• What Is Going on with the DoJ?
• There Will Be No Presidential Commission on the Insurrection
• I Fought the Law, Part I: Louis DeJoy
• I Fought the Law, Part II: Matt Gaetz
• I Fought the Law, Part III: Mo Brooks
• Texas Backs Down, a Little
• West Virginia Ups Its Vaccination Game
• COVID Diaries: The U.S. vs. the World
You know, Donald Trump has a fair bit in common with a herpes infection: never completely gone, always lurking, prone to reappear at the most inopportune times. If the Donald were a truly decent fellow, he would use his massive ex-presidential platform to promote world peace or to help the homeless or fight poverty in Africa. Alternatively, he could live a quiet life of painting, or golfing, or making Netflix specials.
But—and you may not know this—Trump is not a decent fellow. Putting aside politics, (Z) can give you a couple of redeeming personal characteristics of each of the first 44 presidents, even the not-so-nice ones. Andrew Jackson, for example, could be counted upon to put country before party and was deeply devoted to his wife. Warren Harding was self-effacing and was always loyal to his friends. Richard Nixon was kind to his mother, hard-working, and very smart. But for Trump, it is really difficult to come up with even one. When Hillary Clinton was forced to do so during the 2016 presidential debates, her response was that he did a good job of raising his kids. But that one hasn't exactly aged well, has it?
We say all of this because we had yet another unpleasant outbreak of Trumpes (Herump?) this week. This one became a part of the news cycle thanks to The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, who noted on Twitter that Trump is telling insiders that he "expects he will get reinstated [as president] by August." Charles Cooke, who works for the anti-Trump but definitely conservative National Review, and so is dialed in to right-wing circles, confirmed Haberman's reporting:
I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he—along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally—will be "reinstated" to office this summer after "audits" of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief—not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.
This is the opening portion of Cooke's piece; the rest is really quite blistering. It's also just 782 words, so if you like takedowns, click through and read the whole piece.
The notion that Trump might be "reinstated" has been floating around on social media for at least a few weeks, and has been promoted by the usual suspects when it comes to these things: the QAnon crowd, Alex Jones, the people on Parler, and so forth. It's not clear how Trump picked up on it. It may have come from MyPillow Guy Mike Lindell. Or maybe Trump is following Twitter and Facebook even if he's not allowed to have an account. In any event, speaking of reasonably short reads, the Constitution is just 4,543 words, and a careful review (or even a not-so-careful review) will make clear that there is no such thing as "reinstatement" in the American system of government. When Joe Biden leaves office, it will be because (1) he has reached the legal end of his term (Jan. 20, 2025 or 2029), or (2) he has died/become incapacitated/been deemed incapacitated, or (3) he has resigned, or (4) he has been impeached and convicted. Those are the only options. There is no "(5) he had to step down because the previous guy was reinstated."
So what on earth is going on here? We've been considering it for the past couple of days, and here are the four possible explanations we can come up with:
- It's a(nother) grift: Despite what Cooke says, this is the most likely explanation.
Undoubtedly, with Trump somewhat out of sight and out of mind (in remission?), the fundraising take has fallen way off.
Obviously, the failed blog did little to help reverse that. And his e-mails to supporters these days
are carefully written
so that his presidential status is present-tense, and not just past tense. So, maybe this is just the latest gimmick,
and when we get to August he moves on to something else to separate followers from their dollars, or he claims it's
going to take another three months to be reinstated.
- The cheese is slipping off the cracker: Mary Trump's book asserted something that everyone
already suspected: Donald has psychological issues. Maybe she's wrong, since she did not examine him in a professional
context (he would never submit to that, with her or anyone else). However, let's be honest, she's right. There's something
wrong there. And after spending four years behaving in ways that were often odd or erratic, he's now six months older and
has suffered a great (for him) trauma: losing the election. Oh, he's also getting closer and closer to an indictment and
possible prison time. Anyhow, it could be that his grip on reality is slipping badly.
- It's a put on: This is rather conspiratorial, but it's also not impossible, and we're a
full-service political analysis site, so here goes. Again, Trump appears to be badly exposed on a number of legal
fronts. And, of course, 99.999% of us are watching this from the cheap seats. Trump and his inner circle are in the
0.001% that has a much fuller picture, and so they may know that the reality is even worse than it looks. One way to
delay (or avoid) a trial (or a prison sentence) is mental or physical unfitness. We are very doubtful that someone as
vain as Trump would allow his attorneys to go into court and argue that he's mentally impaired. But desperate times
sometimes call for desperate measures.
- The coup is coming: This is the grimmest possibility. Everyone knows that the Arizona audit, and probably the Georgia audit, are going to come back with the finding that Trump actually won those states. Similarly Trump and many of his enablers in the GOP have become truly Machiavellian in their approach to gaining power: the ends justify whatever means are necessary. Maybe, once Trump gets the "news" from Arizona and Georgia, he declares that he is president again, and begins acting accordingly, issuing executive orders and the like. If so, a lot of Republican officeholders are suddenly going to have a very interesting choice to make.
Thus far, Trump's talk of being reinstated has largely been private, since he doesn't have much of a public platform anymore. And it's vague enough that he surely couldn't be popped for sedition. But if #4 turns out to be the correct explanation, well, that is definitely very grim, but there's also a rather sizable silver lining. If the Trumpers are going to try some version of a coup anyhow, then this one would be coming from about as weak a position as possible. The federal government would not back him, the military would not back him, and even most Republican members of Congress would decide they don't like the idea of trading Armani suits for orange jumpsuits. He would certainly be arrested, charged with sedition, and convicted. And if anything is going to break his hold on the Party, that would be it. It is hard to believe that he would try something so foolish (or that the people around him would let him try it). But we've been surprised (disappointed?) before, so... (Z)
Speaking of things related to Donald Trump that are hard to explain, the Merrick Garland-led Department of Justice has been carrying a surprising amount of water for the former president. Specifically, the DoJ is actively resisting the release of three things that Congressional Democrats (and Democratic voters) would really like to see: Trump's tax returns, the Barr memo explaining why Trump was not charged with obstruction of justice, and the supporting materials from the Mueller investigation. There are also other ways that Congress would like to see Garland play ball, such as facilitating testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, but the AG is thus far refusing.
Garland won't even reach the 100-day mark as AG for another couple of weeks, so perhaps he's just getting all his ducks in a row before making any decisions. After all, you don't spend nearly a quarter-century as a federal judge without developing an abundance of caution. That said, if he plans to maintain this resistance, it could be, for lack of a better term, institutional. Yes, the Biden administration is populated by Democrats, and so too is the House majority. However, they are different branches of government, and historically the two branches have been very protective of their respective turfs. Since Garland spent his entire judicial career on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and got to referee these sorts of inter-branch squabbles many times, he is presumably more sensitive to this dynamic than just about anyone who has served as AG.
Alternatively, Garland's recalcitrance could be political and performative. He's clearly not in the bag for Trump, as the DoJ has already taken some strong anti-Trump steps in his time on the job, like going after Rudy Giuliani. But the AG has to be very sensitive to the perception that his Department is just a partisan organ in the business of dispensing victors' justice. Consider how much confidence non-Trumpers had in the Barr DoJ after a couple of years, and you begin to see the problem. The current AG may be doing all of this mostly for appearances, and may prefer to "lose" in court, so he can say he had no choice but to cooperate with congressional Democrats (this theory was advanced in Sunday's mailbag by reader T.B. in Tallahassee).
Of course, it could be both of these things, in some combination. Or, there could be things that those of us in the cheap seats don't know, like maybe that the Barr memo contains classified information, or something like that. In any event, folks who were hoping for Garland to bring the hammer quickly are going to have to be patient. On the other hand there are statutes of limitations that are going to expire fairly soon, so this can't go on forever. (Z)
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki let slip something that was entirely foreseeable: The White House won't be appointing a commission to look into the events of January 6. "Congress was attacked on that day, and President Biden firmly agrees with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] that Congress itself has a unique role and ability to carry out that investigation," she told Axios. Pelosi said much the same thing last week.
As a legal and logistical matter, a presidential commission makes little sense. Psaki speaks the truth (albeit in a vague fashion) when she says that Congress is more suited to this task. They can compel testimony, subpoena evidence, etc., and the White House can't, except with congressional approval. And if Congress can't agree to create its own commission, thanks to Senate Republicans' resistance, then they certainly aren't going to bestow the necessary powers on the President. That being the case, a presidential commission would just be a toothless charade.
Further, the optics of a presidential 1/6 commission would be very, very bad. Speaking of victors' justice (see above), this would certainly look that way, even if it wasn't. And if the hypothetical presidential commission were to lay some of the blame at Donald Trump's feet? It could get ugly very quickly. So, there really was no choice here and, unless at least three new Senate Republicans have a change of heart in the near future, then it's a House special commission or it's nothing. (Z)
We're almost 3,000 words in, and all of them have been, to a greater or lesser extent, about the crookedness of a fellow who isn't even in office anymore. Fortunately, for those who like a change of pace, Donald Trump isn't the only crooked (or, at least, allegedly crooked) Republican out there. The last 24 hours have been chock-full of news about GOP officeholders who are going to be writing a lot of checks to their attorneys this year.
Let's start with a name that will gladden the hearts of many Democrats: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. In another development that suggests the current DoJ is not in the bag for Trump, DeJoy is being investigated for violating campaign finance law. The basic allegation—that DeJoy had employees donate to favored politicians, and then reimbursed them, so as to get around contribution limits—has been around for at least a year. But clearly the AG thinks there's some fire behind that smoke and so is putting the PG under a microscope.
In a statement released Thursday, DeJoy denied that he has "knowingly violated" campaign finance laws, which is rather different from saying "I've never violated campaign finance laws." After all, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Further, if the allegations are true, then clearly DeJoy knew exactly what he was doing. In any event, most folks who don't like DeJoy might like to see him spend some time in the clink, but what they really want is for him to be removed as postmaster general. Now that the USPS Board of Governors is fully staffed, and now that Democrats and Biden-appointed independents outnumber Republicans, this could give them cover to demand DeJoy's resignation, guilty or not. "Given that Louis DeJoy is now the target of a Department of Justice investigation, we no longer have confidence he will be able to perform his duties as postmaster general effectively," the press release might read. Easy as that. (Z)
If Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) somehow dances his way out of all the legal trouble he's enmeshed in, that will be a more impressive demonstration of agility than the Yurchenko double pike that Simone Biles landed a couple of weeks ago. He's credibly accused, apparently with evidence, of some very serious crimes, including sex trafficking. His "wingman" has turned state's evidence, and his former girlfriend is reportedly about to do so. Oh, and it's also worth remembering that the feds don't generally go this far unless they are pretty certain they've got their quarry cornered.
Nonetheless, things managed to get even worse for the Representative on Thursday, as news broke that he's also being investigated for obstruction of justice. Reportedly, there was a three-way phone call involving Gaetz, the ex-girlfriend who is trying to get an immunity deal, and a third woman who might be a witness against the Representative. Gaetz may have coached the third woman to lie to or otherwise mislead the feds. If so, that is pretty much textbook obstruction. And it's possible that either the government or the ex-girlfriend has a recording of the call. Failing that, it's possible that the ex-girlfriend will testify as to the contents of the call, if she's able to reach an immunity deal. Indeed, this is apparently what is motivating her to bargain with the feds; she thinks that she might be exposed on obstruction of justice due to having been a party to the call.
The investigation into Gaetz seems to be awfully far along, so one wonders how much longer it can possibly be until he is indicted. That said, Democratic pooh-bahs are undoubtedly hoping for a nice, long, drawn-out process. They would love, love, love for this story to linger substantially into 2022, so they can run against the party of anti-Semites (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA) and sex traffickers (Gaetz). That works less well if, say, he's already accepted a plea deal and is already cooling his jets at FCI Danbury or some other federal prison. (Z)
This one's a little less serious than the previous two items, but it completes the set, so we're running with it. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has decided that colleagues of his who may have aided the insurrection are likely to get away with their misdeeds. He could very well be right about that. As an upwardly mobile representative who is clearly eyeing Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) seat, Swalwell may also have sensed an excellent opportunity to get some good publicity. In any case, the Representative has sued Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), as well as Rudy Giuliani and the Donalds Trump, arguing that they violated several federal laws in encouraging insurrection, and did harm to Swalwell and other members as a result.
This seems a pretty shaky cause of action to us, but we're not lawyers and Swalwell is, so maybe he knows something we don't. In any event, before federal judge Amit Mehta can dig into the matter, even preliminarily, the defendants have to be served. And Brooks has thus far managed to avoid that. That is what prompted Thursday's news; Swalwell asked Mehta for more time and for help from U.S. Marshals. The Judge granted the additional time (60 days), but said that he would not grant assistance from the Marshals, due to concerns about separation of powers.
We cannot find any rules that prohibit serving Brooks on the floor of the House. Swalwell can't do it himself, but maybe he will get one of his California colleagues to do it. This sounds like the kind of thing that Reps. Ted Lieu or Ro Khanna (both D) would love to help with. Failing that, Brooks surely can't hide forever. He is a sitting U.S. representative, after all, and he has to be in public at least some of the time. Then we'll see if Swalwell can actually make this thing fly. (Z)
The restrictive Texas voting bill, which hasn't become law yet, contained a provision that would have limited Sunday voting to the hours of 1 p.m. through 9 p.m. The purpose here could not be more clear; the Republicans who run the legislature wanted to throw a wrench into "souls to the polls" programs, wherein buses take parishioners (particularly Black parishioners) from church right to the polling place. Most church services end in the 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. range, so this would have wasted a lot of time for those parishioners, and undoubtedly would have caused some of them to skip voting.
There was quite a bit of blowback to the bill as a whole, and to this provision in particular. And now, Texas GOP leaders are claiming it was just a typo, and that the bill was supposed to read 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and not 1 p.m. through 9 p.m. Riiiiiight. Although even if that's the truth, this is exactly the reason that the state constitution calls for a 24-hour public examination period before a bill can become law. That would be the same 24-hour public examination period Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX) waived, in this case, in his capacity as president of the Texas Senate.
In any event, this is a win for the Texas Democrats who fled the state house in order to delay the bill's passage. And the "discovery" of a typo suggests that Texas Republicans are taking withering fire, or are worried about lawsuits, or both. Perhaps that will give them some pause when they are called into special session to take another crack at passing a voting bill. (Z)
West Virginia was the first state to announce vaccination incentives, in the form of a $100 savings bond. However, $100 is not an enormous amount of money, especially when the bond has a present-day value of just $50. Meanwhile, other states announced vaccination lotteries and other incentives that made that $50 look a bit more paltry.
So, Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) decided to revamp his state's approach, and to up the ante a fair bit. The Mountain State will now have a lottery as well, with a grand prize of $1.588 million, and other lesser cash prizes. There will also be other inducements to be won, including hunting rifles, shotguns, pickup trucks, and hunting and fishing licenses. This list seems incomplete; there must be a shortage of cowboy hats, bottles of whiskey, and old hound dogs.
We can only imagine what it will look like if other states again follow West Virginia's lead, and start offering culturally appropriate prizes:
- California: Vegan tacos, free headshots, and HOV stickers (legal to drive in the carpool lane)
- Iowa: Hog-castrating equipment, fried candy bars, and Iowa-Iowa State tickets
- Pennsylvania: Roast pork sandwiches, Wawa gift certificates, and batteries to throw at Santa
- Wisconsin: Cheese, cheese, and more cheese
- Washington: Umbrellas, Starbucks gift cards, and Subarus
In any event, as states try to achieve herd immunity, they gotta do what they gotta do. According to the latest numbers, 12 states have already crossed the 70%-of-people-with-at-least-one-shot threshold that Joe Biden set as a goal for July 4, another 10 plus D.C. will get there soon, and 15 more could make it by picking up the pace a bit. The remaining 13 states would need, well, a real shot in the arm if they're going to get there. (Z)
Americans are making progress on the COVID-19 front, but most of the rest of the world is not so lucky.
Throughout the United States, in spite of mask burning parties and some packed movie theaters, the COVID numbers continue to drop and are lower than any time since the start of the pandemic. There are still pockets of low vaccination rates and high percentages of COVID deniers (usually in rural counties), but the low population density of those areas mitigates the impact. Analysis of the data at the state level looks very good. The highest numbers of new cases are coming from Florida and Texas, but even COVID-19 rates in those states are down 90% from their pandemic peaks and are still dropping.
There is a school of thought that says the real test will be the 4th of July weekend. There has been no post-Memorial Day COVID spike so far, so I remain cautiously optimistic that we will not see a huge spike after July 4th either. The next big test will be when schools reopen in the fall. What percentage of children will not be vaccinated at that time? Will the unvaccinated and close packing of the schools be enough to create another spike?
The three major factors driving our success thus far are:
- The portion of the U.S. population who are fully vaccinated
- The people who already have been infected and are, at least to some extent, immune to repeat infection
- The extent to which our social distancing behavior lingers
Even though the U.S. daily vaccination rates are now closer to 1 million/day rather than the high of 3.3 million/day, every million helps. One hopes that the promise of free beer or lottery tickets or shotguns might be enough to get people to take a vaccine that could prevent a life-threatening illness.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not have the same access to COVID vaccines that the U.S. does. Where we are running lotteries and giving away free beer, daycare, and Uber rides, other countries have yet to vaccinate their front line workers. India's caseload is no longer growing exponentially, but that nation is still in dire straits. In addition to India, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia are all posting more new daily cases than the U.S.
The Biden administration has pledged to export 80 million doses "after months of debate," and offered specifics on Thursday about how the first 25 million of those will be distributed.
In the meantime, China is delivering 20 million vaccines/day to their own citizens and has been exporting vaccines to other countries for months. The U.S. pledging just 80 million doses worldwide after months of delay feels a little like agreeing to send a fruit basket to a country suffering from a famine. I suspect that China will step into the gap left by the U.S. and score a major humanitarian coup. However, if the evidence of the lab in Wuhan being the source of pandemic strengthens, there is no amount of vaccine distribution that will make people overlook Chinese culpability for the pandemic. (PD)
Dr. Paul Dorsey, Ph.D., works in medical software, providing software to support medical practices and hospitals nationwide.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun03 Biden Calls for a National Month of Vaccinations
Jun03 Trump Shuts Down His Blog
Jun03 Tampa Man Pleads Guilty to Storming the Capitol
Jun03 Katie Hobbs Is Running for Governor of Arizona
Jun03 National Enquirer Settles with FEC over Helping Trump in 2016
Jun03 Liberty University Is at a Crossroads
Jun03 Bye-Bye, Bibi
Jun02 Biden Speaks in Tulsa
Jun02 Democracy in Danger
Jun02 To Trump or Not to Trump: The Democrats
Jun02 To Trump or Not to Trump: The Republicans
Jun02 RNC Is Already Whining about 2024 Debates
Jun02 Limbaugh's Empire Splinters
Jun02 Stansbury Elected to Succeed Haaland
Jun01 3-D Chess, Texas-Style
Jun01 Voter ID, by the Numbers
Jun01 Bipartisanship, Huh, Yeah--What Is it Good For? (Absolutely Nothing...)
Jun01 This Is Not Fake News...Or Is It?
Jun01 Corporate America Gets Woke
Jun01 GOP Has a Greene-Sized Headache
Jun01 Flynn Appears to Be All-in on Military Coup
May31 Texas Senate Approves Draconian New Voting Bill
May31 Alaska Gives the Texas Law a Dress Rehearsal
May31 New Hampshire Republicans Are Working on Getting Around H.R. 1
May31 Time to Fish or Cut Bait
May31 Biden's Budget
May31 Check Your Calendar: It's 2024 already
May31 Will We Ever Know?
May31 Exhausted Voters, Exhausted Ballots
May30 Sunday Mailbag
May29 The Republicans' Line Holds on 1/6 Commission
May29 Saturday Q&A
May28 As the Senate Turns
May28 Many Republicans Would Like to Move On from Trump
May28 Trump Legal Blotter
May28 Something Else for Trump to Worry About
May28 Today's 2022 Candidacy News
May28 Vaxxpots Are Working
May28 COVID Diaries: The Numbers Are Dropping, in Spite of All the Things We Are Doing Wrong
May27 Schumer to Republicans: The Train is Leaving in July
May27 Trump Still Owns the Republican Party
May27 Is Wokeness Going to Destroy the Democratic Party?
May27 Ticket Splitting Is on Life Support
May27 Catherine Cortez Masto Is in for a Tough Race
May27 Missouri Congressman Met with Trump about Senate Race
May27 Yang Is Losing His Grip
May27 Former Virginia Senator John Warner Is Dead
May26 Trump Grand Jury Is Convened
May26 1/6 Commission Bill Speeds Up