People protest the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.ImageSPACE/Zuma
Before leading a discussion of his infrastructure plan in the Oval Office on Monday, President Biden took a moment to acknowledge the death of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man whom police shot during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday.
“I haven’t called Daunte Wright’s family, but my prayers are with their family,” Biden said. “It’s a really tragic thing that happened.”
An officer shot Wright in what police are calling an “accidental discharge.” In video released by the department, an officer yells “Taser!” multiple times before firing her gun. “Holy shit, I just shot him,” the officer says. “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said.
Wright was reportedly stopped for traffic violations. Police chose to arrest him because of an existing warrant, according to the New York Times.
As my colleague Madison Pauly reported, the suburb’s police department works with the private company Lexipol, “which sellspolicy handbooks and training modules to police departments across the country.” Critics have pushed back against this practice:
According to the company, the policies it drafts for police—including those that govern the use of force—are based on “best practices,” court precedent, and federal and state laws, and police departments are encouraged to customize them.
But some experts criticize the policies for being overly permissive or vague, giving officers as much latitude as legally possible. And that’s by design. “One of our secret sauces, so to speak, is rarely if ever will you see the use of the word ‘shall’ in our policies,” Bruce Praet, an ex-cop and one of Lexipol’s founders, said in a 2019 webinar. “Nothing in police work is black and white except the car you drive…So policies need to be flexible.”
Biden called for a “full-blown investigation” into Wright’s death to determine the officer’s intent. “In the meantime,” he said, “I want to make it clear, again, there is absolutely no justification…for looting.”
Biden’s remarks, though tempered, stand in contrast to former President Trump’s refusal to address the killing of George Floyd in the months after he died under the knee of then-officer Derek Chauvin, even as protests against police violence erupted across the nation. Instead of addressing racism in law enforcement, Trump tended to call for more policing, often repeating—and tweeting—the phrase, “law and order.” In a Minneapolis courtroom near where Wright was killed, Chauvin’s trial is ongoing.
“We do know that the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real,” Biden said. But until a thorough investigation takes place, “I’m calling for peace and calm.”
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim GannonStephen Maturen/Getty
Authorities have released body camera footage of the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was killed by a police officer on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis. The footage appears to depict an officer yelling “Taser! Taser!” as she points a weapon at Wright for several seconds. Then she appears to fire a shot at Wright through the open door of his car.
“Holy shit,” the officer says in the footage as the car accelerates away. “I just shot him.”
The officer has been placed on administrative leave while the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigates. At a Monday press conference, Brooklyn Center Police Department Chief Tim Gannon called the shooting an “accidental discharge.” “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Gannon told reporters.
How could a police officer make such an error? Pressed on the officer’s training, background, and length of employment, Gannon demurred, calling her only “very senior.” Members of his police department, he explained, wear their gun and Taser on opposite sides of their body and go through “numerous trainings throughout the year” on firearms, Tasers, and tactics.
The police department’s own policy manual, posted on Brooklyn Center’s city website, offers some further clues to the situation. The manual is written by a private company called Lexipol, which sellspolicy handbooks and training modules to police departments across the country. According to the company, the policies it drafts for police—including those that govern the use of force—are based on “best practices,” court precedent, and federal and state laws, and police departments are encouraged to customize them.
But some experts criticize the policies for being overly permissive or vague, giving officers as much latitude as legally possible. And that’s by design. “One of our secret sauces, so to speak, is rarely if ever will you see the use of the word ‘shall’ in our policies,” Bruce Praet, an ex-cop and one of Lexipol’s founders, said in a 2019 webinar. “Nothing in police work is black and white except the car you drive…So policies need to be flexible.” One of those policies states that an officer’s use of deadly force is justified in the face of an “imminent” threat of serious injury or death. Imminent, according to Lexipol, is broader than immediate, and includes any situation in which an officer “reasonably believes” an individual has a weapon and intends to use it.
As I reported last year in a story involving the fatal police shooting of Kris Jackson, a Black 22-year-old in California:
Some of the company’s policies, including the use-of-force policy challenged by Jackson’s family, depart in significant ways from recommendations by mainstream policing organizations. The National Consensus Policy on Use of Force, a collaboration between 11 major law enforcement groups, requires cops to try deescalation techniques before using force if possible. Lexipol discourages police departments from requiring them. Lexipol’s policy allows officers to shoot at moving vehicles in some circumstances, a practice that the Police Executive Research Forum recommends against because it may injure or kill civilians and officers. The ACLU has contested Lexipol’s rules for handling immigration violations, which in some states include a provision allowing cops to consider “a lack of English proficiency” when deciding whether someone may have entered the country illegally.
Despite these challenges, the company has marketed its policies as a way to decrease cities’ liability in police misconduct lawsuits. In its communications with potential clients, Lexipol has claimed that agencies that use its policies are sued less frequently and pay out smaller settlements, according to a Texas Law Review analysis of public records. The company’s critics argue that it accomplishes this with vague or permissive rules that meet bare-minimum legal requirements rather than holding officers to a higher standard. “They want to make it impossible, or nearly impossible, for anybody to point to the policy and say it was violated,” says Carl Takei, an ACLU senior staff attorney specializing in police practices. “Defining ‘imminent’ in a way that removes all of the imminence? That’s a classic Lexipol policy.” Samuel Sinyangwe, a racial justice activist and data analyst who has looked at hundreds of police departments’ policies, concludes that Lexipol’s use-of-force guidelines usually lack requirements that have been shown to reduce police violence. Lexipol did not respond to a request for comment.
Since the death of George Floyd sparked a nationwide outcry against police violence and racism, Lexipol has updated its use of force policy and rolled out a website dedicated to explaining it. Now, the company may come under scrutiny again. On Sunday, Sinyangwe drew attention to Brooklyn Center’s use of Lexipol policies on Twitter, writing that the company has “no interest in accountability.”
With Wright’s death currently under investigation, it’s still unclear what Lexipol policies adopted by Brooklyn Center police may be relevant to the shooting. For example, according to the department’s Lexipol-provided manual, Tasers must be “clearly and distinctly marked to differentiate them from the duty weapon and any other device.”
Yet other language in the policy is vague and full of loopholes. “The use of the TASER device on certain individuals should generally be avoided,” the policy states, unless other options “reasonably appear ineffective” under the “totality of the circumstances.” Those “certain individuals” who shouldn’t be tased include “obvious juveniles”; those with “obviously low body mass”; and those “whose position or activity may result in collateral injury (e.g., falls from height, operating vehicles).”
After Wright was shot, his car traveled for several blocks before crashing into another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is reportedly also the subject of a Justice Department inquiry into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel, potentially violating federal sex trafficking laws.
In a statement, the committee listed a litany of allegations for which it would be investigating Gaetz: that he may have “engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct.”
Still, the representative’s legal troubles—and his lack of support from fellow Republicans—haven’t kept him from trying to make a buck:
Less than a month after mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, left 18 people dead, President Biden called gun violence an “international embarrassment,” called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and announced a series of executive actions aimed at restricting access to firearms.
“Enough prayers,” he said in the Rose Garden Thursday. “Time for some action.”
Biden insisted that none of his executive actions violate the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, noting that even the First Amendment has its limitations. He called on Congress to pass a national extreme risk protection order law, or “red flag” law, and announced an executive action directing the Justice Department to draft model legislation that would make it easier for states to pass such laws, meant to bar people from accessing firearms if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
Other aspects of Biden’s order are aimed at stopping the proliferation of homemade “ghost guns” that lack serial numbers, investing in community-based violence mitigation, and ensuring that the Justice Department publishes an annual report on firearms trafficking.
The president also urged the Senate to approve House-passed legislation that would require background checks for gun purchases at gun shows, close a loophole that allows people to buy guns without a completed background check if the check isn’t processed within three days; and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
The recent gun violence has not been limited to Atlanta and Boulder. Earlier today, former NFL player Phillip Adams allegedly shot and killed five people before killing himself.
After his talk, Biden shared an elbow bump with former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot during a 2011 assassination attempt. “The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” he concluded.
Nearly a week after allegations of sex trafficking involving Rep. Matt Gaetz—one of Donald Trump’s most flamboyant, unapologetic defenders in Congress—became public, the former president is finally acknowledging the Florida congressman’s existence. But his new statement, clocking in at just 24 words, is far from the full-throated defense Gaetz was likely hoping to receive.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” reads Trump’s Wednesday statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The statement specifically responds to only a small part of Gaetz’s imploding scandals, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that it involves Trump himself. On Tuesday night, the New York Times reported that Gaetz, in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, approached the White House for “blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional aides.” The request came as the Justice Department began questioning Gaetz about his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. Trump’s response on Wednesday appears carefully worded to note that Gaetz did not ask him personally for such pardons—never mind that the Times never reported that.
As for the allegations of sex trafficking a minor, paying for sex, and other sordid details that have emerged in the past week, Trump merely noted that Gaetz denies them all. That rather milquetoast defense is a good reminder that Trump, who stands credibly accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault and misconduct, also denies the allegations against him.
Andrew Cuomo is on a curious streak of being good at his job. In the last week, after years of countless false starts, the New York governor announced a deal to legalize marijuana. He finally signed a bill to end solitary confinement in the state’s prisons and jails. And, on Monday, reports emerged that Cuomo was nearing a deal to impose new taxes on millionaires and corporate franchises. These are all big, popular, progressive wins from a Democratic governor.
Yet, it all comes as the three-term Democrat faces the biggest threats to his political career after a wave of sexual harassment allegations and a separate scandal over his administration’s manipulation of coronavirus data. Some have chalked up the governor’s dramatic leftward shift in recent weeks as a strategic effort to distract from mounting demands within his own party for him to resign.
But none of this should absolve him. Cuomo’s newfound willingness to take action on distinctly progressive issues—and perhaps, more importantly, the smooth ease with which he is suddenly able to turn the left’s biggest policy priorities into a political reality—exposes that it was Cuomo who largely stood in the way of such progress in the first place. After all, Democrats have had trifecta control of the state’s government since 2019. That it took the worst scandals of a political career to convince him to finally take action on overwhelmingly popular policies that had otherwise languished in Albany is not just telling, but serves as a useful reminder that Cuomo is eager to fashion himself into a progressive hero when it benefits him most.
It adds to a poor record, too. His work to legalize gay marriage and enact increased gun control, both significant wins, once appeared prime to turn him into a potential presidential candidate. But for progressives, they did little to cover up Cuomo’s devastating cuts to social programs such as Medicaid—including during the pandemic—in a state where one out of every three rely on the critical healthcare program, his frequent battles with unions, and pervasive accusations of running an abusive government plagued with rampant corruption. As for his accomplishments, many saw the governor riding on the coattails of a movement that had put in years of tireless work to make their policies popular. “You can be a politician’s politician and tough to move on an issue until you see a public out there that’s clamoring,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal once told The Atlantic. “You still deserve credit for getting it done, but where were you when an issue was not popular?”
Still, Cuomo, who often views himself as the only adult in the room, bashed those who questioned his progressive credentials.
“I am the left,” he declared in a July 2019 radio interview, before firing off at critics for engaging in fantastical policies that lacked, according to him, a “realistic plan or knowledge.” In the same conversation, Cuomo boldly labeled himself the “most progressive leader” in New York. Now, the rush to usher in these policies should only be seen as a self-serving, last-ditch effort to save a floundering political career.
But Cuomo’s recent embrace of a more left leaning platform could also reflect a larger awakening among establishment Democrats, who seem increasingly willing to break with the supposed center. Once derided as magical, fringe ideas—held by dangerous amateurs who didn’t know better—this agenda is proving itself not only overwhelmingly popular with the electorate, but actually achievable. The same realization could be applied to the early days of the current White House, where President Biden, once a vocal defender of the filibuster, is hinting that he may support eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to advance most legislation. Other moderate Democrats, including Amy Klobuchar, have also come out in support of filibuster reform. In another potential reversal, White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Politico on Thursday that Biden is still considering taking executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans support both changes to the filibuster and some form of government aid to helps students repay loans.
For the most part, this is all pretty encouraging stuff. But in the case of Andrew Cuomo, it really makes you wonder what more could be achieved when self-serving men get out of the way and start thinking about what’s best for the people. How much could have been done if Cuomo didn’t need to stop it from happening to burnish his own reputation? For now, the left will welcome and reap the benefits—and keep telling Cuomo to resign.
Denver's Coors Field.Russell Lansford/Icon SMI via Zuma
Being a willing fan of the Colorado Rockies is not easy. Our team is a national punchline, and we’re starting off the 2021 season having traded away Nolan Arenado, a once-in-a-generation third baseman whose only crime was to ask for the team to try. Arenado is now playing for an actual baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Rockies even paid the Cardinals $50 million to take him. Between the Arenado/Rockies divorce, the depressing intransigence of management, and the general state of play over the last couple of years, things haven’t been exactly fun.
But on Tuesday, Colorado baseball got a very rare bit of good news: Denver’s Coors Field will play host to this summer’s All-Star game, after Major League Baseball decided it did not want one of its premiere events associated with Georgia’s new laws that will make it harder for people to vote.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement announcing it would yank the event. “Fair access to voting continues to have our unwavering support.”
The selection makes perfect sense: Colorado’s election laws have helped foster one of the nation’s highest levels of voter turnout. Despite that, once the game landed in Denver, Republicans and conservatives immediately howled hypocrisy, ludicrously claiming the state has more “restrictive” voting laws than Georgia. To do so, they cited Colorado’s own voter ID rule, and the fact that the state has two fewer in-person early voting days than Georgia now will.
While that last bit is technically true, it’s pretty irrelevant to Coloradans, the vast majority of whom vote by mail on ballots mailed to them automatically by local governments weeks before Election Day. Meanwhile, Georgia’s new law cuts the time voters can request an absentee ballot in half and bars election officials from even mailing out absentee ballot applications.
As for ID, as was quickly pointed out by the Washington Post and others, there are major differences between Colorado’s existing requirements and Georgia’s new ones. For the relatively small amount of Colorado voters who turn out in person, the state’s voter ID requirements are classified as “non-strict” by the National Council of State Legislatures. For one, they accept a broader range of documents then Georgia’s new “strict” requirements. And if a voter can’t produce acceptable ID, they can vote by provisional ballot, “at which time,” according to the Post, “elections officials are charged with verifying their eligibility.” Under Georgia’s new rules, voters forced to cast provisional ballots because they can’t produce a photo ID are tasked with, on their own, presenting one to officials within 72 hours. When it comes to mail voters, the overwhelming majority of Coloradans usually don’t have to worry about ID, while in Georgia, all mail voters will now have to provide some proof of identification, every time they send a ballot.
Major League Baseball’s decision wasn’t made in a vacuum, and was made even though it knew the sport would invite inevitable blowback based on former President Donald Trump’s false claims that Georgia’s 2020 elections were fraudulent. The state’s top election officials, including the Republican secretary of state, have said the notion is utterly unfounded.
That’s why White House Press Secretary said Tuesday that Georgia’s laws were “built on a lie”:
PETER DOOCY: Is the WH concerned MLB is moving their All Star Game to Colorado, where voting rules are very similar to Georgia?
PSAKI: Let me refute that. CO has same-day registration, universal mail voting… it’s important to remember the context. The GA bill is built on a lie pic.twitter.com/TaDLU0mYNP
This year, us Rockies fans know we’re looking at another basement finish. We lament the loss of Arenado and wish him the best in St. Louis. But at least we can take comfort that Colorado’s election regime, widely hailed as a national model, has helped give the fans who watched him grow a chance to see him take Coors Field once more and see him play his sixth-straight All-Star game.
After making a video featuring New York City Housing Authority buildings and using it at the 2020 Republican National Convention, former Trump official Lynne Patton, who served as a regional administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been banned from serving in government for four years.
On Tuesday, the US Office of Special Counsel announced that Patton agreed to the ban plus a $1,000 fine after legal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint against her for violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity.
NEW: ex-Trump official Lynne Patton fined $1000 and barred from federal employment for 48 months for violating the Hatch Act by using her HUD role to create a video for the 2020 RNC. pic.twitter.com/XsEKO9t5oh
According to documents obtained by CREW, Patton misrepresented her intentions to NYCHA tenants telling them the video would “highlight nonpartisan issues” about the dire conditions of public housing in New York—not that it would be used to promote former president Donald Trump’s re-election effort.
That still doesn’t fully explain why the video seemed so bizarre when it aired at the RNC last August. Among other distortions, the video blamed Democrats and undocumented immigrants for long waiting lists for public housing. Then there’s the unusual experience of seeing a pro-public housing video for a president who’d been sued for housing discrimination. As I wrote last year:
The incoherence of the messaging again begs the question: Who in the world was this video for? The handful of Black conservatives who like to dabble in xenophobia as a reason for the current state of affairs for our community? Is there a Public Housing Lovers Caucus in the Republican party that we don’t know about?
Despite the deluge of racism coming from the Trump White House, I found when I profiled her in 2019, that Patton, a Black woman, was a very loyal Trump official.
Black conservatives like Patton, long confusing to liberals, are positively confounding in the age of Trump. Why do they stick by a president who makes openly racist statements and inspires white supremacists? But Patton insisted that she’s worked for Donald Trump and his family for a decade and truly believes that if they were racist, “one of the children would have slipped up by now.”
During her four year tenure at HUD, Patton served as a model Trump official, always toeing the line. She heavily-focused on owning the libs in her Twitter feed, spent a month living in public housing to see conditions firsthand, and made a guest appearance at the hearing of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who accused his ex-boss of racism. Mark Meadows, who would go on to serve as Trump’s Chief of Staff, used Patton as a representation of why Trump wasn’t racist.
Of course, she regularly blew off previous accusations of being excessively, illegally political in her behavior. In September 2019, when Twitter users called her out for a possible violation of the Hatch Act she responded: “What part of I don’t give a shit don’t you understand?”
Perhaps that was the right mentality all along. Patton’s ban only lasts as long as President Joe Biden’s current term. That means the door will be open for her to get a job in any future Republican administration.
What does it mean to be a “good” Christian? I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant Church and in the company of YoungLife—an over-the-top, (some would even joke) cult group for adolescent, “friendly” evangelicalism. The question was a part of daily life. It is a part of my daily life. (I still practice the Christian faith.) And Lil Nas X’s new song and video, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” seemed to re-stoke that debate within me.
Amid a flurry of Christian imagery—the Garden of Eden, a snake, heaven and hell, ancient Rome, the devil—Montero (Lil Nas X’s given name) asks where he fits into God’s world. Or, if he fits at all. And it struck me. This is one of the most obvious Christian works I’ve seen!
And yet, many Christians didn’t see it that way. “Devil worshipping, wicked nonsense,” a pastor called it. The governor of South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem, weighed in with similar anger. After seeing Lil Nas X collaborated with fashion brand MSCHF (pronounced “mischief”) to launch limited edition “Satan Shoes” in promotion of the track (each shoe contained a single drop of human blood), Noem even took to Twitter to claim that the only thing more exclusive than these sneakers was “[our kids’] God-given eternal soul.” Turning Point USA’s Alex Clark took to her “Poplitics” IGTV show to go on an almost 10-minute tirade against the artist, incorrectly claiming he has no Grammy Awards (he has two), calling his fans “jobless gays on Twitter,” and calling the shoes “100 percent Satanic” before telling Lil Nas X that “hell and the devil are completely real.”
I am not foolish. I understand why a Black gay man bothers some Christians. (And why the video—in which Lil Nas X pole dances down to Hell and gives Satan a lap dance—really, really bothers them.) But I also saw something else. Montero is engaging with the Church’s symbols seriously. Most pop stars sell “sex” in their work in a way that rejects the Church completely. But Montero is asking to be part of its lineage. In many ways, Montero’s claim here is not a rejection of the Church or its value. It’s an invitation for Christians to reflect and ask questions about how they might align their faith with Christ’s message: love.
Because yes, our love looks like this, conflicted by religion, pained by its oppression, and reactive to those who condemn us. It looks like this music video.
“If your initial reaction is being offended, that’s totally understandable,” Matthew Vines, founder of The Reformation Project, tells me. “But I also encourage people to think more about why he thinks this—what does that say about the church? Because this is the message that so many queer people have gotten.” Montero himself made this exact point, tweeting: “i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
Vines has spent years walking the fine line between the type of conservative Christianity that Montero has brought out of the woodwork and LGBTQ+ affirming theology. And he understands the backlash. But he’s also serious about where the backlash is coming from. “It’s definitely possible to be LGBTQ and Christian,” Vines says over the phone. “The video is just a reminder of how far there still is to go before that message can even be heard and internalized by so many people because so many churches still are teaching a false dichotomy.”
With the initial release, Montero released a short note to his 14-year-old self: “you see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say i’m pushing an agenda. but the truth is, i am. the agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. sending you love from the future.” In his breakdown of the track for Genius, he furthers that perspective: “Anything I do or say it’s me opening my mouth and a lot of people see it as me opening my mouth for so many people. And not because I’m Lil Nas X, but because of my identity itself too.” Built into his narrative from the get-go is no question as to why he’s doing it. It’s to tell his truth—or testimony, as we like to call it in Jesus circles. We Christians don’t get to disregard someone’s lived truth just because we don’t like it or we don’t like the story it tells.
“There have been other artists who have brought forth some sort of imagery or depictions that have created a little bit of this,” explains Rev. Timoth Sylvia of Newman Congregational Church in Rhode Island, who went semi-viral TikTok for his theological perspective on the track. “What I keep landing on is that the difference here is a Little Nas X is gay.” And he’s right.
There is a lot of trauma in my childhood and my young adult life that stems from these two identities that were pitted against each other for no reason. Seeing Montero’s interpretation of his own journey with that white-heterosexual-Christian-based culture, personally, was powerful. The star gives credence to queer people who are looking for more than an invitation to “exist,” it gives us the tools to dismantle rhetorical and systematic oppression through humor, shock, and allegory. It can give queer people the language and the imagery to have conversations around why the ideas the church purports about queerness are painful, manipulative, and completely at odds with who Christ is. Montero pulls back the curtain for others like him, giving us the tools to claim our seat at Christ’s table.
It’s the healing power of the church that Montero invites us queer folk into. “It’s as if folks are feeling that they’re seen,” says Rev. Sylvia. “That’s such an important element of the healing process, that someone has acknowledged my trauma, someone has acknowledged my pain. And they’re willing to sit with me in it.”
Mother Jones illustration; Getty, Michael Brochstein/Getty
When Donald Trump’s campaign budget was largely tapped this fall, his staff resorted to deceptive online fundraising practices that tricked donors into signing up to make extra or recurring credit card payments.
According to a New York Times report, the strategies, which involved automatically checking boxes above language consenting to the donations buried below lines and lines of near gibberish, sparked a huge number of complaints, which helped push the campaign to refund an eye popping $64.3 million dollars. According to insiders interviewed by the Times in credit card fraud departments, complaints about unwanted and unexpected charges from Trump donors accounted for as much as 3% of all traffic for periods during the campaign—a stunning number when compared to the massive amount of non-political credit card transactions the companies process. “It felt,” one victim tells the Times, “like it was a scam.”
The Trump campaign paid out many of those refunds after the November election, as new piles of cash were coming in, purportedly earmarked to fund legal battles related to his false claim that his reelection was stolen. As the Times reports, “the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.”
Since leaving office, Trump has kept his political money machine operational. Just last month he sent cease and desist letters to the Republican National Committee and other party arms demanding they stop using his name and likeness in fundraising, and told donors to instead give to a PAC he controls.
Eugenio Suarez of the Cincinnati Reds hits a foul ball in a spring training game.Ross D. Franklin
Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it would move two marquee scheduled events—July’s All Star Game and its player draft—from Atlanta in response to a new law, ushered in by the state’s Republican legislature and governor, that makes it harder for many Georgians to cast ballots. The bill comes just months after voters turned out in massive numbers and handed unprecedented victories to President Joe Biden and Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock—all Democrats.
In response to the relocations, elected Republicans quickly took the field to voice support for stripping Major League Baseball of a federal antitrust exemption that has been key to the league’s operations since it was won in a controversial 1922 Supreme Court case.
In light of @MLB's stance to undermine election integrity laws, I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball's federal antitrust exception.
Rep. Jeff Duncan—a South Carolina Republican whose Twitter bio notes he is a “Lover of football”—was among the earliest to float the step, which was quickly endorsed in one way or another by several of his party’s most prominent figures, including Donald Trump Jr. and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
No other US sport has such an exemption, and while it’s been repeatedly held up in the courts and sustained by subsequent Congressional action, its effects have long been debated. Some credit it with helping keep longstanding teams operating in small markets, while others have complained it gives owners unfair advantages.
But moving to take it away now, after nearly a century, is a clear act of retaliation against a corporate entity that dared to take a position contrary to the modern GOP. That’s foul ball.
Proud to serve: Eugene Scalia with Donald Trump.Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
Back in 2019, when former President Donald Trump needed a new labor secretary, he reached into the powerhouse law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and plucked out management-side labor attorney Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin. Scalia ruled the Department of Labor during perhaps the most intense workplace-safety crisis in modern history: the COVID-19 pandemic’s first year. While the virus devastated frontline workers in meatpacking plants, farmfields, supermarkets, healthcare facilities, and restaurant kitchens, Scalia pursued the hands-off regulatory approach he and his father spent their careers promoting, opting for voluntary guidelines over temporary regulations to require social distancing and other protective measures.
His job done, Scalia is headed whence he came. Back at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, he’ll co-chair the firm’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Group and be a senior member of its Labor and Employment Practice Group.
In its press release, the firm was not shy about touting Scalia’s experience on both sides of the revolving door between regulator and regulated in Washington, DC. “Gene is one of the few lawyers in the country who can claim success in challenging important federal regulations in private practice and crafting them from the ground up in government,” a Gibson Dunn exec boasted. Another added: “He is the only person who has served both as the Secretary of Labor and as Solicitor, the Department’s chief legal officer.”
That bit is a reference to Scalia’s previous Gibson-Dunn-to-DOL-and-back maneuver, executed back in 2002, when President George W. Bush named him labor solicitor. As I showed in this piece, that appointment came after Scalia had waged a ruthless and ultimately successful lobbying effort to crush a DOL program designed to regulate repetitive stress injuries in workplaces. The defeat of the ergonomics standard, as it was known, continues to haunt meatpacking workers to this day.
Scalia spent about a year at Bush’s labor department before heading straight back to Gibson, Dunn, where he would go on to represent a client list that included Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Ford, Facebook, Delta Air Lines, Marriott, Juul Labs, UPS, Walmart, and, most infamously, Sea World. (In 2013, that company contracted Scalia’s services to try and prevent the labor department from imposing stricter worker-safety rules at its spectacles, after one of its trainers had been killed by a whale.)
During his most recent stint at the labor department, Scalia served as a loyal Trump lieutenant, praising and defending the president’s handling of the pandemic. He enthusiastically participated in the White House celebration of the ascension of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court—a party Anthony Fauci later deemed a “superspreader event.” (Scalia’s wife, Patricia, who also attended, contracted the virus soon after.)
What some see as the stench of the Trump administration apparently smells like money in the Gibson, Dunn offices. Ken Doran, the firm’s chairman and managing partner, declared in a press release that Scalia’s service under Trump “affords him unmatched and invaluable insights.”
The most senior police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department testified Friday that Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd was “totally unnecessary” and violated police protocols.
“Pulling him down to the ground face-down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the police department’s homicide unit and has served since 1985, said. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”
Lt. Zimmerman testifies that the force Chauvin used on George Floyd was "totally unnecessary."
"Pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger." pic.twitter.com/eA0DWehxxv
Zimmerman testified that he had never been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed and lying in a prone position, and he categorized that use of force as “deadly.” He went on to explain that people who have been handcuffed shouldn’t be placed on the ground in a prone position because it constricts their breathing. “Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up,” he said. “You need to get them off their chest.”
“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them,” he concluded.
Zimmerman’s testimony also seemed to knock down the defense’s suggestion that the crowd of people watching from the sidewalk on the day of Floyd’s death distracted the police officers. “It doesn’t matter, the crowd, as long as they’re not attacking you,” he said. “The crowd really shouldn’t have an effect on your actions.”
A prosecutor asked if bystanders at the scene of George Floyd's fatal arrest were "an uncontrollable threat to the officers."
"It doesn't matter, the crowd. As long as they're not attacking you, the crowd shouldn't have an affect on your actions," Lt. Zimmerman answers. pic.twitter.com/7aKoWw9ee1
Zimmerman’s statements came on the fifth day of the trial, capping a week of testimony from witnesses including the then-17-year-old who videotaped Floyd’s death and an off-duty firefighter who said cops on the scene wouldn’t let her give Floyd medical attention.
The defense, as my colleague Nathalie Baptiste writes,has trotted out an old racist trope, implying that Floyd was so strong and powerful that the only way to subdue him was to kill him. This suggestion, Nathalie writes, is incompatible with the defense’s assertion that Floyd’s cause of death was “a combination of drug intoxication, heart disease, and an enlarged heart.” “So which is it?” she asks. “Was Floyd a superhuman Black man incapable of feeling pain or was he one normal interaction away from death?”
It was reported earlier this year that, while recording his audiobook, former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) occasionally randomly veered from the script to tell off Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Specifically, he told Cruz, “Go fuck yourself.”
Now, Axios released the audio. It’s real, and it’s spectacular. Listen:
When @SpeakerBoehner was recording his audiobook I was told by sources that during these wine-soaked sessions he would deviate from the book’s text and insert random violent attacks on @tedcruz. Well, here’s some tape (listen to the end): pic.twitter.com/NFCQ2QFdTT
“Freedom,” Boehner says, “means you’re free to reach as high as you want no matter where you came from, even if you’re a little kid sweeping a bar out in southwest Ohio. Take it from me. You’ll never know where you’ll end up. That’s freedom. I’ll raise a glass to that any day. P.S. Ted Cruz, go fuck yourself.”
Boehner isn’t the first Republican politician to make his contempt for the Texas senator known. In 2016, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” Even the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Cruz a “wacko bird.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz continues to defy the most basic tenets of a sound legal strategy by running his mouth after it was revealed that the feds are investigating his role in an alleged sex trafficking scheme involving a 17-year-old. Meanwhile, most Republicans have barely uttered a word.
While Gaetz has received words of support from Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio congressman who himself has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse during his tenure as a wrestling coach at Ohio State, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman congresswoman from Georgia who has relentlessly promoted racist, wildly untrue conspiracy theories—the broader silence is now speaking volumes. With few exceptions, Gaetz finds himself largely alone as he fights the biggest threat to a bombastic, attention-seeking political career that has left him with few solid allies within Congress. As one GOP staffer told The Daily Beast, “I don’t think you’ll find a lot of people who are desperate to keep him involved in Republican politics.”
But Gaetz’s lack of support is a minor issue when compared to the growing number of people who are willing to spill sordid new details about his creepy behavior. Multiple people told CNN for a Thursday report that in his two terms as a Florida congressman, Gaetz built a reputation for regularly bragging about his sexual affairs, even showing nude photos and videos of women he said he’d slept with to colleagues on the House floor. One such video reportedly depicted a naked woman using a hula hoop. (CNN doesn’t identify their sources’ political affiliations, but one could safely assume that Gaetz probably wasn’t showing off to his Democratic colleagues.) That comes as Politico reports that then-Attorney General Bill Barr, upon learning of the Justice Department probe into Gaetz last summer, deliberately avoided even being in the same room as Gaetz in order not to appear anywhere near him.
The CNN report came just ahead of another bombshell: a New York Times investigation into Gaetz’s use of Cash App and Apple Wallet that revealed Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a Florida official who was indicted last year on sex trafficking charges, made payments to women the pair had recruited online. The women have said that the payments were made in exchange for sex. More from the Times:
In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.
One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.
Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.
Gaetz, who denies ever paying for sex, is still loudly declaring that he and his family are the victims of an elaborate extortion scheme. Gaetz’s biggest achievement in Congress had been to fashion himself as an outspoken and bullying Trump defender and protege. The former president’s silence now suggests that the relationship only goes one way.
Shortly after the New York Times reported that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is facing a Justice Department investigation over his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, the Florida congressman responded to the bombshell report on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, alleging that he’s the victim of a $25 million extortion scheme.
But the strangest moments of Gaetz’s appearance, during which he also specifically labeled a 17-year-old a “woman,” might be when Gaetz seemingly tried to drag Carlson into his burgeoning scandal.
“I’m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” Gaetz said, apparently referring to claims made last year that Carlson had sexually harassed a former Fox News contributor. “You were accused of something that you did not do. So you know what this feels like.”
Here, Carlson’s trademark confused facial expressions, typically reserved to express fake outrage, appeared legitimate. But the head-scratching only continued when Gaetz seemingly attempted to once more tie the two men together. “You and I went to dinner, about two years ago,” Gaetz said. “I brought a friend of mine. You’ll remember her. She was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, she should be in trouble.”
Gaetz again bizarrely implicates Tucker Carlson in his own personal peccadillo, then says, "providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you're dating who are of legal age is not a crime" pic.twitter.com/wD0hUmwGGN
“I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly,” Carlson responded, his confused face growing darker. That all comes amid Gaetz, unprompted, suggesting that allegations of him being photographed with child prostitutes may soon emerge. Later, Carlson called the exchange “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
As for Gaetz’s explosive claim that he’s the victim of an extortion plot, watch Times reporter Katie Benner effectively debunk that one.
Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter and EMT who was off-duty and a passerby at the scene where Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, broke down recalling how police prevented her from administering medical care to the dying man.
“The officers didn’t let me into the scene” even after she identified herself as a Minneapolis firefighter, Hansen said at Chauvin’s murder trial Tuesday. “In my memory, I offered to walk them through it, or told them, if he doesn’t have a pulse, you need to start compressions, and that wasn’t done either.”
Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter who was on the scene, just broke down while recalling how, in her words, Minneapolis police refused to let her administer possible life-saving medical care to George Floyd just before his death. pic.twitter.com/0e2SZzY6Mu
Hansen testified that another officer at the scene, Tou Thao, “said something along the lines of, ‘If you really are a Minneapolis firefight, you would know better than to get involved.”
“There was a man being killed,” Hansen said later in her testimony. “Had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right.”
April 6: After a majority vote in both chambers of the state Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto is overridden. The bill will go into effect as soon as August 1.
April 5: Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoes the bill, which he condemns as “overbroad” and “extreme.” It’s still possible the legislature will overrule his veto.
Monday was a complicated day for transgender rights. While South Dakota’s bill banning trans students from school sports fell apart after the governor’s veto, Arkansas passed a bill prohibiting gender-affirming health care for trans youth.
The Arkansas bill puts doctors who provide or refer for transition-related care at risk of professional sanctions and prohibits the state’s Medicaid program from covering such care. After passing the Senate 28-7, the bill is now headed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. Just last week, Hutchinson signed the state’s own version of a trans athletics ban into law, as well as a bill that allows doctors to turn away patients if they have religious or moral objections to their care.
Arkansas is the first state to pass a trans health care ban, but more could be coming: At least 18 other states have considered similar proposals this year.
“This is the first year we’re seeing a number of these bills actually pass and get enacted into law,” says Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice. “And I don’t think we really even have a good sense of how catastrophic it will be.”
Strangio and other advocates warn that these bills, if passed, will come with a body count. As I’ve previously reported:
“It’s an attack on doctors and science, and a direct shot at trans youth—some of the most vulnerable folks who are trans,” says [Ivy] Hill from the Campaign for Southern Equality. “It worries me for them in terms of their actual access to care. But it also worries me for them when I think about trans youth suicide rates.” The evidence bears out Hill’s concerns: Trans Lifeline, America’s first helpline established specifically for transgender folks, for example, saw average daily calls double the week the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era protections allowing trans kids to use the bathroom of their choosing. A recent survey by the Trevor Project found that more than 90 percent of respondents (all LGBTQ youth) said that recent politics had negatively influenced their wellbeing.
The failure of South Dakota’s sports ban, meanwhile, was hardly a sign of state legislators’ support for trans kids. The bill sailed through both chambers of the state house, with cheerleading from Gov. Kristi Noem. Only once it reached her desk did she reconsider, refusing to sign the bill unless it was amended to, among other things, exclude college sports amid threats of an NCAA boycott. Noem was pilloried by conservatives who accused her of “caving to the NCAA,” which has vehemently opposed such bans. The legislature adjourned without making Noem’s suggested changes, effectively killing the bill because it wasn’t conservative enough.
“Let this be a lesson to governors considering anti-transgender legislation,” says Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Anti-transgender bills are too much of a risk even for one of the country’s most extreme governors.”
Nonetheless, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have all enacted such laws in the past two weeks. Idaho codified a similar measure into law last year, though it has been held up in a lengthy court battle.
“These kids have hopes and dreams, whether it’s to play sports or to just live their life and get health care,” Strangio says. “At its core, this is about young people hoping to find a path for themselves in the world, and the government using all of its resources and power to take that away.”
President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on April 22, 2020.Alex Brandon/AP
Donald Trump did not appreciate it when, in August, then-White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters that rural America was not protected from the virus. “That got horrible pushback,” Birx told CNN as part of a documentary airing on the network on Sunday night. “That was a very difficult time because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity I brought about the epidemic.”
In clips released prior to airing, Birx said she had a “very uncomfortable” conversation with Trump following the interview. “It was very direct and very difficult to hear.”
During her CNN interview, Birx also said she believes the US’s COVID-19 death toll, which is just about to reach 550,000, could have been avoided if the Trump administration had taken aggressive measures to encourage mask-wearing and restrictions on gatherings. “I look at it this way: The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx says. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
Birx’s most recent comments are just the latest in ongoing revelations regarding Trump’s adversarial relationship with his pandemic response team. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served alongside Birx on Trump’s task force, said the former president had a “chilling” effect on scientists aiming to promote accurate information about COVID-19. “There was conflict at different levels with different people and different organizations and a lot of pressure being put on to do things that just are not compatible with the science,” Fauci said in January.
Birx, a global health expert who’d drawn widespread acclaim for her work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s, had been tapped to help lead the Trump White House’s response to the pandemic in March 2020. She has drawn fierce criticism for not doing more to correct the former president’s baseless claims about the gravity of the pandemic or the severity of the disease. She sat on the sidelines, for example, when Trump suggested injecting disinfectant into the body as a plausible remedy for COVID-19. (Accidental poisonings resulting from Americans ingesting bleach and other household cleaners nearly doubled in the months after Trump’s comments.)
COVID-19 cases in the US have fallen precipitously since President Joe Biden took office in late January, from an all-time high of roughly 200,000 cases per day to the current 60,000 per day average. The shift is due in large part to the Biden administration’s aggressive manufacturing and rollout of coronavirus vaccines, which received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration beginning in late 2020.
Fauci’s more adversarial role against Trump’s positions was rewarded with a promotion when Biden took office: In addition to his NIAID role, Fauci now also serves as Biden’s chief medical adviser. Birx, meanwhile, was not offered a role in the new administration. She recently joined a Texas-based air purifier manufacturer as its chief scientific and medical officer. The company, ActivePure, claims its products eradicate COVID-19 from the air within minutes and surfaces within hours. California had previously banned some of ActivePure’s technologies due to their controversial use of ozone, a molecule linked to increased rates of asthma in its air cleaners.
Dr. Anthony Fauci adjusts a face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington on March 18, 2021.Susan Walsh/AP
The United States is vaccinating more than three million Americans against COVID-19 each day, and the daily infection rate has fallen steadily since January. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, warned the number of daily cases has stopped going down. How well Americans adhere to spread-reducing guidelines, he said, will determine whether this shift signals a new surge or slowdown.
“When you’re coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau—once you stay at that plateau—you’re really in danger of a surge coming up,” Fauci said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. “Unfortunately, that’s what we’re starting to see.”
The country’s infection rate hovers around 60,000 new cases a day. That’s an increase from the 50,000 per day average the CDC recorded in the preceding two weeks, a low not seen since mid-October 2020. States where the virus had previously been under control, such as New York and Massachusetts, are seeing new spikes. Fauci indicated that when similar dynamics emerged in Europe, another surge in infections followed. “That’s why we say it really is almost a race between getting people vaccinated and having this peak,” Fauci explained.
Fauci blamed the U.S.’s steady case rate on some states’ recent discontinuation of mask mandates and other spread-reducing measures, changes in public health policy that Fauci called “premature” given the state of the disease. He also faulted Americans who are traveling for spring break. “Even if on the planes people are wearing masks, when you get to the airport, the check-in lines, the food lines for restaurants, the boarding that you see, how people sometimes can be congregating together, Fauci explained. “Those are the kind of things that invariably increase the risk of getting infected.”
New variants of COVID-19, Fauci said, “are playing a part” in the struggle to control the virus, but the relaxation of disease-mitigating measures is playing a bigger role.
If the U.S. can quash another surge, Fauci said states and cities could see “an incremental relaxation of some of the restrictions” that have been in place to prevent big gatherings since the pandemic’s arrival in the country a year ago.
“I would expect that as we get through the summer, late spring, early summer, there’s going to be a relaxation where you’re going to have more and more people who will be allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continuing to wear masks,” Fauci explained. “As we get a really, really low level of infection, you’re going to start seeing a pulling back on some of those restrictions, I hope.”