'Not intellectually capable': Knives out in TrumpWorld over Sanders’ 'terrible' SOTU response

Prominent supporters of former President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.

Sanders, who served as Trump's White House press secretary, delivered a rebuttal to the president's speech that largely focused on Republican culture war issues and accused Biden of surrendering his presidency to a "woke mob that can't even tell you what a woman is."

"Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn't start and never wanted to fight. Every day, we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols, all while big government colludes with Big Tech to strip away the most American thing there is—your freedom of speech. That's not normal. It's crazy, and it's wrong," Sanders said, later adding that the "dividing line in America is no longer between right and left — it's between normal or crazy."

Former chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon lit into Sanders' speech on his "War Room" podcast on Wednesday, criticizing her for failing to mention Trump's name.

"It was an insult to President Trump. She does not exist politically if it was not for President Trump," he said.

Bannon called Sanders' speech "terrible."

"If you're gonna give a counter speech, you gotta talk about important issues," he said. "Don't get me wrong. The wokeism is very important. But it's not quite the heart of the matter right now, right? It's not the heart of the matter. She is not–and the reason is she's just not–she's not intellectually capable of going to the heart of the matter, right? Let's be blunt."

Bannon made the comments while speaking to longtime Trump booster Lou Dobbs, who was fired from the Fox Business Network for spreading false election claims.

Dobbs said the speech was a "great insult" to Trump, complaining that Sanders did not even mention his name when she discussed going on a Christmas visit to Iraq with the former president and the first lady.

"It looked like the Governors Association had written that speech and aligned themselves with Ron DeSantis. It was a shame," Dobbs complained.

"You are right this was like written by Ron DeSantis and the entire RGA," Bannon agreed.

Sanders also drew criticism from her hometown newspaper over her "snarling about wokeness and the radical left."

"It got pretty dark and weird," Austin Bailey wrote in an editorial at the Arkansas Times. "A word salad of talking points and name calling, with some attempts at folksy relatability thrown in, Sanders' rebuttal to Biden's State of the Union address was light on policy, heavy on menace."

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Conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, contrasted Biden's speech focused on "the economy and concrete issues" with Sanders' "deep plunge into dystopian culture wars."

"These annual canned rebuttals usually come off as tone-deaf," she wrote in an editorial at the Bulwark, "but with Sanders, there was an additional, unexpected contrast with Biden. She spoke for a dreary 15 minutes — all scripted according to teleprompter, with no audience. Biden spoke for more than an hour, with a teleprompter in front of plenty of hostile Republicans. Biden, 80 years young, rolled with it, tackling every tough subject on his agenda, inviting Republicans to join him at every turn. Sanders, 40 years old, droned on, her entire speech devoted to demonizing Biden."

Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt accused Sanders of "abusing" viewers with "MAGA lies."

"Sarah Huckabee Sanders positioned herself as the voice of a rising generation of Americans. No thank you," Schmidt said on his podcast. "It was stale. It was old. It was an ugly speech from a lying governor who is unfit for any type of public service."

Trump seethes on Truth Social after Pentagon says Chinese spy balloons flew over US on his watch

Former President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed that China never sent alleged spy balloons over the U.S. during his administration — but officials say Chinese surveillance balloons traveled over the U.S. at least three times on his watch.

The U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday off the coast of North Carolina, which the Pentagon alleged was used to collect information on military sites. President Joe Biden reportedly authorized the military to shoot down the balloon on Wednesday but military officials determine that shooting down over land was too risky and waited until it was over the ocean as Republicans criticized the administration for not downing it sooner.

"SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!" Trump demanded on Truth Social on Friday.

"The Chinese would never have floated the Blimp ('Balloon') over the United States if I were President!!!" he wrote in another post on Sunday.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement last week that the balloon did not pose a "military or physical threat to people on the ground" and revealed that similar activity had been "observed previously over the past several years."

A senior Pentagon official on Saturday told reporters that suspected Chinese government surveillance balloons "transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time."

Trump denied the Pentagon's statement on his social media network.

"Now they are putting out that a Balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the 'heat' off the slow moving Biden fools," he wrote. "China had too much respect for 'TRUMP' for this to have happened, and it NEVER did. JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!"

Trump also told Fox News Digital that it "never happened with us under the Trump administration and if it did, we would have shot it down immediately."

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Multiple former administration officials also denied the statement.

Former national security adviser John Bolton told Fox that he was 100% certain there were not any balloon flights during his tenure. John Ratcliffe, Trump's former director of national intelligence, told Fox News the statement was "not true." Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN he was "surprised" by the Pentagon's statement.

"I don't ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States," Esper said. "I would remember that for sure."

A senior Biden administration official told Fox News that "U.S. intelligence, not the Biden administration, but U.S. intel assesses PRC government surveillance balloons transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time."

The unnamed official added that "two things can be true at once: this happened, and it wasn't detected."

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said that the office of the Secretary of Defense informed him that "several Chinese balloon incidents have happened in the past few years — including over Florida."

"Why weren't they shot down?" Waltz questioned.

"And according to several Trump Admin national security officials - they were never informed of these intrusions by the Pentagon," he wrote on Twitter.

The Biden administration offered to brief Trump and senior members of his administration on the intelligence about the earlier flights, according to Politico.

"This information was discovered after the prior administration left," a senior defense official told the outlet. "The intelligence community is prepared to offer key officials from the Trump administration briefings on [China's] surveillance program."

Republicans have continued to criticize Biden's handling of the situation while ignoring the reports about the Trump administration. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Sunday told ABC News that he agreed that debris from shooting down the balloon over land could have "hurt, harmed or killed people" but argued that Biden should have gone on national television to explain "what we're dealing with."

"None of that happened. And I don't know why. I don't know why they waited so long to tell people about this," Rubio said.

"This happened three times under the previous president," replied host Jon Karl. "Obviously, there were no public notifications there."

Stormy Daniels thanks Trump for 'admitting that I was telling the truth'

Adult film star Stormy Daniels suggested on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump appeared to admit to claims that he paid her hush money to keep quiet about their alleged affair in a Truth Social post.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who declined to charge Trump in connection to the tax fraud violations by his company, has begun presenting evidence to a newly impaneled grand jury related to the alleged $130,000 hush money payment. Prosecutors have begun to interview witnesses to determine whether they will seek to charge Trump with misclassifying the cash as legal expenses to cover up a violation of New York state election law by paying Daniels during the campaign. Trump has denied that he had an affair with Daniels and the hush money payment but his longtime former fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the scheme, which he said was at the direction of Trump.

Trump lashed out over the renewed probe on Truth Social, claiming that the statute of limitations had run out on the 2016 allegations, though legal experts say Bragg has a strong case that the statute of limitations was tolled while Trump was mostly out of the state during his presidency.

"With respect to the 'Stormy' nonsense, it is VERY OLD & happened a long time ago, long past the very publicly known & accepted deadline of the Statute of Limitations. I placed full Reliance on the JUDGEMENT & ADVICE OF COUNCIL [sic], who I had every reason to believe had a license to practice law, was competent, & was able to appropriately provide solid legal services," Trump wrote, referring to Cohen. "He came from a good law firm, represented other clients over the years, & there was NO reason not to rely on him, and I did."

Daniels cited the post as an admission of guilt.

"Thanks for just admitting that I was telling the truth about EVERYTHING," she wrote.

Trump previously insulted Daniels by calling her "horseface" in another Truth Social post insisting that he "NEVER HAD AN AFFAIR."

"Guess I'll take my 'horse face' back to bed now, Mr. former 'president'. Btw, that's the correct way to use quotation marks," she wrote on Tuesday.

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Trump has repeatedly denied that he had an affair and that he had anything to do with the payment to Daniels but she has repeatedly stuck by her story that they had sex in 2006, a year after he married Melania Trump and described the alleged encounter in graphic detail in her 2018 book.

Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation in relation to the payment. Trump was never charged but was referred to as "Individual-1" in charging documents.

"Dopey Donald gets it wrong AGAIN and AGAIN! First, the [statute of limitations] has not expired. Additionally, Donald is so angry he can't even get his spelling correct," Cohen tweeted on Tuesday. "The proper word is Counsel…not Council. Either way…love the all CAPS."

While New York has a five-year statute of limitations on many potential violations related to the alleged payment and the Trump Organization's tax fraud conviction, prosecutors could argue that the actions were part of an ongoing crime, noted Norm Eisen, a senior Brookings Institution fellow who served as a Democratic counsel during Trump's first impeachment. Prosecutors could also "argue that the statute of limitations should be extended as to Trump because he has been outside of New York 'continuously' over at least the last four years, during the term of his presidency," he wrote, adding that the Manhattan D.A.'s office successfully did this in its prosecution of Harvey Weinstein.

'Going for the kill': Experts say Trump could face 4 years in prison amid new grand jury probe

The Manhattan district attorney's office on Monday began presenting evidence to a new grand jury about former President Donald Trump's role in hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign, according to The New York Times.

The grand jury was recently impaneled and District Attorney Alvin Bragg appears to be "laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months," sources told the outlet.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer who helped broker the deal with Daniels, was seen entering the building where the grand jury is sitting on Monday.

Former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payment "in coordination with, and at the direction of" Trump in 2018, has said he has repeatedly spoken with prosecutors.

Prosecutors also intend to interview former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard and Trump Organization employees Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff — who helped arrange for Cohen to be reimbursed the $130,000 he paid to Daniels, according to the report. Prosecutors are also expected to meet with former Daniels attorney Keith Davidson. Prosecutors have also contacted former 2016 Trump campaign officials and subpoenaed phone records and other documents in a sign prosecutors are seeking to corroborate witness accounts.

Bragg empaneled the new grand jury after facing criticism for seemingly backing off Trump after replacing former D.A. Cy Vance, who first opened the probe. Bragg initially abandoned plans to present evidence against Trump himself, prompting two top prosecutors on the team to resign in protest. But after securing a tax fraud conviction against the Trump Organization last year, Bragg renewed his scrutiny of the hush money payment to Daniels, which first triggered the original probe. The renewed probe is focused on whether Trump's company falsely classified the reimbursement to Cohen as a legal expense. To charge Trump with a felony, prosecutors would need to show that Trump falsified the records to help commit to conceal a second crime — a violation of New York state election law — though the theory is largely untested in court.

Trump lashed out over the report, calling the case "old news" and insisting he "NEVER HAD AN AFFAIR."

"With murders and violent crime surging like never before in New York City, the Radical Left Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, just leaked to the Fake News Media that they are still going after the Stormy 'Horseface' Daniels Bull….!" Trump wrote on Truth Social, claiming that Bragg was "working with the Weaponized Justice Department" in a "continuation of the Greatest Witch Hunt of all time."

But legal experts say the move shows that Bragg likely has a good reason why he shifted course in the probe.

"Bragg initially made a decision not to pursue charges against Trump, and it appears to he now has reversed course," tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "I suspect there is more to this story and we'll learn about that in the months to come."

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team, called the investigation the "sleeper case to watch" as Trump also faces potential legal trouble in a Fulton County DA probe looking at his post-election efforts to overturn his loss and a DOJ investigation into classified documents he refused to turn over in response to a grand jury subpoena.

"It may be that they have been able to uncover objective evidence that corroborates it... that makes him feel this is a stronger case than they did back when Alvin Bragg first came to office," former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade predicted during an appearance on MSNBC.

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman told the network that the decision to impanel a new grand jury shows that Bragg is "going for the kill."

Trump could face up to four years in prison if he is convicted of first-degree falsifying business records, former district attorneys told Insider, though securing a conviction could be complicated.

"You're falsifying your records to show that it is a business expense, as if you're paying a lawyer to do legal work, and this wasn't that at all," Josh Moscow, a former senior financial crimes prosecutor at the Manhattan DA's office, told the outlet. "This was a conduit payment."

Prosecutors would have to link Trump himself to the payment but a recording Cohen made of Trump discussing a hush-money payment to another woman, Karen McDougal, could be "pretty incriminating," Daniel Alonso, a former chief assistant district attorney at the Manhattan DA's office, told the outlet.

"It always struck me as incredibly unfair that Michael Cohen is the only person that was charged in this crime," he added. "The idea that the bag man is the only one that goes down and the principal gets away scot-free just doesn't really square with justice."

Newsom calls out Fox News — as his meeting with shooting victims is interrupted by another massacre

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday was pulled away to be briefed on the state's second mass killing in three days while meeting with victims of the first one.

Newsom met with victims of a weekend mass shooting at a Monterey Park ballroom dance hall, where police say 72-year-old Huu Can Tran killed 11 and injured nine others before he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Newsom's meeting was interrupted by shootings in Half Moon Bay, where seven Chinese farmworkers were killed in two separate locations, according to NBC Bay Area. 67-year-old Half Moon Bay resident Chunli Zhao, who was a worker at one of the facilities and knew at least some of the victims, was arrested in the shooting, according to the Associated Press.

Newsom while meeting with victims of the Monterey Park shooting called out Fox News, accusing the right-wing network of "not doing a damn thing about gun safety, not a damn thing for decades."

"It's a disgrace what they say, what these people say every single night," Newsom told reporters.

The governor accused the network of perpetuating "crime and violence in this country" through "xenophobia" and "scapegoating."

"'It's not the right time, not the right time, not the right time.' Rinse, repeat," he said. "'Not the right time, rinse repeat, Sandy Hook, not the right time, rinse, repeat. Uvalde.' Remember Uvalde? Remember? Rinse, repeat. You don't remember the Borderline here, 13 people, that was a few years ago, you'll have to look that one up. Rinse, repeat. Not a damn thing they do. And we know it. And we allow them to get away with that."

Gavin Newsom: Second Amendment becoming a "suicide pact"www.youtube.com

During his visit at the hospital, Newsom tweeted that he was "pulled away to be briefed on another shooting" at Half Moon Bay.

"Tragedy upon tragedy," he wrote.

Newsom also told CBS News that the Second Amendment is "becoming a suicide pact."

"Nothing about this is surprising," the governor said. "Everything about this is infuriating."

He added that he has "great respect" for the Second Amendment and "no ideological opposition to someone reasonably and responsibly owning firearms and getting background checks and being trained," but said mental health issues alone don't explain the country's gun violence.

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California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. The Monterey Park suspect used a modified 9 mm submachine gun-style semi-automatic weapon, according to the AP, which is illegal in California. The Half Moon Bay suspect used a semi-automatic handgun but it's unclear if it was a legal firearm, according to police.

Newsom said he would continue to press for additional gun control measures in California, which has a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average, according to the Giffords Law Center. Newsom complained to CBS News that only Democrats have led the push to tighten gun laws to prevent similar tragedies.

"And yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn," he said. "They can't get anything done in Congress."

Gov. Newsom goes after high-capacity magazine after Monterey Park Shootingwww.youtube.com

The Half Moon Bay massacre marked the country's 37th mass shooting — meaning four or more victims were shot — and sixth mass murder this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The U.S. is already outpacing last year's rate, when there had been 27 mass shootings and one mass murder in the first 23 days of the year.

"Half Moon Bay is a beautiful community just south of SF. It's now part of the tidal wave of gun violence suffocating our country," tweeted state Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco. "34 mass shootings in 23 days isn't normal. If doesn't have to be this way. There are too many guns. Our country needs the will to say enough."

'It’s always about the obstruction': New TrumpWorld subpoenas target effort to 'influence' witnesses

A "wide-ranging" subpoena sent to Trump campaign officials last month shows that special counsel Jack Smith's Jan. 6 investigation is increasingly focused on new areas of interest, including fundraising efforts and potential efforts to influence witness testimony, according to The Washington Post.

The DOJ issued the four-page subpoena to multiple Trump campaign officials in early December, seeking more than "two dozen categories of information," according to the report. One part of the subpoena asks Trump campaign officials if anyone paid for their legal representation and paperwork related to any such agreement.

The subpoena also seeks "all documents and communications" related to Trump's fundraising activities for a litany of groups outside of his Save America PAC, which has already come under scrutiny. The new subpoenas seek documents related to the Make America Great Again PAC, the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, including documents related to the "formation, funding and/or use of money" of the groups.

The subpoena also seeks documents related to the creation of an "Election Defense Fund," which Trump officials ostensibly formed created to raise money from grassroots donors after Trump's election loss. Officials later testified to the House Jan. 6 committee that the fund technically did not exist but was a way to raise money from people who bought into Trump's Big Lie.

Prosecutors' interest in the payments comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the Jan. 6 committee that she was initially represented by a Trump-linked lawyer who would not tell her who was paying his fees and said she did not need a formal written retention agreement.

"I was like, 'I probably should sign an engagement letter.' And he said, 'No, no, no. We're not doing that. Don't worry. We have you taken care of,'" she told the panel, according to a transcript of the interview.

After her initial interview with the committee, the lawyer told Hutchinson that the people paying his fees would not want her to agree to additional interviews unless she is required to do so by a new subpoena, according to her testimony.

"'Trump world will not continue paying your legal bills if you don't have that second subpoena,'" Hutchinson recalled him saying, after hiring a new lawyer.

"At the heart of these subpoenas, in addition to previously reported investigation into fundraising fraud, there appears to be an inquiry into whether witness testimony was being improperly influenced. It's always about the obstruction," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

"The efforts to influence and/or even intimidate witnesses has always stuck out for me too," agreed MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin.

Along with information on the payments and fundraising, the subpoena also seeks campaign communications about Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting technology companies that faced a torrent of false allegations accusing them of election fraud.

It also asks for information related to the Trump campaign's fake elector scheme, which included more than 100 individuals in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and Michigan.

The subpoena also asks for information related to any internal analysis of the former president's fraud claims and documents related to the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse. The Jan. 6 committee found that numerous Trump officials found that there was no basis for his election fraud claims but he continued to push the lies on social media and at the rally preceding the deadly Capitol riot.

The report comes as the "grand jury has accelerated its activities in recent weeks, bringing in a rapid-fire series of witnesses, both high and low level," according to the Post.

Some of the witnesses in recent weeks returned for their second appearance before the grand jury. One source familiar with one of the grand jury appearances told ABC News it was "far more intense than round one."

'Breakdown in trust': Expert says judge's order suggests DOJ suspects Trump has more classified docs

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered former President Donald Trump's lawyers to turn over names of private investigators who searched Trump's properties last month for additional classified documents, according to The New York Times.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington issued an order siding with the Justice Department, which is looking to question the investigators about the search.

The November search, which turned up at least two additional documents marked classified at a storage unit near Mar-a-Lago, was conducted months after the FBI seized about 100 documents marked classified from the president's residence in August.

A top DOJ official told Trump's lawyers in October that the department believed the former president still had classified materials. Trump's attorneys had previously affirmed that the former president had returned all classified documents last summer before investigators found the additional materials.

The DOJ's request to identify the private investigators who conducted the November search "suggests an increasing breakdown in trust" between prosecutors and Trump's lawyers, whom they have accused of not being forthcoming about the documents, according to the Times' Alan Feuer.

Prosecutors under new special counsel Jack Smith in sealed court filings last month asked Howell to hold Trump's lawyers in contempt for failing to comply with the original subpoena issued in May for all of the classified documents.

Howell has still not made a decision on the contempt request, according to the Times.

The latest request from the DOJ came after prosecutors asked Trump's lawyers to turn over the names of the investigators who searched the storage unit and other Trump properties, including Mar-a-Lago, his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort and Trump Tower.

Trump's lawyers offered to make the investigators available for questioning but wanted to keep their identities hidden by a protective order over concerns of potential leaks, according to the report. Prosecutors did not agree to the protective order and asked Howell to compel the release of the names.

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Prosecutors have already questioned several Trump associates in the case, including Walt Nauta, a former White House military valet who went to work for Trump at Mar-a-Lago. But prosecutors have "indicated they are skeptical" of his initial account about moving documents stored at Mar-a-Lago and have been "using the specter of charges against him to persuade him to cooperate with the inquiry," according to the Times.

Prosecutors also conferred immunity on former Trump aide Kash Patel to force him to testify to the grand jury after he initially invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer questions.

The new request suggests that Smith's team may still believe there are more documents still out there.

"If the Special Counsel were convinced it has all classified documents once squirreled away by Trump, it wouldn't care who the investigators are," tweeted MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin. "But by pressing for their names, investigators are revealing how much they want to talk to the P.I.s about what's still out there."

Legal experts have suggested that Trump's lawyers could face prosecution themselves after they falsely affirmed last year that the former president had returned all of the documents before investigators turned up even more.

Trump also faces a DOJ investigation into his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which is also being overseen by Smith, and a Georgia investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He is also facing a $250 million civil lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James. The judge overseeing the case said in court filings that he is "considering imposing sanctions for frivolous litigation" over Trump's attempt to dodge the lawsuit with an end-run around to a Florida judge using "the same legal arguments that this court previously rejected."

Meet the new MAGA generation: These newly-elected Republicans set to join Team MTG

Trumpist election deniers were soundly defeated in competitive midterm races this year, for the most part. But there's no shortage of far-right MAGA diehards who are joining Congress this week, mostly elected from safe Republican districts and states.

While the midterm elections served as a sweeping repudiation of fringe Trump-backed candidates in many swing states and purple districts, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's 21-point re-election victory in her rural district in northwestern Georgia makes clear that Trumpism is still alive and well in deep-red areas. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy predicted a "red wave" that never reached shore — and it's still not entirely clear that McCarthy can get himself elected speaker on Tuesday. Even so, there are 48 new Republicans entering Congress, at least half of whom count as election deniers.

Republicans have already vowed to put far-right lawmakers like Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona back on key committees and to launch aggressive investigations into the Biden administration and his family. McCarthy will need the most extreme Republican members in order to pass any legislation, and given the GOP's slim margin, his speakership (assuming he gets there) will be subject to their whims. Here are six new Republicans to watch in 2023.

Miller, 34, is a former White House aide who helped Trump plan his Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse ahead of the Capitol riot. He replaces Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the attack. A "scion of one the Cleveland area's wealthiest, most prominent, most powerful families," according to Politico, Miller was the first person endorsed by Trump this cycle.

Longtime associates told the outlet that they recall Miller having an "anger problem" and being "very scary." Others described him to the outlet as "abrasive" and "volatile." The report cited Miller's long criminal history, which included charges of assault, disorderly conduct and alcohol-related offenses, which were ultimately dismissed. Former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Miller's ex-girlfriend, last year accused Miller of physical abuse. Miller denied the allegation and filed a defamation lawsuit against her.

Luna, 33, a conservative social media influencer and media personality who once worked for the far-right Turning Point USA, has repeatedly made false claims about the election. She has described herself as a "pro-life extremist" while cozying up to right-wingers like Steve Bannon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Luna campaigned with Greene and has already aligned herself with the House Freedom Caucus and members like Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado (who herself barely won re-election).

During the campaign appeared on a QAnon program, where she praised the hosts as "good conservative Republicans." Though she did not discuss QAnon directly, she pushed other conspiracy theories about Democrats controlling the media and trying to "fix the election." Luna in the past has defended Kyle Rittenhouse and Christian nationalism.

Van Orden attended Trump's Jan. 6 rally and marched to the Capitol. He said he never entered the building even though a photo showed him smiling in an area of the Capitol grounds that was behind police lines. He allegedly funded his trip with thousands in campaign funds from his failed 2020 House bid. Van Orden supports a national ban on abortion, which he compared to genocide, and linked rising murder rates to women working outside the home. He is also the co-author of a male-oriented self-help volume called "Book of Man: A Navy SEAL's Guide to the Lost Art of Manhood."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called Van Orden's victory in Wisconsin's 3rd district (which was represented for the last 26 years by Democrat Ron Kind) "horrific and bone-chilling."

"It is very difficult to serve with people who took part in any way, shape or form in what happened on Jan. 6," she told the Washington Post. "There's a very physical reaction for many of us who were trapped there and who went through a lot of traumatic experiences."

Vance, the "Hillbilly Elegy" author and tech venture capitalist whose campaign was backed by millions from billionaire right-winger Peter Thiel, was once a harsh Trump critic before embracing MAGA and the former president once that became politically advantageous. Vance, who has claimed the 2020 election was stolen, has also supported the idea of a federal abortion ban and billions of dollars to finish Trump's border wall, and has promoted the "great replacement" theory popularized by right-wingers like Tucker Carlson and white nationalists.

More than most winning Republicans in 2022, Vance embraced culture-war issues, suggesting that women should stay in "violent" marriages to reduce divorce rates, tying undocumented immigrants to crime and decrying "wokeness."

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Santos became a national celebrity of sorts weeks after winning election from a suburban district on Long Island, when the New York Times reported that his résumé appears to be entirely made up. He has subsequently admitted that he never worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as he claimed in campaign materials, and never graduated from Baruch College (or any other college). But the fictions didn't stop there. He also repeatedly claimed that his grandparents were Jewish and had fled the Holocaust in Europe, that he had attended an exclusive prep school in the Bronx, that he had founded an animal-welfare charity and that his family was wealthy and owned numerous real estate properties. None of those things appear to be true either.

Santos is now under investigation by local and state officials in New York, and also in his native Brazil, where he was accused of check fraud in 2008, shortly before moving to the United States. It's unclear how he was able to lend himself large sums of money to run a lavishly-funded congressional campaign, since he was sued for minor personal debts at least twice in recent years and the company he claims to work for has no known clients.

Santos also attended Trump's Jan. 6 rally denying the 2020 election and later claimed he "wrote a nice check" to help the rioters with their legal troubles. Though he condemned the riot, he said in an interview with Lara Trump that it "was the most amazing crowd, and the president was at his full awesomeness that day. It was a front-row spectacle for me. And despite everything everybody says, I think Donald Trump will not go away." He also specifically defended the Capitol rioters, saying, "Imagine "breaking into your own house and being charged for trespassing."

Collins, the son of a former congressman, appeared in a campaign video posted to Twitter carrying an assault rifle and falsely claiming that Trump won Georgia in 2020. He has also spoken in defense of the Capitol rioters, comparing them to "political prisoners." Collins, who is set to join the far-right Freedom Caucus, has complained that McCarthy and other establishment Republicans are not conservative enough and has vowed to "make a great teammate" for Greene.

"The time for civility, the time for compromise, that's over with; the time for bipartisanship is done," he said in one campaign ad. "There is no compromising."

Collins' office will reportedly be headed by Brandon Phillips, who resigned in 2016 as Trump's Georgia campaign chief after it was reported that he had been previously arrested for battery. WXIA reported that Phillips had "attacked" a man and slashed his tires, causing "visible bodily harm" and "cuts and bruises to the head and torso," according to police. He was later arrested again after a woman said he pointed a gun at her head after she knocked on his door. Phillips was arrested again last month on a charge of animal cruelty after he allegedly kicked a woman's dog with his boot, causing a cut on the animal's stomach.

Calls for investigation after Trump tax returns expose 'audit' lie — and years of 'negative income'

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to release years of former President Donald Trump's tax returns and revealed that the IRS did not perform mandatory audits during his first two years in office.

The panel voted to release Trump's tax returns from his years in office after winning a yearslong court battle to obtain them even though the IRS was required to turn over the information to the committee by law. The committee said it discovered that the IRS failed to carry out mandatory audits of the former president's taxes until the same day that Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, D-Mass., sent a written request in April 2019 for the information. Trump, who defied decades of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, had repeatedly falsely claimed that he could not release his tax returns himself because he was under audit.

The IRS failed to act even as Trump's tax forms raised questions about how he used tax deductions to reduce his tax liability, according to a separate report from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The tax returns themselves are expected to be released publicly in the coming days after certain information is redacted.

"The research that was done as it relates to the mandatory audit program was nonexistent," Neal told reporters after Tuesday's hearing.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who sits on the committee, told CNN that the returns showed that there were "tens of millions of dollars in these returns that were claimed without adequate substantiation."

Former IRS Commissioner Josh Koskinen told The New York Times that "it does seem me to be a legitimate question: If the IRS had the responsibility and wasn't auditing, what's the explanation?"

After the IRS finally launched its first audit in 2019, Trump used Freedom of Information Act requests to delay the probe and failed to "provide all the facts needed," among other delay tactics, according to the committee's report. The agency only assigned a single agent to the task, which further slowed down the audit.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of the tax data released by the committee showed that Trump and his wife Melania declared "negative income" in four of the six years between 2015 and 2020. The Trumps paid $750 or less in income taxes in three of those years. In all, their total net tax liability over the six years was $1.8 million, including self-employment taxes and household employment taxes.

The tax data showed the Trumps' income fluctuating wildly, rising to as high as $24 million in 2018 after selling properties and investments before falling to $4.4 million in 2019, the only other year they reported positive income.

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Earlier tax documents obtained by The New York Times showed that Trump paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years before taking office because he reported losing more than he earned.

The new tax data shows that Trump reported $60 million in losses during his presidency.

The Times also previously reported that Trump used so-called land donations as charitable contributions to reduce his tax burden, writing off property taxes on his Westchester County Seven Springs estate by reclassifying it from a personal residence to an investment property. Trump has written off $2.2 million in property taxes as a business expense on the property even though the law only allows individuals to write off up to $10,000 per year.

The committee said Trump also made charitable contributions in cash, which warrants additional investigation.

"We would have inquired as to whether the large cash contributions were supported by required substantiation," the report said, adding that the IRS is looking into the tax scheme.

Legal experts urged further investigation into the IRS' failure to audit Trump's tax returns.

"The IRS dereliction of duty is sadly in line with Secret Service, FBI and DHS subservience to Trump when in office. Disgraceful," tweeted former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team.

"Investigations need to take place, and that can happen internally at the agency or the Justice Department might decide to step in to figure out what went wrong," former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance told MSNBC. "It's tough not to see some form of corruption lurking in the wings here, but we do need to find out what precisely those facts are," she added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the vote on Tuesday that the House will "swiftly" take up Neal's new legislation requiring the IRS to conduct an audit of the president's finances.

Trump's campaign slammed the committee over the release, falsely describing it as a "leak."

"This unprecedented leak by lameduck Democrats is proof they are playing a political game they are losing," a campaign spokesperson said in a statement. "If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause."

Republicans on the committee also accused Democrats of weaponizing the tax returns.

"Let me be clear: Our concern is not whether the president should have made his tax returns public, as is traditional, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns," Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said Tuesday, according to the Post. "Our concern is that, if taken, this committee action will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president."

Neal defended the release in a press conference.

"This was not about being punitive. This was not about being malicious," he said, citing the IRS' failure to perform its responsibility.

"It's about one office: The presidency," added Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who sits on the committee. "It's about making sure there are checks and balances for the presidency."

Trump's tax returns, meanwhile, have quickly become cable news fodder.

"It proves that Hillary Clinton was right all along. Nancy Pelosi was right all along; Chuck Schumer was right all along. The Democrats were right all along. Reporting from the New York Times was right all along; Washington Post, too, was 100 percent correct all along. Donald Trump was not under audit. Donald Trump was lying," MSNBC host Mike Brzezinski said Wednesday.

"He was desperate to hide the truth from Americans," she continued. "That truth, that far from being a shrewd businessman, he was, in fact, the biggest loser out of the 300 million Americans who filed their taxes with the IRS. The man lost more money than any other American, at a time when he was writing 'The Art of the Deal.'"

Elon Musk flees reporters after journalist 'purge' as EU official threatens Twitter 'sanctions'

Billionaire Elon Musk abruptly left a live Twitter discussion about the company banning journalists on Thursday after he was pressed on the suspensions.

Musk this week suspended @ElonJet, an account that used publicly available information to track his private jet flights, and other private flight trackers that relied on public info and remain available on more popular social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Twitter on Thursday subsequently banned more than a half-dozen prominent journalists that had covered Musk.

The suspended accounts include The Washington Post's Drew Harwell, The New York Times' Ryan Mac, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, Voice of America's Steve Herman, The Intercept's Micah Lee, Mashable's Matt Binder, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, and independent journalists Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster.

Musk, who has reinstated literal Nazis on the platform in the name of free speech, has claimed that the real-time flight trackers available on other larger platforms pose a risk of violence. He claimed that a man had followed a car carrying his young son because he thought it was him earlier this week, vowing legal action against the owner of the @elonjet account even though it's unclear how the flight tracker would aid someone in identifying and tracking a car. Musk had the Twitter policy on the flight trackers, which he had vowed not to ban, changed so to accommodate his complaints – days after criticizing previous Twitter management for restricting access to Hunter Biden laptop data and banning accounts that had not violated the actual terms of service.

"Harwell was banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publications of his accurate reporting about Musk," The Post's executive editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement. "Our journalist should be reinstated immediately."

Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesman for the Times, called the suspensions "questionable and unfortunate."

"Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred," he said in a statement. We hope that all of the journalists' accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action."

A CNN statement called the "impulsive and unjustified suspension" of reporters "concerning but not surprising."

"Twitter's increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to everyone who uses the platform," the statement said. "We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response."

The news alarmed a growing number of journalists and outlets.

"Elon Musk's Twitter journalist purge has begun," warned Vox's Shirin Ghaffary.

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Musk on Twitter claimed that the journalists had posted links to the banned flight tracker and accused them of trying to evade the ban on what he called "doxxing," which is more accurately used to describe the release of nonpublic information about private individuals. Musk hopped on a Twitter Spaces discussion among journalists about the ban, though he didn't stay long.

"Showing real-time information about somebody's location is inappropriate. And I think everyone on this call would not like that to be done to them," Musk said on the call, adding that "you're not special because you're a journalist."

BuzzFeed News reporter Katie Notopoulos, the host of the discussion, pointed out that Harwell and Mac were suspended for "reporting on it in the court of sort of pretty normal journalistic endeavors."

Harwell, who was on the call, jumped in to note that "I never posted your address."

"You posted a link to the address," Musk insisted.

"We posted a link in the course of reporting about @elonjet. We posted links to @elonjet, which are not now online and now banned on Twitter," Harwell said. "And Twitter of course also marks even Instagram and Mastodon accounts of ElonJet as harmful using, you know, we have to admit and acknowledge, using the exact same link-blocking technique that you have criticized as part of the Hunter Biden-New York Post story in 2020. So what is different here?"

"It's no more acceptable for you than it is for me. It's the same thing," Musk said.

"So it's unacceptable what you're doing?" Harwell pressed.

"No, you dox, you get suspended. End of story. That's it," Musk said, abruptly jumping off the call as Notopoulos asked him a follow-up question.

Notopoulos wrote on Twitter that after Musk left, the Twitter Space "cut out, screen went suddenly blank on my end and everyone got booted."

"Huh, appears the recording of this Space is strangely not available, funny that!" she added.

The company's decision to suspend journalists drew strong backlash from freedom of speech groups and even lawmakers.

"We are concerned about news reports that journalists who have covered recent developments involving Twitter and its owner, Elon Musk, have had their accounts on the platform suspended," The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement. "If confirmed as retaliation for their work, this would be a serious violation of journalists' right to report the news without fear of reprisal."

Rep. Tori Trahan, D-Mass., tweeted that her team had met with Twitter's team earlier on Thursday.

"They told us that they're not going to retaliate against independent journalists or researchers who publish criticisms on the platform," she wrote. "Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What's the deal, @elonmusk?"

The suspensions also caught the attention of officials in Europe, where tech regulation is stricter than in the U.S.

The German Foreign Office warned that "press freedom cannot be switched on and off on a whim."

"The journalists below can no longer follow us, comment and criticize. We have a problem with that," the ministry said on Twitter.

"News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying," tweeted Věra Jourová, a European Commission vice president. "EU's Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon."

Elon Musk is so committed to free speech he wants to use the power of the state to suppress public info about him

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk has framed his takeover of Twitter as essential for the future of free speech and even civilization itself, even though he tried for months to get out of the deal and was sued by the company in an attempt to force him to buy it. Since the takeover, Musk has unbanned countless accounts that spread misinformation and incited violence, including former President Donald Trump, while attacking previous Twitter executives for restricting free speech and enforcing rules that did not exist. But now Musk is suddenly banning accounts that share public information and threatening to sue a 20-year-old college student for posting his publicly-available flight information on the platform.

Musk has long been frustrated by the Twitter account @elonjet, set up in 2020 by Jack Sweeney, a young Musk superfan, to track the billionaire's private jet flights using publicly available information. Musk asked Sweeney, who also ran the popular @CelebJets account that exposed the wealthy and famous taking short private jet flights, to take down the account for $5,000 in January, calling it a "security risk" and saying he didn't want to be "shot by a nutcase," according to Protocol.

Musk after buying Twitter declared that his commitment to free speech is so absolute that it "extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk."

That didn't last long. Twitter appended a fact-check to Musk's tweet on Thursday to note that the account has since been banned. The site also banned @CelebJets, Sweeney's personal account and other accounts that tracked flight paths, and even banned links to their accounts on other platforms like Instagram.

The bans came after Twitter suddenly changed its policy to suit Musk's desires on Wednesday. The new exceptionally broad policy bans "live location information, including information shared to Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes, actual physical location, or other identifying information that would reveal a person's location, regardless if this information is publicly available."

"Real-time posting of someone else's location violates doxxing policy, but delayed posting of locations are ok," Musk tweeted, even though publishing flight records is protected under the First Amendment, as noted by a fact-check appended to his tweet.

The rule change came after Musk complained for weeks about former Twitter executives changing content moderation rules on the fly to ban Trump and restrict access to an article about Hunter Biden's laptop — as well as nude photos of him that were taken off the laptop.

"So posting someone's dick pics is cool, but not their publicly available private plane flight logs?" the folks at local news outlet The Tennessee Holler questioned.

Journalists also raised questions about the broad nature of the policy.

"The total ambiguity of the rule — would it prohibit tweeting a picture you just took of Times Square, thereby disclosing the exact location of every stranger in it? — will give Musk a great deal of latitude in how and when it's enforced," wrote The Intercept's Sam Biddle.

Musk defended the policy change on Twitter and said that he would also take legal action against Sweeney. Musk claimed that on Monday, a car carrying his young son "was followed by a crazy stalked (thinking it was me), who later blocked" the car from moving and climbed onto the hood, tweeting a video showing the alleged stalker and his license plate, potentially in violation of Twitter's doxxing rules.

"Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family," Musk wrote, even though it's unclear how the jet-tracker can help people track cars or who is in them.

Musk provided no additional details on what Sweeney did wrong by publishing publicly available information. Sweeney "shared publicly available information about Musk's flights, not his family members or his cars," The Washington Post noted. "The records stopped and ended at airports, and Musk has provided no further detail as to what legal basis Musk would cite in a lawsuit."

"He said this is free speech and he's doing the opposite," Sweeney told the Associated Press on Wednesday, adding that he suspects the ban was retaliation in response to him posting internal Twitter communications ordering the company's Trust and Safety division to suppress the reach his account — essentially the same "shadow-banning" that Musk and his right-wing fans have decried.

"So if there's harm to Musk or his family, then it isn't free speech and it is restricted," tweeted MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan. "Harm to anyone else or their families, it's free speech - nay, it's the future of Western civilization! - and there can be no restrictions. Got it?"

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall called the ban "more child king behavior from an entitled freak."

"But it's also an example of something more general in our society: a belief that the ultra rich deserve additional protections precisely because their wealth has elevated them so far above ordinary mortals that special protections are needed to protect them from people not liking them, not believing they are accountable," he wrote. "Anyway, Musk's a clown. This is obviously not about safety. It's about feelings," he added.

"One way you can tell Elon Musk is a free speech absolutist," wrote The Intercept's Jon Schwarz, "is his plan to use the power of the state to crush someone for engaging in free speech."

'Centrist' Republican still willing to support Trump after he calls to terminate the Constitution

A top House Republican on Sunday told ABC News that former President Donald Trump's call to terminate the Constitution is not a deal-breaker in the 2024 election.

Trump made the statement on Truth Social after the release of internal Twitter emails about the company's decision to ban a New York Post article about Hunter Biden's laptop.

"So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?" Trump wrote. "A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great 'Founders' did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!"

Republican lawmakers have stayed largely silent on the statement, according to the Washington Post, but Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, the chairman of the centrist Republican Governance Group, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he would still be willing to support Trump in the 2024 election if he wins the GOP nomination.

"It's early. I think there's going to be a lot of people in the primary ... [but] I will support whoever the Republican nominee is," he said, adding that he did not think Trump will win because there are "a lot of other good quality candidates out there."

"That's a remarkable statement," Stephanopoulos replied. "You just said you'd support a candidate who's come out for suspending the Constitution."

"Well, you know, he says a lot of things," Joyce said, adding, "I can't be really chasing every one of these crazy statements that come from any of these candidates."

"You can't come out against someone who's for suspending the Constitution?" the host pressed.

"He says a lot of things, but that doesn't mean that it's ever going to happen. So you got to [separate] fact from fantasy -- and fantasy is that we're going to suspend the Constitution and go backwards. We're moving forward," Joyce replied.

Most Republicans have stayed silent on the matter, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who previously said that Republicans would read every word of the Constitution aloud when the party takes control of the chamber in January.

Some Trump loyalists tried to play cleanup without going on the record. One anonymous Republican operative close to Trump told the Washington Post that the statement "did not literally advocate or call for terminating the Constitution."

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"He's making a comparison of the unprecedented nature of Big Tech meddling in the 2020 election to benefit Joe Biden with the unprecedented act of terminating the Constitution," the operative said.

Some Republicans did go further in condemning the former president's statement, including Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who told CBS News he "absolutely" disagrees with the statement.

"I, first of all, vehemently disagree with the statement that Trump has made," he said. "Trump has made 1,000 statements in which I disagree."

Trump's Republican critics also slammed the statement.

"No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution," tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

"With the former President calling to throw aside the constitution, not a single conservative can legitimately support him, and not a single supporter can be called a conservative," wrote Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. "This is insane. Trump hates the constitution."

The White House also issued a statement condemning the former president's remarks.

"Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned," White House spokesman Andrew Bates told The Washington Post, adding that "you cannot only love America when you win."

Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe said that Trump was "openly shrieking in desperation that anything that stands in the way of his becoming all-powerful ought to be swept away."

"It's a distinctive statement. It sort of says the quiet part out loud — that he has no reverence for the country, for anything other than himself," Tribe told the Post. "This is like saying, 'You want to see an insurrection? I'll show you an insurrection. I'll just tear the whole thing up.'"

'Cowardly'​: Legal experts slam Garland for punting to special counsel after Trump announcement

Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to appoint a special counsel to determine whether to prosecute former President Donald Trump, according to multiple reports.

Garland is set to announce the special counsel on Friday, three days after Trump announced his presidential bid, The Wall Street Journal reported. Trump reportedly announced his run so early because he believed it would make it harder for the Justice Department to prosecute him without it seeming political.

Garland's move reflects the sensitivity of the DOJ's probes into the former president and appears to be an attempt to allay concerns that the investigation is political. The Justice Department is probing Trump's retention of national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence as well as his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

DOJ rules for appointing a special counsel allow the attorney general to "name an outsider if he determines that the investigation or prosecution presents a conflict of interest for the department and recusals of certain officials wouldn't be enough to overcome the concerns," the Journal reported. But some former DOJ officials have said the appointment would not to much to diminish criticism from Trump and his supporters, particularly since Garland and other DOJ officials are still likely to be involved in decision-making related to the investigation.

Some legal experts knocked the decision to punt the Trump-related cases to a special counsel.

"It's a waste of time and money, insults the prosecutors at DOJ and gains nothing," tweeted former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. "No Trump supporter will see anyone as independent or fair to Trump."

National security attorney Bradley Moss also criticized the move, warning it "will now definitely delay any decisions until January at the earliest."

"Ironically, by announcing a Special Counsel this late in the game Garland just made it more likely that any potential prosecution of Trump will bleed into the 2024 general election season," he tweeted.

Slate legal analyst Jeremy Stahl said Garland's announcement gave Trump "exactly what he hoped for by announcing so early."

"It's cowardly, and it could backfire spectacularly," he wrote.

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But some legal experts pushed back, arguing it was the right call and is unlikely to significantly delay the investigations.

"A special counsel offers some measure of independence and transparency, which is a good thing," wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "The investigation is far along, and the same FBI agents can work for the special counsel," he added. "the appointment will slow things down by weeks, not months, if at all."

It's unclear who Garland will appoint and whether any prosecutor would be accepted by Trump's supporters on the right. Still, wrote Cal-Berkeley Law Prof. Orin Kerr, "it will be Trump's second stumbling his way into a special counsel appointment, which is something."

Criticism of Garland's handling of the cases has stretched all the way to the White House, including privately by President Joe Biden. Though the president has not expressed his frustrations to Garland, he has vented to his inner circle that Trump is a "threat to democracy and should be prosecuted," The New York Times reported in April, and that he wanted Garland to "act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action."

Trump-backed Arizona election loser Kari Lake cries 'BS' over results — and it badly backfires

Republican Kari Lake drew backlash Monday night after crying "BS" when news networks projected her to lose the Arizona gubernatorial race to Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, is projected to be the state's next governor, according to the Associated Press and other news networks. Lake cut Hobbs' election night lead since Tuesday but ultimately failed to make up enough ground. Hobbs on Monday led by more than 20,000 votes with less than 15,000 left to count, according to the Arizona Mirror.

Lake, a former news anchor who was backed by former President Donald Trump, became one of the most prominent election deniers in the country but ultimately lost like so many other election deniers that the former president backed in key battleground states. Fellow Arizona election deniers Blake Masters and Mark Finchem also lost the U.S. Senate and secretary of state races, respectively.

Trump complained about the call on Truth Social.

"Wow! They just took the election away from Kari Lake," he wrote. "It's really bad out there."

Lake, who had spent days stoking doubt in the vote-counting, responded to her defeat in a terse tweet.

"Arizonans know BS when they see it," she wrote.

Lake's critics seized on the tweet.

"As it turns out, yes, yes they did," tweeted former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

"Totally true, as the vote shows," jabbed Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.

"At least 50.4% of Arizonans knew," wrote Bloomberg editor Tim O'Brien.

"Perfect concession: self-aware & concise," quipped The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch.

"Self-ownership perfected," added attorney Ari Cohn.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., shared a letter Lake sent to her in October thanking her for an "in-kind contribution" to her campaign by campaigning against her.

"You're welcome," Cheney wrote.

Others called out Lake for calling the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a "loser" and telling his supporters to "get the hell out."

"Kari Lake told a legion of John McCain supporters across Arizona that they could go to hell. Tonight, they returned the favor," an anonymous GOP strategist told CNN.

Lake had stoked doubt in the vote-counting since Election Day, crying foul over voting machine malfunctions in Maricopa County. She then targeted Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who launched a PAC last year to defeat Republicans who didn't back election lies, even though that PAC spent no money promoting or opposing any candidates, according to the Arizona Mirror.

"Shouldn't Election Officials be impartial? The guys running the Election have made it their mission to defeat America First Republicans. Unbelievable," the election denier tweeted on Monday.

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Maricopa County Election Center over the weekend after dozens of GOP supporters, including some that were armed and wearing ballistic vests, staged a protest and carried signs claiming "Kari Lake Won" and "Hobbs is a Cheat." But there was no repeat of the aggressive 2020 election protests at the vote-counting center, said Sheriff Paul Penzone, and the protest cleared out after about an hour.

Some of Lake's closest aides have urged her to "take a measured approach" and not "storm the castle" in response to her loss, The Washington Post reported. Lake campaign insiders had prepared for a "stinging loss" to Hobbs over the weekend and realized over the last several days that Lake had little path to victory. But discussions have also included Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Trump attorney Christina Bobb and at one point Trump himself. Discussions have ranged from "how Lake could acknowledge a loss to whether she should adopt Trump's playbook and claim the election was stolen from her," according to the report. "People around Lake have told her it would not be in her best interest to claim the election was stolen. They have also warned of possible harm to Arizona, and the country more broadly," the Post reported.

While many of the Trump-backed election deniers that have lost quickly conceded their races, there is no sign that Lake plans to do so. Former Republican strategist Tim Miller said her tweet that "Arizonans know BS when they see it" was "unintentionally" right.

"Arizonans saw that she was full of BS when it came to the election, and they voted her out," he told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle. "It is a sign that she is going to, and in the vein of Trump continue to fight this to a certain level. But at some point, you would think that Republicans… would just say, enough is enough of this. It has unnecessarily cost them countless seats, really, this cycle in the House and Senate. It cost them the governorship of Arizona, and thank goodness for that."

Ruhle wondered if Lake plans to fly down to Mar-a-Lago to appear alongside Trump at his "big announcement" on Tuesday amid speculation that she could be his running-mate. Ruhle added, "she can be the VP of catering services at Mar-a-Lago."

NOW WATCH:Trump cronies fled ahead of his 2024 announcement, as did the crowd at Mar-a-Lago

Trump cronies fled ahead of his 2024 announcement, as did the crowd at Mar a Lagowww.youtube.com

Legal experts say Pence’s new interview may be evidence against Trump

Former Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend called former President Donald Trump's rhetoric "reckless" and said Trump's speech ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot "endangered" him and his family.

Trump repeatedly refused to call off the mob of supporters attacking the Capitol and at one point tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should've been done" as he pushed a legally dubious scheme to block the certification of his loss and try to steal the election.

Pence, following a lengthy pause, told ABC News anchor David Muir that the tweet "angered me."

"I turned to my daughter who was standing nearby," he said. "And I said, 'It doesn't take courage to break the law. It takes courage to uphold the law.' The president's words were reckless. It's clear he decided to be part of the problem."

"The president's words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building," he added.

Pence during the Capitol riot spoke with military and Justice Department leaders in an effort to quell the riot.

"Where was the president during all this?" Muir asked.

"David, I was at the Capitol. I wasn't at the White House," Pence said. "I can't account for what the president was doing that day. I was at a loading dock in the Capitol where a riot was taking place."

"But why wasn't he making these calls?" Muir pressed.

"That'd be a good question for him," Pence replied.

The interview was part of Pence's media tour to promote his new book "So Help Me God." Pence wrote that Trump complained he was "too honest" when Pence balked at the idea that he could unilaterally block the certification of the election on Jan. 6 and detailed the former president's efforts to pressure him, according to excerpts published by The New York Times.

"Hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts," Pence recalled Trump telling him. "People are gonna think you're stupid."

Pence also wrote that Trump worked with conservative lawyer John Eastman to pressure him into a scheme that has landed both men under legal scrutiny.

"You'll go down as a wimp," Trump told Pence the morning of Jan.6, according to the book. "If you do that, I made a big mistake five years ago!"

Pence also penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week as he attempts to rebrand as a hero of Jan. 6, detailing his communications with Trump before and after the riot.

"Were you scared?" Pence recalled Trump asking days after the riot.

"'No,' I replied, 'I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me," Pence said he told Trump.

While Pence has increasingly spoken publicly about Jan. 6 to promote his book, the former veep has been reluctant to sit for an interview with the House Jan. 6 committee and has privately complained about the panel, according to The New York Times.

Pence's book and other public statements could be of interest to both the Justice Department and the Jan. 6 committee, wrote MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, "which could intersperse Pence's written statement with witnesses' testimony about the same events in its final report."

"Something tells me that one or more lawyers in the O'Neill building will be furiously flipping pages," she wrote, referring to the building where the committee works.

NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman agreed that the committee report could reference Pence's statements but the "DOJ has little choice but to interview Pence."

Other legal observers hammered Pence for speaking up to sell his book but failing to speak to investigators seeking accountability for the Jan. 6 attack.

"Not a real profile in courage here from Mike Pence should have voluntarily given this interview to the Jan 6 [committee] at first light," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. "He's doing it now to try & resurrect a political career, but he wouldn't do it for the right reasons earlier, when it could have made a difference."