Mike Johnson Completely Blindsided by Resignation in His Own Party

Mike Johnson Completely Blindsided by Resignation in His Own Party

Representative Ken Buck took to social media to announce his near-immediate leave from Congress, resigning so fast that even his party leaders were caught off guard by the decision.

“Today, I am announcing that I will depart Congress at the end of next week,” Buck said in a statement on Tuesday. “I look forward to staying involved in our political process, as well as spending more time in Colorado with my family.”

The less-than-two-weeks notice took practically everybody by surprise, including (or maybe especially) House Speaker Mike Johnson.

“I was surprised by Ken’s announcement,” Johnson told a crush of reporters inside the Capitol building. “I look forward to talking to him about that.”

“I didn’t know,” he added.

Speaker Mike Johnson was caught off guard by the announcement from Ken Buck retiring early.

“I was surprised by Ken’s announcement. I look forward to talking to him about that,” he told reporters.

He said he did not know in advance: “I did not know.” pic.twitter.com/7egUzQcBRg

— Haley Talbot (@haleytalbotcnn) March 12, 2024

The Freedom Caucus member originally announced his intention to retire in November—though he had not indicated he would leave before the end of his term.

The loss is a huge problem for House Republicans, who have tried and failed to galvanize their caucus to pass party objectives for months. Buck’s resignation will trim the Republican tally in the House even more, bringing it to just 218 members and leaving behind an impossibly thin one-seat majority, given other vacancies.

The prolific GOP critic, meanwhile, took the resignation as an opportunity to serve one more dunk on his conservative colleagues.

“It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I’ve been in Congress,” Buck elaborated to CNN, describing the current iteration of the lower chamber as “dysfunctional” and the “worst year in 40, 50 years.”

“Instead of having decorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.”

Representative Ken Buck, one of the few Republicans willing to call out his party’s ridiculous efforts to impeach Joe Biden, announced Tuesday that he will leave Congress in less than two weeks.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Colorado’s 4th District in Congress for the past 9 years. I want to thank them for their support and encouragement throughout the years,” Buck said in a statement.

“Today, I am announcing that I will depart Congress at the end of next week. I look forward to staying involved in our political process, as well as spending more time in Colorado and with my family.”

“It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I’ve been in Congress,” Buck later elaborated to CNN. “And having talked to former members it’s the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.”

When asked whether Buck is leaving due to tension among House Republicans, Buck replied, “I think this place is dysfunctional.”

“Instead of having decorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.”

Buck had announced in November that he would not seek reelection, but he indicated at the time that he would complete his current term. Tuesday’s decision will now set off a scramble to find his temporary replacement.

The race to replace Buck is already fairly high profile. Representative Lauren Boebert, who currently represents Colorado’s 3rd district, announced in December that she would move to the 4th and run to succeed Buck. Although the district is a GOP stronghold and will likely send another Republican to Washington, there is no guarantee it will be Boebert, who has struggled to gain traction in a new area and faced accusations of carpetbagging.

Boebert could also run to replace Buck in the now-necessary special election, but that would complicate her career even further. Colorado Sun reporter Jesse Paul pointed out that Boebert would likely have to resign her current position in order to be chosen as the GOP special election nominee. If she does and then loses, she would be out of Congress.

Buck’s departure will also leave House Republicans with just a two-seat majority. The party is already struggling to accomplish anything, even some of its signature projects such as the Biden impeachment inquiry. In just two short weeks, it will be even harder.

Although Buck is a Republican, and even a member of the party’s far-right House Freedom Caucus, he has often been at odds with his fellow Republicans in the past few years. When he first announced his retirement, he slammed the GOP for pushing “self-serving lies,” including that the 2020 election had been stolen.

More recently, Buck has been seemingly the only Republican who refused to fall in line with his party’s efforts to impeach Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Buck has repeatedly pointed out that neither impeachment effort is based on any evidence of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, his party has plowed forward.

This story has been updated.

More sad news for Republicans:

A cohort of senators in the Democratic caucus is calling on President Joe Biden to immediately suspend military aid to Israel on Monday, so long as it continues to block U.S. humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Eight senators, led by independent Senator Bernie Sanders, claimed that Israel’s interference in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the decimated region violates a humanitarian aid subsection of the Foreign Assistance Act.

“The severe humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza is nearly unprecedented in modern history,” read the letter to Biden.

“The Netanyahu government’s interference with humanitarian operations has prevented U.S.- financed aid from reaching its intended recipients in a safe and timely manner,” it continued. “In recent weeks, humanitarian access has seriously deteriorated. That reality was underscored by your decision last week, which we support, to begin air dropping supplies to desperate civilians in north Gaza.”

“Federal law is clear, and, given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza, and the repeated refusal of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address U.S. concerns on this issue, immediate action is necessary to secure a change in policy by his government,” the senators wrote.

The letter notes, however, that withdrawal on the basis of the statute would not stop continued support for Israel’s missile defense system, better known as the Iron Dome.

Biden himself sparred with Netanyahu over the weekend. On Saturday, Biden urged the Israeli leader to consider the innocent lives lost in the ongoing war, insisting that the conflict is “hurting Israel more than helping Israel.” But Netanyahu brushed those off the following day, telling Politico that his intention to crush Palestine is supported by the majority of his citizens.

“The positions that I espouse are supported by the overwhelming majority of Israelis who say to you after October 7: ‘We don’t want to see a Palestinian state,’” he said.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in what a top United Nations court is deliberating as genocide. Roughly two-thirds of the rising death toll consists of women and children, according to data collected by Al Jazeera. So far, Israel has reportedly utilized starvation as a weapon of war, blocking or destroying access to water, food, fuel, electricity, and medical aid.

Special counsel Robert Hur sought advice before testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. And the adviser he picked has deep ties to Donald Trump.

Hur, whom Trump appointed to the Justice Department in 2017, investigated Joe Biden for keeping classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. Although Biden was not charged, Hur’s report damningly described him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur officially resigned from the Department of Justice on Monday, the day before his testimony.

His departure already raised red flags for some people. Had he still been a federal employee, the Justice Department would have been more involved in Hur’s testimony and behavior during the hearing, making sure both followed department ethics guidelines. But as a private citizen, Hur is freed from those constraints.

More concerning, though, is the man that private citizen Hur picked to help him prepare ahead of testifying. Hur has been working with William Burck, a longtime lawyer with deep ties to both the Republican establishment and Trump’s inner circle, as well as a history of stonewalling Democratic efforts.

Burck served in George W. Bush’s administration, first as the president’s deputy counsel, then as special counsel, and finally as White House deputy staff secretary. When he left office, Bush designated Burck as one of his official representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Burck has primarily been in the private sector since then, including serving on the board of Fox News parent company Fox Corporation since 2021. In his law practice, Burck has had some major clients in recent years. He represented three Trump White House officials during the Robert Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Burck worked with Trump’s first White House counsel, Don McGahn, his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his 2016 campaign chair and White House strategist, Steve Bannon.

But Burck’s ties to Trump go even further. In mid- to late 2018, he was tasked with reviewing more than 100,000 pages of Bush-era records related to now–Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the high court in July 2018. Burck advised Trump to invoke executive privilege over those documents, blocking Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee from seeing them during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process—which later turned into a painful and drawn-out investigation rife with sexual assault allegations against the nominee.

When Hur was tapped to look into Biden, he was supposed to be a nonpartisan investigator. Instead, he ultimately handed Republicans a major tool in discrediting the president’s mental capabilities. And his choice of counsel doesn’t make him look much better.

Unfortunately More on Republicans:

Donald Trump has expanded his canonical universe again, this time brandishing himself with a new character and a new name: “Honest Don.”

Like any good writer, Trump was up burning the midnight oil on Tuesday, penning a new chapter in a political saga in which he plays the glorious, faultless counterpart to President Joe Biden’s “Crooked Joe.”

“Dean Phillips, who just ‘quit’ in his hapless campaign against Crooked Joe Biden, was not very good at his craft, politics,” Trump started on Truth Social, inexplicably dunking on Phillips who won zero delegates during the Democratic primary, coming behind “uncommitted” on the ballot. “In fact, I would say that he was far worse than the Republican challengers to me, with a few exceptions.”

But then Trump tore into the meat of his new narrative, all but promising a debate between himself and his presidential rival.

“I’ll give you those names if you like, but I’d rather get down to the serious business of defeating the worst President in the history of the United States, by far, Crooked Joe Biden!!! For the good of our now failing Nation, and in order to inform the American people of what is going on in our Country, we must immediately have a full scale debate between Crooked Joe and Honest Don,” he continued.

“I’m ready to go, ANY TIME, ANY PLACE!”

That is, despite the fact that Trump didn’t attend a single debate this election season, refusing to appear onstage with any of his Republican primary opponents. Trump also skipped opportunities to debate Biden during their first matchup in 2020, after Biden used their first debate to slap Trump down, calling him a “clown” and telling him to “shut up.”

Biden, for his part, told reporters on Friday that he would consider debating the presumed GOP nominee—on one condition.

“It depends on his behavior,” Biden said.

Of course, we need not remind you which candidate is a rapist, convicted of fraud, and contending with 91 criminal charges that include efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results, hoarding troves of classified documents away from the Justice Department, and paying off a porn star to stay mum about an affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Unfortunately More on Trump:

Democrats hilariously highlighted Donald Trump’s many memory gaffes on Tuesday with a montage of some of his biggest goofs.

The House Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony from Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated Joe Biden for keeping classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. Although Biden was not charged, Hur’s report damningly described him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Republicans have seized on this portrayal to bolster their claims that Biden is suffering from cognitive decline.

But ranking Judiciary member Jerry Nadler expertly pointed out that representatives in glass Houses shouldn’t throw stones. At the start of the hearing, Nadler entered into evidence a supercut of Trump’s latest slip-ups.

“That is a man who is incapable of avoiding criminal liability,” Nadler said. “A man who is wholly unfit for office, and a man who at the very least ought to think twice before accusing others of cognitive decline.”

Oof — Nadler put together a brutal supercut of Trump gaffing and shorting out pic.twitter.com/98bFgTzkTP

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 12, 2024

Recently, despite repeatedly bragging about how he aced a dementia test, Trump has mixed up Biden and Barack Obama, Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi, and Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has referred to the country of Argentina as a person and appeared to forget how to say “Venezuela.”

The video montage also included clips of Trump insisting that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border “don’t speak languages” and that if Democrats prevail in November, they will change the name of the state of Pennsylvania. In another, damning clip, Trump confused E. Jean Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples.

And yet he and his allies continue to insist that Biden is mentally incapable of holding office.

Most of the judges overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal trials are weighing options of anonymity and secrecy for their jurors and witnesses, wary of the political blowback from the ideologue’s sycophantic followers. But those judges don’t include Judge Aileen Cannon, whose handling of witnesses has thrust at least one into the limelight, with “Trump employee number 5” revealing himself as former Mar-a-Lago worker Brian Butler.

In a CNN interview released on Monday, Butler admitted to unwittingly helping Trump’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta, transport boxes filled with the documents onto a private jet from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster, New Jersey, ahead of a meeting between Trump and the Justice Department in June 2022—two months before the FBI raid at the Florida estate.

“We got to the airport. I ended up loading all the luggage I had—and he had a bunch of boxes,” Butler said. “They were the boxes that were in the indictment, the white banker’s boxes. That’s what I remember loading.”

His confession corroborates prior reporting, including a clip capturing several individuals hauling boxes across the tarmac during the spring of 2022.

BREAKING – Trump moved docs from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster in 2022, according to another Trump employee who confirms what has long been reported – including this video from spring 2022:

pic.twitter.com/eUxW1sESVV

— Tristan Snell (@TristanSnell) March 12, 2024

But why confess now? According to Butler, that’s all thanks to an impending decision from the Trump-appointed judge.

“It’s been almost a year since FBI agents showed up at my house when my wife was at home. And you know, over the course of the last year, emotionally, it’s been a roller-coaster. A couple of weeks ago, Judge Cannon says she’s going to release the names of the witnesses. You go from highs and lows in this,” Butler said.

“And instead of just waiting for it to just come out, I think it’s better that I get to at least say what happened, than it coming out in the news, people calling me crazy,” he continued. “I’d rather just get it out there, and the hope is, at least I can move on with my life and get over this.”

The public confession is especially alarming to federal prosecutors, who described Cannon’s choice to oust witnesses as “disturbing … on multiple levels.”

“Reminder: Cannon’s actions have consequences,” posted attorney Bradley P. Moss.

In February, special counsel Jack Smith urged Cannon to reconsider her order to unseal the identities of multiple prospective witnesses, arguing that doing so could expose witnesses to “significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment.”

Despite the new information, none of this appears to be expediting the case. Instead, even conservative commentators have accused Cannon of “slow walking” an “open-and-shut, serious case” in order to delay it past Election Day.

A former Mar-a-Lago employee has revealed that Donald Trump shared information on the classified documents he kept after leaving the presidency with anyone he felt like.

Brian Butler, who worked for Trump for 20 years, shared the explosive information with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins Monday night. When Trump was indicted for keeping classified documents at his Florida resort, Butler was identified in the indictment as “Trump Employee 5.” Butler has not been charged.

At one point, Collins asked Butler if he ever saw Trump “carelessly throwing around national security information.” Butler said that the most egregious instance he saw was right after Trump met with Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt.

Pratt, a cardboard and recycling company CEO, is the third-richest man in Australia. The news program 60 Minutes Australia reported in October that it had obtained audio recordings of Pratt describing his “extraordinary dealings” with Trump. During one conversation, Trump allegedly told Pratt two highly classified details about U.S. nuclear submarines: how many nuclear warheads each sub carried and how close a vessel could get to a Russian sub before it was detected.

Pratt reportedly shared that information with about 45 other people. Although he has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case, he was interviewed twice by special counsel Jack Smith, who has led the probe into Trump’s actions.

Butler provided more details Monday on Pratt’s exchange with Trump, which occurred in the first half of 2021. “He finishes his meeting with the former president, gets in the car, and his chief of staff says, ‘How did the meeting go?’ Pratt … just says, ‘He told me—,’ and it would be U.S. military, classified information. What he told him about Russian submarines and U.S. submarines,” Butler said Monday night.

But Butler said that Pratt had raised “red flags” to him years before that meeting, because the billionaire was paying thousands, even millions of dollars to host events at Mar-a-Lago.

“Here’s a guy that’s just buying access,” Butler said.

Butler: Pratt finishes his meeting with Trump, gets in the car, and his chief of staff asks him about the meeting. Pratt starts talking about classified information on Russian submarines and U.S. submarines… here’s a guy that’s just buying access pic.twitter.com/RRE80Ueg6s

— Acyn (@Acyn) March 12, 2024

Pratt began cultivating access to Trump almost immediately upon the latter’s election in 2016. He paid at least $200,000 for a Mar-a-Lago membership and once spent $1 million to attend an event where Trump would be present. The event was charging $50,000 per person for entry. Pratt also paid for a full-page ad in the The Wall Street Journal praising Trump for creating manufacturing jobs in the Midwest.

Trump denied the allegations last year that he had shared classified information with Pratt. He insisted that he had only spoken with the “red-haired weirdo from Australia” about creating jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The former president has yet to comment on Butler’s allegations. According to the former employee, it wasn’t just Pratt who might have been able to access the classified documents. Photos in the indictment revealed Trump had stored documents in incredibly public places, including a bathroom and the Mar-a-Lago ballroom. Butler told Collins that “anybody” could have gotten a master key and accessed those and other areas of the resort property.

Donald Trump has never been shy about expressing his affection for dictators. And now that stance has become even clearer, with his former chief of staff alleging that Trump once said Adolf Hitler “did some good things.”

In his new book, The Return of Great Powers, which comes out Tuesday, reporter Jim Sciutto interviews several of Trump’s former advisers. All of them stressed that Trump regularly lavished praise on authoritarian leaders around the world, calling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “fantastic,” Chinese President Xi Jinping “brilliant,” and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un an “OK guy.”

Horrifyingly, Trump also said, “Well, but Hitler did some good things,” according to John Kelly, who served as White House chief of staff from 2017 to 2019.

“I said, ‘Well, what?’ And he said, ‘Well, [Hitler] rebuilt the economy.’ But what did he do with that rebuilt economy? He turned it against his own people and against the world. And I said, ‘Sir, you can never say anything good about the guy. Nothing,’” Kelly told Sciutto. “I mean, Mussolini was a great guy in comparison.”

Kelly said that Trump also praised Hitler for achieving complete loyalty from senior Nazi officials—and Trump expected similar fealty from the retired generals he brought onto his Cabinet.

“He would ask about the loyalty issues and about how, when I pointed out to him the German generals as a group were not loyal to him, and in fact tried to assassinate him a few times, and he didn’t know that,” Kelly said. “He truly believed, when he brought us generals in, that we would be loyal—that we would do anything he wanted us to do.”

Kelly suggested that Trump’s infatuation with dictators was due to his perception of himself. “That’s who he is,” Kelly told Sciutto. “He was shocked that he didn’t have dictatorial-type powers to send U.S. forces places or to move money around within the budget. And he looked at Putin and Xi and that nutcase in North Korea as people who were like him in terms of being a tough guy.”

“He’s not a tough guy by any means, but in fact quite the opposite,” Kelly said. “But that’s how he envisions himself.”

If Trump was disappointed he couldn’t be a dictator during his first term in office, he’s clearly setting himself up to change that should he be reelected in November. Although he has joked about only acting like a dictator on “day one” of a potential second term, Trump and his allies are already bragging about their plans should they retake the White House.

As The New Republic’s Matt Ford summarized, “Trumpworld is scheming to install ideological loyalists throughout the federal government, purge the civil service of any dissenters, centralize all power in the executive branch, and unleash the Justice Department on Trump’s perceived political enemies with sham prosecutions.”

Trump has also seemingly embraced the authoritarian label on the campaign trail. He has repeatedly paraphrased Hitler’s rhetoric in campaign speeches, and on Friday, he hosted Orbán at Mar-a-Lago.

“There’s nobody that’s better, smarter, or a better leader than Viktor Orbán,” Trump said. “He’s the boss, and he’s a great leader, fantastic leader. In Europe and around the world, they respect him.”

Donald Trump has offered a new way to win over older voters: suggesting that the government gut Medicare and Social Security spending.

While calling in to CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday, the former president brought up the idea of cutting  “entitlements” such as Social Security and Medicaid.

“There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting and in terms of also—the theft and the bad management of entitlements,” Trump said.

“There’s tremendous amounts of things, numbers of things you can do,” he continued, without further elaborating. 

Trump’s mention of the “bad management of entitlements” brings to mind the Project 2025 policy agenda to eliminate and defund social programs. The plan, created by the Heritage Foundation and several other conservative groups to guide a transition to a Trump White House, states firmly that “our deficit problem is a Medicare and Medicaid problem.”

In a statement later Monday, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt desperately tried to walk the statement back and also, classically, blamed Joe Biden and the border. His campaign claimed that “mass invasion of countless millions of illegal aliens will, if they are allowed to stay, cause Social Security and Medicare to buckle and collapse.” 

This certainly isn’t the first time Trump has called for defunding Medicare and Social Security.

Meanwhile, Biden’s spokesman doubled down on the president’s commitments to funding the government programs, saying that “Biden honors his ironclad commitment by firmly opposing benefit cuts to Medicare and Social Security.”

Currently, Social Security funds, which 67 million Americans rely on, risk running out by 2033. The same goes for Medicare in 2031.

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