There you have it. Next week, Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island will bring up the rear, and all the races will be set. Well, not including Louisiana, whose "jungle" primary takes place on Election Day. (Z)
Yesterday, we wrote about Judge Aileen Cannon's decision that Donald Trump would be allowed a special master to review all the documents that were taken from Mar-a-Lago. Knowing that this is a legal Hail Mary, we tried to keep an open mind, and took the position that it's better to dot all the i's and cross all the t's when it comes to observing the former president's legal rights, so as to (hopefully) forestall problems down the road.
Perhaps we were a wee bit too charitable. Another day has passed, which means that the various lawyer-commentators (attorneytators? lawyerscenti? advocate-dits?) have had time to read the decision, digest it, and write op-eds/sit for interviews. And, boy howdy, they are not impressed. Here's a rundown of just some of the scathing reviews:
We gave you a fair number of quotes here but, we assure you, we could have easily tripled this without breaking a sweat. Legal opinion, across the political spectrum, is running something like 98% against Cannon's ruling. And it's not just "kinda opposed," it's mostly people getting out their poison pens and absolutely flaying the decision. The only entirely supportive piece we could find is this one from National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who is known for his (now-decade-old) book arguing that Barack Obama's main goal in becoming president was to impose sharia law on the United States. So, we might not be dealing with the most fair and impartial legal mind here. In addition, Slate's Norman L. Eisen and Fred Wertheimer offer up the same basic argument that we tried to make yesterday, that some aspects of Cannon's ruling were justifiable, if you squint just right.
Bad decision or no, the fact remains that the ball is now in the Department of Justice's court. AG Merrick Garland can either ask Cannon for reconsideration, or appeal the ruling, or grit his teeth and get through the special master process as rapidly as is possible. The attorneytators are considerably less consistent on this point. A majority seems to advocate for an appeal, but there's a sizable minority that believes that would just be playing the game according to Donald Trump's rules, since the former president might be able to drag out every single part of the process.
We'll add one more thing before wrapping this up. Cannon sure seems to have bent over backwards here for Trump. Even if you assume she's being governed by political considerations rather than legal ones, however, she may only be willing to carry so much water for him. Further, her rulings get appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. Trump seated six of the judges on that circuit who are currently active, more than any other president. However, there are five active non-Trump appointees, soon to be joined by a sixth courtesy of Joe Biden. There are also nine judges who have assumed senior status, and none of them are Trump appointees. More often than not, the former president has gotten adverse rulings when he was in front of a judge that he appointed. That fact, plus the composition of the court, mean that he's not likely to draw two in-the-bag Trump appointees for a three-person appeal panel. So, even if you believe justice will not be done in Cannon's court, there's still an excellent chance that justice will be done. Oh, and there's always Georgia and New York, of course. (Z)
And speaking of Georgia, there's been some new information on that front. CNN has acquired a surveillance video taken on January 7, 2021. In the video, Cathy Latham—a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County, and current subject of a criminal investigation due to being one of the fake Donald Trump electors—is seen ushering two Trump campaign operatives, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, into Coffee County's elections office. The voting machines there are among those known to have been breached by Republicans, and Hall and Maggio have already copped to doing so in that office, on that day. So, we now appear to have video of the early steps in that process.
The main takeaway here is that it looks more and more like there was a very broad conspiracy to subvert the election results. Team Trump didn't just try to twist arms to secure those all-important 12,000 or so votes in Georgia, they also took steps to secure the votes themselves. It all adds up to more people being charged with crimes, more crimes being charged, and convictions being easier to secure. Indeed, we are squarely in "prisoner's dilemma" territory at this point; the people who are legally exposed (including Latham) have to be thinking long and hard about singing like canaries, so as to save their own skins. There's little leverage in being the 18th person to turn state's evidence.
Meanwhile, no wonder Fulton County DA Fani Willis' investigation is taking so long. The shenanigans in Georgia appear to have been more complicated, and to have involved more people, than the Manhattan Project. And note that she still hasn't even gotten to the point of trying to compel testimony from Trump. (Z)
You may get three strikes, but you only get one attempt to overthrow the government before you're out. At least, if you are Couy Griffin. He is the over-the-top Trumper who first earned headlines earlier this year when, in his capacity as one of three commissioners in Otero County, NM, he refused to certify the primary election results. That's not going to be a problem again, because not only was he ejected from his post by Judge Francis Mathew, he was barred from holding elective office, state or federal, in the future.
This decision does not automatically translate to other states or tribunals, as Mathew is a state, and not federal, judge. On the other hand, Griffin was not expelled under the terms of a state law (like, say, the one that exists in North Carolina). He was expelled under the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is also the first time a judge has described the events of 1/6 as an "insurrection" in a formal ruling. In short, when it comes to the various cases that have been filed against insurrectionist-politicians in 2022, and that will be filed in 2024 (and 2026, and 2028...), there's now an actual, bona fide, legal foothold.
It's unclear whether Griffin will attempt to appeal the ruling. On one hand, he seems like the type to do so. On the other hand, if we may say so, he also seems like the type to lack the funds for endless appeals. We'll see. Meanwhile, it occurs to us that other insurrectionist-politicians are never going to be able to rest easy. The Fourteenth Amendment doesn't prohibit the election of insurrectionists to office, it prohibits insurrectionists from holding office. So, a person like Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano could be targeted for a suit at any time. Oh, and since they are not being charged with a crime, per se, double jeopardy likely doesn't apply. So, it could be a lawsuit every month, or maybe every week, for these folks. (Z)
Sarah Palin is not known for her voracious consumption of news media. After all, she couldn't name a single publication she reads (or, apparently, has heard of) when asked during her disastrous vice-presidential campaign in 2008. However, she has somehow become aware that she lost the special election for Alaska's at-large seat in the House despite the fact that Republican candidates combined for more votes in the first round of ranked choice voting than the Democratic candidate.
The former governor and mayor of Wasilla thinks that this is a gross injustice, that a Republican should be headed to Washington right now, and that the Republican should be Sarah Palin. And she's come up with a strategy for avoiding a repeat in the general election: The other Republican in the race, Nick Begich, should drop out. Actually, her exact proposal was a wee bit less artful. She decreed: "Only a Democrat sympathizer would selfishly stay in this race, after getting licked three times in a row by his GOP opponent, only to enable a Democrat to hold the Alaskan people's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives."
In any case, artful or not, problem solved, right? Well, except for the fact that nobody consulted Nick Begich. This would be the same Nick Begich who is most certainly a viable candidate and who, in our view, is actually more likely to win than Palin is. When told of Palin's plan, Begich said: "I will continue traveling the state, making the case that this election is about a choice between Mary Peltola and Nick Begich."
Forgive us for saying so, but it sure seems like Republicans want to decide elections by just about every set of rules possible, except for the ones that are actually in effect. Maybe this is a crazy idea, but what about winning on your merits, as opposed to trying to do end runs around the system with voter ID laws, lawsuits, and demands that your opponents drop out and immediately prostrate themselves as they participate in your coronation? Guess we are just old fashioned.
In any case, it seems clear that, rather than accept the reality of ranked choice voting, Palin is going to spend the general election campaign raging against the machine and telling voters why Begich is a RINO. Again, maybe we are naive idealists, but that does not seem like an approach that will produce a different result for Palin than the one she got last month. (Z)
For millennia—presumably, ever since humans first invented money about 7,000 years ago—people have been betting on... everything. And politics is included among "everything." So, betting on political outcomes has a long, long history.
For people in Europe who want to scratch this particular itch, it's not too difficult, as nearly all of the major European books offer political betting. In the United States, it's not so easy. Governmental authorities tend to be very leery of wagering. Maybe this is due to concern about the social costs. Or maybe it's because the existing gambling operations (e.g., Las Vegas) have lots of very good lobbyists and use them to do whatever it takes to maintain their near-monopoly. Maybe it's some of both.
There have been a few high-profile attempts to offer political wagering for Americans, most notably PredictIt.com. That site is actually based in New Zealand, and it only offers fairly small wagers, so it would be pretty hard to blow the rent money betting on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to become the next Speaker of the House. For these reasons, the folks who run PredictIt thought they could fly under the radar and could avoid raising the hackles of the regulators. This proved to be an incorrect assumption, however, and soon the site will be blocked in the U.S. for people who don't have a VPN.
Now, a different company thinks it's cracked the code. That would be Kalshi, Inc., which is based in the United States and is already licensed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Kalshi's shtick is that they allow people to wager on future events, arguing that this allows businesses to hedge and to reduce volatility. For example, a store owner could bet that the economy will go into a recession. If it does, then they win their bet and get money to ride out the lean times. If it doesn't, then their business continues to be successful and they don't have to worry about running out of money.
Now, Kalshi had added political wagers to its list of "products," and is trying to secure CFTC approval for this "expansion." Right now, the available wagers are pretty vanilla, like "Will the government shut down?" or "Will there be an income tax hike?" The argument that Kalshi is advancing is that these things are just as likely to affect a business's bottom line as a recession, or the outbreak of a war in Asia, or the price of frozen concentrated orange juice, and so business owners should have the opportunity to hedge as they see fit.
On one hand, this is a perfectly reasonable argument. On the other hand, nobody actually believes that the only customers will be business owners trying to keep their businesses running smoothly. That said, political betting is eventually going to be legal and above-board in the U.S., just as it is in Europe. So, the CFTC is going to have to think about whether Kalshi might be the best choice to lead the country into that brave (not so) new world, or if it's worth it to try to stem the tide for a little longer. (Z)