Whistleblower accusing IRS of slow-walking Hunter Biden probe is avoiding investigators: report

A whistleblower at the Internal Revenue Service who claims that the agency is dragging its feet on investigating President Joe Biden's son is ducking giving testimony to the Senate on the matter, reported The Daily Beast on Thursday.

"Gary Shapley is now ghosting the Democratic-led IRS-oversight committee following its several-hour-long meeting with his attorney, and has called off a planned interview with the panel," reported Isabella Ramirez. "'Committee staff on both sides agreed with counsel to meet directly with the whistleblower next week, however the whistleblower has since backed out of that agreement and declined an attempt to reschedule,' a source on the committee told The Independent."

"Shapley’s distancing from the committee comes as he revs up to lay out evidence regarding his allegations before the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee in a closed session Friday," noted the report.

Hunter Biden has been under investigation for months, reportedly over allegations of both tax fraud and falsifying a background check form to purchase a firearm at a period when he was ineligible to do so.

IN OTHER NEWS: 'A great week for us': Stewart Rhodes' ex-wife happy he's behind bars where he 'can't hurt' her family

This comes as a separate investigation by House Republicans into the Biden family's finances and dealings with foreign nationals hits a snag of its own with whistleblowers. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who sits on the House Oversight Committee, has admitted that some whistleblowers who are central to that investigation are "missing."

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer has tried to spin their inability to locate the whistleblowers as a sinister conspiracy theory, suggesting that those with information on the president's family "fear for their lives."

'A great week for us': Stewart Rhodes' ex-wife happy he's behind bars where he 'can't hurt' her family

Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes may have been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — but the damage he has done, and could do, is still tremendous, his ex-wife Tasha Adams told CNN's Abby Phillip on Thursday.

Despite this, she said, she is glad he is in a place where he is not a danger to her family anymore.

"You have known Stewart Rhodes for a long time," said Phillip. "You know, deeply, this organization, the Oath Keepers. Knowing that for the next 18 years, you and your six children can live your lives with Stewart Rhodes behind bars, how do you feel about that?"

RELATED ARTICLE: Stewart Rhodes' son fears Trump or DeSantis will pardon his father

"I'm very happy about it," said Adams, who has previously detailed Rhodes' physical and emotional abuse against her and their children. "It's been a great week for us as a family. We are happy to feel safe. We are happy he is in a place where he can't hurt us, he can't hurt anybody else. Of course, there's that dark cloud looming of a pardon, depending on who gets in office next or even beyond that, the next election. There's some reason for concern. But other than that, it's been great to feel safe really. It's been — my divorce was finalized this week after five and a half years of trying to deal with that. It's been a lot at once."

"Are you worried at all that if Rhodes were pardoned, there would be risk of another potential January 6?" asked Phillip.

"Absolutely," said Adams. "This is Stewart's life's work. This is what he does. He is incredibly brilliant. Completely manipulative. He is good at what he does. He will just regroup immediately. I guarantee he also has plans in the works for as soon as he is out. He will do this again until he creates the chaos he wants to create."

"Today, Rhodes stood up in court and he called himself a political prisoner," said Phillip. "He equated himself to the former President Trump, members of Congress have use that same term, 'political prisoner,' to describe January 6 defendants. What should they know about your ex-husband before they go and champion the cause of those people? I guess I should say, it's not just lawmakers. I think there are probably millions of people, millions of their supporters who do view January 6 prisoners as political prisoners."

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"I would want people to know that Stewart Rhodes in particular, but a lot of these leaders on January 6 have a lot of similar personality traits," said Adams. "Stewart has destroyed the lives of everyone he touched, not just his political enemies. He has destroyed the lives of people on his own side. There are hundreds of people who desperately, desperately wish they had never gone to the Capitol on January 6. They don't know what they were thinking. They don't know why they let themselves get talked into this kind of thing. There is nothing that Stewart Rhodes or anyone like him can bring to anyone except more destruction. That's what they are in it for. That's the goal. That's all he is interested in."

Watch below or at the following link.

Tasha Adams warns how dangerous Stewart Rhodes still is www.youtube.com

DeSantis is 'virtue signaling' to Trump base with threats against the FBI: Anthony Scaramucci

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has kicked off his 2024 presidential campaign by emulating former President Donald Trump's attacks on law enforcement, vowing to get rid of FBI Director Christopher Wray — a Trump appointee, but long a thorn in the side of the former president because he didn't personally shut down the Russia investigation — and suggesting he could pardon some January 6 insurrectionists on a case-by-case basis.

All of this is just a cynical "virtue signal," said former White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci on CNN Thursday.

"No one should be surprised, but it sure says a lot about the Republican Party that the two leading candidates right now are going after the most important and legitimate institutions of law and order in this country," said anchor Anderson Cooper.

"I mean, just harken back 30 years ago where the Republican Party was the law and order party," said Scaramucci. "But this is all virtue signaling to their side. And so this is a little bit ironic in Governor DeSantis, because he doesn't like the woke culture, he wants to rebuke the left for doing the same thing that he is doing on the right."

"A more sensible strategy — a more presidential look — would be that, I respect the rule of law, I will meet with everybody and evaluate the personnel that I'm bringing into the White House and the personnel that I'm keeping, and typically we keep the FBI director. And so Chris Wray shouldn't be let go," said Scaramucci, adding, "If he talked like that, though, he probably wouldn't get anywhere close to the Republican nomination, Anderson."

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"So that's the big problem right now," said Scaramucci. "Who is going to step up in the chasm and actually speak like a president, think like a president, unite the country, bring our values back together and talk to people in a commonsense way instead of listening to political consultants telling them well, you got to get further to the right of Donald Trump, because if he falls out of the race, you're going to be the guy that takes over, and you've got to get his base. So I'm hoping for a more transformative candidate than that, instead of this stuff that we're getting right now."

Watch below or at this link.

Anthony Scaramucci says Ron DeSantis is "virtue signaling" www.youtube.com

'Increasingly solid every day': Ex-Trump White House lawyer hails Jack Smith's case against Trump

Former President Donald Trump's one-time White House attorney Ty Cobb warned that the former president is facing down serious legal jeopardy in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case on Wednesday's edition of CNN's "OutFront."

This comes amid a bombshell report in The Washington Post that not only were classified documents on display for many to see at Trump's country club, but that employees conducted a "dress rehearsal" at his demand to help him figure out which documents he wanted to conceal from authorities.

The evidence that Trump committed a crime here, said Cobb, is "increasingly solid every day."

"I think we had an exchange where I was commenting on it sounded like there was a lot of i-dotting and t-crossing, which suggests they're near the end," Cobb told anchor Erin Burnett. "I do believe that is the case. They have some compelling evidence. I think the evidence with regard to the moving of the boxes, the evidence that they're relying on primarily with regard to the movement of the boxes they received the day after those boxes were moved. There were tapes of this, you know, the access and to the storage room. They have known about that for a long time. The reporting is out on that for a long time. But as they zero in on that issue, you know, there are two witnesses. One of them is represented by John Irving. That is the source for the, you know, the Post quote. The statement they got about not not knowing what was going on."

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Another aspect made more relevant by the new report, Cobb argued, "is the testimony of Evan Corcoran and Tim Parlatore. Two lawyers [whom] ... the court denied Trump's claim of attorney-client privilege and found that the crime-fraud doctrine overcame Trump's claim and forced them to testify."

"Keep in mind that, you know, Corcoran testified that he warned Trump that he could not retain any classified documents beyond the subpoena," said Cobb. "And Parlatore, you know, he subsequently resigned, you know, expressed great concerns about directions that were given by [Trump adviser] Boris Epshteyn, and the extent that Epshteyn was translating their advice faithfully."

Watch below or at the link:

Ty Cobb explains that Jack Smith has "compelling" evidence against Trump www.youtube.com

Stewart Rhodes' sentence is surprisingly low: former prosecutor

Stewart Rhodes, a key leader in the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday for seditious conspiracy relating to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — one of the toughest sentences in these prosecutions handed down to date.

But the sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, was actually a lot shorter than the 25 years prosecutors had recommended — and Mehta's decision was confusing, argued former federal prosecutor Shan Wu on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"Were these sentences, do you believe, in line with what you were expecting, particularly Stewart Rhodes' historic 18-year prison sentence?" asked anchor Wolf Blitzer.

"I was actually a little surprised that the judge was not harsher with Rhodes in light of what he said," said Wu. "Without going to the courtroom and hearing the judge's opinion on it, you wouldn't necessarily expect him to go to the top end. The Justice Department was asking for 25 years. But in light of what he said and his belief, as one of Rhodes' attorneys emphasized, that Rhodes would continue to be a danger, I would have actually expected him to be more closer to the Department's request for 25 years."

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It was worth noting, Wu continued, that "the other defendant expressed remorse. Remorse goes a long way in reducing the sentence. Here, buys him six less years."

But by contrast, "Rhodes being such a mastermind and his extraordinarily reckless doubling down on the lies and how he still thinks that the Biden administration is illegitimate, I would have expected, as a defense counsel, the judge would have gone more in line with the DOJ," said Wu.

Watch below or at the link:

Shan Wu says Stewart Rhodes got a surprisingly low sentence www.youtube.com

GOP-led Texas House committee recommends impeaching state attorney general Ken Paxton: report

A Republican-led investigative committee in the Texas House of Representatives has recommended impeaching state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a far-right Trump ally, setting up a rare showdown in the state legislature, reported The New York Times on Thursday.

"The recommendation thrust the State Capitol and its Republican leadership into uncharted political territory in the waning days of the legislative session, setting the stage for the House to hold a vote on impeachment, its first in decades and one of the few ever conducted in the state’s history," reported J. David Goodman. "If he is impeached, Mr. Paxton, who has been under a separate criminal indictment since 2015, would be required to step down from his post temporarily while facing trial in the State Senate."

According to the report, Paxton would only be the third public official in Texas to be impeached in the history of the state's 1876 constitution, and the first statewide officeholder to be impeached since 1917.

Paxton has lashed out over the impeachment process, tweeting that "Overturning elections begins behind closed doors."

"The vote by the House committee came a day after three hours of detailed testimony on Wednesday from a team of investigators — former prosecutors who were hired by the committee to look into corruption allegations against Mr. Paxton," said the report. "The investigators described how Mr. Paxton had abused and misused his office to help an Austin real estate developer and donor who also hired a woman with whom Mr. Paxton was having a relationship, and how Mr. Paxton created a climate of fear within the office of the attorney general. The misdeeds Mr. Paxton was accused of committing rose to the level of possible criminality, the investigators said, including instances of retaliation against people who spoke up."

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Paxton, who has been at the center of a number of extreme-right GOP efforts, including a case to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and another to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has long been a close ally of former President Trump, who endorsed Paxton's 2022 re-election bid over a primary challenge from former Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Paxton is also under indictment on securities fraud allegations, although that case has reportedly languished for years without any official trial date being set.

It's 'almost impossible' to become a judge if you're a straight white guy, GOP lawmaker says

Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI) is angry that President Joe Biden didn't name more straight, white men to the federal judiciary in his first two years in office — so much so that he actually complained about it on the House floor this week, The Daily Beast reported.

"'I was expecting maybe 25 or 30 were white guys,' Grothman said. 'Five of the 97 judges were white guys. Of those, two were gay. So, almost impossible for a white guy who’s not gay, apparently, to get appointed here,'" reported Erik Uebelacker. "The federal judiciary is still, largely, white and male. As of 2022, 78 percent of Article III federal judges are white, while 70 percent are men, according to the American Bar Association. Only 4 percent of federal judges were black women."

Biden, who has been confirming new judges at a rapid pace, has sought to increase the diversity of the judiciary.

In addition to racial diversity, he has sought professional diversity, relying less on the traditional candidate pool consisting largely of prosecutors and white-shoe law partners, and naming attorneys who work in public advocacy law and especially public defenders.

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Grothman, who was first elected in 2014 and represents east-central Wisconsin communities including Winnebago, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac, has a lengthy history of controversies.

In 2017, Grothman demanded cuts to college aid because poor students were, in his words, spending too much money on "goodies and electronics." In 2018, he defended former President Donald Trump calling African countries "sh*tholes" by saying it was no worse than former President Barack Obama inviting the Rev. Al Sharpton to the White House. Earlier this year, Grothman posted an image that showed his office contains a flag associated with a sect of Christian nationalists tied to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

'Google what police do': Missouri's AG mocked for telling cops to enforce trans care ban

Missouri's Republican Attorney General, Andrew Bailey, is facing pushback from police after ordering law enforcement in Kansas City to enforce the state's new ban on gender-affirming care for people under 18, reported The Kansas City Star.

"Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves has already said that the ban, which has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, does not include criminal penalties and would be outside of the police’s jurisdiction," according to the report.

"Bailey, in a letter to the board Wednesday, said his demand comes after the Kansas City Council approved a resolution to declare the city a sanctuary for people seeking gender-affirming care. The move by the city council was in defiance of the transgender health care ban."

Unlike all other cities in Missouri, which appoint their law enforcement officials directly, Kansas City's police department is overseen by a five-member board of commissioners, with four named by the governor and the remaining seat named by the mayor, Quinton Lucas.

"The gender-affirming care ban passed by the legislature would ban all 'gender transition procedures' for people under 18," said the report. "It would allow minors to continue hormone therapy or puberty blockers if they were already prescribed them. The restrictions on hormone therapy and puberty blockers expire in 2027. The ban on gender-affirming surgeries does not expire. It does not include criminal penalties that could be enforced by the Kansas City police. Doctors who violate the ban could lose their licenses and health care providers could face civil lawsuits."

Some GOP officials had actually wanted to go further and curtail gender-affirming care for even adults. Bailey issued an emergency order restricting and adding new rules to such care; however, a state judge temporarily blocked the order earlier this month, and the state terminated the order a few weeks later with no explanation.

Bailey issued a letter to the commission demanding they enforce the policy: “It is the Board’s constitutional duty to enforce the law and ensure that children are protected from these dangerous, experimental gender transition interventions. As Missouri’s top legal officer, I will take any legal action necessary against the City to ensure our state laws are enforced.”

But Graves has made clear that is not her job. “These provisions are outside the jurisdiction of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department,” she said. “I want to assure Kansas City, we will continue to serve all the members of the community equitably regardless of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”

Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur, who represents Kansas City, agreed, saying in a statement, “Sounds like Andrew Bailey needs to Google what police do instead of making them waste their time explaining to the state’s top lawyer that police handle criminal cases, not civil actions.”

Winnie the Pooh book teaches Texas kids how to survive school shootings: report

Kids in Dallas, Texas were sent home from school with an unusual item in their backpacks, reported The Guardian: a book that features Winnie-the-Pooh explaining how to survive school shootings.

"Parents and teachers in the Dallas area have expressed alarm and concern that the Stay Safe book, produced by a law enforcement consulting firm in Houston, has been sent home in the backpacks of children in pre-kindergarten and elementary classes," reported Ed Pilkington. "The book features the honey-loving bear created by AA Milne and illustrator EH Shepard instructing kids about how to react to a mass shooting. "

"The subtitle to the Stay Safe book is: 'If there is danger, let Winnie-the-Pooh and his Crew show you what to do: Run Hide Fight,'" said the report. "Run, hide, fight are the tactics advised by the FBI 'should the unthinkable occur.' Inside pages of the book, featuring other characters from the Hundred Acre Wood, tell kids: 'If it is safe to get away, we should RUN like Rabbit instead of stay … If danger is near, do not fear, HIDE like Pooh does until the police appear.' The 'hide' page has a drawing of Pooh burying his head in a pot of honey."

The next page shows Kanga and Roo wearing boxing gloves, with the message, “If danger finds us, don’t stay, run away. If we can’t get away, we have to FIGHT with all our might.”

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The book is not an official use of the character; in 2022, Winnie-the-Pooh entered the public domain, allowing third parties to use him in their own works.

The image of mass shootings has been a raging debate in Texas ever since the slaughter of elementary schoolers in Uvalde. Republicans in charge of the state have pushed for hardening schools with new security features and recently closed a loophole in state law that prevented some mental health information from being recorded in the national background check system; however, any debate over more gun substantive reforms, like fully universal background checks, restrictions on military-style semiautomatic rifles, or a reversal of the state's recently-enacted permitless carry law, appears dead for the foreseeable future.

'Too much Black history': Alabama educators bombarded with complaints

Right-wing activists are trying to crack down on the discussion of Black history in Alabama textbooks, reported AL.com on Thursday.

"Earlier this year, the State Board of Education approved English Language Arts textbooks for kindergarten through third grade after a public hearing where critics suggested the books had too much Black history and multicultural stories," reported Jemma Stephenson. "These books had already been delayed after they were originally meant to be adopted in 2022."

The report goes on to quote right-wing activist Melissa Gates, who is a self-identified member of Eagle Forum and who attacked schools for trying to "indoctrinate our children with DEI [Diversity Equity and Inclusion], SEL [Social Emotional Learning], woke agenda and grooming our little ones."

The report also quoted Mobile County resident Cathy Odom, who flat-out said that "I thought personally there was too much Black history."

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The Eagle Forum is the brainchild of the late right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly, who was instrumental in blocking the Equal Rights Amendment from being ratified in the Constitution. Her son Andrew Schlafly is the founder of Conservapedia, a bizarre alternate-facts wiki site that reinvents all of world history, science, and a variety of other topics with far-right and fundamentalist Christian propaganda and even purports to debunk Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

All of this comes amid a movement around the country by right-wing activists to ban books mentioning race and sexuality from school libraries, spurred by the passage of new legislation in states like Florida that make these challenges easy.

Leading this charge is another far-right group, Moms for Liberty, which has sought to ban everything from mentions of the astronomer Galileo as unfair to the Church, to a picture book that supposedly has overly sexualized pictures of seahorses. In some cases, Moms for Liberty activists have worked hand in hand with the Proud Boys, the infamous street-brawling "Western Chauvinist" paramilitary group whose higher-ups were recently convicted of seditious conspiracy for their involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack.

Ohio newspaper scorches GOP for trying to confuse citizens into gutting their own voting rights

As activists across Ohio are trying to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the state's near-total abortion ban, Republicans in the state legislature are reportedly fighting back in a deceptive way — introducing a referendum of their own that would require any future referendum to pass with a 60% threshold, and slipping that referendum into an August off-cycle election that they hope they can win through lower turnout.

The editorial board for the Cleveland Plain Dealer ripped apart the GOP's plan in a furious editorial on Wednesday, accusing them of unconstitutionally trying to conceal from voters what the ballot question, Ohio Issue 1, would actually do.

"Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the other two Republicans on the Ohio Ballot Board have improperly put their thumbs on the scale to boost a statewide ballot issue scheduled for Aug. 8 that would make it far harder to pass any constitutional amendment in Ohio -- and exponentially more difficult to get citizen-initiated amendments on the ballot," wrote the board. "They did that by specifying 'ballot language' — the wording Ohioans will see when they vote — that masks what proposed State Issue 1 would do."

"First off, the wording that the board’s Republicans approved claims in its title that the proposal is aimed at, 'Elevating the standards to qualify for and to pass any constitutional amendment.' In fact, the amendment increases the requirements for getting an issue on the ballot," wrote the board. "The ballot language also 'fails to mention what the existing law is,' a Democratic member of the Ballot Board, state Rep. Elliot Forhan, of South Euclid, told cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias. 'What happened here is an attempt to get one over on Ohio voters.'" And the referendum language doesn't clarify to voters that the bill also changes the requirement to get signatures from half of all counties to all 88, and eliminates a 10-day grace period to cure signatures to place new referenda on the ballot.

All of this is patently unconstitutional, argued the board, as the state constitution says that “ballot language shall properly identify the substance of the proposal to be voted upon.” Furthermore, the state Supreme Court has struck down previous ballot questions on these grounds, including a 2012 referendum to create a redistricting commission.

"As proposed by LaRose and the Ballot Board’s two other Republicans, the official ballot language for State Issue 1 fails to give voters a clear picture of what it and its GOP godparents aim to do," warned the board. "The Ballot Board should have drawn that picture. But it didn’t. The Supreme Court must step up."

DeSantis tries to claim no books have been banned in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis formally kicked off his 2024 campaign for president with a Twitter Spaces discussion with tech billionaire Elon Musk — an event that was widely derided as disastrous after a series of technical problems.

But according to The Daily Beast, during the discussion, DeSantis made one eyebrow-raising claim in particular: that all the stories about school book bans in Florida are not true.

"Ron DeSantis went straight into several diatribes knocking 'the left' and 'the media' for creating false stories about his record as governor," said the report. "Among his claims was that there had been no 'book bans' in Florida during his tenure — calling any report to the contrary an outright 'hoax.” He then admitted that some books have in fact been removed from school libraries — but only ones that include 'pornography' and critical race theory.

This is not the first time DeSantis has claimed reports of book bans are a "hoax." However, as investigative reporter Judd Legum has noted, he is leaving out thousands of books that were not technically "banned" but were challenged and have been pulled from shelves pending a lengthy review process, which functionally has the same effect and sends a chilling message to teachers about what they can show in their classrooms. In some other cases, material was not banned outright but grade-restricted for unclear reasons, such as the Amanda Gorman poem "The Hills We Climb," which was read at President Joe Biden's inauguration.

As for the claim about "pornography," the law allowing books to be removed does not clearly define that term, opening the door to challenges against any book that even mentions sexuality or deals with sexual topics or themes. And this goes beyond books — a school principal in Tallahassee was forced to resign after some students at the school were shown images of the nude Statue of David.

DeSantis enters the presidential race a distant second behind former President Donald Trump, who remains the heavy favorite to be re-nominated in 2024 according to recent polling.

NYPD officer charged for breaking man's nose in rare prosecution

A New York City police officer has been charged for punching a suspect and breaking his nose, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

"The officer, Juan Perez, was arraigned on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, and charged with third-degree assault for the Nov. 10, 2021, encounter. He pleaded not guilty," reported Colin Moynihan. Perez denies the charges against him, according to the report.

"A prosecutor, Karl Mulloney-Radke, said in court that in 2021, Mr. Perez and his partner had responded to a report of a man who was acting erratically near Bleecker and Sullivan Streets and 'throwing water on pedestrians,'" said the report. "That man, identified by prosecutors as Borim Husenaj, briefly grappled with Officer Perez and knocked him off balance. Officer Perez landed atop Mr. Husenaj and the two became entangled. 'The defendant then struck Mr. Husenaj six times,' Mr. Mulloney-Radke said in court on Wednesday, describing the blows as 'rapid, forceful punches.' Prosecutors said that the punches knocked Mr. Husenaj unconscious for at least a minute, broke his nose and 'caused extensive swelling and bruising.'"

Reports indicate that Perez, who was off duty when he responded, radioed emergency personnel to say that Husenaj was not suffering a psychiatric episode, but that he was simply intoxicated. It turned out he was in fact suffering from a psychiatric episode as well.

It is rare for police officers to face assault charges over injuries to suspects during altercations — even police deaths often result in no charge. However, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who made national headlines for charging former President Donald Trump with business fraud, has made police accountability a priority of his office.

"While many use-of-force complaints go to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which can recommend internal discipline, the clash between Officer Perez and Mr. Husenaj was captured by police body cameras and onlookers’ videos, giving prosecutors an unusually clear view of what had transpired," said the report. "Mr. Mulloney-Radke’s account in court and a statement of facts filed by prosecutors drew upon that evidence to provide a detailed description of an encounter that turned chaotic."

'Failure to launch': Ron DeSantis Twitter announcement ends in disaster and mockery

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kicked off his presidential campaign formally on Wednesday, in an unconventional way: by hosting a Twitter Spaces event with tech billionaire Elon Musk. But from the start, the announcement was plagued with problems and technical glitches that forced it to start late — and while there were originally some 700,000 people in the space, viewership plunged as it became apparent it wasn't working properly.

The debacle resulted in widespread mockery from people of all political persuasions across Twitter.

"He can't even lead a Twitter Spaces!" laughed attorney Bradley P. Moss. Daniel Uhlfelder, a Florida-based attorney who became famous for dressing up as the Grim Reaper to protest DeSantis' COVID-19 policies, tweeted, "AI Ron is reading a script on Twitter Spaces." And David Frum, a Never Trump conservative who once served as a speechwriter to President George W. Bush, tweeted, "Failure to Launch: The Ron DeSantis Story."

Justin Horwitz linked it to the DeSantis leadership, as well: "Ron DeSantis can’t even successfully announce his candidacy. How do we expect him to successfully run the country?"

"Campaign launches not included in Twitter Blue 🙄" joked reporter Heidi Przybyla.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan went right to the source: "Congratulations to DeSantis's crack comms team, @BryanDGriffin , @ChristinaPushaw , and @JeremyRedfernFL , for organizing a totally effective and non-humiliating campaign launch for their boss with tech genius @elonmusk . Bravo! Remember, their pitch is 'Trump but competent.' Lol."

Steve Bannon, a longtime Trump ally, also laughed about the state of the event on his War Room podcast, calling it a "clown show." "You got Elon mumbling he’s on the spectrum ... you’ve got DeSantis mumbling, who knows where he is." And far-right activist Laura Loomer joked that the "Twitter space with @elonmusk was titled 'Preparing to Launch.' After Team DeSantis screwed the entire thing up and made people wait over 20 min, DeSantis's Space is already OVER before it ever began. More like FAILURE TO LAUNCH."

IN OTHER NEWS: 'Globes everywhere!': Georgia GOP official pushes Flat Earth conspiracy theory

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), meanwhile, pointed out how few people were even paying attention to the whole spectacle, saying, "We had more people join when I played Among Us," a popular multiplayer video game.

And President Joe Biden himself jumped into the mockery, with his account tweeting a link to his re-election donation page and saying, "This link works."

DeSantis was competitive with Trump nationally and in many states in polls near the end of last year. However, recent polling suggests that DeSantis may be losing steam even as he launches officially, with Trump leading DeSantis by almost 30 points in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate.

'Globes everywhere!': Georgia GOP official pushes Flat Earth conspiracy theory

A former Republican candidate for Georgia governor recently elected as a district-level GOP chair is now pushing conspiracy theories that the Earth is flat, reported Rolling Stone on Wednesday.

Kandiss Taylor is best known for her campaign touring Georgia in a bus that said "Jesus, Guns, Babies."

"In an interview with David Weiss (AKA 'Flat Earth Dave') and Matt Long on her 'Jesus, Guns, and Babies' podcast, Taylor and her guests discussed biblical 'evidence' that the Earth is actually flat as a pancake. 'The people that defend the globe don’t know anything about the globe,' said Weiss. 'If they knew a tenth of what Matt and I know about the globe they would be Flat Earthers,'" reported Nikki McCann Ramirez. "'All the globes, everywhere' Taylor said later in the discussion. 'I turn on the TV, there’s globes in the background … Everywhere there’s globes. You see them all the time, it’s constant. My children will be like ‘Mama, globe, globe, globe, globe’ — they’re everywhere.'"

There are several variants of the Flat Earth conspiracy theory, but the most common idea is that Earth is a disk, with the North Pole in the center, and Antarctica as a giant wall of ice along the "edge," and the Sun and Moon as small objects rotating in circles above the plane.

It is trivially simple to prove the Earth is spherical in a variety of ways, from observing ocean-faring ships disappear below the horizon with any decent pair of binoculars, to observing the way the Sun, Moon, and stars move across the sky, which would not be possible if they were simply above a flat plane. Gravity, likewise, wouldn't make any sense without a spherical Earth, because then there would be no center of mass that affects everyone at all points of the Earth's surface.

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For Taylor, however, the mere fact that the globe is a popular image is proof that there's some unspecified "conspiracy" of people forcing globes onto others.

“That’s what they do, to brainwash,” Taylor told Weiss and Long. “For me if it’s not a conspiracy. If it is real, why are you pushing so hard everywhere I go? Every store, you buy a globe, there’s globes everywhere. Every movie, every TV show, news media — why? More and more I’m like, it doesn’t make sense.”