The Weekender: The Biggest Gun Bro Doesn’t Wanna Touch The NRA Right Now

Gun Rights

Hello, it’s the weekend. This is The Weekender ☕

The right-wing Washington Examiner published a funny non-story on Friday headlined, “Donald Trump Jr. appreciates but rejects offer to run NRA.” I call it a non-story because the National Rifle Association never actually offered Don Jr. the position — the Examiner aggregated a report from The Reload gun magazine about an NRA board member suggesting in an email that Don Jr. might be a good fit. And Don Jr. only rejected the supposed “offer” because the Washington Examiner called someone “close to” him to ask about it. 

The official reason the source close to Don Jr. gave was that the former president’s son is too tied up working on his father’s campaign and has recently begun “moving in as a key surrogate” for his father while he sits in a courtroom in Manhattan all day for his criminal trial. Don Jr., who is a really big gun guy and has done a lot of disgraceful trophy hunting in his day, was apparently, in the Examiner’s words, “very appreciative of the suggestion.”

There’s probably no lie in Don Jr.’s rationale for rejecting the offer but there’s another possible underlying reason. Even some of the biggest gun nuts have been distancing themselves from the gun group, which has been plagued by corruption and financial mismanagement for five-plus years. Just earlier this year, the NRA’s former longtime chief Wayne LaPierre was found liable for spending millions of NRA funds on his own personal, extravagant lifestyle. A jury found LaPierre must repay $4.4 million to the NRA and that its retired finance chief, Wilson Phillips, must repay $2 million. 

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That’s small potatoes compared to the fines being imposed on Don Jr.’s father, but perhaps he doesn’t want to touch any more potentially fraudulent organizations with a 10 foot pole. 

Here’s what we have on tap for you this weekend:

  • Kate Riga covered Supreme Court oral arguments this week. She unpacks why the conservative justices’ handling of the Idaho abortion case foreshadowed what was to come the following day on Trump’s grasp at immunity. 
  • Hunter Walker discusses his reporting on “the mother of all Twitter files” and how extremely exciting Elon Musk is for the far right.
  • Khaya Himmelman weighs in on the RNC’s latest “election integrity” scheme. 

Let’s dig in.

— Nicole Lafond

The End Of Arguments

On Tuesday, I felt reasonably confident about Thursday’s Supreme Court arguments over Donald Trump’s immunity claims. 

It wasn’t my primary beat (Josh Kovensky is our go-to Trump malfeasance guy), but because of my experience covering the Supreme Court, I was subbing in while he covered the hush money trial in New York. I’d read the briefs and had enough outside expertise to get a sense that even for this Court, Trump’s arguments were both too flimsy and too extreme. A Court with an originalism fetish buying that the framers meant to insulate the President, kinglike, from any legal repercussions if he committed crimes in the course of his official acts? It’s a stretch. 

I felt totally differently exiting arguments Wednesday on an unrelated case, a tension between federally regulated emergency room care and Idaho’s draconian abortion ban. There too, I was well aware of the Court’s partisan lean on the issue. But the case was so easy, Idaho’s argument so, well, dumb. 

The government argued that in hospitals participating in Medicare, emergency room staff must stabilize patients under the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA). As the law doesn’t specify types of treatment, it seems obvious that such a requirement stretches to abortion, if that’s what a pregnant patient needs to be stabilized. Idaho’s ban only includes an exception to save the woman’s life — a much more narrow assurance, though the state’s lawyer pretended otherwise (to the point of mendacity). 

Federal laws preempt conflicting state ones. States habitually have to abide by mandates, even ones they don’t like, when accepting federal funding. These are bedrocks of our system. 

Instead of putting aside their clear personal dislike for abortion, the conservatives twisted themselves into knots to create a world where a near-total abortion ban doesn’t harm women, where Idaho doctors aren’t airlifting out pregnant patients rather than risking running afoul of the ban’s punishments, where doctors don’t have to sit and watch patients painfully deteriorate until they’re sure death is closer. And the justices did so with notable pique towards the liberals, who insisted on bringing such real-world anecdotes into the colloquies.

It was the results-oriented Court at work, without a complicated case to cover its tracks. I feared that conventional wisdom on the Trump immunity case was about to be blown out of the water. 

It was. After Thursday’s arguments, the justices seemed inclined to send the case back down for further litigation on the immunity question, almost guaranteeing Trump’s desired delay for the brunt of Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 prosecution (they went so well for him that Trump’s lawyer declined to give a rebuttal, the only time I’ve ever seen that happen). 

With that flourish, the Court is finished with arguments for the term. We now face a couple uneasy months, waiting for decisions from on high.

— Kate Riga

Since taking over the site formerly known as Twitter in 2022, Elon Musk has arguably made himself the most prominent promoter of far right conspiracy theories and debunked race science

So, what happens when one of the world’s richest people acquires one of its biggest megaphones and makes clear to the fringe that they are a fellow traveler? 

This past week we looked at one example that shows how Musk’s unique brand of political engagement has inspired and excited a key figure involved in the effort to overturn former President Trump’s 2020 election loss.

Ivan Raiklin is a former Green Beret and longtime associate of Trump’s ex-national security adviser, retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn. Along with promoting various debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential race, Raiklin was the author of the “Pence Card” menu that helped inspire Trump allies’ plans to have the former vice president reverse the election results.

In the months since, Raiklin has kept diving down the rabbit hole. He’s currently part of the touring road show for Flynn’s documentary that we told you about last week. Raiklin is touring the country with a pile of paper printouts and bits of string that he claims illustrate a “Deep State” conspiracy to take down Flynn, Trump, and others on the right. The schtick also includes a “target” list Raiklin has cooked up as part of a scheme to have Musk release their Twitter direct messages to prove … well, something.

Based on his comments, Raiklin’s fishing expedition was inspired by the “Twitter Files” project Musk launched soon after taking over that company where he released a trove of internal documents and correspondence from its executives. The story of Raiklin’s effort to publish what he has called “The Mother Of All Twitter Files” is a clear sign of how much Musk has excited the right. It’s also further proof that many of the same people who pulled the 2020 election into the fever swamps are continuing to spin unhinged conspiracy theories ahead of the next one.

And the narratives they are spinning this time around may be even more wild. The story in Raiklin’s piles of paper and string involves the shutdown of the global internet, potential assassination plots, and Flynnworld’s ongoing fixation on Pence. It’s a real weird one and a sign of just how much weirder things might get. 

— Hunter Walker

The RNC’s Latest “Election Integrity” Scheme

Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee recently announced a plan to deploy more than 100,000 volunteers to monitor the voting process in key battleground states in the upcoming presidential election. This most recent Republican “election integrity” effort is rooted in election lies, highlighting Trump’s continued obsession with baseless claims about the last election. Democrats see it as a sign that Trump is planning to cry voter fraud once again if he doesn’t win this fall. 

This initiative is described by the RNC and the Trump campaign as “the most extensive and monumental election integrity program in the nation’s history,” and will include the deployment of lawyers to monitor early voting, mail ballot processing, post election audits, canvassing, and recounts, as well as logic and accuracy voter machine testing. 

Every battleground state will also have an “Election Integrity Hotline,” the RNC outlined, where lawyers will address issues from poll watchers and voters and guide watchers through “the appropriate election code and provide clarity on how various issues should be answered, resolved, or escalated.” But the DNC said it sees through the charade. 

Democratic National Committee Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd said in a statement: “Donald Trump knows he’s running a losing campaign, so he’s working with his handpicked team of election deniers at the RNC to once again lay the groundwork to undermine our democracy and spread baseless lies about a rigged election.”

— Khaya Himmelman

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