the second claim made in the suit, which addresses how Giuliani obtained information from the hard drive that allowed him to access more information that was stored on Hunter Biden’s “cloud” accounts. That kind of violation is specifically addressed in California’s penal code. Hunter Biden also notes that this data came from a computer used for business purposes, a critical point in providing protections under both federal and California law.

As relief from the distress generated by Giuliani and Costello’s actions, Hunter Biden is seeking unspecified damages, any money that Giuliani has made related to his misuse of the information, legal fees, and an order that both requires Giuliani to dispose of any copies of the data he holds, and prevents him, his companies, or his attorney from accessing or distributing any of the data in the future.

Earlier his month, Hunter Biden filed a similar suit against former Donald Trump assistant Garrett Ziegler. He has also sued the IRS after agents there, specifically “whistleblowers” Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, discussed details of Hunter Biden’s tax returns in open hearings and statements.


During the 2016 elections, Russian government agents hacked into the Democratic National Committee and into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, then dumped the stolen data in an effort to sabotage Donald Trump’s election opponent. The more we learn about the supposed “Hunter Biden laptop,” a scandal meant to roil the campaign of Donald Trump’s election opponent four years later, the more it looks like somebody was following the same hack-and-dump playbook.

Marcy Wheeler has a new post that breaks down some of the many, many known oddities of the supposed “laptop.” When you consider that the whole premise of the story to begin with is that a “Hunter Biden” allegedly wandered into a random Delaware computer repair shop, handed over a damaged laptop, completely forgot about it afterward, and then somehow the computer dude and/or allies decided that Donald Trump ratf–ker Rudy freaking Giuliani was the person he needed to deliver the laptop’s data to, dozens of other oddities piled on top of that begin to turn what started out as farce into a full three-ring circus of weird.

Marcy’s post is, as usual, worth reading in full, but here’s the shortest version of it: Quite a lot of evidence suggests that in 2018 or 2019, Hunter Biden was the target of a successful phish or other hack that gave an outside party access to his iCloud account, his email accounts, and other data.

Of special note is a window of time during which Hunter was receiving addiction treatment (from the disgraced ex-Fox News talking head Dr. Keith Ablow, no less, just to put a nearly cartoonish spin on all this yet again) and appears to have had “limited” online communications. Despite those limited communications, somebody was using this period of time to make a hell of a lot of technical changes to Hunter’s iCloud and email accounts, including:

  • Changed the password and related phone numbers to his rhb iCloud account
  • Installed and gave full access to his droidhunter gmail account a real app, called Hunter, that can send email on someone else’s behalf
  • Signed into that droidhunter account using a new device
  • Again changed emails and phone numbers associated with his rhb account
  • Asked for a full copy of his rhbdc iCloud account
  • Reset the password of that rhbdc iCloud account
  • Made droidhunter account the notification email for the rhbdc account
  • Downloaded all Hunter’s Apple Store purchases

  • Signed into the droidhunter account from a burner phone
  • Restored the prior trusted phone number
  • Added software that could record calls
  • Started erasing and then locked a laptop — probably the one that would eventually end up in Mac Isaac’s store

The list goes on, but the changes line up almost precisely with what you’d see in the aftermath of a successful phishing attack or other security breach. Passwords and security-related phone numbers were changed, access was granted to additional devices and burner phones, there was a “full copy” made of his iCloud account, some spyware or spyware-adjacent new tools were installed, and after a full data dump was made, some of the security changes were reverted so as to obfuscate what had just gone on.

The emails from Hunter around this time period don’t suggest a man deep in the weeds of tweaking his own online security details, to put it mildly, so we’re left wondering just who was doing all this fiddling.

The sheer number should have raised alarms that people had broken into Hunter Biden’s iCloud accounts when the IRS asked Apple for Hunter Biden’s subscriber information in November 2019, in advance of writing a subpoena for the laptop in custody of John Paul Mac Isaac. Additionally, there were a bunch of attempts to get into Hunter Biden’s Venmo account, and the account added two new Remembered Devices within 12 minutes of each other in August 2018, one in the LA foothills and the other in Las Vegas. That and other details (including texts and emails) might have raised questions about whether sex workers from the very same escort service on which the IRS had predicated this entire investigation took steps to compromise Hunter Biden’s devices.

The evidence is very good, then, that Hunter Biden’s online accounts were successfully hacked shortly before a “laptop” purportedly belonging to him mysteriously showed up in a Delaware computer repair shop, packed with seemingly legitimate data that then was handed over to Rudy freaking Giuliani, the man in Donald Trump’s orbit most intimately involved in ginning up dirt, any dirt at all, about Hunter Biden during Trump’s reelection bid.

A bunch of media outlets have previously breathlessly reported that the laptop had been “verified” as belonging to Hunter Biden while simultaneously fudging what that means. It means that the laptop, or at least its alleged hard drive, does indeed contain data from Hunter’s email and iCloud accounts. There’s another obvious scenario, though, and that’s the exact hack-and-dump scheme that the FBI was warning Twitter and Facebook off of before the New York Post reported its original scoop revealing the alleged existence of the laptop.

Government disinformation specialists were warning, in the wake of Giuliani’s already exposed anti-Biden ratfucking efforts based in part on hoaxes pushed by pro-Russian interests (see: Trump’s impeachment, as in the first one and not the second one) that foreign disinformation aimed at bending the 2020 elections was still prevalent. Counterintelligence specialists were on watch, especially after Russian agents successfully hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns in 2016, “dumping” the stolen information through multiple entities in an attempt to boost Trump’s chances of winning.

What we have in the Hunter laptop case appears to be an uncannily similar series of events. Hunter’s email, iCloud, Venmo, and other accounts appear to have been breached in 2018 and 2019. His data was copied, spyware was installed, and cursory attempts to cover up the breach were made.

And then, lo and behold, a laptop containing a copy of that data—one that showed clear evidence of the data being tampered with—gets dumped at a computer repair shop, never to be picked up again, while a copy of its data somehow makes it to Giuliani.

The only thing that would make all of this sketchier than it already is? A bizarre Russian link—and the joke’s on you if you thought there wouldn’t be one because weirdly, very very weirdly, the escort service suspected of possibly being an origin point for hacks of Hunter’s Venmo account appears to be tied to Russia.

Marcy’s careful to leave out speculation beyond what seems obvious: The activity surrounding Hunter’s online accounts seems to strongly suggest hackers successfully breached his accounts well before the laptop ever materialized. But we can speculate where she didn’t: Was this yet another hack-and-dump operation aimed, quite specifically, at damaging Trump’s election opponent?

How do we explain Giuliani’s front-and-center appearance here?

From the beginning, few news outlets besides the New York Post were willing to touch this story because from the computer repairman himself to the specifics of what was allegedly found and how, all of it looked like a hack and dump. Republicans have bellowed in outrage at how little traction the story is getting in the media even now that the data is supposedly “confirmed” to be Hunter’s. But that’s not surprising either; it’s almost certainly the result of criminal hacking.

Oh, and there also hasn’t been much found on the laptop that wasn’t already known: Hunter Biden has suffered through addiction, has spent substantial cash on drugs and sex workers, and has muddled through his troubled life slightly better than most addicts might due to his perceived closeness to his well-connected father. But it would be a hell of a thing if this episode turned out to be exactly the Giuliani-assisted foreign operation it appeared to be from the moment the New York Post wrote it up.

Trump and Trump Organization found guilty of fraud!!!

The New York attorney general won a major victory in her civil case against Donald J. Trump on Tuesday when a New York judge determined that the former president fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to obtain favorable loans and insurance deals.

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron precedes a trial that is scheduled to begin Monday, and could considerably smooth Attorney General Letitia James’s path.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard, effectively deciding that the trial was not necessary to find that Mr. Trump was liable and that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many of the claims against the former president.

This ruling is a disaster for Trump.  This means that all Trump properties in NY and headquartered in NY will be dissolved and go into receivership where they will be sold off for back taxes and fines.
This also means that NY banks will be prohibited from lending money to Trump or anyone or anyone entity associated with the ruling for five years.

Trump’s day so far
– Loses New York fraud trial
– Massive financial penalties incoming
– Goodbye Trump Org!
– Trump’s NY business licenses being revoked
– Four Trump criminal trials still coming
– Trump is going to prisonIt’s still only 5:30 pm.

Trump’s year so far

The Republican who led the impeachment of Bill Clinton is now . . . going to jail

A former U.S. congressperson from Indiana was sentenced Tuesday to 22 months in prison for making illegal stock trades based on inside information while working as a consultant and lobbyist after he left office. . . Former Rep. Steve Buyer, a lawyer and Persian Gulf War veteran, once chaired the House Veterans’ Affairs committee and was a House prosecutor at ex-President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial.

Latest Jan 6 arrest kills a big Republican lie — the Ray Epps saga

On Tuesday, former Marine, former wedding venue operator, and current hermit Ray Epps was indicted for his actions during the Jan. 6 riot. This single charge should lay to rest an elaborate conspiracy theory that originated with online supporters of Donald Trump and spread across right-wing media. It should … if conspiracy theories were affected by facts.

Epps, a 61-year-old former president of the Arizona branch of the Oath Keepers militia and adamant supporter of Trump, flew from Arizona to Washington, D.C., in response to Trump’s call for a ‘wild’ time. Videos of Epps on Jan. 5 show him shouting for Trump supporters to take the Capitol. On Jan. 6, he marched toward Congress, urging others to do the same.

When the FBI created a website where it posted photos of individuals being sought for their involvement in the insurgency, Epps’ face was one of the first to appear. But when Epps’ photo was taken down and no charges immediately followed, claims emerged that Epps was secretly a government agent who had infiltrated Trump supporters to entice them into breaking the law. Those claims spread from QAnon to right-wing media and may have reached a peak when Sen. Ted Cruz and then-host Tucker Carlson parroted the claim on Fox News.

Carlson’s embrace of the theory, which he repeated on multiple occasions, was enough to generate waves of harassment against Epps from his fellow Trump supporters. He and his wife were forced to sell their wedding-venue business in Arizona and live “in hiding” at a trailer somewhere in Utah. In an interview with People, Epps’ attorney said the couple “received a number of credible and serious death threats, which become worse each time someone on Fox or Tucker Carlson talk about Ray.”

Epps became such a fixture of the right-wing conspiracy landscape that Republican politicians weren’t just mentioning him on Carlson’s show. They were yelling about him in a House hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“I want to turn my attention now to this fella, this character, Mr. Ray Epps,” said Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls. “We’ve all heard of him. We’ve heard of Mr. Ray Epps. He was number 16 on your FBI most-wanted list. He was encouraging people the night prior and the day to go into the Capitol. And Mr. Ray Epps can be seen at the first breach of Capitol grounds at approximately 12:50 p.m.”

Epps was never on the FBI’s most-wanted list. When it comes to the FBI’s Jan. 6 website, Epps’ photo was removed because he reached out and turned himself in after seeing that the FBI was looking for him. Following that first contact, Epps was told he would likely face charges.

But when Wray refused to say that Epps would be arrested, Nehls responded angrily. “It appears to me you are protecting this guy! I strongly recommend you get your house back in order!”

In July, Epps filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Carlson accusing them of defamation. The lawsuit was filed in the same Delaware court where Fox News ended a lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems by reaching a last-minute agreement to pay a $787.5 million settlement. Not long after that settlement, Fox News fired Carlson. But that move didn’t come in time to avoid another $12 million that Fox paid in June to settle a hostile workplace lawsuit by a former employee on Carlson’s show.

Carlson is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

In August, Fox News moved to dismiss Epps’ lawsuit, with a claim that Carlson painting Epps at the center of a fantastical conspiracy theory was “exactly what the First Amendment protects.” According to the Fox News motion, Carlson’s statements were “protected opinions, not assertions of fact.” That motion has not yet been decided. Fox News attorneys asked for a hearing on the motion in a court appearance on Monday afternoon.

While it’s safe to say that statements of fact were hard to find on Carlson’s show—and remain so on the programs of other Fox News pundits—it’s hard to see how viewers were supposed to get that just-an-opinion vibe from Carlson bringing up Epps in nearly 20 different episodes, in which he told his audience there was “no rational explanation” for the failure to charge Epps other than him being a federal agent.

In the indictment filed on Monday, Epps faces a single charge of engaging in “disorderly and disruptive conduct” in a restricted area with “intent to impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business.” He is not known to have entered the Capitol, and no evidence has emerged that he assaulted the police or of any act of vandalism. He was one of several people photographed holding a very large Trump sign which was thrust toward the police line, but he hasn’t been charged with an offense connected to that action. One other man who was charged for being one of those holding the sign was found guilty on nine other counts, but acquitted for his part in holding the sign.

The method in which Epps was charged suggested he had already reached an agreement for a plea. NBC News has reported that Epps will enter his plea over a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon.

The charges against Epps make him one of just a handful of people to be charged in relation to the insurgency who did not enter the Capitol or engage violently with the police. His wait for this charge is far from exceptional. Over 200 defendants have been charged in the past year, with 42 sentenced since July. There are still many more cases to come. The FBI seems to have simply prioritized those who entered the Capitol, assaulted the police, and engaged in violent conspiracies.

But don’t expect any of that to make it safe for Epps to leave his trailer. Conspiracy theories can always adapt to ignore facts. And don’t be surprised if Republicans in Congress continue to use Epps in their tirades. Unlike Fox News, the speech and debate clause of the Constitution is always there so they can defame and endanger anyone—as the founders intended.

Epps’ actions on Jan. 5 and 6, his ardent support for Trump, and most of all his involvement with the Oath Keepers show that he is anything but a model citizen. And maybe it’s only fitting that the MAGA crowd should turn on one of their own. But in the end, the conspiracy against Epps isn’t about Epps, or even the FBI. It’s about what’s most important to Trump supporters: avoiding any responsibility for their own actions.

Congress is not in crisis — it’s Republicans who are in crisis, and they are taking the rest of us down with them

Headlines this morning said that “Congress” is in crisis. But that construction obscures the true story: the Republicans are in crisis, and they are taking the country down with them.

The most immediate issue is that funding for the government ends on September 30. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is moving forward on a strongly bipartisan basis with 12 appropriations bills that reflect the deal President Biden hammered out with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in May to get House Republicans to agree not to default on the United States debt. That deal, the Washington Post editorial board pointed out today, was a comprehensive compromise that should have been a blueprint for the budget.

But extremist House Republicans reject it, and there is no sign that House Republicans can even agree among themselves on a replacement, let alone on one that can make it through the Senate and past the president’s desk. Extremists in the Freedom Caucus insist they will not agree to any budget that accepts the deal McCarthy cut with Biden. In addition, although appropriations bills are traditionally kept clean of volatile issues, the extremists have loaded up this year’s appropriations bills with so-called poison pills: rules that advance their attempt to impose their ideology on the country but are unacceptable to Democrats. McCarthy had to pull back the Pentagon spending bill on Thursday before the House went home for the weekend, leaving without any plan in place for funding the government.

Over the weekend, six Republicans from five different party factions offered a plan for a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. Designed to appeal to the extremists, the plan goes back on the deal McCarthy struck with Biden. It proposes a 1% cut to the federal budget, but that 1% is not applied evenly: the defense budget and the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs would not take any cuts—Republicans have learned how voters react to hurting veterans—requiring an 8% cut to everything else. It includes the border measures the extremists want, and provides no money either for Ukraine or for disaster assistance.

It’s not clear that Republican House members will vote for the bill, and if they do, the bill is unlikely, encumbered as it is, to make it through the Senate.

What the House Republicans have managed to do recently is to try to appease the extremists by launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, claiming that he enriched himself through his son Hunter’s business dealings when he was vice president. McCarthy had to open the inquiry himself, without a House vote, because lacking any evidence, he didn’t have the votes to set such an inquiry in motion. On the Fox News Channel on Sunday, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) said McCarthy has given him the role of assisting in the inquiry, but admitted: “We don’t have the evidence now, but we may find it later.”

To try to get at the president, the Republicans have hammered at his son Hunter, who has begun to push back, today filing a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for failing to keep his tax information private as the law requires. He is referring to the two men who testified before House committees trying to find dirt on Hunter Biden and who made the rounds of reporters with their allegations that the IRS did not adequately pursue charges against him.

Meanwhile, video has emerged of the conditions under which extremist Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was kicked out of a kid-friendly Beetlejuice concert last weekend. Boebert has repeatedly accused those protecting LGBTQ civil rights of “grooming” children for sexual activity. Not only was she vaping, she and her date were groping each other quite intensely. Boebert is in the process of getting a divorce, and her date, it turns out, is co-owner of a gay-friendly bar that has hosted drag shows.

Things are not all ducky with Republicans in the Senate, either. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) refuses to lift his hold on more than 300 military promotions until the Pentagon changes its policy of allowing service members leave time and travel expenses to obtain abortion care. While he insists he is doing no damage to the military, actual military officers, as well as members of his own party, disagree. They say the holds are hollowing out our military leadership and that the damage will take years to repair, since the promotion holds also stop junior officers from moving up. Those holds mean lower pay and retirement, tempting junior officers to move out of the military to higher-paying private sector jobs.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) today wrote a public letter to Tuberville asking him to remove his hold and warning that “harming American service members as leverage in Washington political battles” set a “very dangerous precedent.” They also noted that in a survey of VFW members, including those in Alabama, “VFW members strongly conveyed that politicians should not be able to harm the troops over political disputes and that political decisions that harm the troops would affect the way they would vote in upcoming elections.”

And now Trump, who leads the extremists, has suddenly changed course on abortion, the leading issue for most of his base, in order to weaken his rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. After packing the Supreme Court with three extremists who helped to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by which the Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right to an abortion, Trump yesterday said the six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed, which would ban abortion before most women know they’re pregnant, was “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” although he also appeared to endorse abortion bans in general. Trump’s vice president Mike Pence, in contrast, is calling for a federal ban on abortion.

Republicans have finally recognized that about 63% of Americans think abortion should be legal in “all or most circumstances,” according to a new poll by 19th News jand SurveyMonkey. But only 9% believe it should be illegal in all cases, although 14 states have enacted such extensive bans. The survey also found that support for abortion rights has increased since the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Trump has suddenly also become more problematic for the Republicans. On Sunday night,  Trump doubled down on his past antisemitism by sharing a Rosh Hashanah message that celebrated the Jewish New Year by accusing “liberal Jews” of voting to “destroy” America and Israel.

Then, ​​today, Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News reported that long-time Trump assistant Molly Michael told agents investigating Trump’s mishandling of classified documents that he wrote to-do lists for her on the back of documents with classified markings.

Meanwhile, the administration continues to go about the daily work of governance.

On Sunday, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan met in Malta with China’s top diplomat to keep communications between the two countries open. Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Vice President Han Zheng of China on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “The world expects us to responsibly manage our

relationship,” Blinken said. “The United States is committed to doing just that.”

Also on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly today, 32 coastal Atlantic countries from Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and the Caribbean launched the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation. This new multilateral forum echoes regional organizations the administration has backed elsewhere and seeks to establish a mechanism for implementing “a set of shared principles for the Atlantic region, such as a commitment to an open Atlantic free from interference, coercion, or aggressive action,” as well as coordinated plans for addressing issues including climate change.

Finally, five Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran are home tonight, along with two of their spouses. In exchange, the U.S. freed five Iranian citizens who were imprisoned or were about to stand trial, although three of them declined to return to Iran (two have chosen to stay in the U.S., and another went to a third country). The Republic of Korea has released $6 billion of Iran’s money to Qatar for use for humanitarian aid to Iranian citizens suffering under the sanctions that prevent medicines and food from coming into the country.

Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian that the funds had not previously been frozen; they were held up in South Korea because of that country’s own regulations. Under Trump, Iran spent heavily from similar accounts in China, Turkey, and India. Now that they are released, the funds will have more legal restrictions than they did when they were in South Korea.

The Biden administration has prioritized bringing home wrongfully detained Americans. Today’s events bring the number of those the administration has brought home to 35.