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Trump Legal News, Part I: Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia

Merle Haggard was actually singing about something else that's orange-colored and kind of squishy, but it still works here. Yesterday, as most readers will know by now, DA Fani Willis and her grand jury finally pulled the trigger and indicted Donald Trump for crimes related to (alleged) subversion of the 2020 presidential election.

There has been much angst about what was taking Willis so long to take care of business, and now we have a pretty good answer to that. The indictment, which you can read here, is pretty vast, and involves a grand total of 19 defendants. Here's a list of everyone who was charged yesterday, in the order they appear in the charging document:

Person Relevance Number of Counts
Donald Trump Former president 13
Rudy Giuliani Trump lawyer 13
John Eastman Trump lawyer 9
Mark Meadows Former White House Chief of Staff 2
Kenneth Chesebro Trump lawyer 7
Jeffrey Clark Former acting Assistant Attorney General 2
Jenna Ellis Trump lawyer 2
Ray Smith III Trump lawyer 12
Robert Cheeley Trump lawyer 10
Michael Roman Trump campaign adviser 7
David Shafer Georgia GOP Chair; fake elector 8
Shawn Still Georgia state senator; fake elector 7
Stephen C. Lee Pastor; tried to intimidate election workers 5
Harrison Floyd Former leader of "Black Voices for Trump"; tried to intimidate election workers 3
Trevian Kutti Publicist; tried to intimidate election workers 3
Sidney Powell Trump lawyer; participated in Coffee County shenanigans 7
Cathy Latham Former chair of the Coffee County Republican Party; fake elector 11
Misty Hampton Former election supervisor of Coffee County 7
Scott Hall Businessman; took lead in Coffee County shenanigans 7

That's 134 different crimes, spread across a total of 41 different counts. The indictment also notes that there are an additional 30 unindicted co-conspirators.

Since the Big Fish is the one people really care about, here are the 13 crimes Trump is charged with:

Crime Number of Counts
Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act 1
False statements and writings 3
Conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer 1
Conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree 2
Conspiracy to commit false statements and writings 2
Conspiracy to commit filing false documents 1
Filing false documents 1
Solicitation of violation of oath by public officer 2

For those keeping score at home, across four venues, Trump now faces a grand total of 91 felony counts. In order of indictment, that's 34 in New York, 40 in Florida, 4 in Washington and 13 in Georgia. Of course, any one of these indictments could be updated to include more charges. It's also not impossible that Trump could end up indicted a fifth time, either by AG Letitia James in New York, or perhaps by Special Counsel Jack Smith. There's no public indication a fifth indictment is coming, mind you, it's just within the realm of possibility.

The Georgia indictment came together very, very quickly. Certainly more quickly than was expected just 36 hours ago. The two star witnesses who were supposed to chat with the grand jury on Tuesday, reporter George Chidi and former Georgia lieutenant governor Jeff Duncan, had their testimony moved up to Monday. Then, Judge Robert McBurney announced that he would keep his courtroom open past the close of business. And then, bam! Indictment.

Why the sudden burst of speed? That's not at all clear at this point, but here are three theories:

  1. Keep Calm and Carry On: Perhaps it is her personality, or perhaps it's because she lives in Georgia, or perhaps it's because she's Black and/or a woman, but Willis has consistently been more concerned about, and more proactive in trying to defuse, potential violence than the other prosecutors who went after Donald Trump. It could be hustling to the finish line a day early was a part of that overall effort.

  2. Oops!, Part I: A little after noon ET on Monday, someone posted a document to the Fulton County Court website outlining the charges against Trump (you can see it here). This was before the grand jury had voted on the various counts against Trump, and a clerk of the court characterized the document as "fictitious." Uh, huh. Since the document proved to be entirely correct, it is fair to say that the clerk's words were fictitious. And having let the cat partly out of the bag, maybe Willis & Co. decided they had to push forward as rapidly as was possible. That said, the one-day-early testimony from Chidi and Duncan was arranged before the inadvertent leak, which certainly weakens this theory.

  3. Oops!, Part II: Maybe someone at the Fulton County Courthouse unwisely pushed the ludicrous speed button.

In the end, the difference between Monday evening and Tuesday during the day likely didn't matter too much. Willis has been dotting her i's and crossing her t's for a long time now, and undoubtedly was very well prepared.

On that point, once the indictments were unsealed, Willis held a press conference and shared some interesting thoughts. She said she wants to try all of the defendants at the same time, ideally "within the next six months." In theory, Donald Trump's calendar will be occupied with the 1/6 trial, but surely Willis and Smith can work something out. Willis also said that "just probation" is not in the cards for Trump, nor, most likely, is a plea deal.

None of that is good news for the former president, of course. And while it's impossible to say which of his ongoing criminal prosecutions is most worrisome for him, we can at least point out seven not-so-lucky ways in which Georgia is specially troublesome:

  1. RICO: Every single person listed above is being charged with a RICO violation; it's also the most serious of the crimes being charged (if you look at the accidentally released charging document, you'll see it's identified as a "serious felony," whereas the others just have the label "felony"). The federal RICO statute was written specifically to go after people like Trump, who are good at giving themselves plausible deniability on any individual crime, but who engage in a pattern of corrupt behavior. Put another way, the scales had tipped a little too far in the favor of miscreants, so the Congress tipped them back, and pretty aggressively. It is NOT a defendant-friendly statute, that is for sure.

    Oh, and as we've noted, the Georgia RICO statute is even more aggressive than the federal version. In particular, one of the illegal acts that qualifies as part of the pattern under the state law, but not under federal law, is forgery. If you're wondering why that might be relevant, take a look again at the list of offenses Trump is charged with. It's also worth noting that this is Willis' 11th RICO prosecution, so she and her team know what they're doing here.

  2. Co-Defendants: At the moment, at least, this case involves far and away the largest number of Trump co-defendants. Further, they aren't Trump underlings who rely on him for employment and/or to pay their legal bills. It's going to be much harder to get all 18 of them thinking that protecting Trump comes first. And even if they are thinking that way, it's going to be very hard to get all 18 of them to tell the same lies, and to tell them convincingly. Consequently, all 18 are a risk to turn state's evidence.

  3. Co-Conspirators: Of course, several potential co-defendants have already turned state's evidence. That's why, despite Georgia having 16 EVs, thus necessitating 16 fake electors, there were only three fake electors charged. In addition, several Georgia officials are certainly going to testify, among them state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA). In short, even if the 19 people charged yesterday stay resolute, Willis has some dynamite testimony lined up.

  4. Smoking Gun: Speaking of Raffensperger, the recording he made of his conversation with Trump will be a centerpiece of the prosecution's case. There is also a smoking gun in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, but the Georgia smoking gun is as clear as could possibly be. Just that recording alone is practically enough to convict.

  5. Georgia Politics: Trump should probably be worried about his legal problems, and not his political career. But that's not how he thinks, and everyone knows he's at least as focused on being reelected as he is on being exonerated. Georgia is a state he really must have if he wants to win the White House (otherwise, he will have to flip Pennsylvania, Arizona AND Nevada). He lost the Peach State in 2020, and is not terribly popular there with the general-election electorate these days. Having a high profile trial, one that is going to dominate Georgia news, is not helpful for him.

  6. Cameras in the Courtroom: As we have noted multiple times, federal courts are barred from allowing live coverage of trials. That general rule may be set aside for one or both of Trump's federal trials, but maybe not. Georgia, meanwhile, has no such rule, and yesterday's indictment announcement was televised. It is very likely Trump's Georgia trial will get full television coverage. That's almost certainly bad news for him, as viewers will see the evidence for themselves without the "Fox filter," and also because Trump does not have a great courtroom persona. He tends to cross his arms, and huff and otherwise behave in ways that reflect poorly on him.

  7. No Clemency: We've pointed this out several times, including yesterday, but Georgia makes it very difficult for a criminal defendant to get any sort of clemency. The rules are the way they are because: (1) Southern states like to be "tough on crime" and (2) the rules were, to be blunt, written to disadvantage Black people. Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot. And how.

Although Trump and his team apparently did not get the same sort of heads-up that Jack Smith provided, it was nonetheless obvious that the indictment was coming, and so the spin operation was geared up and ready to go. Not that they did a great job with their response, mind you. You can read the letter that the Trump Campaign posted to his boutique social media platform here. It's the sort of letter that any reader of this site could have written, if they had 10 seconds to spare. Trump also ripped into Duncan, encouraging him not to testify, while inadvertently reminding everyone that it's never too late to add a witness tampering charge.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was on one of the basically interchangeable Fox primetime shows (more below), and gave a pretty good preview of five talking points you should expect to hear from Trump apologists in upcoming days and weeks:

  1. This should be settled at the ballot box, and not in a court of law. (Rebuttal: In a manner of speaking, that is how it will be settled, since the decision will be made by the vote of a jury. Did they not teach you that in law school, Senator? Beyond that, however, it is remarkable that Graham can suggest with a straight face that an election fraud case should be settled... at the ballot box.)

  2. This will do a lot of damage to the presidency. (Rebuttal: Agreed. Maybe Trump should have thought about that before doing all these things.)

  3. This will set a bad precedent. (Rebuttal: That if you are president, you should abide by the law? Seems like a pretty good precedent to us. Too bad it wasn't clearly set during the Nixon years.)

  4. It's the most liberal jurisdictions in America—New York City, Fulton County, Washington, DC—trying to put Trump in prison. (Rebuttal: This conveniently "overlooks" the Florida case. Also, despite his pretensions to be a man of the people, Trump's as much a coastal elite as anyone in the country. So, of course, his alleged criminal acts took place in blue cities. Whaddya think was the last time he spent the night in a place that has a PVI of R+10 or redder?)

  5. Why is this case being handled by a county prosecutor, rather than a state-level official? (Rebuttal: Because that's how Georgia has divided up its judicial powers. Also, if one is concerned about top-level officials handling things, Jack Smith is plenty high-ranking.)

In general, we don't pay much attention to what Graham has to say, since he constantly talks out of both sides of his mouth. However, he happened to be the first Trumper to get himself in front of a camera yesterday, so...

At the moment, there are still two short-to-medium-term storylines in Georgia. The first is that Willis has given the indictees until August 25 to surrender themselves for booking. We wonder if they will trickle in, a few each day, or if they will all show up on the same day as a demonstration of unity. Whatever happens, the day Trump surrenders himself will undoubtedly get a fair bit of TV coverage, just like the other indictment. And the other one. And the other one.

Also an open question is what judge will preside over the trial. It could well be Robert McBurney, who has overseen the grand jury process. Certainly, he seems well qualified for the job. He's got two Harvard degrees, was an assistant U.S. Attorney, is in his 11th year on the bench, and served for 2 years as Chief Judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit. Also, for what it's worth, the profile picture on his LinkedIn page is Speed Racer:

Speed Racer; the animated version

Make of that what you will. In any event, we'll learn soon if McBurney is keeping the case, or if it will go to one of his colleagues.

One has to wonder how well Donald Trump is sleeping these days. Sure, he puts on a blustery front, but he's dug a giant hole for himself. Imagine he gets just one month for each of the 91 crimes he's accused of committing. If so, he'd be in prison until he's 85 years old. He either needs three or four very friendly plea deals, or he needs to bat 1.000 up against three veteran prosecutors and their staffs. Anything less than 1.000, and he goes away at least until his 80s.

The good news for us is that, despite the lack of competitive races on either side of the aisle, 2024 could end up being the most interesting presidential election in recent memory. And maybe ever. What on Earth happens if Trump is both a convicted felon and the owner of a majority of RNC delegates on, say, June 1 of next year? Your guess is probably about as good as Ronna Romney McDaniel's. (Z)

Trump Legal News, Part II: Dare to Be Stupid

The last 10 songs we've used for Trump legal headlines, in order and including today, were from the Beatles, Radiohead, Taylor Swift, the Police, Brooks & Dunn, the Beatles again, Sam Smith, Anthrax, Merle Haggard and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Don't say we don't bring you some culture around here.

Anyhow, there was plenty of Trump legal news even before the situation in Georgia came to a climax. Here's a rundown:

Playing with Fire: In Washington, DC, Judge Tanya Chutkan told Trump in no uncertain terms that social media is not the place to discuss his ongoing trial. He hates being told what to do. He hates it even more when it's a woman. He hates it more still when it's a woman of color. And so, he took a bunch of potshots at Chutkan over the weekend. Thus far, the Judge has not responded, but we suspect she's going to allow Trump enough rope to hang himself, and then bring the hammer. Well, the gavel.

A Speedy Trial: Yesterday, a group of a dozen Republicans who served as judges or as attorneys in Republican administrations—most notably former judge Michael Luttig and former AG Alberto Gonzales—filed an amicus brief with Chutkan asserting that a speedy trial, on the timeline proposed by Jack Smith, is both necessary and appropriate, and that there is abundant case law supporting that position.

A Family Divided: Maybe nothing will come of it, but TalkingPointsMemo published a scoop based on text messages that came into the site's possession, and that implicate RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel in the conspiracy to overthrow the election. Uncle Mitt must be very disappointed.

No Dice: Trump is convinced that the judge overseeing his New York case, Juan Merchan, is hopelessly biased. Of course, Trump thinks that of every judge he's dealing with right now, except maybe Aileen Cannon. In any event, in view of Merchan's alleged biases, Trump's lawyers filed a motion asking the Judge to recuse himself from the case. Yesterday, Merchan said: "No thanks!"

Phew. There's so much these days, it's hard to keep up with all of it.

Also, speaking of songs, each of the nine headlines in our Friday posting had a song title, and we asked readers what the nine songs had in common. Here are a half-dozen of the more creative guesses:

  1. They are all songs on Donald Trump's playlist for Melania (M.L. in Miami, FL)
  2. Tony Bennett covered all of them? (L.R.H. in Oakland, CA)
  3. Hal Blaine on drums (D.S.A. in Parish, NY)
  4. Songs about pimps? I know I'm right for at least one of them. (F.B. in Sacramento, CA)
  5. It looks as though the common theme is that our fate awaits us. (R.F. in Eugene, OR)
  6. None of these songs have been in my kitchen (F.M. in San Francisco, CA)

Quite a few readers got in the ballpark, with guesses along the lines of "They're songs from movies" or "They're theme songs from films." While that is not wrong, per se, it's a bit broad. The answer we were going for was that they all won the Academy Award for best song. Here are the nine, along with the movie they won for, and the performer of the song:

  1. "Writing's on the Wall": Spectre (performed by Sam Smith)
  2. "Que Sera, Sera": The Man Who Knew Too Much (Doris Day)
  3. "A Whole New World": Aladdin (Brad Kane and Lea Salonga)
  4. "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp": Hustle & Flow (Three 6 Mafia)
  5. "We Belong Together": Toy Story 3 (Randy Newman)
  6. "Sooner or Later": Dick Tracy (Madonna)
  7. "The Ballad of High Noon": High Noon (Tex Ritter)
  8. "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing": Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (The Four Aces)
  9. "Things Have Changed": Wonder Boys (Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan)

Some of these songs are known by different variants of the title. For example, the song from The Man Who Knew Too Much is sometimes rendered as "Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera)" or "Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)." We went with the rendering that appears in the Wikipedia article Academy Award for Best Original Song.

A great many readers hit the bullseye with their answers; here are the first 10 to get it right:

  1. J.D. in Greensboro, NC
  2. D.D. in Highland Park, IL
  3. K.M. in Olympia, WA
  4. E.H. in Donegal, Ireland
  5. S.W. in Raleigh, NC
  6. S.A. in Downey, CA
  7. S.F. in Hutto, TX
  8. B.M. in Chico, CA
  9. M.J.S. in Cheshire, CT
  10. J.B. in Nashville, TN

That post went live at 5:15 PT, and the first correct guess arrived 7 minutes later. To make the first 10, you had to be in by 5:41 a.m. PT. There's an obvious east-coast bias, though you'll note that two Californians made the cut, nonetheless. (Z)

I, The Jury, Part X: Does the System Work? (Part I)

We can't have this much Trump legal news without another entry in the jury service series. Today we move into accounts that offer assessments of the overall system:

L.B. in Atlanta, GA writes: I was selected for a murder case jury in Maryland back in the 80's. I was a 20-something white guy.

The defendant was a young Black male. The defendant had been in a car with a young Black female. They were pulled over by a Maryland state trooper. The defendant had been to prison before and did not want to go back. He pulled a gun, shot the trooper, and told his companion to "get in the car and let's go." In one of the wisest decisions of her life, the girl said "No."

She stayed at the scene until the police arrived and offered testimony about what happened in court. It was a pretty open-and-shut case as to what happened. There was never a question of guilt. The vital question, and what took considerable jury deliberation, was whether it was premeditated murder or manslaughter.

What surprised me was that despite the defendant being Black, the very first person to vote guilty was a Black woman. She seemingly had zero compassion or care for the future of the defendant.

In the end, I and another young white guy were the last to be convinced that it met the legal definition for "premeditated," as the whole incident happened quickly, and was by no means pre-planned.

That experience taught me that: (1) people may surprise you in how they vote and (2) jurors take their responsibility seriously when someone's life hangs in the balance—even though the death penalty was not on the table.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Many years ago, my aunt was killed when a coal company semi backed out onto the highway in front of my uncle, who didn't see the trailer because it did not have lights.

Tort law has a concept called Negligence Per Se, in which the jury is told to presume negligence on the part of a defendant who injures another person while the defendant is breaking a law intended to protect people like the injured plaintiff.

Backing a semi truck onto a four-lane highway is illegal. Driving a semi truck at night without lights on the trailer is illegal. The judge should have given a negligence per se instruction, but he did not.

That coal company was at the time one of the largest employers in a several-county area.

Defense verdict.

Sometimes juries get it wrong.

S.S. in Seattle, WA, writes: I served on a jury for a federal case. It was in Seattle, and it was about drugs, guns, and money. There were lots and lots of charges. There were weeks of testimony. There was never any question that the judge was the single most important person in that room. There was also never any doubt in my mind that we twelve good [wo]men were a close second. The courtroom was a tight ship. We all did our jobs. The prosecution laid out their case in great, tedious, pedantic, crawling, repetitive detail. The defense asked question after question repeating the story the lawyers had presented in a dozen different ways already. Witnesses answered question after question. There was absolutely no drama.

We were instructed that during the presentation of evidence we couldn't talk to each other about any of it. That was the hardest part. When we were given the case to deliberate, and we finally got to talk to each other about the case, we reviewed each charge, read it over and over, talked to each other, searched through rafts of evidence in the books, looked at our notes, and, if we all agreed that the prosecution had delivered evidence that matched the criteria for that specific allegation, made a very deliberate decision on each charge. The prosecution made their case for quite a few of the charges, but missed a couple. The defense didn't provide an account to contradict the evidence presented, so we had no reasonable explanation for what we heard other than what the prosecution alleged.

In the end, it was a set process, no surprises, no drama, very little left to the imagination. There was very little room for variation from what the judge saw as proper, expedient, polite, respectful, almost mechanical, process. If that is anything like what will happen with the Former Guy, things will work out.

R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: I served on a jury about 13 years ago. It was a civil case between two long-divorced people who apparently spent all their time and money suing one another. It was icky.

When we got to the jury room, I was almost instantly selected as jury foreman based on the fact that I was the only juror who took notes and, you know, paid full attention. In our case, the ex-husband had sued the ex-wife because she called the sheriff on him when he came to her house, and he spent the weekend in jail. In his instructions to us, the judge had explained the elements that the plaintiff had to prove in order to prevail. I wrote those on a whiteboard, and then turned around to face my peers on the jury. Most of them were looking at me like I had been speaking Greek, and then engaged in an animated conversation about who they thought should win, based entirely on their individual senses of "right" and "wrong."

We eventually reached what I thought was the only defensible verdict, in part by persuasion and in part because some of them just got tired of the process and went along with anything that would get them out of the room.

To give you a sense of the level of understanding and analysis that was taking place, I have to include an event that happened during the trial itself. We were on a break, and a fellow juror sidled up to me and asked "what happens if we find him guilty?" He was asking me what would happen if we rendered a verdict of "GUILTY" against the PLAINTIFF in a CIVIL case. Good Lord.

We still have a big backlog of content, but we'll do another of these before the month is out. (Z)

Republicans' Nightmare Could Be Playing Out in PA-01

We've written it at least a dozen times, and we'll surely write it dozens more: The Democrats' road to retaking the House of Representatives runs through the 18 districts that were won by Joe Biden, but are currently represented by Republicans. We're talking seats like PA-01, which has a PVI of EVEN, was won by Biden 52%-46%, and is currently occupied by Republican Brian Fitzpatrick. It is based in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, including all of Bucks County and parts of Montgomery County.

As the GOP tries to hold on to these seats, what they really, really don't need is for abortion to become an even bigger liability than it already is. Under ideal circumstances for a member like Fitzpatrick, he would address the abortion issue as little as is possible, and his answer to the question of "So, what do you think about the Dobbs decision?" would be, "Well, I... wait, look over there! Isn't that a ruffed grouse? That's the state bird of Pennsylvania, you know."

That's wishful thinking, of course, but the situation gets vastly messier if one of these centrist members is challenged from the right by a staunch anti-abortion candidate. And that is exactly what just happened to Fitzpatrick in the person of one Mark Houck. Houck is an unknown, at least as far as politics is concerned, but he's an outspoken anti-abortion activist and is well known in those circles. He will, as you might imagine, run a single-issue campaign.

Fitzpatrick is going to have to hope that Houck (who opposes all exceptions to abortion bans, and who was just acquitted of assaulting someone at an abortion clinic) is so far out there that he doesn't attract much support. That said, these are Pennsylvania Republican voters; the same folks who gave you Doug Mastriano. There may be no "out there" that's too "out there" for them. And if Fitzpatrick has to tack rightward on abortion to keep 50% + 1 of the Republicans in his district on his side, then his words will almost certainly come back to haunt him in the general.

Not all of the Biden 18 will be challenged from the right, and not all of those who do draw such a challenge will be hurt by it. But there will be at least some of them for whom abortion access proves ruinous. The only question is how many.

We can't help but wonder if some wealthy Democrat has gotten the idea of looking into the other 17 Biden districts, picking a local anti-abortion activist in one or more of them, and agreeing to spend $1 million to help them get the Republican nomination for the House seat. Surely there are activists who would be willing to run for Congress to help the "cause." (Z)

CNN Resets Its Lineup

CNN is still trying to recover from the disastrous tenure of CEO Chris Licht, and yesterday the network unveiled its new, improved primetime lineup. Here is how the three main cable news channels will look during those hours, going forward:

Timeslot CNN Fox MSNBC
7:00 Erin Burnett Laura Ingraham Joy Reid
8:00 Anderson Cooper Jesse Watters Chris Hayes
9:00 Kaitlan Collins Sean Hannity Alex Wagner/Rachel Maddow (Mon.)
10:00 Abby Phillip Greg Gutfeld Lawrence O'Donnell
11:00 Laura Coates Trace Gallagher Stephanie Ruhle

We don't have too terribly much to add, other than even if you didn't know these stations' editorial slants, you could see a photograph of their primetime lineups and make a pretty good guess. The two lefty stations feature more women than men in primetime, both have at least one Black anchor, and CNN, for its part, doesn't have a single straight, white male in their primetime block. On the other hand, 80% of Fox's lineup fits that demo. And while we didn't include the far-right channels, they would have continued the straight-white-guy trend if we had.

In the end, this lineup juggling is mostly just putting lipstick on a pig. The reason that all cable news is suffering from declining ratings is NOT that they haven't found the right hosts. It's that millions of viewers are cord-cutting, and that most people under the age of roughly 50 (maybe 60) don't want to get their news from a traditional-style broadcast (assuming they want to get their news at all). It's not unlike how ABC executives ran around for years, like chickens with their heads cut off, struggling to figure out why they couldn't recapture what they had, ratings-wise and zeitgeist-wise, with Monday Night Football after Howard Cosell went to the big end zone in the sky. Here's a hint, folks: The marketplace has changed.

And as long as we're on the subject of personnel changes at cable news outlets, we'll mention that Fox just canned its top lawyer, Viet Dinh. He had many things going for him, including an impressive pedigree, extremely right-wing politics, and a close friendship with CEO Lachlan Murdoch. However, he also botched the Dominion Case, neither settling it early, nor taking it to trial and winning, with the result that Fox took a nearly $800 million hit. Dinh exits with a $23 million golden parachute, so don't feel too badly for him. (Z)

Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part III: The First Five

We were going to unveil the whole list at once, but it turns out to be a lot of words, especially on a day that begins with 4,000 words about Donald Trump's legal woes. So, we're going to split it. Since a split of eight and seven (or seven and eight) drives the ADD part of our minds nuts, we'll do three sets of five. Here's the first of those:

Matchup 1 (Inspired by Toys): Transformers: Dark of the Moon vs. Barbie

Reader Guesses

J.M.R. in Muncie, IN: I picked Barbie for this one because we spent some time with conservative family members this summer and they are pissed off about this movie. They couldn't say exactly why, other than, "It's not for kids." This follows a pattern in which one or more conservative relatives are angry at or about something, can't quite articulate why, and I later find out some conservative source of information—e.g., Tucker, Hannity, e-mail forwards, scammy alt-right social media, etc.—have been harping on the media, event, person, whatever.

J.E. in Gilbertsville, PA: I know the answer to Question 1 is Barbie. My girls saw that movie in theaters recently and came home disgusted by how "the whole plot was basically just about feminism." And their disgust says a lot about how over-the-top the feminism must have been: My girls are both feisty feminists!

The Answer

Barbie (Woke): "A feminist, misandrist and pro-transgender and gender division agenda movie (with also Ken(s) as the villain(s) and a biological man portraying Doctor Barbie) directed by liberal and misa-feminist Greta Gerwig."

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Conservative): "The film has an implicit denouncement of illegal immigration, due to the main villain, Sentinel Prime, tricking the protagonists into allowing for more Transformers to take over Earth as well as forcing them to recreate Cybertron."

96.5% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 2 (Disney): Beauty and the Beast (2017 remake) vs. The Lion King

Reader Guesses

G.K. in Blue Island, IL: Personally, I think The Lion King is more of a "message" movie, but I went with the other because I'm sure they'd blow a gasket over LeFou being more outwardly gay than "flamboyant."

D.E. in Lancaster, PA: I'm pretty sure I've got this one. Republicans hate all remakes, especially remakes by the Evil Disney. The Lion King was made before they were told to hate everything Disney, plus the African and the environmental subtext to the film goes right past them. The hatred for Beauty and the Beast goes beyond their dislike of remakes to an overly empowered Belle, but most because of a brief "gay moment" in the film where LeFou is seen to dance with one of Gaston's minions! Grab the smelling salts, Miss Lindsey has fainted again.

The Answer

Beauty and the Beast (2017 remake) (Woke): "Not only is it an atrocious and needless artistic decision of the filmmakers to needlessly incorporate diversity simply for the sake of it, but the 2017 film version of Beauty and the Beast also serves as an example that liberals can legitimately shoehorn the homosexual agenda into Disney films."

The Lion King (Conservative): "[C]ontains the same messages as the original film, from faith and heroism to honoring one's father."

79.4% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 3 (World War II): Das Boot vs. Casablanca

Reader Guesses

R.D. in San Diego, CA: Casablanca called Nazis bad, Das Boot starred them and showed them being heroic. Clearly, Casablanca is woke.

C.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada: To be honest, I don't see anything "woke" about either of these films. But I am guessing that Casablanca's attempt to discourage American isolationism, encourage international cooperation, and its sympathetic portrayal of refugees may not have impressed this particular conservative reviewer.

The Answer

Das Boot (Woke): "This anti-American war film looks at World War II from the Nazi perspective."

Casablanca (Conservative): "The triumph in the film of fidelity over promiscuity is a strongly conservative theme, and this movie portrays marriage, love, and fighting for freedom in a compelling way. This film glorifies self-sacrifice for greater good and promotes doing what's right even at expense to oneself (Rick, as played by Humphrey Bogart). Vichy France and Nazis are disparaged. The actors and actresses on the set of the filming conducted themselves admirably off-camera, in contrast with other films, and even played chess during breaks and in a filmed scene."

46.5% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 4 (Post-WWII American Conflicts): Born on the Fourth of July vs. Argo

Reader Guesses

A.M.S. in Silverdale, WA: You would think Born on the Fourth of July would be conservative from the title, but no! Woke! The film starts off okay with manly military war and stuff, but then turns into some kind of woke dissertation on turning an American soldier into a country-hating woke hippie.

K.C. in St. Augustine, DeSantisWorld (where woke AND presidential aspirations go to die): In Argo, Americans are taken hostage in Iran. A few escape the embassy and hide. An audacious plot is hatched to bring them home and outthink the Iranians. It's as American as apple pie, and it's based on actual events. Love the truth. The problem? Canadians provide shelter for the Americans. What? No, no, no. We're Americans. We don't need help, especially from a country that can't decide which language to speak. Maybe we're building the wall on the wrong border.

The Answer

Born on the Fourth of July (Woke): "This radically anti-Vietnam War biographical film was produced and directed by Communist sympathizer and twice wounded Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone, starring Tom Cruise as paralyzed Vietnam War vet-turned-anti-Vietnam War leftist protester and Communist sympathizer Ron Kovic."

Argo (Conservative): "The film highlights how inherently corrupt an Islam-based government can be as well as the incompetence of the Jimmy Carter administration in dealing with the hostage crisis."

52% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 5 (Starring Tom Hanks): The Da Vinci Code vs. Forrest Gump

Reader Guesses

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA: The only reason I picked The Da Vinci Code is in one episode of The Office, ultra-Christian Angela talks about burning it, so it must be offensive for some reason.

L.S. in Richland, WA: One way of determining which is the most woke might be to pick the movie that has the best critical reputation. If a film was immensely popular despite receiving a poor reception among the critics (The Da Vinci Code, for instance) then the other movie must be the Woke one, mustn't it? If wokeism is akin to elitism, anyway.

The Answer

The Da Vinci Code (Woke): "Based on the book of the same name, this mystery film supports the false theory that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, pushing feminism and attacking Christianity along the way."

Forrest Gump (Conservative): "The film shows how the 'counterculture' movements of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as drugs, lead to a miserable life... a main message is that Lyndon B. Johnson was largely responsible for the Vietnam War, not Richard Nixon as most liberals like George Lucas tend to think."

43.2% of readers got this one right.

The next five will be up on Thursday! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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