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Political Wire logo Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
What Comes After the Search Warrant?
Historians Warn Biden Democracy Is Teetering
House Incumbents Face Historic Primary Peril
Scott Perry Appears to Be Part of Different Probe
Trump’s Effort to Impugn the FBI Worked

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Four More States Vote
      •  Another Republican Who Voted for Impeachment Bites the Dust
      •  Republicans Just Can't Quit Trump
      •  Appeals Court Says House Can Have Trump's Taxes
      •  Giuliani Must Testify Next Week
      •  Nebraska Blazes a Trail (of Sorts)
      •  Let's Pick a Headline

Four More States Vote

Primary season is getting close to the finish line. Yesterday, voters in four more states—Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin—took their turn. Here are the major results:

  • Connecticut: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) avoided the toughest of his three possible opponents, as Themis Klarides (R)—a moderate who became the first woman to lead the GOP caucus in the state house—was outpaced by the very Trumpy Leora Levy (R). No Republican has won statewide in Connecticut since 2006, and someone as far right as Levy isn't going to buck the trend.

    In the secretary of state race, Republican voters went with Trumpy election denier Dominic Rapini while Democrats picked Stephanie Thomas, the establishment choice to replace the retiring Denise Merrill (D). Same dynamic as with the U.S. Senate race; Republicans don't win statewide in Connecticut these days, particularly far-right Republicans.

  • Minnesota: There's a gubernatorial race in the Gopher State this year, and it may be close. However, there was no drama yesterday, as both parties' nominees faced no real competition. Gov. Tim Walz (DFL-MN) took 96.5% of the vote on his side of the primary while Scott Jensen (R) took 89.3% of the vote on his side. Polls suggest that Walz enters the general with about a 4-point advantage; it may also be useful to note that Democrats cast more than 100,000 more votes in the primary than Republicans did (432,000 to 323,000).

    While the gubernatorial race was a bit of a snooze, there was a bit of drama in a couple of the House races. In MN-01, which was left open by the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), Brad Finstad (R) won the jungle election to finish off Hagedorn's term and he also won nomination for a term in his full right. In both cases, he collected more votes than Jeff Ettinger (D) despite being greatly outspent by Ettinger. Democrats have hopes of flipping this seat, which has a Republican lean. Thus far, there's no reason to believe they will be able to do it.

    The big drama of the night, meanwhile, was over in MN-05. It's one of the bluest districts in the country, so all that really matters is who wins the Democratic primary. As an incumbent, Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) was an overwhelming favorite and ran her campaign based around "defund the police." That was not the shrewdest plan; she'll keep her seat, but she was very nearly toppled by moderate challenger Don Samuels, 50.3% to 48.2%. This would seem to indicate, as if we did not already know this, that "defund the police" is a loser... everywhere, and that the time has come for progressives to retire it from their toolkit.

  • Vermont: This is another state where there might be something to see at the top of the ticket in November, but not so much last night. Gov. Phil Scott (R) was easily renominated, with 69.2% of the vote, while his opponent, political newcomer and small business owner Brenda Siegel (D), was unopposed. For the U.S. Senate, Rep. Peter Welch (D) got 87.5% in his bid to replace the retiring Sen. Pat Leahy (D); his opponent will be U.S. Army vet Gerald Malloy (R). Truth be told, Siegel and Malloy almost certainly won't make it interesting in November, but a political junkie can always hope.

    The only really interesting race last night was for the at-large House seat that Welch is vacating. The winner there, in what proved to be a landslide (60.6%), was the Bernie Sanders-backed progressive Becca Balint (D). She will dispatch Liam Madden (R), and will give the Hill another Squad member, and will also give Vermont its first female and first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress.

  • Wisconsin: And finally we get to a little top-of-ticket drama. There was no doubt, of course, that Mandela Barnes (D) would win the right to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R), and that did indeed come to pass. There was similarly no doubt that Gov. Tony Evers (D) would be renominated, especially since he was unopposed. However, the identity of Evers' opponent was definitely in the air, and came down to the Trump-backed Tim Michels (R) or the slightly less Trumpy (but definitely still Trumpy) former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch. The former president was successful in elevating his candidate, as tends to happen in close three-way races; Michels took 47.2% of the vote to Kleefisch's 42.0%.

    On the other hand, Trump was not able to bring down Speaker of the State Assembly Robin Vos (R) in a head-to-head contest. Vos angered Trump by refusing to object to the 2020 election results. However, he will keep his job, as he beat the Trump-backed Adam Steen, 51.3% to 48.7%.

    Finally, Wisconsin has two competitive (but Republican-leaning) House seats left. In WI-01, Ann Roe (D) will face Rep. Bryan Steil (R); no surprise, since both were unopposed. In WI-03, the Democratic establishment got its candidate in Brad Pfaff, whose 39.0% of the vote was easily enough to outpace Scandinavian home goods store owner Becca Cooke (31.1%) and former CIA officer Deb McGrath (19.1%). Pfaff will face off against Derrick Van Orden, a perennial candidate who participated in the 1/6 insurrection. We'll see how that plays in the Badger State.

Next up will be some of the smaller states; Hawaii takes its turn on Saturday and then Alaska and Wyoming will cast ballots on Tuesday of next week. (Z)

Another Republican Who Voted for Impeachment Bites the Dust

It took a week, but nearly 96% of the votes have now been tallied in WA-03. And, with so few votes outstanding, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) has no path forward. She's currently in third place in the top-two-finisher primary, trailing Republican Joe Kent by 928 votes (and Democrat Marie Perez by nearly 20,000). There is no chance that the Representative overcomes that gap with just 3,000 or so ballots (many of them cast by Democrats) left to tally. So, last night, Herrera Beutler conceded, bringing an end to a 12-year career.

Herrera Beutler was, of course, one of the 10 Republican members of the House to vote in favor of Donald Trump's impeachment. Thus far, on the whole, those votes have been career killers. Four of the ten decided to throw in the towel before being subjected to Republican primary voters. Three of the ten, including Herrera Beutler, got primaried. Two of the ten survived to the general. And the tenth is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who will learn her fate next week.

Assuming the polling in Wyoming is correct, then voting for impeachment will be career-ending for at least 80% of the Republicans who did so. The odds are pretty good that it will jump to 90%, as David Valadao (R-CA) has been redrawn into a Democratic-leaning district. The clear lesson here is that total fealty to the Republican Party line in general, and to Donald Trump in particular, is not negotiable for GOP officeholders. Though we'll see how long the Trump loyalty portion lasts (see below).

With Herrera Beutler out of the picture, the race in WA-03 will be between Perez, who is pretty moderate, and Kent, who is very Trumpy. His website was also offline last night because his campaign didn't pay the bills:

It says the hosting
account has expired and that the owner must contact the host to reactivate

That is a bad look from where we sit—keeping a campaign website online seems like a pretty basic administrative task for a candidate/campaign. If you can't handle that, what else is too much for you to deal with? In any case, under the new district maps, WA-03 has just a slight Republican lean. With a far-right Trumper up against a moderate, and no incumbent anymore, it is certainly a flip opportunity for the Democrats. (Z)

Republicans Just Can't Quit Trump

Donald Trump is treating the raid on Mar-a-Lago as a PR opportunity and, thus far, it is working. He has cast himself in the role of persecuted victim of the out-of-control deep state, and Republicans are lining up behind that framing of events. At this point, you would have a hard time finding a prominent Republican officeholder, or a key Republican functionary, or even a rival for the 2024 presidential nomination, who is not kvetching about government overreach and the unfair treatment of an American hero and yadda, yadda, yadda (see here, here, here and here for many, many examples).

The general consensus, in Republican circles, is that this has breathed new life into Trump's flagging political fortunes and instantly restored him to "unquestioned frontrunner" status for the 2024 nomination. As one Republican operative (and non-fan of Trump) observed: "Completely handed him a lifeline. Unbelievable... It put everybody in the wagon for Trump again. It's just taken the wind out of everybody's sails." Said another, who is a supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL): "We can hang it up. It couldn't be clearer. If Trump wants it at this point, I don't see how it's not his ... It'll be a coronation at this point, not a primary." As a consequence of this, Trump is being encouraged by allies to announce his candidacy right now, and appears to be likely to accede to that advice.

So, that's where things stand at the moment. And maybe this will indeed allow Trump to reclaim the unquestioned leadership of the Republican Party, and will cause folks like DeSantis and Mike Pence to start looking at 2028. We admit that we cannot wrap our minds around a party where being raided by federal agents is a major selling point, but we accept that the modern GOP may be such a party, and so will defer to operatives with a greater sense of things than we have.

Longer-term, though, the GOP has a real problem on its hands, and who knows what they will be able to do about it, if anything. It makes for great red meat for the base to whine and moan about how the FBI's out of control, and Joe Biden is on a witch hunt, and appointing Chris Wray was a big mistake on the part of Trump. However, most Republican officeholders and operatives are smart enough to know that this is all bull**it. There is zero chance the Department of Justice would have moved forward with this unless they were after something very significant. There is zero chance the DoJ could have gotten a judge to sign off without compelling evidence of some sort of malfeasance. Until more details come out, the defenders of Trump don't even know what they are defending. And it's instructive that Trump himself has not seen fit to share a copy of the warrant. That paperwork could help make the case that he's being pursued for something relatively trivial. His failure to blanket Truth Social and every other website he has access to with copies suggests strongly there is something much more damning in there than he's letting on.

Keep in mind that it's already known that the raid had something to do with record-keeping, and that Trump had already been compelled to return 15 boxes of materials to the federal government. So, the paperwork in question is apparently something that he deliberately withheld, and that some insider recently noticed and tipped off the federal government about. It was apparently pressing enough to demand a raid, and serious enough that there was concern Trump or one of his underlings would destroy the materials (or hide them) if a cooperative approach was attempted.

This still leaves us with plenty of questions. Among them:

  • What is this paperwork, exactly?
  • Why did Trump hang onto it, even after being warned to surrender it to the government?
  • If Trump was keeping some of this paperwork in his safe, why was he doing so?
  • What made this so critical, time-wise?

There are a couple of explanations that suggest themselves. The first, which is entirely speculative right now, is that Trump was in the process of selling classified materials to someone who should not have them (say, the Russians). This would certainly fit the fact pattern and, if it was true, would be the greatest political scandal of all time. Anyone who defended Trump this week would be radioactive for a long time, and maybe forever.

Another possibility, and this one has been suggested by a number of commentators, including several former federal prosecutors, is that the DoJ was on something of a fishing expedition related to some other crime. If they were after classified documents, then they really had to have evidence that classified documents were being illegally obtained. However, if they uncovered evidence of additional crimes in the process of looking for the classified stuff, that evidence would be fair game. In other words, if DoJ has a search warrant for classified documents, they can't specifically go looking, for example, for documents about the 1/6 insurrection. However, if there are 1/6 documents in the safe with the classified documents, then the 1/6 documents are in play.

On a potentially related note, the Feds seized the phone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) yesterday. Perry is a close ally of Trump's and was very much involved in the events of 1/6. This may have nothing to do with what happened at Mar-a-Lago, though the timing is very interesting, indeed. And it's another example of the DoJ having enough goods to convince a federal judge, and not enough trust that a high-ranking Republican will cooperate willingly.

In any event, the bottom line is that Trump is in some sort of very deep legal trouble. There is enough information already available to know that—and, again, he is not sharing the documents that might clarify things. By hitching their wagon to him, the GOP might instantly lose law and order Republicans for whom this is a bridge too far. And if it comes out that he's going to be popped for something really serious—selling documents to the Russians, fomenting insurrection, conspiracy, etc.—then the GOP could be left holding a very big, very stinky bag. (Z)

Appeals Court Says House Can Have Trump's Taxes

The Revenue Act of 1924, which was adopted by Congress in response to the scandals of the Warren Harding era, says that there are several members of Congress, including the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, who are allowed to have, on demand, a copy of any American's tax return. The law has no provision excluding current or former presidents, and so current Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) told the IRS several years ago that he wanted to see Donald Trump's returns. Trump sued, of course, and every time a court has ruled on the matter, it has said that yep, the law says what it says and Neal is entitled to the returns.

The latest court to agree is the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a 3-0 decision yesterday telling the former president he has no right to keep his returns secret. The panel observed that the law is very clear and that Congress has a legitimate oversight function here, such that Trump's claims that he is being unfairly targeted for political reasons don't carry water.

Trump has two potential appeals left, and he'll presumably try to use them. He can request an en banc hearing from the full D.C. Circuit and he can, of course, ask for a hearing from the Supreme Court. Trump is not likely to prevail in either of those forums, even with the vote of his buddy Clarence Thomas on SCOTUS. However, he's never really expected to prevail; he's just trying to run out the clock until Republicans are once again in control of Ways and Means and can quash the request. At the moment, it looks like that strategy might just work out. (Z)

Giuliani Must Testify Next Week

While Donald Trump is a master-level foot-dragger, his henchman Rudy Giuliani is less skilled. America's former mayor has, for a couple of months, been the recipient of an invitation to come down to Atlanta for a little chat before a grand jury. Giuliani really, really does not want to do that, since if he tells the truth he'll almost certainly be admitting to a crime and if he lies he'll definitely be committing a crime. So, he's tried all sorts of trickery to avoid showing up. His latest excuse was that he's just had heart surgery, and he just cannot fly while he heals.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney is tired of the nonsense, and yesterday ordered Giuliani to appear next Tuesday, no matter what. Allowing some extra travel time, the judge wrote: "John Madden drove all the way over the country in his big bus from stadium to stadium so one thing we need to explore is whether Mr. Giuliani could get here without jeopardizing his recovery and his health, on a train or on a bus or whatever it would be."

Personally, we'd like to see Giuliani ride to town on a party bike, but we suspect he's going to discover his heart is up to air travel, after all. In any case, he's either going to sing next Tuesday or he's going to be found in contempt. We'll soon see which it is. (Z)

Nebraska Blazes a Trail (of Sorts)

The last time states were legally able to ban abortions, there were a large number of technological tools unavailable for identifying and prosecuting accused lawbreakers. Put another way, the U.S. in 1973 and the U.S. in 2022 are pretty different places. And the state of Nebraska has just taken the lead in bringing abortion prosecution into the 21st century.

At issue is a case that began to unfold even before the Supreme Court officially struck down Roe. A 17-year-old resident of Nebraska became pregnant, and her mother helped her to acquire abortifacient pills. The resulting, deliberate miscarriage came at 23 weeks of pregnancy, which is 3 weeks beyond what is allowed by Nebraska law. The 21st century angle here is that mother and daughter discussed the matter via text messages and also via Facebook. Nebraska law enforcement was tipped off by a so-called "friend" of the mother and daughter, and they seized phones and laptops from the two while also subpoenaing records from Meta (parent company of Facebook). Meta complied, though now the company claims it was unaware of the nature of the investigation.

The lesson here is that the anti-abortion forces are not going to rest on their laurels; they want to make high-profile examples of a few terrified teenagers right now. We suspect this will not play wall with the general electorate in November (see: Kansas). Also, digging into someone's text messages and Facebook messages is a wee bit Big Brother-ish, and may serve to alienate those folks who are concerned about privacy and government overreach. (Z)

Let's Pick a Headline

Two weeks ago, we added a new weekly feature, wherein we end the week on an upbeat note. We couldn't quite decide what headline to use for that feature, however, so we threw it open to the readership. We got close to 1,000 different suggestions, many of them very good. And we've narrowed it down to these 25 possibilities:

Suggestion Explanation
Shiny Happy People Report Reference to the R.E.M. song "Shiny Happy People"
Inspiration of the Week Self-evident
Profiles in _________ The word in the blank would rotate based on the focus of the item
The Glass Half Full Self-evident
This Week in Freudenfreude "Freudenfreude" means "taking joy from other people's success" in German
This Week in Gemütlichkeit "Gemütlichkeit" means "a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer" in German
This Week in Mudita "Mudita" means "joy in the good fortune of others" in Sanskrit
This Week in eduerfnedahcS 'Schadenfreude' reversed
Tell Me Something Good Song performed by Rufus and Chaka Khan, and written by Stevie Wonder
And Now for Something Completely Different Monty Python reference
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Also a Monty Python reference
The Art of the Possible An allusion to optimistic politics, particularly as practiced by the Obama campaign
And In the End... Beatles reference (the rest of the lyric is: "The love you take is equal to the love you make")
Getting Better Also a Beatles reference
Sunny Side Up Self-evident
The Uplift Self-evident
Brandon Spots His Sign Reference to the original entry in the series
Winding UP Self-evident
One for the Road Self-evident
A Spoonful of Sugar Mary Poppins reference
Our Better Angels Abraham Lincoln reference
On the Brighter Side Self-evident
Just Desserts Self-evident
Blue Sky and Apple Pie A little bit of impressionism
Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Harry Potter reference

If you want to cast a vote, the ballot is here. The survey will be available until 8:00 p.m. PT on Thursday; we'll reveal the new name with Friday's edition. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug09 FBI Raids Mar-a-Lago
Aug09 Insurrectionist Gets 7 Years
Aug09 Michigan AG Wants Special Prosecutor
Aug09 Tennesseeans Head to the Polls
Aug09 Biden, Harris Outpoll Trump, DeSantis
Aug09 Democrats Will Weaponize Inflation Act
Aug09 Don't Forget about Utah
Aug08 Inflation Reduction Bill Survives the Vote-a-rama
Aug08 Four States Will Hold Primaries Tomorrow
Aug08 Republicans Begin Absorbing the New Reality
Aug08 Trump's Influence in Gubernatorial Races Could Be Fatal
Aug08 The Future of Same-Sex Marriage May Depend on Tammy Baldwin
Aug08 House Republican Survives Impeachment Vote
Aug08 November Will See Three Interesting Experiments
Aug08 Trump Wins CPAC Straw Poll
Aug08 A Ranking of GOP Presidential Candidates If Trump Doesn't Run
Aug08 DiCk Cheney Cuts an Ad for a House candidate
Aug07 Sunday Mailbag
Aug06 Saturday Q&A
Aug05 Sinema Gets to "Yes"
Aug05 DeSantis Reminds Us Who He Is
Aug05 Sweden, Finland Join the Club
Aug05 Lake Triumphs in Arizona
Aug05 Johnson Gives Barnes an Early Birthday Gift
Aug05 This Week in Schadenfreude: A Life Poorly Lived
Aug05 Insert Headline Here (Again): A Life Well Lived
Aug04 Takeaways from the Primaries
Aug04 Election Deniers Could Run Elections in Four Key Swing States
Aug04 Sinema Gets an A+ for Drama
Aug04 Blue Dogs Are Disappearing
Aug04 Dept. of Justice Subpoenas Cipollone
Aug04 More Phones were Wiped
Aug04 Trump Will Speak at CPAC on Saturday
Aug04 Pelosi Says China is Angry Because She Is a Woman
Aug04 Walker Will Debate Warnock
Aug04 Rep. Jackie Walorski Killed in Car Wreck
Aug04 Democrats Increase Their Lead in New Generic Poll
Aug03 Toto, I Have a Feeling the Problem Isn't Just Kansas Anymore
Aug03 She Went There
Aug03 Republican Senators Try to Clean Up Their Mess
Aug03 U.S. Government Sues Idaho
Aug02 U.S. Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Leader
Aug02 A Trumpist Might Be Elected Secretary of State in Arizona
Aug02 Arizona's Election for Superintendent of Public Instruction Race Is Also a Battleground
Aug02 Court Battles over Dobbs Have Barely Begun
Aug02 Do You Want to Play Nice or Do You Want to Win?
Aug02 Capitol Rioter Gets 7 Years in a Different Federal Building
Aug02 Lindsey Graham Renews Attempt to Quash His Subpoena
Aug02 Fetterman is Laughing at His Opponent
Aug02 How to Start a Third Party and Win