Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Feel free to read/sing that headline in the style of Peaches & Herb. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, Donald Trump was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury. He was already the first president to be criminally indicted, and now he's the first president to be criminally indicted by the U.S. government. The way things are going, in the search for historic descriptors, we're eventually going to have to move on to "the first president to be criminally indicted on a Tuesday afternoon while the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Mars."

As expected, the indictment was filed in Florida. A Washington, DC, court would be better equipped to handle this sort of case (as Washington judges often deal with intelligence-related cases), and would also be much less likely to attract a MAGA juror who simply will not vote to convict. However, the feds had to think strategically, and there's a stronger argument for filing in Florida, since that is where the crimes took place (or largely took place). If AG Merrick Garland & Co. had chosen Washington, there is a non-zero chance that would have been grounds to vacate any verdict that might have resulted.

The indictment has not been made public yet, and won't be until Trump appears in court, which is going to happen on Tuesday afternoon. That said, there are enough enterprising and well-connected journalists out there that the general outlines of the indictment are now known. Trump is being charged with seven different crimes, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements to federal authorities. There could be multiple counts associated with each charge, so the total number of counts against the former president may be seven, but it may be (and probably is) more.

There's no way around it; Trump is in very hot water here. Just the facts about the case that are publicly known are very damning. Indeed, if not for the indictment news, we were ready to run an item about a former White House official who testified before the grand jury (and may well have been the final pre-indictment witness, as it turns out), and who said that Trump knew full well what the procedure is for declassifying documents. In other words, the former president's best defense is riddled full of holes (though even if he really thought the documents were declassified, that's no excuse for refusing to return them when NARA came calling). Making things worse, from the vantage point of Trump's legal team, is that they cannot plausibly allow him to testify. He'd be skinned alive by a veteran federal prosecutor. And on top of that is the general truth that when the feds bring charges against someone, they prevail the vast majority of the time (≈95%).

Presumably, the thing upon which Team Trump will pin its hopes is the possibility of seating a rogue MAGA juror who just won't vote to convict. This is not much of a ray of hope for them, however. To start, as we've noted multiple times, the lawyers who will conduct the voir dire are very good at rooting out rogue jurors. On top of that, cases involving Trump and/or those in his orbit have been heard by juries with a MAGA or MAGA-adjacent member, and those folks have been unwilling to ignore the evidence when it was presented to them in black and white.

Trump knows he's in deep trouble (five poop emojis, for sure). You can tell, because the deeper the hole, the louder and more incoherent his rage. Here's the message he posted after the news was broken to him by one of his lawyers:

The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 Boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., With even more Boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is "secured" by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.

I have been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!

This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a Country in serious and rapid Decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!

We would guess that he really believes most of these things. For example, he really thinks that Joe Biden did the same thing, except 100x worse. And he really believes that the number of votes he got is somehow relevant to the question of guilt or innocence. Trump believes these things because he needs to believe these things. This is what lets him sleep at night.

The response from Republican politicians largely falls into two categories. The first of those is the multiple variants of "It's a conspiracy!" Consider this message that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) posted to Twitter when the news broke:

Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America.

It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades.

I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.

In contrast to the Trump "Truth," we don't think McCarthy believes one bit of this tweet. We don't think the Speaker is particularly unhappy about the possibility that Trump may be removed from the political stage. We don't think he actually believes that Biden was behind the indictment. We don't think he truly sees a grave injustice here. And we think he has no intention of holding anyone "accountable."

Some members of McCarthy's conference see a more specific conspiracy beyond just "Joe Biden has weaponized the Department of Justice." Yesterday was the day that select members of the House were allowed to see the FBI form they've been champing at the bit to see, the one that supposedly reveals gross corruption on the part of the President. The document was viewed in a sensitive compartmented information facility, and the members who saw it came out after and said: "Yep! It proves everything!" Their view, as expressed by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), among others, is that the indictments were timed so as to deflect attention from this very important piece of anti-Biden news.

This is, of course, lunacy. How many times, at this point, has a Stefanik or a Jim Jordan (R-OH) or a James Comer (R-KY) or a Matt Gaetz (R-FL) insisted that they had incontrovertible proof of Biden's guilt, without being able to actually provide said proof? Four? Five? Six? So, to buy into the conspiracy, you not only have to believe the DoJ is in the bag for Biden, but also that the department has been waiting with bated breath, until the opportunity comes to bury this minor news story. Here's a tip for the Freedom Caucusers and their ilk: You've cried wolf so many times that, until you come up with something concrete, nobody cares except for the True Believers.

In any case, as you look at the responses to the Trump indictment, you cannot help but notice that none of these Republicans is disputing the basic facts of the case, or even that laws were broken. One thinks of the old lawyer's aphorism, which we've noted many times: "When the law is on your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When neither the law or the facts are on your side, pound the table." There was so much table-pounding going on in Washington yesterday, you might have thought Stomp was performing a Thursday matinee.

The other response from Republican politicians, at least those who did not hide in a closet so as to avoid reporters entirely, was some variant of "no comment." For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will be happy to be rid of Trump at the earliest possible moment. He may not be willing to say it out loud, since that would be impolitic, but he's also not going to join McCarthy in a round of "Poor Donald" kabuki theater. And so, when the Kentuckian was asked about the indictment by reporters, he replied: "I may have hit my head, but I didn't hit it that hard. Nice try." That's pretty slick, actually.

Interestingly, albeit not surprisingly, the man who figures to benefit most from the indictment—Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)—was in group one and not group two. Asked for comment, DeSantis said: "The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter?" We are not clear how you can successfully campaign against a rival by playing into his narrative of victimhood and martrydom, but we didn't graduate from two different Ivy League schools, so maybe it's beyond our capacity to grasp.

Incidentally, in the latest version of our Senate tracking poll, we asked how many days it would be until the Mar-a-Lago indictment came down. As soon as the news broke, we downloaded the results, to freeze them in time. To our surprise, out of well over 2,000 responses, there was not a single person who guessed Trump would not be indicted. The lowest guess, registered by 36 people, was "1 day." That was not far off, as it turns out. The correct guess, "2 days," was also the most common guess. There were over 200 respondents who hit the bullseye. The three highest guesses were 517, 530 and 533 days. Those weren't such good guesses, it would seem. The average guess was 41.5 days. Sometimes the wisdom of the crowds doesn't work out, though in fairness, it was hard to imagine that things would come together so fast. That said, over 200 people did imagine it.

Presumably, things will be in a holding pattern for a few days, until Trump's appearance in court on Tuesday. Well, unless you like reading along as someone rants and raves on Truth Social, that is. If that's your bag, then you are in for a really good weekend. (Z)

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