Indicted GOP Rep’s Defense: Bad Cell Signal

INSIDE: Ken Paxton ... HBCU Bomb Threats ... Scott Pruitt
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., speaks as the House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on the H.R.4502 appropriations bill on Monday, July 26, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, I... UNITED STATES - JULY 26: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., speaks as the House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on the H.R.4502 appropriations bill on Monday, July 26, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Sorry Can’t Hear You, I’m In A Tunnel

Defense lawyers for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who’s currently on trial for allegedly lying to the FBI about a call in which an informant had told him an illegal campaign donation “probably did come from” a foreign billionaire, argued that the call in question was actually just one big misunderstanding caused by “a bad cell phone connection.”

  • Fortenberry didn’t really hear what the informant said, his lawyers claimed. The Republican goes on “autopilot” during conversations about fundraising, they said, which made it easier for him to mishear the informant due to poor cell reception.
  • The prosecutors just “assume” that Fortenberry heard and remembered what the informant said, the congressman’s attorney argued.

Biden To Discuss Russia’s Ukraine Invasion With Xi Jinping

The President is slated to have a call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping today about Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

  • The Guardian: “Joe Biden to warn Xi Jinping China will face ‘costs’ if it helps Russia”
  • The Washington Post: “What to expect from Biden’s call with China’s Xi Jinping”
  • CNBC: “Here’s what Chinese state media is saying ahead of Xi’s call with Biden”

New Hampshire GOP Governor Pledges To Veto GOPers’ Gerrymandered District Map

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced on Thursday that he would veto the congressional district map for the state’s two districts (which are both currently represented by Democrats) that the New Hampshire GOP-controlled legislature had passed earlier that day.

  • Sununu himself said the proposed map was gerrymandered in his party’s favor and “not in the best interest of New Hampshire.”
  • Under the proposed map, one of the two districts would become more Republican.
  • It didn’t really help that New Hampshire GOP chair Stephen Stepanek had openly gloated last year that because his party controlled the state legislature and thus the redistricting process, he could “guarantee” that New Hampshire would send a Republican to Congress in this year’s midterms.

Texas Attorney General Deliberately Misgenders Trans Biden Official

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) called U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, who is the first openly transgender person hold a Senate-confirmed position, a “man” via Twitter on Thursday after she was named as one of USA Today’s “Women of the Year.”

  • Twitter flagged Paxton’s tweet as a violation of the platform’s rules on “hateful conduct” but didn’t take it down, deciding that the tweet “may be in the public’s interest.” 
  • Paxton’s performative cruelty added an extra layer to his and other Texas Republicans’ war on transgender people, which has included the attorney general (who’s running for reelection and is also under investigation for alleged corruption) putting out an official opinion claiming that giving trans kids gender-affirming care is “child abuse.”

FBI Says It’s Identified Six Suspects Involved In Wave Of HBCU Bomb Threats

Six suspects, all juveniles, are at the center of most of the bomb threats that’ve targeted more than a third of the country’s historically Black colleges and universities since early January, federal law enforcement officials said during a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Gov. Whitmer’s Accused Would-Be Kidnappers Allegedly Wanted To Tie Her Down

One of the four men who’ve charged with conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) allegedly described to an undercover FBI agent in detail how they wanted to tie her down on a table with flex cuffs “while we all pose and get our pictures taken like we just made the biggest drug bust” in history.

North Carolina Attorney General Requests Investigation Into Meadows

How the turntables: The North Carolina attorney general’s office has asked the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) to probe former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ voter registration, a spokesperson for the office told WRAL on Thursday, after a damning New Yorker investigation found that he’d registered to vote in the 2020 election with a North Carolina address where he didn’t live.

  • The attorney general’s office asked the SBI to investigate the matter with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, according to the spokesperson.
  • Meadows registered to vote with an address of a mobile home in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina that he’s apparently never spent a single night in, the New Yorker found. The ex-Trump official, one of Trump’s loudest proponents of the lie that the 2020 election was tainted by voter fraud, had voted absentee.

Must Read

“How Marina Ovsyannikova Became Russia’s Most Visible Antiwar Protester” – The Wall Street Journal

Scott Pruitt Might Run For Senate

One of the more cartoonishly corrupt ex-Trump officials is mulling a bid for outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) seat, according to CBS News. Did he ever get that used mattress from the Trump International Hotel, by the way?

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