Not just cops: here's why the Oath Keepers are recruiting media experts

On Thursday, writing for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson profiled how the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, best known for recruiting current and former police and law enforcement, are also recruiting another kind of person: Media professionals.

"When joining a right-wing militia, most members brag about their military credentials, tactical training, or prowess with firearms. But a select group of members in the hacked Oath Keeper rolls touted a very different skillset — pledging to be information warriors for the extremist group," said the report. "These Oath Keepers signed up pitching past affiliations with the Washington Post, USA Today, Tampa Tribune as well as local television news and newspaper outlets from New Jersey to Kansas to Arizona. Still others offered experience in film and radio production or pledged to serve the Oath Keepers on the public affairs front, helping to market the militia to the masses."

Among those recruited by the group, noted Dickinson, were a New York man who "spent 10 years as a TV news reporter," a Virginia man who boasted of his “Ph.D. and 28 years’ experience in opinion and marketing research and strategy,” and a man who bragged, "I have a masters degree in radio, television, and film production and worked for… years in the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service producing television programs.”

These media experts, who were exposed in a recent hack of the Oath Keepers' membership database, can do PR work to “create an image that is cool, competent, and appealing to potential members — and then blast it out to a far larger audience than if they were trying to recruit in person," according to Alex Friedfield of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

The Oath Keepers, who have been involved in a number of armed anti-government standoffs in recent years including the Bundy Ranch incident, more recently participated in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Many of its members are now facing federal charges and turning on each other to try to secure plea deals.

You can read more here.

Georgia teen manufacturing 'ghost guns' fatally shot his sister during firearms sale gone bad: cops

On Thursday, CNN reported that a 13-year-old boy in Douglas County, Georgia who was making and selling so-called "ghost guns" fatally shot his 14-year-old sister while firing at a pair of thieves trying to rip off his operation.

"Two people had come to the family's home in Douglasville, about 20 miles west of Atlanta, on November 27 to purchase a gun that the 13-year-old made, Douglas County Sheriff Tim Pounds said in a news conference livestreamed by CNN affiliate WGCL Wednesday," reported Dakin Andone. "But instead of buying the firearm, the pair stole the gun from the 13-year-old and fled the scene, the sheriff told reporters. The boy then shot at them as they were leaving, Pounds said, but instead struck his 14-year-old sister, who was identified by the sheriff's office as Kyra Scott. Investigators believe the weapon he used was one that he had made."

According to the report, "Authorities have arrested Kyra's 13-year-old brother and 19-year-old Yusef Jabryil McArthur El -- one of the two people who had come to buy the homemade gun."

READ MORE: QAnon cultist who abandoned her family is now in a behavioral health center

The 13-year-old brother admitted to shooting his sister, while Yusef is being charged with felony murder — the killing of someone during the commission of an inherently dangerous crime.

"Ghost guns" are firearms made at home with readily available materials. They range from crude "zip guns," to guns built from kits sold online, to more sophisticated designs built on 3D printers — and are nearly impossible to trace in conventional ways because of their lack of a serial number and, sometimes, of metal components.

Some jurisdictions, like the city of Los Angeles, have sought to pass laws outlawing the possession or sale of ghost guns in recent years. The State Department also waged a multi-year legal battle with Defense Distributed, a company that sells 3D printer designs for guns.

    Jussie Smollett trial goes off the rails after attorney accuses judge of 'lunging' and 'snarling' at her: report

    On Thursday, The Daily Beast reported that the hate crime hoax trial of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett took a bizarre turn after his defense counsel accused the presiding judge of "lunging" and "snarling" at her.

    "The confrontation kicked off as defense attorney Tamara Walker attempted to question star prosecution witness Olabinjo Osundairo, who testified earlier on Thursday that Smollett had paid him to 'fake beat him up,'" reported A. J. MacDougall. "As Walker pressed Osundairo on homophobic language in his past tweets, Judge James Linn tried to expedite the line of inquiry, calling the subject 'collateral.' Walker then asked for a sidebar. After the jury had been sent out of the room, Walker requested a mistrial, in part over the word of the word 'collateral' since, she said, demonstrating Ola's homophobia is central to their defense. She then remarked to the judge: 'You did physically lunge at me.'"

    She also accused Judge Linn of making "snarling faces."

    According to the report, Judge Linn denied all of these accusations and said, "There’s no mistrial here… Frankly, I’m stunned."

    Smollett is on trial for over a dozen felony charges stemming from an incident that occurred in 2019. Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime at the hands of two Trump supporters, who beat him, put a noose around his neck, and doused him in a chemical substance.

    Inconsistencies in his story immediately emerged, and the Chicago Police assert the entire incident was orchestrated by Smollett, who hired his supposed attackers.

    'Shut it down!' Marjorie Taylor Greene demands government shutdown in House floor tantrum

    On Thursday, as the House prepared to vote on a bipartisan continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) took to the House floor in a fit of rage and railed against the agreement, demanding that there be a shutdown.

    "What an outrage. What an irresponsibility," said Greene, a QAnon-linked representative who was stripped of committee assignments over social media activity endorsing the killing of Democrats. "That isn't courage. That is not responsibility. That is out-of-control behavior that this Congress needs to rein in."

    READ MORE: Nancy Mace drops profane rant against Marjorie Taylor Greene in latest escalation of their feud

    "This government should be shut down," Greene thundered. "You want to know why it should be shut down? Because the people in here, the people in here cannot control themselves. The people in here don't understand how to balance a checkbook. And the people in here do not deserve, deserve their responsibility on how to spend the American people's money. 29 trillion dollars! 29 trillion dollars, Madam Speaker. Shut it down! Do not pass the CR. Shut it down!"

    Despite Greene's tantrum, the resolution passed the House late on Thursday afternoon.

    Watch below:

    Republican official says he’s the victim after being arrested on harassment charges: This puts ‘my livelihood in jeopardy’

    On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that John Lorenzo, the Republican chair of the Rostraver Township Board of Commissioners in Pennsylvania has been arrested on harassment charges for using social media and burner phones to try to ruin his political rivals — but claims he's the victim in all this.

    "A yearlong investigation started after fellow Commissioner Gary N. Beck Sr., a Democrat, complained to police that someone had set up a Facebook account 'in his name, using photographs of him in various activities and demographic information,'" reported Paul Pierce. "Township police and a Westmoreland County detective learned that Beck didn’t have a Facebook account." The fake account, suspiciously, urged people to vote for "my good friend Lorenzo."

    "Beck also reported receiving unsolicited text messages over the period that he described as 'annoying,' including complaints over decisions regarding a nearby landfill," said the report. One text read: 'You allow it to happen. You have let us all down … how can you sleep at night?' Investigators allege Lorenzo sent multiple anonymous messages to Beck over months “using three burner numbers to mask his true identity,” according to court documents."

    Lorenzo, who was elected as a Democrat but changed his affiliation to Republican later, faces charges of harassment by communication, criminal use of a communication device, unlawful use of a computer and unlawfully intercepting electronic communications.

    READ MORE: ‘Really creepy’ Republican’s behavior is so bad GOP lawmaker moved her desk to get away from him

    According to the report, Lorenzo denies any wrongdoing and claims he is the real victim.

    "'These accusations will not define who I am. I never thought politics could sink to these depths," said Lorenzo in a statement to the paper. "These lies have absolutely devastated my family and has my livelihood in jeopardy. But make no mistake about it, the truth will come out in the end, and I will be vindicated. I have not done anything wrong nor broken any laws. This is all a dirty political driven stunt with a false narrative to smear my name."

    You can read more here.

    Rostraver Township Commissioner Accused Of Harassing Opponents Through Texts, Social Media www.youtube.com

    IN OTHER NEWS: 'Big warning signs' for indicted Capitol rioters after a Wednesday court hearing

    'Big warning signs' for indicted Capitol rioters after a Wednesday court hearing www.youtube.com

    North Carolina community stunned after viral video shows teacher blurting out N-word in class

    According to WLOS, the McDowell County, North Carolina school system is investigating after a viral video of a teacher saying the N-word in class shocked students and community members.

    "In the video the teacher is appearing to explain who can use the N-word. The teacher is seen in the video standing next to a student, a person of color. 'I’m a white man, so I can’t say n*****,' the teacher is heard saying in the video," reported Caitlyn Penter. "Students are heard in the video expressing shock by what they heard. 'Did you get him saying it,' one student is heard saying in the video. 'When I saw it, I was like oh my God,' said Paula Swepson, executive director for West Marion Community Forum Inc."

    According to the report, the teacher, who has been identified as Jack Jensen, has been placed on leave pending investigation.

    “I immediately thought of my child who will be entering the school system in just a few short years,” said Emily Roberts, a member of the forum. "I literally felt sick to my stomach."

    RELATED: Racist rant roils Texas school as district faces pressure from right-wing group

    This comes after a number of other well-publicized incidents involving racially offensive remarks by teachers.

    In August, a teacher in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana was investigated after she wrote on Facebook that a certain part of town was "n*****ville" after dark. And in October, a theater arts teacher at a school near Houston, Texas resigned after a rant demanding there be a "white history month" and complaining that he doesn't get to use the N-word when his students of color can.

    Watch the original report here.

    Supreme Court likely to grant right-wing Christians' taxpayer money grab

    On Thursday, Vox reported that the Supreme Court is about to take up Carson v. Makin, a case that could force taxpayers in the state of Maine to pay to send children to religious schools.

    "Typically, the Court’s 'religious liberty' docket involves laws and policies that prohibit religious parties from acting in a way they believe is consistent with their faith," wrote Ian Millhiser. "But Carson is not like these cases. It claims the state of Maine must spend existing tax revenue from its secular residents to pay the private school tuition of some religious students." Furthermore, noted Millhiser, "Notably, the state could also wind up having to pay for hate speech in the process. According to Maine’s brief, both of the plaintiff families in Carson want the state to pay for tuition at schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and teachers" — including a school that makes teachers sign an agreement that "God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted."

    According to Millhiser, the plaintiffs in the case are using an absurd comparison as the basis for their argument.

    READ MORE: Supreme Court liberals, conservatives collide in abortion case

    "'In the 19th century, Maine’s public schools expelled students for adhering to their faith,' they claim, citing one example of a Catholic student expelled for not completing lessons off a Protestant bible. Now, according to the brief, Maine is committing a similarly repugnant sin against religious people by refusing to pay state residents’ tuition at private religious schools," wrote Millhiser. "Under this reasoning, there is no relevant difference between denying a public education to a Catholic student and refusing to pay for private religious education."

    The court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, has made recent decisions expanding requirements for various states to fund religious schools, most notably in Montana in 2020. This comes as the court is also considering a closely-watched abortion case in Mississippi that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

    You can read more here.

    RELATED: Mitch McConnell's ‘out and out lying’ about the court ‘radicalizes’ right-wing justices: Morning Joe panel

    IN OTHER NEWS: Trump whines he doesn’t get credit for crowd size on Jan 6

    Trump whines he doesn’t get credit for crowd size on Jan 6 www.youtube.com

    Capitol rioter wants permission to go to a wedding in Cancun ahead of his trial: report

    On Wednesday, NBC4 Washington's Scott MacFarlane reported that Jacob Lewis, a Victorville, California man charged in his involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack, is requesting that court allow him to travel to Cancun, Mexico to attend a wedding.

    "His current conditions of pre-trial release do not allow his [sic] to travel outside the United States," wrote his counsel in the filing. "Mr. Lewis would travel from December 19th through December 22nd and would provide his Probation Officer with details regarding his flights and lodging in Mexico."

    READ MORE: 'Big warning signs' for indicted Capitol rioters after a Wednesday court hearing: reporter

    According to the Justice Department, Lewis is charged with Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building; Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building; and Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building.

    As MacFarlane noted, several defendants in January 6th cases have made similar requests, with some seeking to attend family reunions around the country, an antique car show in Arkansas, a beach vacation in Alabama, and multiple trips to Mexico.

    'Big warning signs' for indicted Capitol rioters after a Wednesday court hearing: reporter

    On Wednesday, NBC4 Washington's Scott MacFarlane, a leading reporter covering the Capitol riot trials, reported that one of the latest cases portends "big warning signs" for participants in the attack.

    "Some big takeaways, perhaps some very big warnings, for U.S. Capitol riot defendants today in an otherwise low-level case," said MacFarlane. "Today was sentencing day for Russell Peterson, his day to ask for leniency. Peterson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in his case, unlawful picketing at the Capitol. He faced up to six months in jail at sentencing, and he ended up getting one month."

    Even though the defendant got just one month in jail, MacFarlane said that the judge's remarks during the hearing were nonetheless an ominous sign.

    "The judge says Peterson wrote a letter to the court that seemed genuine, seemed to show remorse, and Peterson said very little during the proceedings, saying only that he's sorry and that this is his cross to bear," MacFarlane explained. "Genuine remorse seems to benefit defendants. And the judge went further and said, 'For a lot of other January 6th defendants, their minds haven't changed, their ways haven't changed, they're not showing remorse.'"

    READ MORE: Trump DOJ official to plead the 5th -- and Capitol riot committee will 'hang it around his neck': CNN analyst

    MacFarlane added that, according to his own reporting, "at least 40 January 6th defendants are in the D.C. jail as of tonight in pretrial detention, and according to lawyers and some who've served time there, they're almost cult-like in the January 6th wing, segregated from the rest of the population, and that it's a radicalizing dynamic in that jail, and that minds aren't being changed in that wing."

    In other words, he said, these defendants should expect the law to come down much harder on them.

    "What's more, the judge said this," added MacFarlane. "Donald Trump and the White House rally may have stoked the mob, may be partly responsible for that mob, but that the defendants are, in her words, 'adults,' and they bear responsibility for what they did that day. Another possible warning for the defendants not to assume Donald Trump will be a get-out-of-jail-free card."

    Watch below:

    'Big warning signs' for indicted Capitol rioters after a Wednesday court hearing www.youtube.com

    Ron Johnson accuses Dr. Fauci of 'overhyping' AIDS in the 1980s

    On Wednesday, in an interview on The Brian Kilmeade Show, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of having "overhyped" AIDS in the past, during an attack on his assessment of the COVID Omicron variant.

    "Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS," said Johnson. "He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn't. He's using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine."

    READ MORE: Former Trump officials are 'disgusted' after learning he endangered their health: CNN's Acosta

    Johnson did not elaborate on what "therapy" he believes would be more effective at controlling COVID-19 than mass vaccination, although he has previously pushed a discredited protocol of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus — and this medical disinformation got him temporarily suspended from YouTube.

    The AIDS epidemic has killed over 700,000 people in the United States since the virus was first isolated in the early 1980s. For years, Republican lawmakers refused to act on the crisis in any meaningful way because they believed it to be a virus of gay men.

    Susan Collins calls for codifying Roe hours after justice she confirmed telegraphed he would gut it

    On Wednesday, MSNBC reported that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has announced she supports codifying Roe v. Wade into law by an act of Congress.

    "'Senator Collins supports the right to an abortion and believes that the protections in the Roe and Casey decisions should be passed into law. She has had some conversations with her colleagues about this and is open to further discussions," a Collins spokesperson told MSNBC.

    Reporter Sahil Kapur noted that "the remarks came hours after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a major case that experts believe could lead to the undoing of the landmark 1973 ruling and its subsequent precedents that protect a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy."

    READ MORE: Susan Collins says she didn't hear Brett Kavanaugh's SCOTUS abortion comments

    Notably, Collins has already said she opposes the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill passed by the House in September to do just that. She has suggested that it could interfere with existing conscience laws allowing health care workers who morally object to abortion are not required to participate in it.

    Collins previously expressed confidence that Justice Brett Kavanaugh would respect precedent on abortion rights as a basis for voting to confirm him amid a bitter controversy over his extreme judicial record and allegations of sexual assault. She did not vote to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett last year.

    Both justices' lines of questioning at oral argument suggested they are comfortable with overturning Roe entirely.

    CNN's Tapper busts Brett Kavanaugh for flip-flopping on respecting precedent set by Roe v. Wade

    On Wednesday, CNN's Jake Tapper called out Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for openly telegraphing his intention of overturning Roe v. Wade after he spent his confirmation hearings assuring senators of his respect for precedent.

    "There's no nice way to say this. Kavanaugh sounded very different on the subject of precedent today than he did when he was trying to get Susan Collins to vote for him," said Tapper, turning to correspondent Manu Raju. "How did she respond to today's oral arguments?"

    "She said she didn't see it," said Raju. "She told our colleague, 'I did not see his questioning or hear any of the arguments. I hope to later tonight play them so that I have firsthand knowledge of what the arguments were today. But I can't comment on what I didn't see.'"

    READ MORE: Susan Collins says she didn't hear Brett Kavanaugh's SCOTUS abortion comments

    "Now, recall how critical Susan Collins was to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh," said Raju. "Three Republican senators were in play. One of them was Jeff Flake of Arizona. He was one of the first of those three to say that he would vote yes. He voted for that. Lisa Murkowski, she voted against Brett Kavanaugh. And all eyes at the time were on Susan Collins. Collins was listening to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. Kavanaugh denied that. She had meetings with Kavanaugh and talked about abortion because Collins supports abortion rights and those comments she heard from Kavanaugh that he contended it to be settled law was significant, pivotal for Collins to ultimately vote yes."

    Watch below:

    Jake Tapper and Manu Raju discuss Brett Kavanaugh's abortion shift www.youtube.com

    Trump might self-publish his memoir because he's afraid he'd get a smaller cash advance than Obama: publishing exec

    On Tuesday, Politico reported that a publishing executive believes former President Donald Trump will self-publish his memoir rather than go through one of the big publishing houses.

    The reason? He is afraid he would get a smaller cash advance than former President Barack Obama did for his memoir.

    "My suspicion is Trump is self-publishing because he doesn’t want the humiliation of getting a smaller advance than he has before or anyone finding out that it is smaller than Obama’s,” one publishing executive told Politico. "I imagine that’s as big a part of it as anything."

    As the report noted, Obama received $60 million as an advance from Penguin Random House.

    RELATED: 'Fact-checking nightmare': Publishers are openly mocking Trump's inability to land a book deal

    Throughout the years, Trump has frequently reacted negatively to fear of Obama receiving more accolades and honors than he has. In 2019, Trump biographer Michael d'Antonio speculated he was afraid Obama would win an Emmy, while he attacked Obama as "grossly incompetent" after his predecessor delivered a speech about the effort to fight COVID-19 in 2020.

    Trumpsters blame Biden for Santa shortage in latest GOP 'forever war on Christmas'

    On Wednesday, writing for The Bulwark, conservative columnist and Weekly Standard alum Jim Swift mocked the right-wing media's newest attempt to cover the "forever war on Christmas" — a yearly tradition at Fox News.

    This year's controversy? The shortage of seasonal Santa actors — which GOP strategists are trying to claim is somehow tied to the Biden administration's policies.

    "On Fox News yesterday, Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer were joined by guest Mitch Allen, the founder of a company called HireSanta.com, best known for having been featured on Shark Tank," wrote Swift. "Allen, who was dressed in green like an elf, told the Fox hosts about the dreaded problem of Saint Nick Scarcity. Demand is, according to his figures, up 121 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels." As Swift noted, the RNC clipped the segment on Twitter and linked it to the Biden administration.

    The irony, noted Swift, is that it is likely COVID that exacerbated the Santa shortage — which Republicans are continuing to make worse with their opposition to vaccine mandates.

    "Why the Santa shortage? Two options seem relatively likely," wrote Swift. "(1) Statistically speaking, COVID has almost certainly reduced the pool of available seasonal Santas. I mean, we’re talking about older men with comorbidities here. And (2), the remaining potential Santa employment base might be a little leery of a part-time hourly gig that involves potentially hundreds of unvaccinated kids hopping on and off the jolly old lap."

    You can read more here.

    Mark Meadows can reveal 'especially pernicious' details of Trump's coup plot to House investigators: columnist

    On Wednesday, writing for MSNBC, analyst Steve Benen broke down the significance of former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows agreeing to cooperate with the House committee on the January 6 Capitol attack.

    "When Trump tried to hold onto power despite losing the 2020 election, Meadows played an especially pernicious role in the scheme," wrote Benen. "It was Meadows, for example, who made a surprise visit to Georgia shortly before Christmas, checking in on an election audit after his boss leaned on local officials to help him. Around the same time, Trump's top aide repeatedly pushed federal law enforcement to investigate unfounded conspiracy theories — some of which were quite weird."

    Among the theories Meadows pushed the DOJ to investigate was "Italygate" — a bizarre idea that Italy used military satellites to remotely tamper with U.S. elections equipment.

    READ MORE: Former top Trump aide Mark Meadows is cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee

    This cooperation comes after several other Trump allies have refused to engage with the committee, some of whom now face legal consequences. Steve Bannon, for example, is under indictment for contempt of Congress. Some members of Congress, chiefly Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), are skeptical that Meadows will actually divulge helpful information.

    "Looking ahead, the fact that Meadows is now 'engaging with' the investigatory committee is an important development — one that the former president almost certainly will not like — but it'll be worth watching to see whether, and to what extent, the progress continues," concluded Benen.

    You can read more here.

    Happy Holidays!