Majority of Republicans support use of 'force' to save 'the traditional American way of life': poll

Nearly half of all Republicans in the U.S. believe that "a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands."

The revelation, which emerged as a part of a June poll by George Washington University, comes just six months after the January 6 riot, in which thousands of self-described "patriots" stormed the Capitol building to forcibly stop President Biden from being confirmed by the Electoral College.

While 47% of Republicans agree with the prediction – that a group of patriotic citizens will usurp government authorities and run the country themselves – just 9% of Democrats could say the same.

The poll, which surveyed 1,753 registered U.S. voters from June 4 to June 23, found a wide set of disparities between Republicans and Democrats on a number of principles.

For example, 82% of Republicans agreed that it's "hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout," but only 15% of Democrats felt the same way. When it comes to future elections, 76% of Democrats expressed confidence in the security of the 2022 elections, while just 28% of Republicans were on the same page.

There were also significant differences between political parties on certain hot-button issues.

For instance, the poll found that less than 30% of Republicans feel that "dealing with global climate change" is somewhat or very important. With Democrats, this number is just north of 90%.

"Changing the nation's gun laws," meanwhile, saw support from about 20% of Republicans, but more than 80% of Democrats felt it was a priority.

Finally, about 40% of Republicans somewhat or strongly supported the need for "addressing race relations in this country, while 90% of Democrats felt the same.

It should be noted that there was a high level of agreement on certain issues as well.

For example, about the same number of Democrats and Republicans (85%) supported reducing the influence of lobbyists in Congress. Both parties were also aligned on making Medicare and Social Security more "financially sound," with about 90% of voters in both groups on board.

Other issues which saw a bipartisan consensus included combating drug addiction, tackling rising healthcare costs, improving employment, improving the election system, and revamping the nation's infrastructure.

In recent years, there has been a strong sense amongst scholars and pundits that the U.S. is more politically polarized than it has ever been – a perception that runs counter to the poll's findings on a number of issues. Some scholars have argued that the recent rise of the "culture war" – which Republicans have repeatedly used to cast a political valence on things that are otherwise benign – has contributed to a growing sense that the U.S. is more divided than ever.

Texas AG Ken Paxton is backing away from Trump's fraud claims for one very selfish reason

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an ardent Trump supporter who was the lead plaintiff in a last-ditch Supreme Court case aimed at overturning the 2020 election, appears to be backing away from his past claims of widespread election fraud. Facing discipline or even potential disbarment in Texas, Paxton now merely alleges that there were "irregularities" in battleground states, while still suggesting those could somehow have affected the overall result

Paxton's apparent retreat came earlier this month in response to an array of grievances filed by several members of the Texas bar: retired lawyer Neil Cohen; Kevin Moran, president of the Galveston Island Democrats; former Texas Court of Appeals Chief Justice David Chew; and Dr. Brynne VanHettinga. In their initial complaint, the group argued that Paxton should face professional discipline over his bid to undermine the 2020 presidential election, saying that Paxton's December petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that President Biden's victory should be set aside, was both frivolous and unethical.

In Paxton's response to their grievances, which was provided to Salon, the attorney general argued that "Texas's filings were not frivolous" because "the 2020 election suffered from significant and unconstitutional irregularities in the Defendant States." Paxton further claimed that, by this logic, he and his office "did not violate the disciplinary rules."

Paxton's response is a clear departure from his previous rhetoric, much of which explicitly supported former President Trump's grandiose conspiracy theories about systemic election fraud. Earlier this month, Paxton told a Dallas crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference that his "fight" for election security "is not done."

"When people tell you there is no election fraud, let me just tell you my office right now has 511 counts in court because of COVID waiting to be heard," Paxton continued. "We have another 386 that we're investigating. If you add those together, that's more election fraud than my office has prosecuted since it started investigating election fraud years and years ago."

Paxton is notably less bombastic in his response to the Texas bar, but mentions the same "irregularities" that his original Texas suit claimed had tainted the elections in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Effectively all of those supposed "irregularities" were changes in voting rules made in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which created significant challenges for both in-person and absentee voting.

Paxton claimed, for instance, that the Pennsylvania secretary of state "abrogated the mandatory signature verification requirement for absentee or mail-in ballots" by not rejecting ballots with mismatched signatures. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court had already found back in December that no such rule existed in Pennsylvania's election code, which "does not authorize county election boards to reject mail-in ballots based on an analysis of a voter's signature."

Paxton also alleges that the "Georgia Secretary of State unilaterally, without legislative approval, changed a statutory requirement prohibiting the opening of absentee ballots before Election Day." But these kinds of regulatory adjustments are ultimately "minor procedural changes," as Neil Cohen, one of the Texas complainants, told Salon by email. He continued, "In all these cases, the Georgia election board adopted these regulations, which are consistent with the statute, through the powers it had been granted by the state legislature."

Other "irregularities," according to Paxton, included Michigan's delivery of absentee ballots to every resident and Wisconsin's decision to allow "absentee ballots to be placed in hundreds of unstaffed drop boxes." He offered no evidence that either of these practices made any difference in the electoral outcome, much less amounted to widespread election fraud.

In an evident attempt to ward off the threat of disbarment, Paxton's response seeks to explain why the suit had any legal basis or "standing." He argues, somewhat confusingly: "Texas's assertion that it had standing in Texas v. Pennsylvania could not have been frivolous. There are no Supreme Court cases contrary to its position that it had standing."

But Paxton indirectly admits, in Cohen's view, that he had no real evidence of fraud, and apparently "hoped to develop the evidence during discovery." In other words, his entire case could be interpreted as a fishing expedition, or just an attempt to rile up the Trump base with unsupported allegations. "That's in contrast to his behavior for the month after filing the lawsuit," Cohen said, "when he repeatedly claimed the election was stolen and urged people to take action."

Earlier this month, Law.com reported that another group — this one composed entirely of attorneys, including four past presidents of the Texas bar — filed a different complaint against Paxton, claiming that his unfounded legal actions on Trump's behalf have brought "dishonor" to the legal profession. Bar authorities have been investigating Paxton since early June.

This Democrat got big money from Big Pharma — and turned against lower drug prices

Rep. Scott Peters, a low-profile California Democrat now serving his fifth term in the House, two years ago supported a landmark bill that would have substantially lowered the cost of life-saving drugs for Americans. Now he's the apparent leader of a group of centrist Democrats who oppose that very same bill, and who have collectively received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.

Peters' apparent flipflop, reported by Stat last week, centers on H.R. 3, a Democratic House bill that would save American consumers billions of dollars on costly drugs for life-altering diseases like cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Chief among the bill's provisions is a rule that establishes what is called "international reference pricing," effectively capping the price of a drug in the U.S. at 120% of the average price paid in Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and the U.K. With that cap in place, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would then be mandated to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, establishing a fixed price for a given drug that would apply to employers, private insurers and Medicare recipients.

H.R. 3 has been estimated to yield $120 billion in savings for consumers over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It's no surprise, then, that 90% of American adults support the bill's policy of letting the government negotiate with drug producers.

But when it comes to drug pricing in recent years, popular opinion has repeatedly has been thwarted or ignored by Big Pharma, which has fought aggressively against H.R. 3 by locating and supporting sympathetic members of Congress — which now evidently include Scott Peters.

In early May, Peters — who has represented California's 52nd district, in and around San Diego, since 2013 and was once named "biotech legislator of the year" — assembled a coterie of 10 moderate House Democrats to sign a vaguely-worded letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her to consider a balance between "innovation and affordability."

"As we have just seen with the lifesaving, record-breaking development of COVID19 vaccines and therapies, America benefits from the most innovative and capable researchers in the world, and from public-private partnership that encourages world-leading biomedical research and development," the caucus wrote, adding: "To achieve this, we must garner bipartisan, bicameral support, with buy-in from a majority of Americans and stakeholders in the public and private sector."

The letter never specifically mentions H.R. 3, but there is little doubt that's the target. The lawmakers' rhetoric echoes a favorite Big Pharma talking point: that government regulation of drug prices will disincentivize research and development.

In late 2019, however, when the bill was first introduced, Peters praised the measure. He did express concerns that it might make drug development "particularly challenging for small and emerging companies in California" and introduced an amendment to support innovation, but ultimately agreed to back the bill.

After that, the pharmaceutical industry began to flood Peters with campaign cash.

The Center for Responsive Politics found that during the 2020 election cycle Peters received nearly $230,000 from pharmaceutical and health companies, many of whose products would be directly targeted by the measure. According to FEC filings reviewed by Salon, Peters received money from Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, Amgen, Johnson & Johnson and Gilead Sciences — an array of big-name pharmaceutical companies, none of which could plausibly be described as "small" or "emerging."

During that same period, Peters' emerging coalition of Pharma-friendly moderate Democrats likewise took in significant donations from companies in the sector, according to a report by Brick House. Among the major recipients were Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California ($144,735), Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon ($144,252), Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida ($120,912), Rep. Lou Correa of California ($98,125) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey ($96,228) — all of whom had originally voted to approve the bill back in 2019.

Just last month, Peters announced his opposition to H.R. 3, specifically objecting to international reference pricing, a provision of the bill that had not changed from 2019 to 2021.

"I will not vote for that," Peters said in an interview with Roll Call. "If you institute it, you won't have cures because you'll dry up all the private investment that does that research."

Immediately after the letter to Pelosi from Peters and his allies, he once again received thousands of dollars in contributions from pharmaceutical interests, raking in $66,400 between May 4 and June 30 from executives associated with Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and the industry trade group PhRMA, according to a Stat analysis.

None of this has gone unnoticed by advocates for patients and Social Security recipients. Over the last month, both Social Security Works and Patients for Affordable Drugs Now have run ads calling out Peters' apparent flipflop, as well as the campaign cash he's received from Big Pharma.

Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, told Salon that while the donations might help Peters get re-elected in the short term, they will damage his long-term political prospects.

"Scott Peters' doomed campaign to keep Americans paying the highest drug prices in the world is fully funded by the corporations who make billions off of those high prices," Lawson said by email. "Being the paid mercenary for the corporations that profit off of withholding drugs to sick people might seem like a good way to make a lot of money, but Peters is going to learn that it is actually the best way to lose his job."

David Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, echoed Lawson, saying that the Big Pharma donations were "the only precipitating event" that could conceivably have prompted Peters' reversal on H.R. 3.

"When Scott Peters expresses strong opposition to H.R. 3, contrary to the support and proud vote he offered in 2019, he is standing with the pharmaceutical industry, which has given him a hell of a lot of money against the will of the American people," Mitchell told Salon in an interview. "And that, to us — that's unforgivable. Absolutely unforgivable."

Salon asked Peters' office for clarification on his evident change of heart. Peters declined an interview request, but his office provided the texts of two of his floor speeches from 2019 and his vote on an amendment to H.R. 3 that same year, saying that all three "show his longstanding concerns with the international [reference] pricing element of HR3."

In fact, none of those materials make clear Peters' position on international reference pricing. Peters' own amendment to the bill, introduced in 2019, does not address that issue.

Peters' office further suggested that the lawmaker's reversal on H.R. 3 was a question of political strategy and calculation: "H.R. 3 had no chance of moving through the Senate in 2019 without fixing the index pricing piece. The same is true today. Now is exactly the right time – both sides are motivated to lower drug costs and there is momentum to fix this. If we don't make progress on this piece we run the risk of making no progress at all and that helps no one."

Removing international reference pricing, however, fundamentally changes the nature of the bill. Without a price cap in place, the federal government is in a vastly weaker position to negotiate with drug manufacturers.

As to the industry's central claim that drug price controls will harm innovation, policy experts are skeptical. In a letter last month to the San Diego Tribune, Peters wrote that "accounting for failures, developing one new drug costs a company $1 billion to $2 billion." Estimates that high, as the New York Times has reported, are generally products of abstruse corporate methodologies that account for amorphous expenses like opportunity or "time" costs. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy nonprofit, found back in 2014 that drug companies actually spend an average of $161 million on R&D per new drug.

Peters also claimed in his letter that "H.R. 3 would signal to potential investors that they might not be able to recoup their investment even if a product succeeds." But the expenses associated with one truly innovative drug sometimes take only weeks for companies to recoup in profits, as The New Republic noted.

Pro-pharma lawmakers — as Peters evidently is now — tend to frame price reductions as an unquestionable death blow to innovation. In fact, it's "incredibly hard to predict how reductions in pricing may affect the future of drug development," said Kristi Martin, who provides health care policy expertise to the Commonwealth Fund.

"In the last decade we have seen a significant increase in drug costs in the U.S. and during that same period of time, generally all drugs coming to market relied on some portion of public funding for R&D," Martin told Salon by email. "While several innovative drugs have come to market, most new patents granted are for modifications to existing drugs and not new drugs."

Martin directed Salon to a 2018 study by the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, which found that the vast majority of drugs introduced the global market are in fact retreads of drugs already on the market. This is largely the result of "evergreening," a legal strategy in which drug companies make minuscule tweaks to existing drugs in order to renew their patents. In other words, most drugs introduced to the market are only "innovative" in their ability to generate endless streams of revenue.

The solution, Martin said, is straightforward: "If we change the incentives and reward truly inventive, innovative advancements in treatments and increase funding for R&D, we can still have a robust pipeline that is driving toward effective cures and treatments."

Scholars have also noted that pharmaceutical companies routinely spend more on lobbying and marketing than on R&D, another reflection of the fact that Big Pharma's principal interest is in selling their products, rather than improving them. Just this month, the House Oversight Committee found that 14 pharmaceutical giants spent $58 billion more on buybacks, dividends and executive compensation than on R&D from 2016 to 2020.

It's definitely possible that the introduction of international reference pricing "would be a pretty significant reduction in revenue in the U.S." for the pharmaceutical industry, Andrew Mulcahy, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, told Salon. But Big Pharma is still "going to do very well in terms of a return," he added, because its profits are already so immense.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, between 2000 and 2018, 35 major drug companies received combined revenue of $11.5 trillion, with gross profit of $8.6 trillion. This amounts to a whopping 75% gross profit margin, nearly 10 times higher than the average profit margin found across U.S. industries, according to an NYU analysis.

Numbers like that reflect a market dynamic that is "out of whack," said Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now.

"We need both innovation and affordability, because drugs don't work if people can't afford them," Mitchell said. "We believe there is plenty of room to lower prices and to ensure that we can continue to get the innovation we need and prices we can afford." The "innovation scare tactic" used by the industry, he added, "feels like someone putting a gun to my head and saying, 'It's your money or your life.'"

Susan Sarandon leads protest against the Squad at AOC's office

Actor Susan Sarandon organized a demonstration outside the Bronx office of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday, reminding the progressive lawmaker that she had made "a lot of promises" to her constituency but has failed to pull out all the stops achieving her healthcare agenda.

"I'm here to say to The Squad, and especially AOC, who, you know, did make a lot of promises, that we still have faith in you and we would like to see if you have a better plan than we've been able to see, please share it," Sarandon said to a crowd. "If there's a pathway you've got that we're not aware of, please share it. Because we're losing hope here that you represent us."

The crowd specifically gathered to protest against the apparent lack of action shown by The Squad in expanding Medicare forAll when roughly 30 million Americans lack access to healthcare.

"You campaigned on Medicare for All. But you didn't demand a floor vote on it when you had the power to leverage the Speaker vote. You didn't demand that single-payer be included in the pandemic recovery bill," the petitioners wrote online, adding: "You moved the introduction of the House bill till after the stimulus bill passed reducing your own leverage. You have never demanded that Biden use Section 1881A of the Social Security Act to expand Medicare to every American by executive action."

For remedy, the petition demands that President Joe Biden – who last year said he'd veto Medicare for All – declare a pandemic health emergency and "expand Medicare to every American using Section 1881A of the Social Security Act."

Back in 2019, Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced H.R.1384, dubbed the "Medicare for All Act of 2019," which would have offered a single-payer health care system to all Americans, who would effectively be enrolled upon birth or residency. The plan also bars cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), putting the onus on the government to cover all health expenses.

The bill – which Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored – was referred to a number of committees that same year, with subcommittee hearings held in December. However, the measure failed to see a floor vote, preventing it from getting to the Senate.

"It's so difficult for people that are independent to get elected in the first place," Sarandon said, "and then to see the very people that sponsored the bill not stand up for it, is very disheartening."

Throughout 2020, Congress passed a number of COVID-19 relief bills aimed at helping Americans struggling under the weight of the pandemic, though none of these bills comprehensively expanded Medicare

WATCH: Billionaire tries to corner Elizabeth Warren – and ends up getting schooled

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone locked horns on Monday when the business magnate demanded that the lawmaker explain why he receives social security checks despite his $5.8 billion net worth.

"How do you rationalize giving me [sic] $3,000 a month check every month with all my wealth?" Langone asked the lawmaker in a Squawk Box interview. "Why don't you people have the courage to address entitlements as to what should no longer be an entitlement? I shouldn't get Social Security."

Langone, riding on a wave of apparent magnanimity, seems to be forgetting the fact that his social security checks are a far cry from government handouts. Social Security is in fact financed primarily by payroll taxes, which he claims he's paid for decades.

"Social security is… structured as an insurance policy," Warren explained to the Republican donor. "And you paid in year after year after year."

The progressive lawmaker added: "It's not somebody's welfare. It's not somebody's charity. Surely, you wouldn't want to be the person who would go on national TV and say: After a contract has been negotiated, and someone has paid into it for forty years, that the federal government should turn around and say, 'Oops, we changed our mind. We're not going to give you the payout that you earned by making those payments all those years.'"

Numbering his bones to pick, Langone moved onto his second point, asking Warren why corporations haven't yet been slapped with a minimum tax.

"Actually, I've proposed something very much like that," Warren retorted. "It's called a Real Corporate Profits Tax."

According to the senator's website, the law would require that corporations making over $100 million in yearly profits would pay a 7% tax on any money made after the $100 million cutoff.

These corporations, she told Langone, "should have to pay a tax on what they report. Not on what happens after they've done a zillion loopholes and excuses and not paid their underlying taxes."

Last year, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported that 55 of the largest corporations in America collectively paid $0 in federal corporate income taxes as a result of various tax avoidance schemes.

When it comes to Home Depot in particular, the home improvement giant has used an aggressive loophole to skirt around paying high local property taxes by appraising its properties as vacant shells rather than high-demand assets. According to the New York Times, the scheme has hollowed out hundreds of millions in potential municipal revenue that would otherwise go to public services like infrastructure, parks, schools.

Toward the end of his questioning, Langone – once a vocal supporter of Donald Trump – took to outright grandstanding, launching into an unsolicited spiel about how Home Depot paid its fair share of taxes.

"Take all the corporate taxes paid in America last year as told by the government, what they got in. Home Depot paid 1% of all those taxes," he said. "One company that didn't exist 42 years ago. We take good care of all our associates, our vendors love dealing with us."

Home Depot has donated roughly $465,000 to federal lawmakers who supported Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election, according to CNN Business. Salon reported earlier this year that the company also donated thousands to numerous Georgia Republicans, including Gov. Brian Kemp, who supported the GOP's restrictive voting bill passed after Democrats swept federal elections in the Peach State for the first time in decades.


Unhinged conservatives lash out at Capitol police 'crisis actors' who testified before Jan. 6 commission

Four law enforcement officers who witnessed the violence firsthand at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 are again coming under attack — this time from right-wing media figures hoping to downplay the Donald Trump-inspired insurrection.

On Tuesday, the House Democratic-backed select committee held its first hearing on the January 6 Capitol riot.But rather than defending law enforcement – a natural posture for right-wing media when discussing state-sponsored violence – conservative pundits pounced on the officers, belittling their grievances and outright denying their accounts.

Newsmax host Greg Kelly has largely been at the helm of the online brigade, suggesting that the officers may have been "used" as "pawns" to push a left-wing agenda.

Referring to Capitol Officer Michael Fanone, who personally described his own assault by a horde of rioters, Kelly asked his Twitter followers: "Is it possible FANONE was mistaken for ANTIFA? He often, for media appearances, has worn all Black but no insignia, police patches, rank etc."

"Did they pick THESE cops because they're so Emotional?" Kelly followed up, later asking: "Do these guys know who shot ASHLI BABBITT? Ask them!"

Kelly is likely referring to any number of baseless conspiracy theories about who killed Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who was shot and killed for attempting to breach the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives during the insurrection.

Raheem J. Kassam, the former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London, also took aim at what he saw as the officers being overly emotional, despite them being nearly killed. "Is there really a Capitol Hill Police Officer crying about hurty words live on national television right now?" Kassam tweeted: "Fucking whole world is laughing at this shit."

Kurt Schlichter, a senior columnist for Townhall.com, called out Officer Harry Dunn, who during his testimony called it "disheartening and disappointing" to "live in a country with people … that attack you because of the color of your skin just to hurt you. Those words are weapons."

"You lying sack," Schlichter responded.

Other conservatives, meanwhile, fell back on downright conspiracy.

Julie Kelly, a former political consultant and conservative writer, called Fanone a "crisis actor."

"Crisis actor Fanone just beat on the table and said it's 'disgraceful!' that any elected official denies his narrative of what happened on January 6," Kelly tweeted. "Calls it an 'insurrection.' Blasting GOP lawmakers. Now says this isn't about politics, lol. He has many tattoos."

The first law enforcement officers to provide testimony included Pfc. Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the Capitol Police, as well as Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

Over 550 people have been arrested in connection with the Capitol riot, though thousands of Trump supporters had stormed the Capitol.

Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Ivanka Trump

The Washington Post editorial board is calling on the Democrats' January 6 select committee to subpoena Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

"Top of the list is precisely what then-President Donald Trump did before, during and after the attack," they wrote in a Tuesday op-ed. "How did he prepare his speech preceding the insurrection, in which he told the crowd to fight? What did he anticipate his audience's reaction would be? When did he know the pro-Trump mob was threatening the Capitol?"

The board added: "Answering such questions calls for subpoenaing former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; and other White House aides with useful information."

According to a forthcoming book by the Washington Post journalists Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Ivanka Trump attempted to calm the former president down on the day of January 6, encouraging him to call off the violent riot – a request Trump repeatedly rebuffed.

"I'm going down to my dad. This has to stop," she reportedly told her aides while spending "several hours walking back and forth" from the Oval Office in an effort to defuse the situation.

In their op-ed, the Post's editorial board also called on the select committee to investigate a number of top Trump allies in Congress, including Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Mo Brooks, R-Ala., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala, all of whom, the Post reports, may have interacted with Trump on the day of the insurrection. McCarthy, who voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election, has been adamantly opposed to the Democratic-backed select committee and has often downplayed Trump's role in the insurgency. However, back in February, just a month after the riot, CNN reported that Trump and McCarthy had gotten into a "shouting match" over the former president's refusal to tell the rioters to stand down.

"Well, Kevin," Trump told McCarthy over the phone. "I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

"Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?" the lawmaker responded.

CNN also reported that Rep. Tuberville spoke with Trump on the day of the riot, calling the former president via phone to announce that Mike Pence, the former vice president, had been evacuated in time to avoid the violent horde.

The phone call has since come under scrutiny in the light of Trump's tweet attacking Pence less than ten minutes after the call.

It's not clear whether Rep. Brooks spoke with Trump on the day of the riot. However, the Alabama lawmaker did deliver a White House-approved speech during the "Stop the Steal" rally just outside the Capitol building, where he bandied Trump's election lies and told Trump's supporters: "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names."

Brooks has since personally disavowed the riot, directly attributing Trump for inciting the violence on January 6.

The Post's editorial board also argued that lawmakers should put the leaders of far-right extremists groups on the stand – particularly leaders "at the center of the violence" – as well as

Justice Department and Capitol Police officials who "failed to anticipate the riot."

Months after the riot, it was reported in various media that the Pentagon had denied multiple requests to deploy the National Guard, even as the chaos was unfolding. Capitol Police also reportedly had extensive intelligence that there would be violence on January 6, but the former Capitol Police chief dismissed the concerns as alarmist.

Progressive pundit launches campaign against Fox News: 'Something more needed to be done'

Dean Obeidallah, radio host and regular contributor to Salon, filed a complaint on Tuesday against Fox News for coordinating a "misinformation campaign" around COVID, suggesting that the channel has systematically downplayed coronavirus and sowed doubt around the efficacy of the vaccine.

The complaint, first announced in an MSNBC op-ed, alleges that Fox News violated the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, a December law which "makes it unlawful under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act for any person, partnership, or corporation to engage in a deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19."

Obeidallah's legal action comes on the heels of a bombshell Media Matters report from last week, which found that Fox News has "relentlessly undermined the effort to get Americans vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease."

According to the report, of the 129 vaccine-related segments Fox aired between June 28 through July 11, 57% of them bandied claims that "undermined or downplayed immunization efforts." To boot, nearly 40% of them included language that framed the vaccine as "unnecessary or dangerous."

"I felt that given the spike in COVID cases and deaths – plus the report by Media Matters that came out Friday that quantified the lies by Fox News over the past two weeks on the vaccine – that something more needed to be done than simply yelling about it on my SiriusXM radio show," Obeidallah told Salon over email.

"So I did research over the weekend and discovered the recently enacted COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, which appears perfectly designed to address Fox News deceptive information," he added. "The goal of that law is to protect the public from deceptive info by those seeking to profit from peddling COVID related lies. Fox News is a for-profit business that sells information. Clearly, it's a business decision by the executives at Fox News to allow lies and other deceptive COVID vaccine info to repeatedly appear on its air."

Obeidallah also told Salon that he has yet to receive a response from the FTC, but he hopes the opens a probe into the network and "takes steps to stop Fox News hosts and others who appear on the air from misleading Americans about the COVID vaccine." The columnist additionally instructed his followers on how to file their own complaints in his newsletter.

Over the past month, Fox News has come under intense scrutiny by pundits and politicians alike for its now-blatant pattern of peddling misinformation and bogus science surrounding the COVID crisis.

Asked about Fox News during a Saturday interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading Covid expert, told CNN: "If we had the kind of false information that's being spread now, if we had that back decades ago, I would be certain that we'd still have polio in this country."

On Monday, former Fox News reporter Carl Cameron described the network's viewers as "lemmings running to their own slaughter."

"Whoever gets the most clicks on social media, makes the most money, gets the most fame, gets the most attention and that type of activity is not journalism," Cameron argued during a CNN interview. "It's not news. It's gaslighting. It's propaganda."

At the helm of Fox News' anti-science propaganda has been host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly likened the Biden administration's vaccine rollout to an authoritarian regime, where Americans will be compelled to get the jab against their will.

Carlson, meanwhile, has refused to reveal whether he himself has been vaccinated, despite his on-air rhetoric.

This week, CNN found that Fox Corporation – Fox News' parent organization – has quietly implemented its own version of a "vaccine passport." Fox has reportedly "developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status," according to employee emails obtained by CNN business.

The company has apparently encouraged its employees to self-attest in an effort to "assist the company with space planning and contact tracing.

GOP Rep. reveals suspicions that other Republicans knew about plans for the Jan. 6 insurrection

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the few Republicans to vehemently deny former President Donald Trump's claims of widespread election fraud, said that he suspects some of his Republican colleagues could have predicted the Capitol riot and even supported it.

"I won't name names, but yes, I do have that suspicion," Kinzinger told the New York Times Magazine in an interview. "I will say, if you just looked at Twitter — the whole reason I brought my gun and kept my staff home and told my wife to stay in the apartment was looking at Twitter. I saw the threats."

Kinzinger specifically called out a Jan. 6 tweet posted by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., just prior to Trump's rally: "Today is 1776." Critics have speculated that Boebert was either aware of the rioters' plans to breach the U.S. Capitol building and/or calling for violent civilian protest.

"I don't know what that meant other than this is the time for revolution," Kinzinger said. "Maybe it was a dumb tweet that she didn't mean. Fine. I'll give her that credit for now. But if you have members of Congress who were involved in nurturing an insurrection, heck yeah we need to know."

During the insurrection, Boebert also publicized the exact location of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., later claimed that Boebert "was told by the Sergeant of Arms in the chamber to not make any social media posts. It was said repeatedly. She defied it because she is more closely aligned with the terrorists than the patriots."

Late last month, Pelosi moved forward with her plan to assemble a select committee to investigate the Capitol riot after facing opposition from Senate GOP members. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the idea "purely" a "political exercise."

Kinzinger is just one of ten House Republicans who voted back in January to impeach the former president for inciting the violent insurrection that unfolded on the Capitol earlier this year. But perhaps with the exception of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. – who was ousted from her leadership position in May over her apparent lack fealty to Trump – Kinzinger has been the most outspoken in his condemnation of the former president's election fraud conspiracies.

In the Times Magazine interview, Kinzinger said he believes that "the vast majority" of Republicans "agree with my position; they just aren't speaking out."

"If you're scared to tell the truth to people, I understand, but you need to find a different line of work," he argued. "On something as existential as this, as threatening to the Constitution — my goodness."

Earlier this year, Kinzinger launched his Country First PAC, a never-Trump political action committee that set out to reform the Republican Party, which he described as being "in the middle of this slow sink," much like the Titanic.

"We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine," he said. "And meanwhile, as I've said, you know, Donald Trump's running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat."

Though Kinzinger has expressed opposition to Trump, he has in the past politicked along staunchly conservative lines, voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and repeal the Dodd–Frank Act. He also voted against the Equality Act and supports punishing sanctuary cities.

Texas Republicans who claim to oppose 'cancel culture' just banished an Alamo history event from a state museum

An event for a book that discusses the little-known impact of slavery in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo — was canceled in Texas last Thursday amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers who felt that the book was a "rewriting of history."

The event was scheduled at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, and was supposed to feature the authors of "Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of An American Myth," published last month by Penguin, as the Texas Tribune reports. About 300 people were expected to attend.

But the affair was nixed hours before its scheduled start, amid pressure from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan — all Republicans who have expressed strong opposition to the use of "critical race theory" in education system.

Patrick, who has long been identified with the right-wing fringe of the Texas Republican Party, took personal credit for the event's cancellation, tweeting on Friday: "As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place at the Bob Bullock Museum."

Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford, the book's co-authors, have responded by saying that the move was blatant political censorship, and that Texas Republicans were cracking down on speech they found distasteful. "Lt. Gov, Dan Patrick takes credit for oppressing free speech and policing thought in Texas," wrote Tomlinson on Twitter. "@BullockMuseum proves it is a propaganda outlet. As for his fact-free comment, well, a dozen people professional historians disagree."

Penguin Random House, publisher of "Forget the Alamo," issued a statement on Friday confirming that the governor had a hand in the event's cancellation. The company wrote: "The Bullock was receiving increased pressure on social media about hosting the event, as well as to the museum's board of directors (Gov Abbott being one of them) and decided to pull out as a co-host all together."

Texas historical orthodoxy has long maintained that the Battle of the Alamo was about valiant Texas rebels fighting and dying to defending the short-lived independence of the Lone Star State from Mexican tyranny. "Forget the Alamo" challenges that characterization, reframing the conflict as at least partly about Texas' desire to preserve slavery, which Mexico had ended in 1829.

"Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos — Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels — scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico's push to abolish slavery papered over," the publisher's official summary of the book puts it. "As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness."

The Austin event's cancellation comes amid a broad Republican attack against "wokeness" and critical race theory across the nation. Last month, the Texas legislature passed a bill restricting what could be taught in public school classrooms, specifically targeting the New York Times' 1619 Project, a reporting endeavor that reframes slavery as a linchpin of U.S. history.

The Supreme Court just gave Trump's Big Lie a major boost in one of its last decisions of the term

The Supreme Court upheld two Republican-backed Arizona voting restrictions on Thursday that Democrats argue will make it significantly harder for minorities voters to cast a ballot.

The case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, serves as an important legal benchmark for how the Voting Rights Act can be applied in instances of potential voter discrimination. In a 6-3 ruling, with justices appointed by Republican presidents all aligned in the majority, the Supreme Court found that the two restrictions do not impose an undue burden on minority voters, opening the floodgates for substantial voter suppression in the Grand Canyon state, progressives argue. By essentially striking down Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, voting rights activists argue, the conservative-majority on the Supreme Court effectively doomed the Department of Justices' planned lawsuits against voter suppression efforts by Republican lawmakers in Georgia following Donald Trump's promotion of the Big Lie.

The first Arizona restriction upheld by the Supreme Court by was enacted ahead of Trump's election in 2016 when the state's GOP-controlled legislature outlawed a practice known as "ballot harvesting," which effectively allows community organizations and other third parties the legal authority to deliver ballots collected on behalf of consenting voters. The Arizona law, however, made ballot harvesting by civic and political groups a felony punishable by up to one year in prison with a $150,000 fine.

Of this rule, Justice Alito, a conservative, wrote on Thursday in a majority opinion: "Having to identify one's own polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the 'usual burdens of voting,' adding that the overall impact of the measure on minority voters was "small in absolute terms."

The second restriction concerns ballots that are cast in the incorrect precinct, known as "provisional ballots." Back in 2016, the Arizona legislature prohibited provisional ballots from being either partially or fully counted in any election.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito argued that Democrats failed to demonstrate how a prohibition on provisional ballots has a disparate effect on voters of color.

"Limiting the classes of persons who may handle early ballots to those less likely to have ulterior motives deters potential fraud and improves voter confidence," he contended.

Shortly after the passage of these restrictions back in 2016, the Democratic National Committee sued the state of Arizona, alleging that the rules violated the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the enforcement of discriminatory voting regulations at the state level. Section 2 of the act specifically bans "any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."

At first, a U.S. district court ruled in favor of Arizona's side. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the district court's ruling. The appellate court decided that the laws "imposed a significant disparate burden" on Black, Latino, and Native American Arizonans looking to cast a ballot. This prompted both Arizona and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to appeal the Ninth Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Court held oral arguments back in early March, where justices discussed how Section 2 could be applied to Arizona's case. The court's conservative wing appeared to side in large part with the state, while liberal justices expressed far more opposition to the bills.

"What if the provision results in a 1 percent decline in participation by minority voters? Is that substantial enough?" conservative Chief Justice Roberts asked Democratic lawyers, suggesting that a 1% reduction in turnout might be negligible.

"There's a difficulty that the statutory language and its lack of clarity presents in trying to figure out when something crosses from an inconvenience to a burden," echoed Justice Barrett.

In one rather bizarre line of questioning, GOP lawyer Michael Carvin just about admitted that rescinding the restrictions would hamper the GOP's electoral position. Lifting the rules, Carvin explicitly argued, would put Republicans "at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us. It's the difference between winning an election 50-49 and losing an election."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the ruling is "tragic" because "the Court has (yet again) rewritten – in order to weaken – a statute that stands as a monument to America's greatness, and protects against its basest impulses." She continued: "What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about 'the end of discrimination in voting."

The Supreme Court's ruling is especially consequential because it comes amid a broader Republican-led push to legislate a wave of voting restrictions in various states throughout the nation – all of which appear to be motivated by the baseless allegation that Trump lost the 2020 election as a result of system fraud. If other Democratic challenges are to be made against a prohibition on ballot harvesting and the use of provisional ballots, lowers courts may defer to today's Supreme Court ruling.

The slow leak of Trump's corruption is becoming a problem for Biden's DOJ

The Justice Department seems to be having some trouble running away from the past it's apparently so desperate to shake off.

Amid reports of corruption running far deeper within the DOJ under the Trump administration than previously acknowledged, current Attorney General Merrick Garland, has taken a number of curious steps to defend the former administration in the past week despite Biden's campaign promise to "restore the soul of America."

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department in 2018 quietly subpoenaed Apple to obtain the records of two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. The two lawmakers – Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the panel's current chairman – both confirmed that the probes have since been closed.

"It is concerning that they continued to seek our records with no evidence that there was any wrongdoing other than that they were calling the president out for his corruption," Swalwell told the Post, adding: "It's a fragile time for our democracy."

The request, which demanded the data of former House members as well as their family members, was part of a larger Trump crusade to get to the bottom who had leaked classified information to various media outlets throughout his term.

Last week, it was found that the Trump DOJ subpoenaed a number of reporters from The New York Times – a move also made against journalists from both CNN and The Washington Post months prior. The Times probes specifically concerned the paper's coverage of Russia's influence in the 2016 election.

Last Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki condemned the practice, alleging that the current president "is committed — strongly — to the rights of the freedom of press, as you have seen for decades, and to standing up for the rights of journalists."

However, The New York Times found that the forceful seizure of reporters' records continued under Biden's watch. In fact, the Biden administration reportedly pressured a number of Times executives with a gag order preventing them from revealing Trump's former subpoenas. Though the gag order was lifted on March 3, Psaki claimed that no one had known about its enforcement until last Friday.

Reports of Trump's attacks on various media come amid deeper revelations surrounding Trump's effort to undermine the Biden presidency both before and after Biden was elected in 2020.

This week, CNN revealed leaked audio from 2019 of longtime Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani pressurizing two top Ukranian officials to publicly announce an investigation to President Biden and his son, Hunter.

"All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I'm gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he's gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out," Giuliani said in the tape. "Somebody in Ukraine's gotta take that seriously."

Trump would later call the president of Ukraine himself, Volodymyr Zelensky, to exert pressure on country to open an inquiry – the implication being that if a probe was not opened, the U.S. would suspend military aid to the Ukraine, undermining the country's military position in its proxy wars with Russia.

Revelations also came this week about Trump's saga to overturn the 2020 election results following Biden's win. According to The Washington Post, back in late December, during the final weeks of Trump's term, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows penned a spate of emails to acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, pressurizing Rosen to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud.

In his letters, Meadows asked Rosen to probe several baseless conspiracy theories about a "stolen" election in various states throughout the U.S. One theory involved the idea that Italian satellites had been weaponized to manipulate U.S. voting machine counts.

Rosen has repeatedly maintained that the Justice Department did not comply with any Trump officials' requests to look into the results of the 2020 election despite facing the threat of removal by Trump.

During his campaign, Biden was steadfast about his desire to "move on" from the all-encompassing nature of Trump's corruption, emphasizing the need to "restore the soul of America." However, in recent weeks, it's fair to say that the Justice Department has assumed a series of legal postures that appear to flout the president's promise.

In late May, Garland committed the DOJ to blocking the full release of the "Barr memo" – an internal document that shows how former Attorney General William Barr managed to ensure Trump would not be charged by former special counsel Robert Mueller during Mueller's investigation into whether Trump allowed Russia to meddle in 2016 election.

The memo, which specifically analyzes whether some presidential actions by Trump constituted obstructions of justice, was only partially publicized by the DOJ, which has been accused of mischaracterizing the document.

"The Department of Justice had an opportunity to come clean, turn over the memo, and close the book on the politicization and dishonesty of the past four years," Noah Bookbinder, president of government watchdog CREW, told NPR. "Last night it chose not to do so. In choosing to fight Judge Jackson's decision, the DOJ is taking a position that is legally and factually wrong and that undercuts efforts to move past the abuses of the last administration. We will be fighting this in court."

Last week, the department again sparked ire from progressives when it asked a federal judge to shut down a civil rights lawsuit filed against Trump and Barr for violently sweeping Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters at the height of the George Floyd Protests back in June.

Federal attorneys have argued that the intervention was necessary to ensure the safety of the former president, though ACLU attorneys have disputed the notion that Trump was in any real danger, instead claiming the protesters were targeted with undue force "because of their viewpoint, their message, their speech."

On Monday, the Department of Justice sent shockwaves through progressives for a third time when it announced that it would continue to defend Trump in a defamation suit filed in 2019 by one of Trump's rape allegers, former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll.

The department has argued that because the allegations date back to Trump's time in office, he should remain immune from the suit – a privilege afforded to public officials in the case of defamation suits.

Justice Department attorneys explained: "Given the president's position in our constitutional structure, his role in communicating with the public is especially significant, the president's statements fall within the scope of his employment for multiple reasons."

Carroll's lawyers have rebutted that Trump, who accused Carroll of lying while in office, made remarks that were way out of his official purview. "There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted," her legal team contended.

Many on the left have found Garland's unexpectedly lenient – and perhaps protective – treatment of Trump deeply troubling. This week, Jeff Hauser, the founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, argued that Garland's actions demonstrate a dark side of "liberalism's belief in process itself." He wrote in The New Republic:

"When standard procedure is sacrosanct, all that the right needs to do is make it standard procedure to never hold them accountable. Notably, Garland consistently promised 'that politics would play no role in his decisions' during his confirmation hearing, after numerous prompts by Senate Republicans. That's intentional. The GOP was framing it as wrongfully partisan to reverse course from the most wrongful, partisan, and most importantly, anti-democratic President in history."

Many speculated that Garland's confirmation as attorney general, which boasted bipartisan support from Congress, would mark a clean break from the Trump administration.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that Garland's confirmation would begin the dawn of a new era. "After Donald Trump spent four years – four long years – subverting the powers of the justice department for his own political benefit, treating the attorney general like his own personal defense lawyer, America can breathe a sigh of relief that we're going to have someone like Merrick Garland leading the justice department," he declared. "Someone with integrity, independence, respect for the rule of law and credibility on both sides of the aisle."

As Trump's past improprieties within the DOJ continue to emerge, Garland's commitment to these virtues will no doubt be tested far more intensely than they already have been.

Conservatives indulge in massive what-about-ism after report leaks IRS data on ultra-rich tax cheats

A bombshell report published by ProPublica on Tuesday detailed leaked IRS filings suggesting that some of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S. pay next to nothing in federal taxes, despite reaping hundreds of millions or more in annual income. But now the report itself has become enmeshed in controversy over journalistic ethics and privacy concerns, especially the question of when it's newsworthy to reveal personal financial information of private citizens.

ProPublica's report, which relies on IRS records whose source remains unknown, provides a startling glimpse into the true extent of tax avoidance schemes among the richest one-tenth of the one percent.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, paid zero federal income taxes for both 2007 and 2011. Tesla founder Elon Musk paid nothing for 2018. Investor and liberal philanthropist George Soros also paid zilch over the course of three years.

Other billionaires detailed in the report include former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who paid $70.7 million in federal income taxes in 2017, despite claiming $1.9 billion in personal income. (That represents roughly a 3.7% tax rate, when it arguably should have been around 52%.)

Billionaire investor and businessman Carl Icahn deducted large interest payments on his companies' debts, allowing him to avoid federal income tax payments in 2016 and 2017. That scheme involved taking out large bank loans to invest in the stock market, because the interest paid on those loans is tax-deductible, offsetting investment gains and other income.

Other billionaires lowered their taxable income by claiming they had incurred net losses. In 2011, for example, Bezos alleged he had lost money, although that his wealth of roughly $18 billion held steady from the previous year. He paid no federal income taxes thanks to his "investment losses," which in fact earned him a $4,000 family tax credit.

ProPublica also reports that corporate taxes do not make up for the tax losses resulting from these billionaire tax-avoidance schemes, largely because the corporate tax rate has plummeted in recent years, in the wake of tax cuts enacted by the Republican Congress in 2017 and signed by then-President Trump. Additionally, many companies — such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple — can circumvent a large proportion corporate taxes by claiming that their profits were made abroad.

Trumpworld takes another hit after FEC quietly closes an investigtion

The tabloid publishing company that owns the National Enquirer will be fined $187,500 by FEC for a hush money payment to a woman with whom Donald Trump had an extramarital affair – a transaction which the FEC argues is in clear violation of campaign finance law.

The transaction occurred back in 2016, when American Media Inc. (presently known as A360 Media LLC) transferred $150,000 to former model Karen McDougal, who in exchange for the funds, relinquished the rights to tell her story about the affair. The transaction was first made public back in 2018 amid the prosecution of ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

The FEC found that America Media chief executive, David J. Pecker, a Trump ally, "knowingly and willfully" broke campaign finance laws in conjunction with various Trump campaign officials as well as Cohen, who has for years been positioned as Trump's right-hand man in the coverup.

American Media has openly admitted that it routed the money to McDougal, though it disputes it broke any campaign finance laws, claiming that "payments for silence are not contributions or expenditures because silence is not a 'thing of value,'" according to the settlement agreement. Though, back in 2018, America Media had already agreed to a non-prosecution deal in which it acknowledged that hush money was intended to influence the results of the 2016 general election.

"The available information supports the conclusion that AMI's [American Media, Inc.'s] payment constituted an in-kind contribution to Trump and the Trump Committee," the FEC wrote in an analysis obtained by Common Cause, a government watchdog group. "AMI and Pecker appear to have violated the Act by making and consenting to making a corporate contribution in the form of a payment from AMI to McDougal. As explained below, the record indicates that there is reason to believe that this violation was knowing and willful."

According to Common Cause, the FEC, which is led by a six-member bipartisan commission, was unable to strike an agreement on whether to advance a specific inquiry into Trump's role in the coverup because Republican commissioners apparently blocked the endeavor and Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, told the Times that he felt "vindicated" by the federal fine, though there is still more work to be done. "Michael Cohen went to prison for these violations. AMI has been fined. But the former president has not yet been held accountable," Ryan wrote. "The Department of Justice has until August to prosecute Trump for orchestrating this illegal campaign finance scheme."

The fine comes amid various investigations into the Trump network, one of which specifically takes aim at Trump's hush money payments. Last week, it was reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is likely considering an indictment against Trump and several Trump Organization executives. Legal experts told Politico that attorneys are treating the Trump network as though it is a wholly "corrupt enterprise," much like a mafia.

'A new inauguration date is set': Inside the latest QAnon conspiracy theory to 'reinstate' Trump

Hundreds of people gathered in Texas for a QAnon-sponsored conference over Memorial Day weekend to hear the biggest boosters of Donald Trump's Big Lie downplay the Capitol riot and bandy about new threats of a coming coup.

Key Trump allies, including Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Allen West; and perhaps most notably Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., attended the three-day event, dubbed "For God & Country Patriot Roundup," at the Omni Hotel in Dallas.

The QAnon conference came amid reports that Trump is attempting to orchestrate another election coup from his far-off kingdom at Mar-a-Lago. According to a Tuesday tweet from the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, the former President has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August." Trump's reported thinking echoes that of his former lawyer's, Sidney Powell. On Saturday, Powell told attendees to the QAnon conference that Trump "can simply be reinstated."

"A new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in," she explained. "I'm sure there's not going to be credit for time lost, unfortunately, because the Constitution itself sets the date for inauguration, but he should definitely get the remainder of his term and make the best of it."

Powell was not the only speaker at this past weekend's event who spoke directly about the possibility Trump could reclaim his throne soon.

Michael Flynn, apparently looking to encourage another election coup, asking the crowd why "what happened in Myanmar" can't happen in the U.S?

"No reason," Flynn answered. "I mean, it should happen here."

Flynn's comments drew widespread scorn but during his speech on Saturday, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert promulgated a number of baseless conspiracies about the Capitol riot, claiming that "there's no evidence" that the event constituted "an armed insurrection."

Although "armed" in legal terms extends beyond that of just firearms, police nevertheless found a number of guns on rioters in the aftermath of the insurrection. Furthermore, CNN reported that the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia, were planning on trafficking a number of guns across the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. in an effort to support the insurgency.

During his speech, Gohmert also criticized his Democratic colleagues' push to assemble a commission to investigate the riot – an effort that was effectively killed with a filibuster last week by Senate Republicans. Back in January, Gohmert baselessly accused Black Lives Matter and antifa of infiltrating the Capitol riot. Over the weekend, the representative appeared to double down on this theory, claiming that "it wasn't just right-wing extremists" who were involved. Allegations of left-wing agitation and infiltration have been routinely debunked.

The Texas lawmaker also accused the FBI of "unfairly" targeting Trump supporters in their federal probe into the riot. "Where is the outrage about young people being unfairly treated?" he rambled. "Joe Biden's Justice Department is criminalizing political protest." Gohmert later echoed on CNN: "Any violence should not be downplayed. But people who are not engaged in violence should not be charged with crime."

Following his speech, Gohmert posed and took a picture with known QAnon conspiracy theorist and podcaster RedPill78, who openly admitted to storming the Capitol building on January 6.

Around the time of the riot, Gohmert distinguished himself as a loyal Trump booster, spreading the baseless conspiracy theory of systematic fraud at the ballots in the 2020 general election. Back in January, Gohmert filed a lawsuit on Trump's behalf, arguing that a judge should be compelled to tell former Vice President Mike Pence that he had the right to overturn the electoral college votes in President Joe Biden's favor. (Pence in fact did not have this right.) The suit was dismissed twelve hours after its filing.

Many have speculated that Trump is attempting to overturn the election by cheerleading fallacious election audits in various GOP-led states, the largest of which has now dragged on for months now in Maricopa County, Arizona with no end in sight.

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