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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Legal Beagles Have Been Unleashed
      •  Follow the Money
      •  Does Being Indicted Help Trump?
      •  Can Trump Go Home?
      •  Biden Has a New Hampshire Problem--And a Guy from Vermont Could Solve It
      •  Did Putin Win the Debate?
      •  Keep an Eye on Youngkin
      •  Tech Platforms Are Giving Up on Banning Disinformation
      •  Does Absentee Voting Help One Party More Than the Other?

The Legal Beagles Have Been Unleashed

All 19 defendants in the Georgia RICO case have surrendered. All but one have been released on bail. Now what? In short, there will be a huge flurry of motions from all 19 defendants, with Judge Scott McAfee ruling on them in rapid succession. Caren Morrison, a former federal prosecutor in New York, said: "You need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all."

Two of the defendants, Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell, want a speedy trial in October. Georgia law says that they have a right to a trial within 70 days of their indictment. The judge said: "Fine with me" and scheduled it for Oct. 23. In contrast, Donald Trump wants a leisurely trial—say, in 2026 or later. One of the arguments for delaying the trials is that Fulton County DA Fani Willis has been working on the case for 2½ years. That gives her a head start, so the defense needs 2½ years just to do discovery and catch up. Willis also wants to try all 19 in one trial; most or all of the 19 don't want that.

We wish McAfee good luck trying to make everyone happy. Most likely he will allow anyone who wants a speedy trial to have one, since that is their legal right. If enough of the Atlanta 19 go that route, Trump's trial will have many fewer defendants and will be simpler. Also, if half a dozen or even a dozen co-defendants have been found guilty or pleaded guilty by the time Trump goes on trial, that will actually make Willis' job easier. If she can get a series of co-defendants to take the stand and say: "I conspired with Trump to violate the law in order to keep him in power illegally" that will surely help her case. Trump is not going to like that, but the law says "a trial within 70 days," so he's stuck with it.

Unless The Chese changes his mind, his trial will be spectacular. There is evidence that he told an Arizona lawyer that he knew his fake electors plan was not legal. There is also evidence that he drafted fake elector certificates and sent them to the fake electors in New Mexico. He also coordinated often with Rudy Giuliani, arranging fake electors in other states. Due to the nature of the Georgia RICO law, all of his acts relating to fake electors in all states can be introduced as evidence. It is hard to imagine him winning this one, and since he is barely known and Trump is not technically involved, a hung jury seems unlikely. If convicted, he could be looking at 20 years of free room and board in Georgia. That might inspire him to switch sides, which would be horrific for Giuliani and Trump, since he knows everything about the fake electors scheme and who approved what and who did what. A conviction or plea deal would be momentous and put the other 18 in great jeopardy. Note that The Chese is 62 years old. That doesn't mean he's moldy and beyond saving, but it does mean that 20 years in the crowbar hotel would be on the precipice of a life sentence.

Another issue is "Which court?" Mark Meadows and four others want to move the case to federal court because then they can claim what they did was part of their job and thus not a crime. Willis will argue that overturning an election was not part of their job descriptions. The first hearing on that is today before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in Georgia. Jones is a Black appointee of Barack Obama. That shouldn't matter, of course, but sometimes it does. If Jones takes the case, that could affect all 19 defendants.

In order to win, Meadows has to convince the Judge that all of the specific acts that he did to try to keep Trump in power were governmental and not political in nature. Willis is going to argue that the Hatch Act expressly forbids federal officials from using their office for political gain, so what he did violated the Hatch Act and thus could not possibly be part of his job. Job descriptions generally don't require employees to commit crimes (except jobs with the Mafia, or coaching USC football). Willis is likely to put several witnesses on the stand to show that Meadows pressured them. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is very likely to be one of them. She is also likely to call on Frances Watson, the chief investigator in Raffensperger's office. If all the witnesses say that Meadows and Trump were acting for the campaign, not the presidency, then Jones will likely deny the motion to move the case to federal court.

Another reason Meadows wants to move the case is that would change the jury pool. In state court, the jury pool is very blue Fulton County. In federal court it is a much more Trump-friendly 10-county region including plenty of suburban and rural areas. And remember, it takes only one person who refuses to convict to get a hung jury. That is far more likely in the federal jury pool. Meadows knows all of this, but so do Willis and the Judge.

One argument against "It was part of my job" is a letter Trump wrote to Raffensperger in Sept. 2021, asking him to decertify the election. He wasn't president in Sept. 2021, so Willis will argue that the criminal enterprise extended beyond Trump's presidency and thus was not part of his job. If it were, he would have stopped on Jan. 20, 2021, at noon.

Many other pretrial motions are expected. They must be filed within 10 days of arraignment, a cutoff that hasn't arrived yet for any of the defendants, but soon will. Every lawyer will file to dismiss the case, for example, because the grand jury was somehow tainted. Others will file to sever their cases from the main RICO case and be tried individually. Just scheduling all the hearings will require a spreadsheet. And don't forget, there is also plenty of action in the D.C. and Florida cases. We are definitely not going to make any promises about Trump-free days for a while. Maybe not for the rest of this geologic era.

Speaking of D.C., there is also Trump-related action there today as well. Judge Tanya Chutkan is scheduled to consider—and possibly set—the date of Donald Trump's trial in the Jan. 6 conspiracy case. Special Counsel Jack Smith wants it to start on Jan. 2, 2024. Trump would prefer sometime in 2026. Good luck with that. One complication is that she has to coordinate with McAfee to avoid a trial in D.C. and a trial in Atlanta at the same time, but she knows that of course. (V)

Follow the Money

Some of the legal action is intertwined with money because, except for defendants with public defenders, lawyers cost money. Lots of it. The desperate ones might work for $300/hour, but good ones are going to demand $500/hour or more if they are partners in a prestigious firm. Caren Morrison said that every motion will cost at least $10,000 as a bare minimum, since the lawyer will have to spend time doing research to find the best argument and will probably want to check out the judge's track record on similar motions in the past. Cornell law professor Randy Zelin said: "I don't see anyone's fee less than $250,000-500,000, unless they strike a plea deal with prosecutors. In the more complicated cases it could be much more."

Not all the defendants have that kind of money lying around. Donald Trump can fleece the rubes into paying his lawyers, but few, if any, of the others can. Rudy Giuliani is said to be broke and he is in more trouble than anyone other than Trump. Trump will hold a fundraiser for him on Sept. 7 at his club in New Jersey in a desperate move to keep Giuliani from flipping simply for financial reasons. Trump will certainly lean on his big donors to pony up and keep Giuliani on his side.

The others are on their own and may quickly conclude that flipping will not only be cheaper, but also safer. Suppose you had a choice: (1) Fight the case, pay lawyers $500,000, and still have a substantial chance of getting 20 years as a guest of the state of Georgia or (2) make a deal, pay your lawyer, say, $20,000 to negotiate a plea, and get 1 year. For defendants who don't have the money and/or who have not found the Fountain of Youth (which is somewhere in Florida and not Georgia, at least according to Juan Ponce de León) the latter may look like the better option.

Of course, you could set up a crowd funding page somewhere. Fake elector Cathy Latham did just that. She wants to raise $300,000 for her defense. Last time we looked, she had $8,630 or 2.9% of what she needs. Although there have been only 100 donors so far, 2,010 people have hit the button to pray for her. We don't know if she has autopray enabled, though.

One defendant in the RICO case, Harrison Floyd, is in an awkward situation. He can't afford a lawyer but the public defender has refused to take him on as a client for undisclosed reasons. Sounds like a potential candidate for a plea deal to us. Floyd, incidentally, is the co-defendant that hasn't made bail yet.

Michael Caputo, who was just a witness in the probe of Russia's interference in the 2016 election, tweeted: "I spent $300K+ on lawyers in the Clinton Russia Hoax. I was just a witness. These 18 additional targets in the GA indictment are in for far more legal expenses. They'll lose their homes, pull their kids out of schools, delay medical care. If you laugh you're going to Hell." If Willis is smart, she will make Trump's codefendants an offer they can't refuse. Oh, no. Wait. That's what a Don does.

Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who knows a thing or two about flipping, on Saturday told MSNBC: "If any one of them ends up turning, it's destruction for the rest." We think that is an exaggeration, because not all the defendants have incriminating information on all the others. Giuliani probably does, but someone like Harrison Floyd probably doesn't. Nevertheless, Cohen's point is well taken. Some of the defendants probably know enough to sink some of the others and if they flip, it could be curtains for the others. Cohen specifically mentioned legal costs as a reason someone might go over to the other side. According to news reports, John Eastman, for example, is not wealthy, but he was a true insider and knows everything. Trump has to worry about him.

Cohen added that if Trump weren't such a skinflint, he would pay all the legal costs of all the defendants out of his own pocket (and pay the resulting gift tax) just to keep them quiet. It isn't like paying someone to keep his or her mouth shut is foreign to him (see: Daniels, Stormy). Then Cohen added: "He has not learned yet that three people you don't want to throw under the bus like that are your lawyer, your doctor, and your mechanic. Because one way or the other, you're going to go down the hill and there'll be no brakes." (V)

Does Being Indicted Help Trump?

The short answer is: "Yes" in the primaries, "no" in the general election. The mugshot didn't bring in as much as a long-lost Van Gogh painting, but it did bring in a cool $4.2 million on the date of the booking and a total of $7.1 million in the first three days. The net amount is a bit less, since some of that haul was due to merch being sold and even low-quality made-in-China stuff costs the campaign something to buy and ship.

Possibly also a factor in the fundraising was Trump's first tweet (is there even a word for posting something to X?) since his account was reinstated last November. Still, in the past 3 weeks, the campaign has raised $20 million. Whoever said that crime doesn't pay obviously didn't have a Twitter account.

Undoubtedly all that money came from existing Trump supporters who are distraught at the thought of Trump having to pay his own legal bills. The indictments might make those in Iowa even more likely to brave the snow on a cold wintry night to go out and spend the evening in a freezing church to caucus for him. But that's all about the primaries. Winning the general election is a racehorse of a different color.

Politico had Ipsos run a poll on Trump. We don't know if this is a one-off thing, but in the past Politico used Morning Consult as its house pollster. Ipsos is a publicly traded French research company with 18,000 employees operating in 90 markets. This is kinda different than a small college where political science students make the calls.

Anyhow, here are some of the results. First, 61% of respondents want Trump to go on trial before the 2024 election:

Should Trump be tried before the 2024 election?

Of course, judges don't care what voters think, but if the trial is held prior to the election, it is probably going to annoy some voters and make them think he is guilty of something. Actually, they already think he is guilty. The next question asked if the respondent thinks Trump is guilty in the Jan. 6 coup attempt case. The answer is "yes" by 2 to 1, and even more with independents:

Is Trump guilty in the Jan. 6 case?

As to how a conviction would affect their vote, 32% of all respondents said a conviction would make them less likely to vote for Trump while 13% said it would make it more likely.

It could get worse for Trump. A sizable percentage of the public is not following his legal woes. Something like 30% said they do not understand the charges. If a case goes to trial, the coverage will be a tsunami. Of course, on Fox News it will be about how the deep state is railroading Trump, but the people who don't follow politics probably are not avid Fox viewers and may get their news from friends, social media, and other sources. If witness after witness says: "I was there helping Trump plot to steal the election," that is probably not going to help Trump with the people not currently paying much attention.

Another key question is whether the DoJ is being fair. Ipsos asked that, too:

Has the DoJ been fair to Trump?

Again here the gap between Democrats and Republicans is enormous, but by a 2-1 margin, independents say the DoJ has been fair to Trump. You can't win elections with only a third of the independents. And again, if there is a trial and eyewitnesses testify under oath about having seen Trump commit crimes, it is only going to get worse. If there is exculpatory evidence, why haven't we seen it already? It is rare for anyone accused of a crime to come out of it in better shape than he went in. Trump's real hope is that neither the D.C. case nor the Georgia case go to trial before the election. (V)

Can Trump Go Home?

As mentioned above, Trump posted to Twitter for the first time in 2 years late last week. Was that the first of many postings? Politico's senior media writer, Jack Shafer, has some thoughts on the matter. Trump has basically admitted that Truth Social is a failure in terms of readership, finances, and corporate structure. So will he come home to what everyone except Elon Musk calls Twitter? Heraclitus said: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Heraclitus was obviously a visionary thinking ahead of his time about social media.

Trump became a Twitter star because it was a novelty for a presidential candidate to act like a drunk at closing time, shooting off incoherent attacks on anyone and everyone who happened to pop into his head at the moment. Everyone wanted to see what he said, and if it contradicted what he said yesterday. His tweets all became their own news stories. The novelty has long since worn off.

Trump will make it even worse for himself by making a new appearance just a rerun of the old one. Deep state. Rigged election. I won. I Love Lucy was great the first time around, but less so by the eighth or ninth rerun. No one really expects anything newsworthy from Trump's tweets or truths anymore, so why bother looking at them?

Also important is that Elon Musk has so degraded Twitter that it has lost its cultural primacy and significance. Meanwhile, TikTok took over that role while Trump was on vacation. Twitter has become a right-wing cesspool of hate that is going to repel almost everyone but the most ardent Trump supporters—precisely the ones he doesn't have to reach (except for grifting) because they are already in the bag. As a result of Twitter's degradation, reporters don't check it every 5 minutes, like they used to. Does a tweet make a noise if it is typed in a forest and there is no one around to read it?

Another issue here is his contract with Truth Social. He isn't allowed to post anything to other social media sites first and has to wait 6 hours after a Truth Social posting to send it somewhere else. In the modern fast-paced world, that will make the tweet yesterday's news. Reporters don't want that.

So Shafer concludes that even if Trump comes back home, it's not going to be like last time at all. (V)

Biden Has a New Hampshire Problem--And a Guy from Vermont Could Solve It

At Joe Biden's request, the DNC decided to have the South Carolina primary go first, even though New Hampshire state law says its primary must go first. Since Republicans want New Hampshire to hold the first primary (and the second contest, after Iowa's caucuses) and the Republicans hold the trifecta in New Hampshire, there is zero chance of New Hampshire allowing any state to hold a primary before it does. The Republicans also hold the trifecta in South Carolina and they are probably not going to get into a food fight with New Hampshire, even though they might not mind going first, even if it was Biden's idea.

So what happens if New Hampshire holds an unsanctioned primary in January a week or so after Iowa? The DNC can punish New Hampshire by denying it delegates at the national convention, but New Hampshire is a swing state and doing that would really irritate New Hampshire voters. Worse yet, fringe candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. will probably file to run and so will Marianne Williamson, who appears to be interested in someday beating Harold Stassen's record for the largest number of pointless runs for president (though she'll have to live to 100 just to tie him). Biden obviously can't campaign there and won't file to be on the primary ballot, so Kennedy or Williamson could win the primary, which Biden doesn't want.

Enter Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who isn't even a Democrat. He has decided to campaign in New Hampshire for Biden, touting the President's economic successes and his measures to deal with climate change in the Inflation Reduction Act. Sanders is up for reelection in Vermont, and about 15,000 people who vote in Vermont work in New Hampshire, so campaigning on weekdays during working hours makes some sense for Sanders as well.

Although no party officials are talking about it out loud yet, it wouldn't be surprising if "some people" (preferably not Democratic officeholders) were to organize a write-in campaign for Biden. Sanders and other surrogates could then visit the state often to tout Biden's many fine accomplishments. Sanders has demonstrated that he is enough of a team player to be willing to do that. The other senator from Vermont, Peter Welch (D), is an actual Democrat and would certainly campaign in New Hampshire if asked to. People in southern New Hampshire certainly know the Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), and people along New Hampshire's eastern border certainly know Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats and is also up in 2024. Campaigning in eastern New Hampshire, close to the Maine border, also makes sense for him. So one possible way out for Biden would be not to file but to allow a write-in campaign led by Sanders and other friendly politicians. That could prevent the embarrassment of Kennedy or Williamson winning the unsanctioned primary. (V)

Did Putin Win the Debate?

Did Vladimir Putin watch the debate last week? He's not saying, but we bet he did. He doesn't like to speak English in public (and when he talks to foreign leaders on the sidelines at conferences, he speaks German if the other leader does, otherwise he speaks English, because his German is better than his English). Still, people who have heard him speak in English say that he can converse adequately in the language and he understands it perfectly. Therefore, watching the debate in the original language makes sense. Additionally, he could have asked a staffer to put in Russian subtitles or dub it in Russian. Here is a video of Putin speaking heavily accented, but otherwise reasonably fluent, English. And understanding any language when spoken is much easier than speaking it yourself.

What is of great interest to him is how the Republican Party feels about the war. He already knows how Trump feels about it, but he has to consider the possibility that Trump could die or be disqualified or be in prison on Jan. 20, 2025. So to cover all bases, he surely wants to know what other potential candidates would do if they became commander-in-chief.

The message he surely got from the debate is that most of the Republican candidates would be happy to stop sending weapons to Ukraine. He also undoubtedly understands that even if Biden wins, but the Republicans control at least one chamber of Congress, they could refuse to appropriate any more funding for Ukraine. The big takeaway for Putin is keep on fighting (although a temporary truce to allow his army to regroup would be fine). After all, there is a small chance that after Jan. 20, 2025, the U.S. will stop funding Ukraine, in which case Putin can just swoop in, gobble up Ukraine, and incorporate it entirely into Russia as one or more provinces. After that, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania might well be on the menu. Yes, they are NATO members, but tell that to President Trump, President DeSantis, or House Lapdog McCarthy.

Will Ukraine affect the election? It already is. If the Republicans nominate a candidate who wants to abandon Ukraine, Joe Biden is going to say: "If we abandon Ukraine, what do we do when Putin's emboldened army then rolls across Estonia or Latvia, both of which border Russia? They are NATO countries. Do we send American soldiers there to die? If not, what happens when China takes Taiwan by force? Is Israel next?" If the current stalemate continues until Nov. 2024, the war is very likely to be a campaign issue. But in war, like in politics, a week is a long time. (V)

Keep an Eye on Youngkin

A lot of big Republican donors are wetting their pants these days. They don't believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden and the Great White Hope—DeSantis—is turning out to be a mirage. No one else currently in the race has a prayer—well, OK, Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have lots of prayers, just no chance to win the nomination. So increasingly many Republican donors and others are starting to think about candidates not currently in the race.

One favorite is Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). He looks good in a fleece and offers up Trumpism so sugar-coated that you can't tell it is Trumpism until you have bitten all the way through it and gotten to the core. The immediate problem is that he is currently consumed with winning the Virginia General Assembly in Nov. 2023 so he can ram his program through. The state Senate is currently 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The House of Delegates is 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 3 vacancies. He desperately wants to hold the House and flip the Senate. Since he can't get any legislation through, he is campaigning more-or-less full time and will continue to do so until this year's election.

If the Democrats hang onto either chamber, he will lose a lot of his luster, but if he holds the House and flips the Senate, he will be available to jump into the presidential race at the last minute, especially since he is already a lame duck in Virginia. Of course, his being available, being very wealthy, and having a sunny disposition does not mean he could roll over Donald Trump easily, even if the big donors desperately want him to try. Youngkin is probably smart enough to realize that the chances of beating Trump are low, and if he is crushed by Trump, his chances of beating Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2026 will go down greatly. Consequently, he may well decide to resist all the pressure and focus on trying to govern (especially if Republicans control the General Assembly) and prepare for his 2026 Senate race.

Some Democrats are worried that the DNC doesn't see the danger in Youngkin getting a majority in both chambers of the Virginia legislature and then becoming a much smoother version of Ron DeSantis, one who definitely can connect with voters, especially suburban women. These Democrats, who include Warner and fellow Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, want more money directed to vulnerable Virginia state senators to deny Youngkin a majority in the Senate. They keep calling Joe Biden's top aides to try to convince them there is a fire to put out in Virginia.

Although it is a bit of a long shot, if Trump is the GOP nominee and decides he doesn't need a woman on the ticket, he might pick Youngkin as his running mate and the governor might accept. He's plenty Trumpy, but he is less grating than, say, pretend-Arizona-governor Kari Lake. The role of veep candidate would introduce him nationally and set him up for a 2028 presidential run and it certainly wouldn't hurt him if he decided to run for the Senate in 2026 as a first step.

Youngkin is certainly someone to watch. He is Trumpy enough for the base but is able to hide it well enough to connect with suburban women and tries hard not to antagonize any voters. There aren't many other Republicans like him. He could well have a big future in the post-Trump Republican Party. Of course, a lot of people said that about DeSantis last year, but when he got under the bright spotlight, he wilted. (V)

Tech Platforms Are Giving Up on Banning Disinformation

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the year of the dragon. Having a mythical beast be the symbol of the year 2024 is going to be a good match for an election year that is going to be dominated by mythical (dis)information. The problem is that the big tech companies are abandoning their roles as watchdogs looking for and beating down disinformation. Elon Musk has an ideological position that lies are just as important as the truth so he is against banning lies or even labeling them as such. If Donald Trump comes home (see above), he will surely use the lack of any vetting or censorship to the hilt, spewing falsehoods as fast as his stubby fingers can type.

In 2016, Russian trolls flooded Twitter with disinformation in an effort to elect Donald Trump. In 2020, the then-management of Twitter made an effort to police the site and remove the most egregious lies. It now looks like 2024 will be a repeat of 2016, at least on Twitter, only with more juice. New AI tools make it much easier to automate trolling and flood the zone with false information. They weren't available in 2016. Emily Bell, a professor of Journalism at Columbia University, said: "Musk has taken the bar and put it on the floor."

At Facebook, the situation is different. Over 20,000 workers have been laid off, making it harder for Facebook to enforce its own rules, even if it wanted to. The cuts hit the team responsible for policing fraud, harassment, and offensive content especially hard. After all, that team doesn't generate any profits. Earlier this month, someone posted a fake photo of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) allegedly signing a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to become police officers and sheriff's deputies. He did no such thing, but the caption read: "In Illinois American citizens will be arrested by illegals." Is that going to make Trumpy voters be sure to vote in Illinois (and elsewhere)? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, "You betcha!"

But at Facebook, it isn't only a matter of lack of resources to police disinformation. Facebook has created a new program to allow users to opt out of fact checking, so they can see anything posted, even things Facebook's staff has labeled as out-and-out lies. Global Affairs President Nick Clegg said: "We feel we've moved quite dramatically in favor of giving users greater control over even quite controversial sensitive content." In other words, if users want to treat lies and the truth as equals, who are we to stop them?

Banning lies on social media is intensely political. Katie Harbath, the former director of public policy at Facebook, said: "For Democrats, we weren't taking down enough, and for Republicans we were taking down too much. The result was an overall sense that after doing all this, we're still getting yelled at. It's just not worth it anymore." In other words, you can't make the people who tell lies and the people who oppose them both happy, so why bother?

One thought that came up was to end all political advertising on the site. But in July 2022, Mark Zuckerberg killed the idea. Besides, the problem isn't only false ads. It is also deliberately false postings by users, including politicians. For example, Mark Finchem, who was running for Arizona secretary of state in 2022, made a posting to Facebook saying that his opponent, Adrian Fontes, was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a cartel criminal who had rigged elections before. If Fontes had not been a public figure, the resulting defamation lawsuit would have cost Finchem tens of millions of dollars, but as Fontes is a public figure, his winning such a lawsuit would have been very difficult.

One as yet unanswered question is what is Meta's new brainchild, Threads, a Twitter clone, going to do about policing content. So far, executives have merely said that they will not encourage politics and hard news. But some folks don't need much encouragement. Or any.

The problem of disinformation is not limited to the U.S. Mexico also has a presidential election in 2024, and the lies and false information have already started. For example, social media there are already flooded with statements that the mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, who was an environmental scientist before becoming a politician and who is a likely presidential candidate, was born in Bulgaria and thus ineligible to be president (Sheinbaum's mother was born in Bulgaria, but Sheinbaum herself was born in Mexico City). Expect disinformation to be a worldwide plague going forward.

Can anything be done? Maybe. When a newspaper publishes a false defamatory item about someone, yelling "FIRST AMENDMENT" doesn't get them off the hook. That is not true for electronic media, but Congress could pass a law saying that the same rules that apply to newspapers, which have been well tested in the courts, also apply to digital media. The argument that "we publish so many user-generated messages that we can't vet them all" would likely be met with "Then publish fewer of them and check them all." But, of course, nothing is going to happen because Republicans in Congress see tech companies banning lies as outrageous censorship so they are never going to pass a law allowing people to sue the companies for publishing the lies.

Not all disinformation is on social media, though. The FSB has a program in which individual Russians talk to "useful idiots" in the U.S. to spread Russian propaganda. This makes it harder to finger the FSB as the source of the disinformation. The Russian mouthpieces are almost always unaware they are spreading lies concocted by the FSB. When the propaganda reaches a U.S. journalist, he is then getting it from an American, even though the ultimate source is the FSB. For example, the FSB made up a story that the White Helmets, a humanitarian group operating in Syria, was running a black market in human organs and had faked chemical attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The story went through some intermediaries and ended up being broadcast by the far-right outlet OANN. (V)

Does Absentee Voting Help One Party More Than the Other?

Republicans in recent years have vigorously opposed voting by mail as potentially fraudulent even though historically it has mostly been seniors who vote by mail and they skew Republican. This brings up the question of whether voting by absentee ballot helps one party more than the other. Recent studies suggest two things about absentee voting. First, it boosts turnout. Second it doesn't seem to give either party an advantage over the other.

One study of the 2020 election in particular showed that although 58% of the Democrats voted by mail and only 32% of Republicans voted by mail, on the whole, over the whole country, voting by mail did not lead to any partisan advantage. What studies can do is compare the Democrats' fraction of the vote in counties and states that have vote by mail with comparable ones that do not. If there is no significant difference, then the conclusion is that if voting by mail is not possible, then Democrats don't say "I'm not going to vote," instead they vote in person and the net effect isn't very much.

The study did observe a small difference between states with no-excuse vote by mail and states where some kind of excuse was needed to get an absentee ballot (like a doctor's note). The Democrats had a small advantage in the no-excuse states.

A bigger effect, however, is how much effort the parties put into voter outreach. When absentee-ballot applications were mailed to voters without their asking for them, turnout went up. Democrats have understood this for a long time, but now Republicans in a number of states are catching on and also encouraging their voters to vote by mail. If both parties do this equally, the effects are likely to cancel out and the main effect will be to boost turnout on both sides (and result in shorter lines at the polls).

In particular, in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin is actively pursuing a vote-by-mail strategy for the General Assembly elections, something Republicans have rarely done in the past. One problem he has, though, is that Donald Trump is against voting by mail and is telling his supporters not to do it. This means that Youngkin doesn't only have to get the mechanics right, he also has to convince voters that their absentee ballots will not be tossed into the shredder by Democratic election workers. That may be difficult. But long term, as the Republicans come to realize that absentee voting doesn't hurt them, they may drop all resistance to it and it may become much more common. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug27 Sunday Mailbag
Aug26 Saturday Q&A
Aug25 Trump Legal News: Kodachrome
Aug25 The Day After the Debate: Say Say Say
Aug25 A Fool and Their Money?, Part I: Fields of Gold
Aug25 A Fool and Their Money?, Part II: Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang
Aug25 This Week in Schadenfreude: Dirty Laundry
Aug25 This Week in Freudenfreude: Edge of Seventeen
Aug24 Not Much Sugar in Cream City
Aug24 Journalists Steak Their Reputations on Trump 2024
Aug24 Trump Legal News: Don't You (Forget About Me)
Aug24 You Mess with the Bear, You Get the Claw
Aug23 Trump Legal News: Out on Bail
Aug23 Eight Is Enough?
Aug23 Republican Logos: An Assessment
Aug23 "Hopalong, Trump," Says Cassidy
Aug23 Boebert Is in Real Danger of Losing Her Seat
Aug22 Trump's Bond in Georgia Has Been Set at $200,000
Aug22 Biden Campaign Predicts a MAGAfest at the Debate
Aug22 Republicans Trust Trump More Than They Trust Their Friends and Family
Aug22 More Women Than Men Have College Degrees Now
Aug22 All the President's Lawyers
Aug22 Turley Rebuts Baude and Paulsen
Aug22 Idaho Will Probably Be a Battleground in 2024
Aug22 Cornel West Owes $49,500 in Child Support and $466,000 in Back Taxes
Aug21 Trump Won't Debate
Aug21 DeSantis Is Taking Wednesday's Debate Very Seriously
Aug21 When Is a Basket of Deplorables Like a Barrel of Listless Vessels?
Aug21 Electability Doesn't Matter to Republicans Anymore
Aug21 Will Trump Go on Trial Before the Election?
Aug21 Prosecutors Are Asking for 33-Year Sentences for Proud Boys Leaders
Aug21 Biden Is Trying to Actually Contain China
Aug21 Hutch Made It
Aug20 Sunday Mailbag
Aug19 Saturday Q&A
Aug18 Trump Legal News: In the Year 2525
Aug18 DeSantis Debate Disaster: Everybody's Talkin'
Aug18 Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part V: Suspicious Minds
Aug18 This Week in Schadenfreude: Games People Play
Aug18 This Week in Freudenfreude: Hot Fun in the Summertime
Aug17 Trump Legal News: Nobody's Fault but Mine
Aug17 The Trump Indictment in Memes
Aug17 Trump Is Toxic... Except Where He's Not?
Aug17 Who Is the Current GOP Runner-Up?
Aug17 Ohio Republicans May Be About to Learn a Painful Lesson
Aug17 Fifth Circuit Guarantees Abortion Issue Isn't Going Anywhere
Aug17 Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part IV: The Middle Five
Aug16 Takeaways from Georgia
Aug16 Georgia Case Is Probably Going to Be Handled by Judge Scott McAfee
Aug16 The Co-conspirators Are Starting to Turn