The Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky held an event this week honoring one of the cops in the raid that killed Breonna Taylor.
The event took place on Tuesday at Anna’s Greek Restaurant, a well-known local restaurant in Bowling Green, with a dining area and second-floor space where events can be held. There, former Louisville Metro Police Department Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers who conducted the no-knock warrant and raid that killed Taylor in March 2020, reportedly shared photos and blared video footage with gunshot noises.
The restaurant was open to the public at the time of the event. Guests, some of whom had made reservations, were not informed by management about the last-minute event happening upstairs. Guests, including people of color, there for their own dinner plans were then shocked by what appeared to be a bustling event celebrating an officer who was part of the raid that killed a Black woman in her own home.
Cayce Johnson, a guest at the restaurant that night, told The New Republic that the lights dimmed in the middle of their meal. “The woman comes back on and introduces Jonathan Mattingly, and everyone just roared upstairs—applause, cheers, and our mouths just dropped.” Sound carried throughout Anna’s, a retrofitted old church.
Johnson said Mattingly took the audience “back to March 2020,” before going through the presentation with photos and video footage with the sound of gunshots. “One of the members of our group was a war veteran and he has PTSD, so we were just in extreme shock.”
Katelyn Jones, another diner, told TNR the event also included a raffle and jokes about Covid-19. She said the event was initially so loud her father couldn’t hear anything at the table.
After realizing the event included Mattingly, Johnson and her friends sought out the restaurant owner, Vilson Qehaja. Qehaja responded to the group’s concerns by literally shrugging his shoulders, according to video footage. “I have no idea what’s happening, so,” he said as the group complained about the presentation on Taylor. “I have nothing to do with that, so.”
One of Johnson’s friends said, “Do you realize who that is? They killed somebody, a cop. He’s a cop … I made reservations, I came from Kansas City.”
“You’re being served, right?” Qehaja responded.
Guests say Qehaja later simply turned up the music.
“He was drinking his coffee and staring at us, raising his eyebrows, kind of intimidating us, like, ‘What are you going to do?’” Johnson said. Qehaja’s behavior mimicked what event attendees upstairs allegedly were doing, as guests claimed men from the audience glared down from the second-floor balcony at restaurantgoers, seeming to warn them not to disrupt their event.
An estimated 80 people reportedly attended the event.
Since the event, Mattingly has left a glowing review of Anna’s—and gotten into fights with people who say his presence disrupted their dinner. He did not explicitly deny reports of gunshot noises during the presentation.
“It is beyond reprehensible to subject anyone, let alone children and customers of African American descent, to such indecent exposure, graphic and upsetting images while they were attempting to enjoy their meal,” said the Bowling Green–Warren County Branch of the NAACP in a statement. “Such disturbing occurrences must not be tolerated especially in places of public accommodation. At a minimum, these acts are devoid of humanity and violate the most fundamental principles of human decency.”
TNR reached out to the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department. They had no comment.
The event took place despite earlier controversy about Mattingly’s presence. He was originally slated to appear alongside Agriculture Commissioner and Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Ryan Quarles at the Bowling Green Country Club. In a post from their now-removed Facebook page, the Republican Women’s Club said Mattingly was going to “share what really happened during the raid that killed Breonna Taylor, what he saw, and how the media’s narrative has been corrupted and twisted to fit into a false, woke storyline.” After the event garnered attention from the media and local political leaders, Quarles and the Bowling Green Country Club both backed out.
Attempts were also made to contact the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky and its officers, to no avail. Regina Webb, a Republican who ran for the state House of Representatives in 2012, claimed ignorance about the event to TNR. Webb, listed by the secretary of state in 2020 as vice president and director of the Republican Women’s Club, also said she was not involved in the club.
“A lot of people attending are actually people in positions of power in Bowling Green.… People are hesitant to put their name out there for fear of retribution,” Johnson said. “They thought that because they were going to secretly and quietly move the event, there would be no one who knew what it was, and no one to call them out.”
“We are calling them out.”
A federal judge ruled Friday that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis violated the state Constitution and First Amendment when he suspended an elected Democratic state attorney last year, but the court would not step in and overturn that suspension.
State Attorney Andrew Warren sued DeSantis in August, two weeks after the governor suspended him for alleged “willful defiance of his duty.” DeSantis cited in particular a joint statement Warren signed with other elected prosecutors the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, stating “our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions,” such as abortion or transgender health care.
In his suit, Warren denied explicitly refusing to enforce laws and argued his suspension was political retaliation and a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. He sought a judge’s order to restore him to office and to bar DeSantis from taking further action against him.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle sided with Warren that his rights had been violated, blasting DeSantis’s argument that the prosecutor had neglected his duty by making blanket promises not to prosecute certain cases.
“Mr. Warren’s well-established policy, followed in every case by every prosecutor in the office, was to exercise prosecutorial discretion at every stage of every case. Any reasonable investigation would have confirmed this,” Hinkle wrote in his ruling. In his opinion, there was “not a hint of misconduct by Mr. Warren.”
But, the judge said, he was unable to restore Warren to office. He argued that the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which restricts individuals from suing states in federal court, tied his hands.
“The Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from awarding … relief of the kind at issue against a state official based only on a violation of state law,” Hinkle said in the ruling.
Not only is it frustrating to watch an elected official break the law and still get away with it, it is also worrying that this case will push DeSantis to go further. The Republican—and current favorite to face off against Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination—has gone to war with what he calls “trendy ideologies.”
He signed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and pushed the so-called Stop Woke Act, which restricts certain race-based conversations and analyses in colleges. That bill has been temporarily blocked from being implemented. This week, he banned an A.P. African American studies course in schools.
DeSantis getting away with suspending Warren without so much as a slap on the wrist could embolden him to take retaliatory measures against other public officials whom he deems too “woke.”
Unfortunately More on DeSantis
Republican lawmakers in Kansas have introduced a bill that would allow individual cities and counties to ban abortion, directly overriding a vote last year where the majority of state residents chose to protect reproductive rights.
Almost 60 percent of Kansans voted in August to keep the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. The result was considered—and turned out to be—a bellwether for the fight for reproductive rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade a few months earlier.
But on Thursday, Kansas state Senator Chase Blasi introduced a bill that would allow cities and counties to enact abortion restrictions, arguing he was taking the issue to “a more local level.”
Blasi apparently subscribes to the belief “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If it becomes law, his bill would undermine the voters’ decision from August.
“The irony of this bill is too much,” Anamarie Rebori Simmons, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told The New Republic. “The party that tried to remove fundamental protections from the state Constitution didn’t get the outcome they wanted when Kansans overwhelmingly supported abortion access. This is an attempt to blatantly disregard the will of the people. Abortion rights won in a landslide, including in the home county of the bill’s sponsor. Politicians serve as the voice of the people in the legislature, and Republican lawmakers should know better than to silence those they represent.”
Kansas allows abortion up to 22 weeks, but the state also has multiple rules aimed at discouraging people from getting abortions, such as requiring patients to receive state-directed counseling and to undergo an ultrasound before getting the procedure. The ultrasound provider must offer the patient the option to see the image.
Democratic state Senator Cindy Holscher slammed the bill as an attempt by “extremists” to “find another path” to increase restrictions on abortion and said the measure will likely go to court if it passes.
It’s not the only bill attacking reproductive rights: State Senator Mark Steffen also introduced a bill that would ban the prescription via telemedicine of abortion pills or drugs used to induce abortions.
Ashley All, a senior advisor for the reproductive freedom nonprofit Families United for Freedom, slammed the Blasi bill’s hypocrisy. “It’s important to remember that the amendment on the ballot in August specifically asked voters’ permission for politicians to further regulate abortion and voters said NO,” she told The New Republic. “These extreme anti-abortion politicians are ignoring the will of Kansas voters and attempting to eliminate our constitutional rights.”
Neither bill is likely to become state law. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly supports abortion rights and thus will probably veto them both should they make it to her desk. But the legislation is an indication that the attempts to limit reproductive freedom are only getting more intense.
This post has been updated.
The Supreme Court has spent months investigating who might have leaked the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, and the results released Thursday can best be paraphrased as such: “IDK, bro.”
The leaked draft last May caused widespread outrage, both in and outside the highest U.S. court. Protesters took to the streets, demanding the justices protect the right to abortion, but Chief Justice John Roberts was more concerned about the sanctity of the court, calling the leak a “betrayal of the confidences of the Court.” He assigned the marshal of the court and her team to investigate the source of the leak.
After a months-long investigation, the team announced Thursday it is “unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”
The court also consulted Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of homeland security, who confirmed the marshal “undertook a thorough investigation.”
Except … maybe not so much.
Investigators conducted 126 interviews of 97 court personnel, many of which were reportedly short and not exactly in-depth. Employees were asked to turn over the call and text logs from their personal cell phones, but investigators found “nothing relevant” in the records. Investigators also examined employees’ search histories to see if anyone was essentially stupid enough to Google, “Is it illegal for me to leak a Supreme Court draft opinion?” It appears no one was.
Several personnel admitted they had told their partners about the opinion draft, which violates the court’s confidentiality rules. It is unclear whether those staffers will face disciplinary measures and, more importantly, whether their partners were also questioned as potential leakers.
What’s more, the marshal’s report doesn’t specify whether any of the justices themselves were questioned, focusing instead on “Court personnel” and “temporary … and permanent employees.”
There has been plenty of speculation about who might have leaked the draft and why, but one thing is clear: This investigation was never going to give us those answers.
Nearly 500,000 school buses carry 25 million children to school across the country every day. And now America is in a full-swing effort to replace those buses with electric ones, setting the country on the path to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million tons—equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.
Though states have begun transitioning buses for years, the nationwide project follows the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which commissioned $5 billion toward the effort to replace old, diesel-fueled buses with new cleaner vehicles. The first round of funding distributed nearly $1 billion to districts in states nationwide, including Washington, D.C., and territories including Puerto Rico and Guam.
Such investments not only save millions in emissions and in fuel costs but also correlate to better health and academic outcomes for children: better school attendance, lower rates of asthma, and stronger general respiratory health and cognitive functioning. While electric buses may come at a higher cost at first, the investment pays dividends almost immediately.
And districts from coast to coast are reaping the benefits.
“Our district’s diesel fuel costs are tremendous,” Heath Oates, superintendent of Missouri’s El Dorado Springs R-II school district, told The Daily Yonder. “My initial estimates show we’re going to save around $200,000 a year, which is the cost of four beginning teachers with benefits.”
Pellston Public Schools in Michigan are estimated to save 80 percent in energy use, saving the 461-student district about $33,000 annually. The estimated reduction in maintenance costs is about 60 percent, which would offer another $23,812 in annual savings.
Nevada’s Clark County district, which operates the nation’s largest owned-and-operated school bus fleet, with nearly 2,000 buses serving 125,000 students, has just unveiled its first electric model. Just one bus is estimated to save $60 a day in fuel costs—scale that to the whole fleet, and the district could save nearly $120,000 per day.
Beyond the massive fiscal and emission-reduction benefits, the bus rides themselves improve. Bus drivers cite the “smoother ride” and substantial noise reduction as improvements both for their own sake and in enabling them to more easily hear and communicate with their young passengers.
Policies like school bus transitions are good in their own right: The benefits they proffer fiscally, environmentally, and even socially are valuable. But they also show people across the country why policy—and policy battles—matter at all. A society acquainted with the benefits of things like electric school buses would be one eager to demand more such changes.
The Treasury is having to resort to “extraordinary measures” to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt, which could plummet the country into a recession, Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress Thursday.
In a letter, Yellen explained the U.S. has reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit, forcing her to take steps to ensure the government does not default and has a little more time to solve the problem. For now, those “extraordinary measures” include redeeming and suspending new federal investments in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. In a letter last week, Yellen also expected that the Treasury will suspend reinvestment of the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.
Suspending investment in these funds will preserve the country’s credit until June, but Yellen noted that the amount of time these measures will work is “subject to considerable uncertainty” and urged Congress to act quickly.
She warned last week that defaulting would cause “irreparable harm to the U.S. economy.”
The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money the U.S. can borrow. The current level was set two years ago. If the government reaches its borrowing limit, it could default on its debt or fail to make a payment. Already high prices and inflation could skyrocket, sending the U.S. into a recession.
House Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, refuse to raise the debt ceiling and instead are trying to slash spending in other areas, such as entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But Democrats and President Joe Biden refuse to negotiate, with White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre warning Wednesday that the debt limit should not be used as a “political football.”
Defaulting means the government would be unable to pay military salaries and Social Security benefits. A lower debt ceiling would also mean less funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, SNAP or food stamps, and meal programs for low-income students.
During the last debt ceiling standoff in 2021, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned that defaulting would send the U.S. into an almost immediate recession, wiping out up to $15 trillion in household wealth and nearly doubling the unemployment rate from about 5 percent at the time to about 9 percent.
“This economic scenario is cataclysmic.… The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, Zandi and Bernard Yaros, Moody’s assistant director and economist, said in a report.
George Santos has lied about most of his background, including that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, that his employees died at the Pulse nightclub shooting, and that he was a star volleyball player at a school he didn’t attend.
But this week brought another array of revelations about Santos’s past. First, there was the report that he used his fake animal charity to raise money for a homeless veteran’s dying dog, before stealing the money. Then newly uncovered immigration records showed that Santos’s mother, who Santos had repeatedly implied died from 9/11-related afflictions, was not in the United States at all that day.
And finally, another new piece of information came from old photos circa 2008 in Brazil, showing Santos adorned in drag, under the moniker Kitara Ravache, grinning alongside Brazilian drag queen Eula Rochard.
On Thursday, Santos denied stealing money from a dying dog and that he performed in drag, but notably ignored reports that he lied about 9/11.
Santos/Devolder/Zabrovsky/Ravache’s tweets are among the few public statements he has made in direct response to the endless stream of revelations and questions about his past.
The volume of new information about Santos’s background is continually shocking. Similarly interesting is what revelations seem to bother Santos and which ones he is trying to let slip through the public’s consciousness, simply by sheer will of the lies being so insurmountable, so untrackable, that it’s hard to maintain meaningful scrutiny on him.
Based on the little time Santos has actually spent denying most of the charges against him, perhaps he understands his party to be willing to overlook lies about 9/11 and the Holocaust, but not the rest.
Donald Trump mistook the woman accusing him of rape for his ex-wife in a photograph during a deposition last year, contradicting one of his weakest but most-used arguments for his innocence.
Since Carroll accused Trump of assault, a photograph has been widely circulated and cited as proof that the two had met before. Taken in 1987, the picture shows Trump, Carroll, and their respective spouses, at the time Marla Maples and John Johnson, talking at a party. In an excerpt of Trump’s 2022 deposition, parts of which were unsealed Wednesday, Trump mistakes Carroll for Maples.*
Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba is quick to correct him, but only after Trump repeatedly insists that Carroll is Maples. The fact that he can’t differentiate between Carroll, a woman to whom he said he wasn’t attracted, and Maples, a woman to whom he definitely was, undermines Trump’s main case for his innocence.
In another unsealed excerpt of the deposition, given in October, Trump appallingly claimed that Carroll “loved” the assault.
“She said it was very sexy to be raped,” he said. He also repeatedly said Carroll was mentally ill.
Carroll accused Trump in her memoir, released in 2019, of raping her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. She has sued him twice for allegedly defaming her, first in 2019 when he said she made up the rape allegation in order to sell her book, and again in November for posts he made about her on social media.
She is not the only one: At least 26 women have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault since the 1970s, all of which he was denied, and he bragged in a 2005 recording of the show Access Hollywood about grabbing women’s genitals and kissing them without their consent. So far, Carroll’s case has gotten the most national attention and is one of the few to actually reach a courtroom. Trump is expected to go on trial in April.
Sexual assault is about power, not desire, and Psychology Today notes the “motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.” Trump has made clear the lengths he will go to for power, from trying to bully Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rival to lying about the 2020 election being stolen and so much more.
* This article originally misstated the year of Trump’s deposition.
Kevin McCarthy owes his long-desired speakership to a group of 21 holdouts finally caving, all of whom have been rewarded for flipping with plum committee assignments.
McCarthy made no secret of his ambition to be speaker, apparently no matter the cost, and the California Republican made us all sit through 15 agonizing votes before finally making enough deals to win. But it seems that the many changes to the rules package were not the only concessions he made.
Representative Lauren Boebert kept her seat on the Committee on Natural Resources and received a new post on the powerful House Oversight Committee. She is joined there by Scott Perry, Anna Paulina Luna, and Paul Gosar. Gosar was previously stripped of all committee assignments after he shared an animated video showing him killing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.
Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz who, along with Boebert, were some of the most vocal McCarthy critics, will keep their seats on the House Judiciary Committee, along with Chip Roy and Dan Bishop. Byron Donalds, who at one point ran against McCarthy for speaker, will stay on the House Oversight Committee and has joined the House Committee on Financial Services. Many other McCarthy holdouts will keep their committee assignments.
McCarthy also rewarded his allies: Jim Jordan, who consistently voted for McCarthy even when the holdouts nominated Jordan for speaker, is the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Marjorie Taylor Greene spent months allying herself with McCarthy and urging her colleagues to back him. She, like Gosar, was stripped of committee assignments by Democrats for her inflammatory social media posts. Greene now sits on the Oversight Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security. Problematic king George Santos voted for McCarthy every time, and not only has the new speaker refrained from condemning the freshman congressman’s many lies but McCarthy also gave him two committee assignments.
James Comer is the new chair of the Oversight Committee. Mike Rogers threatened to withhold committee assignments from the holdouts and even nearly came to blows with Gaetz for refusing to vote for McCarthy. He now chairs the Armed Services Committee.
The White House slammed the assignments, with spokesman Ian Sams telling Axios, “It appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.”
“Republicans are handing the keys of oversight to the most extreme MAGA members of the Republican caucus who promote violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories,” he said.
Ritchie Torres, former vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted he was “horrified” by Greene’s assignment to the group.
More on Those Republicans
George Santos has positioned himself as a proud, unabashed conservative—on social issues and all. He has expressed support for Florida’s regressive “Don’t Say Gay” law that bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in school. Accusing Democrats of wanting to “groom our kids,” Santos peddled right-wing talking points that equate discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with children with sexual abuse. Such talking points often go further, holding that drag shows, or even LGBTQ people generally, groom and abuse children.
It now appears Santos has participated in drag himself.
A 2008 photo from Brazil depicts Santos, known at the time as Anthony, in a drag costume under the moniker Kitara Ravache.
The photo comes from Santos’s old friend Eula Rochard, a Brazilian drag queen who spoke with journalist Marisa Kabas. According to their conversation, Rochard met Santos when he was a teenager, and they bonded over both being gay and enjoying drag. After Rochard had seen a news story about Santos, Rochard shared the photo to her social media to prove the old connection.
“Me with the American Republican deputy at the Niterói parade, as I had said he wouldn’t leave my house, there’s the proof for those who called me a liar,” Rochard wrote on Instagram (in rough translation from Portuguese).
To be clear, it’s great that Santos enjoyed drag and made a friend while doing it. And in any abstract sense, it doesn’t matter! What matters is that Santos has positioned himself among a political movement incredibly antagonistic toward drag queens and others who enjoy drag, one that stokes transphobia and hate toward all LGTBQ people. Santos will try to have it both ways—and Republicans who have decried drag as a moral crisis will too: Either drag truly is an existential threat to our children (wrong) and Santos should be removed from Congress (correct), or drag is absolutely fine (correct) and Santos should not be removed from Congress (wrong).