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Disney’s Diversity Chief Quits After Massive Failure of Non-Binary 'Elemental'
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Following the failures of Disney’s race-swapped The Little Mermaid and Elemental featuring a non-binary character, Disney’s chief diversity officer is out of a job.

According to Variety, Latondra Newton has served as Disney’s chief diversity officer since 2017, and an internal memo from Disney’s chief human resources officer Sonia Coleman announced Newton’s departure to staff on Tuesday.

The letter obtained by the outlet stated that Newton, “…decided to leave The Walt Disney Company to pursue other endeavors.”

Coleman continued, “Latondra has led the company’s strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, including partnering with stakeholders across the enterprise to amplify stories of the world by people around the world. She has been dedicated to ensuring every person sees themselves and their life experiences represented in a meaningful and authentic way.”

“I know you all join me in thanking Latondra for her many contributions, including the lasting impact she has had on our employees and our culture,” Coleman added. “Working alongside all of you and so many others, she has inspired countless cast members and employees to bring about lasting change and to help create a world where we can all feel safe and we all belong.”

According to the memo, “Latondra’s direct reports will report to Julie Merges on an interim basis until a new DEI leader is identified.”

Variety reported that Newton plans “…to join a corporate board and focus on a creative company she owns.”

Disney’s latest release, Elemental, tanked at the box office its opening weekend and is on track to be one of the lowest premiers for the company since the late 1990s.

Elemental earned an estimated $29.6 million over the three-day June 16 weekend, which marks the lowest weekend premiere for a Pixar title since Toy Story’s release in 1995, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film was hyped as having Disney’s first-ever non-binary character Lake Ripple, voiced by Ava Hauser, who identifies as non-binary.

The studio’s The Little Mermaid race-swapped reboot, starring black actress Halle Bailey as the main character Ariel, is on track to flop in China, a major market for Hollywood. “The film is likely to be Disney’s worst-performing Chinese release this year,” and has only earned $13,000 in pre-sales, according to Comic Book Resources.

The Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) site announced that it had to use a different weighting system in rating the movie due to “unusual activity” following poor reviews.

The bombs follow the failure of 2022’s Lightyear, which grossed $118,307,118 during sss box office release, according to Box Office Mojo but had a budget of $200 million.

A lesbian kiss in the children’s film between two characters was cut and then reinserted in the film after Disney employees said the company was not doing enough to combat Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill, legislation that activists called anti-LGBTQ.

According to Newton’s Disney bio, she oversaw Disney’s diversity and inclusion initiatives which included working with “…various business segments and leaders across the enterprise to build on Disney’s commitment to produce entertainment that reflects a global audience and sustains a welcoming and inclusive workplace for everyone.”

During her tenure at the Mouse House, Newton co-signed the May 2020 memo to Disney staff in the wake of the death of George Floyd titled “Resolve in the Time of Unrest,” together with Bob Iger and Bob Chapek, according to Variety.

In the memo, the executives pledged “to use our compassion, our creative ideas, and our collective sense of humanity to ensure we are fostering a culture that acknowledges our people’s feelings and their pain. We also realize that now more than ever is the time for us all to further strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere.”

Before her time at Disney, Newton worked in a similar role with Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

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TRUMP SURVIVES ASSASSINATION

THE NEWS

Former President Donald Trump was injured but survived an assassination attempt Saturday in which a gunman was shot dead and a Trump supporter was killed, at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. Two other rally attendees were critically injured.

TIMELINE

The shooting took place shortly after Trump had taken the stage in Butler, a city roughly 30 miles north of PIttsburgh. Here’s a timeline of what took place:

6:03 p.m. EDT Trump takes stage

  • Trump took to the stage to “God Bless the USA,” the Lee Greenwood track that plays at the beginning of each of his campaign events.
  • The former president stood on stage waving to the crowd until the song concluded at 6:05 p.m.

6:11 p.m. Shots ring out

  • Trump was speaking about the rise in border crossings under Biden’s watch when several gun shots rang out.
  • Trump was gesturing to a graphic on a video board showing a spike in border crossings in recent years, saying, “That chart’s a couple of months old. If you want to really see something that’s sad, take a look at what happened–.” At that point, shots rang out and Trump grabbed at his ear and neck area before dropping below the lectern.
  • Secret Service agents stormed the stage as more gunfire could be heard. Agents could be heard saying, “get down, get down, get down,” as attendees screamed.

6:12 p.m.: Trump escorted off stage

  • Law enforcement on stage could be heard through the microphone at the lectern giving instructions. “Hold, hold,” one officer said. “On you. Ready, move! Go,” another said.
  • Moments later, officers helped Trump to his feet and escorted him off stage. The former president was surrounded by agents. He had a bloody ear and blood smeared on his face and fist pumped to the crowd as agents took him away.

6:14 p.m. Trump motorcade departs

  • Trump’s motorcade departed the rally venue within minutes of shots ringing out.

6:42 p.m.: Secret Service and Trump campaign say Trump is safe

  • A spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service issued a statement confirming “an incident” took place at the rally and that the former president “is safe.” Within minutes, the Trump campaign issued a statement of its own saying Trump “is fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility.”

7:24 p.m. Law enforcement confirms fatalities

  • The Butler County District Attorney told The Associated Press that the suspected shooter was dead and one rally attendee had been killed in the gunfire.

TRUMP STATEMENT

Donald Trump: ‘I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear. I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin. Much bleeding took place, so I realized then what was happening,’ the former president wrote on his Truth Social account.

THE SHOOTER

The gunman who attempted to assassinate former President Donald Trump Saturday was identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, sources told The Post.

The shooter who fired at least eight shots at Donald Trump and injured him is dead, with a rallygoer also killed in Saturday’s appalling bloodbath.

Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger confirmed the two deaths after the atrocity at a Trump rally at Butler Farm Show Grounds in Butler, Pennsylvania.

The Secret Service’s counter sniper team took out the shooter. They said the male shooter began firing from an elevated position outside the rally grounds before being killed. Two other people were critically-injured by the gunfire.

Images on social media show the dead gunman laying on top of a beige building about 300 feet north of the stage where Trump was standing when he was shot.

The gunman opened fire from AGR International, a plastic container manufacturing facility.

Unverified video circulating on social media showed a body – that appeared to be clad in camo gear – lying on top of a beige-colored building outside the farm grounds.

Trump was mid-sentence, saying ‘Take a look at what happened’ when the shots began to ring out shortly before 6pm ET, with terrified screams filling the air as he and onlookers dived to the ground.

EYEWITNESS

Witnesses desperately tried to warn police that a rifle-toting sniper was crawling on a roof moments before gunfire erupted at the Trump rally Saturday.

“You could clearly see him with a rifle,” the man, wearing a MAGA 2020 hat, told BBC News.

“We’re pointing at him. The police are down there running around on the ground.

“We’re like, ‘Hey, man, this guy on the roof with a rifle.’ And the police were like, ‘Huh?’ They didn’t know what was going on.”

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

  • Joe Biden: I have been briefed on the shooting at Donald Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania.  I’m grateful to hear that he’s safe and doing well. I’m praying for him and his family and for all those who were at the rally, as we await further information. Jill and I are grateful to the Secret Service for getting him to safety. There’s no place for this kind of violence in America. We must unite as one nation to condemn it.
  • Barack Obama: There is absolutely no place for political violence in our democracy. Although we don’t yet know exactly what happened, we should all be relieved that former President Trump wasn’t seriously hurt, and use this moment to recommit ourselves to civility and respect in our politics. Michelle and I are wishing him a quick recovery.
  • Bill Clinton: Violence has no place in America, especially in our political process. Hillary and I are thankful that President Trump is safe, heartbroken for all those affected by the attack at today’s rally in Pennsylvania, and grateful for the swift action of the U.S. Secret Service.
  • Elon Musk: I fully endorse President Trump and hope for his rapid recovery

MEDIA REACTION

Liberal media downplayed the assassination attempt against Trump.

  • CNN: Secret Service rushes Trump off stage after he falls at rally
  • CNN Analyst: “Donald Trump and the people around him perceive themselves to be under threat…and that is not legitimate”
  • Washington Post: Trump escorted away after loud noises at Pa. rally
  • New York Times: Trump Rushed Off Stage After Chaos at Rally
  • MSNBC: Secret Service: Donald Trump safe after popping sounds heard at rally

This story will be updated.

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Israeli Strike on Gaza Targets, Likely Kills, Hamas Leader Mohammad Deif

A massive Israeli airstrike in Gaza Saturday targeted the Hamas commander considered the mastermind of the horrific Oct. 7 attacks that left 1,200 Israelis dead and triggered the war.

Israel Defense Forces dropped five 2,000-pound bombs on a fenced-off compound where Muhammad Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing, and Rafa’a Salameh, the commander of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade, were holed up, according to multiple reports.

The military was still waiting for intelligence to confirm whether Deif, leader of the group’s notorious Qassam Brigades, and Salameh were killed in the strike. While some reports said that Deif was seriously injured and Salameh was killed, the Jerusalem Post, citing Israeli state broadcaster KAN, said there was a “high likelihood” that Deif was killed, but that confirmation was still “forthcoming.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to hold a press conference Saturday night in Jerusalem.

Deif is widely viewed as Hamas’ second-in-command in Gaza behind the supreme terror boss Yahya Sinwar. Long sought by the Israeli military, his death could derail cease-fire talks, but would also be seen as a major victory for Israel.

Witnesses said the strike landed inside the al-Mawasi refugee camp, an Israeli-designated safe zone located west of Khan Younis. Palestinians have been told to flee there to escape fighting in other parts of the war-torn enclave.

The huge bombs left an enormous crater filled with little but dust where the compound once stood, images on social media showed.

The IDF acknowledged the targeted compound was in a civilian area, but said it was not part of a camp for displaced Palestinians. The IDF, which released before-and-after images of the site that showed a fenced-off area, said no Israeli hostages were held at the location.

“The area that was struck is an open and forested area, with several buildings and sheds,” the military said.

In a statement, Hamas denied that Deif had been targeted in the strike and that it was an excuse to justify “the extent of the horrific massacre.”

Unverified reports from the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said at least 71 Palestinians were killed and 289 injured in the strike. Hamas figures do not distinguish between civilian and terrorist casualties and the group is known to hide high value targets in densely populated areas.

“Israel targeted October 7 mastermind Muhammed Deif, head of the Hamas military wing,” said Eylon Levy, a former Israeli government spokesman, on X Saturday. “If he was hiding among civilians in a makeshift camp, that shows how determined Hamas is to use civilians as human shields and sacrifices.”

Videos circulating on X showed Israelis breaking into celebration when news of the strike was announced.

Long before the current war, Deif was wanted by the Israeli military and became infamous for his ability to elude capture or assassination. In December, Israel placed a $100,000 bounty on his head, the Times of Israel reported.

In recent days, Israel received intelligence that there was the possibility it could take out Deif, but the opportunity to strike only emerged in real-time, one official told The Wall Street Journal.

The Saudi Al-Hadath news channel, citing unnamed sources, reported that Hamas is now investigating a “major internal breach” following Saturday’s attack, according to The Times of Israel.

Deif and Salameh relocated several times in recent weeks to avoid Israeli strikes, the sources said. Israel received intel for the strike from informants who knew about the locations of the terror group’s leaders, along with “second or third tier” Hamas officials who had been arrested and interrogated.

In May, the International Criminal Court said it was seeking arrest warrants for Deif along with Sinwar and other senior Hamas leaders, on war crimes charges committed during the Oct. 7 attacks.

The strike comes as U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators continue to work to narrow the distance between Israel and Hamas over a proposed deal for a three-phase cease-fire and hostage release plan in Gaza.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned Saturday’s strike and demanded that Israel “cease its attack on civilians,” TOI reported.

Family members of the Israeli hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7 fretted whether the strike on Hamas’ military leaders would kill the latest round of ceasefire talks.

“We’re all for settling the score with the Hamas murders, but not at the cost of our loved ones’ lives and our chances to get them home,” Einav Zangauker, whose son, Matan, is still in Hamas’ clutches, reportedly told Israel’s Channel 12.

“If [Hamas military wing commander] Muhammad Deif was eliminated with a hostage deal on the table, and Netanyahu doesn’t get up now and say he’s willing to take the deal, even at the price of ending the war, that means he’s given up on my Matan, and on the rest of the hostages.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu’s office said that there had been a standing order since the start of the war to kill Hamas’ senior leadership, although it did not mention Deif’s name, according to The Journal.

An Israeli official told the outlet that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had spoken with security officials to discuss the potential ramifications of the strike on the ceasefire talks before signing off on the attack.

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News

Everything You Need to Know About the Republican National Convention

The 2024 Republican National Convention starts its celebratory programming Monday as Republicans officially nominate President Trump for the third time and will spend four nights in Milwaukee, Wisconsin rallying support ahead of November’s election.

Where the action will take place

The main action for the quadrennial event will be held from July 15-18 at the Fiserv Forum, an arena that is the home of the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team. More than 50,000 people, including hundreds of journalists from around the world, are expected to attend.

There will be the usual convention tasks throughout the four days. Delegates, almost 2,400 of them, must approve a platform and formally designate the presidential ticket: Trump and his yet-to-be-named running mate. They’ll hear from both national candidates and a slew of others rallying support for Trump and taking aim at Democrats.

Who are the speakers?

The RNC has not yet released the full detailed schedule for the event, but several speakers have already been announced including Donald Trump Jr. who reportedly will occupy the speaking slot directly in front of his father.

Also speaking at the convention, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, former First Lady Melania Trump, Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, UFC President Dana White, model Amber Rose, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Indiana Congressman Jim Banks.

There will also be several everyday Americans impacted by President Biden’s disastrous economic and border policies, in addition to skyrocketing crime, slated to speak.

Michael Morin, the brother of Rachel Morin, the Maryland mother of 5 who was brutally murdered by an illegal immigrant, will be speaking. Fraternity brothers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who went viral for saving the American flag at an anti-Israel protest are also expected to speak, among others.

Trump is expected to accept the nomination with a speech on July 18, the final night of the convention, and his vice presidential pick is expected to be announced by July 15. Trump’s VP will then address the convention on July 17.

How to watch

Fox News Media will present special live coverage of the 2024 Republican National Convention beginning Sunday, July 14th through Thursday, July 18th.

“Originating from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the network’s convention coverage will be available across all of FOX News Media’s platforms, including FOX News Channel (FNC), FOX Business Network (FBN), FOX News Audio, FOX News Digital and FOX Nation,” a press release said.

What are the themes?

“Make America Wealthy Again” is the theme for Monday’s program, which will focus on how “President Trump’s America First economic policies slashed cumbersome regulations, cut tax rates, and reworked trade deals to create a fairer playing field for American industry and workers.”

Tuesday’s theme will be “Make America Safe Once Again” where the focus will be on skyrocketing crime in many cities causing them to become what the campaign calls “hollowed out, dystopian nightmares thanks to Joe Biden and Democrats’ woke soft-on-crime and open border policies.

“Make America Strong Once Again” will highlight Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments and agenda as the theme for Wednesday.

On Thursday, the final day, the theme will be, “Make America Great Once Again.”

“President Donald J. Trump will usher in a new golden age for America. At home and abroad, America’s standing will be restored,” the campaign says.

“American families will once again experience prosperity, safety, and strength. Our decaying and decrepit cities and communities will experience a resurgence. Americans will once again have reason to harbor hope and optimism for the future of our country. President Trump will Make America Great Once Again!”

What’s happening with the party platform?

The Republican Party’s platform, a formal statement of policy positions, was approved by its platform committee and released on Monday. It is expected to be approved on the first day of the national convention next week.

The 16-page platform embraces Trump’s position that the issue of abortion is to be determined by individual U.S. states. It makes no mention of a federal ban or protecting a fetus as a person under the U.S. Constitution – tenets that have been included in past platforms and were demanded by a cadre of influential evangelicals.

The platform, which is not binding, also pledges that Trump and Republicans will build a missile defense shield over the United States, carry out “the largest deportation in American history” of people in the country illegally, make permanent Trump’s signature tax cuts and pass “large tax cuts for workers.” It says they will demolish foreign drug cartels, protect Medicare and Social Security benefits, and support public funds being used for private school tuition.

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LIST: Dems Who Could Replace Biden on the Ticket

Speculation is swirling around President Biden’s political fate — and over who might replace him on the Democratic ticket this fall should he decide to drop out of the race.

Biden has insisted he’s in it to win it, and Vice President Harris would have the inside track on becoming the party’s standard-bearer, but Democratic concerns are growing that his candidacy could cost them the White House and House majority this fall.

Though a highly anticipated Thursday evening press conference after the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., was seen as a better performance for Biden than in recent weeks, the president still stumbled at several points with multiple notable gaffes.

The number of sitting lawmakers calling on the president to withdraw has grown since, and scrutiny is rising on the Democrats who could replace him on the ticket.

Here’s a look at the leading contenders:

Vice President Harris

Harris is widely seen as the heir apparent should Biden decide to step down, given she’s naturally next in line for the presidency.

Harris’s candidacy would be history-making as the first Black woman or South Asian woman to be chosen as a major party’s presidential nominee.

Her experience offers Harris several major assets in making the case to Democrats why she could be the right choice.

She’s currently the vice president and is already familiar with handling key issues within the administration. She was tasked with tackling the U.S. southern border early on, and she’s been one of the most vocal voices on abortion access.

Harris sought the nomination in 2020 as a senator, and her experience as California attorney general could be useful in countering GOP attacks on crime, though she notably took hits on her record on criminal justice during the 2020 Democratic primary.

From a campaign finance perspective, she would be able to more easily access funds leftover from the Biden-Harris campaign compared to another candidate, a major structural advantage.

At the same time, Harris’s association with the Biden administration also means she would be the subject of Republican attacks on issues including inflation and the border.

The vice president has also been plagued with high rates of staff turnover, and polling thus far has not shown her with a significant edge over former President Trump in a hypothetical matchup.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer has been widely speculated to have 2028 aspirations, but a potential presidential move could come sooner depending on what Biden decides.

She flipped the governors’ mansion in the critical battleground state of Michigan in 2018. Even more impressive, Democrats were able to flip both chambers of the state legislature in 2022, delivering the party their first trifecta there in nearly four decades.

Democrats tasked her to give the Democratic response to Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address, a responsibility usually slotted to rising party stars. Having a woman who hails from an important swing state, particularly in the Midwest, would be a boon for Democrats at the presidential level.

While Whitmer has brushed off talking of replacing Biden, she’s notably been on a high-profile tour promoting her book “True Gretch: What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Even before questions around Biden’s fate began swirling, Newsom was already widely seen as angling for the presidency.

He traded barbs with former GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, when DeSantis was still running a primary challenge against Trump and aired ads in the Sunshine State that suggested Floridians move to California.

He also agreed to a presidential-style televised debate against DeSantis that was hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

While Newsom has vocally been one of Biden’s most ardent supporters, including acting as a surrogate for him with his recent appearances in places including Michigan and New Hampshire, it’s also fueled even more speculation about his own presidential ambitions.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

While Pritzker helms what’s been a reliably blue state in presidential years, he flipped the governors’ mansion back into Democratic hands with his defeat of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in 2018.

Pritzker, who has leaned into hot-button issues that resonate strongly with liberals, has also been seen as another loyal Biden surrogate, but one of his biggest assets that makes him appealing to Democrats is the fact that he’d be able to easily self-fund his own campaign with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.

Helming a state from the Midwest is also appealing for Democrats, though Illinois is a blue bastion compared to its neighbors.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear

Democrats have a habit of flirting with presidential candidates from purple and red states, only to cast them off for contenders in more solidly blue ones.

But Beshear is one to watch given he’s twice been elected governor of Kentucky, a state that Trump won in 2020 by 26 points.

He won praise from members on both sides for his handling of several natural disasters in his state during his first term and effectively used the issue of abortion during his reelection campaign against Republican nominee Daniel Cameron.

His gubernatorial campaigns could offer a roadmap to Democrats on how to draw in moderate and disaffected Republicans in addition to independents all the while hailing from a southern state.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore

Another name that has continued to pop up amid talk of a potential Biden replacement is Moore’s.

Though just months into his first term, the Army veteran is popular on television and was already floated as a 2028 hopeful before the president’s campaign hit rough waters.

Having a younger, charismatic Black man on the presidential ticket would also speak to the party’s base.

Moore, a 45-year-old Rhodes Scholar, previously helmed a top anti-poverty nonprofit and is the first Black governor of Maryland.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro

Though Shapiro’s name may not come up as frequently as others’, he is another top Democrat to keep in mind.

Shapiro rose to early stardom as Pennsylvania attorney general when he fought the Trump administration over contraceptive insurance coverage, and over his helming a wide-reaching probe regarding sex abuse by the Catholic clergy.

Picking a Democrat from a battleground state would be highly appealing to the party.

If he won, he’d be the first Jewish American to be president.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg impressed Democrats in 2020 when the once little-known mayor of South Bend, Ind., leaped into the spotlight of the presidential contest and performed competitively against much more established figures including Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Having experience in Biden’s Cabinet could make him an attractive alternative to the party. Buttigieg performs well in committee hearings and has been a popular TV defender of the Biden White House.

He’d be the first openly gay man to be selected as the Democratic nominee.

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Peter Navarro to Depart Prison, Address RNC: Report

Jailed Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro will leave prison Wednesday to address the Republican National Convention (RNC), according to The Associated Press.

Navarro, who was a leading trade adviser for then-President Donald Trump, will leave a federal prison in Miami and speak to the convention being held from Monday to Thursday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sources familiar with the RNC’s schedule told the AP on Friday. Navarro and his allies have criticized his conviction for defying a Jan. 6 Committee subpoena, calling it political imprisonment and a “death sentence.”

Navarro will be released on Wednesday, which will give him just enough time to board a flight to Milwaukee and address the RNC before the event concludes on Thursday. The time slot in which he is expected to speak is not yet known, according to the AP.

“Lawfare is real. Lawfare is wrong … We’re not supposed to act like Communist China or a Banana Republic. But that’s the growing perception of our justice system,” Navarro previously told the Daily Caller. “I’m in prison not for any crime but rather as a matter of honor and duty for defending the constitutional separation of powers.”

The charges stemmed from his failure to comply with a Jan. 6 Committee subpoena, where he invoked executive privilege to decline to testify and turn over documents to the committee.

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was also convicted after defying a subpoena related to the Jan. 6 investigation; he was sentenced to four months in prison, time which he is currently serving.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) had argued that Navarro should face more time, recommending six months in jail and paying a $200,000 fine as opposed to the four months and $9,500 fine of his final sentence.

Prosecutors said Navarro “exacerbated” the “assault” on the rule of law by refusing to comply with the subpoena, saying his “defiance and contempt deserves severe punishment,” according to court filings.

Navarro was arrested by FBI agents in June 2022 at Ronald Reagan National Airport and charged in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C.

Navarro told the Daily Caller that his time in prison has not been like the “Club Fed” that many are describing it to be.

“It’s a dangerous place health-wise. The low-protein, high-carb, no-fresh-vegetable diet exacerbates problems like diabetes, colon cancer, and heart disease. I’m fortunate I don’t take any medicines, because prescription drugs are in short supply at the daily “pill line,” and a lot of inmates needlessly suffer from symptoms that their prescription drugs would otherwise ameliorate. I’m among about 200 inmates in close dorm quarters — a new strain of COVID hit a few weeks ago and spread like wildfire,” Navarro said.

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Eight States with Abortion on the Ballot This November

As Democrats look to abortion to provide up and down-the-ballot support for their candidates, reproductive rights activists are shoring up grassroots support for the issue.

In Arizona, a petition to get an abortion rights amendment on the ballot received more than 800,000 signatures, which accounts for one-fifth of registered voters in the state and the largest amount of signatures gathered in state history. As of July, seven other states will have referendums on the ballot to expand abortion access.

Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, many swing and red states have rejected complete abortion bans and voted in favor of protecting access to abortion in some way. Voters in Kansas, Michigan, and Ohio voted to protect abortion rights in their states. In Kentucky, voters blocked an amendment to their state’s constitution that would have denied any constitutional protections for an abortion.

Here are eight states with abortion on the ballot this November.

Arizona

In Arizona, organizers with Arizona for Abortion Access turned in more than 823,685 signatures, which exceeded the required 383,923 signatures needed to get the referendum on the ballot.

The ballot measure would enshrine the right to an abortion and “that the state of Arizona may not interfere with before the point of fetal viability.” The point of fetal viability is believed to be around 23-24 weeks of pregnancy.

Arizona currently has a 15-week ban on abortion with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, which was signed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and went into effect after the fall of Roe.

Earlier this year, abortion access in the state was put in limbo after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 near-total ban on abortion was enforceable. Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) signed legislation that prevented that ban from taking place.

“Here in Arizona, politicians have been playing games with reproductive health care,” Andrew Carroll, a family physician in Chandler, said. “It’s on us to stop this dangerous interference. It’s on us to vote yes on the Arizona Abortion Access Act to ensure that medical decisions are made by patients, their loved ones and their trusted health care providers.”

Colorado

While Colorado currently has no restrictions on abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy, the Right to an Abortion initiative looks to enshrine that into the state’s construction.

On the ballot, voters will decide on Initiative 89, which would create a right to abortion in the state constitution and allow public funds to be used for abortions.

The measure is backed by the group Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom, which is a coalition of abortion advocates, including Cobalt and the ACLU of Colorado. The group cites uncertainty regarding abortion access after the fall of Roe as one of the reasons for the initiative.

“In this time of uncertainty, we need to secure abortion rights and access in the Colorado Constitution, beyond the reach of politics and politicians. This initiative will secure that right for present and future generations,” Karen Middleton, president of Cobalt and co-chair of the coalition, said in a statement.

“A right isn’t a right if you can’t exercise it because you can’t afford it. We have to ensure that insurance coverage for every Coloradan, whether the source of it is public or private, includes abortion care. Colorado voters have made it clear over and over again that they support abortion rights, and we are confident they will again in November,” the statement continued.

Florida

In Florida, voters will be given the opportunity to establish the right to an abortion up to the point of fetal viability in their state constitution. Abortion is currently banned in the Sunshine State after six weeks, with exceptions for exceptions for rape, incest, and if the pregnancy endangers the health of the mother.

There is, however, a 60% threshold required for any measure to pass in Florida, which could complicate the measure’s chances. Democrats are hoping abortion could give the once-swing state turned Republican stronghold some glimmer of hope of a blue future.

A June Fox News poll indicates that 69% of Florida voters support the initiative.

Maryland

Voters in Maryland will also be given the opportunity to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution.

If successful, the measure will add an article to the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, effectively establishing a right to reproductive freedom, defined to include “the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that as long as I am the Governor of Maryland, our state will be a safe haven for abortion access. This constitutional amendment will make sure it remains that way, no matter who is in office,” Gov. Wes Moore (D-MD) said in his endorsement.

Nebraska

The group behind the Nebraska Right to Abortion Initiative has collected enough signatures to make it on the ballot. Protect Our Rights, the group leading the ballot effort, said it the 207,000 registered voters in Nebraska had been collected, exceeding the 123,000 the measure needed.

The measure would enshrine the right to an abortion up to the point of fetal viability in Nebraska’s constitution.

“As mothers, doctors, families, concerned citizens and people navigating pregnancy, we were united in the belief that patients and providers should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions, not politicians,” Ashlei Spivey, a member of Protect Our Rights’ executive committee,

Abortion is currently legal in Nebraska up to the 12th week of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest, and if the mother’s life is in danger.

New York

A measure to protect abortion rights and “gender identity” will appear on New York’s ballot this year. The ​​Democratic-controlled state legislature was behind the “Equal Rights Amendment.”

If successful, the measure will codify abortion rights in the New York Constitution while also expanding protections against discrimination based on one’s race, religion, and gender.

While the New York state constitution currently bans discrimination based on race, color, or religion, the measure will ask voters if people cannot be discriminated against based on their “ethnicity, national origin, age, and disability” or sex, including “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.”

“The anti-abortion minority’s cynical attempt to block this popular amendment from appearing on our ballots has once again been rejected, as expected,” Sasha Ahuja, the group’s campaign director, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we need to make sure our fundamental rights and reproductive freedoms — including abortion — are protected from changing political tides.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) pushed for the amendment, citing the Supreme Court’s “extreme” decision in overturning Roe.

Nevada

In Nevada, the Right to an Abortion initiative enshrines in the state’s constitution that abortions can be performed until the point of fetal viability, or when to “protect the life or health of the pregnant patient.” Abortion is currently legal in Nevada until this point, but this measure would ensure future state laws could not take away the right down the road.

“At every turn, anti-abortion activists have attempted to prevent Nevadans from making their voices heard with pointless lawsuits and misinformation,” Lindsey Harmon, the president of the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, said in a statement.

The measure would have to be voted on again in 2026, however, as Nevada law requires constitutional amendments to be voted upon twice by the statewide electorate.

South Dakota

A South Dakota ballot question would give South Dakotans the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. If approved by voters, there would be a trimester style framework for how abortion could be regulated by the state.

During the first trimester, the state would be prohibited from any regulation on someone’s decision to get an abortion.

In the second trimester, which is between weeks 13-27 of a pregnancy, the state can regulate abortion, but “only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman.”

In the third and final trimester, South Dakota could regulate or prohibit abortion except in cases when “when abortion is necessary, in the medical judgment of the woman’s physician, to preserve the life and health of the pregnant woman.”

Abortion is currently completely banned in the state except in cases to “preserve the life of the pregnant female,” under “reasonable medical judgment.”

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Bill Maher Predicts the Exact Date Biden Will Step Down

Bill Maher predicted the exact date that he believes Joe Biden will step aside in the presidential race as he issued an optimistic look at who could replace him.

The comedian, 68, rattled through possible replacements including Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris and Gretchen Whitmer, as he insisted that ‘Biden is toast.’

He joked that ‘when’ the 81-year-old bows out, he will pick August 9 as the date – the same day that Richard Nixon became the only president to resign in 1974.

Maher scathed Biden for holding Democrats back ahead of the election as he listed a number of alternates who he felt could win in November, mainly because they ‘are moderates, are under 100-years-old, and have a D next to their name.’

The talk show host was joined by former congressman Bakari Sellers and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, as he joked that Biden will be doomed by a ‘mean girls’ mindset from the American media.

‘When they smell blood in the water, the lust to finish off a vulnerable person, they’ll never be denied,’ Maher said.

He argued that for Biden, the ‘issue isn’t if, but who’ will replace him, as he satirically predicted that the president would want to step down on the same day as Nixon.

‘Yes replacing a president as his party’s candidate this late will seem like a big deal – for about three days,’ he continued. ‘And then we’ll all be over it.’

The comedian jokingly compared the move to when an office coworker ‘gets her t*ts done’, saying that while ‘at first, it’s oh my god – a week later, they’re just her t*ts.’

‘America is going to do this, we’re going to get new t*ts,’ he concluded.

Maher then listed several possible replacements for Biden if he chose to step aside, offering an optimistic outlook for a number of them that he believed could defeat Donald Trump in November.

Maher began his list of pros and cons with Harris, who he noted would mark a number of firsts if she made it to the White House, including first female, first black woman, and first Asian to become president.

‘(She) will get all of Biden’s campaign money, and on the issue of abortion she’s a walking reminder to women that Republican’s are coming for the abortion pill,’ he said.

‘She won’t just protect Plan B, she is Plan B.’

He also cited her history as a prosecutor in California, remarking that ‘Kamala was putting criminals in jail before liberals decided that was a bad thing.’

However, Maher noted that for ‘whatever reason, Harris has never been popular’, as he cited her poor performance in the 2020 presidential election primaries as evidence.

‘You can count the number of delegates she won… on one hand, as long as that hand has no fingers.’

Maher then moved onto two other contenders who could leapfrog Harris at the top of the ticket, namely California Governor Gavin Newsom and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

For Newsom, Maher pointed to his perceived good looks as he said he was ‘the only governor, with the possible exception of Kristi Noem, who looks like they could do porn.’

‘And at 6’3 and 215lbs, he’s actually the height and weight that Trump claims to be.’

Maher said Newsom’s biggest drawback appears to be that he is ‘too slick’, but felt this was not such a negative trait, because ‘slick is something no one has been accusing Biden of lately.’

The comedian also put a positive spin on Whitmer’s hypothetical candidacy, saying she is a ‘very attractive choice.’

He pointed out that she is a popular governor in the must-win state of Michigan, and has a number of policy achievements to fall back on including raising wages, protecting abortion rights and legalizing marijuana.

If not those leading three contenders, Maher argued that the Democratic Party is quietly filled with a number of viable candidates – if only Biden would step out of the way.

Among the candidates hiding in the Democratic Party’s ranks that Maher felt could step up included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, and Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro.

‘No one knows who these people are, and that’s good,’ he continued.

‘We need some new characters on this sitcom we call a country. Americans like new. These guys, all you need to know is they’re moderates, they’re under 100 years old, and they have a ‘D’ next to their names.’

Maher concluded that with the looming possibility of a second Trump term in November, America is currently ‘at the airport, and we just need to be sure we get last rental car.’

‘Something reasonably safe, relatively clean and not Trump. If there isn’t a dead Girl Scout in the trunk, we’re good to go,’ he concluded.

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Sex Guru Dr. Ruth Dies at 96

Ruth Westheimer, the superstar sex therapist known to millions as “Dr. Ruth”, has died aged 96.

Westheimer died Friday at her home in Manhattan, her publicist Pierre Lehu confirmed. No cause of death was announced.

The sex therapist, who was born in Germany in 1928, survived the Holocaust before relocating to the United States in 1956.

She spent decades working in academia before coming to public prominence in 1980, with the segment “Sexually Speaking” on New York’s WYNY radio network.

The pint-sized star — who was already aged in 50s — quickly became famed for her frank advice on intimacy, helping to de-stigmatize sex for generations of Americans.

Westheimer’s tips were always delivered with cheer and respect, and her cheeky catchphrase “Get some!” became beloved by listeners.

The unabashedly sex-positive doc dished advice on orgasms, masturbation and fantasies, famously promoting the use of contraception and education about sexually transmitted diseases.

Once, when asked about how to perform oral sex on a man, Westheimer memorably responded: “Make believe it’s an ice cream cone!”

Amid her radio success, Westheimer turned to television, hosting “The Dr. Ruth Show,” which began in 1983.

In the ensuing decades, she hosted a slew of other TV programs and penned more than 45 books, a number of which were best-sellers.

Just last year, she was appointed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul as the state’s honorary ambassador to loneliness.

She is survived by her two children and four grandchildren.

Born Karola Ruth Siegel, Westheimer spent her early life in Germany as the only child of middle-class Jews.

At the age of 10, she witnessed her father being taken by Nazis to the Dachau concentration camp. Her terrified mother subsequently sent Westheimer to Switzerland on the Kindertransport — a rescue train transporting Jewish children out of the country.

Both of Westheimer’s parents perished in the Holocaust, and she spent years in a Swiss orphanage. She immigrated to British-controlled Mandatory Palestine (now Israel) at the end of World War II.

Westheimer joined the Haganah Jewish Zionist paramilitary organization, later known as the Israel Defense Force. On her 20th birthday, she was seriously wounded by an exploding shell during a mortar fire attack on Jerusalem.

After months recuperating in hospital, Westheimer moved to Paris where she studied psychology at the Sorbonne.

Then, at the age of 28, she immigrated to New York City, where she obtained a master’s degree at The New School, working as a maid to pay tuition. She later earned a doctorate from Columbia University.

After years as a teacher and working as a sex therapist at a private practice, Westheimer began her media career at the age of 51.

Her age proved an advantage, with her conservative appearance a contrast to the often racy advice she dolled out to her fans.

In addition to her radio show, she hosted several TV programs on Lifetime, including “Good Sex! With Dr. Ruth Westheimer.” She ended each show urging her viewers to “have good sex.”

“Dr. Ruth” had became a household name by the mid-1980s, with appearances on late-night TV shows hosted by Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers and David Letterman.

She made the cover of TV Guide in 1988.

Westheimer continued to be a media fixture into the 1990s and 2000s, releasing dozens of books, including “First Love: A Young People’s Guide to Sexual Information.”

She additionally hosted a series of instructional videos for Playboy, entitled “Making Love,” and appeared in TV commercials for sodas, cars and mouthwash.

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Let Me Meet My Grandpa: Biden’s Secret Grandchild Makes Heartfelt Plea

Five-year-old Navy Joan Roberts grins as she charges out of her bedroom while proudly cradling a postcard of Joe Biden.

When she visited Washington DC last month, her mother told her she could choose anything she wanted from the White House gift shop.

But rather than picking out a board game, puzzle or soft toy of the president’s dog, Navy chose a headshot of the smiling US president to keep in a birdhouse in her bedroom.

It might seem an unusual choice, but Mr Biden, 81, is more to this little blue-eyed girl with soft blonde curls from rural Arkansas than just the head of state – he is her grandfather.

The president is a relative Navy “wholeheartedly yearns” to meet, according to her mother.

“She wants a connection with him so bad”, Lunden Roberts, 33, says from their home in Batesville, while Navy plays with her Barbies in her bedroom.

For years the Bidens refused to acknowledge Navy, who was conceived in the midst of her father Hunter Biden’s crack cocaine addiction.

It stings when Ms Roberts sees the other grandchildren gathered on Air Force One, or when they were embraced by Mr Biden during his inauguration.

“Those are things that children don’t get to do in their lifetime, and she’s of the bloodline and still doesn’t get that chance”, Ms Roberts says, looking down to fiddle with her rings.

“You’re a president that runs on a campaign that talks about embracing people for who they are… well this little girl is Biden blood and you’ve not embraced her, but you can embrace everybody else in the country, and that’s not fair.”

The daughter of Rob Roberts, a gun manufacturer who has gone hunting with Donald Trump Jr, Ms Roberts had an upbringing that could not be further from Hunter’s.

While he was the son of a then rising star of the Democrats in leafy Delaware, she grew up deep in the Republican Bible Belt shooting turkeys and alligators with a hot pink rifle.

After falling in love with the east coast on a school trip, Ms Roberts moved to Washington DC to study crime scene investigation after abandoning her basketball career.

She met Hunter in late 2016 when she and a friend were invited to an after party at his Rosemont Seneca office in the Swedish Embassy.

The former vice president’s son was smoking crack in a pair of boxers covered in parrots. The pair embarked on a yearlong entanglement during which Ms Roberts claims they both professed their love to one another, although she says now he may not have meant it.

In her memoir, Out of the Shadows, which will be released next month, Ms Roberts, 33, details everything from watching Hunter dance on a pole in the gentlemen’s club where she worked, to whisking her off to his father’s Virginia home with his sister-in-law turned girlfriend Hallie Biden – and then there was the time he scarred her by dropping a crack pipe on her chest.

Ms Roberts, who says she has been described as the Meghan Markle of the Bidens, describes her time with the first son as an “adventure” peppered with “scary” moments such as when he nearly overdosed in her arms in a suite in the Rosewood Hotel.

“When you were with him you were proud”, she said. “He didn’t come across like one of the junkies on the street … he was brilliant.”

After meeting Hunter, Ms Roberts shed her ruby red GOP sympathies and became what she describes as a “mainstream Arkansas Democrat”.

The only time she saw Joe Biden in the flesh was through a window at Beau Biden’s former Delaware home during the time of her affair with Hunter.

Hunter had taken an intoxicated Ms Roberts, who had turned up at his home after a night out, to his late brother’s home on the eve of the anniversary of the car crash that killed his mother Neilia and sister Naomi. Hunter and Beau had also been in the car but survived with multiple broken bones.

At around 10am on the day of the memorial service, Ms Roberts heard someone knocking on the door. She watched through a window as Mr Biden, dressed in a polo shirt and jeans, looked crestfallen as he spoke to his drug-addicted son.

Recalling that moment, she tells The Telegraph: “I see the look on Joe’s face and this pain and this heartbreak, you know, because he sees his son suffering from addiction, and there’s nothing he can do.”

When Ms Roberts told Hunter she was pregnant, she claims he promised to support her, but he shortly stopped returning her phone calls and cut her out of his company’s insurance.

He fiercely denied he was Navy’s father until he was forced to take a 2019 paternity test. It showed he was an even closer DNA match to Navy than her mother.

In his memoir Beautiful Things he described Ms Roberts as “hardly the dating type” and claimed he had “no recollection” of their encounter.

For years the parents were lodged in a bitter legal battle over child support, which was set at $20,000-a-month in 2020.

They reached a settlement last year to reduce the fees to $5,000-a-month on the condition Hunter start building a relationship with his daughter.

Meanwhile, the US president continued to insist he only had six grandchildren and was vilified by even the Left-wing media for failing to embrace his granddaughter.

Last year he finally acknowledged his seventh grandchild, but he has stopped short of communicating with her.

Since September, Navy has frequently spoken to her father during Zoom calls in which she picks out which of his paintings she wants (also part of the settlement) and the pair do arts and crafts together.

“I love my daddy”, she says, beaming in her floral dress.

Asked what her grandfather does, Navy becomes shy.

“He’s the president but I don’t know what he does, he just sits in the White House”, she says while climbing on top of her mother.

While the Bidens frequently talk about the importance of family, Ms Roberts has been devastated by how they have excluded their own flesh and blood.

Moments that have stung included seeing Christmas stockings hung in the White House for each grandchild – and even the dog – but not Navy.

Another blow came when Jill Biden dedicated her children’s book Joey to all her grandchildren – naming each one apart from Navy.

“It’s classless, it’s just tasteless, distasteful. It’s hard to understand the reasoning behind that, because what is the excuse?”, Ms Roberts says.

“As the matriarch of the family, what’s so hard [in] including one child?”

Ms Roberts adds that there is a passage in a book by Hunter’s ex-wife Kathleen Buhle where Mrs Biden asks everyone to get out of a photograph who isn’t “Biden blood”.

“If you’re so big on Biden blood, what’s wrong with this one?”, Ms Roberts says, shifting in her seat.

“She’s from the same lineage, and quite frankly, Jill isn’t Biden blood but she is.”

If Mr Biden is re-elected in November, Ms Roberts says she won’t push for her child to be involved in the inauguration, but added she also won’t watch it either because it would be too painful.

Security concerns

Another thing that concerns Ms Roberts about the way her daughter has been treated is her lack of security. She is the only first grandchild without secret service protection.

Ms Roberts’ new build home on a quiet cul-de-sac is decorated with cow hides, photographs of her with her daughter and canvases displaying uplifting quotes such as “find the joy in the journey”.

But among the Aztec-inspired décor, a serious arsenal has been hidden to ensure Ms Roberts is never far from a gun.

During the run up to last year’s election Ms Roberts said she had to call her father, “Rambo Pappy”, for help after she came home to find someone in her home on multiple occasions.

“I doubt every single mother is having to board their house up at night to barricade themselves in a room with 12 guns just to go to sleep”, she says.

“They don’t offer security, they don’t protect her in any way”, she says of the Bidens.

Even when we drive to a nearby pond for photographs, Ms Roberts shoves a handgun loosely in her waistband. She claims it is to shoot cottonmouth snakes in case they try to attack us.

Her armoury includes two shotguns behind the headboard, a rifle behind the door, a glock in each nightstand and a third under the mattress.

Ms Roberts says she is considering getting private security to protect her daughter, fearing she is an easy target if someone wanted to attack Mr Biden either ahead of the election or because of his stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

When we get closer to the election they will likely relocate to a “secluded location” that is inaccessible by car.

Being a mother to a first grandchild has also caused a wedge in her romantic life. She has dated two men, one of whom she has a restraining order against while the other said Navy’s father was a “piece of s—”.

Ms Roberts says she is the “black sheep of the family” when it comes to politics. She voted for Mr Biden in the 2020 election, but she’s not sure what she will do this year.

“I’m not a Trump supporter but voting for Joe at this point is also like endorsing my child’s unacknowledgement”, she says.

The next time she will come face-to-face with Hunter will be during his California tax trial, for which she has been subpoenaed.

She’s “nervous”, she says, and thinks they will ask her about the tax returns he sent as part of the child support suit.

During their trip to Washington DC in June, Navy asked to go to the White House.

“She said ‘we need to stop by and see my grandpa, can we stop by and see my grandpa?’”, Ms Roberts says, laughing but also clearly saddened by the memory.

“I was like, ‘Oh, honey, he’s not here, he’s in Atlanta.’”

A disheartened Navy replied: “Maybe next time we come he’ll be in town.”

For the sake of the little girl who disappears to her room clutching a picture of her estranged grandfather, we can only hope at some point he invites her in.

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NYT: Dem Donors Freeze $90 Million Cash, Demanding Biden to Step Down from Race

A number of donors have told the largest super PAC supporting President Biden that they are keeping their wallets and checkbooks closed while the 81-year-old remains the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The frozen pledges to Future Forward are worth approximately $90 million — and include multiple contributions of $10 million or more, the New York Times reported Friday, citing two sources familiar with the situation.

One donor told the outlet that he had rebuffed approaches by Future Forward for contributions multiple times since Biden shocked the world with his disastrous performance in his June 27 debate with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The report is another indication that Democratic bundlers have soured on Biden since the debate and have been agitating for the party to replace the president with another candidate — likely Vice President Kamala Harris.

As of Friday afternoon, 20 congressional Democrats had called on Biden to bow out of the 2024 race, with many saying they felt he could not beat Trump, 78.

The identities of the rebel donors were kept private, while an associate of another bundler, billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, ripped the move as a mistake.

“A funding freeze is a problematic strategy at this point in the election cycle,” said the associate, Rae Steward, who called on donors to give instead to progressive “issue groups” who are “agnostic about who is at the top of the ticket.”

On Wednesday, actor George Clooney, who co-hosted a $30 million fundraiser for Biden last month, called on the incumbent to leave the race, saying Democrats “are not going to win in November with this president.”

Since the debate, opinions about Biden’s political future have been split — with donors and back-bench lawmakers calling on him to get out and House and Senate leadership largely standing by the president.

“I think everyone will be talking over Friday, Saturday and by Sunday you should have some idea of what’s going on,” Sen. Joe Manchin (I-WV) told reporters Thursday.

Hours later, Biden gave an hour-long press conference to cap the NATO summit in Washington that was studded with errors, including when he referred to Harris as “Vice President Trump” while the audience gasped and groaned.

“The president was able to answer questions that Donald Trump couldn’t even begin to understand,” a Democratic source told The Post Friday when asked for the state of play inside the party, “but, regrettably, those aren’t the questions the American people are asking or worried over right now.”

Biden has repeatedly insisted he will remain in the campaign to the end, arguing that he is the only Democrat proven to have defeated Trump at the ballot box.

“I’m determined on running but I think it’s important that I allay fears by letting them see me out there,” Biden said Thursday during the news conference. “There is so much we can do still and I’m determined to get it done.”

“There are other people who could beat Trump too, but it’s awful hard to start from scratch.”

Biden also insisted that he is fit to serve another four years, and only needed to “pace myself a little more” to avoid a performance like the one he gave at the debate.

However, the president’s campaign has already begun poll-testing Harris head-to-head against Trump, while OpenLabs, a progressive polling non-profit associated with Future Forward, has also surveyed voters on their feelings toward Harris and other potential Democrat picks.

In one OpenLabs poll taken in the aftermath of the debate, the president fared the worst compared to his Democrat counterparts. Adjusted for name recognition, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came out on top with 301 expected electoral votes, followed by Michigan.Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with 290.

Biden got only 223 electoral votes, while Harris came in at 240 and California Gov. Gavin Newsom got 235.

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Alec Baldwin’s Rust Manslaughter Case Dismissed

In a dramatic turn of events, Alec Baldwin‘s involuntary manslaughter trial for the fatal 2021 shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was dismissed Friday over “critical evidence” that a New Mexico judge ruled had been concealed.

“The state has repeatedly made representations to defense and to the court that they were compliant with all their discovery obligations,” New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said in her ruling from the bench just now. “Despite their repeated representations, they have continued to fail to disclose critical evidence to the defendant.”

“The state is highly culpable for its failure to provide discovery to the defendant,” Sommer added in a measured tone. “Dismissal with prejudice is warranted,” she concluded.

The ruling ends any hope of the state recharging Baldwin again.

Breaking down in tears at the defense table, the multi-Emmy-winning actor was in the courtroom when Sommer announced her ruling on the defense motion to dismiss based on concealed evidence that Baldwin’s lawyer filed late Thursday, relating to ammunition brought to police by an ex-cop.

The decision by Sommer on Friday, at the end of an evidentiary hearing over a defense motion to dismiss over bullets dropped off to Santa Fe police in recent weeks by ex-Arizona cop Troy Teske, could also mean the release of incarcerated Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed from New Mexico state prison.

With the constant chorus of local police missteps, blatant professional incompetence, DA stumbles and eccentrics that has been center stage in this matter since that terrible day almost three years ago, the dismissal of the case was simultaneously shocking and not that unexpected.

Hutchins was fatally shot, and Rust director Joel Souza was injured, on October 21, 2021 after the Colt .45 Baldwin was pointing at the cinematographer fired off a live round during a rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe where the indie Western was filming. Facing up to 18 months in state prison if found guilty, Baldwin has always insisted that while he cocked the hammer, he did not pull the trigger and the gun somehow went off on its own. The FBI, an independent analysis and, yesterday in court the man who actual made the gun all disagreed with Baldwin’s contention — which we will likely never know definitively now.

After nervous Rust ammunition supplier Seth Kenney and a series of Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office members gave testimony Friday, including bodycam footage of Teske bringing the ammunition to the cop shop, an exasperated special prosecutor Kari Morrissey decided to roll the dice and take the stand herself.

Although Rust armorer Gutierrez-Reed was sentenced to 18 months in a state prison after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, no full explanation has ever been given for how a live round got on the Rust set.

Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers plan to file a motion for her release ASAP, I hear; Sommer was also the judge in the armorer’s trial. Gutierrez-Reed had been brought to Santa Fe earlier this week from prison, where she is serving her sentence, in the assumption she would be a witness in Baldwin’s trial as soon as today.

Just three days into what was supposed to be a nearly two-week trial, Erlinda Johnson, one of the special prosecutors in the case, resigned. The sudden move came because Johnson, who only joined the case a couple of months ago, didn’t agree with there being a public hearing on the move by Baldwin’s Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to see the matter tossed to the legal curb.

“I could see it was not at all similar to the live rounds on the set of Rust so I made the decision not to collect the rounds since they had never left Arizona,” Morrissey told the court on the record, as she and police officials had stated before of the ammunition brought in by Teske.

A close friend of Thell Reed, the iconic Hollywood gun coach and father of Gutierrez-Reed, Teske was never called as a witness in the armorer’s trial this spring and the defendant’s own lawyer Jason Bowles said he didn’t want them, according to Morrissey Not long afterwards, Teske took the ammunition to the police – something the defense claims it was just informed of despite requiring all the evidence in the case.

Over the months since Baldwin was recharged earlier this year, the defense had quibbled over and over about evidence, discovery and tactics with what has sometimes seen like a battle of locals versus city slickers. In that context, New York City-based defense lawyer Alex Spiro today accused Morrissey of not liking Baldwin personally. Almost spitting out the words, Spiro claimed Morrissey has called Baldwin “an arrogant prick” and a “c*cksucker” in the past.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Morrissey replied, insisting that she likes a number of Baldwin’s movies, SNL appearances and “his politics.” The special prosecutor also tried to state on the record that she offered Baldwin, a longtime Democrat, a plea deal early this year.

Before Morrissey could get far down that route, she was shut down by both Spiro and Sommer. “I never said to witnesses that I would teach him a lesson,” Morrissey added to further claims by Spiro. “Absolutely not.”

There was talk about a new possible plea deal today, sources tell me, but that never came together. On the other hand, with a TLC reality show in the works likely to pay some of those sizable legal bills and a couple of documentaries on the Rust calamity in production, Baldwin’s freedom from criminal prosecution could see the well-respected actor back on the big and small screen in scripted roles as a big draw for the first time in years.

A career resurrection that might begin with Rust itself.

As the march towards this trial and that of Gutierrez-Reed moved slowly forward, the one time Jensen Ackles co-starring film was brought back last year without the young armorer or the Supernatural actor. Rust 2.0 completed production in Montana in early 2023 with Souza was as director, and Baldwin as star and producer. The now-finished Rust hasn’t secured a buyer nor distributor. Some sources have said that was always the plan until Baldwin’s legal woes were over. Others have told Deadline that the film has been actively shopped at film markets to no success. That might change in short order now that Baldwin’s criminal trial is old news.

Having left the courtroom and likely Santa Fe in a hurry Friday after Sommer’s ruling, Baldwin hasn’t quite left his Rust legal troubles in the dust. The actor is up against several civil cases in California and New Mexico courts related to the film he conjured up with Souza and the terrible shooting on the movie’s set.

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Judge Dismisses Giuliani Bankruptcy, Allowing Creditors to Try to Seize His Assets

Rudy Giuliani is no longer entitled to bankruptcy protection, a judge decided Friday, making it possible for creditors to immediately pursue his assets within days.

The former mayor of New York sought bankruptcy protection after a jury awarded two Georgia election workers $148 million because Giuliani defamed them after the 2020 election. The judge’s decision Friday, to end his bankruptcy, paves the way for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, as well as other creditors, who are trying to collect on the more than $150 million Giuliani owes.

Judge Sean Lane of the federal bankruptcy court in New York made the decision partly because of Giuliani’s lack of transparency after he filed for bankruptcy more than six months ago.

Lane highlighted in his 22-page opinion that Giuliani hadn’t provided any insight whatsoever into the books of companies he solely owns, and that have taken in thousands of dollars in wire transfers in recent weeks. The judge also said Giuliani hasn’t been fully transparent with his creditors – such as by not fully explaining on time an upcoming book contract he has, or keeping his personal earnings from a radio show and podcast coming into one of the corporate accounts.

“Mr. Giuliani has failed to provide an accurate and complete picture of his financial affairs in the six months that this case has been pending,” Lane wrote in his decision Friday. “The lack of financial transparency is particularly troubling given concerns that Mr. Giuliani has engaged in self-dealing and that he has potential conflicts of interest that would hamper the administration of his bankruptcy case.”

Giuliani – once Time magazine’s Person of the Year and a fixture in New York society – says he is now worth about $10.6 million, with nearly all of that wealth in the value of two apartments he owns, in New York City and in Palm Beach, Florida.

Moss and Freeman plan to seek liens on those properties in the coming days, according to their lawyers.

In a statement provided by a spokesman, Giuliani cast himself Friday as a man being punished for his role in politics in recent years.

“We will continue to pursue justice and we are confident that—in the long run—our system of justice will be restored and the mayor will be totally vindicated,” Giuliani’s spokesman Ted Goodman said in the statement.

Giuliani’s attorneys have indicated he plans to appeal the defamation jury verdict in favor of Moss and Freeman and that he may fight them in state court on any liens they seek.

In addition to the $6 million, three-bedroom co-op apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the $3.5 million condo on the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida, Giuliani’s creditors will also be able to try to seize his bank accounts, a Mercedes-Benz sports car, his collection of 26 luxury watches, three World Series championship rings for the New York Yankees, and other baseball memorabilia, like a signed Joe DiMaggio shirt he claims to own.

The worth of those other assets is unclear, as creditors accuse Giuliani of downplaying or not disclosing complete estimates of the value of what he owns. The creditors believe one World Series ring alone would sell for nearly $30,000, according to court filings in his bankruptcy case.

Giuliani also says in bankruptcy filings that the state of California owes him more than $10,000 related to overpaid taxes from his appearance on the TV singing game show “The Masked Singer,” according to bankruptcy filings.

Giuliani also said in filings in recent weeks that he expects to be paid tens of thousands of dollars from various ventures: coffee beans being marketed with his name and image, and a documentary that’s been in the works for years.

The court decision on Friday, announced by Lane in White Plains, New York, marks a long, slow decline for Giuliani, largely related to his work as a lawyer for former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election.

Giuliani lost his law license in New York last week because he had pushed false information in court challenging the election results on behalf of Trump. He is also fighting criminal charges in Arizona and Georgia related to Trump’s efforts to undermine his electoral loss. Giuliani has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Giuliani agreed to end his bankruptcy proceedings, after Freeman and Moss suggested that approach earlier this week. They and other creditors had become furious with the lack of transparency he provided into his assets.

The creditors argued to the judge in recent days that Giuliani was exploiting the bankruptcy system to avoid having to pay his debts, and was acting in bad faith. That accusation prompted outbursts from Giuliani in court, claiming he was the one being defamed.

In addition to Moss and Freeman, Giuliani owes more $1 million in taxes, tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid phone bills, and more than $1 million to a law firm where a close friend represented him through past investigations.

Several other companies and people, such as a former assistant and the voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion, are suing him too.

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Axios: Obama, Pelosi, Carville, Hillary and Bill Clinton Are Working Behind the Scenes to Get Rid of Biden

President Biden beat back the initial public campaign by Democrats to oust him from the party’s presidential ticket, swiftly and decisively. But very-connected Democrats, mostly veterans of the Obama and Clinton administrations, are plotting hourly to get him to withdraw quickly.

They’re commissioning polls, lobbying former presidents, back-channeling Democratic leaders, organizing donors and taking the fight to Biden in a very public way.

They’re the unofficial Committee to Unelect the President. The mission: Push Biden out of the presidential race — the sooner, the better.

This loose anti-Biden network is growing by the day — and is circulating polls showing Democrats would shoot from sure losers to big winners with a new ticket. Some donors are talking of a massive financial commitment to any non-Biden presidential ticket.

These Democrats see the race in stark, black-and-white terms: Just three states matter — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. That’s the Blue Wall, all of which Biden won in 2020.

And they see an obvious solution: Forget the niceties of backing Biden or even Vice President Harris. Be ruthless about finding the two people most likely to win those three states.

The anti-Biden Democrats are trading texts, emails and polling, fighting fellow Democrats on TV and X, and circulating stories and arguments by sympathetic journalists and columnists, including Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias.

Members of this notional committee tell us there’s no hidden hand — no command and control. Instead, these are all people who’ve worked together on past campaigns.

“No one is more than one person away from everyone else,” a central player told us. And almost all are one step away from former presidents Obama or Clinton.

James Carville, who helped propel Bill Clinton into the Oval Office, told us Clinton and Obama are sending a clear message by vanishing after they tweeted support for Biden the day after the debate.

“Silence is a very loud form of speech,” Carville said. “No one is saying ‘come hell or high water.'”

Obama has spoken privately with former Speaker Pelosi over their “concerns” about Biden’s viability, CNN reports.

No one’s sure the pressure campaign is working. It all depends on Biden, who controls the party’s delegates and cannot be defeated for the nomination if he stays in — no matter how bleak the outlook for November.

“You need a psychiatrist more than a spin doctor,” a veteran operative told me.

A “fatalism” and “sense of resignation” grip the party from coast to coast. “The Clinton diaspora is freaking the hell out,” said one alumnus of Clinton’s White House. “But all these people going on the record aren’t helping. All it seems to have done is cause the Bidens to dig in deeper.”

In what one operative called a “donor strike,” top party benefactors — who don’t want to be named, because they know a donor-led revolt would backfire — are moving money away from Biden, and into House and Senate campaigns as a hedge against a victory by former President Trump.

The committee includes:

Former Obama aides: The strained relationship between Obama and Biden extends to their former aides, including David Axelrod (Obama’s ruthlessly pragmatic chief strategist) and the influential “Pod Save America” guys. Biden has reportedly called Axelrod a “prick,” and threw shade at him — “Oh! You’re kidding” — during Monday’s call-in on “Morning Joe.” The pod guys — Obama alumni Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer — have irritated Biden’s camp by arguing for a new candidate. Lovett writes that it’s “hard to deny that in the two weeks since the debate, it’s the arrogant and small Joe Biden we’ve seen most.”

Former Clinton advisers: Carville, appearing all over the cable dial, says unsparingly that a new candidate is inevitable, whether the president admits it or not. Keeping him would be “an idiotic choice for the future of this country,” Carville told Anderson Cooper on CNN.

Elected Dems: Massive pressure is building from rank-and-file members of the Democratic caucus. One Democratic senator (Peter Welch of Vermont) and 17 House Democrats have publicly called for Biden to drop out. Scores more are furious at the White House for pushing them to support a president they view as unelectable.

Swing-seat Dems: This is the group that really matters. Vulnerable Democrats have a clear-eyed view of the president’s prospects. These Dems will abandon him — some already have — if they sense their seats are in jeopardy.

The donor class: George Clooney, who headlined the largest fundraiser in Democratic Party history last month, is the leading voice of a growing number of Hollywood types who want Biden to end his candidacy. The group includes Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel (Rahm’s brother).

Late-night liberals: Stephen Colbert — who moderated a major Biden fundraiser at Radio City in March — strongly suggested the president should step aside: “I think that Biden debated as well as Abraham Lincoln, if you dug him up right now.” Jon Stewart has escalated pleas for the nominee to be someone else. He hosted Favreau and Vietor on his podcast yesterday.

N.Y. Times Opinion: Debate-night columns by Tom Friedman and Nick Kristoff gave way to full-throated editorials — all saying Biden must go.

Biden aides busily leaking: “Some longtime aides and advisers to President Biden,” the N.Y. Times reports, “have become increasingly convinced that he will have to step aside from the campaign, and in recent days they have been trying to come up with ways to persuade him that he should.”

Two prominent ex-Biden aides — former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and press secretary Jen Psaki — have suggested Harris as a promising alternative.

Neither specifically called for Biden to step aside. But both have softly criticized the campaign’s strategy and said he needs to put forward a coherent path to victory.

Axelrod — who’s making the case for Biden’s withdrawal two or three times a day as CNN’s senior political commentator — told us he aims to be “both realistic and respectful.”

“President Biden is a historic figure, and a lot of that is gonna be tainted if he persists and loses this race,” Axelrod told us. “The people around him have [a collective] hundreds of years of campaign experience. They know how to interpret data. They know how to read the moment. It’s just a question of whether their affection for him clouds that.”

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Elon Musk Donates to Pro-Trump Super PAC: Report

Tech magnate Elon Musk has donated a “sizable amount” to the America PAC, which supports former President Donald Trump, according to Bloomberg.

It’s the first time this election cycle that Musk has endorsed or financially backed a presidential candidate.

Musk, who has shown right-leaning views on X, the social media platform he owns along with Tesla, is considered the richest man in the world.

The donation comes as Democrats have blasted President Joe Biden with calls to step down and donors have threatened to freeze funds to his presidential campaign if he doesn’t.

Trump largely trailed in fundraising until he was convicted in his Manhattan hush money trial in May, a month in which the campaign raised $141 million.

The cash injection closed the gap between Trump and Biden in cash on hand, and Musk’s donation could add to that.

America PAC generally deals with bolstering the Trump campaign’s ground game.

Trump and Musk have been rumored to be close as it appeared the former president was weighing an advisory role for him if Trump won the presidency again.

In a Tesla annual meeting last month, Musk said, “[Trump] does call me out of the blue for no reason.”

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Pentagon: President Has Sole Ability to Launch Nuclear Weapons

I’m going to refresh your memory about an incident involving the Presidential Emergency Satchel, colloquially known as the “nuclear football.” That’s the leather briefcase carried by a rotating cast of military aides traveling with the president that contains secret atomic war plans, codes and highly classified documents. There’s also a backup “football” carried by a military aide shadowing the vice president, in case the president can’t communicate to the Pentagon orders to launch a nuclear attack.

On Jan. 6, 2021, rioters who stormed the Capitol came within 100 feet of Vice President Mike Pence and the backup football. That spooked some lawmakers, and prompted them to ask the Defense Department’s inspector general to look into security procedures for the nuclear football. The IG issued a report about its review a couple years ago. Even though the document was classified as top secret and kept under wraps, I was able to pry loose a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. Not surprisingly, the report was heavily redacted. Still, I was able to glean a few interesting details. Keep reading to learn more.

Good news. If the nuclear football is “lost, stolen or compromised,” the DOD “has procedures to ensure only the U.S. president can authorize the use of nuclear weapons,” according to the IG’s October 2022 report.

Wait, is that good news? I think we all agree that we don’t want the president to bring on the apocalypse. But it’s a relief to know that if a rogue nation, terrorist or Jan. 6th-type rioter intercept the football, they’d likely fumble trying to access our nuclear arsenal.

That’s the only major takeaway, and probably the most important, from the 38-page report, which remains classified at the top secret level. The rest of it is so heavily redacted that it’s impossible to glean additional details beyond the assurances the IG provided. But there’s a few notable pieces of information.

“Grave national security concerns”

First, a refresher on the inspector general’s review and how it got off the ground.

On March 16, 2021, Democratic Representatives Stephen Lynch and Jim Cooper, chairmen of the House Oversight and Reform and Armed Services subcommittees, sent a letter to DOD Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell.

Lynch and Cooper noted that during the Senate’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in February 2021, footage was played that showed Pence being whisked away as a “violent mob” came dangerously close to him — and the military aide carrying the backup football.

Their letter also said it wasn’t the first time the nuclear football was compromised. They referenced a 2017 incident in China that reportedly involved a brawl over the nuclear football with former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Lynch and Cooper said the double episodes raised “grave national security concerns” and prompted the need for a review to determine “whether any security protocols and procedures may have been violated.”

The IG “should also examine how DOD is prepared to respond to an incident whereby an unauthorized user gains access to a nuclear football.”

The inspector general’s review found [redacted]

The IG’s office spent nearly a year on its security review. It issued a final report on Oct. 14, 2022. I requested it on June 1, 2023, right after the watchdog’s office publicly revealed that it had wrapped up its work. It took nearly a year to get a copy because it was classified top secret and therefore had to go through a classification review.

The IG’s FOIA office explained that it withheld the most sensitive information that relates to “military plans, weapon systems, or operations” and remains classified under an Obama-era presidential executive order.

Even the Defense Department’s one-page definition of “lost, stolen or compromised” was redacted.

The IG’s team interviewed a handful of officials at the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and reviewed classified and unclassified military documents related to nuclear operations, communications and policy. The report concluded that there is absolutely no way an adversary can authenticate the president’s identity and transmit nuclear launch plans, and made no recommendations.

I reached out to Stephen Schwartz, the preeminent authority on the nuclear football and author of the book Atomic Audit, which chronicles the true cost of the nuclear weapons program. Much like storm chasers, Schwartz keeps close tabs on the briefcase, albeit from a safe distance, and shares photographs of its movements on social media.

I wanted his take on the report and whether he thought the document had value despite the redactions. He said the report is “reasonably helpful in figuring some things out,” and that its public release was potentially designed to give “a modicum of reassurance to those of us who don’t have access to classified information.” In a way, no news is good news.

“The fact that there were no recommendations suggests to me that the IG’s office and the people responsible for the whole apparatus of the Presidential Emergency Satchel didn’t feel like anything bad enough happened that they needed to take any specific action,” Schwartz told FOIA Files. “I’m not surprised that they have a fairly rigorous set of procedures to make sure nothing happens to this satchel.” After all, he said, “it contains the holiest of holies in terms of nuclear weapons data.”

Schwartz added that the report is noteworthy because the review was sparked by a domestic incident, not an international one.

“January 6th was a real wake up call,” he said. Typically, “they’re worried about foreign actors” and “not US citizens at the United States capital somehow getting uncomfortably close to this.”

Still, it would be incredibly insightful to get a chance to look behind the redactions. In particular we might learn what would happen in the event that the strike options in the nuclear decision handbook, also known as the black book, are compromised. But for now, the public will just have to be satisfied with the report’s assurance that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

In a memo, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also “assured the Speaker of the House that a very specific and deliberate process governs a nuclear launch.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs “repeatedly stated that the DOD has processes, protocols, and procedures in place such that there is no chance of an illegal, unauthorized, or accidental launch.”

The memo also said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs met with his deputies and military intelligence officials to confirm that the security procedures for the nuclear football are practiced daily.

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Sen. Menendez’s Fate Now in Hands of Manhattan Jury

After nine weeks and well over a million words of testimony and lawyer arguments, jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial began deliberations on Friday afternoon.

They will decide whether a sprawling, yearslong federal investigation and high-stakes political prosecution is a righteous takedown of a corrupt New Jersey Democrat or a catastrophic and misguided waste of time.

Their decision will determine the fate of a famed New Jersey politician who wielded enormous influence on the local, national and world stage over the course of his 50-year career. At 70, a guilty verdict could very well mean Menendez will spend the rest of his life in prison. But an acquittal — or hung jury, like in his 2017 trial — would amount to a historic and extraordinary legal feat for a senator who has long accused the Justice Department of “hunting” him.

The jury left for the weekend without reaching a verdict. Afterward, Menendez said: “I have faith in God and in the jury.”

The corruption case is, to be sure, complex. Prosecutors allege the senator was involved in a series of overlapping schemes to disrupt state and federal criminal investigations and help Egypt obtain American military aid in exchange for cash and gold found when the FBI searched his home.

But prosecutors from the Southern District of New York say their case boils down to a simple story about an entitled elected official selling himself. The trial opened in mid-May with jurors being shown those goods — piles of cash and over a dozen bars of gold.

The 12 jurors, who included a doctor and retired economist, have a daunting task ahead.

Prosecutors are attempting to prove beyond a reasonable doubt 18 separate charges against Menendez, a pair of businesspeople and the senator’s wife Nadine. A third businessperson already pleaded guilty and testified against Menendez. His wife will be tried separately because of a breast cancer diagnosis.

On Thursday and Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein spent about four hours giving the jurors instructions.

Some of those jury instructions were based on relatively fresh Supreme Court rulings that have made it harder than ever for prosecutors to combat political corruption.

And whatever jurors decide may not be the final word. If they convict Menendez on one or more of the 16 counts he faces, the senator will almost certainly appeal.

At the most basic level, the jurors main task ahead is who to believe: prosecutors or Menendez.

Yet, it became clear in the final days of the trial that there is a third side of the story.

Attorneys for the senator’s co-defendants — Egyptian-American meat mogul Wael “Will” Hana and prominent New Jersey developer and longtime Menendez friend Fred Daibes — acknowledged or left open the possibility that their clients gave gifts of cash or gold to the Menendezes that the senator’s legal team spent the whole trial suggesting he did not receive.

Instead, Hana and Daibes’ defense is that cash and gold was not given in exchange for any particular official act by the senator. Stein’s jury instructions included a relatively novel section that made clear not every gift to a public official, like Menendez, is a bribe.

“Were these bribes or were they gifts, were they something criminal, or were they something generous?” Hana attorney Larry Lustberg told jurors. “Don’t, as the government asks you to do over and over and over, just assume the worst.”

While all the defendants argued there were no bribes, the competing defenses add to what the jurors must reconcile.

“They didn’t give me any gifts whatsoever,” Menendez told POLITICO as he left the courthouse on Wednesday.

But authorities found Daibes’ fingerprints on envelopes of cash found in the Menendez home and have traced back some of the cash to when it was printed and put into circulation. The fingerprints of Hana associates have been found on other envelopes.

At other times, Menendez’s attorneys have tried to portray their client’s wife as doing things behind his back. Daniel Richenthal, one of the federal prosecutors, urged jurors to reject this defense.

“I’m not making fun of her,” he told jurors Thursday. “But does she strike you as a diabolical genius who concocts a plan with Menendez’s friend and Wael Hana to dupe him for five years, including when they’re living together? You think that she could have even pulled that off if she tried?”

No matter what the jury decides, Menendez’s political life is all but over, though he is mounting a long-shot reelection bid as an independent.

Until he was indicted last fall, Menendez was among the most powerful people in the world as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a post he was forced out of amid accusations from this case that he was working as an agent of the Egyptian government.

In a sign of how diminished he is, compare where he was on primary day in New Jersey. As Menendez was stuck in court on June 4 listening to an FBI investigator testify about a stakeout that caught him dining with an Egyptian intelligence officer, New Jersey Democrats went to the polls and selected Rep. Andy Kim as his likely replacement.

But Menendez is not going to go down without a fight.

Almost each day of the trial, his team of attorneys have made objections meant to preserve grounds for an appeal and provoke Judge Stein into making a ruling that could be used to overturn the whole case.

The judge’s mid-trial rulings have ranged from mundane instructions on basic rules of evidence to complex interpretations of the Constitution’s speech or debate clause. That language was meant by the nation’s founders to insulate members of Congress as they deliberate, and is seen by Menendez’s attorneys as fertile ground to plant an appeal aimed at Supreme Court justices who are increasingly hawkish in carving out immunity for elected officials.

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Matthew McConaughey Floats Political Run

Actor Matthew McConaughey on Friday once again floated the idea of running for political office while speaking to legislators at the National Governors Association (NGA) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

McConaughey, known for his acting roles in an array of legal dramas and romantic comedies, has mulled the idea of entering politics in his home state of Texas several times, including speculation about running for governor of the Lone Star State in 2022. He has also been politically involved on the issue of gun control, having met with President Joe Biden after the mass shooting in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas, in 2022.

Despite much speculation, the actor has not formally stated his political affiliation, leaving many to wonder what party, if any, he would align with should he seek office.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that when McConaughey was asked by New Jersey’s Democratic Governor Phil Murphy about his political plans at the NGA summer conference, the star said, “I’m on a learning tour and have been for probably the last six years.”

He added, “Do I have the instincts and intellect that it would be a good fit for me and I would be a good for it. You know, would I be useful?”

Hawaii’s Democratic Governor Josh Green reportedly encouraged the actor’s potential run, but warned him not to “fall into the trap to think you should be just one thing.”

“A lot of Republicans will want you to be Republican and a lot of Democrats will want you to be a Democrat, just be you because that might be something special for all of us,” Green said, per the AP.

The NGA, a bipartisan group of governors across the country, hosts annual meetings for leaders to discuss and address state and national issues, as well as broader political conversations.

McConaughey joined the group as a guest speaker on a panel with NGA chair Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox and NGA vice chair Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, about the “role of culture in polarization,” according to the event’s press release. The panel was centered on Cox’s “Disagree Better” campaign, which argues that “Americans need to disagree better,” and that “healthy conflict” can produce better policy when correctly engaged.

McConaughey, who is a supporter of the campaign, spoke about the current state of political affairs, saying, “We seem to be in a bad situation right now: The extremes seem to be going further left and further right. Decency doesn’t seem to be on the table.”

“I’m in the entertainment business. Our leaders don’t need to be in the entertainment business,” McConaughey said, adding, “The leadership, and especially the government, don’t need to look like an episode of The Real Housewives.”

He concluded his thought by saying, “It can change. I think we’re all hungry for it. America is hungry for it.”

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Massive AT&T Hack Compromises Phone, Text Records of ‘Nearly All’ Customers

AT&T experienced a massive hack of user data for nearly all of its mobile phone customers in 2022, the company announced Friday.

The hack is one of the biggest private communications data breaches in recent history, per Bloomberg.

The stolen data includes “records of calls and texts of nearly all of AT&T’s cellular customers,” other customers using AT&T’s wireless network, and “At&T’s landline customers who interacted with those cellular numbers between May 1, 2022 – October 31, 2022,” AT&T said in a statement Friday.

The breach also included a data from a small portion of customers dating to early January 2023.

The company learned in April that hackers had successfully downloaded customer data from its third-party cloud service, per the statement.

The company initially disclosing the hack in a regulatory filing.

Hackers did not obtain the content of the calls or texts, users’ personal information, or the time stamps of the calls or texts, AT&T said.

However, while customer names were not leaked, it is possible they could be gleaned using other publicly available tools, the company warned.

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that it has an “ongoing investigation into the AT&T breach” and is working with other law enforcement partners.

AT&T said it is working with law enforcement and has “taken steps to close off the illegal access point.”

“We understand that at least one person has been apprehended,” the company added.

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WATCH: Biden Calls Zelensky ‘Putin’ Then Refers to Vice-President ‘Trump’

Joe Biden has referred to Volodymyr Zelensky as “President Putin” and Kamala Harris as “Vice President Trump”, in a pair of significant gaffes set to worsen the crisis engulfing his presidency.

The US president, who is facing calls to stand down over concerns about his age, confused the Ukrainian president with the Russian leader on stage at an international summit.

He then referred to Ms Harris, his vice president, as “Vice President Trump”.

The gaffes came at the end of a Nato summit in Washington DC, which had been pitched as an opportunity to rescue Mr Biden’s ailing reelection campaign.

Standing on a stage with 23 other allied world leaders, Mr Biden spoke for several minutes about the importance of protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression, before turning to Mr Zelensky and introducing him by the wrong name.

“Now, I want to hand over to the President of Ukraine, who has as much courage as he has determination,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen: President Putin.”

He returned to the microphone and attempted to explain the error. “I’m so focused on beating Putin,” he said.

“I’m better,” Mr Zelensky replied.

“You’re a hell of a lot better,” Mr Biden said back.

Watch:

Ninety minutes later, during a second press conference, Mr Biden was asked whether Kamala Harris was qualified to take over his job if necessary.

“I wouldn’t have picked Vice President Trump to be vice president, that I think she was not qualified to be president,” he replied.

Watch:

Donald Trump immediately seized on the moment, writing on social media: “Great job, Joe!”

Within minutes, the clips were being circulated online by official Republican Party accounts.

Mr Biden later defended his health, but said he must do more to “allay” concerns by appearing more often at public events.

The president’s advisers had been braced for the possibility of more errors on the world stage, after two weeks of criticism for his performance at the presidential debate on June 27.

The two slip-ups produced more calls for Mr Biden to end his campaign and make way for a younger candidate.

Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Democrats must put forward the “strongest candidate possible” to beat Trump, and he “no longer believe[s] that is Joe Biden”.

Polls show that Mr Biden’s popularity has tanked since the debate. He is now behind Trump in almost all swing states, and some previously safe blue states are now “in play” in November.

Thursday’s incidents came as aides worked on a pitch to convince Mr Biden to stand down his presidential campaign, amid concerns he can “never recover” from questions raised about his age in the last two weeks.

Aides on the US president’s campaign and White House teams are working out how to persuade him to leave the race, after concluding that he has no chance of beating Trump.

Earlier this week, the Hollywood star and Democrat donor George Clooney called for Mr Biden to abandon his campaign, while the former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped short of defending his decision to remain in the race.

Mr Biden’s press conference at the end of the Nato summit was the first event of its kind for eight months.

The US president gave remarks and took questions from journalists for an hour, defending his record on the economy and foreign policy. He also addressed concerns about his age.

Insisting he would stay in the race, he said: “I’m not in this for my legacy. I’m in this to complete the job I started. I think I’m the best qualified person to do the job.”

He said he was “ready” to deal with Mr Putin and Xi Jinping “now, and three years from now”, when he will be 84 years old. He said the “gravity of the situation” required his experience in office.

But Mr Biden also acknowledged that he had dealt poorly with recent criticism from his own party, describing his errors on the debate stage two weeks ago as “stupid”.

“I’m determined on running, but I think it’s important that I allay fears by letting them see me out there,” he said.

Defending his health, he added: “My schedule has been full bore. So if I slow down and I can’t get the job done, that’s a sign that I shouldn’t be doing it, but there’s no indication of that yet — none.”

He denied a story that he intended to go to bed at 8pm every night, but said he thought it was important to “pace myself”.

“I love my staff, but they add things. They add things all the time. I’m catching hell from my wife,” he said.

Asked whether he would take a cognitive test, he replied: “I’ve taken three significant and intense neurological exams by a neurosurgeon, by a neurologist… as recently as February and they say I’m in good shape.”

“The only thing age does is it creates a little bit of wisdom if you pay attention”.

Mr Biden was asked repeatedly whether he planned to step down if polling data showed that Ms Harris would be more likely to beat Trump in the election.

He replied: “No, unless they came back and said, ‘there’s no way you can win’.”

Leaning into the microphone to whisper to the audience, he added: “No one is saying that. No poll says that.”

He had previously said that only “Lord Almighty” could convince him to step down.

Some Democrats praised Mr Biden for his performance in the latter half of the press conference, when he spoke in detail and without notes on US relations with China, South Korea and Russia.

David Axelrod, a former Barack Obama aide who has called for him to step down, said he was “very comfortable on national security issues”.

However, Mr Biden’s two gaffes in the final hours of the 75th anniversary Nato summit will overshadow three days of intense diplomacy by its member states, as discussion turns to the future of his campaign.

Sir Keir Starmer waved away Mr Biden’s confusion between Mr Zelensky and Mr Putin in his own press conference, arguing that the US president “should be given credit” for the summit.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, said that “slips of tongue happen”, while Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said Mr Biden was “in charge” and on top of matters.

Mr Biden repeatedly referred to other Nato leaders while defending his record.

He said this week’s Nato summit had been the most successful “for a long time”, and that attendees thanked him for bringing them together.

“I know it sounds self-serving, but other leaders and heads of state have thanked me, saying: ‘The reason we’re together is because of Biden’,” he said.

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Obama, Pelosi Have Spoken Privately About Biden

Former President Barack Obama and ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke privately this week about their growing concerns for President Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign — as a growing number of “very connected Democrats” plot to get him to drop out quickly, according to reports.

Obama and Pelosi are said to have discussed how much harder they think it has become for the embattled 81-year-old president to beat his GOP rival, former President Donald Trump, but neither is sure what to do, sources told CNN.

A slew of Democrats have also been begging Obama and Pelosi behind the scenes to help quickly end the turmoil before even more damage is done just four months before the election, the sources added.

Biden has rejected mounting calls for him to give up his candidacy in the wake of his train-wreck first presidential debate against Trump on June 27.

Those cries will likely only get louder following his error-laden “big boy” press conference Thursday night, which had only been called to try to dispel the Democratic clamor for Biden to step aside.

“They are watching and waiting for President Biden to reach a decision on his own,” a longtime Democrat close to Obama, Pelosi and Biden told CNN.

Meanwhile, other sources told Axios that high-powered Democrats — mostly veterans of the Obama and Clinton administrations — have been plotting on an hourly basis on how best to get Biden to drop out.

The group, which the outlet dubbed the “unofficial Committee to Unelect the President,” has apparently been firing off a barrage of texts and emails, commissioning polls and organizing donors in a bid to get rid of him.

Instead of squeezing a defiant Biden and his family, the Dems in question have been trying to pressure the likes of Obama, Pelosi, the Clintons, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), according to the sources.

Obama’s team wouldn’t comment on the reports about his private discussions, while Pelosi’s suggested no one could have such insight.

“There is no member of Congress who would have any knowledge of any conversation that Speaker Pelosi would have with President Obama,” a Pelosi spokesperson said. “Anyone who says they do is not speaking the truth.”

The developments came just hours after Biden spoke in a raspy voice, frequently paused to cough and repeatedly lost his train of thought during his closely watched press conference in Washington on Thursday night.

He ended up calling Vice President Kamala Harris “Vice President Trump” — sparking immediate ridicule from his predecessor and 2024 GOP rival on social media.

“Crooked Joe begins his ‘Big Boy’ Press Conference with, ‘I wouldn’t have picked Vice President Trump to be vice president, though I think she was not qualified to be president.’ Great job, Joe!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

The gaffe came soon after he introduced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “President [Vladimir] Putin” — confusing him with the Russian tyrant whose forces have waged war on Ukraine for two and a half years.

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