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The Lesson from the Saturday Night Massacre

Sorry that it's extra late. Big, big news day yesterday, which is why this post is nearly 7,000 words. That's the equivalent of a 30-page essay.

The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 5: The People vs. Donald Trump

As politics-followers across the nation know, yesterday was the fifth day of the current round of public hearings from the 1/6 Committee. If you didn't watch, and you still want to, here is the video:

And now, the 10 storylines that stood out to us:

  1. A Day of Logos: Tuesday's hearing, with committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) taking the lead, played mostly to pathos—emotion. Each of the in-person witnesses, and most of the video witnesses, spoke from the heart, and so pulled at the heartstrings. As evidence that it worked, the GoFundMe page that appears to have been set up by Shaye Moss herself, and that is entitled "A Fresh Start," has now raised in excess of $230,000.

    By contrast, yesterday's hearing, led by committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), was about logos—logic. The three witnesses who appeared in-person—former acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Deputy AG Richard Donoghue and former Assistant AG Steven Engel—presented and explained the cold, hard evidence that Donald Trump and others committed criminal offenses. None of the hearings so far resembled an actual court trial as much as this one did.

    One audience for the hearings is the voting public. Tuesday's hearing was for them. Another audience for these hearings is the Department of Justice. Thursday's hearing was definitely for them. That means it was a somewhat dry viewing experience; if you haven't watched and you plan to do so, make sure you have some caffeine at hand. Or some speed. But because the DoJ is more likely to make life hard for Trump, et al., Thursday was ultimately more damaging to the conspirators than Tuesday was. And that is saying something, because Tuesday was pretty brutal.

  2. Everyone Warned Trump: We already knew that then-AG Bill Barr warned Donald Trump that his efforts to overturn the 2020 election were illegal, and all three of yesterday's witnesses said that they told Trump the same thing. That's one AG, one acting AG, one acting Deputy AG, and one Assistant AG who all warned the former president. He can hardly claim ignorance of the law.

  3. The Smoking Gun: The three men who spoke yesterday are all lawyers. And lawyers take notes, especially when they think they might end up with legal exposure. So, Rosen and Donoghue were both taking notes during a phone call with Trump when the former president told the duo to "just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen." In other words, in just 17 words, Trump revealed that: (1) he was a central part of the plotting and planning and scheming, and (2) that he knew full well that the election results were legitimate and that victory could only be obtained through chicanery. Obama-era AG Eric Holder, after the hearing, tweeted this:

    Holder's a partisan, yes, but he's also a former AG, and he's saying the same thing as the Republican former AG who testified yesterday. Some would call that a consensus of experts.

  4. The (Curdled) Cream Rises to the Top, Part I: When a person is in a high executive position, one of the most important skills they can have is the ability to identify and promote talented subordinates. In presidential history, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, among others, had that skill. In military matters, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall and Colin Powell, among others, had it.

    Donald Trump, by all indications, had no particular gift for finding talented people. On the other hand, he was—and is—an absolute savant when it comes to finding people who are utterly unqualified for any post above dogcatcher, but who lack any sort of moral compass and who are willing to break any and all rules and to risk their own necks to benefit him.

    The unqualified sleazeball who was the star of yesterday's hearing, despite not even being in the room, was DoJ attorney Jeffrey Clark. He worked as Assistant AG for the Environment and Natural Resources Division from 2018 to 2021, and has no criminal or investigative experience. Still, he somehow ended up on Trump's radar, and the two men spoke frequently about schemes to overturn the election. In particular, Clark drafted a letter that demanded that Georgia overturn its election results and award its electoral votes to Trump. Further, despite being wholly unqualified, Clark eventually suggested that maybe he should be the one running the DoJ, and not acting AG Rosen.

  5. Sunday Night Massacre?: The three men who testified yesterday had plenty to say about Clark, none of it good. Just to take one example of the shade they threw in Clark's direction, Donoghue recalled that he thought it was crazy for Clark to even talk about being AG given his lack of experience. "He's never been a criminal attorney, he's never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He's never been in front of a grand jury, much less a trial jury," was the observation. When Clark explained to Donoghue, back in December 2020, that he'd done a lot of civil and environmental litigation, Donoghue fired back: "That's right. You're an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we'll call you when there's an oil spill." Ouch.

    The focal point of this portion of the testimony was a Jan. 3, 2021 meeting in the Oval Office. Present were Trump, Clark, Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and White House counselors Pat Cipollone, Eric Herschmann and Pat Philbin. The topic of discussion was overturning the election results, and possibly elevating Clark to acting AG (thus terminating Rosen), so that Clark could take the lead in challenging the results.

    The Committee promised to take viewers "inside" that meeting, and they almost literally did so, including a 3-D mockup of what it looked like (see that part of the footage here). According to Rosen, he warned Donald Trump against the scheme, and told him that if Clark were elevated, DoJ lawyers would start resigning en masse. "Jeff Clark will be left leading a graveyard," Engel agreed. And here is Donoghue's full takedown of the would-be AG:
    And so I said, "Mr. President, you're talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case, who's never conducted a criminal investigation. He's telling you that he's going to take charge of the department—115,000 employees, including the entire FBI, and turn the place on a dime and conduct a nationwide criminal investigations that will produce results in a matter of days? It's impossible. It's absurd. It's not going to happen. It's going to fail. He has never been in front of a trial jury, a grand jury. He's never even been to [FBI Director Christopher] Wray's office... It's not going to happen. He's not competent."
    Meanwhile, Herschmann, whose testimony was featured in several video clips, warned Clark that his schemes to subvert the election were illegal, and that he better not think about trying them. Referring specifically to the Georgia letter, Herschmann recalled this remark: "[F]ucking—excuse me, sorry—effing A-hole, congratulations. You just admitted your first step or act you take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating Rule 6E. You're clearly the right candidate for this job."

    Ultimately, of course, Trump was persuaded not to fire Rosen and elevate Clark. Had the former president chosen to do so, he would have had a Sunday Night Massacre on his hands that would have made the Saturday Night Massacre look like a game of patty cake.

  6. The (Curdled) Cream Rises to the Top, Part II: Another name that came up yesterday, one previously unknown to the larger public, was that of lawyer Kenneth Klukowski. He was appointed to the DoJ on Dec. 15, 2020 (in other words, just over a month before the end of Trump's term). Officially, he was part of Clark's staff (in other words, dealing with environmental crimes). In truth, he was helping Clark with the Georgia letter and other schemes and was also serving as a sort of liaison between the Trumpers in the DoJ and the members of the Trump campaign, especially John Eastman. It is likely we will hear more about Klukowski in future hearings.

  7. Pardon Us: The Committee already revealed that Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) had sought (and did not get) a presidential pardon for his actions on 1/6. Yesterday, five other aspiring pardonees were identified: Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ). As we have noted several times, people don't generally ask for pardons unless they strongly suspect they might have committed a crime.

  8. Mo Honor Among Thieves: In addition to sharing the names of members who asked for pardons, the Committee also shared some of the proof last night. Most notably, they displayed an e-mail from Brooks—the newly defeated Alabama U.S. Senate candidate and even more newly declared turncoat. His message, sent to the White House at Gaetz' instigation, asked specifically for pardons for the two of them, and suggested blanket pardons for any member of Congress who resisted the election results. Brooks apparently turned the message over to the Committee on Wednesday, and then he appeared on CBS News last night to verify it was legitimate. One recalls what Lyndon Johnson said in explaining why he never fired J. Edgar Hoover: "Better to have him inside the tent pissing out rather than outside the tent pissing in." Well, since being betrayed by Trump and being rejected by Alabama voters, Brooks has clearly adjusted his piss trajectory.

  9. Foreign Affairs: Given that Trump was willing to abuse his role as Chief Diplomat when dealing with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, it's hardly a surprise he was willing to do the same when it came to trying to overturn the election. For example, it was revealed yesterday that the president ordered then-Secretary of Defense Chris Miller to contact his counterpart in Rome to look into a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites had changed votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

  10. Other Abuses of Power: Although he was unable to place an election-denying toady in charge of the DoJ, Trump tried hard to get the Department to help him in other ways. He wanted Rosen to join in on the 60+ election lawsuits. He wanted voting machines seized. He wanted a special counsel to be appointed to look into the election, and for that special counsel to be—wait for it—Sidney Powell. More curdled cream, by the way.

And with that, Day 5 of the hearings is in the books. The Committee has not announced when the next hearings will be, other than "early July." They're surely not going to squeeze one in before the Fourth of July holiday, nor are they going to ask their staffers to work during the holiday. Since they've been generally on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule, they could shoot for Thursday, July 7, but Tuesday, July 12, seems more likely. If so, it would surely just be a coincidence that July 12 is Orangemen's Day in parts of Canada and the U.K. (Z)

DOJ Looks to Be Turning Up the Heat

The Department of Justice tends to play its cards pretty close to the vest, so it's often unclear what exactly it's up to. But for those hoping that Donald Trump and his enablers taste the cold steel of justice, there was another sign yesterday that AG Merrick Garland & Co. are on the case. Two of them, in fact.

To start, the home of Jeffrey Clark—the fellow who tried to make himself AG, and who figured so prominently in yesterday's hearing—was raided and searched by the FBI. There were a dozen DoJ personnel on site, and they took several boxes of stuff, including a bunch of electronic devices. Because the DoJ isn't in the habit of gabbing about its investigations, officials refused to say if the raid was related to the events of January 6. If it wasn't related, however, that's some really remarkable timing.

Meanwhile, the DoJ also issued a bunch of subpoenas to people who planned to act as "alternate" Trump electors, or who helped organize such schemes, or both. The most prominent fish targeted in this latest round was Georgia Republican Party chairman David Shafer, who took the lead in pulling together the fake slate of electors in his home state. It's not known exactly how many people were subpoenaed, but this particular bit of news is clearly 1/6 related. It also means that Donald Trump and anyone else who did naughty things in Georgia is now under at least two different law-enforcement microscopes, one wielded by Garland and the other by Fulton County DA Fani Willis. If Trump manages to dance his way out of all the legal trouble he's in, he'll have to change his name to Keyser Soze. (Z)

Senate Advances Gun Control By a Couple of Inches...

Yesterday, the Senate passed the rather flimsy gun-control bill that was unveiled earlier this week, by a vote of 65-33. The Republicans who crossed the aisle to join with the Democrats and the independents are Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Todd Young (R-IN). We are not sure exactly what conclusions can be drawn from that list, though it does include the handful of Republican "moderates," as well as all the Republicans who are retiring at the end of this term, except for Sen. Richard Shelby (AL).

CNN has described the bill as "major federal gun safety legislation," NBC called it a "landmark," CBS said it is "the most significant gun-control legislation in decades," while Politico decreed that the Senate had managed to "defy the odds." We understand that when you're in a desert, even a shallow puddle looks like a lake. However, we wonder if these outlets aren't toting the water for the NRA and the Second Amendment zealots here, if inadvertently. By making this fairly paltry bill seem like a BIG DEAL, it implicitly suggests that enough "progress" has been made for now, and we don't need to revisit this for another 30 years or so. Recall that the last truly substantive legislation on this subject was signed into law in 1994 by Bill Clinton.

Having passed the Senate, the bill now heads to the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, in a statement, that: "First thing tomorrow morning, the Rules Committee will meet to advance this life-saving legislation to the Floor. When the Rules Committee finishes its business, we will head immediately to the Floor. And we will send the bill to President Biden for his signature, with gratitude for his leadership." Clearly, Pelosi is going to throw her considerable influence behind the bill, and unless there are a number of Democratic defectors (and no Republicans going into the other direction), it's going to be on Biden's desk post-haste. And Biden has said he'll sign it.

Of course, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pelosi and Biden aren't stupid, and they know that this bill is pretty weak. But running on gun control is tough, since it's pretty easy for Republicans to weaponize (no puns intended). This gives the blue team an "achievement" to run on, and it also allows them to focus on abortion, which—per our item yesterday—looks like it will be the centerpiece of the Democrats' 2022 pitch. (Z)

...And the Supreme Court Promptly Sets It Back By a Couple of Miles

On the other hand, maybe running on "the guns are out of control" might be worth another look for the Democrats. At almost exactly the same time that the Senate was adopting its gun bill, the Supreme Court was announcing a strongly worded decision, adopted by a vote of—of course—6 to 3, that will effectively gut many (or most) of the nation's gun-control laws.

The case in question, as we've noted, involved a poorly written New York state law that was over a century old and that allowed government officials to decide who does, and who does not, get to have a carried conceal permit. Thomas wrote that:

We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant's right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.

If they know of no other constitutional right like this, then the six justices in the majority either didn't study very hard in law school, or they didn't think very hard about this decision. If you are too poor to afford a lawyer, you can ask for one, and one will be appointed for you, in fulfillment of the terms of the Sixth Amendment. If you wish to cover presidential press conferences, consistent with the freedom of the press outlined in the First Amendment, you have to prove you work for a media outlet of the appropriate stature. If you cannot afford your bail, you can argue that before a judge, who might reduce or waive bail, consistent with the Eighth Amendment right to non-excessive bail. It took us a grand total of two minutes to think of these three examples, and we didn't even go to law school.

In any case, if Thomas had left it at that, then this would have been a fairly narrow ruling, and would only have affected half a dozen states (as Brett Kavanaugh noted in his concurrence). However, in a moment he's surely been waiting decades for, Thomas slipped some originalism into the decision. The part that really matters is is where the Associate Justice decreed that gun-control laws are legal "only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this nation's historical tradition."

What this means, in practical terms, is that if a gun-control law is to be deemed legal, it has to have some historical antecedent or parallel. And this is particularly true, based on the verbiage in Thomas' decision, if the particular issue being addressed is not a new issue. For example, there have been mentally unstable people throughout American history. However, the notion that courts can deny those folks access to guns (i.e., red flag laws) is a recent innovation. Ipso facto, red flag laws are theoretically unconstitutional because they have no historical basis. To take another example, there were guns in the 19th century and early 20th century that could fire lots of bullets in a short period (Gatling guns, Tommy guns, etc.). And yet, there were no laws limiting the size of the guns' magazines. Ipso facto, modern laws that only allow for 10-bullet or 12-bullet magazines are theoretically unconstitutional.

The ruling does not instantly invalidate these various laws, but it invites challenges, both state and federal, that are surely coming and that are very likely to be successful. Indeed, most or all of the new law passed by the Senate (see above) is probably unconstitutional now. In addition to red flags, for example, there have also been angry boyfriends throughout history, and yet nobody's been denied a gun on that basis. Ipso facto, the "boyfriend loophole," which will theoretically be closed by the legislation, will then presumably be opened right back up by a federal lawsuit.

Rulings like this one are why it is hard to take Thomas in particular, and his conservative colleagues in general, seriously as legal theorists. It cannot be clearer that they figure out what outcome they want, and then they crap out whatever legal mumbo jumbo produces that result. Let us consider, for a moment, abortion. How come the states are allowed to decide on that issue for themselves, but not allowed to decide on gun control for themselves? And if we're talking historical precedents, there have been unwanted pregnancies (and, thus, abortions) in the United States and its antecedents for 400 years. And yet, the first abortion bans weren't enacted until several decades after the Civil War. Why is the lack of historical precedent irrelevant here but highly relevant when considering guns?

In any event, Chief Justice John Roberts and his band of merry men and women are certainly setting the Democrats up to run against an extremist Supreme Court in both 2022 and 2024. Indeed, if the new Senate bill is passed, and then is ripped apart by the Courts, the blue team can say "We tried to legislate, we tried to reach across the aisle, and it was no good. All that's left is making some big changes to the Supreme Court, so that it's more democratic (and more Democratic) and less extreme." (Z)

News from the Local Politics Desk

There's been a lot of interesting news from various races across the nation. On a slower news day, most or all of these might have gotten their own items. On a day like Thursday, with so many big-time goings on, they're just going to get capsules:

  • Governor, Massachusetts: Massachusetts AG Maura Healey (D) has claimed the party's nomination for governor. How is that possible, since there were no elections yesterday? Well, the only other Democrat in the race, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D), decided to drop out, explaining that there was no viable path for her to claim victory. Chang-Díaz will remain on the ballot, so she would be available if Healey were to pass away or to be caught wearing blackface in her high school yearbook photo. Or, worse yet, a Lakers jersey. But short of some sort of disaster, Healey will be the nominee. She'll either face off against former state representative Geoff Diehl (R) or businessman Chris Doughty (R), who has no political experience. Diehl has Donald Trump's endorsement, and is leading Doughty by double-digits in polling of the Republican primary, scheduled for Sept. 6. However, both men are trailing Healey by double digits in polling of the general election.

  • U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania: In the Republican primary, Mehmet Oz relied heavily on the fact that he was the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate. Now, as the general election campaign is getting underway, the dominant theme of Oz's campaign has become "Donald who?" Oz has pointedly avoided mentioning Trump in media appearances, on Twitter, etc., and has scrubbed most references to Trump from his website and his social media. See, for example, how Oz's Twitter header has changed:

    It used to have a picture of 
Trump and Oz standing together and the phrase 'Endorsed by Trump,' but now it has just Oz and the phrase 'Thank
You, Pennsylvania'

    Is this because Trump is generally unpalatable to the centrists that Oz will need to have a hope of winning? Or has Oz's team been watching the 1/6 Committee hearings, and decided that the Donald is growing increasingly radioactive? We do not know, of course. What we do know is that trying to be Trumpy enough for the Trumpers, but non-Trumpy enough for the non-Trumpers is a delicate line to walk. We also know that Democrat John Fetterman leads Oz in the latest poll of the race, released yesterday, 50% to 44%.

  • U.S. Senate, Missouri: There have been 25 polls, thus far, of the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Missouri. Disgraced former governor Eric Greitens led in 19 of them, and was in second place by 3 points or less in another 5. In the only poll of the race conducted this month, he was at 26%, as compared to 20% for AG Eric Schmitt, and 16% for Rep. Vicky Hartzler. In short, it's looking very might like Greitens could win this thing. And then, between his sexual misdeeds and his corruption and his commercials suggesting that political rivals should be shot, he could very well lose what should be an easy Republican hold. Consequently, a group of prominent Republicans has launched the Show Me Values PAC, which might as well be named the Show Me Any Candidate Besides Greitens PAC. The PAC will spend at least $1 million on commercials attacking Greitens. It would be better if they picked one of the alternates, and rallied behind him or her, in hopes of unifying the non-Greitens vote. However, that is apparently not the plan. The primary is Aug. 2., so the PAC's got about 5 weeks to derail the would-be senator.

  • U.S. House, WY-AL: It's the only way her career can be saved, and now Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has made it official: Her campaign is sending e-mails and mailers to Democrats in Wyoming asking them to reregister as Republicans, so they can help her survive the primary. Her campaign website also now has a big, red bar at the top that reads "LEARN HOW TO VOTE FOR LIZ," and that links to information on how to reregister. Cheney previously said that a reregistration effort was "not something that I have contemplated, that I have organized or that I will organize," but it would seem that desperate times call for desperate measures. The primary is Aug. 16.

  • U.S. House, AK-AL (Special): Alaska elections officials have decided that, with Al Gross dropping out of the special election to finish Don Young's term, the race will be a threesome, and that fifth-place finisher Tara Sweeney (R) won't make the ballot. Sweeney initially threatened to sue, but has backed off of that. This is probably a smart choice, since the real prize is the full term, not the three-month term. By foregoing a lawsuit and skipping the special election, Sweeney avoids looking like a sore loser, avoids a potentially embarrassing loss on Aug. 16, and can spend her time campaigning as opposed to, you know, serving in the House for several months. It may be no big deal to serve in Congress by day, and to campaign at night and on weekends, if you live in Virginia or Maryland or Pennsylvania. However, the flight from Anchorage to D.C. is 10-12 hours. Or, you can drive it in 70 hours or so (though you have to pass through Canada).

  • U.S. House, TX-34 (Special): Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX), when she won the special election in this historically Democratic district a couple of weeks ago, was supposed to be the vanguard of a Republican red wave in November and of increased Latino participation in the GOP. Those things may still happen, but Flores might not be a part of it, long-term. It turns out she's a far-right nutter who has regularly engaged in conspiratorial thinking, and who is a big fan of QAnon. There are some districts where that's a feature, rather than a bug—GA-14, home to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R), leaps to mind—but TX-34 isn't one of them, either under the current map or the new map. Flores knows her past comments are not helpful, which is why she (or her staffers) spent much time on Thursday scrubbing her social media accounts of the offending posts.

As things heat up, with 36 states and 3 territories electing new governors, 34 states electing new U.S. Senators (including one state that's electing two of them), and all 435 House seats up, we may have to do items like this fairly often. (Z)

News from the Foreign Affairs Desk

This was expected, and now it's come to pass: U.K. PM Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party lost two historically Tory seats in by-elections (the British equivalent of special elections) yesterday. This news led Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden to resign his post.

We could write up these results, but wouldn't you prefer to hear from someone with greater expertise than we have? Fortunately, we have another report from reader S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK (following up on an initial report from earlier this month):

The beginning of June saw Boris Johnson receive a very unimpressive vote of support from his own MPs, with over 40% in favor of his removal as party leader and prime minister. On Thursday, it was the turn of some voters to express their opinion in two by-elections in rather different Conservative-held constituencies.

In both cases, the by-election had arisen in rather unfortunate circumstance. The MP in Wakefield was found guilty of sexually assaulting a child, over a decade ago. His seat was forfeit. The Tiverton and Honiton MP had admitted viewing a pornographic website—twice!—while being in the chamber of the House of Commons, and resigned.

Wakefield in West Yorkshire was viewed by many as emblematic of the "Red Wall" constituencies, in the north of England and the Midlands, which have traditionally been held by the Labour party, but fell to the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election. Whilst it is true that Labour held this seat from 1932 until 2019, the constituency is more mixed than some realize. Wakefield itself is a historic city complete with cathedral, but only makes up about half the seat. The remainder includes (now former) mining and textile manufacturing towns and villages, and rural areas. Boundary changes have caused this hinterland to be chopped and changed over the decades. This politically varied landscape has meant that since 1983, Labour's majority in the seat had fallen below 5,000 in five general elections. So, a Conservative gain by 3,388 votes in 2019 was not wholly unexpected.

By contrast, Tiverton and Honiton in Devon was, on the face of it, a Conservative bulwark. The current seat was created in 1997, but its predecessors had returned Conservative MPs since the 1920's. It is very rural, highly dependent on agriculture, with a scattering of small towns. A slice of the beautiful east Devon coast added in 2010 did little to dilute the mix. The southwest part of England has traditionally been an area where the Liberal Democrats, Britain's biggest third party, have been competitive, but this seat was one which had always eluded them (they took third place behind Labour in the 2019 general election). Nevertheless given their success in the similar constituency of Shropshire North in December last year, the Lib Dems were more than willing to take on the mantle of challenger despite starting 27,086 votes (!) behind the Conservatives.

The results were announced in both seats in the early hours of Friday morning.

On a low turnout of 39.5%, Labour regained Wakefield by just under 5,000 votes. The swing of 12.7% would be enough to defeat most of the Conservative "Red Wall" victors in 2019 and bring a significant number of more traditional Labour/Conservative marginal seats into play. A notable feature is that one in five of those who voted chose independent candidates. That, and the turnout, suggest Labour still has work to do to actively attract votes rather than just depend on a slump in Conservative fortunes.

The Wakefield result was somewhat overshadowed by that at Tiverton and Honiton. Again, turnout compared to the 2019 general election fell to by nearly 20%, to 52%. Helped, however, by tactical voting, the Liberal Democrats powered to victory, gaining the seat by just over 6,000 votes. Those voting Conservative more than halved. The swing was just short of 30%. The Lib Dems had flooded the constituency with campaign literature and volunteers, and will struggle to do so again come a general election. Nevertheless there are a significant number of seats in southern England where just a third of this swing would result in a Conservative defeat.

So where does this leave Boris Johnson and his party? Johnson had already said in advance that it would be "crazy" to resign if the by-elections were lost. But his party co-chairman Oliver Dowden MP has done just that, pointedly (?) noting "someone has to take responsibility." The Conservatives must be worried about their current level of unpopularity and voters willingness to cast their vote for whichever party is seen as the main challenger in varying constituencies. Johnson's personal rating is in an even bigger hole than that of his party, which for someone whose main appeal was supposed to be his popularity with voters is not good.

Based on current internal party rules, Johnson cannot be challenged by his own MPs again within a year. There are rumors that attempts are being made to alter that to allow another vote come autumn. These by-elections results will embolden those who want a new leader.

Thanks once again, S.T.! (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

Let's talk books for a moment. If you write one of these high-profile books about a presidential administration, what kind of sales does it take for the book to be a success and to justify the six- or seven-figure advances that publishers have been handing out? We will tell you that folks like James Comey and John Bolton managed to move more than 600,000 copies with their books on the Trump years, while several of Michael Wolff's books broke 1 million copies sold, and Bob Woodward's books sold closer to 2 million.

That gives you some sort of baseline. Now, let's take a look at the Bookscan data for Trump-insider books released since he left office. Note that Bookscan doesn't capture all sales, particularly those in newer formats like audiobooks. However, it does capture the lion's share. And with that caveat, here's a rundown:

  • In Trump Time: My Journal of America's Plague Year, by former White House economic advisor Peter Navarro: 80,218 copies

  • One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, by Bill Barr: 64,103 copies

  • Here's the Deal: A Memoir, by former White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway: 42,273 copies

  • For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey through the White House and Beyond, by former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: 36,325 copies

  • A Plague Upon Our House, My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America, by former Trump medical advisor Scott Atlas: 27,013 copies

  • Created Equal: The Painful Past, Confusing Present, and Hopeful Future of Race in America, by former Secretary of the Interior Ben Carson: 21,786 copies

  • The Chief's Chief, by former chief of staff Mark Meadows: 21,569 copies

What this list suggests is, first and foremost, that there is a fair amount of Trump book fatigue. Further, there is clearly a market for books that dish dirt on Trump, for people to buy and hate-read. There is much less of a market for books that lionize Trump, and to the extent that market exists, it's been serviced by Trump himself with his $200 coffee table books.

In any event, by the standards of most books, these sales are pretty OK. But when there's been a huge advance paid, and when the book has the prominence that comes with a recent presidential administration, these are all bombs. The publishers are going to take a bath on them, and the authors aren't going to be able to retire on their royalties, as they might have hoped.

The folks on the list above are all pretty sketchy, and all were willing to undermine democracy in search of power and fame. Then, they doubled down on that by trying to cash in. And they were aided by the publishers who tried to cash in as well. When all of the folks involved in this sort of skeezy behavior have their profiteering blow up in their faces? Schadenfreude time. (Z)

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Jun23 The Top One-liners from Tuesday Hearing
Jun23 Trump Is Now Attacking McCarthy over the Select Committee
Jun23 The Supreme Court Is Tearing Down the Wall between Church and State
Jun23 Democrats Gearing Up to Make Abortion the Big Issue in the Midterms
Jun23 Gun Deal May Be Shot Down in the House
Jun23 New York Republicans Are at War with---New York Republicans
Jun23 Biden Nominates an Immigrant Woman of Color as Science Adviser
Jun23 Nancy Pelosi Is the Greatest Cat Herder in 50 Years
Jun23 Defamation Case against Fox News Moves Forward
Jun22 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 4: It Was a Team Effort
Jun22 Election Returns: A Hard Day's Night for Donald Trump
Jun22 Gun Safety Bill Looks Like It's Actually Happening
Jun22 Biden Expected to Call for "Gas Tax Holiday"
Jun22 South Dakota AG Impeached
Jun21 As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap
Jun21 Pence Makes Clear Where He Stands (or, Really, Where He Kneels)
Jun21 Poll: Americans Don't Want Transgender Women Competing in Women's Sports
Jun21 Gross Out
Jun21 News from the Foreign Affairs Desk...
Jun20 Primary Action Continues Tomorrow
Jun20 Is Mike Pence a Hero?
Jun20 Poll: Americans Think Trump Should Be Charged with a Crime
Jun20 Trump Is Already Preparing His Defense
Jun20 Schumer Is Still Talking to Manchin about a Bill
Jun20 Consumers Are Spending Less on Services
Jun20 Herschel Walker Scores a Touchdown with Evangelicals
Jun20 Santa Claus Is a Loser
Jun20 Judge Will Draw Louisiana House Map
Jun20 AFL-CIO Elects a Woman as President
Jun19 Sunday Mailbag
Jun18 Saturday Q&A
Jun17 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 3: Trump (and Eastman) vs. Pence
Jun17 Department of Justice, 1/6 Committee Are Sniping at Each Other
Jun17 Dominion Suit against Newsmax Can Move Forward
Jun17 Senate Gun Talks about to Misfire
Jun17 Walker's Got Kids Everywhere
Jun17 Boebert Plans to Sue
Jun17 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jun16 Select Committee Releases Video of Reconnaissance Tour on Jan. 5
Jun16 Outstanding Lines from Monday's Hearing
Jun16 Inflation Meets Bone Saws
Jun16 Is the Select Committee Even Asking the Right Question?
Jun16 Down-ballot Races Nobody Is Looking At
Jun16 Republicans Are Going Scorched Earth in Arizona Senate Primary
Jun16 Bannon Also Goes Scorched Earth--and Gets Nowhere
Jun16 Poll: Fetterman Leads Oz
Jun16 Jewish Congregation Files Suit over Florida Abortion Law
Jun15 A Day of Few Surprises
Jun15 "Stop the Steal" Goes National