• DeSantis Has a Donor Problem
• Trump Leads Biden in a National Poll of Unlikely Voters
• Nate Silver: A McConnell Moment for Biden Would Mean a Second Trump Term
• The Sharks Are Circling the Turtle
• McAfee Has Denied a Motion to Have Powell and Chesbro Tried Separately
• Biden Is Running Ads in North Carolina in Time for Football
• Two-thirds of D.C. Residents Would Vote to Find Trump Guilty
• Greene and Lake Are in a Catfight over a Bucket of Warm P**s
• Mexico's Supreme Court Decriminalizes Abortion Nationwide
Last week, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell had enough of Rudy Giuliani's shenanigans in the defamation lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss. She ruled in favor of the two women and said the only issue for the jury is how much Giuliani has to pay. Yesterday, Donald Trump avoided a trial on the issues in his ongoing defamation lawsuit from E. Jean Carroll. Smart! Saves him lawyers' fees! Well, maybe not, because the reason is that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled yesterday that Trump defamed Carroll again and no trial is needed. Now the jury will have to decide only one thing: How much Trump has to pay Carroll. So he is in the same situation as Giuliani. The jury doesn't have to bother about deciding whether the defendant defamed the plaintiff. The judge ruled that the previous jury had already determined that identical statements were defamatory, and so no trial was needed. Now all the two juries have to decide is the amount of damages.
In Trump's case, it could be stupendous. After all, he was found liable for defaming Carroll already. He was ordered to pay her $5 million. He knew that calling her a liar was defamation. Yet he did it again. Boy, would we like to be a fly on the wall when the jury meets. We imagine some juror starting the bidding at $10 million. Then another bids $20 million. Then a third one says: "I need to get home. $50 million and let's all get out of here."
How large can a defamation judgment be? Well, when Alex Jones claimed that the killings of 20 children and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax staged with actors, the parents of the dead children sued him. The jury awarded them almost $1 billion for compensatory damages (i.e., to compensate them for their pain and suffering as a consequence of his defaming them). Later the judge added another $473 million in punitive damages to punish him for lying. It is doubtful that Jones has $1.5 billion, but with that kind of money potentially at stake, the plaintiffs can probably find a forensic accountant interested in digging deeply into Jones' finances for a share of the take.
Trump, in contrast, is in a far weaker position than Jones. Many of his assets are real estate items that are registered with county recorders. They are hard to hide. If the defamation verdict is high enough, Carroll could ask Kaplan to seize Trump Tower and have it auctioned off to pay her. That might upset Trump more than the four upcoming criminal trials combined.
Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, said: "We remain very confident that the Carroll II verdict will be overturned on appeal, which will render this decision moot." On what basis can she predict that? Judges have the authority to rule from the bench when they feel that a case is so clear cut that no trial is needed, which is what Kaplan did. As an aside, Trump was not happy with Habba, even before yesterday's ruling. He already fired her from the case that New York AG Letitia James is working on. For her sake, we hope she was (well) paid in advance for her work. We find it hard to believe Trump can keep finding lawyers to defend him when he treats them like used tissues. This appears to be leading to a vicious circle downward. Every time he dumps a lawyer, it becomes that much harder to hire good quality replacements. Good ones don't want to put up with this. Then he has to hire lower quality lawyers, which often leads to poor results. That leads him to dump the lawyers. Rinse and repeat.
With four very high profile defamation cases (Trump 2x, Giuliani, Fox) decided recently, we wonder if folks on the right are going to be a bit more careful about what they say going forward. You'd think they would be, but you never know. (V)
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is exceptionally dependent on big donors, especially those who have businesses that he can affect using his powers as governor of Florida. He has relatively few small donors because not many people love him enough to send him money. They will vote for him over a second-hand turncoat like Charlie Crist, but sending money is a bridge too far. Now the big donors are closing their checkbooks and he has a big problem.
Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R)—who is not in prison, unlike many other former Illinois governors —used to be a big DeSantis supporter. He is a wealthy former private equity executive who gave almost $1 million to DeSantis' reelection campaign. As a big donor and also an experienced politician, he can smell a campaign in trouble a mile away. He is not giving DeSantis any more money.
He's not the only one. Politico has done some digging and discovered that of the 50 donors who gave at least $160,000 to DeSantis' reelection campaign, only 16 (less than a third) have donated to DeSantis' super PAC Never Back Down, where unlimited donations are allowed. That's not exactly a vote of confidence, especially since DeSantis badly needs the money right now.
Worse yet, five of the 50 are actively supporting rival GOP candidates. And of the 16 who are supporting DeSantis' presidential run, five of them are spreading the money around, betting on multiple horses at the same time to maximize their chances of hitting the jackpot. That means that only 11 of the 50 (22%) are supporting only DeSantis. Big donors almost always understand return on investment really well, and these big donors don't see DeSantis delivering.
Some of DeSantis' former donors have gone further than simply not donating. They have made a public announcement of their non-donations. That is not only a financial hit, but also humiliating to DeSantis. Robert Bigelow, by far the biggest donor to the super PAC, announced that he is not going to donate any more until DeSantis becomes more moderate. That is not going to happen, so Bigelow isn't going to pony up any more cash. Ken Griffin, donor #2, also said he's had it with DeSantis. Thomas Peterffy, who gave DeSantis' reelection campaign $3.6 million, has also reached his limit with the governor. Walter Buckley, who was DeSantis' 10th biggest donor in 2022, just gave $500,000 to Chris Christie.
Much of the problem is DeSantis' decision to sign a 6-week abortion ban. The evangelicals may eat that up, but big donors tend to lean libertarian and libertarians don't like Big Government mucking around in people's personal lives. A Republican fundraiser who is helping DeSantis, Roy Bailey, is putting on a brave face. He said, of the candidate: "No amount of political contributions could erode his core values." Right. DeSantis is a principled politician for whom money plays no role. Got that? (V)
While we greatly value comments from readers, please don't send us mail telling us about the typo in the headline above. We know and it's not. It is well known that in a good year, election turnout might hit 65% of eligible voters. That means that 35% of potential voters didn't bother to vote. In 2020, the presidential election had the highest voter turnout of the 21st century, with 66.8% of citizens 18 and older voting. A total of 158 million people voted. That also means that about 78 million people who were eligible to vote decided not to. That's a lot of nonvoters. Why don't they vote and who do they like?
A Suffolk University/USA Today poll of unlikely voters shows that many of them are double haters who are deeply skeptical of government. Some say they don't like any of the candidates. Others say their vote doesn't matter. Still others say the system is corrupt and elections are rigged. Three quarters of nonvoters say that politicians are full of empty promises. Many say: "Nothing ever gets done in Washington." The economy is a big issue with many of them. One man said: "Which poison do you like better?"
In a sense, blame the founding parents. They created this great system of checks and balances so that each branch of government could prevent the others from doing anything. It has advantages if you are worried about a tyrannical king running roughshod over the population, but clearly also has downsides compared to a parliamentary system in which a party that has a 1-seat majority in the parliament can often get much of its program enacted—and then get feedback at the next election.
Registered voters who don't plan on voting support Donald Trump over Joe Biden 32% to 13%, with 27% preferring a third party or other candidate. Among citizens who aren't even registered but could register if they want to, Trump's lead over Biden is 28% to 13%, also with 27% preferring someone else. This poll represents a tidal change from a similar poll the same pollster did in 2012. Then nonvoters preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 42% to 18%.
If even a modest percentage of these nonvoters would register and vote, Trump would win easily. Getting nonvoters to vote is clearly something Republicans ought to be working on. What would it take to get them to vote? Many said "a miracle" or "nothing." (V)
The health situation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a hot issue now (see below). Election statistician Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight, just wrote: "This election is probably going to be close, and Trump might be only one Biden-has-a-McConnell-moment away from winning." It's probably true. Many people, even Democrats, are worried about Joe Biden's age—and the possibility of Kamala Harris having to sit in the big chair if he can't does not fill many people in either party with a sense of joy.
What would happen if Biden had a major health scare? What if he froze up during a speech for 20 or 30 seconds and had to be helped away from the podium by an aide? The only news story for weeks would be: "Biden is too sick to be president." He could have the White House physician issue all the glowing reports he wanted to, but Biden would be toast.
Biden appears to be in good shape for an 80-year-old, sticks to a healthy diet, and has the best medical care in the entire world. But he can't go out and play a couple of sets of tennis or some touch football à la JFK to demonstrate his health. He can keep his campaign appearances limited to short speeches at friendly indoor venues, like union halls, but there is no practical way to pretend he is 60 instead of 80.
If Biden had a health incident, a lot would depend on when he had it. If it were next week or month, he would have the option of dropping out of the race, creating a free-for-all as 20 Democratic POTUS wannabes jumped in. That might result in a stronger candidate—say, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). But if Biden has a health incident after the Democratic National Convention, then what? If he formally dropped out, the DNC could pick a new candidate, again possibly Newsom or Whitmer (or a Newsom/Whitmer ticket), but would that be legitimate in the eyes of the voters, since they wouldn't have had a trial by fire in the primaries?
While Biden can have a physical exam every month if he wants to and he can instruct the White House chef to put more spinach and fewer fries on his dinner plate, some things are out of his control and he has to live with them. One thing he could do, though, is run ads mentioning that he is only a couple of years older than Trump and lives a much healthier lifestyle than Trump does. The ads could show Biden well dressed and healthy looking and Trump as a disheveled fat slob.
One thing that Silver didn't mention is that it could go the other way as well: Trump could have a McConnell moment. Then the shoe would be on the other foot. Fate doesn't play politics. (V)
Yesterday we had an item about how U.S. Capitol Physician Brian Monahan gave Mitch McConnell a clean bill of health. He's fit as a fiddle, end of story, right? Not so fast. None other than the other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul (R), yesterday said: it's "not a valid medical diagnosis." Not only is Paul a Republican senator from McConnell's own state, but he is also a physician himself, one of four in the Senate, the others being John Barrasso (R-WY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Roger Marshall (R-KS). Now, Paul is an ophthalmologist, but since the eye-bone is connected to the brain-bone, his area of expertise is at least closer to the issue at hand than that of orthopedist and rodeo physician Barrasso, liver specialist Cassidy, or gynecologist Marshall. Paul went on to say: "I don't think it's been particularly helpful to have the Senate doctor describing it as dehydration, which I think even a non-physician seeing that probably aren't really accepting that explanation."
Paul isn't the only Republican senator who is not impressed with the official diagnosis. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said: "You can't have it both ways. You can't say that you're concerned about Joe Biden but you're not concerned about Mitch McConnell. It's either one or the other."
McConnell did get some support from other senators, though. Sort of. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said: "The health scares he's had were frightening, but age comes for us all, and Mitch is stubborn as a mule and he's tough." Is that an endorsement of McConnell or a put down? The other Texas senator, John Cornyn (R-TX), who is eyeing McConnell's job, said: "It appears that it's harder to recover from a concussion when you're 81 years old than maybe he thought." Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who is also greatly interested in having McConnell's job, said he had a couple of conversations with McConnell. He also said the Kentuckian: "will have an opportunity to address colleagues about his health and other issues at lunch later in the week."
The National Review, an influential conservative publication, has called for McConnell to step aside. So far, he has given no sign that he intends to. Maybe the third time's a charm. Late yesterday, McConnell announced that he will finish his current term. If there are no more incidents, probably he will. However, if there is another one in public, well, it could be three strikes and you are out. (V)
Under Georgia law, a criminal defendant has a right to a trial within 70 days of indictment. Alleged RICO co-conspirators Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell have both requested trials within 70 days, as is their right. They also asked Judge Scott McAfee to sever their trials from each other. Yesterday he ruled "Nope, not doing that." He appeared very skeptical about trying all 19 defendants on Oct. 23, the date set for Chesebro. He also does not want two separate trials, one for Powell and one for Chesebro starting Oct. 23, because the prosecution has said they have 150 witnesses and expect the trials to take 4 months. McAfee is not keen on two parallel trials that last 4 months and then potentially another 17 trials also lasting 4 months afterwards.
The nature of a RICO case is that all the defendants are tied together. All defendants in a conspiracy are responsible for acts of the other conspirators, which makes all the trials very long when there are many conspirators and criminal acts. Since Powell and The Cheese have a legal right to a speedy trial, McAfee ruled that he will try the two of them together starting Oct. 23. Thus, they are severed from the others, just not from each other. In other words, The Cheese cannot stand alone. It is a bit odd that they will be tried for conspiracy even though they don't know each other, but that's the way the RICO law works.
Another complication is that yesterday three more defendants—Robert Cheeley, Jeffrey Clark, and Shawn Still—also asked to sever their cases from the RICO 17. Will McAfee decide to have just two or three trials? For example, one on Oct. 23 for anyone in a hurry and one later for folks not in a hurry? He also has to take into account that the federal case against Trump is scheduled to start on March 4 and he surely wants to avoid interfering with that. This gives him an incentive to do it in two batches, one running from Oct. 2023 to Feb. 2024 and one later next year. He could ask all the defendants to pick a batch.
Another factor is that some of the defendants are likely to flip, plead guilty, and not be tried at all. So, McAfee is going to have a full-time job just figuring out how to run his trials. This situation is probably something Special Counsel Jack Smith was worried about, so he indicted only Donald Trump to avoid this kind of situation. He can always indict the other six co-conspirators after Trump's trial is finished.
One interesting part of this is that most or all of the evidence that will be used against Trump will get a dress rehearsal in the Oct. 23 case, no matter whether it is two, five, or some other number of defendants. The judge has a fair amount of leeway in setting trial dates. If he wants to have all the small fish be in the Oct. 23 batch, he could do that, especially since Georgia law requires a speedy trial (although there is no maximum time from the indictment, just a provision that defendants may demand a trial within 70 days if they so choose). (V)
Football is big in the South, even in Southern states with "North" in their name. Joe Biden knows this, so his latest ad aimed at North Carolina is just in time for the fall NFL season. The ad will air during the primetime season opener between the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is the ad:
The ad is about inflation being down to 3%, unemployment being the lowest in decades, and manufacturing jobs being up. It is the kind of ad designed to appeal to football fans, a.k.a., disproportionately men. The economy really is in pretty good shape, but the word hasn't gotten out yet, so he is going to harp on it until everyone knows. This ad is part of a $25 million ad buy in the swing states. It will run on television and digital. Also, a recent poll shows that 70% of Americans don't know about the Inflation Reduction Act, which has numerous incentives for people—for example, rebates for buying energy-efficient products.
Biden isn't the only one advertising in North Carolina now. Americans for Prosperity, the baby of the remaining Koch brother, is running an ad encouraging Republicans to vote for someone other than Trump in the March 5 Republican primary. It's been known for a while that Charles Koch is no fan of Trump, but now he is putting his money, of which he has a lot, where his mouth is. While the AfP ad doesn't tell people to vote for Biden, by dissing Trump, it could make him less attractive to independents, which is also useful to Biden. (V)
The first of Donald Trump's four criminal trials, barring a change, is the one in D.C. on March 4, 2024. About 95% of the voters in D.C. are Democrats, so the jury pool is about as bad for Trump as can be. Judge Tanya Chutkan will no doubt do her best in the voir dire to pick an unbiased jury, but it is going to be tough because so many potential jurors already have an opinion about the case.
To put a finer point on it, a new Emerson College poll shows that 64% of D.C. residents think he is guilty, 8% think he is innocent, and 28% are unsure. Chutkan will try to focus on the 28%, of course. However, surely a fair fraction of the 64% are going to answer the question: "Are you able to put aside your personal views of the defendant and base your decision on the facts and the law" in the affirmative. Then what? She can ask who they voted for, but a legitimate answer is: "We have the Australian ballot here in America. I'm not answering that one." She can't reject everyone for cause. With such a skewed jury pool, the chance that Trump is acquitted is close to zero. The best he can realistically hope for is one or two die-hard Trumpists on the jury to hang it. As we have pointed out before (and will probably mention again), while the prosecution and defense lawyers may suggest questions for the voir dire, they don't take part in it in federal trials. The judge does the whole thing.
The poll found that even among D.C. Republicans, Trump is not sure of acquittal. Among them, 36% said they would find Trump guilty, 35% said they would find him innocent, and 33% don't know. It will only get worse during the trial, as multiple witnesses take the stand and say: "I personally conspired with Trump to overturn the election." That might lead to an interesting conversation in the jury room when one holdout is bombarded with, "But we heard seven witnesses say that they personally conspired with Trump to overturn the election. How can you say he didn't do it?"
If the D.C. criminal case goes first, as now seems likely, that sets the stage for the others. Once people have been immersed in "Trump is a convicted felon" stories for weeks, that is sure to influence jurors in the other cases. The holdouts are going to hear: "But we know Trump is a crook already. Why can't you believe he committed multiple crimes?" (V)
Both Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and pretend-Arizona-governor Kari Lake would like a job allegedly not worth a bucket of some warm liquid. Both are cozying up to Donald Trump in an attempt to woo him. Each is now in a fight to the death to take the other one down. They distrust each other intensely. Greene is calling Lake a "grifter" and says she is not even a conservative. Lake is accusing Greene of leaking negative stories about her to the media. One of those lines of attack seems rather nastier than the other, at least from where we sit.
This wouldn't be the first time Greene was jealous of another woman on the right getting more attention than herself. She called Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) "a little bi**h" on the House floor earlier this summer. She is at least partly right. Boebert is 5'0," which certainly qualifies her as "little."
The veep situation is complicated because no one can predict whom Trump will pick as his running mate (assuming he gets the nomination). He might not even make the decision until the July convention. This is more of a headache for Lake than Greene. Greene will simply file to run again in her district and get the nomination. She won't be opposed by anyone serious. Lake, however, is also considering running for the U.S. Senate. The filing deadline for the Republican primary in Arizona is April 8, 2024. She will have to decide by then. In theory, she could file and then drop out if Trump picks her, but if Trump quietly tells Lake that she's the one and she files in Arizona just in case, he would certainly see that as a slap in the face and it would probably cause him to pick someone else. Both women are extremely polarizing, so Trump's advisers will probably try to talk him out of picking either one. If he really wants a woman, someone like Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is very Trumpy but less polarizing and might be more acceptable to independents, mostly because they know nothing about her. Of course, some people will remember Sarah Palin in 2008 and think "Oh God, another weird woman from nowhere." One advantage Noem has, however, is that you can't see Russia from her front porch. Maybe Canada on a clear day, though. (V)
Abortion is legal in many countries, but it was a mixed bag in Mexico. Until yesterday, it was legal in 12 states and illegal in the other 20 states. Now due to a decision of the Mexican Supreme Court, it is legal in all 32 states.
So how does that affect U.S. politics? An abortion is de facto nearly impossible to obtain in Texas now. However, Texas has a 1,241-mile-long border with Mexico. San Antonio, TX, is a 3-hour drive from Nuevo Laredo. Austin is 4 hours from there. Corpus Christi is 2½ hours from Matamoros, Mexico. McAllen, TX, has a bridge right into Hidalgo, Mexico. Get the idea?
It won't take long for women in Texas to discover that abortions are available in Mexico. It also won't take long for Mexican doctors to set up shop along the border running abortion clinics, in some cases staffed by doctors who merely write prescriptions for abortion pills, presumably with minipharmacies right in the clinic to fill them. In addition, most costs are lower in Mexico than in the U.S., so Mexican doctors can charge less than U.S. doctors and still make a good living.
Getting a Mexican abortion may become as popular as getting a Mexican divorce used to be, back when they were hard to get in the U.S. One of us, (V), remembers the first time he drove from California to Tijuana many years ago. The entire road on the Mexican side was almost wall-to-wall billboards with signs like:
- Mexican divorce lawyer, call xxx-xxxx
- Marriage and divorce lawyer, call xxx-xxxx
- Mexican lawyer specializing in family matters, call xxx-xxxx
- Fast divorces, call xxx-xxxx
- English-speaking Mexican lawyer, call xxx-xxxx
- Mexican lawyer. Low fee and I accept U.S. dollars, call xxx-xxxx
There were dozens of giant billboards along the road. None of them were in Spanish. All of them had photos of smiling and friendly-looking Mexican lawyers. Could we get a repeat performance, only with doctors instead of lawyers this time? Maybe. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep06 Secretaries Blast Tuberville
Sep06 The Decline and Fall of Mitch McConnell?
Sep06 Johnson, of the Tennessee Three, Running for the U.S. Senate
Sep06 The Trouble with Biden
Sep06 Amo Wins in Rhode Island, while Utah Is Still up in the Air
Sep06 Judicial News, Part I: Court Strikes Down New Alabama Maps
Sep06 Judicial News, Part II: More on the Wisconsin Shenanigans
Sep06 Judicial News, Part III: North Carolina Justice Sues
Sep06 Report from Texas
Sep05 White House Thinks U.S. House Is about to Make Two Unforced Errors
Sep05 This Week in Biden "Dirt"
Sep05 Today's the Day in Texas
Sep05 Wisconsin Republicans Hate Democracy
Sep05 Republicans Have a Scheme to Attract Black Voters
Sep05 We're In a Polling Desert Right Now
Sep05 The Fourteenth Amendment, Part II: Let Us Have Peace
Sep04 The Snub Heard Round the World
Sep04 Trump Is Running Out of Other People's Money to Pay His Lawyers
Sep04 Trump Is Not Paying for His Co-Defendants' Defense
Sep04 The Primaries and the Trial
Sep04 Florida Judge Vetoes the Congressional Map DeSantis Drew
Sep04 Why Do Republicans Really Support Russia over Ukraine?
Sep04 Highways Are the New Battleground
Sep04 But Democrats Are Fighting Back
Sep04 Arizona Republicans Are at War with Each Other
Sep04 Small Donors Are the Problem, Not the Solution
Sep04 Utah Could Elect a Trump-Hating, Abortion-Supporting Republican to the House
Sep03 Sunday Mailbag
Sep02 Saturday Q&A
Sep01 Trump Legal News: Not Guilty
Sep01 DeSantis Has Troubles: Bye, Bye, Love
Sep01 Clarence Thomas Amends Disclosures: You're Not Sorry
Sep01 Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Sep01 My Gift is My Song, August 31: Rock of Ages
Sep01 This Week in Schadenfreude: Everything Happens To Me
Sep01 This Week in Freudenfreude: Child Is Father of the Man
Aug31 Meadows' Gambit May Backfire
Aug31 There Are Three Republican Parties
Aug31 Giuliani Loses the Lawsuit from Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss
Aug31 Letitia James Claims that Trump Inflated His Net Worth by $2.2 Billion
Aug31 Frozen Turtle--Again
Aug31 DeSantis Refuses to Accept $350 Million for Florida
Aug31 The Democrats May Have An(other) Economic Issue that Works
Aug31 Republicans Are Working on a New Campaign Finance Loophole
Aug31 Republicans Have a Senate Candidate in Michigan
Aug31 Masters Will Try Again
Aug31 Big Republican Donor Joins the No Labels Team
Aug31 The House Toss-Up Races Look Good for the Democrats
Aug31 The Democratic Party Is at War with ... the Democratic Party