The (redacted) Mar-a-Lago affidavit is out, of course. And, in a development roughly as predictable as finding a BMW parked in the USC parking lot, its promulgation has not been helpful for Donald Trump.
There are a number of revelations in the 38-page document, but the two that stand out are as follows. First, the handling of the documents was about as haphazard as is possible (and as haphazard as you would expect from Team Trump). Nothing was properly secured, non-classified materials were mixed with classified materials—it was a real mess.
The second revelation is that the former president most definitely had some really, really delicate stuff. There were documents in the collection labeled HCS, SI, FISA, ORCON, and NOFORN. What do those things mean?
In other words, the former president didn't just steal a few birthday cards from Kim Jong-Un.
Writing for Politico, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti opines that Trump has been caught dead-to-rights. Mariotti compares The Donald's offense to being caught with illegal drugs. In the end, it basically doesn't matter how you ended up with the illegal documents/drugs, or even if you didn't know you had them. Just being in possession is all that really matters. That means, in turn, that the most common "defenses" don't work, because they are desperate Hail Mary passes. For example, "the DEA planted the drugs" and/or "the FBI planted the documents" rarely, rarely fly. (And yes, an actual Hail Mary pass is an offensive play, not a defensive one. So sue us.)
On top of that, this weekend, Jon Karl appeared on ABC's This Week and reiterated that Trump's lawyer situation remains dire. Here are his exact words:
Publicly, what they're saying is this is rallying Republicans to Trump's defense. This makes it more likely that he will run for president, more likely that he will win the Republican nomination. Campaigning against this political action by the FBI and the DOJ.
Privately, they are really concerned. And one of the big concerns here is that Trump has nobody defending him. If you look at his legal team, it is comically inept and inexperienced. All of the big names who defended him through the first two impeachments, through the Mueller investigation, they are gone. There is real concern that he needs to bring in a heavy hitting criminal defense attorney.
I know of several that have been approached who have said no. I even know of one prominent criminal defense attorney who was approached who didn't even return the phone call.
Perhaps Trump can coax Ty Cobb out of retirement. Or, failing that, maybe there's an attorney somewhere out there named Pete Rose.
And we don't need to take Karl's word for it that Trump knows he's got problems. Trump has been communicating that himself, in his own inimitable way, by going bat**it crazy on his social media platform. Since the affidavit was released, he has:
Is this an attempt to gin up the base? To create a distraction? To cope with scary feelings? We don't know; his psychology is inscrutable. But it's absolutely characteristic of his reaction whenever he's feeling under the gun. And he's definitely under the gun right now. Multiple guns, in fact. (Z)
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), by all indications, has very little interest in actual governance. For him, politics is war and he's an ambitious general looking to be promoted up the ladder. To that end, he's contrived all manner of stunts whose purpose is to hurt Democrats, to add fuel to the culture wars, to bring attention to himself, or to do all of the above.
If you're going to be a stunt politician—and he's hardly the first one—then, at bare minimum, you better make sure your stunts don't blow up in your face. Last week, we wrote about his latest "masterpiece," which was his announcement that Florida had uncovered 20 felons who voted illegally, and was going to prosecute them to the full extent of the law, in hopes of securing the maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.
We were certainly not impressed when this news first broke. As a reminder, here was our assessment:
Let us now poke some giant holes in this vile political theater. First of all, DeSantis himself so thoroughly muddied the waters after ex-felons were, then weren't, then maybe were, then maybe weren't given the right to vote again that any "fraudulent" ballots were surely honest mistakes. Second, Florida has a population of over 21 million people. That being the case, 20 votes are not enough to affect any election, even the race for deputy assistant dogcatcher in Sticksville. Third, when four people in The Villages (a.k.a. a Republican stronghold) were caught casting actual fraudulent votes for Donald Trump, DeSantis said nary a word.
As it turns out, we may have been too charitable. You see, the 20 felons all registered to vote. Their registrations were approved by local elections officials, and in most cases the alleged wrongdoers were sent election-related paperwork, like sample ballots. Some of them even double-checked with people in positions of authority to make sure they were on the right side of the law.
Now, if state law disqualifies some people based on their criminal records, shouldn't someone be cross-checking for that? Yes, someone should. And in Florida, that job is the responsibility of... the state government. Those would be the same people who work directly for DeSantis. And who approved the registrations.
We can see only three possible interpretations here, from least to most damning:
Readers will make their own judgments, of course, but we think #2 and #3 are considerably more likely than #1. And, if so, that would mean that the Governor was willing to send 20 people—most of them Black, "coincidentally"—to prison for years just so he could get a couple of days' worth of helpful headlines. Not out of character for him; many Floridians are now dead because of policies he pursued in relation to COVID-19. We try to be evenhanded around here, but sometimes you gotta call a shovel a shovel. And this is a very dangerous and frightening man. (Z)
Reader J.L. in Amsterdam, NY brings to our attention an item from The New York Times that escaped our notice. It comes from number-crunchers Francesca Paris and Nate Cohn, and makes clear that the Dobbs decision has motivated women in many states to get themselves registered to vote.
The duo examined 10 states in all; here are the numbers they came up with, comparing the percentage of new registrants who are women before and after Dobbs:
|Candidate||♀ Before||♀ After||Shift|
If we were a Republican operative or, say, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), we would find these numbers pretty distressing (especially when combined with the abortion map we ran yesterday):
It's certainly going to be an interesting election. And if the Republicans blow the lay-up they were handed because they went too far too fast with abortion, it will be one of the biggest political screw-ups in American political history. (Z)
We have consistently taken the position that if Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) runs for president, she is more likely to take votes from Joe Biden (or whoever Democratic nominee is) than she is from Donald Trump (or a Trump clone, like Ron DeSantis). And, as long as we're looking at numbers, there's a new Yahoo/YouGov poll that suggests we are right.
The poll's numbers are quite clear. In a matchup between Biden and Trump, 46% of respondents would vote for the President, 42% would vote for the former president and 12% would be undecided. Who knows what those undecided voters are waiting to see, but there it is. In a three-way race, Biden would collect 32% of the vote (-14 points), Trump would get 40% (-2 points), Cheney would attract 11%, and 17% (+5 points) would be undecided. So, virtually all of the Representative's votes would come out of Biden's hide.
Needless to say, this does not account for the Electoral College, nor for the fact that people who say they are going to vote third-party often don't follow through. Still, even if Cheney takes just a couple of percent from Biden, that could very well be enough to swing the election. It won't matter in Wyoming or California, of course, but in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, etc., that loss would be disastrous for the Democrat. Cheney certainly doesn't want to help Trump, and she knows how to read a poll, so we really don't think she will jump in. In fact, it makes more sense for her to be thinking about 2028 or 2032, when she might be able to position herself as the Republican to lead the Party out of the wilderness and into the post-Trumper era. (Z)
Blake Masters (R), who is trying to knock off Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), has had a busy week. To start, he's taken notice (as have several other Republicans) that a fanatical pro-choice platform may not be a winner this year. So, he's shifted his approach on that issue.
As part of that, the candidate has toned down his rhetoric. Masters' website used to say that he was "100% pro-life," but that was scrubbed. Apparently, he's just 90% pro-life now, or maybe it's 80%. Who knows? Also scrubbed were promises to cut funding for embryonic stem cell research, to support a federal personhood law that would effectively outlaw abortion nationwide, and to vote only for federal judges who are avowedly anti-abortion. Masters has said that his position on abortion is "commonsense." It is not clear whether that refers to his original point of view, or his newly discovered point of view, though he did say that after the website was changed.
At the same time, Masters is trying to cast Kelly as a pro-choice fanatic. Recently added to Masters' website is this:
The Democrats lie about my views on abortion, because their candidate's position is so extreme: Mark Kelly believes in nationwide abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, with zero limits. That is truly shocking. 90% of Americans disagree with Mark Kelly's radical position.
The underlining is Masters' (or Masters' staff, at least). It certainly seems designed to suggest that there's a link that supports the assertion about Kelly. But there is no link, of course, because Kelly does not support abortion up to the moment of birth. We doubt that any Democratic officeholder does. In fact, we doubt that any Democratic non-officeholder does.
Meanwhile, it would appear that, at least in Masters' world, if you back off on one extremist-type view, you have to double down on another. So, he's really been leaning into the dog-bullhorn bigotry in the last day or two. There's this tweet, for example:
Finally a compelling explanation for why our economy is doing so well https://t.co/Ub2CeiyjCs— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) August 29, 2022
When Masters was called out on that tweet, he responded with a video tweet (so you know it's serious):
As part of that 92-second airing of views, Masters decrees:
News flash for Joe Biden: we are done with this affirmative action regime. You know, I can't think of a single policy since the end of Jim Crow that's been worse or more divisive for race relations in this country. Race quotas are wrong. Gender quotas are wrong. They're unjust, they're illegal, but the Democrats are addicted to this kind of identity politics garbage.
They just care about how you look. Not whether you're the best qualified or whether you can do the best job. You know, if you want to see the affirmative action regime on display, just look at Biden's White House. Biden promised that he would choose a woman for his VP.
You can make a case that Affirmative Action was divisive in that it angered a number of white people (and some smaller number of non-white people). However, we now present for you 10 policies that were far more divisive:
We could come up with more, of course, but we only had 30 seconds to write this portion.
In any event, the takeaway here is this: Masters is running scared. He's trying to reinvent himself on the fly, as he's undoubtedly seen that no poll has ever put him in the lead, and time is running out. The problem is that the candidate's reinvention of himself has been too obvious, and voters hate politicians who seem to be inauthentic opportunists. So, we don't see Masters' last few days' worth of flipping and flopping as something that will ultimately help him. (Z)
Democratic voters have considerably less tolerance for shady tactics than Republican voters do, in general. But desperate times call for desperate measures and, given the challenges entailed in holding the House, the blue team has decided they cannot afford to operate with one hand tied behind their back. After all, how angry would tens of millions of Democrats be if the Party pulled back in some elections, and then the Republicans gained a two- or three-seat majority in the House?
The latest example of Democratic ratfu**ing comes from New Hampshire. Specifically, NH-02, which is represented by Rep. Annie Kuster (D), and is about as swingy as it gets (D+1). The Republican primary, which will be held next Tuesday, has come down to two people. The first is George Hansel, the mayor of Keene, NH. He is backed by popular moderate governor John Sununu (R-NH), and is campaigning on a platform that is pro-lower taxes, but also pro-choice and pro-environment. The second is Bob Burns, who is ultra-Trumpy.
Undoubtedly it's clear which candidate the Democrats are trying to prop up; here's the commercial that is running in the Granite State:
It's not your usual ratfu**ing, in that the message is that Burns is far too Trumpy, and will be bad for the state, and so Democrats really dislike him. In other words, it's clearly an anti-Burns ad. It would seem the calculation is that the sort of folks who would vote for Burns will be more motivated to get to the polls if they know his election will upset Democrats. We'll see in a week if it works. (Z)