'Would make Alex Jones blush': GOPer blasted for claiming land conservation is a plot to 'kill' people

Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., spewed conspiracy theories about an environmental plan to conserve 30% of US land and waters by 2030 ahead of her election last year.

Speaking at R-CALF, a convention for independent cattle producers, Hageman in August 2021 and 2022 baselessly claimed that conservation plans like the global initiative 30x30 are a government plot led by President Joe Biden to control Americans through starvation.

The congresswoman likened the environmental plans to African dictators starving their people to stay in power.

"Anytime their dictator needed to control the masses and needed to make sure that there would be no uprising, he just starves his people," Hageman said in the previously unreported video. "You can look at Somalia, you can look at the Congo, you can look at country after country after country after country, and what they've done is they control their people with food. That's what 30 x 30 is about. That's what the Green New Deal is about."

The-then candidate's statements are similar to a number of anti-government conspiracy theories shared by anti-public land extremists. Many of these conspiracy theorists have also equated 30x30 with the Holocaust and Stalin's genocide of Ukrainians in the 1930s.

"History repeats, and I think it's being done again," said one 30x30 conspiracy theorist on Facebook. "They did the very same thing in Ukraine, and they intend to do it to us."

In another video, Hageman claimed that 30x30 is the first step towards government-led "starvation" in order to "control" citizens.

"Whenever those leaders want to control the masses, they starve them. They kill them. And that's how they keep control. And that's where the 30 x 30 program is headed," she claimed.

"We need to stop looking at this as preserving the environment," she added. "We need to stop talking about protecting water and natural resources. That isn't what it's about, it's about control. It's about control of you."

This is not the first, or second, time that Hageman has boosted conspiracy theories: she has a long history of espousing misinformation and fighting against conservation and public lands. Hageman proudly bears the nickname "Wicked Witch of the West," which she earned after opposing the Clinton administration's roadless forest rule.

"Harriet Hageman's unhinged conspiracy theories show that her motivations for 'oversight' are completely unrooted in reality," Jordan Schreiber, director of the Energy and Environment program at the left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement to Salon. "The next time she alleges wrongdoing remember that she subscribes to a set of falsehoods that would make Alex Jones blush. She cannot be taken seriously as a legislator or an investigator."

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During her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2018, Hageman suggested transferring one million acres of federal land to the state of Wyoming, which would have sold off significant hunting, fishing, and hiking areas, according to a report from The New York Times.

Two months before the midterm election in 2022, Hageman also claimed that the federal government controls too much land in the United States.

"Joe Biden has absolutely no authority whatsoever to try to take more private land out of production and use in this country," she said during a September R-CALF conference. "The federal government already has 612 million acres, and frankly, that's too many."

She further accused the World Wildlife Federation of trying to "destroy the livestock industry," calling them "evil people."

"They will put you out of business if you do not comply with their mandates that are going to be coming down the road," she said of the environmental organization. "They want to either destroy the livestock industry or make sure that it is only the elite that are able to eat beef in the future."

In addition to conspiracy theories, Hageman has also previously shared that she believes regulatory agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management are "destroying our republic."

Experts: Trump Org's  $1.6 million tax crime fine 'spells doom' for the company

The Trump Organization was ordered by a Manhattan State Supreme Court judge on Friday to pay $1.6 million, the maximum fine allowed under the law, after it was convicted on felony tax fraud and other charges.

Former President Donald Trump's real estate company was convicted in December for giving illegal perks to executives. Allen Weisselberg, one of the top executives at the business who testified that he orchestrated the years-long scheme, pleaded guilty and testified that he received off-the-books perks during his time at the company. On Tuesday, Weisselberg was sentenced to five months at the infamous Rikers Island jail in New York.

While the financial penalty is small for a company like the Trump Organization, the verdict made it known that the company broke the law, and handed more evidence to the former president's political opponents. There is also the chance of a criminal investigation by prosecutors into Trump for his role in the financial scheme, and the former president and his family still face a $250 million civil tax fraud lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The Trump Organization's lawyers tried to argue for a smaller penalty on Friday by shifting the blame onto Weisselberg and outside accounting firm Mazars USA. However, Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney's office, called the company's conduct "egregious" as they carried out "a multidimensional scheme to defraud the tax authorities."

"To avoid detection, they simply falsified the records," he said.

Steinglass acknowledged that the financial penalty will not severely hurt the Trump Organization, but that "this court should nonetheless impose such fines."

Judge Juan Merchan agreed and doled out the maximum penalty of $1.61 million.

Merchan said that the defense's repeated argument that only Mazars and Weisselberg were to blame was unsupported by the evidence, and that "it is certainly not what the jury found."

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, argued in a statement that New York should change its law "so that we can impose more significant penalties and sanctions on corporations that commit crimes."

Bragg also pointed to a symbolic victory in his message.

"While corporations can't serve jail time, this consequential conviction and sentencing serves as a reminder to corporations and executives that you cannot defraud tax authorities and get away with it," he said.

Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles said in court on Friday that the company plans to appeal the conviction and that "the D.A., as usual, or again, does not understand the tax law."

The trial ended with the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation being found guilty of all 17 counts of tax fraud. Under state law, companies can be held criminally accountable for crimes of its top executives if they acted "in behalf of" the company, which Merchan says prosecutors must prove by showing Weisselberg didn't act in his sole interest, but also that of his employer. Despite the end of this trial, Trump and his family business are still under investigation in Manhattan.

Legal experts predicted the fallout from Friday's sentencing is likely to go beyond the fine.

Former U.S. attorney and UCLA Law professor Harry Litman wrote that the "collateral financial and practical consequences could be far greater," than the relatively small financial penalty.

Trump organization sentenced to fine of $1.6M for the fraud conviction (trial at which Weisslberg testified). Collateral financial and practical consequences could be far greater.
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) January 13, 2023

"It spells doom for the Trump Organization — I really see it as a death knell," said Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor in the New York State Anti-Corruption Office, in an interview with CBS MoneyWatch.

Gershman says the company will have a hard time finding business or lending partners in the future.

"It would be implausible for any responsible lending institution, bank, insurance company or institutions that provide financial support for companies to have anything to do with the Trump Organization now," Gershman added. "Here you are convicted of a financial crime where your existence depends on financing."

Cornell University law professor Randy Zelin told CBS that while the financial penalty is negligible (the Trump Organization made $2.4 billion in revenue from 2017 to 2020, according to Forbes), the collateral consequences are significant, especially for a company that relies on banks and insurers to keep hotels, golf resorts, and other properties open.

"A criminal conviction will impact the ability to get licenses, to borrow money, to get insurance, to do business with anyone," Zelin explained. "Who wants to lend money to or insure a convicted felon organization? There will be statutory disqualifications because of the convictions."

Legal experts say that the Trump Organization may look to foreign investors, including Saudi Arabia, if it faces issues with domestic banks and lenders as a result of the conviction. In November, Reuters reported that the Trump Organization signed a deal with Dar Al Arkan, a Saudi real estate developer that will use the Trump brand for a $4 billion project in Oman that will include a golf course, hotel and villas.

While Trump was not personally charged, his company's conviction will likely help to speed up James' civil suit against the former president. "With the conviction, the pending New York Attorney General's case will go on a fast track," Zelin said. "The AG now has set in stone proof of fraud."

"It's the NYAG who has the power to kill the company," Zelin said, adding that Trump is "no longer Teflon Don."

Republicans in George Santos' home district expose another lie

The Nassau County Republican Party on Wednesday called for the resignation of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., for lying about his personal life and questions surrounding his finances.

After a New York Times report uncovered that Santos fabricated parts of his educational and professional background, other watchdog groups like the Campaign Legal Center began to look into his personal expenses and the true sources of his campaign money. Santos also repeatedly lied about his religion and ethnicity and his parent's relationship to the Holocaust.

Nassau County GOP Chairman Joseph G. Cairo at a Long Island news conference said that Santos' campaign was made up "of deceit, lies and fabrication," and accused him of deceiving voters.

"Today, on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee, I'm calling for his immediate resignation," Cairo said. "His lies were not mere fibs. He disgraced the House of Representatives, and we do not consider him one of our congress people. He's not welcome here at Republican headquarters."

Cairo revealed that Santos lied to him in a private meeting.

"[He] told me, I remember specifically, that he was into sports a little bit—that he was a star on the Baruch volleyball team and they had won the league championship," Cairo said. "What can I tell ya?"

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., also joined remotely from Washington D.C. to call for Santos to step down, as he violated the trust of "not only the voters, but people across America."

D'Esposito added that he "will not associate with [Santos] in Congress and I will encourage other representatives in the House of Representatives to join me in rejecting him."

Other Republican leaders said Santos is "not a normal person" and that he is an "out and out liar" who "needs help."

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As soon as the news broke, Santos, who was in Washington, refused to step down.

"I will not," he told reporters on Capitol Hill. He then stepped into an elevator and refused to answer any other questions.

NEW: George Santos tells me he will NOT resign w/ @LaleeIbssa pic.twitter.com/d5rvHObxoA
— Rachel Scott (@rachelvscott) January 11, 2023

In a tweet on Wednesday, Santos reaffirmed that he plans to stay in office.

"I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living," he wrote. "I will NOT resign!"

I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living.
I will NOT resign!
— George Santos (@Santos4Congress) January 11, 2023

The request amongst Republicans for Santos to step down is just another problem the GOP freshman has had to face in recent weeks. He is currently the subject of various inquiries from local and federal prosecutors about his financial dealings which could possibly lead to criminal charges.

Santos also found himself at the center of two formal ethics complaints this week after two Democratic lawmakers filed a formal complaint before the House's bipartisan Committee on Ethics to look into whether Santos broke the law when he filed his required financial disclosures late. The Federal Election Commission was also asked to investigate his campaign funding to see if he misrepresented his spending and hid the true source of his money.

Law enforcement officials in Brazil have also announced that they are reviving fraud charges against Santos linked to a stolen checkbook in 2008.

Top Republican leaders were hesitant to hold Santos accountable before, claiming they would handle questions about him "internally," despite reports from CNBC and the Washington Times that someone from his campaign impersonated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff to get more money from donors.

Republican Madison Cawthorn screws over his constituents one last time before moving to Florida

Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., has officially moved to Florida without handing over the required constituent casework to Rep. Chuck Edwards, the new Republican representing the state's 11th District.

Cawthorn bought a $1.1 million house in Florida in August, months before finishing his lone two-year term. In an Instagram post, Cawthorn announced that he moved into the Cape Coral house on Jan. 4, just one day after his term officially ended.

According to a statement posted on Edwards' website, Cawthorn did not transfer official casework before leaving North Carolina, which goes against standard practice for legislative transition.

"Due to this lack of information, Congressman Edwards and his staff have no way of knowing which constituents had ongoing casework or other outstanding federal issues," the statement read. "Repeated attempts to reach Congressman Cawthorn and his staff were made over the past month, but no response or action was provided."

Cawthorn's deadline for signing over the database was Dec. 23, as per House rules for outgoing members of Congress.

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"I ran on the issue of providing the best constituent service possible for the people of Western North Carolina," Edwards said. "I ask that anyone with any pending casework contact my office immediately. In addition, I hope members of the media will help inform the public of this request. I would like to ensure that our veterans, the elderly, the infirm and others who need help get the full benefit of the services they are entitled to."

Members of Congress usually help their constituents with various issues, such as accessing veterans' benefits and processing Social Security checks. There are typically unfinished cases from one term to the next, which is why the House requires outgoing members of Congress to pass along the casework to the next representative so they can continue resolving issues.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Cawthorn for Congress, but he lost the primary for North Carolina after a series of scandals, including the improper promotion of cryptocurrency, and a charge in Mecklenburg County for carrying a loaded gun through airport security.

Tax returns reveal that Trump held foreign bank accounts in the UK, Ireland and China while in office

Six years of former President Donald Trump's federal tax returns were finally released on Friday. They include thousands of pages of dense financial data, showing that Trump and his wife Melania paid very little in federal income taxes in the first and last year of his presidency — and suggesting that contrary to his previous claims, Trump accepted his salary as president at least for his final year in office.

The House Ways and Means Committee released the redacted versions of Trump's returns for the tax years 2015 through 2020. The report comes days before Republicans are set to take control of the House, and ends Trump's extended efforts to conceal his tax returns from the public.

Trump's tax information will now be available for journalists, independent tax specialists and ordinary citizens to read, study and pick apart in the leadup to the 2024 presidential election.

The Ways and Means Committee also confirmed a report from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) stating that Trump claimed significant business losses both before and during his presidency that he carried forward in order to reduce his tax burden. His returns show that he carried forward a $105 million loss in 2015 and $73 million in 2016.

The JCT found that the former president paid no taxes in 2020. The variability of Trump's tax history is also noteworthy: He paid a combined $1.1 million in federal income taxes in 2018 and 2019 but just $750 in 2017.

The file released by Ways and Means contains numerous documents from Trump's personal and business tax returns. One area that observers have flagged as potentially dubious is the interest Trump claimed he received on loans to his children, a possible indication that he was trying to hide gifts, according to the JCT.

In its report, the committee questioned whether "the loans were bona fide arm's length transactions, or whether the transfers were disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax and a disallowance of interest deductions by the related borrowers."

The House Ways and Means Committee has officially released six Trump's tax returns.
Read here: https://t.co/NVegOYNGuZ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 30, 2022

The returns also show that Trump held foreign bank accounts in the U.K., Ireland and China while in office.

The Chinese bank account was tied to Trump International Hotels Management's business plans in the country and was reported by the New York Times in 2020. That disclosure came during the election campaign, when Trump accused Joe Biden of being a "puppet" of China. Biden's tax returns and other financial disclosures showed no deals or income from China.

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The Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for writing tax policy and overseeing the IRS, found that the federal tax agency had failed to conduct mandatory audits on Trump, according to reporting from CNN.

The IRS opened only one of the required audits while Trump was presidency, for the 2016 tax year (which preceded his term of office). That audit did not even begin until the fall of 2019 — the committee's report characterized the presidential audit program as "dormant."

The JCT report also sheds light on some of the large charitable deductions that Trump claimed on his tax returns, which can reduce the amount of income tax owed. The returns do not show the full extent of Trump's financial dealings, nor do they reveal his net worth.

Following the release of his returns to the public, Trump shared a videotaped statement on Friday with a request for campaign donations.

"Although these tax returns contain relatively little information and not information that almost anybody would understand — they're extremely complex — the radical Democrats' behavior is a shame upon the U.S. Congress," he said.

The Ways and Means Committee's top Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, sounded an alarm after Trump's returns were released, warning that the report will give future committee chairmen "nearly unlimited" power to make public the tax returns of "private citizens, political enemies, business and labor leaders or even the Supreme Court justices themselves."

"In the long run, Democrats will come to regret it," Brady said in a statement.

Trump was the first presidential candidate in decades to withhold his tax returns, and sued the committee in an attempt to keep them private.

New: House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal on release of Trump tax returns: "We are only here today because four years ago, our request to learn more about the program under 6103 was denied. This was the first time that this key oversight function was hampered."
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) December 30, 2022

After gaining access to Trump's returns, the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill before the winter recess that would require the IRS to audit a president's tax filings within 90 days of their inauguration. Democratic leaders were on a tight timeline, since Republicans will take majority control when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

The House Ways and Means report can be viewed here.

'Cash grab': Knives out in TrumpWorld as his closest allies rage over his 'worthless' NFT stunt

Former President Donald Trump's "major announcement" that ended up being $99 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has frustrated even his closest supporters, making him the target of ridicule online.

The cash grab had many of his opponents and supporters rolling their eyes, with some criticizing Trump for not focusing on his 2024 reelection campaign, and calling on him to fire the person who thought of the NFT idea.

Some of Trump's own aides were cringing at the release of the NFTs, which is diverting money that could be donated to the Trump campaign to Trump personally @MichaelCBender and me https://t.co/zf9NIRI5DU
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 15, 2022

"I can't watch it again, make it stop," conservative host Steve Bannon said of the video of Trump promoting the NFTs on his podcast. "Anybody on the comms team and anybody at Mar-a-Lago — and I love the folks down there — but we're at war. They oughta be fired today."

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Trump supporter John Cardillo took to Twitter to complain about the former president's "weird" announcement. "I supported Trump for years but this is ridiculous," he wrote on Thursday. "Pushing a worthless NFT for $99 a week before Christmas on the heels of the #FTX collapse is beyond wrong. Who advised him to do this?" Cardillo called the announcement "ridiculously tacky" on Twitter, adding that Trump "can't help himself in making these unforced errors."

I supported Trump for years but this is ridiculous.
Pushing a worthless NFT for $99 a week before Christmas on the heels of the #FTX collapse is beyond wrong.
Calling it a "MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT" is just weird.
Who advised him to do this? pic.twitter.com/A8Fk3RfBs4
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) December 15, 2022

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said on the conservative video hosting platform Rumble that he would fire whoever advised Trump "immediately."

"I can't believe I'm going to jail for an NFT salesman," tweeted far-right media personality Baked Alaska, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully protesting on Jan. 6.

Trump announced the cards on Truth Social, writing "AMERICA NEEDS A SUPERHERO." The sold-out NFTs featured images of Trump in a variety of muscular costumes posing in front of various backgrounds with MAGA iconography. Some cards feature the former president ripping off his shirt, or surrounded by raining gold bricks that read TRUMP.

Former Trump advisers Sebastian Gorka and Steve Cortes joined Bannon on his "War Room" podcast and agreed that the president should have stayed far away from this stunt.

"The president should not be involved with this," said Gorka. "Whoever wrote that pitch should be fired and should never be involved" in Trump's 2024 reelection campaign.

Far-right talk show host Ben Shapiro sarcastically mocked Trump's move, tweeting "Thank God, the digital trading cards are here. It was indeed a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT."

Thank God, the digital trading cards are here. It was indeed a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT. pic.twitter.com/T1nsqRwr92
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 15, 2022

Some also took the NFTs as a sign of Trump's political decline, including conservative streamer Tim Pool who tweeted that the former president is "basically retired."

trump launches a campaign calling out the machine, mocking the establishment ruthlessly, slamming war
he continues in 2020 with expansion of sound policy, pulling troops out of the middle east, negotiating peace
Now hes selling NFT's
homie basically retired
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) December 15, 2022

"Demand improvement. Put the pom poms down," tweeted talk show host Jesse Kelly. "We need a better Trump."

Trump teasing a "major announcement" and then labeling his NFT "major announcement" only to have his hardcore fans act like that wasn't the real announcement is the perfect example what this thing has become.
Demand improvement. Put the pom poms down. We need a better Trump. pic.twitter.com/5d8e4BYFDm
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) December 15, 2022

Even QAnon supporters had enough of Trump's antics, calling his announcement a "foolish NFT cash grab," according to a report from Vice. "QAnon John," a conspiracy theory influencer, called the NFTs "tone deaf to a VAST MAJORITY of Trump's base."

Despite the widespread criticism and mockery, Trump's die-hard fans still rushed to get their trading cards. The 45,000 NFTs that were initially available are now sold out, with some being traded for more than $8,000.

Manhattan DA hires top ex-DOJ official who went after Trump to lead renewed investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has hired a former senior Justice Department official to lead the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump and his family company.

Matthew Colangelo will likely lead the district attorney's criminal investigation into Trump, according to reporting from The New York Times. Colangelo previously worked in the Obama administration as a senior Labor Department official and also led the New York attorney general's civil inquiry into Trump before joining the Justice Department as third in command. His former work may guide his work in the criminal investigation that he is slated to join.

Prosecutors in New York have been focusing on whether Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets and in recent months, have been looking into whether he paid off a porn star who alleged she had an affair with the former president.

Colangelo is expected to join the district attorney's office as senior counsel in order to help with its "most sensitive and high-profile white-collar investigations." He will also focus on his top priorities which include housing and tenant protection and labor and worker protection.

"Matthew Colangelo brings a wealth of economic justice experience combined with complex white-collar investigations, and he has the sound judgment and integrity needed to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power," Bragg said in a statement confirming the hiring of Colangelo.

NEW: We are excited to announce that Matthew Colangelo is joining the office today as Senior Counsel. Matthew joins us from @TheJusticeDept & will focus on our housing & labor cases as well as the office's most high-profile white-collar investigations. https://t.co/3rEqu0XLf2
— Alvin Bragg (@ManhattanDA) December 5, 2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland added in a statement that since his first day in office, he has relied on Colangelo's "wise counsel and excellent judgment."

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Colangelo and Bragg previously worked together in the New York attorney general's office where Colangelo led several lawsuits against the Trump administration. He also oversaw the investigation into the Trump Foundation that led to the dissolution of the former president's charity, leading the civil inquiry office to look further into his financial practices, ultimately resulting in the September lawsuit from Attorney General Letitia James.

At the Department of Justice, Colangelo helped to oversee the Civil, Civil Rights, Antitrust and Tax divisions, among others. He left the position after the appointment of the permanent associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, but has continued to work as her deputy, supervising lawyers in those departments.

In a statement, Colangelo said he was "honored to reunite with District Attorney Bragg," and by working on financial crimes, he is prepared to make it clear that "the same rules apply to everyone — no matter how powerful."

"Expanded enforcement of worker-protection and tenant-protection laws will make our communities safer for all New Yorkers and level the playing field for responsible employers and landlords," he said in the statement.

Colangelo has never been a line prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer and has spent little time working on white-collar criminal prosecutions. However, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said that Colangelo is a fast learner.

"Matthew is the perfect person for a job of this sensitivity, because he's unflappable, he's legally brilliant, he has impeccable judgment and he's humble enough to involve people who have been around the block," Perez said in an interview with the Times.

Colangelo's appointment is likely to spark outrage from Trump, who has frequently referred to the criminal and civil investigations against him as a political "witch hunt."

Right-wing pranksters ordered to spend 500 hours registering voters over hoax targeting Black voters

Right-wing conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were ordered by a judge on Tuesday to spend 500 hours registering voters in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., after pleading guilty to telecommunications fraud.

Wohl and Burkman were behind the hoax robocalls seeking to intimidate Black voters out of casting mail-in ballots in the 2020 presidential election. The automated calls came during the height of the COVID pandemic, when mail-in voting was expanded throughout the country as a protective measure.

Both men were sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to wear GPS ankle monitors with home confinement for six months beginning at 8 pm every night. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John Sutula also placed a $2,500 fine on each of them, comparing their actions to the widespread Black voter suppression in the 1960s.

"I think it's a despicable thing that you guys have done," Sutula said during the Zoom hearing. County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley added in a statement that the men "attempted to disrupt the foundation of our democracy."

When given the opportunity to address their charges for the first time, Wohl and Burkman were brief.

"I just really want to express my absolute regret and shame over all of this," Wohl said.

"I would just echo Mr. Wohl's sentiment," Burkman said. "I think the same."

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez said Cleveland's heavily Black city of East Cleveland was targeted with more than 6,400 robocalls, and that more than 3,400 voters were ultimately contacted.

The calls warned that voters should not fill in mail-in ballots because the police, credit card companies, and the U.S. Centers for Disease for Control would use their personal information to find people with outstanding arrest warrants and credit card debt.

"Don't be finessed into giving your private information to the man," the call said.

Gutierrez confirmed that all these claims are false. "There is not one kernel of truth into what they said in that recording," he said.

The voice of the robocalls came from someone who called herself Tamika Taylor and claimed to work for a civil rights organization called The 1599 Project. Gutierrez said that Tamika is also the name of the mother of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot in her apartment on March 13, 2020, after Louisville police officers forced entry into her apartment while claiming to execute a drug raid.

Gutierrez pointed to data from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections that showed voter turnout decreased in 2020 as compared to 2016. The calls, he told Sutula, had a "chilling effect" on voters. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation found that 12 people who received calls were willing to testify had the case gone to trial.

He added that Wohl previously admitted to probation officers during his pre-sentencing investigation that the robocalls were "a political stunt meant for attention and profit."

After the hearing concluded, Gutierrez told reporters the robocalls were a form of voter intimidation and suppression.

"We've made convicted felons out of these two conspiracy theorists who did a political stunt that actually worked," Gutierrez said.

In recent years, Wohl and Burkman have also tried to harm Democrats and Republicans who are critical of former President Donald Trump by organizing press conferences to falsely accuse them of sexual misconduct.

They have been charged for the same robocalls in Michigan and are currently being sued by a civil rights organization in New York federal court.

Reporters asked Gutierrez after the hearing if he believed Wohl and Burkman's schemes were finished.

"In Cuyahoga County, yes," Gutierrez said. "As far as everything else goes, no. But that's just speculation."

MTG and Jim Jordan see huge influx of Twitter followers after Musk takeover as Dem numbers plummet

Several high-profile Republican representatives gained tens of thousands of new followers on Twitter after billionaire Elon Musk acquired the social media network, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The report found that Democratic members of Congress have suffered a decline, with lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all losing around 100,000 Twitter followers after three weeks on Musk's Twitter. In comparison, Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ga., and Jim Jordan, Ohio, both gained more than 300,000 followers in the same time span.

Follower fluctuation is affected by several factors, including the mass suspension of bot accounts, but the patterns found in the report suggest liberals are leaving the site in the tens of thousands while conservatives are enthusiastically joining, starkly changing the demographics of the site under Musk's control.

Republicans on Twitter gained an average of 8,000 followers while Democrats lost 4,000, according to The Post's analysis of data from ProPublica's Represent tool which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

The Tesla owner bought Twitter for $44 billion last month with the promise of free speech on the site without a "free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" However, Twitter users have already started abusing the site's platform, with reports of hate speech rising.

Musk also declared — using an unscientific Twitter poll on Nov. 19 as a popular vote — that he would reinstate several accounts that broke community guidelines in the past, including former President Donald Trump who was banned following the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"I'm fine with Trump not tweeting," Musk tweeted on Friday night after the former president said he would stay on his own site Truth Social. "The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service."

Shortly following the informal poll, Greene gained 45,000 followers while Warren and Sanders each lost more than 22,000. Jordan's follower count also increased by 290,000, nearly 10 percent more, in the past month. These trends continued for days according to the report.

Since Musk's acquisition, several advertisers and celebrities have left the site, raising concerns that they will be unable to make money to maintain Twitter's functionality. More than a third of the site's top marketers have halted advertising, according to an analysis from The Post.

While Musk has previously stated that he is a political moderate, he increasingly sided with far-right figures on the site who have claimed they were censored by Twitter in the past, despite producing no proof.

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Since Musk's takeover, the quality of conversation on Twitter has "decayed" due to a surge of extremism and misinformation, according to a report from researchers at Tuft University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Social media CEOs rarely endorse political parties, but Musk has swiftly broken this tradition, tweeting on Friday night that he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he runs for president in 2024, calling him a "sensible and centrist choice."

Musk also advised his 119 million Twitter followers to support Republicans the night before the midterm elections.

"While it's true that I've been under unfair & misleading attack for some time by leading Democrats, my motivation here is for centrist governance, which matches the interests of most Americans," Musk said after urging his followers to vote red.

Musk made his allegiance to the Republican Party clear long before his acquisition. While onstage at a tech conference in September 2021, Musk said Biden's White House was "not the friendliest administration" after Tesla was not invited to a meeting on electric car production. He later claimed that the Biden administration was "controlled by the unions," in apparent stark contrast to his own company, which has resisted unionization efforts.

In May, he also tweeted that while he previously voted for Democrats because "they were (mostly) the kindness party," they have since become "the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican."

During a company-wide meeting earlier this month, Musk claimed that he is undergoing a "moderate-wing takeover of Twitter," and proposed a "dual-headquarter" in California and Texas to cater to "people with a wide array of views even if we disagree with those views."

Musk has amplified several far-right accounts, spending his weekends interacting with people like Ian Miles Cheong — a Ron DeSantis supporter who falsely claimed the Buffalo mass shooter was a leftist — and the ultraconservative anonymous account Catturd. He also agreed with far-right fans such as Tom Fitton who tweeted: "[Musk] should prepare for increased attacks and retaliation from Biden administration, leftist politicians, media competitors."

"Sure as night follows day," Musk replied.

In addition to reinstating Trump's account, he has also restored Greene's account on the site. Greene was suspended in January after spreading misinformation on the pandemic, a violation of Twitter's policies.

Other account restorations went to self-described "misogynist" Andrew Tate, "anti-politically correct" speaker Jordan Peterson, and the anti-trans conservative satire account The Babylon Bee.

Furthermore, an analysis of hundreds of Musk's replies since he took control of the platform shows that he has created a "filter bubble" of right-wing opinions, according to French outlet Le Monde.

Musk has also given attention to several openly conspiratorial figures such as Kim Dotcom, who is wanted under an extradition warrant to the United States for his role as CEO of a Megaupload, a host server that spreads conspiracy theories about the pandemic and election. Dinesh D'Souza, an election denier, also got a personalized reply from Musk after claiming Twitter was censoring conservatives.

'They are going to slam this judge': Experts say appeals court will shut down Trump judge’s 'circus'

Legal experts predicted that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will soon shut down the special master process in the Mar-a-Lago probe that was ordered by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon.

The special master process ordered by Cannon, a Trump appointee, effectively allows former President Donald Trump to challenge the search warrant at his office and residence before he is indicted — an extremely rare opportunity for a criminal defendant.

The oral argument by prosecutors, who are now under the direction of the newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith, shows that the 11th Circuit may be close to reversing Cannon's process. The three judges on the panel — two of whom are Trump appointees — shared their skepticism that Cannon had jurisdiction to take action before an indictment, and that even if she did, she had no factual predicate to appoint a special master.

Judge Britt Grant, who was appointed by Trump, asked the former president's legal team whether they tried to appeal Cannon's finding that the Justice Department did not demonstrate a "callous disregard" for Trump's rights. Trump's attorney, James Trusty, said that they did not appeal the finding and Grant responded that the finding required a reversal of Cannon's order.

Judge Andrew Basher also confronted Trump's attorneys with two questions that stumped them: whether there was any precedent to prevent the DOJ from using the seized materials in its investigation before any indictments and whether there is any reason that Trump should be treated differently in the case than other defendants other than his status as the former president.

Trump's attorneys were unable to give a satisfactory answer to the judges. After hearing the oral argument Trusty tried to keep the special master appointment by disparaging Cannon's injunction against the DOJ. He argued that the DOJ was not harmed by the injunction because of an order issued by the 11th Circuit that allowed the department to use the 100 documents that were originally labeled "classified" in the investigation.

"Then, in language that I have never heard an attorney use in the more than 25 years I have worked as an attorney in criminal law, Mr. Trusty said that the injunction was 'overblown' and that what really mattered was preserving the Special Master," wrote former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner for The Daily Beast.

"The 11th Circuit judges and the DOJ attorneys jumped on that statement, noting that it was unprecedented for the DOJ to be barred by the judiciary from using documents seized by search warrant during their investigation," said Epner.

Epner added in his analysis that he rarely makes predictions on court rulings, but "this is the exception."

"I would be shocked if the 11th Circuit does not overturn Judge Cannon's order," Epner wrote, "I also think it will happen quickly. The judges have asked for the upcoming schedule in front of the Special Master."

Special Master Raymond Dearie has scheduled the next hearing for Dec. 1, when he is expected to hear arguments about the remaining 900 documents in the investigation. On Dec. 16, Dearie would be required to give his report and recommendations to Cannon, and the parties will then have the ability to object to Cannon or the 11th Circuit. This process would likely last months.

"I cannot imagine the 11th Circuit allowing this circus to continue until Dec. 1, and that's part of why I expect that the 11th Circuit will promptly overrule Judge Cannon, ending the entire process," Epner predicted.

Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne on Saturday also said that she expects the 11th Circuit to come down on Cannon for her protection of Trump. Speaking with MSNBC's Ali Velshi, Alksne said that Cannon can expect to be reprimanded soon.

"It sounds like after reading the transcript of the appellate hearing in the 11th Circuit that they are going to get rid of the special master and they are going to slam this federal judge [Cannon] who put a wrinkle in the process that was totally unnecessary," she said.

"And that will speed up the process and allow the government to really dive into those documents because, remember, it is not only — when you look at this case to a prosecutor — it is not just does he have the documents, where they willfully maintained and did he not return them when he was asked to. You also have to have sort of a global outlook on it like, why did he do it?" she elaborated.

"In order to do the prosecution, you kind of want to know that," she added. "Is it an ego thing, as somebody leaked from the Justice Department or did those documents make it into the stream of his financial considerations? Is that why he ended up with these deals in the Middle East? Has Jared Kushner seen the documents? Who has touched them, who has seen them, who knows about them, who has used them?"

"The sooner we get rid of the special master process, or we complete it, the sooner we can get to that point and we can move forward with the prosecution," Alksne stated.

If the 11th Circuit does rule against the former president, there will likely be an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court which will be denied almost immediately, according to Epner. The former U.S. attorney predicted that Smith and his team will then quickly move in to indict Trump on multiple counts. Despite Trump's attempts to keep the case in the Southern District of Florida, the indictment will likely be issued from the District Court for the District of Columbia due to the removal of national security documents from the White House.

Trump's worst fears will be realized if the trial happens in D.C. where he received only 5 percent of the vote in 2020, the lowest total in the entire country, Epner wrote.

The indictment may also go beyond the Espionage Act to include a felony charge relating to Trump's demands that the IRS conduct audits of his political enemies. "I would not be surprised if each of those IRS employees cooperated with the DOJ, with all fingers pointing in Trump's direction," Epner said.

"The nice thing about prosecuting tax crimes is that the crimes are very clearly delineated. Few jurors have any sympathy for people who cheat on their taxes or wrongfully sic the IRS on an individual to carry out a personal vendetta," Epner concluded.

Allen Weisselberg links Trump to illegal tax scheme

Former Trump Organization financial chief Allen Weisselberg took the stand in Manhattan State Supreme Court on Tuesday in the company's criminal trial on tax fraud charges. He testified that he received $1.76 million in untaxed, off-the-books perks from the Trump Organization, confirming several aspects of the district attorney's case against the former president's company.

Prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization was involved in an illicit compensation scheme that lined the pockets of executives like Weisselberg. After pleading guilty to a 15-count indictment in August, Weisselberg agreed to "testify truthfully" against the Trump firm.

He testified that Trump suggested in 2005 that he move into a luxury Riverside Drive apartment using company funds, and even signed the lease for the property. In addition to paying for Weisselberg's rent, the Trump Organization covered his utility and parking fees, according to the indictment.

"It's your understanding that was authorized by Mr. Trump?" Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger asked about the payment of utilities at the rent-free apartment on Tuesday.

"That was my understanding, yes," Weisselberg responded.

"He said it would help me be able to spend more time at the office rather than sitting on a train for three hours back and forth [from Long Island] … and make my life easier," Weisselberg told the jury.

Trump's companies also paid for Weisselberg's "homes and for an apartment maintained by one of his children," including "new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for Weisselberg's home in Florida," according to prosecutors.

Weisselberg admitted that he knew he owed taxes on the Upper West Side apartment, as well as leases on two Mercedes-Benz and his grandchildren's private school tuition. He confirmed that he underreported his income and thus knew his tax forms were false.

When asked if Trump paid for the private schools personally, Weisselberg said "correct" and added that he knew that these perks should have been taxed, but both he and the Trump Payroll Corporation did not treat them as reported income on his W-2s.

"Did you know at the time you owed taxes on those amounts, sir?" Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Weisselberg replied.

Hoffinger then asked whether Jeffrey McConney, senior vice president and controller for Trump Corporation, helped Weisselberg in the tax fraud scheme.

"In my mind, I absolutely felt that [McConney] knew it should have been reported," Weisselberg said. "I asked Jeffrey McConney to back those amounts out of my bonus and salary."

Weisselberg also told prosecutors that Trump entities would often provide cash to him around Christmas so he could give out "personal holiday gratuities."

He said he knowingly withheld information about the perks from accountants because he knew they were inappropriate. "They may not have wanted to sign my tax return and prepare my taxes," he said in court.

Weisselberg attested that the tax fraud helped both him and the company, as the Trump Organization would have had to give him a raise that was double the amount that they spent on his personal expenses in order to provide the same benefit if taxes were withheld.

Trump authorized Weisselberg's compensation and that of other senior executives, and had an "open door policy" within the company according to Weisselberg's testimony.

"Who authorized executive compensation?" Hoffinger asked Weisselberg.

"Donald Trump," he responded.

"Did you authorize compensation for Matthew Calamari?" she asked.

"No," he responded.

"Jason Greenblatt?" Hoffinger asked, referring to the Trump Organization's general counsel.

"No," he repeated.

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As per the terms of his plea deal, after the trial ends, Weisselberg is expected to be sentenced to five months in Rikers Island prison, with an additional five years probation. However, if he violates the agreement, he could face up to 15 years, according to Judge Juan Merchan. He is also expected to return $2 million in unpaid taxes.

However, Weisselberg revealed that even after stepping down as CEO, pleading guilty, and testifying against the company, he is still receiving his full six-figure salary, and continues to show up to work in Midtown Manhattan. He still personally advises Eric Trump on business dealings and oversees company cash management.

Weisselberg even celebrated his birthday at Trump Tower after finalizing his plea deal. "It was a small cake. It was a cake. That was the party," he said of his birthday celebration.

Weisselberg is now on a paid leave of absence and told the jury that he will "hopefully" receive his $500,000 bonus in January in addition to his $640,000 yearly salary.

As for the Trump Organization, if convicted, they could be fined $1.6 million. Trump is not on trial, but prosecutors have closely connected him to the alleged illegal activity. In the opening statements on Oct. 31, prosecutors said that "when most of the criminal conduct occurred," between 2005 to 2017, the companies were "owned by Donald Trump."

Even after Trump became president, the enterprises "were still effectively owned by Donald Trump through a trust called the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust," according to Hoffinger.

Trump's companies have pleaded not guilty, with his team dismissing the entire case as a political witch hunt. During her opening statement, Susan Necheles, who represents the Trump Corporation, said that Weisselberg was the guilty party when it came to the company's tax fraud, but that he was "paraded in front of cameras in handcuffs" and will endure "public humiliation."

"This was a man who had a beautiful life, he was a chief financial officer of a prestigious company, at his peak he made over $1 million a year and lived very well," Necheles said. "Allen Weisselberg had everything a man could want. But once he was arrested, he realized he was in danger of losing all of that and being sentenced to jail for years."

Necheles told the jury that the tax shenanigans "started with Allen Weisselberg and it ended with Allen Weisselberg."

"It was Allen Weisselberg who wanted to clean things up. Allen Weisselberg knew that he had been cheating on his personal taxes and all of a sudden the Trump Organization was going to get a lot of scrutiny," she claimed. "Donald Trump did not know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on Allen Weisselberg's personal tax return[s]."

However, the prosecution dismissed this argument when they called Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney to the stand. Despite McConney's attempt to play dumb about his role in the tax scheme, assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass was determined to get a straight answer out of him.

"You have a college degree in accounting, correct?" Steinglass asked. "You worked at an accounting firm for eight or nine years before you joined the Trump Organization, correct? You were in charge of payroll at a multi-billion dollar corporation for 30 years… you're a paid tax preparer. That requires at least some familiarity with the tax code, correct?"

McConney continued to insist that he wasn't aware the company needed to report untaxed corporate benefits.

Tensions have been rising since Monday, when McConney testified that he didn't know creating a fake job for Weisselberg's wife so that she could gain taxpayer benefits like Social Security was illegal.

"I knew it wasn't correct," McConney said. "Wasn't sure it was illegal."

Jurors also heard from Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff, who admitted that Weisselberg instructed her to go back and deleted evidence of a crime.

When asked why a copy of the company's ledger the DA's office obtained via a subpoena was missing the instruction "per Allen" next to a listed, untaxed company perk, Tarasoff responded: "somebody went in and deleted the name." Asked who, Tarasoff said "me." She also admitted that on Sept. 26, 2016, she and McConney deleted a dozen of those lines from the company's ledgers.

Mueller prosecutor: DOJ case against Trump 'gets stronger and stronger' after latest filing

Former President Donald Trump mixed documents marked classified with other communications after his presidency, according to court filings that described materials seized by the FBI in their ongoing criminal investigation.

Trump kept one document marked "secret" and another marked "confidential" in a desk drawer of his Mar-a-Lago home office, according to the filing, The Guardian first reported. Other documents found were dated after he left the White House, including three communications from a book author, a religious leader and a pollster.

The records could add to evidence that Trump knowingly held onto classified materials after his presidency ended. He is also being investigated for concealment of government records, unauthorized possession of national security materials and obstruction.

News of the documents came in an eight-page filing submitted by the Justice Department on Saturday. Special Master Raymond Dearie is responsible for examining whether the 103 documents seized by the FBI thus far should be excluded from the evidence collection.

"Because plaintiff [Trump] can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as president, the entire mixed document is a presidential record," the Justice Department wrote towards the end of the filing obtained by The Guardian.

The mixed records are significant to the criminal investigation as the two classified documents were the only ones found in Trump's office other than those kept in a leather-bound box and one other document found by the FBI during their August 8 search.

But another way to show how willful Trump's retention of documents -- including those that were and remain classified -- was is to show that he didn't just take and forget about them, but purposefully went through them *after* he knew the feds had demanded their return. 8/
— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) November 14, 2022

The documents in the leather-bound box are considered to be the most sensitive documents found at Trump's private estate. There were seven "top secret" documents, 15 "secret" documents, and two marked "confidential." Also found in the box were 45 empty folders marked "classified" and 28 folders marked "Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide."

Trump claimed all the documents kept at Mar-a-Lago were declassified before he left the White House but his lawyers have provided no evidence to support this claim.

The former president has also claimed that the investigation is a partisan ploy to wound him politically, as analysts expect him to announce his 2024 campaign on Tuesday.

"None of that matters to DOJ decisionmaking. Indict as the rule of law demands it —the political consequences are not for DOJ," tweeted former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team. The DOJ's "case gets stronger and stronger," he added in response to the latest report.

MAGA Republicans scheme to shiv Kevin McCarthy’s speaker bid unless he agrees to their demands

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is preparing a bid for House speaker but conservatives on the House Freedom Caucus are plotting to block him from the position if he doesn't give into their legislative demands.

After the "red wave" failed to materialize in this year's midterm elections, Republicans have started to grapple with the idea that they will have a much smaller majority in the House next year than they anticipated. McCarthy's nomination is relatively straightforward, as he only needs a majority of House Republicans to support him, but many members of the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus are preparing a two-step plan to keep him from the speakership, according to reporting from Politico.

Conservatives are pushing to postpone Tuesday's scheduled leadership elections until the GOP is confirmed to control the House. If McCarthy doesn't comply, their plan is to nominate Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., as an internal candidate for speaker to prove that McCarthy does not have the 218 GOP votes needed for the full-chamber vote on Jan. 3 2023, an anonymous Republican source with knowledge of the plan told Politico.

If they are able to postpone the Tuesday election, conservatives would discuss an alternative candidate to put forward in consensus, said the anonymous Republican, who also added that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is the most likely choice for the Freedom Caucus. Biggs is acting as a symbolic alternative for step one, according to CNN.

"Kevin McCarthy has done nothing in two years to earn my vote," said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.

Russ Vought — a former budget director for the Trump White House — made the end goal of their plans clear.

"This is about building to January," he told far-right host Steve Bannon in a Friday interview.

"And we have an opportunity to have a paradigm-shattering victory [on] the speakership, to either be able to get Jim Jordan in as speaker — I don't care if he's not running right now — or to have a coalitional-style government where every decision goes through HFC," Vought added.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, also publicly backed Jordan as the best speaker candidate, despite Jordan's frequent statements of support for McCarthy. Speaking on Gaetz's podcast, Vought touted the need for a "wartime speaker" in the House.

The Freedom Caucus is also publicly pressuring McCarthy to concede to their legislative demands if he wants the speakership. Some of their demands include restoring the ability for lawmakers to depose the speaker, adding more Caucus members to the influential Steering Committee and ensuring a floor vote on any amendment if 10% of the GOP conference cosponsors it, among others.

According to Politico, these demands act as a strategy to allow members to oppose McCarthy even if all their conditions are met — they would also drastically reduce McCarthy's control over the legislative process if elected.

However, allies of McCarthy are not convinced that the Freedom Caucus will be successful, and are frustrated by their preemptive plans. They are also warning that McCarthy will not part quietly with the speakership role like he did in 2015; his supporters are encouraging him to push back against the caucus.

"These palace intrigue stories are premature and they are still counting votes," said Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye when asked about the anti-McCarthy plan according to Politico. "What I can tell you for sure is that Mr. Jordan looks forward to chairing the Judiciary Committee next Congress."

Other representatives that are rumored to be the Freedom Caucus' pick for speaker are House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, GOP Vice Chair Mike Johnson, and Good; however, few see them as legitimate opponents especially since Scalise and Johnson have already officially backed McCarthy's campaign.

"There's a point of leverage in these leadership votes," said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa. "We want to have a conversation, devoid of the politics about who is leading, on how the House should operate, how legislation should pass."

"There's a fairly easy solution here," a source close to the Freedom Caucus told Fox News. "McCarthy can support popular reforms to decentralize the speaker's power and empower individual members, or he can roll the dice that someone else won't make that compromise and get the speaker's gavel."

House leadership aides also informed Fox News that McCarthy is expected to cut a deal with the Freedom Caucus to accept at least a few of their demands.

As it stands, the Republican majority is projected to be around 218 seats — the minimum for control of the House — to 230 seats if the GOP sweeps all remaining races, including some that Democrats are favored to win. However, these numbers still fall short of the 60 seats that McCarthy predicted from the failed red wave.

North Carolina Republican wants 'rape panels' to decide whether victims can get abortions

A North Carolina Republican congressional candidate floated a proposal to create a community review process that would determine whether survivors of rape and incest can get abortions.

Bo Hines, the GOP candidate for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, wants to outlaw all abortions unless the mother's life is at risk.

"He wants victims of rape and incest to be allowed to get an abortion on a case-by-case basis through a community-level review process outside the jurisdiction of the federal government," local news outlet WRAL reported.

The proposal was widely panned by critics.

Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall described the proposed review boards as "rape panels."

"Something from a nightmare," wrote civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill.

When I was raped in grad school, I had a pregnancy scare. I was lucky in that I didn't end up getting pregnant. If I had, I cannot imagine the trauma of undergoing a community-level review so that perfect strangers could decide if I should be sentenced to motherhood bc of a crime https://t.co/Z3ciIXsVqb
— Miranda Yaver, PhD (@mirandayaver) November 1, 2022

"The anti-choice agenda is about removing women's control over their own lives, and making them subject to the rule of others. They differ on who they think those others should be—fathers, husbands, random vigilantes, local jerks—but they agree that women will not rule themselves," wrote Moira Donegan, a gender and politics columnist for The Guardian.

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Hines' comments are a backtrack on his previous remarks to the Raleigh News & Observer, in which he said he would support blanket prohibitions on abortion.

His changing stance on reproductive rights is an example of how Hines is trying to appeal to North Carolina's far-right conservatives, as well as more centrist voters who could be the deciding factor in the midterm election.

His more moderate statements on abortion and immigration also come after greater criticism from outside groups and his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wiley Nickel.

After winning the May 17th primary, Hines removed the "life and family" section from his website, which previously included links to a fundraising page that claimed "life begins at conception" and the "rights of the unborn" must be protected, the 19th News reported.

Legal experts: Trump 'just blasted his own defense apart' in Truth Social rant

Former President Donald Trump may have undercut his legal defense in a defamation lawsuit after lashing out on Truth Social against rape accuser E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll, a longtime Elle Magazine columnist, accused Trump of rape in a 2019 book, alleging that he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s. Carroll claimed Trump pushed her against the wall, pulled down her tights and forced himself on her.

Trump at the time claimed that he and Carroll had never met and that she was "totally lying," arguing that she was "not my type." Carroll filed a defamation suit against the former president, claiming that his attacks harmed her reputation.

Trump this week on Truth Social claimed that the "'Ms. Bergdorf Goodman' case is a complete con job," and repeated that Carroll was not his "type."

"It is a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years," Trump wrote. "And, while I am not supposed to say it, I will."

Carroll's legal team declined to comment on the matter. "The latest statement from Donald Trump obviously does not merit a response," a spokesperson for Carroll's legal team said in a statement.

The tirade may have blown a hole in Trump's defense in the case. His lawyers have long argued that he couldn't be held personally responsible in the suit because any denials of the allegations came during his term and thus were a part of his official duties as president.

However, his latest denial and online harassment of Carroll were made as a private citizen, at a time when he is no longer protected by the presidency.

Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor for Detroit, said Carroll would benefit from amending her complaint to include an additional count based on the Truth Social post. "Because Trump is no longer president, this statement was most certainly not made in the scope of his federal employment," McQuade told VICE News.

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe agreed that "Trump just blasted his own defense apart in the defamation suit brought by E. Jean Carroll."

A Washington D.C. court is now deciding whether Trump was an official federal employee when he made his statement of denial in 2019 — if so, the United States could be listed as the defendant in the case, essentially nulling the suit as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

Manhattan Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan in 2020 rejected the notion that Trump was performing official duties when he made his first statements about Carroll. Kaplan wrote that "the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States." He said this month that Trump "should not be permitted to run the clock out."

The judge ordered Trump to sit for a deposition on Wednesday.

Trump's team is sticking by the claim.

"We are confident that the D.C. Court of Appeals will find that our client was acting within the scope of his employment when properly repudiating Ms. Carroll's allegations," Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a recent statement to the New York Times.

The announcement comes just weeks after Habba asked Kaplan to delay the deposition until the D.C. appeal was decided, arguing that if her client won, the case would disappear. The request was denied on Oct. 12, as Kaplan found that Trump had brought the case to Washington "with the effect and probably the purpose of delaying it." A trial date has been set for Feb. 6, 2023.

Carroll's lawyers have also said that she plans to file another case against Trump in November under a new state law allowing victims of sexual assault a one-time opportunity to sue, even if, as in this case, the statute of limitations has expired.

"The question whether Mr. Trump in fact raped Ms. Carroll is central to this case," Judge Kaplan explained. "It will be central also to the new case."

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan warned that the case could be "dangerous" for Trump as his legal problems mount.

"He is being charged, essentially in a defamation case, with rape," Callan explained. "[Carroll] brings the case not as a rape case but as a defamation case because the statute of limitations was gone on the rape case. However, when he gives this press conference saying, 'She's a liar, I never raped her, she's not my type, she's just doing it to amp up book sales,' she says he defamed her and that gets the rape case in."

"There's one sleeper fact in this case that I think is very dangerous for Trump," Callan added. "She claims she still has an article of clothing that she was wearing 23 years ago when the former president allegedly raped her and she wants to be able to have DNA sample testing done with respect to that in connection with this case. So we will see how that plays out."

Conservative attorney George Conway, a frequent Trump critic, wrote on Twitter that Trump had a chance of winning the defamation case if he had not issued "a BRAND NEW statement REPEATING all the earlier defamatory statements, but since you're no longer POTUS, you NO LONGER HAVE THAT DEFENSE you've been pushing for years that you made the statements while you were president!!!"