NEW YORK — “Real Housewives” executive producer and talk show host Andy Cohen used a spirited New Year’s Eve countdown on CNN to share his thoughts on the “crappiest term of the mayor of New York” by Bill de Blasio. “The only thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is what a horrible mayor he has been,” Cohen shouted and stammered. CNN personality Anderson Cooper, playing the role of straight man in Cohen’s bit, tried unsuccessfully to talk his co-host down. “Don’t go on a rant,” Cooper asked repeatedly. Cohen, who hosts the Bravo network’s “Watch What Happens When,” only seemed enco...
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On Tuesday night, Donald Trump added one last name to his 2022 loss column and it's one that's close to his heart. Former football hero Herschel Walker has been a Trump ally since long before he entered politics, so the ex-president has to take it personally that his handpicked candidate decisively lost his bid for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Raphael Warnock. But then, this is just the latest in a long list of Trump-endorsed losers in statewide races this cycle. Whatever he may claim, his record in such races is 2-14.
In truth, Trump did sound a bit upset. His response to the news on his Twitter-substitute social media platform Truth Social was simply this: "OUR COUNTRY IS IN BIG TROUBLE. WHAT A MESS!" He might just as easily have been talking about himself. Bad as the runoff election results in Georgia were for Donald Trump, that was nothing compared to the big news out of Manhattan earlier in the day. That was where a jury found the Trump Organization, the family business founded by his paternal grandmother and his father in 1927, guilty on a range of criminal charges, including tax fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
The Trump company's longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, had already pleaded guilty to the scheme to provide him and his family with expensive perks under the table to avoid paying taxes and testified that the company also benefited from the scheme. Despite ample evidence that Trump knew exactly what was going on, Weisselberg dutifully fell on his sword, telling the jury that he and another employee came up with the entire scheme, which explains why the prosecutors never indicted Trump for his role in all of this. (Weisselberg also explained that while he is no longer CFO he still goes to the office, collects his $650,000 salary and expects to get a $500,000 bonus in January, which is awfully generous for a man who has admitted to committing a long list of financial crimes.)
This was a case brought against a company rather than an individual, so Donald Trump was not on trial. But the evidence made clear that the conspiracy went on for 15 years, so the idea that Trump wasn't personally aware of it is ludicrous. According to one of his longtime attorneys, this is a man who liked to personally sign all the checks so he could "monitor and keep control over what's going on in the company." His signature appeared on the check that got him in trouble for using his charity's money to pay off then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. It also appeared on a check Trump signed while he was president, to reimburse his former lawyer Michael Cohen for the payoffs to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The judge largely kept Trump's name out of the trial until the very end when the company's defense attorneys brought him up repeatedly in closing arguments. That opened the door:
That gave prosecutors the opportunity to hammer Trump personally, claiming that he "knew exactly" what his executives were up to and had fostered a culture of deception and fraud. At one point in his closing arguments, Manhattan assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass showed jurors a memo from Trump Organization chief operating office Matthew Calimari in which Calimari requested a $75,000 paycut — the exact amount of rent the company was paying for a Trump-owned apartment for him to live in. The document shown to jurors had Trump's initials written in large letters with a black Sharpie pen. "Mr. Trump explicitly sanctioning tax fraud! That's what this document shows!" Steinglass told the jury.
Trump is notoriously cheap and he would certainly have known that this scam was saving him money by allowing the company to pay his employees in perks instead of salary. It's exactly the kind of thing he would do, and anyone who isn't totally down the MAGA rabbit hole would understand that.
Of course Republican officials simply don't care. As far as they're concerned, this is penny-ante stuff hardly even worth talking about. As the New York Times put it, the potential criminal penalty, a fine of $1.62 million, amounts to little more than "a rounding error for Mr. Trump, who typically notched hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue during his presidency." (That's right, during his presidency.)
Trump responded to the verdict with this statement, which as usual is full of lies:
It's unlikely that this verdict will hurt Trump politically. But it could definitely damage his business and affect his ongoing legal battles, particularly the ones in New York, where he currently faces a major civil case brought by state Attorney General Leticia James, based on much of the same evidence used in this trial. But that case targets the individuals who run the company, specifically Trump himself, his sons Eric and Donald Jr. and his daughter Ivanka. The potential penalty in that case could be as much s $250 million. That's not a rounding error.
Earlier this week, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who successfully prosecuted the Trump Organization criminal case, announced he was bringing on a new prosecutor, Matthew Colangelo, who has extensive Trump experience, both working on the state's civil case and the investigation of Trump's foundation, which ended up with the Trump family barred from ever again running a charitable organization in New York. According to the New York Times, Colangelo is likely to take on a revived criminal investigation into allegations that Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets, as well as the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments.
While the financial penalty from this criminal verdict is insignificant, it's hard to see how this case doesn't shred the already tattered reputation of the Trump Organization. Sure, the Trumps can continue to do sweetheart deals with foreign countries, as they just did with a Saudi developer for a Trump-licensed golf resort in Oman. But his brand is now entirely contingent on his political influence. Nobody would want to do business with such a company without it.
Ivanka Trump has backed away from the business, "Succession" style, living instead on her husband Jared Kushner's lucrative influence-peddling with many of the same actors. But Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have never had any kind of real job other than working for the Trump Organization. Of course they seem to be spending all their time these days making trash-talk videos and appearing at fringe QAnon conferences, so perhaps the whole family has already moved on to greener pastures. The younger generation had better get real professions, however, because from the looks of things, there won't be much left of the family business once Donald Trump gets through with it.
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — The lights began to flicker back on across Moore County on Wednesday, four days after gunfire attacks on two substations caused a countywide power outage.
In Southern Pines, part of a cluster of towns surrounding the county’s prized golf courses, some customers saw their power restored by 10 a.m. By around noon the Southern Pines Public Library, which had been providing residents with warmth, respite and a place to recharge cell phones, was back online.
“When we opened Monday morning, we had a lot of really cold people come into our library to warm up,” Library Director Amanda Brown said. “There were a lot of cold, tired and frustrated people.
“People are pretty angry about the situation that brought us to this point,” she added, “but people are working together to help each other out.”
Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson, for Duke Energy said the utility expected to have power restored across the county by Wednesday evening. As of 4 p.m., Brooks said only about 1,200 customers at the southern end of the county remained without power.
By Wednesday morning, Duke Energy workers had installed new equipment at the two substations, calibrated and tested it. Brooks described how the utility was synchronizing the equipment with the electrical grid, with “waves of customers coming on, a few thousand at a time, so that we can safely restore power to the grid as we work to get everyone back on.”
Patricia Moore, a 61-year-old resident of Aberdeen, dropped by First Baptist Church Pinehurst around noon on Wednesday to recharge her oxygen machine and breathing machine, which opens her lungs. Moore said she has also been going to Harris-Teeter grocery stores, some of the few stores that remained open, to recharge her machines, which lasted about a day.
“It was wrong for the elderly and children, for human beings,” Moore said. “The people that did this, they should have thought of other people.”
NC Baptist Disaster Relief set up a mobile relief center to provide hot meals and showers in the parking lot of First Baptist, less than a mile from Duke Energy’s West End substation, one of the two substations that were damaged in the attacks.
Tom Beam, who directs the agency, said NC Baptist Relief has prepared 6,400 meals for the Red Cross to distribute, and provided residents with 85 showers at three locations across the county, along with 40 loads of laundry.
Sheriff Ronnie Fields pleaded with the public for patience during the press conference on Wednesday.
“Every investigator working on this case — state, local and federal — know what you want, and that’s answers,” he said. “We want to know who and why, and we’re committed to giving you these answers. Before we go into talking about possible suspects and leads publicly before the person is even charged or arrested, we would jeopardize being able to hold them accountable.”
The county, Gov. Roy Cooper and Duke Energy, have pooled funds to offer a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for the attack.
Sheriff Fields said investigators are canvassing the area around the substations.
“We’re reaching out to all the folks in this area,” he said. “Anybody that may have a camera, door camera, surveillance cameras, in and around these areas that were hit, we ask you to please call us.”
Sen. Tom McInnis, who represents Moore County in the NC General Assembly, predicted that with the reward money on the table, “we’re just days and moments and hours away from catching the culprit that did this tragedy.”
Cheryl Christy-Bowman, a local blogger, said this disaster is different from a snowstorm or a hurricane, when people have time to prepare and stock up on provisions. Cold and lack of water have been the most acute effects of the outage.
“One of the things that I’m hearing a lot is that people have livestock — farms and horses — they have not had access to water to water their animals,” she said. “The cold — firewood was very difficult to get. Propane — very difficult to get. Any kind of heating source was very difficult to get, partially because many of our stores were shut down, but also because everything sold out so quickly. Generators sold out in the first day.”
Christy-Bowman said she’s heard from parents whose children could not handle the cold, and had to spend $500-$600 on hotels.
“The amount of food that has been spoiled, destroyed, people don’t know how they’re going to replace that food,” she said. “If they’re lucky enough to have an insurance company that covers food spoilage, it’s still going to take weeks for them to get reimbursed. What are they going to do in the meantime? People who are on food stamps, they will get additional food stamps, but what are they supposed to do in the meantime?”
Regardless of political ideology, Christy-Bowman said, residents in the conservative-leaning county are angry about the outage, based on the understanding that it was a targeted attack. If anything, she said, people are angry about officials minimizing the attack by calling it “vandalism.”
“And vandalism is spray-painting a bridge; it’s putting graffiti on a wall,” she said. “It’s not knocking 40,000 people out of power.
“It’s an insult to the community and the hardships that people are going through to continue to refer to it as vandalism.”
Meanwhile, elected officials have sought turn the sudden national attention to the county’s benefit. McInnis used the press conference on Wednesday as an opportunity to “welcome everybody to the home of American golf,” touting the “world-class golf courses” around Pinehurst.
Southern Pines, a town adjacent to Pinehurst with a Downtown Historic District built around a picturesque rail station, showcases the cultural cross currents at play in the county. The marquee of the Sunrise Theater across the street from the rail station still bears “Downtown Divas” signage from a drag show that drew far-right protesters this past Saturday when the outage began.
Hot Asana Yoga shares the same block with The Christian Bookstore in the Downtown Historic District, which also includes bistros, a specialty cheese shop, a running store and an ice cream parlor. Further down South Broad Street, War Dogs Military Tactical Surplus contends with a brewpub and food truck rodeo.
The marquee at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines still bears the signage from the "Downtown Divas" drag show that was the focus of a protest when the power went out on Saturday night.Jordan Green
Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the country, is the next county over, and Christy-Bowman said an influx of military veterans in recent decades has pushed the county in an increasingly conservative direction.
While no evidence has surfaced linking the attack on the power grid to controversy surrounding the drag show, the two events are difficult to disentangle due to vocal statements of a prominent campaigner.
Emily Grace Rainey, a former US Army captain who was forced to resign her commission for violating COVID restrictions, posted on her Facebook page shortly after the attack: “The power is out in Moore County, and I know why.” She later partially walked back the claim by saying she told investigators from the sheriff’s office “that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage.”
Rainey’s Facebook page lit up with outraged comments soon after the power went out.
“I think the other thing that people in the community are very angry about right now is certain political high-profile people going on to social media and saying that it was God punishing us for our inequity and our sin,” Christy-Bowman said. “And I would point out for the record that all of this talk about it being connected to the drag show did not start until someone stepped forward and said that they knew why it happened and it was God’s punishment for the drag show. That caused a lot of anger.”
Rainey, who posed with the Proud Boys during a recent protest against a drag show in nearby Sanford in October, was able to parley her notoriety into an appearance on “War Room,” the podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, on Monday. Rainey’s interview skirted the details about the power outage and omitted any mention of her provocative statement, while providing her with a platform to disparage the drag show as a “type of redlight district adult entertainment” that has doesn’t have “any place in our very family-friendly conservative Christian downtown.”
Christy-Bowman said she has searched herself to try to understand why Moore County was the target of the attack.
“I have wondered personally if it’s not because of the political fracturedness of our community,” she said. “I have wondered if it’s not because whoever did this knew that we would start pointing fingers at one another right off the bat, and it would cause enough disruption in law enforcement with everyone calling in tips that they would not be able to focus on who the real perpetrator is.”
German extremists are using 'the same blueprint' for Jan. 6-style violence: Former Oath Keepers spox
This week, German police conducted a series of raids on an extremist group known as "Reichsbürger" (Reich Citizens Movement) which supports the end of democracy and the re-establishment of an absolute monarchy. The group had been hoping to pull off a January 6-style raid of government buildings in Germany.
Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday, Jason Van Tatenhove, the former spokesman for the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, outlined how Reichsbürger built their movement off the same template as QAnon in the United States.
"Here we are tonight," said Burnett. "You've seen what happened today. You hear Fred [Pleitgen] reporting about extremists with links to QAnon plotting to overthrow the government of the largest country in Europe. Did you immediately think January 6th?"
"I did," said Van Tatenhove. "And I thought that previously. You know, they've got this notion of this Day X, which is covered extensively by a New York Times reporter Katrin Bennhold, who did the Day X podcast series where she really, really breaks this down. But you can think of Day X as being the equivalent in America of being 'The Storm' that QAnon talks about. And four months before January 6th happened, they had almost an identical event happen at the parliamentary building in Berlin. So, this is a direct reflection. We're seeing this happen all over. And they're using really the same blueprint."
"It is pretty amazing to see it," said Burnett. "So when you see former President Trump posing at Mar-a-Lago — prominent QAnon conspiracists posing for photos — this is after, of course, he just had dinner with a person who denies the holocaust, who is a known anti-Semite — what signal does this send to members of the Oath Keepers, just for instance, or to other far-right groups?"
"Again, it's much like we heard during the presidential debates with the 'stand back and stand by,'" said Van Tatenhove. "It's a dog whistle. It's acknowledging that he sees them as part of his base and part of his power structure, and he possibly intends to use them, much like we saw them employed on January 6th. But it normalizes."
Watch the video below or at this link.
Former Oath Keepers spokesman on German extremist plot www.youtube.com