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Does demanding the nullification of a constitutional election count as an official House duty, or a campaign speech? Mo isn't quite sure himself.

Rep. Mo Brooks was in virtual court this week to defend himself (yes, as his own lawyer) in a case that will test whether Brooks, Donald Trump, and others can be held liable for the Jan.

6 insurrection violence that unfolded immediately after they (1) helped assemble a crowd of Trump supporters willing to help intimidate Congress into nullifying Trump's electoral college loss and (2) rallied that crowd with violent rhetoric urging them to "fight" and start "kicking ass" as had been done by ancestors who "sacrificed their blood" to protect their country.

That hearing did not go well for Brooks or other speakers and organizers of the Jan. 6 rally, or Brooks' own contention—that he was inciting the crowd as part of his official duties as a congressman. It may have looked like a campaign event on Trump's behalf, and the day's events may have, without exception, been focused on declaring candidate Trump the "true" winner of the election that was about to be finalized by a joint session of Congress, but actually, sez Brooks, that wasn't campaigning. As proof of that, he provided to the court evidence that he had his congressional staff working on his speech. Since he was using taxpayer resources to prepare the speech, he argued, obviously it wasn't a campaign speech.

The Daily Beast has provided a rundown of just how Brooks may have screwed himself on that one, but it's fairly obvious. Brooks is now claiming that his appearance at the rally of Trump-flag waving Trump supporters chanting Trump slogans while demanding Trump be declared the campaign winner was not a campaign event because he doesn't want to pay for his own defense lawyers. If he claims that he was demanding Trump's installation as election winner as part of his House duties, then he can get the Department of Justice to defend him—once again, using taxpayer money.

If telling a crowd to march on the Capitol to demand Trump be appointed the election's true winner was election-related, though, then the Department of Justice doesn't have to do squat on his behalf. Them's the rules.

There is a flaw here, however, and it is the one the Daily Beast is highlighting in their own story. Can you guess what it is? That's right: Mo Brooks, genius self-defending defense lawyer, has filed documents with the court claiming exactly the opposite.

In his bid to pretend that his now-notorious speech that day was not an attempt to incite the crowd into potential violence, Brooks had asserted to the court that he was giving an election speech using words often used in election speeches. Brooks told the court that "today is a time of choosing" meant "which senators and congressmen to support, and oppose, in future elections"; "tomorrow is a time of fighting" meant only "fighting" in the sense of "future elections." And the "kicking ass" part, of course, only meant "kicking ass" in the context of the next elections.

Aside from being absolutely ridiculous lies—any brief review of Brooks' shouting that day will give enough context to make it implausible that he was talking about what he wanted the crowd to do right then, not in the next midterm elections—it's an unequivocal assertion that his speech was, in fact, a campaign speech. His only defense against the charge that he was directly inciting the crowd to violence is to claim that he only meant it as a campaign speech.

And if it was a campaign speech, and Brooks is now offering up evidence that his taxpayer-provided House staff helped him write his campaign speech, then that's a red-flag House ethics violation. You can't do that. You can't use taxpayer-funded stamps on your campaign fundraising envelopes, you can't bill campaign stops to taxpayers because you don't want to spend campaign money on them, and you cannot have your congressional staff writing directly on campaign matters.

Brooks, then, has now painted himself into a corner. In official court documents, he's asserted both that his Jan. 6 rally appearance before the violence was a campaign speech, and that he directed his congressional staff to help him write it.

So he's either stolen House resources for campaign purposes or he's lying to the court when he says his violent rhetoric was intended only to achieve a campaign-related outcome. Gotta be one or the other. If he stands by the "I used my staff" claims he may get the court to order that the Department of Justice provide his defense, but he decimates his own claims that his rhetoric wasn't meant to provoke violence. If he stands by "it was a campaign speech" as his excuse for why the rhetoric shouldn't be treated as violent, he's in for a House Ethics investigation of the sort that would, in the before-times, lead to expulsion.

It's not likely Brooks will be expelled, because All Republican Lawmakers Are Corrupt. The most likely scenario, based solely on the skepticism expressed by the judge during the day's hearings, is that the court is going to reject the notion that inciting an attack on Congress counts as an "official" duty. Judge Amit Mehta has proven to have a detailed grasp on the events of that day (he is overseeing multiple trials related to insurrection violence) and has expressed some mild incredulity at the arguments Trump, Brooks and others have presented that don't square with the public footage of what actually occurred.

It seems unlikely that Brooks is going to be able to snag a taxpayer-provided defense team. It's more likely that he'll be getting some new inquiries from the House Ethics Committee while he sputters his way through federal court by himself.

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This Fan Sent Trump His Idea. The ‘Dirty Bastard’ Stole It.

Retired entrepreneur Jeff Paul was once an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump. But that was before Paul went toe-to-toe with Trump over the former president’s 2020 campaign slogan and Paul saw the lengths to which Trump and his band of lawyers would go to trample over his supposed intellectual property.

The slogan? Keep America Great!

The outcome? Not so great!

Exactly one week before Trump took office in 2017, Paul logged on to the campaign website and fired off an inquiry. It was, he said, a sort of business pitch. The subject line had three words and one piece of punctuation: “Keep America Great!”

“The original idea was to start a PAC,” Paul told The Daily Beast in a phone interview. “I’d seen how much money he had raised during the election, and, you know, that was hundreds of millions of dollars.” Paul wanted to “get in on some of the moneymaking,” and though he didn’t see himself as a true political player, he figured that just running a Trump PAC “won’t really affect that much, and I could make a little money on the side, you know, put it in my 401k.”

    That day, Paul received an automated reply saying a member of the campaign team would be in touch soon to “discuss your inquiry.”

    “So of course a couple days later Trump announces that’s his new slogan,” he said.

    Paul was referring to a Jan. 18 Washington Post interview, where the then president-elect offered Karen Tumulty a little scoop: He had already landed on the perfect slogan for his 2020 reelection bid.

    “Are you ready?” Trump asked. “‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

    And apparently it was a fresh idea. Trump shouted for a lawyer, and when one arrived he asked, “Will you trademark and register, if you would, if you like it—I think I like it, right? Do this: ‘Keep America Great,’ with an exclamation point. With and without an exclamation. ‘Keep America Great.’”

    Paul was less jazzed. “I thought, ‘You dirty bastard.’”

    And with that thought, Paul kicked off a crusade to claim the rights to what would eventually become Trump’s on-again, off-again, quasi-official 2020 campaign slogan.

    The dispute, which dragged on in one form or another for more than four years, has all the trademarks of a Trump legal war. For decades, the real estate tycoon has zealously deployed an army of lawyers—some of them ethically challenged—to bully courtroom opponents into submission with some combination of threats, stonewalling, countersuits, and other dilatory tactics, outspending them until they’re bled dry. And here, like so many of Trump’s relationships with former allies, the little guy invariably gets burned.

      And while Paul’s company can finally use those marks today, that personal victory was a long time coming—and maybe too long.

      “I started off as a supporter, but really they’re just like anyone else, stealing a good idea,” he said of the campaign.

      After Paul caught wind of the Washington Post report, he consulted a lawyer, who advised him to trademark the phrase. He did so immediately, filing the application on Jan. 27—with and without the exclamation mark—as an alias for his LLC, “In Harm’s Way!”

      Trump’s lawyers, however, were there first. The day Trump asked for it, an attorney for the campaign applied to trademark “Keep America Great”—with and without the exclamation mark.

      But, it turned out, even Trump had been beaten. The previous July, another person had filed to trademark the phrase. And so, in April, 2017, one month after Trump gave KAG! its first rally test drive, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office suspended the campaign’s application.

      Trump cooled on the idea for a while, but Paul soldiered on. In October, he submitted to the USPTO his first commercial product bearing the phrase—a lapel pin featuring, oddly, the coat of arms of the historical U.S. Navy icon John Paul Jones, along with his famous declaration, “I have not yet begun to fight.” The reverse was engraved, “PRODUCT OF KEEP AMERICA GREAT!™”


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