Celebrate the Stars and Stripes Forever with These Star Spangled 4th of July Craft Projects (Fourth Edition)

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In the United States, since the 4th of July is considered the nation’s birthday, many Americans go all out with red, white, and blue decorations to show their patriotic pride. Some decorate their home with American flags. Some use other star-spangled decorations that you see in the photo above. While many Americans may purchase their Americana décor in a store, some might prefer to make their own. Unlike the treats, you can use these craft decorations year after year. As you can see on Pinterest and Etsy, you need not go far to find it. So for your reading pleasure, I give you another assortment of 4th of July craft projects.

  1. Perhaps you might want to put the stars inside the lantern.
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This one has red and blue lights inside. Perfect for any patriotic corner table.

2. Any patriotic mantle should have an American flag saw.

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Yes, I showed one before. But this one has the stripes go in a straight line.

3. A 4th of July wreath should come with star-spangled stars.

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This one uses 5-pointed stars of all sizes. Great for any all-American front door.

4. Make your salute to our country with these 4th of July blocks.

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One block says “4th of July.” The other says “USA.” The one in the middle has carved wooden stars in red and blue.

5. Nothing makes a more patriotic 4th of July like a red and white pom-pom wreath.

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This one has red and white pom poms and small blue stars. So pretty.

6. Don’t like wreaths? Use an umbrella bouquet instead.

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Contains red and white flowers with American flags. An all-American bouquet if there ever was one.

7. Bet you’ve never seen a 4th of July wreath like this before.

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This one is made out of curled cloth pieces. Like the red, white, and blue flowers in the center.

8. Grace your star-spangled table with this all-American bouquet.

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Mostly consists of sparkly and Dr. Seuss like decorations. Also includes a metal blue star in a blue bucket. Makes a great centerpiece.

9. Care for a star-spangled star?

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This star is decked like an American flag. Like the red, white, and blue decomesh bow.

10. Celebrate the spirit 1776 with this wooden plaque.

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Has red and white stripes. “1776” appears in shiny blue block numbers.

11. Celebrate the American spirit with this block American flag.

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Sure it might be a small flag. But our American flag is very hard to copy onto a small surface.

12. A giant Uncle Sam nutcracker should always stand by your door.

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Here he stands on a drum and waves a Betsy Ross flag. Sure it’s creepy but it’s incredible.

13. Make your 4th of July festive with these bouquets.

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Both use hats as a vase. One kind of resembles Uncle Sam’s. Love the flowers.

14. Any American would love these star-spangled flowers.

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These have starry centers and striped petals. The milk pail vase adds a rustic touch.

15. Support our troops this 4th of July with this wreath.

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Contains red, white, blue, and camouflage. Also includes an American flag and dog tags.

16. With these wooden candles, your 4th of July will be a blast.

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These are painted like the American flag. While they shoot up shiny stars in red, white, and blue.

17. Nothing makes 4th of July memorable like a wreath of the stars and stripes.

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This one is made from a stars and stripes ribbon. Include firework craft effects, American flags, and the word “Freedom” on the bottom.

18. Perhaps a more rustic 4th of July wreath will suit your tastes.

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This one is covered with burlap and denim. While it sports “4th” in big red print.

19. For your 4th of July bonfire use a pit like this.

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Depicts a flag and fireworks in iron. Perfect for any 4th of July party.

20. A 4th of July display should always include at least one firework.

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This one includes star-spangled ribbons and other red, white, and blue decorations. Makes a great centerpiece.

21. The more fireworks in your 4th of July bouquet the better.

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Each of these firecrackers is decked in red, white, and blue. The patterns are either stars or stripes.

22. Perhaps you might like a pallet stars and stripes.

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This one is in a Betsy Ross pattern. Though the stars seem to resemble an oval more than a circle.

23. Enjoy your 4th of July with these sand candles.

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Okay, the candles are fake for safety reasons. But the sand is nonetheless red, white, and blue.

24. Honor our serving men and women with this picture frame.

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Well, it’s more of a collage with a soldier picture and a wooden American flag. But any patriotic American would want it.

25. A rope red, white, and blue wreath is just as nice.

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Well, the wreath is mostly white with a little red. But the 3 blue stars give it a patriotic shine.

26. Perhaps you’d want a small flag on your mantle.

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This is made out of wood. Yet, the stars and stripes barely fit on it.

27. This American summer, curl up with this patchwork blanket.

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This one has patches of red, white and blue. But only the blue sports white stars.

28. Any patriot would die for a burlap wreath like this.

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This one is covered in red star ribbon and shiny star decorations. Love the bow, though.

29. Care to have red and blue stars on your white candles?

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Yes, these are real candles. But the stars make them perfect for 4th of July.

30. Show your pride for the USA with these block letters.

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Though they may be made of wood, they’re far more fancy than the letters you’ve probably seen. Also contains more patriotic touches.

31. A 4th of July wreath should always have an Uncle Sam hat.

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This one is decomesh with a shiny hat in the center. Great for any star-spangled front door.

32. Patriotic pockets should always have flowers.

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Well, these pockets are blue with white stars and red flowers. Also includes an American flag. Looks great on a white picket fence.

33. Feel free to put some American flags in your flower pot.

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Or pail, as this one is. Make sure the flowers are red, white, or blue.

34. Perhaps you’d want a heart wreath with bandanas.

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Make sure you tie them on the wire and put stars on the blue part. Perfect for any all-American home.

 

35. Have your all-American girl deck this cute 4th of July dress.

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This is for a small girl. While the blue skirt has stars and the red edging has white polka dots.

36. Greet your guests with this 4th of July wreath with folded paper.

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Well, these papers are folded in circles with stars on top. Each is in red, white, or blue.

37. Any soldier would want a rag wreath like this.

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Sure the cloth bits are felt. Yet, it’s a heart in blazing red, white, blue, and camouflage.

38. Got a straw hat? Make an Uncle Sam wreath out of it.

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This one uses string for the hair and beard. It even has a hat, ironically.

39. Feel free to wrap the grand old flag on your wreath.

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I don’t think it’s that old. But it does go nicely on a wreath like this.

40. A wooden flag cross should always have burlap bow.

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Well, I usually don’t take church and state separation when showing crosses like these. But I would try to show American flag items of other religions if I come across them.

41. Care to have an American flag at your window.

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Well, a window frame, anyway. Since the flag seems to go through it.

42. This Uncle Sam hat has all the bells and whistles.

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I only meant that figuratively, of course. Still, makes a great centerpiece on any American table.

43. Perhaps you might want some extra patriotic decoration on this white lantern.

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Includes ribbons of red, white, and blue as well as a small Uncle Sam hat. So pretty.

44. Make a patriotic impression this 4th of July with these Uncle Sam hat bouquets.

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Includes red, white, and blue flowers. Wonder what those squiggly things are.

45. A striped wreath should include a few stars.

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As long as the stripes and stars are red, white, and blue. Great for any home celebrating the 4th of July.

46. A bald eagle should always be majestic on an American flag.

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After all, the bald eagle is our country’s national symbol. Since it can always soar high in the sky.

47. A red and white striped canvas should always contain a blue star.

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This especially goes for this 4th of July decoration. Also includes a white tulle bow and branches of red berries.

48. Grace your living room with this American flag coffee table.

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It’s basically a simple wooden table with the American flag painted on it. Great for indoors and outdoors.

49. Anyone want Uncle Sam in their garden?

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Okay, this guy’s made out of wood. But he does bring some star-spangled charm.

50. Show your pride for the stars and stripes with these pinwheel hair clips.

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They look more like flowers to me. But each is in red, white, and blue felt glory.

51. A ragged flag always looks great in a frame.

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This one uses felt strips of red, white, and blue for the stars and stripes. Also says, “God Bless America” on the top.

52. Welcome your guests this Independence Day with this American flag curtain.

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This one includes sentiments of Americana. And all on printed scrolls.

53. Any American girl would appreciate a patriotic skirt like this.

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Consists of red and white stripes under a blue fabric with polka dots. Sure they’re not stars, but they’ll do.

54. You can make a pretty vase with red and white striped straws.

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By the way, these straws are made of paper. But I love the blue ribbon tying them together.

55. Perhaps you can put a red, white, and blue bow in your hair.

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Well, it’s made from red, white, and blue ribbons. Though one has white dots instead of stars.

56. A simple rustic wreath will always do.

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This one has a red bow with a blue cloth of white stars. Also includes an American flag near the top.

57. Nothing makes 4th of July a patriotic spectacle like a decomesh wreath like this.

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This is an American flag wreath. You can see the stars in blue near the top.

58. You might want a star in the red white and blue.

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This one has a lovely painting with the blue part containing white stars. So pretty.

59. An American flag should be covered in flowers.

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The flowers are fake, of course. Nonetheless, this is a rather creative design. Love it.

60. Deck your American home with this Uncle Sam wine bottle.

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This one has Uncle Sam’s face painted on it. And yes, it’s pretty adorable.

61. “Oh, crown thy hood with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea.”

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This one has Uncle Sam’s face painted on it. And yes, it’s pretty adorable.

62. A ribbon wreath should have at least 2 flags.

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The ribbons are red, white, and blue, naturally. Like the red bow on top.

63. Welcome your guests with this epic 4th of July display.

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Includes red, white, and blue firecrackers. Also has Uncle Sam at the top.

64. A burlap flag wreath brings a rustic touch.

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Has 3 stars in the blue near the top. Great for any American door around Independence Day.

65. A lantern decoration can’t have too many ribbons.

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This one is on a lantern. Some of the bows are even in an American flag pattern.

66. You might be in the mood for a patriotic window.

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Includes a wreath and a chain of stars in red, white, and blue. Perfect for any patriotic home.

67. Since pinwheels are popular this time of year, why not a pinwheel flag?

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Sure it’s not an exact replica. But it’s kind of cool if you think of it.

68. Want some wooden candles in a metal bin?

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Well, there’s only a couple of them. But they’re both painted like the American flag.

69. Let God bless America with this flowery flag cross.

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Good for a funeral for servicemen. Also topped with a star-spangled ribbon.

70. With paper flowers, you can make your own bouquet.

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You can even use blue wine bottles as vases. And both have gingham bows.

71. A flowery wreath should always have a big hollow star on it.

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This one has a large white one. In the middle, it says, “Happy 4th of July.”

72. An Uncle Sam hat isn’t complete without any golden stars sticking out.

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Well, gold, red, white, and blue stars along with gold berries. Perfect as a centerpiece.

73. Bet you’ve never seen stars like these.

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They’re wooden stars with wooden frames. One has stars. One has stripes.

74. Want a make a firework? Paint a stick and put string on it.

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Each is painted in red, white, and blue. And they’re put in a twig nest.

75. Curl up on your all-American couch with this flag pillow.

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The red and white stripes are made from fabric strips. As the stars on the corner are made from buttons.

76. This American flag comes in 6 parts.

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The red and white stripes are made from fabric strips. As the stars on the corner are made from buttons.

77. A clothespin wreath may intrigue you.

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Consists of red clothespins with white stripes and white clothespins with red spots. The blue ones have stars.

78. How about a wreath wrapped in a flag?

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Includes a star on the top. Great for any front door on the 4th of July.

79. I’m sure any girl would want American flag flowers in her hair.

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One has red and white stripes. The others are white and blue. So cute.

80. A red wagon should have plenty of patriotic décor.

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This one will really show the fireworks. Also includes American flags and flowers.

81. Curl up on your couch with this American flag quilt.

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Well, it doesn’t exactly resemble a flag. But it’s a real patchwork to hang.

82. Hope you’ll enjoy these firecrackers in this bouquet.

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They’re set in a white pail. But at least these fireworks won’t explode on you.

83. How about a rug of Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty?

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They’re even adorned in American flag attire. Perfect for any liberty loving home.

84. Perhaps a few striped candles might do for your 4th of July.

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Make sure that they have red and blue stripes along with white stars. Has stars sprouting out of their wick holes.

85. Your little Uncle Sam can use a suit.

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The little boy has a cotton beard. Still, he looks quite cute.

86. A 4th of July wreath can use a few bows.

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Some are red, some are striped, and some are blue with white polka dots. So pretty.

87. A straw wreath is sure to impress.

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Yes, they’re paper straws. But they’re striped in red, white, and blue.

88. Perhaps your 4th of July wreath can use a star in the center.

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This one has strips tied to the frame. While the star says, “God Bless America.”

89. I call this the Liberty Tree.

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Since it has hearts on a tree that are red, white, and blue. And on a copy of a math book page.

90. Any America should relish a wreath of roses.

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Okay, they’re fake. But they’re in true American red, white, and blue with stars.

91. You can put anything inside an Uncle Sam hat.

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Has evergreen branches, stars, and an American flag inside. Makes a great centerpiece.

92. Got a grater? Make a decoration out of it.

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Has a star and a flag inside. Great to put beside the door.

93. An Uncle Sam bouquet always has to include red roses.

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Sure it’s part of a collection. Yet, the roses surely look fabulous.

94. A rag wreath can do with some firecrackers.

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Also includes stars in red, white, and blue. Great for any American front door.

95. Seems like this Uncle Sam is unusually potted here.

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That’s because he’s made out of flower pots. So adorable.

96. No one can resist this star-spangled star.

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It’s made from wood scraps. Includes a scheme of red, white and blue.

97. This American flag cross has a horseshoe for luck.

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This one is made from 2 pallet strips. And yes, they’re painted in the stars and stripes.

98. These firecrackers will be a blast at your 4th of July table.

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And they’re all in red, white, and blue patterns. Like the stars on the wires to create sparks.

99. A pinwheel wreath is simply spectacular.

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This is especially if the pinwheels are shiny. Wonder if they actually turn with the wind when hung on a door.

100. A proud patriot would hang this Uncle Sam.

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This one even uses long hat and a long fuzzy beard. So cute.

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Salute the Red, White, and Blue United States of America with These Patriotic 4th of July Treats (Fifth Edition)

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Now that summer is around the corner and Father’s Day is over, it’s on to prepare for the 4th of July, or Independence Day. Normally, this would inspire patriotism, fireworks, and anything red, white, and blue. However, during the dark times of the Trump administration, it’s very difficult for me to get pumped with patriotic pride except when it comes to, “Impeach the Motherfucker.” Anyway, during this time, you’ll find plenty of stores across the country filled with red, white, and blue patriotic decorations, flags, and paper plates. In addition, the 4th of July is a time of fireworks and barbecues. And nothing inspires patriotic devotion to the flag like some star-spangled treats, which is where I come in. So for your reading pleasure, I give you another treasury of star-spangled 4th of July treats.

  1. Don’t forget to add blueberries to your red and white cheesecakes.

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Because a 4th of July dessert has to be red, white, and blue. Includes mint leaves for flavor.

2. Nothing makes a 4th of July party like a star-spangled cake.

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The cake is blue with white stars. Also includes folded red and white stripes.

3. A 4th of July cake should always have Lady Liberty on top.

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Since she’s a beacon of liberty throughout the world. Of course, you don’t want Trump anywhere near her.

4. Grace your star-spangled dessert platter with an American flag ruffle cake.

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Well, it’s like an American flag cake but fancier. Perfect for any 4th of July party.

5. Any American will love a Lady Liberty cake with fireworks.

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It’s a more festive Lady Liberty cake but way more festive. Includes a star base and sailboats.

6. A summer 4th of July cake should always contain some fruit.

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Includes strawberries and blueberries over white icing and 2 tiers. If you want healthier options for dessert, this cake’s for you.

7. Instead of ice cream sandwiches, cake batter sandwiches can be just as nice.

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All of these have batter between 2 graham crackers and include, red, white, and blue sprinkles. Some even have stars.

8. 4th of July bites contain all that fruity patriotic goodness.

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Contains raspberries and blueberries. Each tart includes a couple of crusty stars.

9. Perhaps you might want some dessert kabobs.

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Consist of iced marshmallows, strawberries, and cake stars. And it seems the stars contain red and blue stuff inside.

10. Nobody could resist these patriotic trifle treats.

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One side has raspberries. The other side has blueberries. Both sides have stars.

11. No 4th of July cake can be more star-spangled than this.

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This one has 3 tiers with stars in red, white, and blue configurations. Only the white tier has the flag, though.

12. 4th of July cupcakes should always have red, white, and blue icing.

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Helps that these are chocolate. Yet, each one wishes a happy 4th of July to you.

13. You might prefer some fruity red, white, and blue kabobs.

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Consists of strawberries, blueberries, and banana slices. And all on skewers.

14. A great 4th of July cake should always have a few stars.

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This one has 2 tiers. One consists of red and white stripes. The other is blue with white stars.

15. Cool off this Independence Day with these American flag jello bars.

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May or may not contain alcohol, depending on who brings them. Still, wonder how these jello shapes could have many colors.

16. A small fruity patriotic tart may suit your appetite.

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Contains strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. And it can fit on a small plate.

17. A red, white, and blue trifle will make a lovely addition to your 4th of July dessert platter.

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Has strawberries and blueberries on top. While red and blue cake pieces are mixed with whipped cream inside.

18. Perhaps you might want a star-spangled tart with strawberries.

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Well, this one contains strawberries and blueberries on top of white icing. Perfect for any 4th of July party.

19. Red, white, and blue shoes belong on any 4th of July cake.

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Cake is even trimmed with red, white, and blue flower stars. While it contains stars on the sides.

20. Treat your guests this 4th of July with this fruity cheesecake.

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Contains strawberries and blueberries on top. Perfect for any patriotic dessert platter.

21. A red, white, and blue cake always needs a few patriotic pinwheels.

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Sure you can’t eat the pinwheels. But they emphasize star-spangled pride.

22. An icing trifle can be just as sweet.

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Contains strawberries, blueberries, and marshmallows. Has red and blue cake on the bottom.

23. Anyone would love a cake with stars and stripes.

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Has 3 tiers with stripes in the middle. Still, got to love the white bow on top.

24. Nothing makes an American treat like these star tarts.

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Each tart contains strawberries inside. Though I recommend you eat these with a plate.

25. Any patriot would want these starry cupcakes.

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These have blue icing and white stars on them. Will go quite nicely with the star tarts.

26. A simple patriotic cake will always do.

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This one has 3 tiers of red, white, and blue. And each has minimal decoration dots.

27. The Statue of Liberty should always stand tall on a red, white, and blue foundation.

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She stands on 2 tiers. One has stripes. The other is blue with white stars.

28. Nothing makes your 4th of July party like firework hotdogs.

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These are covered with hotdog wraps with cheese triangles on top. Served on a stick.

29. Patriotic flag wavers will love this Uncle Sam cake.

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Yes, it’s professionally made like a lot of cakes on these posts. But he’s nevertheless adorable. And no, you can’t eat the flag.

30. This star is happy to salute the red, white, and blue.

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Yes, that’s a smiling star holding the American flag. And yes, its edges are covered in sprinkles.

31. An angel food cake like this will put you in a patriotic heaven.

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Has 3 layers with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries on top of icing. Perfect for any patriot’s dessert platter.

32. Perhaps a true patriot would want a 4th of July cake like this.

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The bottom tier has the US Constitution. The top tier has the American flag.

33. Nothing makes your patriotic dessert platter like red, white, and blue sugar cookies.

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Of course, food coloring is involved here. But they make a charming dessert addition.

34. No American can resist these patriotic cake pops.

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These sit on top American flag pencils. Also includes chocolate stars and toothpick American flags. Oh, and they’re covered in red, white, and blue sprinkles.

35. Care for a patriotic M&M cookie?

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These are chocolate cookies with M&M flower designs. And yes, they are the red, white, and blue ones.

36. Would you like some trifle in a cup?

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Contains blueberries, raspberries, and whipped cream inside. And yes, it’s quite fruity.

37. This star-spangled cake is a real patchwork.

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Has blue and white squares with red and white stars. While the American flag is front and center.

38. These star bites make great all-American appetizers.

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Each of these consists of a hotdog slice and a hotdog wrap in a star shape. You can even dip them in cheese.

39. These patriotic cookies will warm your all-American heart.

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Includes cupcakes and stars. Stars have red, white, and blue decorations. Cupcakes have hearts and sprinkles.

40. Anyone would love these patriotic cookies.

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Yes, they’re professionally made. Yet, each gives you an aura of the stars and stripes and the summer.

41. Iced cookies must have red and blue swirls.

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Of course, you have to keep up the patriotic spirit. But make sure you don’t make a mess.

42. With this cake, you can begin your 4th of July with a bang.

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Well, the design on top is supposed to resemble a firework. Yet, make sure you use red, white, and blue icing.

43. No American should take a pass with these 4th of July cookies.

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Mostly consist of hearts, stars, and American flags. And all in red, white, and blue glory.

44. You’ll have a blast with these fireworks cookies.

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The firecrackers may be blue. But they surely give a blast of red.

45. Any American will have to try these American flag brownies.

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Each one has a blueberry and a star in the corner. While the brownies are chocolate.

46. You might enjoy these patriotic cupcakes.

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These include straws and drizzle. Each is topped with white icing. So pretty.

47. Why leave your dog out of the 4th of July festivities?

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Yes, these are 4th of July dog treats. And yes, they’re in red, white, and blue.

48. Your 4th of July can’t be complete without this star-spangled cake.

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This one has stripes on the edges and stars on the top. Lovely for any 4th of July party.

49. Feel free to drape the American flag on this cake.

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Yes, it’s supposed to resemble a flag being crumpled up. Though I’m pretty sure it’s edible.

50. Perhaps you’d like this patriotic ice cream treat on Independence Day.

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This is an ice cream cone with red sprinkles and blueberries on the top. Perfect patriotic frozen treat.

51. A fireworks cupcake should go all out on the red, white, and blue.

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Though the icing here kind of resembles toothpaste. Still, like the fireworks decoration on top.

52. Celebrate Independence Day with this cake of the Statue of Liberty.

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I’m sure this one would be used for a large party. Yet, she stands quite gracefully.

53. This 4th of July picnic, treat your guests to some red, white, and blue fruit salad.

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Includes strawberries and blueberries. Not sure what else.

54. 4th of July trifle should always include some red velvet stars.

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Also has blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. Perfect for any patriotic dessert platter.

55. Fruit kabobs should always include stars.

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Also has strawberries, blueberries, and marshmallows. Just to get the red, white, and blue.

56. A 4th of July cake should be bursting with stars.

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This one has red, silver, and blue stars. Love the red and blue bow.

57. For a cool treat, you can’t beat these star ice cream sandwiches.

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Each one has a red and star blue cookie along with vanilla ice cream in between. Decorated with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

58. Care for a shooting star cookie?

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These have white and blue stripes. Contains red sugar inside.

59. Perhaps you might prefer a patriotic parfait.

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Has white and red jello stripes. While the blueberries sit atop.

60. Enjoy your 4th of July with some patriotic fudge.

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Come in red, white, and blue blocks. Each is decked with sprinkles.

61. Hope you can enjoy these patriotic hand pies.

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Not sure what flavor they are. Though 2 have stars while one has a flag.

62. Patriotic popcorn makes for a great 4th of July treat.

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This is basically popcorn covered with blue and red sugar. Because it’s supposed to be red, white, and blue.

63. No American can resist these patriotic pretzel bites.

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Consists of waffle pretzels with blue and M&Ms in white icing. An ideal patriotic snack.

64. Perhaps you might prefer some patriotic swirl cookie bars.

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The cookies are in red and while. While they’re topped with blue icing and sprinkles.

65. This 4th of July, treat your guests to some raspberry pie.

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You can even see stars on the crust. Nonetheless, feel free to serve.

66. Would you like some patriotic fruit salad?

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Consists of blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices. And all arranged into an American flag.

67. For healthier options, you might like some patriotic quinoa.

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Has strawberries and blackberries in it. Reminds me of some oatmeal in a commercial.

68. Cool down with some red, white, and blue popsicles.

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The top is blue while the rest consists of red and white stripes. Not sure how you get the colors together though.

69. Care for a Rice Krispie American flag?

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This one has icing red stripes and sprinkle stars on blue icing. Wonder how large the plate is though.

70. You’ll find this pie all covered with stars.

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The stars are made from pie crusts. Great for any 4th of July picnic.

71. Want any stars with your patriotic fruit salad?

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Contains strawberries and blueberries. While the stars are white.

72. Suit yourself to these red, white, and blue cookies.

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Well, these have red, white, and blue stripes. But they sure look tasty and easy to make.

73. Nothing is more patriotic on the 4th of July than red, white, and blue jello stars.

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Depending on host, may or may not contain alcohol. Yet, it has red, white, and blue layers.

74. This 4th of July grace your platter with these stars and stripes cookie bars.

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The top has red, white, and blue stripes on icing. While the filling has red and blue bits inside.

75. A fruity cake can use a few sparklers.

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This one has whipped cream and strawberry slices on the edges. While the blueberries are on top.

76. Salute your country with an American flag sheet cake.

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Yes, this is professionally made. But it surely shows the stars and stripes.

77. Surely an American flag doesn’t have to cover a whole cake.

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This one only has the flag in a triangle half. The rest of it is white.

78. A Statue of Liberty cake always stands tall.

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This one was made to denote a critical anniversary. Still, best to give your tired and poor.

79. Maybe you’d like a cake with an American flag square.

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The stripes on this cake are around the edges. The stars are on top.

80. Care for these American flag cookies?

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The red and white ones are of stripes. The blue ones contain stars. Said to be good for kids.

Can We Just Impeach the Motherf**ker Already?

During an ABC News interview on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, Donald Trump told George Stephanopoulos that he’d likely accept “information” offered by a foreign government for use in his reelection campaign. He said, “I think you might want to listen. I don’t — there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country — Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” He then continued that if he thought there’s “something wrong” with the offer, he’d “maybe” tell the FBI. But Trump nevertheless asserted that accepting “oppo research” from a foreign government was perfectly fine, telling Stephanopoulos, “They have information, I think I’d take it.”

These recent remarks have obviously caused intense controversy and reopened wounds from the Mueller investigation and the 2016 campaign. In fact, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had just finished a 2-year investigation into this very thing. We have to recall that in mid-2016, Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton allegedly from the Russian government. Mueller investigated Trump Jr.’s conduct for a potential campaign finance violation but decided not to charge him. Since word about it got out in 2017, Trump has continued defending his son’s actions, but his assertion poses legal and ethical issues. It’s also interpreted as yet another sign that Trump doesn’t seem particularly alarmed with broader Russian effort to help him win in 2016, including by hacking and leaking Democrats’ emails. Trump’s latest comments appeared to go too far for some of his allies. Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade noted on June 13, “You don’t want a foreign government or foreign entity giving you information because they will want something back. If anybody knows that, it’s the president. There is no free lunch. If someone wants information, then they’re going to want influence. I think the president’s got to clarify that.” South Carolina US Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, “I believe that it should be practice for all public officials who are contacted by a foreign government with an offer of assistance to their campaign — either directly or indirectly — to inform the FBI and reject the offer.” While Texas US Senator Jon Cornyn stated that Trump’s remarks were “dangerous territory.” Of course, in a move of classic whataboutism, those 2 backtracked with arguing how Hillary’s campaign funding the Steele Dossier was equally problematic (it’s not) so they can continually kiss Trump’s.

Back in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. received an email from an acquaintance named Rob Goldstone, a British publicist who worked with the Agarlov family, an Azeri-Russian father-son pair of wealthy real estate developers who worked with the Trumps before. Goldstone claimed that Aras Agarlov had met with the “Crown prosecutor of Russia,” who had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” He then added: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.” Trump Jr. enthusiastically responded, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” They soon agreed to set up a meeting in Trump Tower to discuss the information. However, the meeting appears to be a dud since the Mueller report doesn’t document any information being passed or any deal being struck. Nor did Mueller find any indication that the offered information had any connection to the Russian hackings. But Donald Trump Jr.’s eagerness to accept dirt allegedly coming from a foreign government was viewed as scandalous. Some experts even argued it’s criminal since it’s a campaign finance law violation to accept or even solicit “thing of value” from a foreign source.

So when George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump about Donald Trump Jr.: “Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email?” Obviously, the answer is yes. However, Trump said no, arguing that such a thing would be naïve, claiming, “Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.” What the fuck? Instead, he said that if something shady was going on, the correct response should be, “throw somebody out of your office,” since calling the FBI would be too much. When Stephanopoulos said that the FBI director (a guy Trump appointed, by the way) said that candidates should call them in such a situation, Trump answered: “The FBI director is wrong.” Then Stephanopoulos asked the question that would cause Trump so much trouble: “Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?” Trump gives the odd answer: “I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don’t — there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country — Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” Note that Trump used a benign country like Norway instead of responding to the specific question about Russia and China.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump distinguished between foreign, “interference” and simple “information” and “oppo research,” which he claimed was perfectly fine to accept from a foreign source. Here’s his answer:

“It’s not interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. (mockingly) ‘Oh, let’s call the FBI.’

“The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

Note that Donald Trump left open the possibility that if he “thought there was something wrong,” he’d go to the FBI. And he doesn’t say it’s okay to accept hacked or stolen material from a foreign power. Still, the idea that a foreign government would offer damaging information on your opponent in an election year should be cause for suspicion, since it’s a glaring red flag it wants to interfere in your political process and want something from you in terms of policy. This is especially the case if the government in question is a known adversary like Russia. And that is why you go to the FBI.

Nonetheless, Trump probably thinks accepting dirt about a political opponent from a foreign power is totally fine even if the info material is hacked or stolen. After all, he publicly asked Russia to “find” Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. Not to mention, he privately asked Michael Flynn to try and get a hold on those emails. Still, the whole idea seems to be: Donald Trump Jr. did nothing wrong. And if a foreign government has information that would help Trump’s reelection campaign, Trump would be happy to hear it.

Obviously, people are appalled by Donald Trump’s remarks. Some argue it’s simply unethical to accept “opposition research” from a foreign government, particularly an adversary like Russia. Federal Election Commission head Ellen Weintraub tweeted why it’s illegal for US political candidates to accept contributions from foreign governments, along with “I would not have thought I needed to say this.” She then went on to clarify: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept. Election intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the founding of our nation.” Others pointed to the practical problem claiming that said foreign government might expect a reward. But there’s also an underlying legal issue on which Trump seems to be giving really bad advice. In other words, Trump doesn’t think it’s a problem for a campaign to accept “opposition research” because it’s just information. However, federal election law states that campaigns can’t accept foreign money contributions or any “thing of value” from foreign sources. Given that knowledge is power and information is very valuable resource in political campaigns, is opposition research like the “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” promised to Donald Trump Jr. a thing of value? Well, Trump Jr. seemed to think so that he was willing to go through all the trouble to set up a meeting at Trump Tower for it.

The Mueller report explored this very subject, and concluded: probably. The report reads, “There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a ‘thing of value.’” After all, knowledge is power. While political campaigns do tons of opposition research on a candidate in hopes for finding dirt on their opponents. As Robert Mueller writes:

“These authorities would support the view that candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply.

“…Political campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money or tangible things of value.”

But Robert Mueller doesn’t unreservedly endorse this view. Since he also expressed concerns about how this interpretation would fare in court:

“At the same time, no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance laws. Such an interpretation could… raise First Amendment questions. These questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts. It is uncertain how courts would resolve those issues.”

Nonetheless, leaving the issue aside, Robert Mueller didn’t end up bringing charges against the meeting’s participants for 2 separate reasons. First, is establishing willfulness. Did Donald Trump Jr. and the other meeting participants know they were breaking the law? As Mueller wrote, “The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context.” Secondly, Mueller said that Rob Goldstone’s promised information is difficult to value at above $2,000, the threshold for a criminal violation, writing “Although damaging opposition research is surely valuable to a campaign, it appears that the information ultimately delivered in the meeting was not valuable.” Besides, when Trump Jr. agreed to take the meeting, he might’ve understood the information “as being of uncertain worth or reliability.” So Mueller most certainly didn’t say that accepting opposition research from a foreign government is very legal and very cool (quite the contrary). However, he chose not to bring charges in this particular instance. For reasons relating to specific evidence and the situation. In all, Mueller didn’t establish coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. But his report makes it clear that the Trump campaign, “expected it would benefit from information stolen and released through Russian efforts” during the 2016 campaign.

Now the United States has laws to govern how political campaigns can and can’t operate. Many of these laws are meant to limit or in some cases, just illuminate the amount if outside money trying to influence political candidates. When it comes to foreign influence, the law is clear. As Weintraub wrote: it’s “illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” In most cases, the meaning’s quite obvious: foreign nationals can’t donate money to a presidential campaign. In addition, it’s also illegal for candidates to solicit or receive money contributions from foreign nationals. But while a “thing of value” is easy to define when it comes to money, services, or in-kind contributions, it’s a lot more complicated in the realm of information like opposition research or campaign dirt. Northwestern University law professor Michael Kang told Vox, “Campaign-relevant information from a foreign national definitely can be an illegal in-kind contribution, but it gets trickier when the information does not have obvious cash value and isn’t necessarily something that a campaign regularly needs to buy. The policy concern is that any valuable advice or tip from a foreign national could, at least in theory, become an illegal in-kind contribution.”

As part of his investigation into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Special Counsel Robert Mueller grappled with this question, where Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign members met with a Russian national who had promised them “dirt” on Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s effort to support Donald Trump. Mueller concluded in his report that, “candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply.” But he added that the issue hasn’t been court-tested and could also have freedom of speech implications. Nonetheless, Mueller ultimately decided not to prosecute Trump Jr. over enigmas in regards to information value and criminal intent, making it hard to prove campaign finance violations beyond reasonable doubt. But experts are split mostly because as Loyola University law professor Jessica Levinson told Vox, “There’s a reason campaigns pay for opposition research: We literally value it. It can be much more useful and valuable than walking in with a check.”

Nevertheless, given the blowback, Donald Trump has tried to sort of walk back in a Fox & Friends interview on June 14. He told them, “You’d have to look at [the information being offered], because if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s bad. But, of course, you give it to the FBI or report to the attorney general or somebody like that.” While it wasn’t an unequivocal condemnation, it’s renewed questions on what’s legal and what’s not in regards to foreign nationals in US campaigns. And to ensure that it’s illegal, House Democrats have promised to roll out a bill requiring campaigns to report any foreign government offering dirt on their opponents to the FBI. He also said that he doesn’t, “think anybody would present me with anything because they know how much I love the country.” But his comments during his interview with George Stephanopoulos suggest otherwise. Also, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner also won’t say in an Axios interview the previous week whether he’d call the FBI if offered dirt again. So that refusal to be unequivocal about foreign interference undermines a thing of value for all Americans: the belief in the integrity of the vote.

Nearly 2 months after the Mueller report’s release, Congress remains at an impasse about what to do next. The special counsel didn’t end up charging any crimes related to collusion with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. He also chose not to say whether Donald Trump criminally obstructed justice. One House Democrat faction supports a beginning an impeachment inquiry against Trump, based on the conduct described in the report. Yet, the most of the caucus, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, doesn’t want to go down that road. Namely because Republicans control the US Senate and they’re all currently kissing Trump’s ass. So they’ll not only acquit him, but also frame the impeachment proceedings as a Democratic political stunt and a waste of everyone’s time.

Looming over all this is the question of what, exactly, this might mean in the 2020 election. Foreign powers could certainly interpret Donald Trump’s comments as a green light to send him whatever information he might find helpful. That said, Trump and foreign governments are all surely aware of what that might lead to: another lengthy investigation like Robert Mueller’s, which even though it didn’t end disastrously for Trump (unfortunately), surely wasn’t a pleasant experience. As Ellen Weintraub noted, America’s founders knew that when foreign governments seek to interfere in elections, it’s always to advance their interests, not ours. And that’s a bigger problem with Donald Trump’s apparent dismissal of the seriousness regarding foreigners reaching out to offer dirt to rival candidates. University of Miami law professor Frances Hill told Vox that while criminal law discussions are important, Trump’s “acting in a way that undermines national security.” As of 2019, just about the only thing Democrats and Republicans agree on the Mueller report is that Russia interfered in the 2016 Election. The intelligence community has said that Russia will certainly try again in 2020. While other countries like China and Iran will have learned 2016’s lessons and be eager to follow suit.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that even if Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t collude, he sees no problem with accepting dirt on opponents from foreign government, which should be reason enough to see Trump as a national security liability. Furthermore, the Trump campaign was willing to benefit from Russia’s election interference in 2016. Besides, not only does Trump not care that Russia’s actions in the 2016 election not only threatened American interests, sovereignty, and national security, but he’ll openly on Vladimir Putin to do it again. Still, let’s accept Trump’s “America First” nationalism for what it is: an exclusive nationalism centering on hating foreigners and difference. Or more accurately, xenophobia by another name. Any principled nationalist would see foreign efforts to interfere with a US election as an unacceptable infringement on American sovereignty and independence. Obviously, Trump isn’t principled nor does he value American independence. And if a president doesn’t have principles nor values independence should be impeached, especially if they pose a significant danger to the United States. Trump has. Furthermore, he’s personally profited off the presidency in flagrant violation of the Emoluments Clause in the US Constitution, especially since foreign dignitaries have stayed on his resorts and in his hotels on the taxpayer’s dime. So the question is not whether he should be impeached, but why he hasn’t been impeached now.

The Senseless Shutdown

We all know that Donald Trump’s presidency is one long series of unfortunate events that’s making living in the United States a dystopian nightmare. As we all know, Trump managed to win over his supporters by promising a big, beautiful wall that Mexico will pay for. Despite that Mexico sure isn’t, especially since Trump called them rapists and criminals in a campaign speech. Now that Trump is president, he wants $5 billion to fund his wall at the US-Mexico border, which Congress doesn’t want to give him. Because it’s a stupid waste of money, which is plain to see if you just look at a map of North America. Or a history book on the Great Wall of China, which has benefitted the country more as a tourist attraction than protecting against Mongol invaders. Honestly, even Republicans wouldn’t give Trump any wall money when they were in charge of the legislative branch. As a result, the federal government has shut down in December and now we’re deep into its third week. While at least 800,000 federal workers are now struggling to keep it together along with the countless subcontractors and citizens who depend on them.

For the legions of government employees and contractors, the holidays was hell as they agonized over how to cover their electric bill, mortgage payment, or trip to the grocery store. And God only knows whether 2018 would be the worst Christmas of their lives that Donald Trump’s latest temper tantrum has upended. Some 420,000 of these are “essential personnel” and working without pay. This comprises of 41,000 law enforcement officials, 54,000 Border Patrol agents, and 53,000 Transportation Security Administration workers. 380,000 of these employees have been furloughed, including 28,000 Forest Service staff, 16,000 in the National Park Service, and 16,7000 at NASA. The longer the stoppage goes on, the more people will feel the squeeze. Already, the Small Business Administration has been shut down, delaying loan processing. A growing number of national parks, museums, and historic sites will need to close, disrupting tourism and for surrounding businesses. At some parks during the holidays, there were as many rangers and other support staff furloughed. While trash piled up, toilets overflowed, and facilities were vandalized. FDA routine screenings have been put on hold. The Federal Communications Commission is set to halt most of its operations as far as I know. The Indian land situation is about to get dire. Not to mention, the food stamp program is almost out of cash. The list goes on and on.

Sure federal employees will receive back pay, but only retroactively through a Congressional act after the government reopens. Yet, in the interim we must understand that their suffering will not influence Donald Trump to cave. Because Trump doesn’t care who gets hurt when it comes to getting what he wants. As of January 5, 2018, the GoFundMe website has 1,000 results for pages regarding the government shutdown. Most of the federal workers who’ve posted pages on the site ask for amounts ranging from $1000-$5000. While most pages have yet to receive any donations.

For the workers affected, those facing the greatest economic uncertainty are contractors who make up more than 40% of the government workforce. These not only comprise of white-collar workers, but also thousands of blue-collar jobs like janitors and security guards. Unlike the regular government employees, many contractors won’t be compensated for lost time. For these Americans, the shutdown’s effects can be potentially devastating even after the government reopens.

Apparently, Donald Trump’s supporters elected him because they saw him as a wily tycoon and deft dealmaker who could shake up Washington and bring decades of big-business knowhow to the Oval Office. In reality, Trump was never a peerless or even particularly skillful dealmaker. In fact, many of the most significant business transactions he engineered imploded. But because he was born into wealth, he could make his way in the world as a shameless self-promoter, a marketing confection, and billboard who frequently licensed his name on buildings others had paid for. In Trump’s professional life, his inept deal making often resulted in unmanageable debt and multiple bankruptcies. While his presidency has saw bungled, hapless efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, forge a nuke agreement with North Korea, wage trade wars with China, Mexico, and Canada, retain Republican control of the House, turn military and diplomatic strategy on its head, lay siege on any sensible immigration policy, and force a government shutdown to secure funding for a stupid border wall along the US-Mexico border.

Striking deals must have intimacy with the finer points of what every party wants out of a negotiation like realistic goals, maturity, patience, flexibility, and enough leverage so the other side can’t stall or walk away from the table. Of course, in his repeated efforts to build the wall to satisfy the white supremacists in his base, Donald Trump hasn’t met any of those perquisites. Nor has he addressed any of the real shortcomings or necessary enhancements of federal immigration policy. Obviously, Trump lacks the sophistication or interest to steep himself into policy details. So he already enters the immigration debate and deal making on his dumb wall at a distinct disadvantage. While Democrat and Republican politicians on Capitol Hill have immersed themselves in immigration discussions for years.

However, Donald Trump is perfectly willing to burn things down and ruin people’s lives just to get his own way. After all, look what he did in Atlantic City and tried to do to tenants at 100 Central Park South during the 1980s and 1990s. And he needlessly publicized himself as the shutdown’s author. Politicians in Washington DC should know that voters get sick of government shutdowns and don’t like those responsible for them. Of course, you can count on Trump trying to blame the Democrats for it or try to spin it as a positive thing once people get fed up with it. Still, if people know you as the guy who likes blowing things up, you’ll have a difficult time making deals. Besides, Trump had plenty of chances to avoid it and might’ve gotten the wall he wanted. In fact, one generous bipartisan Senate proposal offered $25 billion for a wall as long as the government opened a path to citizenship for 1.7 million young, undocumented immigrants in the US. Trump would’ve been wise to accept this deal. But no.

Good dealmakers prepare their teams to get the support they need to see the negotiation through. Donald Trump has overlooked the fact that more capable Republican dealmakers have initiated and guided his signature accomplishments of putting 2 conservative justices on the Supreme Court, pushing through an ill-advised tax overhaul nobody but Corporate America wanted, and passing criminal justice reform. On the other hand, building a wall has been Trump’s signature publicity stunt and has invoked fantasies to promote it like promising that Mexico would pay for it. Also, he’s become so emotionally invested in to the fruitless effort that he’s put himself at a strategic disadvantage. And Trump is now so consumed with appearing to win that he may not win at all. Left reeling and desperate, Trump has recently hinted that he may declare a national emergency on the southern border so he could simply appropriate the taxpayer funds he wants. This move may not even be legal and may compel Democrats to file a lawsuit to stop him regardless, and will likely further alienate some Republicans already fed up by his antics.

However, this is who Donald Trump is. All he cares about is fostering his own carnivalesque image. While has very little real interest in policy outcomes or other consequences unless they affect him personally. And he’s been there before. In 1988, he overpaid in a Plaza Hotel deal because he was so irrationally enamored by the property. He lost it in a bankruptcy a few years later. At the same time, he screwed up negotiations for another project that would’ve made him a transformative figure in New York real estate. Because Trump can’t exercise restraint, foresight, and financial discipline necessary to complete the deal. In 1996, he passed on a selling stake in one of his casinos that would’ve netted him $180 million and helped prop up his struggling Atlantic City operation because he didn’t want his name removed from the property. As you can see reading my blog post on Trump’s Atlantic City casino woes, countless people suffered from his actions. While he has still not learned his lesson and most likely never will.

But we must understand this isn’t a fight over border security. Despite Donald Trump’s wild claims, there’s no flood of savage foreigners pouring across the border. Even so, reasonable Democrats and Republicans recognize the need for bigger staff, better technology, and better fencing. Not to mention, both sides acknowledge the need for a sensible and more humane immigration and asylum policies. Even for competent administration, achieving all of this has proven to be a tall order. But already, Congress has already been allocating more money for border security. Despite that the Trump administration has spent less than 10% of what Congress had allocated this past year. Thus, to avoid the complex hard work that has traditionally gone with his job, Trump has instead created a political impasse over a symbol, a wall. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney derided this wall as “an easy thing to sell politically” that “doesn’t really solve the problem.” While former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times that the administration had long ago abandoned the idea of a concrete wall as irrelevant to border security’s real needs.

Not that Donald Trump seems much interested in either the public will or the public good. Because Trump never has. For him, this shutdown is a self-declared point of pride like a gaudy display of his boldness, his manliness, and his political steadfastness. But in reality, it reveals his selfishness and his apathy. Nonetheless, this political charade is mostly about Donald Trump taking it out on everyone over not getting his own way. So he’s making it miserable for everyone and doesn’t care who gets hurt. Is making all these people go without pay worth it? For God’s sake, no way in hell. These people have work for the benefit of the people each and every day. They deserve better than be furloughed or work without pay over a budget dispute on a stupid wall that our country doesn’t even need. Many of these workers have suffered already with making rent, paying bills, or getting groceries. As of now federal workers and contractors reckon with the possibility that the shutdown will drag on for months, leaving them with no steady income to pay mounting bills. Even for regular non-contract employees who’ll eventually receive back pay after the shutdown is over, the grinding anxiety and financial costs of scraping by in the meantime will mount with each passing day. Many of these workers live paycheck to paycheck, with very little wiggle room. Some of their creditors are more understanding than others. But even one missed payment can carry heavy consequences.

Touchdown with These Super Bowl Sunday Party Treats (Fifth Edition)

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Now that we’re in January, it’s NFL playoff season. Of course, I probably not watch any games for 2 reasons. First, I’m not a big sports fan in any respect and mostly do my sports posts for up my viewership stats. Save for the fans and bad mascot stuff. Second, for the first time in a few years, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to make the playoffs. So I have no reason to watch the Super Bowl anyway, unless it involves a famous musical artist performing the halftime show. Nonetheless, it’s not unusual for people to hold parties during this time, even if your team isn’t playing. Because we all want to see the New England Patriots lose. Not to mention, the Super Bowl normally receives the highest TV ratings each year. While parties normally include food. The map above depicts the most popular Super Bowl party dish from each state. Anyway, for your reading pleasure, I give you another assortment of Super Bowl delights.

  1. Let the cheeses hut and hike in this dip.
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It’s basically gouda’s against each other in the field. Not sure how many layers the dip has.

2. For healthy options, may I suggest a football fruit tray?

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This mostly includes melon and strawberries. Though the stitching is made of cheese.

3. Perhaps you might prefer chocolate footballs on a stick.

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They seem like sandwiches. Though I can be wrong.

4. You’d be insane not to include buffalo chicken salad football sandwiches.

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Not sure what’s in buffalo chicken salad. Yet, they seem to go with the pumpernickel footballs quite nicely.

5. Any snackadium should have a dip tray in the center.

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Unless you’re planning a large party. I would advise against snackadiums. Mostly since they consist of so much food that might get wasted. Unless you plan to donate the leftovers to the food bank.

6. Any Cincinnati Bengals fan would go crazy over these cookies.

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Well, the Bengals have made the playoffs several times in recent years. Though I’m not sure if they’re in it this post-season. Since I don’t pay much attention to the team.

7. Twinkies and sandwiches make great stadium walls.

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This was for Super Bowl 48. This one had the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks won.

8. Then again, you might want a purple snackadium for a change.

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This one is made out of wood and painted purple. Yet, you can find whatever dessert that suits your desires.

9. Football brownies are an easy game day treat.

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Sure, they may be squares. But each of them has the football stitching in icing.

10. Speaking of brownies, try these football bites for size.

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They may be small. But they will pack the chocolatey punch if you put them in your mouth.

11. Philadelphia Eagles fans would adore these cookies.

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Well, they won the Super Bowl in 2018. Yet, it’s even better that they didn’t go to the White House since Donald Trump is president. Need I say more?

12. Spaghetti with footballs makes for an ideal Super Bowl dinner.

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Well, the footballs are meatballs. While it’s all served in a stadium football-shaped bowl.

13. Nothing makes a game day party like a New Orleans Saints cake.

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Even includes strawberries bearing each player’s number. While it contains a black fleur de lis on top.

14. This Super Bowl, serve your guests anything from this football veggie tray.

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The football is made of carrots with mushroom stitching. While it’s surrounded by broccoli.

15. Perhaps this Arizona Cardinal cake will suit you.

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This was made at a cake shop. Yet, it has the Cardinal logo in all its glory.

16. You’ll always score with some football cupcakes.

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The footballs are cookies. While there’s little grass where they touch.

17. Super Bowl watchers would enjoy some stadium and football cookies.

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The stadiums have sprinkles to symbolize the crowd. While the footballs have some, too.

18. A Raven cupcake should always have purple sprinkles.

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Looks like a character from Angry Birds. Yet, the bird seems like it was made by a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.

19. You can never have too many football cookies on a field cake.

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This one has a megaphone cookie as well. Also includes goal posts.

20. Love the San Francisco 49ers? Try these cookies.

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Even includes Colin Kaepernick’s jersey. Later he was kicked off the team for taking a knee during the national anthem and making white people go nuts for no good reason.

21. These football calzones will warm you up on a cold day.

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Seems to come with some sort of sauce you can dip in. Then again, these may be tarts.

22. Nothing makes a dessert platter like some football jello.

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Though I have to admit that brown jello is disgusting. The stitching is white icing.

23. Care for a burger cookie sandwich?

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They seem to have a chocolate filling but it doesn’t include cheese. Still, are those sesame seeds on top?

24. A stadium nacho platter should suit your game day needs.

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This one has a guacamole dip field. Yet, you’ll find plenty of turnip slices within the chips and cheese.

25. Feel free to take anything from this football snack tray.

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This one includes crackers, cheese, and pepperoni slices. All on a football shaped tray.

26. This football spinach artichoke is quite savory.

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It’s even made with bread shaped like a football. So you can dip that in.

27. Is that a pizza in a snackadium field?

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After all, pizza needs cheese to be considered pizza. Not sure if there’s any on here.

28. Perhaps you’d like football cake pops with nutter butter.

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Indeed, the seem misshapen on sticks. Yet, they sure seem tasty.

29. There’s nothing better for game day than football burgers.

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Each of these has cheese on top for stitching. Along with American cheese in the middle.

30. You’ll always score with field goal pizza.

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This one has a green pepper goal post and a red pepper football. Great for any Super Bowl Sunday.

31. Helmet bites make an ideal Super Bowl snack.

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Though they’re mostly in icing, cake, and pretzels. While the teams are nonspecific.

32. Here we find the Seahawks and Broncos duking it out on guacamole.

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The outside is even made out of hotdogs and burgers. Not sure what the shapes on the field are about.

33. Want a piece of football cake?

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Well, it’s covered in chocolate icing. But I hope it’s chocolate all the way through.

34. This field cake is covered in candy.

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This one has bite size candy bars as players and pretzels as goal posts. While M&Ms give the field color. Or are those Skittles?

35. Want some footballs on a stick?

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These might be cookies or brownies. But I’m not sure which.

36. Always include a guacamole field for game day appetizers.

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Has small cherry tomatoes represent the players. Also includes 2 plastic goal posts.

37. Celebrate the Super Bowl with these buffalo chicken potato skins.

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And apparently, these have guacamole stitching. While they’re covered in cheese.

38. Grace your Super Bowl dessert platter with some football peanut butter cookies.

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Each of them consists of a football in chocolate icing. While each are shaped like a football.

39. In this sandwich snackadium, it’s Patriots vs. Giants.

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Well, this one seems to have an array of healthier options. But you’re hoping the Giants will beat the Pats in this one.

40. Now even your dog can enjoy some Super Bowl goodies.

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The bone treats all of have stitching on them for footballs. And so do the round treats, too.

41. Don’t know who’s going to be in the Super Bowl? Try these cookies.

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Well, at least it leaves it out in the open. Though I bet the teams that will play aren’t yours.

42. In this snackadium, you can make your own sandwich.

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You see some ham and cheeses outside the field. While the stands are filled with crackers, trail mix, and nachos.

43. Sandwiches are all stacked in this snackadium.

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Indeed, you can see all kinds of snacks in the stands. While someone’s about to score a touch down.

44. Perhaps a bean football in a guacamole field would suit your fancy.

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It’s a layered dip if you can see. So feel free to dip your nachos all you want.

45. Grace your Super Bowl dessert platter with this field cake.

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This one has a football in the center. Not sure what’s supposed to be the grass.

46. This dessert stadium will give you any treat you want.

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You’ll have plenty of cookies and fruit inside. Outside is made from twinkies and Rice Krispie treats.

47. Perhaps an onigiri football will suit your fancy.

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This is a Japanese dish. Contains turkey and avocado.

48. Nutella football truffles make an ideal Super Bowl snack.

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Indeed, truffle and footballs don’t always go together. Yet, these are guaranteed to please.

49. Feast your eyes this Super Bowl Sunday on this buffalo chicken pizza.

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Seems oddly fitting for Super Bowl Sunday. Since a major food is buffalo wings.

50. Care for some wings?

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Well, they actually have chocolate and cookie dough. So they’re more suited for dessert.

51. Perhaps these field brownies would suit you.

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They’re covered in green icing and white lines. While they have paper footballs on top with sticks.

52. I’m sure this cake will show the play.

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You can see bite size bars representing the players. While the long bars represent the benches.

53. Celebrate the Super Bowl with some football hotdogs.

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Each of the buns is shaped like a football. Though you might have a stitching preference for ketchup or mustard.

54. A football cheeseball sits at the snack trays center.

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This one has bacon stitching. But care to dip some crackers?

55. Hope you have an appetite for these football cookies.

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These are chocolate covered Oreos with icing stitching. Though they resemble brown baseballs.

56. Celebrate the Pittsburgh Steel with this Steelers field cake.

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Has the Steeler logo at the center. Unfortunately, they won’t be in the playoffs this post-season.

57. Nothing makes a Super Bowl dessert platter like this field cookie cake.

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You see a lot of candy on it. While the field is covered with icing and sprinkles.

58. Anyone would love a piece of these field cupcakes.

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The edges are covered in sprinkles. While the rest sport green icing.

59. This football bomb has a lot to pack in.

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It has a lot of stuff inside like cheese and chicken. Still, I hope it’s tasty.

60. These football ice cream sandwiches make for a tasty dessert.

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Consists of ice cream placed between 2 brownies. While the top has icing for stitching.

61. Feel free to take one of these almond joy footballs.

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Almond Joys contain almonds and coconuts. While these are shaped like footballs.

62. Don’t forget to include some football empanadas.

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It’s a kind of dish from South America. Seems like a cross between a burrito and a calzone.

63. You can make a simple snackadium with cans.

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This one seems doable. Just has a dip tray and a few bins for snacks and sauces.

64. Anyone in Seattle would love these Seahawks brownies.

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This one has layers of brownie, cookie dough, Oreo, and fudge. Has M&Ms and sprinkles on top.

65. These football potato skins are covered in cheese.

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This one includes bacon and celery as well. Perfect for any game day appetizer tray.

66. Always hut, hut, and bite these Reese’s footballs.

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These may contain Reese’s cups inside. While the stitching consists of white icing.

67. Try taking a bite from these Denver Broncos cake pops.

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Some have orange sprinkles. Others are covered in blue drizzle.

68. You’ll find plenty of footballs in some Denver Broncos popcorn.

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This one has blue and orange drizzle all over it. Not sure what the footballs are made of.

69. Care for a slice of Seahawks pizza?

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This one seems made from Papa John’s. But it sports the iconic Seahawks logo nonetheless.

70. You can make a compelling stadium with Chex Mix.

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Indeed, it’s another snackadium. Like the popcorn goal posts.

NCAA Championship Worthy College Sports Treats (Third Edition)

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Now that Christmas is over and the new year has begun, NCAA Division I college football stages their national championships. Of course, you have a lot of college teams playing each other in bowl games that really don’t mean a thing. Seriously, why can’t they just have a playoff with each conference champ? That makes perfect sense. Because I don’t understand why the NCAA Div. I has the championship system for football. Anyway, it’s not unusual for fans to have their little parties and bring some treats. So for your reading pleasure, I give you another assortment of treats relating to NCAA Division I sports.

  1. UNC sugar cookies are almost impossible to resist at Chapel Hill.
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Some of them consist of feet. Since their mascot is the Tarheel. Get it?

2. Perhaps Georgia Bulldog fans want some of these cupcakes.

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These have footballs and the school logos on them. While the icing is in red and black.

3. No Longhorn party should be without this stadium cake.

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This is for the Texas Longhorns. And I suppose the stands must be made from graham crackers.

4. A Michigan cake should always have a sugar M.

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This one had to use a stencil. But you get the Wolverine impression.

5. If you want a more sophisticated cake, this Texas A&M one may be exactly what you ordered.

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This one has the Texas A&M seal on it. While it’s surrounded by chocolate covered strawberries.

6. Florida State fans would enjoy these Seminole cookies.

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You can see it includes footballs along as 2 Floridas that resemble boomerangs. And all in yellow and red.

7. With these cookies, you will be a hit in Buckeye nation.

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Unlike most Division I college teams, Ohio State actually has a shot at the championship. Though their mascot is the stuff of nightmares.

8. Can I interest any Mountaineer in this WVU cake?

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This one is 2 tiers with a WVU helmet on top. Includes chocolate covered strawberry footballs.

9. Gators fan would take a bite out of these Florida cupcakes.

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Some of these have the F on the logo. Others have a gator. All look delicious and professionally made.

10. On a cold day, take a cup of hot chocolate from Michigan State.

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It’s a Spartan cup above the rest. Though I’m not sure how this image shows up on the cup.

11. It’s always Buckeye season with this Ohio State cake.

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This one has a red “O” with a buckeye bough. Because Ohio is the Buckeye State.

12. Tiger fans will devour these LSU cookies.

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I guess these were made for a tailgate party at Baton Rouge. Yet, all are iced in purple and yellow glory.

13. I’m sure these Ohio State cookies will go well with a Ohio State cake.

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These seem rather home made. While the “O”‘s are white.

14. Anyone from Oregon State will enjoy this beaver cake.

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You have to wonder why Oregon State has a beaver mascot, given how it’s a euphemism for lady parts. Sure beavers are tough animals. But a beaver mascot is about as ridiculous as a duck.

15. Perhaps I can interest Oregon fans with these cupcakes.

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These have “O”‘s on the icing. Perfect for Oregon Duck games.

16. You’ll score a field goal with this Ohio State cake.

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This one has 2 tiers with a goal post on top. The bottom one has gray and red diamonds. The top one has stripes.

17. A LSU stadium cake is perfect for a Tiger game day.

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This one seems quite detailed. Even includes stadium lights. So it’s really expensive.

18. It’s always hats off to Michigan.

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This is a Michigan hat cake. While it’s on top a football field without numbers.

19. Take your pick of these Ohio State cakes.

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You have buckeyes, O’s, Brutus Buckeyes, and stripes. And each with icing on top.

20. Wolverine fans will gobble up these Michigan cupcakes.

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All are topped with yellow icing and an M. And yes, they’re professionally made.

21. Louisville fans would crave for a cake like this.

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This one depicts an angry cardinal, too. But lucky for Louisville, March Madness is a couple months away.

22. A Bulldogs fan could only wish for a cake like this during football season.

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This just consists of a football with the Georgia logo on it. Perfect for tailgate occasions.

23. Those with bearcat pride would love this cake from Cincinnati.

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This one even has the Bearcat mascot on top. Yet, it doesn’t give me a favorable impression.

24. Mizzou fans might want a slice of this field cake.

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This one even has numbers on it. While the black and yellow logo roars at the 50.

25. Apparently, someone TP’ed this Auburn cake.

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Guess this must be a tradition at the school. Also shows a large orange tree with roots.

26. Hungry Mountaineers can’t resist these WVU cookies.

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I’m sure these were made for football season. Includes the WVU helmets.

27. Bulldog fans will relish in these Georgia cookies.

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Includes paw prints. While red square cookies state “Go Dawgs.”

28. These Michigan football cookies will have you ready for the season.

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Each of these is a football with an M. Some have a blue one. Some have a yellow one.

29. Georgia bites make an ideal game day snack.

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All of these are covered in icing. Some are helmets. While some are footballs.

30. Nittany Lion fans would water at these Penn State cookies.

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These seem to be chocolate from what I can tell. Though each has a degree of blue and white icing.

31. A TP’ed tree belongs on top of an Auburn cake.

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Oh, yes, the TP’ed tree must be an Auburn tradition. Still, this one has 3 tiers with the middle in tiger stripes.

32. Strawberries always belong on a cake from Texas Tech.

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While all these strawberries are covered in chocolate. While the bottom tier has chocolate diamonds.

33. Support your Florida State Seminoles with this cake.

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This one has the Seminoles logo on it. While spears are on the edges.

34. You’ll find plenty of Buckeye nuts on this cake.

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This is for Ohio State naturally. And the nuts are on 3 tiers.

35. Indiana fans will bask in this Hoosiers cake.

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This one is for basketball season. Though we don’t think of Indiana U basketball when Hoosiers and b-ball are in the same sentence.

36. If you’re a Texan who loves the Bears, then these cookies are for you.

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These are from Baylor by the way. Each with degrees of green and yellow icing.

37. You have to be nuts to ignore these Ohio State cupcakes.

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These have a red “O” and a Buckeye branch on it. All on top of white icing.

38. You can always roll tied with these Alabama cookies.

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Funny, that I didn’t have any Alabama treats in this post yet. Even includes elephant cookies despite that Crimson Tide is algae.

39. Michigan fans can feast on this stadium cake.

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For some reason, there’s a trend in stadium cakes. This one is for the Wolverines.

40. Perhaps you’d want a bite out of these Ohio State cupcakes.

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These form the “O” in Ohio State. While some may have Buckeyes on it.

41. You probably don’t want to save this Gator cake for later.

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This one has a gator below the water. So Florida fans would rejoice.

42. A Michigan helmet cake will always impress.

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Not sure if this was a cake project or professionally made. Still, it’s kind of amazing.

43. Some of these WVU cakes are striped.

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Some have the WVU logo in icing. Some have footballs on top of stripes.

44. A Florida Gator is always on top for football.

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This one has a gator standing up to throw the football in a pass. Only in Florida.

45. Any Arkansas State fan would gawk at this Red Wolf cake.

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Even has a red wolf on top of a football field pattern tier. Yet, this cake is supposed to be for a 6-year-old boy.

46. For big parties, this Ohio State field cake will suit you nicely.

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This one has the logo on the field. Even has footballs on the edges.

47. Any Michigan clarinetist would adore this cake.

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The band hat is on top of a snare drum tier. While the clarinet is beside it.

48. You can’t spell “love” without Villanova.

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Villanova is always mentioned as a March Madness contender. It’s also a Catholic college located in Philadelphia.

49. These cupcakes go blue for Michigan.

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These have blue tops over yellow icing. But only some of them have an M.

50. Baylor fans would have a beary good time with these cookies.

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These have bears and the Baylor logo. Some even depict claws.

51. Any Buckeye fan would want this Brutus Buckeye cake.

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This one is from a shop. Yet, I have to admit Ohio State’s mascot is utterly creepy.

52. No Hoosier fan would say no to these Indiana cookies.

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Funny, how the logo appears to resemble a fork. Professionally made in red and white icing.

53. Apparently, this WVU cake has candles on it.

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Though I think the candles are fake, especially the flames. Like the tier patterns though.

54. You’ll find some bones among these Georgia cookies.

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Some of the cookies have sticks. While some consists of bones and jerseys.

55. Penn Staters will relish in these paw print cookies.

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These are in a cookie cutter circle shape in white and blue icing. Perfect for tailgating at State College.

56. Aggie fans would delight with these cookies from Texas A&M.

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Guess these are all associated with Texas A&M. And yes, they’re meant for a birthday.

57. Wolverines might want to try some Michigan jello.

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Each of these is a yellow square with a blue M block on it. The football and goal post are just decoration.

58. You can put a large ring on this Texas A&M cake.

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The ring is gold and sits on 2 tiers. While it’s meant to celebrate someone’s graduation.

59. A Cavalier would die for this cake.

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This denotes the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson founded. And it’s in Charlottesville.

60. A Bulldog cake is perfect for any Georgia fan.

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This one has a spiked collar. Though the spikes are made from white icing.

61. Any Nittany Lion baseball fans here?

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Though college baseball doesn’t get a lot of publicity due to the end of the school year stuff. Still, at least they didn’t have a bat cake since that would look really terrible.

62. Nothing makes an ideal game dish like Michigan pasta salad.

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This one consists of Michigan noodles and corn. Because corn is yellow.

63. If you’re from Central Florida, you might want this cake.

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This one has a football on top. While the top tier is decorated as a field.

64. Perhaps an Arizona cake will suit any Coyotes fan.

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This one has red and white stripes on with the Arizona logo. While it’s trimmed with red candies.

65. Arkansas fans will go hog wild with this Razorback cake.

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Well, hogs can be quite vicious animals you don’t want to run into. And look at those gnashing teeth.

66. Any Hokie would want to taste these Virginia Tech mini cupcakes.

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These are chocolate with VT on dark red and orange icing. Bet they’re delicious.

67. Any Auburn Tiger would put for this Aubie cake.

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Apparently, Auburn has a golf team. And yet, Aubie wears a football jersey.

68. These pretzel pawprints make a quality Nittany Lion snack.

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These consist of waffle pretzels, white icing, and blue M&Ms. Easy to make for any game.

69. Salute your Wolverines with this Michigan blueberry pie.

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This one has an M and “Go Blue” on the crust. Want a slice?

70. You always need raspberries for an Indiana pie.

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I’m sure the pie is cream and made with a store crust. Still, I don’t think Hoosiers would complain.

Tales of Plea Deals: Part 4 – Maria Butina

On Thursday, December 13, 2018, 30-year-old Russian national and alleged spy Maria Butina admitted in federal court that she made contacts with the NRA and top Republican officials in an attempt to secretly influence US politics at Russia’s behest. A so-called “gun rights activist,” she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. In addition, she admitted to acting under the direction of Alexander Torshin, another Russian fixture and gun rights supporter. She also worked with another individual to infiltrate conservative circles, who’s identified in documents as ”US Person 1” and is believed to be Paul Erickson, a longtime GOP operative with NRA connections. Also, he and Butina dated and lived together. The case against Maria Butina is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Yet, her activities fit into a broader Russian effort to influence US politics.

Allegedly from Siberia, Maria Butina claimed she moved to Moscow in 2010 in hopes of starting a furniture business and then an advertising agency once she realized the former venture was too expensive. Though the exact sequence of events is unclear, we know that 2 things happened soon afterward. First, Butina founded a Russian gun rights group called Right to Bear Arms though that may have been a front. Since Russia is known to have very strict gun laws, anyway. Second, she began working as Alexander Torshin’s special assistant. Citing a shared interest in gun rights, the two were introduced to top NRA officials, began regularly attending NRA conventions in the United States, and became NRA “life members.” They also began to reciprocate with their own invitations to NRA bigwigs to visit Moscow for Right to Bear Arms events. The first of which took place on November 2013 and featured “a concealed carry fashion show.” It is there she met GOP operative Paul Erickson whom she got very close to at some point. Eventually, they dated and lived together. By 2015, the were close enough for Butina to email Erickson her proposed plan to influence American politics.

So what was this plan to influence US politics? The Justice Department claims that around March 24, 2015, Maria Butina emailed Paul Erickson a proposal project called “Diplomacy” apparently looking for his input. The email itself had the subject line “The Second Pozner.” An FBI agent’s affidavit suggests this refers to “Vladimir Pozner, a propagandist who served in the disinformation department of the Soviet KGB and who often appeared on Western television.” The project proposal makes several assertions:

  • Republicans will likely win control of the US government in the 2016 elections.
  • The GOP is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy” toward Russia. But now can be a good time to improve relations.
  • The NRA has a “central place and influence” in the Republican Party since it helps fund political candidates and sponsors events.
  • Butina and Torshin already have NRA ties to the NRA’s leadership and she’s visited the US once.
  • Therefore, Butina requested a $125,000 budget so she could participate in “all upcoming major conferences” related to the Republican Party before the 2016 elections.

Now you’d think Paul Erickson would get suspicious here. But he soon wrote back to Maria Butina with advice on her “special project,” including a list of potential media, business, and political contacts she could meet with “off the record.” He wrote, “If you were to sit down with your special friends and make a list of ALL the most important contacts you could find in America for a time when the political situation between the U.S. and Russia will change, you could NOT do better than the list that I just emailed you. All that is needed is for your friends to provide you with the financial resources to spend the time in America to TAKE ALL OF THESE MEETINGS.”

So what we have here is a plan to influence the Republican Party to be friendlier with Russia, based on the perceptive and accurate insight that the GOP is extremely beholden to the NRA, which is why it’s almost impossible. Keep in mind this was months before Donald Trump entered the presidential race, and when most believed the Republican Party would choose a more hawkish and traditional nominee. As for who was ultimately behind it? A more recent government filing mentions that Maria Butina refers to a particular “funder” who has “deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration.” This isn’t Alexander Torshin but an unidentified Russian oligarch with a $1.2 billion net worth.

But even before Maria Butina wrote this plan, she had made some inroads in conservative activist circles. In 2013, she got Trump future National Security Adviser John Bolton to record a video message on gun rights for her group. In 2014 the conservative TownHall website ran an interview with her under the headline, “Meet the woman working with the NRA and fighting for gun rights in Russia.”

Yet, when Republican presidential candidates began traveling the country to campaign in 2015, Maria Butina, too, started popping up at events and even posed for photos with candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal. Soon after Donald Trump entered the race and skyrocketed to the top of the polls, Butina attended an event with him, too. This was the Freedom Fest at Las Vegas in July 2015. In fact, Trump called on her to answer a question. Saying she was from Russia, Butina asked, “If you would be elected as the president, what would be your foreign politics, especially in the relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the policy of sanctions that are damaging to both economies, or do you have other ideas?” Trump answered by talking about how “the whole world hates us” under Obama, and then said, “I know Putin, and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin. I don’t think you’d need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well. I really believe that.”

In their book, Russian Roulette, Michael Isikoff and David Corn reported that Donald Trump’s own advisers would look back on the exchange and find it strange:

“Steve Bannon raised it with RNC chair Reince Priebus. How was it that this Russian woman happened to be in Las Vegas for that event? And how was it that Trump happened to call on her? And Trump’s response? It was odd, Bannon thought, that Trump had a fully developed answer.

“Priebus agreed there was something strange about Butina. Whenever there were events held by conservative groups, she was always around, he told Bannon.”

Maria Butina’s work continued in late 2015 and early 2016, as she went back and forth between the US and Russia:

  • She talked with Alexander Torshin about his plans to meet California Representative Dana Rohrbacher, the most pro-Russian member of Congress in Russia in August 2015.
  • In December 2015, Butina’s group helped pay for another NRA bigwig trip to Moscow. The delegation included Paul Erickson, former NRA president David Keene, then-Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, and top NRA donors.
  • She and Torshin attended the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2016.
  • She and Erickson incorporated a shell company Bridges LLC, in South Dakota that same month, for unclear reasons.
  • She and Erickson also began planning a series of “friendship and dialogue dinners” with various American political players in Washington DC and New York.

However, around March 2016, references about a communications channel between the Russian government and the Republican Party began to pop up. By this point, the first round of primaries have already taken place and Donald Trump was the clear favorite to win the nomination. That month, Butina emailed an American that “Putin’s side” had given them a “yes.” She wrote that a “representative of the Russian Presidential administration” had given approval for “building this communication channel,” according to the FBI agent’s affidavit.

In May 2016, Paul Erickson sent an email to Trump campaign (and Jeff Sessions) staffer Rick Dearborn, with the subject “Kremlin connection.” He wrote: “Happenstance and the (sometimes) international reach of the NRA placed me in a position a couple of years ago to slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin. The Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true reset in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House.” He said that Vladimir Putin is “deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” and wanted Trump to visit Moscow before the election. So, he said, the NRA’s convention in Louisville, Kentucky, would be a good place for “first contact” because “President Putin’s emissary on this front” would be there. Another conservative activist Richard Clay sent a similar email to Dearborn soon afterward, and specified that Alexander Torshin as the emissary. The email was reportedly forwarded to Jared Kushner who wrote back that they shouldn’t accept, which is ironic since he attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.

Later that month when the NRA held its convention in Louisville, Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin attended yet met Donald Trump Jr. at the dinner. According to Trump Jr.’s lawyer, they only made “gun-related small talk.” Two weeks later, Trump Jr. received an email offer of information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Though there’s no clear indication that the 2 incidents are connected.

As the 2016 election drew nearer, Maria Butina moved to the United States on a student visa in order to receive a graduate degree from American University. At some point, she began living with Paul Erickson who’s twice her age. Yet, a government filing claims that she “appears to treat” this relationship “as simply a necessary aspect of her activities.” In other words, Butina was simply just using Erickson for her work with the Russians. But given how Erickson is twice her age and resembles Dilbert’s boss, you probably knew already. In October 2016, Erickson emailed an acquaintance that he’d help secure “a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key [Republican] leaders through, of all conduits, the [NRA].” But Donald Trump’s prospects looked grim that month since he was down and the polls while Hillary Clinton was generally believed to win. On October 5, Butina and Alexander Torshin exchanged the following direct messages, according to the FBI agent’s affidavit:

Butina: “Time will tell. We made our bet. I am following our game.” …

Torshin: “This is hard to teach. Patience and cold blood + faith in yourself. And everything will definitely turn out” …

Butina: “Yesterday’s dinner showed that American society is broken in relation to Russia. This is now the dividing line of opinions, the crucial one in the election race. [Republicans] are for us, [Democrats] against — 50/50. Our move here is very important.”

A week later, they exchanged more messages with Maria Butina writing, “Important things are ahead of us. Right now everything has to be quiet and careful.”

Unfortunately, we all know that Donald Trump won the 2016 election. After the race was called, Maria Butina wrote to Alexander Torshin, “I’m going to sleep. It’s 3 am here. I am ready for further orders.” 4 days later, Butina hosted a costume party for her birthday at a Washington restaurant. She dressed as the Russian empress Alexandra while Erickson came as Rasputin. There, Butina “brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia,” according to 2 witnesses who talked to The Daily Beast.

Paul Erickson worked his GOP connections to influence Donald Trump’s transition team and the new administration’s staffing. Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin discussed who might be appointed secretary of state, with Butina asking about how “our people” felt about one name. She and Paul Erickson attended one of the inaugural balls together, and hosted guests at the Dupont Circle restaurant Russia House. Meanwhile, Butina planned another visit by Torshin and other Russians for the National Prayer Breakfast, set to be held shortly after Trump was sworn in “to establish a back channel communication,” as she emailed Erickson. She then set up a meeting between Trump and the Russians on the morning of the prayer breakfast, February 2, 2017. But at the last minute, the administration officially flagged Torshin’s name on the attendees list due to his suspected ties to organized crime. So the meeting didn’t happen.

After that, there’s been less published in reports and government filings about what Maria Butina has been up to. She allegedly asked a DC civil rights group about its cyber vulnerabilities for a supposed school project, according to the Washington Post. She dined with a Russian diplomat who the government suspects is an intelligence officer. At some point, the government obtained a note mentioning, “Maria’s ‘Russian Patriots In-Waiting’ Organization” and an “FSB offer of employment.” In April 2018, she testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee while she received her master’s degree in May. Then in July 2018, Butina and Paul Erickson ended their DC lease and began preparing for a trip. That is, until the FBI swooped in and arrested Butina. Since the bureau had its eyes on her since she moved to the US two years ago. But this arrest was rushed out of fear she’d leave the country and slip away from them.

Maria Butina initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against her, which at the time included as acting as an agent to a foreign government and conspiring to do so. However, that December, Butina pled guilty to the lesser charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent. She still faces a maximum of 5 years in prison, though she’s unlikely to be sentenced to that amount given her deal with prosecutors. Nonetheless, by pleading guilty, Butina admitted that she tried to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence in US politics.” She sought those “unofficial lines” of communication for the “benefit of the Russian Federation,” acting through a Russian official.

Through it all, Maria Butina communicated regularly with the Russian official believed as Alexander Torshin, reporting to him about her efforts and observations. Though the two met Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA dinner. In Russia, Torshin is a major figure in its politics, serving in its parliament’s upper house for years. Since 2015, he’s been a deputy director at the central Russian bank. Torshin is also a gun enthusiast and longtime supporter of gun rights. Nonetheless, Spanish authorities have linked Torshin to money laundering and a Russian organized crime syndicate called the Taganskaya. In fact, they planned to arrest him when he was scheduled to fly into the Mallorca airport in 2013, but he didn’t show up. While the FBI is investigating whether he “illegally funneled money” into the NRA that was then spent to help Trump win. If true, this would be a major scandal implicating the NRA. But the group denies it. And this year, the US Treasury Department put Torshin on a list of sanctioned Russian officials and oligarchs.

Maria Butina also sought advice and helped plan events with the person believed as Paul Erickson, whose role in this and potential legal exposure, is still unclear. Erickson has a colorful history. He’s worked for conservative activist Richard Viguerie, for Pat Buchanan’s 1992 campaign, for Lorena Bobbit’s husband/victim, and for Zairean dictator Mobuto Sese Seko. More recently, he’s been on the American Conservative Union’s board and has close ties to NRA leadership since he fundraised for them. A Forbes columnist called him, “a sort of ‘secret master of the political universe’ known almost exclusively to the cognoscenti.”

Nonetheless, the exact nature and breadth on what’s being investigated on Maria Butina remains vague, making it unclear on how much legal jeopardy Donald Trump’s camp and the NRA is in. If the NRA really was tricked by a Russian spy, the whole group can be victim in all of this. Yet, a series of McClatchy reports dating from January, asserting that the FBI is investigating the NRA’s finances and specifically when Alexander Torshin “illegally funneled money” to the group “to help Donald Trump win the presidency.” Anyway, the NRA isn’t legally obligated to publicly reveal its donors and doesn’t do so. But we know it spent tens of millions of dollars in the 2016 to get Trump elected. Oregon US Senator Ron Wyden’s aide told McClatchy that the NRA had dodged questions on whether it accepted money from shell companies that could’ve been routed to the Russians.

As for Donald Trump’s associates, well, the government filings on Maria Butina are conspicuously light on references to her outreach to Trump’s team despite it being widely reported in the media. However, in May 2018, a Spanish organized crime prosecutor said that his government had given wiretaps on Alexander Torshin’s conversations to the FBI “just a few months ago” before adding, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”