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  • Ousted Florida GOP Chair Plays Victim Card in Sexual Assault Investigation

    Christian Ziegler attends a rally at the Hillsborough County Republican Party office. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

    Christian Ziegler, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party who got booted last month after being accused of raping a woman who had been sexually involved with him and his wife, is now claiming to be the victim of a crime in an effort to fend off the release of information from his cellphone.

    The woman reportedly told the police Ziegler “had been sexually battering her for years, and she never felt like she could say no to him.” Ziegler, who was under investigation but hasn’t been charged, said the October encounter when the alleged rape happened was consensual and that he had had consensual sex with the unnamed woman “approximately one dozen times since they first met,” according to police interviews and other records obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

    Ziegler’s lawyer, Matthew Sarelson, argues that a cellphone video Ziegler took of the encounter that was reviewed by the police “clearly exonerates him of any alleged sexual assault” and makes him “the victim of a crime, as his accuser has filed a false report to law enforcement authorities—a first-degree misdemeanor.” In a letter, Sarelson asked Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier to “take all steps necessary to ensure that no data or information from Mr. Ziegler’s cellphone is released to the public.” (Ziegler is also being investigated for allegedly engaging in video voyeurism by filming the sexual encounter without the woman’s consent, according to the Florida Center for Government Accountability.)

    Newly released police reports include text message exchanges between Ziegler and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler, in which she wrote that the woman was “going through some shit” and she didn’t “want to feel like we ever take advantage of anyone (I know it’s always been consensual) but she seems…’broken.'” Ziegler suggested they should “hunt for somebody new.”

    In the letter to the Sarasota city attorney, Sarelson further claims that Ziegler should be protected under Florida’s Marsy’s Law, which grants victims of crimes the “right to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.”

    As my colleague Kiera Butler has reported, the Zieglers’ sex scandal also led to Bridget Ziegler’s resignation from the conservative Leadership Institute, where she held the title of vice president of school board programs and trained conservative candidates to run for school board seats across the country. She has continued to face mounting pressure to also resign from her role as Sarasota school board member, but has so far refused to do so. 

  • More Than 150 Democrats Urge Biden to Help Stop the Criminalization of Pregnant People

    Congressional Democrats want Biden to do more to protect pregnant people from criminalization, pointing to the case of Brittany Watts.Sue Ogrocki/AP

    More than 150 Democratic members of Congress have written to President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra with a demand: Do more to prevent the criminalization of pregnant people post-Dobbs and to support those who are unfairly targeted by law enforcement. 

    The letter, dated Thursday, highlights the case of Brittany Watts, the 34-year-old Black woman from Ohio who was charged with a felony in October over her handling of an at-home miscarriage; when she later sought care at a hospital, a nurse reported her to police. While a grand jury ultimately declined to indict Watts earlier this month, the letter notes that “the fact that Ms. Watts faced degrading law enforcement interrogation and that such a case was even brought forward at all is alarming and cruel.” It also emphasized that—as I reported earlier this week—Watts’ experience is indicative of broader inequities related to the criminalization of pregnant people, with women of color far more likely to face “punitive responses” from healthcare professionals. That includes the criminalization of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriages—which, as in Watts’ case, can be mistaken for self-managed abortions.

    Spearheaded by members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, the letter urges federal officials to provide “educational, financial, and legal services support to any person who experiences or is threatened with pregnancy criminalization,” and to reduce the likelihood of criminalization in the first place through three specific measures: investigating prosecutions of pregnant people as forms of sex-based discrimination; reminding hospital and medical staff of patients’ rights to privacy under HIPAA; and enforcing the section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination based on sex when federally-funded healthcare personnel “improperly report to law enforcement when patients miscarry, terminate a pregnancy, or seek other pregnancy-related care.” 

    The letter also notes that—as my colleague Katie Herchenroeder and I reported in November—the fallout from the Dobbs decision “has only escalated efforts to charge people with crimes related to their pregnancies.” As Katie and I wrote a few months ago: 

    On top of abortion clinics closing, obstetrics programs and maternity wards—from Alabama to Idahohave also shuttered, putting providers out of work and leaving 1.7 million women living in counties without abortion or maternity care access, according to an analysis conducted by ABC News and Boston Children’s Hospital. Providers who are still working risk losing their license or going to jail if they miscalculate what thin exceptions to abortion bans mean for the care they can give. And with some bans incentivizing people to report those having abortions to law enforcement, criminalization is poised to get worse.  

    Ultimately, the lawmakers wrote, “When individuals like Ms. Watts cannot seek medical care for pregnancy-related conditions without fear of discrimination and criminalization, our health care system and our justice system have failed.”

    A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment on the letter. Spokespeople for the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon from Mother Jones

    The timing of the letter comes as the Biden administration has made a renewed effort to campaign on their support for abortion rights as the November election nears. That effort is facing its own challenges, as well as criticism from some reproductive rights advocates who say that the Biden campaign is too narrow in its focus on mostly legal rights to abortion and contraception. These critics have called on Biden to embrace reproductive justice, a broader framework that goes beyond the right to abortion, to include the right for people to “maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” At Biden’s “Restore Roe” rally in Virginia last week, for example, which commemorated the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, protesters confronted him for continuing to support Israel in its war on Palestine, specifically noting that pregnant Gazans are miscarrying and struggling to access care, as I reported back in October.

    While Democrats are far from united on their stances on Biden’s approach to the war, the number of lawmakers who signed onto Thursday’s letter suggests that there may be broader support for campaigning on reproductive justice issues. Supporters of the letter also hinted at this: “Across the country, we’ve seen pregnant people shamed, targeted, stigmatized, and criminalized for giving birth, experiencing a miscarriage, and having abortions,” Jamila Perritt, an OB-GYN and the president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “As a physician, I cannot over-emphasize how dangerous this is for individuals, families, and communities…medical standards, not politicians, judges, or police, should guide health care.” 

    Indeed, as the reproductive rights legal advocacy organization If/When/How said in a tweet earlier this week in response to my reporting about Watts: “When care providers police their patients, they only make people afraid to get the care they need.”

    Update, February 2: This post has been updated to reflect a comment received from a spokesperson for the Department of Justice. 

  • Right-Wing Moms Are Headed to the Border

    Moms for America president Kimberly FletcherMoms for America

    Yesterday, I wrote about the “Take Our Border Back” convoy headed to three southwestern cities and the grab bag of conspiracies its participants embrace. But, wait, there’s more! Moms for America—not to be confused with that other right-wing moms’ group, Moms for Liberty—has joined the convoy, and here is what their leader, Kimberly Fletcher, has to say about why they’re going:

    Fletcher, who was subpoenaed for her involvement in the rally that preceded the January 6 Capitol insurrection, has spoken up about the border before. In 2018, Fletcher told the conservative outlet The Blaze about how, on a recent trip to the border, she had learned about a six-year-old migrant girl who “had been raped by 30 men!” But when FactCheck.org tried to verify the story with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, they learned that there was no evidence that the supposed rape ever happened. When the fact checkers called Fletcher for comment, she told them that she had heard the story from someone else. Politifact didn’t find any evidence to support Fletcher’s story, either.

    Moms for America may not be as au courant as Moms for Liberty, but actually, it’s been around for much longer. Founded in 2004, the group says it “marches forward together to restore the value of motherhood, marriage, womanhood, and patriotism.” Last year, I wrote about Moms for America’s involvement in the right-wing takeover of the board of Florida’s Sarasota Hospital.

    While Moms for America’s conference, coming up later this month, will not be as star-studded as Moms for Liberty’s presidential hopeful extravaganza last summer, there will be a few right-wing superstars in attendance: former national security advisor to former President Donald Trump, Mike Flynn (who tweeted Fletcher’s border convoy video yesterday, proclaiming, “I am Moms for America”), former Trump-era Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and Hercules actor and conspiracy theorist Kevin Sorbo.

  • A “Political Stunt”: House Republicans Move Forward With Impeachment of DHS Secretary Mayorkas

    Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.Alex Brandon/AP

    House Republicans have taken another step toward their unprecedented efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who they blame for a migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border.

    On Tuesday, the Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to consider two articles of impeachment accusing Mayorkas, the first Latino and immigrant to ever lead DHS, of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and a “breach of public trust.” Secretary Mayorkas, Chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in his opening remarks, “has put his political preferences above following the law.” The Republican lawmakers voted early Wednesday morning to send the impeachment resolution to the House floor. 

    As I’ve written before, Republicans have been scrambling to make an impeachment case that amounts to little more than policy disagreements. Today, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called the proceedings a “baseless political stunt” by MAGA Republicans comparable to “throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.”

    Several constitutional law experts and former DHS officials say the process is making a mockery of the powerful tool of impeachment. As I reported:

    Because impeachment wasn’t intended to be the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in parliamentary systems, [Frank Bowman, a University of Missouri law professor and author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump] explained, an impeachable conduct should meet “a very high treshold of seriousness” and be of a “type that corrupts or subverts the political and governmental process.” There is no evidence that Mayorkas has committed treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. 

    Ahead of the hearing, Mayorkas released a six-page letter to Green (R-Tenn.) responding to “the politically motivated accusations and personal attacks you have made against me.” In it, he noted that, contrary to GOP talking points, the Biden administration has removed or returned more migrants in the last three years than President Donald Trump did throughout his term.

    Mayorkas added: “I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted.”

    In a statement during the hearing, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), highlighted the irony and hypocrisy of House Republicans charging against Mayorkas for not doing his job, while also siding with Trump in opposing the bipartisan border deal being negotiated in the Senate.

    “You are sitting here right now trying to impeach a Secretary of Homeland Security for neglecting his duties literally while he is trying to perform his duties and negotiate legislation.” He continued: “The real reason we are here, as we all know, is because Donald Trump wants to run on immigration as his number one issue in the November 2024 election.” (I recently explained Trump’s immigration plans for a second term.)

    There’s yet another irony here. Mayorkas, who could potentially become the first cabinet secretary to be impeached since the 1800s, is being targeted for an alleged failure to secure “operational control” of the border despite carrying out the very policies—including harsh restrictions on asylum at the southern border—that have opened up the Biden administration to criticism for not upholding its promises to fundamentally depart from Trump on immigration. 

  • A Nurse Called Police After a Black Woman Miscarried—There’s a History to That

    Brittany Watts celebrated with supporters earlier this month after a grand jury declined to indict her on a felony charge for how she handled an at-home miscarriage. Sue Ogrocki/AP

    Last week, Brittany Watts, a 34-year-old Black medical receptionist from Ohio, made national headlines when she gave her first television interview after being charged with a felony for how she handled miscarrying a pregnancy at home at the end of last year. The case sparked an outcry from reproductive justice advocates, who have long been concerned with the criminalization of pregnancy. 

    On Friday, another important detail came out about the case: Watts revealed that it was a hospital nurse who first reported her to law enforcement.

    The new detail from Watts is a jarring example of what my colleague Katie Herchenroeder and I reported back in November: that research has shown health care providers were the group of people most likely to report pregnant people for having self-managed abortions under Roe. (Self-managed abortions, or SMAs, occur when someone ends a pregnancy without clinical supervision or support—most often through abortion pills; unintentional miscarriages can sometimes be mistaken as intentional SMAs.)

    Experts we spoke with said that this trend was likely to increase post-Dobbs. And they noted that racism and biases can play a role in who health care workers report to authorities. As we wrote:

    More than 40 percent of cases featured in the If/When/How report [on people criminalized for ending a pregnancy without supervision from a doctor] “involved minoritized racial and ethnic groups, making people of color disproportionately represented in the sample”…a September report published by the legal advocacy organization Pregnancy Justice showed that poor Black women were overrepresented among those criminalized, along with poor white women, a trend the report attributes to the opioid epidemic’s impact on the latter demographic. 

    Watts had a miscarriage last September, when she was right around 22 weeks pregnant—the point at which Ohio then banned abortion, “CBS Mornings” reported. (Ohio voters have since approved a ballot measure establishing a constitutional right to abortion until the point of viability, which is usually determined to be around 24 weeks, as my colleague Madison Pauly reported in November.)  The miscarriage occurred a few days after Watts’ water broke; prior to the miscarriage, Watts had seen her OB-GYN, who told her the pregnancy would not be viable, and spent two days at a hospital.

    Watts told “CBS Mornings” she ultimately left the hospital to go home at the end of each of those two days, against medical advice, because she felt “frustrated” and “ignored” by doctors, who weren’t inducing labor despite knowing her pregnancy was not viable.

    “I’m scared, I’m like, ‘there’s a nonviable pregnancy in me, am I going to die?'” Watts said she recalled thinking.

    Watts’ medical records, obtained by CBS, show that hospital staff expressed “concerns about Brittany’s verbalization to staff that she wishes to terminate the pregnancy and continues to mention she feels that she is getting or consenting to an abortion.” The records also show that the ethics committee said they’d support induction “if it [is] the professional judgment of the physicians that Brittany is at high risk of bleeding and or serious infection that could lead to death,” and that “if induction occurs, there should be a well documented conversation with her (informed consent) that the procedure is only to prevent harm to her, and is not intended to terminate a potentially viable pregnancy.” Watts told CBS nobody at the hospital ever told her the ethics committee was involved in decisions about her care.  

    At home, Watts miscarried in her toilet; after, she told CBS, she plunged the toilet and scooped up the contents into a bucket, which she dumped outside, adding that she never saw the actual fetus. (An autopsy report found the fetus died in utero, before delivery, due to complications of premature rupturing of the membranes, the New York Times reported.) 

    After the miscarriage, Watts went back to the hospital for care, and that’s when she crossed paths with the nurse who ultimately reported her to police.

    “The nurse comes in and she’s rubbing my back and talking to me and saying ‘everything’s going to be okay.’ Little do I know, the nurse that was comforting me, and saying that everything was going to be okay, was the one who called the police,” Watts said in the CBS interview. 

    The 911 audio, obtained by CBS, shows that the nurse said she was calling about a mother who “had a delivery at home and came in without the baby”; when the dispatcher asked if the baby was alive or not, the nurse said Watts “said she didn’t want to look” and that “she didn’t want the baby.” (Watts disputed that allegation, telling CBS she “never said I didn’t want my baby.”) Her medical records, obtained by CBS, show that the nurse contacted police “to investigate the possibility of the infant being in a bucket at the patient’s residence” after the risk management team advised the nurse to do so. Police arrested Watts in October and charged her with felony abuse of a corpse, which carried up to a $2,500 fine and the possibility of a year in prison.

    Earlier this month, a grand jury declined to indict her. Watts said she’s speaking out now because “I don’t want any other woman to go through what I had to go through,” adding that she believes she was charged “because of my skin color, honestly, and because there are no laws behind what you are to do in this situation.” 

    Even though Watts wasn’t ultimately convicted, cases like hers can still have a chilling effect. As If/When/How said in a post on X today about Watts’ latest revelation: “When care providers police their patients, they only make people afraid to get the care they need.” 

  • Trump Urges States to Send Troops to Texas Border

    Trump pledged to work "hand in hand" with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on deportations if he's re-elected.Michael Gonzalez via ZUMA

    Last night, former president Donald Trump inserted himself into the showdown between the federal government and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, encouraging states to send troops to the southern border to try to curb illegal immigration. 

    On Truth Social, Trump pushed for “all willing States to deploy their guards to Texas to prevent the entry of Illegals, and to remove them back across the Border.” In his Truth Social rant, Trump also pledged that, if re-elected, he would “work hand in hand with Governor Abbott” to enact what he called “the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History.”  (Representatives of Abbott’s office and the Texas Military Department haven’t yet responded to my inquiries about whether they echo Trump’s request for states to send guards to the border or whether they have been in touch with the Trump campaign on the topic.)

    “Those Biden has let in should not get comfortable because they will be going home,” Trump wrote. 

    As I reported earlier this month, Abbott signed a law that would make undocumented immigration into Texas a state crime—and thus allow state law enforcement officials to arrest undocumented immigrants anywhere in the state. In response, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in federal district court arguing that the law violates the Constitution.

    In a separate court proceeding with the Supreme Court, the DOJ said that the Texas National Guard had refused Border Patrol’s access to a 2.5-mile-long stretch of the border after three migrants, a woman and two kids, drowned there earlier this month. This week, the Supreme Court issued an order saying that federal agents could cut down razor wire Texas installed along that portion of the border in Border Patrol’s bid to gain access. 

    One thing Trump and Texas appear to have in common? Neither see themselves as subject to the rule of law, even when it’s handed down from the highest court in the land. The Texas Military Department put out a defiant statement on Tuesday—the day after the Supreme Court order—saying it “continues to hold the line …to deter and prevent unlawful entry.” And CBS News reports that the Biden administration gave Texas until the end of the day today to grant Border Patrol full access to that area. (Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.)

    Trump’s alignment with Abbott is particularly loaded, since, as I reported earlier this month, the governor recently told a right-wing radio host that the only reason Texas officials weren’t shooting migrants crossing the border was “because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.” The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to my questions about whether they endorse Abbott’s comments about shooting migrants or whether, if re-elected, Trump would charge Texas officials with murder for shooting undocumented migrants crossing the border. 

    But we already know, thanks to a bombshell New York Times report published in November, that Trump is planning an anti-immigraiton “blitz” if re-elected, a legally dubious strategy that would reportedly seek to end birthright citizenship, ban many Muslims, and detain undocumented immigrants in “vast holding facilities” until deportation, as my colleague Dan Friedman outlined

    Trump’s latest comments, plus the reporting we have already seen that provides a glimpse into his plans if re-elected, show that, as my colleague David Corn wrote: if you want to know how bad Trump 2.0 could be, just listen to what he says. 

  • The UN Top Court Just Ruled Israel Must Prevent Genocide in Gaza

    Judges at the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled Friday that Israel must immediately work to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire as requested by South Africa last month.Remko De Waal/ANP via ZUMA

    The United Nations’ top court ruled Friday that a case brought by South Africa alleging Israel is committing genocide in Gaza will go forward. While the legal battle will play out for years, the court said Israel must take steps now to prevent genocide and get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

    The order from the International Court of Justice in the Hague stops short of the ceasefire South Africa requested when it filed the case last month. Still, it does acknowledge “a large number of deaths and injuries [to Palestinians], as well as the massive destruction of homes, the forcible displacement of the vast majority of the population, and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure.” Indeed, as my colleagues and I have reported, the toll of the war has been staggering for Palestinians: more than 26,000 have been killed, according to the latest numbers from the Gaza Health Ministry.

    The UN judges also pointed to several statements by top Israeli officials that helped establish the plausibility of the case, including a comment by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in which he pledged to “eliminate everything.”

    The court order outlines steps Israel must take, including preventing the mass killing of Palestinians, stopping incitement of genocide, allowing for the provision of humanitarian assistance, and the “preservation of evidence” related to genocide claims. The judges also demanded Israel submit a report to the court in a month detailing the measures it has taken in response to the order, though South Africa had originally requested such a report be produced within a week of the court’s ruling. Fifteen of the 17 UN judges voted to support all of those measures; Justice Julia Sebutinde, of Uganda, voted against all of them, and former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak—who the country appointed as an ad hoc judge earlier this month—voted against all but two (those requiring more humanitarian aid and the preventing incitement of genocide). 

    The order also acknowledges that the judges are “gravely concerned about the fate of the [Israeli] hostages abducted” by Hamas on Oct. 7, and “calls for their immediate and unconditional release.” 

    Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the judges “ruled in favor of humanity and international law.”

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the genocide accusations as “false” and “outrageous” in a statement, characterizing the country’s actions in Gaza as self-defense against Hamas, and pledging to limit harm to Palestinian civilians. South Africa, on the other hand, called the ruling “a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people.” 

    Experts hailed the court order as significant, but cautioned that it could be years before the court issues a ruling on the genocide allegations against Israel—and that, in the meantime, lawmakers must act to end the suffering of Palestinians. 

    Raz Segal, a genocide scholar at Stockton University, told “Democracy Now” that the ruling is “unprecedented” and signals “the end of Israeli impunity in the international legal system.” And Palestinian human rights lawyer Diana Buttu told host Amy Goodman that “it’s now up to the world to make sure that this court ruling is actually enacted.” 

  • Florida Man Facing 91 Criminal Counts Wins New Hampshire Primary

    Mother Jones illustration; Getty

    Donald Trump won. Again.

    For months, New Hampshire—with its famously independent electorate and its history of upending primary campaigns—had seemed like the best chance for a Republican to stop the MAGA machine. It wasn’t. On Tuesday, Trump defeated his one remaining GOP opponent, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, in the Granite State’s Republican contest, according to media projections.

    In many ways, Trump’s continued dominance among New Hampshire’s Republican voters is remarkable. After a second-place finish in Iowa eight years ago, he easily won the 2016 New Hampshire GOP race, setting him on a path to the nomination. But he lost the state’s general elections in both 2016 and 2020. Recent polls suggest that this coming November, Haley would be a far stronger candidate there than Trump in a race against Joe Biden. But none of that seems to matter to the GOP electorate, which once again rallied around the aging, twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president.

    Trump isn’t the nominee yet, but the list of events that could derail his bid is rapidly shrinking. A 2020 rematch, it seems, is likely.

  • Nancy Mace Flip-Flops Again…And Endorses Donald Trump

    Rep. Nancy Mace has historically flip-flopped on her support of Trump...and she's now backing his run for president.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/ZUMA

    Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) is nothing if not inconsistent. 

    After claiming the January 6 attack on the US Capitol had “wiped out” Donald Trump’s legacy and that she wanted to be a “new voice” for the Republican party, the South Carolina congresswoman has endorsed Trump’s re-election campaign just one day before the New Hampshire primary. 

    Mace, who has been notoriously wishy-washy when it comes to her relationships with both Trump and the GOP, announced the endorsement in a post on X on Monday. Keeping with her record of shifting with the political winds, Mace once again tried to have it both ways.

    “I don’t see eye to eye perfectly with any candidate,” she wrote. “And until now I’ve stayed out of it. But the time has come to unite behind our nominee. To be honest, it’s been a complete shit show since he left the White House.”

    To be fair to Mace, she hasn’t consistently railed against Trump. Indeed, Mace has refused to vote to impeach him; appeared on video in front of Trump Tower to tout her support for him the day after he endorsed her rival in her 2022 primary (and called Mace “an absolutely terrible candidate” who has been “disloyal” to Republicans); and alleged the Justice Department’s indictment of Trump was politically motivated. 

    Still, her endorsement on Monday came as a surprise to some. 

    Trump’s main GOP challenger at this point, former UN Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, lives in Mace’s congressional district. Haley also endorsed Mace in her 2022 primary run against a Trump-backed opponent, the Associated Press reports. (Haley, for her part, doesn’t seem bothered about the South Carolina politician backing her rival. In New Hampshire yesterday, when asked about Mace’s endorsement of Trump, Haley told reporters: “I don’t want the political class, I want the people of New Hampshire. And keep in mind—I won South Carolina twice.”)

    Additionally, Mace has also been open about her own experience of sexual assault as a teenager and has referred to that experience when advocating for rape and incest exceptions in abortion bans. Trump, of course, has bragged on tape about committing sexual assault; has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of women; and was found liable last year of sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll, and is currently ensnared in the penalty phase of that trial.

    So how does Mace square these realities with her endorsement of Trump? We’ve asked her team, and we’ll update this post if we hear back. 

    And what does Trump think (or, put another way: does he care)? It’s unclear, as he doesn’t seem to have publicly acknowledged the endorsement, but we’ve reached out to his campaign to ask.  

    Meanwhile, Mace sought to defend her endorsement in an appearance on Fox News, arguing that she was simply following the will of South Carolinans, and that while Haley “ran a great race,” Mace’s constituents want Trump back in office.

    “Everything was better under Trump…and that is what I hear day in and day out from the voters of South Carolina,” she said. And those voters are the same ones she’ll be trying to win over this November…which may be the only logical explanation for this move. 

  • ABC Just Canceled Thursday’s Planned GOP Debate

    Meg Kinnard/AP

    On Tuesday morning, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said that she’d no longer attend Republican primary debates unless Donald Trump participates—a move that many warned could end the party’s 2024 debates. Less than eight hours later, those chickens have come home to roost: ABC has officially canceled the GOP debate scheduled for Thursday in New Hampshire, according to a report by the Washington Post.

    “Our intent was to host a debate coming out of the Iowa caucuses, but we always knew that would be contingent on the candidates and the outcome of the race,” an ABC spokesperson told WaPo in a statement. “As a result, while our robust election coverage will continue, ABC News and WMUR-TV will not be moving forward with Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire.”

    As I wrote earlier today, Haley’s refusal not only highlighted Trump’s tight hold on the 2024 election but also reflected a “larger frustration among her rivals, past and present”: 

    We’re 17 minutes into this debate and…we’ve had these three acting as if this race is between the four of us,” Chris Christie, who dropped out of the race last week, said at last month’s debate. “The fifth guy, who doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here, he’s the one who, as you just put it, is way ahead in the polls.” 

    The second debate, scheduled for January 21, will be hosted by CNN at New England College. Will this event also receive the axe? Only time will tell.
  • Three Migrants Drowned After Texas’ Attempt to Seize Control of the Border

    The Texas National Guard erected wire in front of entrances to the Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, and blocked Border Patrol from accessing the area after migrants drowned there Friday, the Department of Justice said in a new court filing.Adam Davis/EFE via ZUMA

    Three migrants drowned in the Rio Grande near the Texas border on Friday night—a tragedy that federal officials say may have been prevented were it not for the state’s attempt to seize control of patrolling the border in pursuit of its anti-immigration goals.

    CNN reported that Mexico’s National Institute of Migration on Monday identified the migrants as Victerma de la Sancha Cerros, 33; Yorlei Rubi, 10; and Jonathan Agustín Briones de la Sancha, 8. Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said that the group was a mother and her children, citing “Mexican sources.” 

    The tragedy has become the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between federal and Texas officials over the regulation of migration into the state.

    Last month, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott passed a law that made undocumented immigration into Texas a state crime, allowing state law enforcement officials to arrest undocumented immigrants anywhere in the state. In response, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Texas, arguing that the law violated the Constitution, which “assigns the federal government the authority to regulate immigration and manage our international borders.” And then last week, the DOJ said that the Texas National Guard had refused Border Patrol’s access to a 2.5-mile-long stretch of the border, including Shelby Park, where the migrants drowned. 

    These incidents do not occur in a vacuum; they’re part of Gov. Abbott’s long history of anti-immigration sentiment—which, as I reported Friday, recently included telling a right-wing radio host that the only thing Texas officials weren’t doing to stop migrants crossing into the state is “shooting people…because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.” 

    Rep. Cuellar initially said Saturday that Texas officials “did not grant access to Border Patrol agents to save the migrants,” sparking national headlines that the state officials had prevented the rescuing of actively drowning migrants. But a new DOJ new filing with the Supreme Court refutes that narrative.

    It says Border Patrol was not notified of the migrants’ drownings until an hour after they occurred. The DOJ said Mexican officials told Border Patrol around 9 p.m. local time Friday that the three migrants had drowned in the area about an hour earlier.

    At the time, according to the filing, Border Patrol was also told that two other migrants were “in distress on the U.S. side of the river.” When a Border Patrol agent went to the entrance of the park to inform the Texas National Guard about the migrants who needed help and had drowned, the state agents said Border Patrol couldn’t enter “even in emergency situations,” the DOJ filing says. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that Texas officials “physically barred” Border Patrol agents from entering the area. (The two migrants who were “in distress” were later rescued by a Mexican government airboat while suffering from hypothermia, Mexican officials told Border Patrol, adding that officials had also “rescued two additional migrants who had attempted to cross that night.”)

    The filing notes that “it is impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area…at the very least, however, Border Patrol would have had the opportunity to take any available steps to fulfill its responsibilities and assist its counterparts in the Mexican government with undertaking the rescue mission. Texas made that impossible.”

    Friday’s events, the DOJ added, illustrate how “Texas stands in the way of Border Patrol patrolling the border, identifying and reaching any migrants in distress, securing those migrants, and even accessing any wire that it may need to cut or move to fulfill its responsibilities.”

    A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection said in a statement officials “are saddened by tragic migrant drownings in Eagle Pass” and “remain gravely concerned by actions that prevent the U.S. Border Patrol from performing their essential missions of arresting individuals who enter the United States unlawfully and providing humanitarian response to individuals in need.” 

    The Biden administration sent a cease and desist letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over the weekend, claiming that the state’s actions were unconstitutional, “impeded operations of Border Patrol” and are in “conflict with the authority and duties of Border Patrol under federal law,” according to the Texas Tribune. The Feds gave the state a deadline of Wednesday to stop blocking Border Patrol’s access to the border. 

    Representatives for Paxton’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 

    In a statement provided to Mother Jones, a DHS spokesperson said: “The Texas governor’s policies are cruel, dangerous, and inhumane, and Texas’s blatant disregard for federal authority over immigration poses grave risks.”

  • Rep. Cori Bush Calls on Congress to End Race-Based Hair Discrimination

    Craig Hudson/AP

    After a high-profile incident in which a Black teen was punished over the length of his hair, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is pushing for federal protections against hair-based discrimination. 

    In a tweet on Friday, Bush called on Congress to pass the CROWN Act, a bill designed to protect marginalized communities from hair-based discrimination in school and work settings nationwide. She cited the case of Darryl George, an 18-year-old Texas student who was suspended twice from Barbers Hill High School for refusing to cut his locs. The superintendent has claimed that the policy isn’t racist but instead teaches students “sacrifice” and conformity.

    George’s family launched a formal complaint against the school district, calling the dress code a direct violation of the state’s CROWN Act. They also filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott for failing to enforce the law. George, who reportedly served a second stint of in-school suspension shortly after returning from an off-site disciplinary program in November, has described the entire ordeal as incredibly stressful.  

    “Why should I cut my hair for my education?” Geoge told MSNBC in December. “My hair has nothing to do with my education.” 

    In a recent hearing, attorneys for the school district said that there are no federal protections for students’ hairstyle and length, according to the Associated Press. While 24 states have adopted the CROWN Act, Republican senators have successfully blocked the anti-discrimination bill’s passing on a federal level twice since its introduction in 2021. According to the Economic Policy Institute, legislators did not bring it before Congress in 2023.

    But, as my colleague nia t. evans and I covered in October, the fight to end hair discrimination does not solely rest on passing the CROWN Act. According to education and racial justice advocates, several steps, including the hiring of Black teachers and mobilization of Black parents, are necessary to eradicate this kind of bigotry from the nation’s school system alone.

    “The fact that we even have to have a CROWN Act says so much about this country,” Dr. Bettina Love, author of Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal, told Mother Jones.  “It is unbelievable that we are fighting in 2023 for Black folks to be able to wear their hair the way they want to.”

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik Refuses to Commit to Certifying the 2024 Election

    Michael Brochstein/AP

    As the Republican Party falls in line with Donald Trump, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is continuing to stand by her man, this time by refusing to commit to certifying the November election results.

    “We will see if this is a legal and valid election,” Stefanik, the fourth-highest-ranking House Republican and chair of the House GOP Conference, told NBC’s Kristen Welker on Meet the Press.

    “What we’re seeing so far is that Democrats are so desperate they’re trying to remove President Trump from the ballot. That is the suppression of the American people,” she said, referring to recent decisions in Colorado and Maine to bar Trump from their respective ballots based on a little-known constitutional provision that disqualifies officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from running for public office. (The former president has appealed Colorado’s decision to the Supreme Court, which agreed on Friday to hear the case.)

    When Welker pressed for clarity, Stefanik said she would only commit to certifying the results “if they are constitutional.” She then proceeded to repeat the unfounded and discredited conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen.

    Of course, Stefanik’s promotion of the falsehood is unsurprising: The onetime moderate, who at one point called Trump misogynistic, rose to her position as the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House by riding this very wave of election denialism, successfully booting Liz Cheney from the post in the process. And in the hours after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Stefanik was one of 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results. 

    But as Welker noted on Sunday, Stefanik’s insistence that the 2020 election was unconstitutional is not based in reality, nor has it found success in the courts. Trump has filed more than 60 lawsuits alleging the election was stolen; each one was found to be without merit. Additionally, two independent firms hired by the Trump campaign to investigate the results found no evidence of wrongdoing.

    Yet, such facts continue to evade a growing number of Republicans, as well as American voters. As I reported last week, a sobering new Washington Post/University of Maryland poll showed that 36 percent of Americans overall, and 31 percent of Republicans, do not believe President Biden was legitimately elected. 

    Stefanik on Sunday went on to continue parroting other Trump talking points, including repeating the former president’s language that the people arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are “hostages.” She also stood by Trump’s racist claim that migrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” which, as I wrote last month, scholars say echoes the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. 

    All of this made more sense in the final minutes of the interview when Welker asked Stefanik if she would serve as Trump’s vice presidential nominee if asked. “I, of course, would be honored to serve in any capacity in a Trump administration,” Stefanik replied. 

    In other words, she won’t be leaving Trump’s side anytime soon. 

  • Defense Secretary Austin’s Mysterious Hospital Stay Is a Mess

    Maya Alleruzzo/AP

    Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spent some time last week in the hospital, a fact that staff failed to mention to the White House, according to numerous reports. Problematic in any job, Austin oversees the 1.4 million members of the U.S. military and is a key player in almost all of President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy challenges. 

    On January 1, Austin was hospitalized—including a stay in the intensive care unit—for complications from an undisclosed elective surgery. But Austin didn’t inform anyone at the Pentagon or the White House of the hospital stay. It appears all of his duties were handled by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the time. The lack of explanation has administration critics calling for punishment.

    “Someone’s head has to roll,” a Department of Defense official told Politico, which first broke the story. Republican Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Forces committee, demanded a hearing on the issue and said in a statement it was “unacceptable“.

    Even Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), a top Democrat, took time this morning on a Sunday morning show to scold Austin.

    Austin apologized on Saturday, saying he was committed to “doing better” in the future. He did not address his failure to inform Biden.

    It seems unlikely, for now, that Austin will be removed. He’s deeply involved with the top foreign policy challenges, taking a leading role, for example, in the administration’s efforts to get weapons and aid to Ukraine. Austin, a retired four-star Army general, is also close personally to Biden. He served in Iraq with the president’s son Beau Biden, who passed away in 2015. 

  • Nikki Haley, Surging, Is Still Way Behind Trump

    Nikki HaleyRobert F. Bukaty/AP

    Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is surging at just the right time—armed with tens of millions in donor money, she appears to be leaving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and his New Right adherents, in the dust. With Iowa GOP voters caucusing for their choice in just eight days Haley’s run is well-timed. But it still leaves her shockingly far behind former president Donald Trump. 

    According to the latest national polling averages, Haley trails Trump by more than 50 percentage points. In Iowa, the deficit is close to 35 percent. In New Hampshire, where it’s tightest, she is only behind by about 13 percent. Haley hopes she could hope to grab liberal voters to make up the gap in the Grantine State and has even joked New Hampshire will “correct” Iowa. But the difference is still double-digits.

    Despite the unlikeness of pulling off a victory, Haley’s surge has still provoked Trump’s ire. The former president has begun complaining Haley “sold me out” by running for president. Trump’s campaign and his super-PAC have also spent millions attacking Haley in New Hampshire, portraying her as weak on immigration and a danger to the country.

    Of the other candidates, Trump probably should worry the most about Haley. Money has coalesced around her. Haley just announced she raised $24 million in the fourth quarter of 2023—that’s more than twice what she raised in the third quarter—and the political network founded by the Koch brothers said it would start spending heavily on Haley as well.

    Trump has, as usual, had a scattershot approach to his attacks on Haley. Some have been on foreign policy. The former South Carolina governor is much more hawkish on the United States’ role in wars, including the fight in Ukraine. This sounds like complex stuff. But Trump has made it rather simple, accusing Haley of being a globalist and moving on. “She likes the globe,” Trump said in a speech recently. “I like America first.”

    Trump also attacked Haley on Friday for, of all things, giving a lengthy, meandering non-answer, when asked what caused the Civil War.


    Unless something radically changes, this could be the peak of the Haley versus Trump fight. And it looks pretty tame.

  • Republicans Are Standing by Their Man

    Republicans today are more likely to be sympathetic to Trump regarding his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, compared to the week after the insurrection, a new poll found.Amanda Sabga/EFE via ZUMA

    Republicans are standing with Donald Trump in record numbers—and a majority consider him to be a “person of faith,” according to two polls that dropped this week. 

    Republicans today are more likely to be sympathetic to Trump regarding his involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, compared to the week after the insurrection, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found. Fourteen percent of GOP-identified respondents said last month that Trump bears a great or good amount of responsibility for the deadly insurrection, compared to 27 percent who said the same nearly three years ago. Only 18 percent of Republicans in that survey said the insurrection was “mostly violent,” compared to 26 percent who said so in 2021. (As a reminder, the insurrection led to injuries to approximately 140 police officers.)

    The Washington Post reports that, in follow-up interviews, some participants said their views changed over the past couple years—because they’ve grown to believe the conspiracy theory that January 6 was an inside job. (GOP presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has espoused this theory during his campaign and did so again today in response to the Post story.) 

    Additionally, only 31 percent of Republicans surveyed said they believed President Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, compared to 39 percent in 2021; overall, the poll found, 36 percent of Americans don’t accept Biden’s presidency as legitimate. 

    “From a historical perspective, these results would be chilling to many analysts,” Michael J. Hanmer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, told the Post. But the results also provide some insight into why polling continues to show Trump as the likely GOP presidential nominee; that is, his role in the insurrection isn’t hurting him. Among his base, it appears to be helping cement his image as a martyr unfairly targeted by the DC establishment. 

    Also jarring are the results of a Deseret News/HarrisX poll that found that 64 percent of Republicans consider Trump a “person of faith.” That number has actually increased since October; back then, it was 53 percent of Republicans who said Trump was a “person of faith.” Interestingly, the more recent poll found that a smaller proportion of Republicans—47 percent—characterized Trump as “religious” compared to those who characterized him as a “person of faith.” (As Deseret News reports, Trump was raised Presbyterian and now identifies as a nondenominational Christian.)

    The majority of people who called Trump a person or faith, or religious, said they believed it because he “defends people of faith in the US, “supports policies focused on families,” and “cares about people like me.” (The least common reason, cited by only 26 percent of respondents, is that Trump is “actively involved in religious and faith communities.”) As Deseret News points out, Trump has certainly tried to align himself with Evangelicals, a key voting bloc for Republicans. At a June gala hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative political advocacy organization, Trump claimed that “no president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have.”

    Credit where credit is due: Trump did appoint three Supreme Court justices—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—who were instrumental in overturning the constitutional right to abortion, which was, as the New York Times put it, a “spiritual victory” for conservative Christians. But former aides have said they’ve heard Trump mock religious leaders, people, and customs. 

    Whether Trump is truly a “person of faith” seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. One thing many of us seem to agree on: 70 percent of Americans don’t think Trump will accept the results of this year’s election should he lose, the Post found. 

  • Happy New Year: A Bunch of Minimum Wage Increases Just Took Effect

    Since 2012, the "Fight for 15" Movement has helped push more than a dozen states to adopt a path to a $15 or higher minimum wage.David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service/Getty

    Workers across the country are kicking off the new year with bigger paychecks, thanks to minimum wage increases that took effect yesterday in 22 states and 43 cities and counties, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project.

    Six of those states—California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Washington—now have a minimum wage that reaches or surpasses $15. The increases should disproportionately benefit Black, Hispanic, and female workers who make up more than half of the workers receiving pay bumps, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.

    The raises follow the decade-long “Fight For $15” movement, which has helped push more than a dozen states to adopt a path to a $15 or higher minimum wage—more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has been in effect since 2009. And that movement is unlikely to stall anytime soon. This year, another three states and 22 jurisdictions will also raise their minimum wages. Twenty of these increases will be to $15 or more for some or all employers; 15 places will reach or exceed $17, according to NELP data.

    As NELP notes, there are also several ballot measures and legislative campaigns underway seeking to raise the minimum wage slated to be decided this year: A California ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $18 by 2025-2026 and a Massachusetts legislative campaign seeking a $20 minimum wage by 2027. Democratic lawmakers have also introduced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $17 by 2028.

    President Biden pledged to bring about a $15 federal minimum wage before it was stripped from the stimulus bill in 2021. Ahead of this year’s elections, it could be a good effort for Democrats to renew: polling has shown that most Americans—and a majority of Democrats—support a $15 federal minimum wage.

  • How I Bribed My Dog to Recognize Me on FaceTime

    A collage of a white fluffy dog licking its lips, a phone and a hand holding a dog treat in front of the dog's face

    Mother Jones illustration; Getty

    Going to undergrad hours away from home, in Québec, had its pros and cons: I could practice my French, but I had to leave my Havanese dog, Lucky, at home. Lucky was just under two years old when I left him, and while I knew he’d be fine, I did miss him. My dad tried FaceTime to keep me connected with my fluffy little brother (of sorts), but he had no reaction.

    Until I had an idea. 

    I asked Lucky if he wanted a cookie. When my dad gave him one, he stared in the direction of the phone. The audio and visual of me, Lucky must have realized, was live, and I was talking to him. Food is a good motivator.

    Now, when I call my dad, Lucky gets excited when he hears the ring, often begging for belly rubs (which I also taught him to do). He doesn’t always look at the screen, but he’s happy to listen to me. 

    For a while, we thought Lucky just recognized my voice. Then my friend Sophie, who he’d only heard on Zoom, came to visit. Lucky isn’t that friendly with strangers, but the second they started to talk, he ran up to give them a lick—it was a technology friend, except in the flesh. He begged for belly rubs from them, too, of course.

    In 2024, you too, reader, can train your dog to recognize you on FaceTime. It helps if they’re food-motivated. 

  • Trump Repeats Fascist Talking Points About Immigrants on Campaign Trail

    Former president Donald Trump appears to make an "okay" gesture at a New Hampshire rally on Saturday. The Anti-Defamation League has said that the symbol has been co-opted as a hate symbol by the white power movement. The Trump campaign didn't respond to our request for comment.Amanda Sabga/EFE via ZUMA

    Donald Trump’s latest attack on immigrants came in a campaign speech this weekend. At a rally in Durham, New Hampshire, on Saturday, Trump pledged to crack down on immigration if re-elected, claiming: “They’re poisoning the blood of our country, that’s what they’ve done…They’re coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world, they’re pouring into our country, nobody’s even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.” (You can watch the full remarks at the 47:20 mark.)

    The Biden campaign quickly moved to condemn Trump’s remarks, with spokesperson Ammar Moussa responding to Saturday’s rally—and the anti-immigrant remarks specifically—by saying the former president “channeled his role models as he parroted Adolf Hitler, praised Kim Jong Un, and quoted Vladimir Putin while running for president on a promise to rule as a dictator and threaten American democracy.”

    This is, of course, far from the first time Trump has dehumanized immigrants (despite being married to one): He has called undocumented immigrants “animals” (Trump claimed he was specifically referring to members of the violent gang MS-13), and his advisors say that if he’s re-elected, he’ll try to detain millions of undocumented immigrants, attempt to end birthright citizenship, renew a version of the Muslim ban, and seek to deny visas to foreigners whose politics his advisers don’t like, according to a bombshell New York Times report

    But his latest comments invoke a specifically racist and genocidal history, according to scholars who study fascism. Yale Professor of Philosophy Jason Stanley told Reuters that Trump’s comments echo those of Adolf Hitler, who warned about Jewish people “poisoning” the blood of Germans. “Repeating dangerous speech increases its normalization and the practices it recommends,” Stanley told Reuters. “This is very concerning talk for the safety of immigrants in the US.”

    As I reported last month, Trump also degraded his political enemies as “vermin”—a remark that Stanley and other scholars also noted was used by Hitler as a tool of dehumanization.

    Yet some of Trump’s most influential fellow Republicans still refuse to forcefully condemn his language. On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) initially told host Kristen Welker he “could care less” about Trump’s choice of words, but later appeared to subtly rebuke the remarks. 

    “The president has a way of talking sometimes I disagree with, but he actually delivered on the border,” Graham said. “If the only thing you want to talk about on immigration is the way Donald Trump talks, you’re missing a lot.” 

    One of Trump’s GOP challengers for the nomination, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, took his opponents to task on CBS’ Face the Nation, saying he was “surprised” they didn’t condemn Trump’s racist comments. “I don’t know how you can take someone like that and say that they’re fit to be president of the United States,” he said. 

    In other notable remarks at the rally on Saturday, Trump repeated his debunked claim that the 2020 election was rigged; said that he likes businessman and GOP challenger Vivek Ramaswamy “cause he likes Trump”; and praised the far-right prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, for saying “Trump is the man who can save the western world.” 

    Jennifer Mercieca, a professor at Texas A&M University who researches democracy and rhetoric, told the Washington Post that Trump “sees American democracy as a sham and he wants to convince his followers to see it that way too.”

    The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to my request for comment about the critiques.

    The rally comes just a month before the New Hampshire primary, where Trump is in the lead among GOP contenders, polling at over 44 percent, while his closest challenger, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, is polling at 29 percent, according to a new CBS News/YouGov poll out today. 

  • A Running List of Politicians Talking About Making Divorce Harder

    Mother Jones; Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Zuma, Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Zuma (3), Bob Daemmrich/Zuma

    In 1969, then California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the first no-fault divorce law into existence, allowing couples to legally separate without having to prove wrongdoing by one party. It soon rippled out throughout the country. The change had immense benefits for women; it bolstered economic independence and provided a safer route for domestic violence survivors. States that allowed one partner to solely push for divorce saw about a 20 percent decline in female suicide, per a 2003 working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

    This blip in Reagan’s legacy stands in stark contrast to his resounding rhetoric around family values. (Reagan, according to his son, would later call backing no-fault divorce his “greatest regret” in life.”) In the 1970s, the right took a cultural turn—emphasizing domestic strength through “the family.” It was a politics that smeared efforts by women, queer communities, and other groups to obtain equal rights and representation as decadent degradation of the status quo. Abortion and gay marriage were among the myriad of issues the right fretted meant the death of the nuclear family and, in turn, the strength of America. While these fights didn’t disappear, they ebbed throughout the beginning of the 21st century. Yet, recently, as we’ve seen with increased attacks on reproductive justice and LGBTQ health and safety, conservatives are legislating and discussing them with renewed fervor.

    As part of this push, Republican politicians across the country have been revitalizing the desire to roll back no-fault divorce—couching it in faith, and patriotism. This fight spans from provocateurpodcasters like Steven Crowder to the official GOP platforms in both Texas and Nebraska. Some politicians are all in—ready to scapegoat no-fault divorce for the ails of our society—while others are beginning to flirt with the idea.

    Here is an evolving list of some of the current and hopeful elected officials who have a lot of thoughts about who should be able to get divorced, and how.

    Did we miss a politician who has publicly called for the end of no-fault divorce? Email and let us know.


    2024 CANDIDATES

    Dusty Deevers

    Upon winning Oklahoma’s Senate District 32 special primary election in October, Dusty Deevers rejoiced: “The spirit of 1776 is alive and well in Southwest Oklahoma!” Deevers, a far-right Christian pastor, has said he wants “morality brought back into government.” In an appearance on “The Sword and The Trowel,” a podcast by the Southern Baptist group Founders Ministries, Deevers shared his vision for Oklahoma and the country. 

    “I want to see pornography abolished. I want to see no-fault divorce, come back to at-fault in divorce—and even public shaming for those who are at fault in divorce. I want to see abortion abolished. These are the kinds of morality and government issues that we need to get back to.” 

    Matt Krause

    For Matt Krause, trying to roll back no-fault divorce isn’t new. In 2016, the then-Texas lawmaker proposed a bill that would have required couples to cite a specific reason for why their marriage needed to end. At the time, he said that he wanted to “promote and encourage strong Texas families,” and that meant ensuring marriage wasn’t something to “get in or out of easily or quickly.”

    Now, he’s running for Tarrant County Commissioner in Fort Worth. 

    Seven years ago, at the end of 2016, Krause took to Twitter to share news about his proposal to end no-fault divorce. “I am your constituent,” an account responded, “I am opposed to this bill. No-fault divorce is a very important right for both men and women.” 

    “Marriage,” Krause replied, “as recognized by the US Sup Ct, is a fundamental right. No-fault divorce is not. We’ll have to agree to disagree here.”

    Vivek Ramaswamy

    Vivek Ramaswamy is a Republican presidential candidate, multimillionaire, former biotech executive, and author of Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam. Recently, he has been toying with the idea of ending no-fault divorce. On a recent episode of the podcast he hosts, entitled “The Assault on Family: How Society is Losing its Most Important Institution,” Ramaswamy sat down with Terry Schilling from the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank. 

    “Part of the reason it feels like we’re lost in the desert in America today is that we’ve not only lost our sense of nation,” Ramaswamy explained, “we’ve also lost our sense that the family is itself a grounding institution, one that matters, one that is worth preserving.” 

    Schilling responded: “The reason we see so much dysfunction across our society today is because we’ve had decades long of a regime of no-fault divorce.”


    ELECTED OFFICIALS

    Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.)

    Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is probably the most well-known elected official who has discussed weakening no-fault divorce laws, and he’s been talking about it for decades. 

    Johnson and his wife Kelly were one of the first couples in Louisiana to opt for a covenant marriage, a religion-based contract that makes it significantly harder to get divorced. During his time volunteering at the Louisiana Family Forum, Johnson helped craft the covenant marriage bill. Louisiana is one of just three states—Arizona and Arkansas are the other two—which give couples the option to choose a covenant marriage. Largely, these marriages have been unpopular. Between 2000 and 2010, just about 1 percent of couples in Louisiana chose a covenant marriage. A fact that Johnson has chalked up to covenant marriages being “just unknown.”

    “In my generation, all we’ve ever known is the no-fault scheme, and any deviation from that seems like a radical move,” Johnson said in 2001. 

    In a 2016 sermon, Johnson, in part, blamed no-fault laws—in addition to things like abortion access expanding—for our “completely amoral society” that causes young people to go “into their schoolhouse and open fire on their classmates.”

    Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio)

    While Vance has not introduced legislation to end no-fault divorce, he has discussed the cultural rot of divorce. Before he was elected as a senator in Ohio, Vance shared some of his thoughts on marriage to a California high school in a video obtained by Vice News:

    This is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that, like, ‘Well, OK. These marriages were fundamentally … they were maybe even violent, but, certainly, they were unhappy, and, so, getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear—that’s going to make people happier in the long-term….And maybe it worked out for the Moms and Dads, though I’m skeptical. But it really didn’t work out for the kids of those marriages.

    Vance, who authored Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, then continued his implication that those experiencing domestic violence in marriages should consider sticking it out, for the sake of the kids, citing how his grandparents came together, despite the violence in their relationship, to raise him.

    “My grandparents had an incredibly chaotic marriage in a lot of ways, but they never got divorced, right? They were together to the end, ’til death do us part. That was a really important thing to my grandmother and my grandfather. That was clearly not true by the 70s or 80s,” he said.

    State Rep. Tony Randolph (R)

    According to South Dakota’s branch of the ACLU, state representative Tony Randolph has introduced a bill to remove irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce each year since 2020. Around 97 percent of divorcing couples in South Dakota cite irreconcilable differences in their separation. 

    “Under the proposed law,” Stanton Anker, a Rapid City-based attorney explained, “a woman abused by her husband would have to face him in court, and a controlling husband could force his wife to stay in the marriage unless she abandoned it or faced going to court to prove that he had done something wrong.”

    Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

    Cotton legislates in one of the three states with covenant marriage as an option and, like his congressional colleague Mike Johnson, has railed against no-fault divorce in his past. In fact, he wrote about it as a Harvard undergrad. 

    In a 1997 article in The Harvard Crimson, Cotton praises covenant marriages and blames feminists for lax divorce laws. “Men are simple creatures. It doesn’t take much to please us. The problem is women,” he wrote in the first sentence.

    Cotton then explains how he polled women on their greatest fears, to which he claims they answered a man leaving them.  “Feminists say no fault divorce was a large hurdle on the path to female liberation. They apparently don’t consult the deepest hopes or greatest fears of young women,” Cotton wrote.  

    The article is an intimate look into the type of ideology that exists behind the shouts to keep marriage sacred—misogyny lightly veiled behind religion and nationalism. 

    “Talk to a psychologist, a sociobiologist or a mother and you learn that men are naturally restless and rowdy, maybe even a little incorrigible,” Cotton explained. “Throughout time, though, women and social institutions have conspired to break man’s unruliness. In the past few decades, however, they have largely abandoned that noble and necessary project.”

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