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  • A Teacher Told Students How to Access Banned Books. A State Official Wants Her License Revoked.

    A collection of banned books at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. (AP Photo/)Ted Shaffrey/AP

    Last month, a 10th grade English teacher in Oklahoma committed a cardinal sin for the modern American right: encouraging students to read banned books. Now, state Education Secretary Ryan Walters is calling for the revocation of her teaching license.

    The saga began on the first day of school, when 34-year-old teacher Summer Boismier covered her classroom library in red paper and labeled the collection, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” Boismier included a QR code directing students to the Brooklyn Library’s Books Unbanned initiative, which allows teens around the country to access e-books that might have been removed from the shelves of their school libraries. Boismier said that she hid her book collection because her school district had asked teachers to individually review—or cover up—books that might run afoul of a new state law that limits the way race and gender can be taught in schools.

    A parent complained. Boismier resigned. And that was the end of the story—until the Oklahoma education secretary, who is running to become the state’s superintendent of public schools, decided to bring the attack on teachers’ liberties to a whole new level.

    In a letter released Wednesday, Walters accused Boismier of “providing access to banned and pornographic material to students.” He also inaccurately described her as having been fired; she resigned voluntarily. Most outrageously, he requested that the state Board of Education revoke Boismier’s teaching certificate—a punishment typically reserved for teachers who have committed crimes.

    There’s no word from the current head of the state Board of Education on whether he’ll heed Walters’ call. Still, the announcement is a chilling reminder of the ongoing attacks against our nation’s already overworked, underpaid, and desperately needed teachers.

  • Public Support for Unions Just Reached Its Highest Point Since 1965

    Jay Mallin/ ZUMA Press

    As union activity continues to make headlines, more Americans are coming around to the idea that protecting workers’ rights is a good thing—maybe even a great thing. A new Gallup poll shows that public support for unions is now at a whopping 71 percent, the highest the research firm has seen since 1965.

    According to Gallup, union support has been steadily rising since 2009 but saw a significant uptick during the pandemic when the lack of labor protections for workers suddenly labeled as “essential” came into sharp focus, shifting the dynamic between bosses and their staff. Now amid increased bargaining power, unions are experiencing something of a golden moment.

    “The low unemployment rate that developed during the pandemic altered the balance of power between employers and employees, creating an environment fostering union membership that has resulted in the formation of unions at several high-profile companies,” Gallup concluded.

    Since the pandemic started, the conversation around workers’ rights has gained traction. From fast food to retail, employees at companies like Amazon and Starbucks have been organizing to unionize distribution centers and individual storefronts across the country, with mixed results. (You can read our series on how workers got fed up and started fighting here.) Riding on the national momentum, fast food workers in California just had a major breakthrough after the state Senate this week passed the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act. The legislation, which now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, would create a statewide council of workers, union advocates, industry representatives, and state officials to be responsible for raising wages and standardizing working conditions for more than 500,000 fast food workers in the state. 

    Still, while support for unions may be rising, union participation remains low. According to Gallup, 84 percent of Americans live in a household without union members; only 11 percent of those polled said they were “extremely interested” in union membership.

  • California’s Fast-Food Workers Just Got One Step Closer to a Major Labor Win

    Mindy Schauer/MediaNewsGroup/Orange County Register/Getty

    The California state legislature passed a first-of-its kind bill on Tuesday that would establish a council to set minimum wages and working conditions for the state’s more than half a million non-unionized fast food employees.

    The bill, AB 257, passed the state Senate 21–12. Now, it heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not announced whether he’ll sign it. The fast-food industry and the California Restaurant Association strongly oppose the bill.

    As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote earlier this month:

    AB 257 resembles what is known as “sectoral bargaining,” a process by which workers negotiate collective bargaining agreements that apply to entire industries. The practice has been used to great effect in countries like Germany and Denmark, but it is not permitted under American labor law. Instead, workers here must negotiate contracts that cover individual companies, or parts of companies such as an individual store or warehouse.

    The California bill would establish…a council composed of fast-food workers and their advocates, industry representatives, and state officials. Together, they would be responsible for determining minimum wages, along with hours and working conditions, across California’s fast-food industry.

    The Senate vote came after intense negotiations in which the bill’s critics managed to eliminate provisions that would allow the council to establish sick-leave or paid-time-off benefits. Joint liability, which would force franchisors to hold some responsibility for conditions at individual store locations, was also axed.

    Still, if the bill becomes law, it will be a major victory for a labor movement that has struggled to notch legislative wins at the national level.

  • Hoo, Boy. Breitbart’s New Hunter Biden Movie Trailer Is Out and WTF?!

    British actor Laurence Fox as Hunter Biden, in the new Breitbart-produced movie, "My Son Hunter", a preview for which posted to Truth Social on Friday night.My Son Hunter/Twitter

    About a year ago, my colleague Dan Friedman reported that Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s ne’re-do-well lawyer and chaos agent, was having a rough time catching a break… in the movie business.

    The project, Dan wrote, was “a documentary advancing discredited allegations about Joe and Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukraine during the Obama administration.” As MoJo reported in 2020, Giuliani had been trying to drum up a cool $10 million for a film that could act as a campaign “kill shot” on Biden, according to one source.

    But it’s a tough biz. Nothing ultimately came of the project, aside from some bad footage. But it did attract the interest of investigators at the FBI, who wanted to know if the former New York City mayor had violated foreign lobbying rules. The creatives eventually fled the project after squabbling over money and vision. “The thing I took away from it was, ‘Jesus, these guys are morons,’” one of them explained.

    Oh, Hollywood.

    But fear not, movie buffs. Rudy couldn’t get his Hunter venture off the ground, but another group of filmmakers appears to have finally pulled it off. On Friday night, a trailer for My Son Hunter, a Breitbart-produced film directed by Die Hard actor and CPAC stalwart Robert Davi, dropped on Trump’s financially embattled media platform, Truth Social.

    As incredulous as I was, I’m sorry to confirm it’s real: As Breitbart itself explains, the film represents the company’s “expansion into film distribution” (shudder) and is “a crowdfunded project inspired by the investigative reporting of Peter Schweizer and Breitbart News.” (Full-body shudder).

    The film, a febrile fictionalization of the many Hunter Biden conspiracy theories, stars British actor Laurence Fox as Hunter. Fox was a noted anti-lockdown activist and ivermectin-enthusiast back home, and also ran a failed bid to become the mayor of London. Schweizer is the conservative author of Clinton Cash, who has worked with Steve Bannon for years. His less successful follow-up book included reporting on Hunter Biden.

    As for the trailer: I suppose it’s trying to give me Succession or House of Cards, but with palpably strong “this has got to be a parody, right?” vibes. I guess this is the sinister underbelly that far-right types have feverishly imagined for years? Gangster boss Joe and his partying son, doing deals with a syndicate of international criminals—Chinese, Ukrainian, others. The film appears to have some arty fantasy sequences showing the Biden gang throwing around actual cash. (Unsurprisingly, it’s also deeply cruel in its mocking depiction of addiction.)

    Just when you thought that was dispiriting enough: Some of the actors break the fourth wall to address the audience to inform us about how bad all this is. “What’s happening in there?” a campy agent-type, played by The Mandalorian actress Gina Carano, says directly into the camera. “Joe’s in on it.”

    Pass the popcorn, and then the vomit bag.

  • The Republicans Are Lying (Quite Pathetically) About Student Debt Forgiveness

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), would-be champion of the working class.LM Otero/AP

    Those silly congressional Republicans are at it again. Over the past couple of weeks, they’ve unleashed a torrent of misinformation, claiming that $80 billion of new IRS funding included in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act would be used to hire 87,000 new agents (many armed!) who would go after middle-class taxpayers. As I pointed out the other day, this isn’t merely dishonest—it’s dangerous.

    Now they’re lying about the Biden administration’s plan to cancel $10,000 to $20,000 in student debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 for couples). Somehow, the Republicans have interpreted this move as a bailout of rich elites at the expense of good, hard-working people.

    It’s interesting that Republicans are so up in arms about a supposed bailout of the “elite” by ordinary folks, given the top-heavy tax cuts they rammed through Congress in 2017. We sure didn’t hear many Republicans complaining about that $800 billion in pandemic loan forgiveness, most of which benefitted the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans. Lawmakers from both parties have ignored the way our vast federal subsidies for retirement savings skew to the top. (Average tax-advantaged savings for the wealthiest 10 percent of households are 125 times that of the least-wealthy 50 percent of households.) 

    But Biden’s loan relief won’t look like that. Consider the distribution of student debt: According to the Federal Reserve’s latest (2019) Survey of Consumer Finances, people from the least-wealthy 25 percent of the US population were by far the most likely to have outstanding student debt. They also owed the most of any other group (median: $32,000). Within the wealthiest 10 percent, less than 6 percent of people had student debt, vs. 36 percent of those in that bottom quartile.

    In fact, the less wealthy you are, the greater the odds you’ve got student debt. 

    Also, per the Fed data, more than 30 percent of Black Americans had outstanding student debt, compared with 20 percent of whites—and the Black debtors owed $5,000 more on average. The Department of Education estimates that 90 percent of the debt relief will go to people making less than $75,000 a year. It would seem this program is a win for Real America, though perhaps Jim Jordan had someone else in mind when he tweeted.

    Now, it is true, as Rick Scott tweeted (apparently from his yacht), that federal student loan forgiveness won’t fix the problem of inflated college costs.

    But the administration has acknowledged this, and insists it is working to address the problem. 

    Another line of Republican criticism is that forgiving debt is unfair to people who came before and were obligated to pay it off… 

    But the same could be said of any policy that directly benefits some people and not others. By Kennedy’s logic, tax credits that encourage the purchase of electric cars are unfair to people who bought EV cars without such credits. He could just as easily argue that giving women the vote was unfair because women in the past were denied it. And then there’s this:

    In any case, let’s conclude with this hot take from a boisterous young fellow who has never really had to earn a living, and whose family is known for fleecing workers, vendors, consumers, and the federal government.

  • This Is The Worst Rush Week Video I’ve Seen This Year

    These people should not be allowed to say words in unison.Tim Stepien/The Palm Beach Post/Zuma

    Perhaps you’ve heard of Laura Loomer, the 29-year-old Republican hoping to unseat incumbent Rep. Daniel Webster in today’s congressional primary in Florida. Loomer, who is Jewish, openly hates Muslims and has said that she would “fight for Christian nationalism.”

    In 2019, she achieved the impressive feat of getting banned from CPAC for harassing reporters. Over the years, she has been banned from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, PayPal, GoFundMe, and Venmo.

    And these boomers love her:

    The half-hearted chanting, the matching T-shirts, and the generally unsettling nature of this video reminded me of rush week videos, in which members of college Greek life groups try to enlist new members. These boomers for Loomer particularly brought to mind this infamously creepy sorority recruitment video:

    The moral of the story is clear: White people should never chant.

    (If you’re on a picket line, you get a pass.)

  • Instagram Is Trying to Ruin the Only App That Doesn’t Make Me Want to Die

    Hello, it's me. The author.Getty

    Plenty has been written on Instagram’s steady march to humiliation, its transformation from a crown jewel of the Metaverse to the place where coolness dies. Where elder millennials still post sunsets paired with tortured quotes. The place to get inundated with performance, far-flung D-list influencers “eligible for commission,” and whatever else is spat out by “the algorithm”—now a tired catchall for complaints about existing on the internet.

    But instead of cleaning house, the perennially panicked, overpaid folks at Instagram appear hellbent on extending its reputation for stealing good ideas. This time, it’s BeReal. Speaking to the Verge, the company confirmed that it is indeed testing a feature resembling BeReal, but appeared to stress that it’s just an internal trial. Whether it jacks another app remains to be determined.

    But while this development may strike some as inevitable, I can’t help but feel pathetically annoyed over the potential destruction of what I have privately declared as the last stop in my social media journey. BeReal—the Paris-based app that alerts users once a day, at an unpredictable time, to post a photo of whatever they’re doing—is where I’ve turned for exactly the kind of dumb inanity that such a description signals. I’ve limited my audience to exactly four close friends, three of whom have since formed the equally inane, grammatically challenged, group chat titled, “WHEN WILL GET TO BE REAL,” as a sort of motivating reminder that I’m posting among those who will not judge; I can be as “authentic” as possible—again, whatever that means anymore. While some have hailed it as a form of defiance from “surveillance capitalism,” I tend to enjoy it because it’s deliriously stupid and simple to use. My selfies are some of the ugliest photos I’ve ever committed to the internet.

    It’s early days and therefore the app remains exceedingly janky, almost Web 2.0-ish. Participation is just once a day, and if you’re not in the mood, you are free to ignore the alert. It’s the anti-time suck, and for now ad-free, though I’m fully aware that no one creates the app of tomorrow without a keen eye toward making a buck—or a billion.

    Still, the news that Instagram is testing something called “IG Candid Challenge”—a name already dripping in Google Slides, vulture-speak—feels frustrating to me. But maybe that’s the oldest-millennial response I could have. Feelings over a social media platform? Sure sounds lame.

  • Big Boy Puffs Chest

    J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for Senate and a hopeful big boy, watches the big boy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.Bill Clark/AP

    He has gotten so big, that Ron DeSantis, hasn’t he? The potential GOP nominee for president who has made the culture war excruciatingly material by attacking formerly incarcerated people’s ability to vote, transgender people’s ability to get healthcare, and everyone’s ability to understand the word “woke” has blossomed. He’s almost grown now.

    Just look at him: our big boy.

    Is he learning from Dad?

    I want to pat the big boy. Tell him he’s big.

  • Fauci Says He Will Step Down in December

    Tom Williams/ZUMA

    After 38 years, Dr. Anthony Fauci just announced that he will step down at the end of the year from his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

    “I will be leaving these positions in December of this year to pursue the next chapter of my career,” said Fauci in a statement. Since the administration of Ronald Reagan, Fauci has served as the country’s top infectious disease expert.

    Before Covid, Fauci was most famous for his handling of HIV/AIDS. As the crisis began, he was harshly critiqued for not adequately marshaling the powers of the federal government to combat the disease under Reagan. ACT UP founder Larry Kramer wrote in 1988 that Fauci’s inaction made him a “murderer.” Since then, Fauci was won back over some activists by chipping away at HIV/AIDS. Peter Staley—who worked alongside Kramer with ACT UP—told us in an interview Fauci was “one of the great heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

    In 2020, Fauci emerged as a national figure in the fight against Covid. He became a celebrity of sorts. Often, he could be found on TV informing Americans about the growth of the disease and the best personal steps (masks, social distancing, washing your hands) to stop the spread. In private, Fauci pushed for a rapid development of vaccines. But his advice clashed with then President Donald Trump’s on key issues, too.

    Mother Jones has a complete timeline of Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, including the former president’s retweeting of the hashtag #FireFauci. 

    Over the past two years, Fauci has become a punching bag for the right as well—an avatar of the government encouraging people to change their behavior to try to stop the spread of Covid. He has also been criticized from the left for his lack of action, especially during the Biden administration.

    In his statement, Fauci says that in the next coming months he will continue to dedicate his “full effort, passion and commitment” into his current responsibilities, as well as helping the NIAID prepare for the transition in leadership.

    “Thanks to the power of science and investments in research and innovation, the world has been able to fight deadly diseases and help save lives around the globe. I am proud to have been part of this important work and look forward to helping to continue to do so in the future.”

  • The Writers of Reality Need to Chill: Republicans Keep Posting KKK Hoods

    Mother Jones illustration; Woody Harrington

    This week, a Republican group in Lawrence County, Alabama, is offering an apology after they published an image featuring a GOP-styled elephant that included, intentionally and by way of a clever graphical trick, a series of Ku Klux Klan hoods.

    The image was posted as part of a congratulatory Facebook message to honor the group’s new chairman and thank its previous leader for his service. But as soon as the hood imagery was noticed, the group took it down and offered an apology, saying the image was pulled from the internet without seeing the details or inner meaning. “I would like to offer a deep and sincere apology for a picture that temporarily appeared on this page last night,” the new chairman, Shannon Terry, posted to Facebook. “A google search picture of a GOP elephant was used and later found to have hidden images that do not represent the views or beliefs of the Lawrence County Republican Party. The picture was then immediately replaced. As chairman I take full responsibility for the error.”

    But here’s the thing: That’s our illustration. Our Editor-in-Chief explains:

    In 2020, Mother Jones commissioned Woody Harrington to illustrate a story that explored how the chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, Stuart Stevens, was reckoning with how the GOP was weaponizing bigotry during the 2020 campaign. The piece, by our Washington DC Bureau Chief, David Corn, was titled “The Republican Party Is Racist and Soulless. Just Ask This Veteran GOP Strategist.” In it, Stevens was scathing. “We created this. It didn’t just happen,” he told Corn.

    “Republicans only exist to elect Republicans,” Stevens said. “They are down to one idea: How can we win?”  Playing footsie with white supremacy, Corn argues, was part of the strategy.

    Thus, this image.

    So we got in touch with the artist, Harrington, to see what he felt not only about the apparent copyright infringement, but its underlining implications.

    “It is nearly impossible to find my image in a standard Google search excluding terms like ‘racist,'” he told us by email. “My goal was for the reader to recognize the classic Republican symbol, and reveal the sinister message of racism upon closer examination, unfortunately, some people never made it that far!”

    There’s some evidence it’s happened before. A Republican candidate for Union County Sheriff in Indiana went even farther, using the image on election posters in May of this year. Dozens were printed before the mixup was caught and eventually fixed, according to a Reddit user who knew someone at the printing company.

    And HuffPost politics reporter Liz Skalka tweeted that a GOP club in Arizona accidentally used it too.

    And while Harrington hopes it can be “a future lesson to all about fair use of intellectual material, and the karma that comes along with copyright infringement,” he notes that “there are positive takeaways from this whole debacle.”

    “This can be a moment for reflection, accountability,” he said. “And should allow for more discussion on the issues the image first intended to bring to light.”

    If you’re interested in reading the piece that started it all, here you go.

  • No One Wants to Be Donald Trump’s Lawyer

    Rich Graessle/ZUMA

    Donald Trump’s reputation as a historically bad, financially delinquent client who has collected a spectacular number of legal crises is catching up to him. In the week following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, which led to the revelation that the Justice Department is investigating Trump for possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, the former president and his aides are reportedly scrambling to find a team of respected defense lawyers. 

    “Everyone is saying no,” an anonymous source told the Washington Post. Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law School professor who has advised Trump in the past, didn’t seem too encouraging either, telling the Post that “good lawyers should have been working on this case for months.”

    But clearly, such “good lawyers” have eluded Trump as he sinks further into a legal hot mess. Perhaps lawyers aren’t touching the case with a 10-foot pole in order to avoid the fate of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose own role in the Big Lie now has him embroiled in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia. Let’s also recall that Giuliani’s deeply problematic television interviews were reportedly central to his firing from his own law firm. He eventually got his license suspended by the New York Bar last year. 

    So far, here’s the legal team Trump has managed to convince to defend him in his cascading legal troubles, according to the Post: 

    Lindsey Halligan, a Florida insurance lawyer with, according to an investigation by the Washington Post, no prior experience on federal cases.

    Alina Habba, a partner of a three-attorney firm and former general counsel for a parking garage company.

    Christina Bobb, a former TV host of a pro-Trump news network who’s prior federal experience includes trademark infringement cases

    Not exactly a crack team. But these days, with Trump increasingly threatened by mounting legal woes, who would want to join the ranks of Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and other MAGA-allied lawyers?

  • We Didn’t Deserve Freya the Walrus

    Tor Erik Schrøder/AP

    Just a few weeks ago, a 1,300-pound walrus named Freya was enjoying the sort of Hot Girl Summer the average pinniped could only dream of. She’d left her native Arctic waters and recently ended up off the coast of Oslo, Norway, where she delighted onlookers and the animal-loving internet by hauling herself onto small boats, eating scallops and mussels, and generally living a life of leisure and glamour.

    Her appearance in the Oslo Fjord was extremely unusual, since walruses are wary of humans and tend to stay farther away off the Norwegian coast. The novelty of it all made her an instant sensation; even Judy Woodruff couldn’t contain her herself in this whimsical summertime ode to Freya on PBS NewsHour earlier this month:

    But as Freya’s legend grew, more and more folks wanted to see her up close. As the New York Times points out, the Oslo Fjord is full of water-going recreationists in the summer, and people started swimming with Freya, taking her picture, and even throwing things at her—so much that she had begun chasing off paddle boarders and kayakers. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries warned the public to stay away from Freya, for their safety and hers. Last week, officials said they were weighing several options, including relocating Freya, but warned she might have to be killed if people wouldn’t listen.

    Alas, people didn’t listen. And so on Sunday, Norwegian officials euthanized Freya.

    In a statement, Frank Bakke-Jensen, the director general of the directorate of fisheries, cited the “continued threat to human safety” in making the decision to kill Freya. “We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause reactions with the public, but I am firm that this was the right call,” Bakke-Jensen said. “We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.” 

    Rune Aae, a biologist at the University of South-Eastern Norway, called the decision “too hasty a conclusion” in a Facebook post Sunday. Aae had been tracking Freya and posting the results on a Google map so that people would know where the walrus was and to give her wide berth. “Everyone would be able to know where Freya was and could act accordingly, i.e. not engage in water activities near her,” he wrote.

    As wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist David Steen has pointed out on Twitter, the circumstances surrounding Freya’s death have become all too common. Humans, as you may have noticed, are pretty bad at listening—and particularly bad at listening to officials urging them to give wild animals some damn space. Steen included Freya in a thread pointing out other recent examples of too-close human-animal interactions, including links to bisons goring visitors at Yellowstone National Park earlier this summer and hordes of gawking tourists crowding the banks of a crocodile-filled river at Australia’s Kakadu National Park. Unlike those other cases, though, Freya paid for this sort of human ignorance with her life.

    Freya didn’t deserve this. And we didn’t deserve her.

  • Here’s What We Know About the Fiery Crash and Suicide Outside the US Capitol

    Bryan Olin Dozier/AP

    A man crashed his car into a barricade a block from the US Capitol grounds in the early hours of Sunday morning before ultimately shooting himself, US Capitol Police confirmed Sunday. 

    According to the US Capitol Police, the man’s car became engulfed in flames, and he climbed out and began shooting down East Capitol Street, which intersects the grounds of the US Capitol. “When our officers heard the sound of gunfire, they immediately responded and were approaching the man when he shot himself,” the press release states. “Nobody else was hurt.”

    The man’s identity and motive are unknown, but the incident was a reminder of a fatal attack in April 2021 in which a Capitol Police officer was killed when a car drove into a barricade outside the Capitol.

  • Defending Trump on Live TV Is Getting Really Awkward for Republicans

    Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) joins host Brianna Keilar on CNN on Sunday, August 14, 2022.Courtesy CNN

    After a week of devastating news about former President Donald Trump, Republicans who braved the Sunday morning talk shows had a hard time defending the man who remains the leader of their party. Turns out it takes a little imagination to excuse taking top secret classified information and refusing to return them in accordance with the law, as Trump did.

    Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, tried to downplay Trump’s actions by questioning whether boxes seized from Trump’s home labeled top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information really contained information at the highest secret classification. “These are labeled that,” Turner acknowledged on CNN’s State of the Union, but “we don’t know whether these are classified and rise to that level.” But when host Brianna Keilar asked Turner if he would take home documents marked as such, he had a one word answer: “No.”

    Trump has deftly turned Monday’s raid on his home, the Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, into a story of political persecution, and is raising money off of his tale of political retribution. His fans accept this narrative, one going so far as to storm the FBI office in Cincinnati, resulting in his death in a shootout, while threats against the FBI around the country are soaring. But when pressed on TV, the events of the last week have stack up against the former president: an FBI raid that turned up boxes of classified material, the revelation that some of the documents may contain information on nuclear weapons, and the news that Trump is being investigated under more than one federal statute, including the Espionage Act. 

    Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) defended Trump on Sunday by suggesting that the issue was whether Trump had declassified everything found at his home before he took it. “It appears that a president can classify or perhaps declassify information,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, though he believed that question would be litigated going forward. The classification issue, however, is not the center of Trump’s possible innocent or culpability. He is under investigation under statutes that do not require taking classified information in order to be violated. 

    Despite the awkward defenses mounted by his allies, the seriousness of Trump’s legal situation seems to have gotten through to some Republicans. When asked whether he would support Trump if he runs for president in 2024, Rounds demurred. “I’ll keep my powder dry with regards to [that] question,” he said.

    On Sunday morning, Trump made a request that may be even harder for his allies to defend. In a post on his social media site, Truth Social, the former president said some of the seized documents were taken improperly and requested that “these documents be immediately returned.”

  • The Mar-a-Lago Warrant Shows the FBI Recovered Highly Classified Documents

    Mother Jones illustration; Brian Cahn/ZUMA

    As Friday wears on, the news for former President Donald Trump is getting worse. The search warrant and related documents detailing Monday’s raid on Mar-a-Lago showed that the FBI “removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities,” the Wall Street Journal reported

    Among the approximately 20 boxes of documents confiscated by the FBI were papers described as “‘Various classified/TS/SCI documents,’ an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information,” the Journal wrote. “It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents.” The contents also included information on the “President of France.” The warrant revealed that Trump is under investigation for violating multiple federal laws, including the Espionage Act. As the New York Times reported Friday afternoon:

    The search warrant for Trump’s residence cited three criminal laws, all from Title 18 of the United States Code. Section 793, better known as the Espionage Act, which covers the unlawful retention of defense-related information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; Section 1519, which covers destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations or administrative proceedings; and Section 2071, which covers the unlawful removal of government records. Notably, none of those laws turn on whether information was deemed to be unclassified.

    Trump issued a statement that appeared to confirm reports that some of the highly classified information he was illegally storing was about nuclear weapons. “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,” he said. “How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” The National Archives quickly debunked Trump’s attempt at whataboutism—it is in control of Obama’s records, as required by law. 

    While Trump is fundraising off of allegations of political persecution by the FBI, a judge in New York on Friday refused to dismiss a criminal case against his business, the Trump Organization, which includes charges of tax fraud. Also this week, Trump pleaded the Fifth in a deposition in a New York state case over whether he inflated the value of his holdings.

    In this busy week, as slow-moving cases and investigations have taken large, public steps forward, Trump has sought to use the bad news to his advantage, inflaming supporters and fundraising off of the fury. It put Trump’s allies in the position of arguing that stealing classified information isn’t so bad or claiming, dubiously, that Trump had actually declassified the documents. 

    Update, August 12: The judge overseeing the case released the warrant and related documents on Friday afternoon. Read it here:

  • Republicans Have No Idea How to Respond to the Latest Reporting on the Mar-a-Lago Raid

    Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in a civil investigation.Julia Nikhinson/AP

    In the days since the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s home, the Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, Republicans have treated it as the tyrannical act of an out-of-control Democratic administration, conspiratorial social media spaces have hummed with talk of revolution, and an armed Ohio man was killed trying to enter an FBI field office. But it’s only in the last day that the why behind all of this drama began to come to light.  

    For several days, the press wondered what kind of document recovery had prompted a raid on a former president’s home. On Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the FBI was looking for documents related to nuclear weapons. Trump, the Justice Department believed, might be keeping documents that are critical to national security and classified at the highest level, in violation of the law. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible,” David Laufman, a former head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section told the Post. Trump responded Friday morning, calling the reports about nuclear weapons documents a “hoax.” 

    On Thursday, the Justice Department responded to the outcry from the right by asking the court overseeing the matter to release the warrant used to execute the raid, if Trump agreed. Trump announced on his social media site, Truth Social, that he would not oppose its release. But that’s not a formal agreement. Trump has until 3 p.m. on Friday to officially tell the court overseeing the case to release the warrant. 

    Meanwhile, Republicans are testing various strategies for how to respond to the revelations. Some have decided to downplay the seriousness of keeping nuclear documents. “It depends on what the nuclear information is,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Along similar lines, the conservative writer Rich Lowry intimated that stealing some classified nuclear information and refusing to return it would not merit a federal raid. “Given the track record of these people, it better prove to have been the blueprint of hypersonic missile, or something similar,” he tweeted. At least one of Trump’s allies has defended Trump by claiming that Trump had declassified the documents, though Trump could not have unilaterally declassified some nuclear information.

    And then there’s Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who told reporters Friday morning that “there needs to be real accountability here”—not for Trump, of course, but for Attorney General Merrick Garland, whom Hawley said should be impeached and removed from office.

  • Beto O’Rourke Calls Out “Motherfucker” Who Laughed Over Uvalde Mass Shooting

    Beto O’ Rourke isn’t just calling out Texas’s loose gun restrictions. He’s calling out hecklers too. During a Wednesday campaign event at a town hall in Mineral Falls, Texas, the Democratic candidate for governor erupted when someone in the audience laughed during remarks about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

    O’Rourke, a longtime advocate for gun reform, had been critiquing Texas’s gun laws that allowed the gunman in the Uvalde massacre to purchase his weapon legally. “(He) did not wait until he was sixteen or seventeen, but followed the law that’s on the books ladies and gentlemen,” O’ Rourke told the crowd, before getting down on one knee to emphasize that the gun had been designed for military use.

    Then someone laughed. Loudly.

    “It may be funny to you, motherfucker, but it’s not funny to me,” said O’Rourke, prompting a raucous cheer from the audience. Several videos of the encounter went viral on Twitter, with one reaching over 3.4 million views. 

    This isn’t the first time that O’Rourke has confronted someone for presumably failing to take gun control seriously. Days after the Uvalde shooting in May, O’Rourke crashed a news conference attended by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and was heard telling Abbott that he was “doing nothing” to protect people from gun violence.  

    “This is on you. Until you choose to do something, this will continue to happen,” O’Rourke said. “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state, or they will continue to be killed.”

    The identity of the heckler at Wednesday’s town hall is unclear. But a video from the event showed that several Abbott supporters were in attendance. 

  • Man Who Once Said “If You’re Innocent, Why Are You Taking the Fifth?” Takes the Fifth

    Niyi Fote/TheNEWS2/Zuma

    Perhaps you remember when, in 2016, then-not-yet-President Trump disparaged Hillary Clinton for taking the Fifth during a congressional investigation into her private email server. “The mob takes the Fifth,” he said at a campaign rally. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

    The comment was hypocritical then, and it’s hypocritical now. Today, Trump refused to answer questions under oath in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into his business dealings. It was one part of a very bad week for the former president.

    Trump tried his best to get out ahead of the allegations of hypocrisy.

    “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'” he wrote in a statement. “Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”

    I never thought I’d see the day when Trump admitted he was wrong. I guess we both stand corrected.

  • An Obscure Law Is Sending Oklahoma Mothers to Prison in Droves. We Reviewed 1.5 Million Cases to Learn More.

    Mother Jones illustration; Getty

    “Failure to protect” laws punish parents for not shielding their children from abuse. These laws aren’t talked about very much, but they appear across the country, and in certain states, like Oklahoma, they are associated with especially harsh penalties.

    In Oklahoma, failure to protect is the only child abuse charge levied predominantly against women, and it is disproportionately charged against women of color. People charged with the crime there are less likely to have a previous felony record than defendants in firsthand child abuse cases—a sign of just how much more dangerous abusers are than those accused of failing to stand in the way of their abuse. Since 2009, when the latest version of the state’s law went into effect, at least 139 women have been imprisoned solely for failure-to-protect charges. At least 55 are still incarcerated. 

    It would be impossible to know any of this without the exhaustive review of Oklahoma court records I undertook for Samantha Michaels’ groundbreaking investigation of the state’s failure-to-protect law. I wrote computer programs that systematically reviewed every criminal felony and misdemeanor case available on each of the the state’s two court websites, ultimately reviewing 1.5 million cases to identify 955 charges for enabling or permitting child abuse filed against 662 individuals in 612 cases in Oklahoma since 2009. Another “web scraper,” as the programs are commonly known, collected demographic information for every incarcerated person in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ Offender Database.

    But these counts were not enough to say just how common these cases are in Oklahoma. It’s easier for prosecutors to prove failure to protect than a general child abuse charge, so prosecutors often charge abusers with both, making it difficult to filter out these cases. Prosecutors often use various terms like “enabling” and “permitting” child abuse to refer to the failure-to-protect law. Charge information on case-details pages always includes a text description but only sometimes includes a statute number, necessary to confirm the exact charge. In some cases, the statute lists subsections, clear identifiers of exactly what conduct is alleged, but it does not always match the text. 

    On the advice of the ACLU of Oklahoma, we filtered for defendants with two types of characteristics to overcome these limitations:

    • Defendants whose charges include subsections that only reference “enabling abuse” and who are not also charged with a text or statute that alleges direct child abuse. Only 25 percent of charges fit this description.
    • Defendants who are the only person in their case charged with failure to protect and are not charged with direct abuse. 

    Of all Oklahomans charged with failure to protect, 2 out of 3 were women. Using only the cases we verified, we found that 9 in 10 were women.

    There are some other limitations to our methodology. Generally speaking, cases were discovered using the search engines in Oklahoma State Courts Network and On Demand Court Records. Lists of URLs of case-details pages generated by the search were used to download each HTML page. Case numbers are generally sequential. We assumed missing case numbers were unavailable after we extensively tested to verify that all publicly available cases were captured. Some cases in our database were expunged after we scraped them in November and February and are included in our count. Cases expunged before then are not.

    We attempted to use sentencing data in the Offender Database to calculate sentencing outcomes by case type, but multiple spot checks proved it unreliable for systematic analysis.

  • Clogging Toilets and Wanting “Totally Loyal” Nazi Generals: Today In Trump Book Discourse

    Brandon Bell/Getty

    I regret to inform you that the Trump book canon continues apace with new excerpts out today from not one, but two, forthcoming insider accounts. The first is from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and builds upon the only genre of Trump-era gossip I’m interested in: the infamous clogged toilet.

    Haberman recently obtained what appears to be photographic evidence that Donald Trump did in fact regularly clog White House toilets with Oval Office documents. As you might remember, the habit reportedly prompted frequent plumbing disasters, and more consequentially, added to Trump’s long record of mishandling official White House communications. Axios has the toilet scoop and it includes the rather hilarious accusation from Trump world that Haberman staged the toilet photos in order to sell some books. “You have to be pretty desperate to sell books if pictures of paper in a toilet bowl is part of your promotional plan,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told Axios. Those cursed photos below:

    In an equally dark note of an entirely different hellscape, we also have an excerpt from The Divider: Trump in the White House that confirms, yet again, Trump’s admiration for authoritarian figures including Adolf Hitler. Here’s what Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report Trump once said about the Nazi dictator amid frustration that “his generals” weren’t blindly following batshit orders:

    The President’s loud complaint to John Kelly one day was typical: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?”

    “Which generals?” Kelly asked.

    “The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.

    “You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.

    But, of course, Trump did not know that. “No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” the President replied. In his version of history, the generals of the Third Reich had been completely subservient to Hitler; this was the model he wanted for his military. 

    It’s the kind of anecdote, equal parts horrifying and endlessly unsurprising, that prompts a bit of an eye-roll for me especially if this is the kind of story that inspires one to hit preorder. Hear me out:

    When the subject is Trump, a man who often appears physically incapable of exercising any restraint, the insatiable appetite hits strangely. After all, What more can be evinced from insider accounts about a man who doesn’t keep anything close to the chest, whose horrifying nature is routinely up for public consumption anyway? The appeal reflects a deeper emptiness among an audience hyper-vigilant to the unprecedented nature of these times but who apparently depend on these books for further saturation. Sure, such accounts might make for a good headline, but is a perverse boredom behind their overwhelming popularity? 

    Anyway, that’s the latest on our toilet-clogging, Nazi-inspired former president. Wake me up when we have evidence that Trump really did eat the paper.

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