It didn’t take Joseph DiBruno Jr. very long to get back into the family business. According to court documents unsealed Thursday, the 52-year-old Gastonia, North Carolina, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte for financial fraud — a cornerstone of his family’s business model dating back to the 1990s. In 2008, DiBruno, along with his father and brother, pleaded guilty to a decade-long conspiracy in which the trio bilked almost $4 million from unwitting investors. According to court documents at the time, the DiBrunos used an array of sham businesses — from a cholesterol-lo...
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The Democrat’s surprising strength in the midterms has been framed mostly as a rebuke of Republicans’ attack on abortion rights and on democracy. The GOP’s flirtation with imperial oligarchic Russian leader Vladimir Putin has, in contrast, received little attention.
That’s not exactly a mistake. Foreign policy rarely drives many votes, and the war between Russia and Ukraine was never a top issue for voters or for candidates on the campaign trail.
And yet the Democratic midterm strength serves as a powerful defeat not just for the GOP, but for Putin. Republican losses in the Senate and narrow gains in the House all but guarantee that the US will continue to lead international support for Ukraine.
The GOP has been divided on aid for Ukraine. An older, more traditional wing of the party, steeped in Reaganite Cold War antagonism to the Soviet Union, has supported the (much more justified) Ukrainian war against Russia imperial invasion.
But there’s another wing that’s openly pro-Putin.
Trump’s enthusiasm has affected his partisans.
Between 2015 and 2017, GOP opinions of Putin went up 20 points from 12 percent favorability to 32 percent favorable. A February poll found that Putin’s favorables among Republicans were higher than those of Democratic President Joe Biden.
It’s not just the rank-and-file either. Fox News far-right host Tucker Carlson has ceaselessly pumped out pro-Putin propaganda since the invasion of Ukraine in February. So has Carlson’s frequent guest, erstwhile progressive and current far-right shill Glenn Greenwald.
Many in the GOP conference have followed along. In the House, the chair of the rabid more-MAGA-than-thou Freedom Caucus, Scott Perry, wants to investigate, and potentially spike, US aid to Ukraine.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled support for Perry in an interview in October: “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.”
In addition, one of the few midterm contests focused on foreign policy was that of JD Vance, the Ohio Republican Senator-elect, boosted by fash-curious tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who made opposition to Ukraine a centerpiece of his campaign.
Republicans are split
With far-right Putinophilia bubbling up from the MAGA swamp, observers believed Biden might have real trouble continuing support for Ukraine. Reports suggest Russia put off announcing its retreat from Kherson until after the midterms because Putin did not want news of a Ukrainian victory to bolster Democrats.
Republicans who support Ukrainian aid were reportedly nervous that they’d be undercut in a GOP-controlled House. Biden was floating a Ukrainian aid package in the lame-duck session of the Congress, anticipating that further funding might be blocked.
Democrats may still vote on a Ukraine funding bill. But prospects for aid in the new Congress have significantly improved.
First of all, Democrats retained control of the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has strongly supported aid for Ukraine. Even so, his conference is unpredictable, and the Democrats are in a much better position to buttress Biden’s foreign policy priorities than they would have been had they lost the chamber.
Democrats did lose the House — but it was very close. The GOP majority is likely to be somewhere between 220-215 and 222-213.
McCarthy — or whoever the GOP chooses as speaker — is will block many Democratic initiatives on abortion rights, voting rights and much else. Ukrainian aid is different, though. That’s an issue that sharply divides McCarthy’s own caucus. Even if he wanted to, he’s not going to be able to win a vote striking down Ukrainian aid.
And if he were to try, the Democrats could likely get enough GOP support to bring it to the floor without his say-so.
Opposition to aid would likely expose huge fissures in the Republican caucus and lead to an embarrassing defeat for the speaker.
Stepping away, domestically
If the GOP were a normal party, that would be the end of that.
But the conference is neither normal, so there are caveats.
Representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz hate their more moderate Republican colleagues almost as much as they hate Democrats. They might oppose Ukrainian aid precisely because they know it would put their own speaker in an impossible and humiliating position.
So there could be bumps in the road.
The bottom line is that after their weak showing in the midterms, the Trumpy GOP pro-Putin wing doesn’t have the leverage to successfully advance their dream of global totalitarianism.
The defeat of election deniers in races for governor and secretary of state across the country means that the US has taken a step back from authoritarianism — domestically.
The recent story about leaked Supreme Court drafts isn’t about SCOTUS opinions getting leaked. It’s not even that the court is political. The story should be that the court’s right-wing is blatantly corrupt and basically exists outside of oversight or accountability.
When the draft of Dobbs, the case overturning Roe, was leaked, way too many people were more focused on the erosion of norms than the horrific content of the draft. Did leaking the draft serve the right-wing agenda of the right wing of the Supreme Court? Probably.
Why else leak it?
But the focus on the leak was what served their agenda, as it offered a distraction from the fact that the court was overturning important precedent by waving around some nonsense ahistorical argument that abortion wasn’t deeply embedded in the nation’s history.
There was concern that the leaked draft would dampen outrage on the left but, as recent midterm results show, that hasn’t happened. If anything, some Democrat politicians used the leaked draft as an opportunity to protect abortion rights before the ruling’s release.
A report by the Times suggests that Dobbs wasn’t the first opinion to leak. Anti-abortion activist Rob Schenck said he received information about the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that private companies didn’t have to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Schenck he heard from conservative donors to his group Faith and Action after they’d dinner with Justice Samuel Alito.
This is a much more troubling leak, as it was done privately and in a clearly corrupt way. Schenck has previously asserted that his nonprofit engaged in overt attempts to influence conservative justices through dinners and vacations with wealthy donors to his nonprofit. The strategy was to use casual social occasions to influence rulings and gain access to information on pending cases.
While a sitting Supreme Court justice shouldn’t leak information about cases to donors or participate in obviously political events, they technically don’t break any rules when they do so. Supreme Court justices have no ethical code of conduct they must adhere to and pretty much entirely self-police themselves. There is a Code of Conduct for federal judges published by the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is presided over by Chief Justice Roberts, but it’s not binding for Supreme Court justices. It’s worth noting that the last time a liberal justice got in trouble for political action, conservatives were mad that Ruth Bader Ginsburg publicly expressed dislike of Trump – not really as bad as political dinners with donors.
Supreme Court justices need to exhibit “good behavior” and technically can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The only justice to be impeached was Samuel Chase in 1805 for clearly political motives as Chase was a staunch Federalist who was pissing off Thomas Jefferson.
The House voted to impeach, but Chase was acquitted by the Senate, therefore not removed from the bench. Oddly enough, the majority of impeachment trials have been for federal judges and all eight people convicted of impeachment and removed were federal judges.
A bill has been proposed to require justices to write and adopt a formal code of ethics. The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act outlines requirements for recusal and disqualification. It does not offer specifics for what would be in a code of conduct. It only requires that one be adopted through the Judicial Conference. The bill already passed the Senate, so we can hope for a lame-duck adoption by the House.
We absolutely need more oversight for sitting justices but the obstacles to impeaching them show why we need to take confirmation hearings more seriously.
Brett Kavanaugh likely lied under oath during his confirmation hearing but people treated moderate questioning of a serious accusation like a witch hunt. Clarence Thomas called a similarly respectful hearing about his history of sexual harassment a lynching. These are serious job interviews, our last chance to vet nominees.
While we might not have recourse once they’re on the bench, senators need to take their roles in confirming these justices more seriously than a rubber stamp for the president’s political nominee.
While the Congress has little oversight outside impeachment, it can hold hearings and call justices to testify. Though unlikely to remove a justice, it would show that Congress is taking the corruption seriously and force the justices to speak publicly about their actions.
While Justice Alito has likely leaked information about at least two Supreme Court cases, Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh have probably committed impeachable offenses.
Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has been called in front of the January 6 committee for her possible (likely) involvement in the attempted coup. We know she sent text messages to Mark Meadows urging Trump not to concede and that she attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. She claims her husband knew nothing of these political activities but that strains credulity. Thomas also hasn’t recused himself from any of the cases concerning January 6.
As for Kavanaugh, his theoretically possible impeachable offenses occurred before he took the bench but lying before the Congress – committing perjury – is an impeachable offense. Sexual assault should be one too, but we all know how seriously that’s taken.
We need court reform.
We should expand the court to 13 to match the number of federal courts and more realistically pass a bill requiring a code of conduct.
While it's only been done once, there’s no reason we can’t impeach one or more of the current justices for their blatant corruption.
And as many of my articles are going to end – all this will be easier if we manage to elect Reverend Warnock in the runoff in Georgia.
Kanye West storms from interview after right-wing podcaster offers 'slightest' pushback on his antisemitism
On Monday, TMZ reported that pro-Trump rapper Kanye West, known by the mononym "Ye," stormed off an interview with a right-wing podcaster after being asked about his recent anti-Semitism controversies.
The incident was captured on video — although they deny that Ye's decision to leave the set was over the questions he was being asked.
"Ye went on Tim Pool's podcast Monday, where he was joined by radical right-wing extremist Milo Yiannopoulos and controversial and proud white nationalist Nick Fuentes ... and it didn't take long for the conversation to get uncomfortable," said the report. "Kanye starts railing on the Jews and after a few minutes of ranting, Tim starts to push back in the slightest way ... and that's all it takes for Ye to hop out of his chair and bolt for the exit."
"Later on during the podcast, a producer says Ye, Milo and Nick all left together in a car ... claiming Ye told producers he wasn't angry with Tim, but his issue was getting cut off," noted the report.
Ye, who is considering a run for president to the right of former President Donald Trump, has seen much of his business empire collapse following his anti-Semitic behavior, including a social media proclamation he was going to "go death con 3 ON JEWISH PEOPLE," and promotion of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which baselessly claims the real "original tribes" of Israel were Black Africans and modern-day Jews are imposters.
Despite all of this, and despite the potential threat of competition against him, Trump held a dinner meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Ye and Fuentes earlier this month, sparking national controversy.