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We have, of course, been using song titles to give headlines for the near-daily Trump legal items a little bit of oomph. Without that, it's not easy to find 100 different ways to write "Trump Legal Hole Gets Deeper." And after we chose today's Trump legal news song, there was a second item (the one on impeachment) that also lent itself to a song title. By chance, the two songs chosen had a commonality, so we decided to go back and give EVERY item a song, with every song having that same commonality.

So, can you guess what all nine songs have in common? Feel free to send in your answer; on Tuesday of next week, we'll reveal what the commonality is, and we'll probably also identify the three readers (by their initials) who sent in the correct answer most rapidly. Note that all 10 song titles are on the right side of the colon, and they have not been altered in any way.

Trump Legal News: Writing's on the Wall

It used to be that there was an item of Trump legal news nearly every day. But these days, a day with just one such story is pretty rare. Now, the general rule is that there are multiple stories every day. That's how things go, we suppose, when you're out on bail in three jurisdictions (with a fourth coming soon, presumably). Here's the latest:

Auld Lang Syne: It might not be a Happy New Year for Donald Trump, because Special Counsel Jack Smith proposed that the Washington, DC, case commence on January 2 of next year. The feds also estimated that their case would take 4-6 weeks to present, which means Trump could be a convicted felon by Super Tuesday (March 5).

It's possible Judge Tanya Chutkan will sign off on that date, and that's that. Undoubtedly, Team Trump will try to push it back, but basic game theory does not favor their situation. That is to say, if they push for a date in December of 2024, that's going to look like an unserious request designed purely to drag the case out beyond the election. Chutkan is well-known for having a low tolerance for such shenanigans. If, on the other hand, the defense proposes something more reasonable—say, mid-March—then they don't really achieve much, and arguably they put Trump in a worse situation, PR-wise, since the trial and campaign would be entirely coterminous. Whatever happens, it's becoming nearly impossible that Trump is going to be able to push all of his legal troubles out past the election.

Not Guilty, Redux: Meanwhile, in the case brought by Jack Smith—that is, the other case brought by Jack Smith—Trump and his staffer Walt Nauta entered pleas of "not guilty." They had already entered pleas, of course, but they were required to respond to the additional counts that appear in the superseding indictment. Carlos De Oliveira, who was named only in the new indictment, has yet to secure local counsel, since he apparently won't be able to share Stanley Woodward with his co-defendants. So, he has not entered a plea yet, since that can only be handled by a lawyer admitted to the Florida Bar.

X Gon' Give It To Ya: It is not known what case this relates to, but Team Smith also got a search warrant that enabled them to access the account belonging to Trump on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. If you had to guess, you'd have to assume that it was for the 1/6 case, since Trump's Twitter activity is a pretty big part of that story. But again, just a guess. The only reason this news came to light is that Elon Musk & Co. resisted the warrant and had to pay a fine.

Hot 'Lanta: Fulton County DA Fani Willis continues to make everyone wait for the other shoe to drop. Well, OK, for the other, other, other shoe. CNN reports that she plans to indict at least a dozen people, and that one of them is Trump. One suspects that someone in Willis' office leaked that, at the DA's instruction, as part of her strategy for keeping things from being too explosive when the hammer falls. You know, the same reason that a pressure cooker releases the steam a bit at a time rather than all at once.

It is also the case that there are three weeks left for Willis to meet the end-of-August deadline she's hinted at, and that if the goal is to tamp down the response, a Friday afternoon/evening makes the most sense. So, today could be the day. That said, people tend to get a warning before they are indicted, and every time Trump has gotten that warning, he's run to his boutique social media platform to complain to his followers. There's been no Truth Social posting about an imminent Georgia indictment, so maybe today's not the day.

The Academics Speak: William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen are both law professors (at the University of Chicago and the University of St. Thomas, respectively). They are also both active in the Federalist Society, which means they are conservatives. And, as reported by The New York Times, they have finished a draft article that will be published next year. In it, they apparently make a painstaking case that Trump has violated the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that he is no longer eligible to serve as president. As summarized by Baude: "Donald Trump cannot be president—cannot run for president, cannot become president, cannot hold office—unless two-thirds of Congress decides to grant him amnesty for his conduct on Jan. 6."

We do not know exactly what is driving Baude and Paulsen. Perhaps they are just trying to add to the world's body of knowledge, as academics are supposed to do. Could be, although the fact that they've aligned themselves with a right-wing activist group suggests there's more going on. Maybe they are Never Trumpers. Maybe they are trying to save the Republican Party from itself, by getting a serious conversation about the Fourteenth Amendment underway. In any event, this article is going to be fuel for at least a few lawsuits. And given the politics of the authors, it's likely to be taken more seriously than would be an article from, say, outspoken anti-Trump scholar Laurence Tribe.

Incidentally, when the new piece is published, it will be in The University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Surely the duo did not choose that publication by coincidence.

And that's today's roundup. Undoubtedly there will be much more next week. (Z)

Trump To Skip Debate Pledge: Que Sera, Sera

In addition to generating plenty of legal news this week, Donald Trump also generated some political news, as he announced that he would not sign the pledge to support the Republican nominee that is a "requirement" for participating in the first candidates' debate. "I wouldn't sign the pledge," Trump said to some Newsmax host. "Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn't have?"

This whole pledge idea was foolish from the beginning, and RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel never should have attempted it. Obviously, she was kowtowing to Trump and trying to keep the party unified behind him. But even Trump himself isn't interested in the scheme. Now, McDaniel has the worst of all worlds. If she sticks with the requirement, then she might well exclude candidates that Republican voters damn well want to see up on stage (like, say, Trump). If she backs down, then she shows the world who's really calling the shots, and that the RNC cannot be taken seriously. And on top of all that, she's also given candidates an "out" for not appearing at the debate.

And that is what we actually suspect is going on here. There are good reasons for Trump to attend the debate, namely to prohibit his opponents from getting two hours of national attention and publicity without him there. And there are good reasons for him to skip the debate, namely to avoid putting his frontrunner status at risk. At the same time, we know that his current shtick is "I'm a martyr." Add it up, and it looks like he's laying the groundwork for not only avoiding the debate, but turning himself into the victim. "I wanted to be there to teach Ron DeSanctimonious a lesson, but the biased people who run the debates demanded that I sign paperwork that I wasn't going to sign, because I'm too honest to do that. Very, very unfair to me. In fact, people are saying I shouldn't do any debates ever again, because they're so unfair."

The debate is exactly 2 weeks away, which means time for Trump to change his mind roughly 28 times about whether he will attend or not. But at the moment, the tea leaves seem to suggest "not." (Z)

DeSantis Fascism Alert: A Whole New World

We've said it before, and we will undoubtedly say it again: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is a frightening man. There is, first of all, his comfort with implementing his political agenda through violent means. In just the past week, he has said he would like to launch drone strikes against Mexican cartels, and also that on his first day in office as president, he would "start slitting throats" of employees of the federal bureaucracy. The first threat was literal, the second figurative, but both speak to DeSantis' "maniacal psychopath" tendencies, to borrow the characterization used by (non-violent) conservative Bill Kristol.

On top of that, DeSantis is plenty comfortable with abusing democratic norms, and using every loophole he can find in order to impose his will and punish his enemies. The latest news comes out of Orlando, which is ground zero for the Governor's culture war. This particular story doesn't involve Disney, however. It involves State Attorney Monique Worrell, who is now suspended, on DeSantis' orders.

According to a statement issued by DeSantis' office, Worrell was suspended for "neglect of duty and incompetence," which means that, in his view, she was supposedly not hard enough on defendants. This doesn't come close to passing the smell test, for a number of reasons:

If any one of these seven things were true, then maybe we could squint carefully and see how the move might possibly be legitimate. Possibly even if two of the seven were true. But all seven? No, way.

Anyhow reinventing Florida as a site of violence, suppression of democracy, racial purity, draconian punishments for crimes, appeals to anger, cronyism, etc.? Again, those are among the key signifiers of fascism. We don't like writing that, but it is what it is. (Z)

Biden Impeachment: It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp

We freely admit this is not really worthy of an item, since it's just Freedom Caucus hot air. But it's also too nutty to let it pass. So, we give you the latest from Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL). He was doing an interview with some Newsmax host, and decreed:

Tomorrow, I intend on filing an impeachment resolution on Joe Biden for bribery, for extortion, obstruction of justice, fraud, financial involvement in drugs and prostitution. We have all the facts and evidence now.

That's right, Steube has the "proof" that Biden is involved in prostitution. Since we doubt he's selling himself for money, he must therefore be running a pimping operation out of the White House. Or maybe it was out of Number One Observatory Circle.

For some reason—who can possibly imagine what it might be—Steube was not willing to share the evidence during his interview. Given that the other House Republicans are filled with anxiety about whether or not they will be able to impeach the President, they apparently haven't seen the evidence either. The Representative promised that he will share what he's found at a press conference this morning. Just remember what he said: "We have all the facts and evidence now." So, whatever he presents this morning should make a complete and persuasive case for his claims. Stuff that "hints at [X]" or "suggests [Y]," promises of continued investigations, etc., do not fulfill the terms of what Steube committed to.

Naturally, whatever the Representative comes up with today will be nonsense. It is win-the-lottery-level improbable that clear evidence of gross and widespread Biden venality would go uncovered for years or decades, while anyone and everyone was looking for it, only to be found by one of the dullest knives in Congress. And if such a miracle did happen, Steube wouldn't be unveiling it in this way; he'd be running to the biggest media outlet he could find, probably Fox, and giving them the dirt in exchange for hours of talk about his "heroic" scoop.

It is at least possible that these constant Freedom Caucus stunts are finally driving a wedge between that faction and the rest of the Republican conference. Also in the news yesterday were several stories like this one, about the budget. It would seem that some sizable number of House Republicans have been considering the upcoming budget fight, and the potential risk of a government shutdown, which would probably be blamed on, well, House Republicans. That sizable number of House Republicans has been pondering a very tricky maneuver in order to avoid such a fiasco. What they might well do, when push comes to shove, is... work with House Democrats to hammer out a compromise.

We will pause for a moment while readers pick themselves up off the floor, undoubtedly shocked by such brazen normalcy. It's another reminder that we now inhabit a world where "Congress may work how it was designed to work" is front-page news. (Z)

Manchin and Sinema: We Belong Together

Yesterday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D?-WV) sat for an interview with a West Virginia-based radio host named Hoppy Kercheval. That sounds like a supporting character in a Dashiell Hammett book, but apparently he's a real person. And during that interview, the Senator said—yet again—that he is thinking about becoming an independent, just like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) did. "I'm thinking seriously," Manchin explained, "I have to have peace of mind, basically. The brand has become so bad. The D brand and R brand ... You've heard me say a million times, I am not a Washington Democrat."

There's no doubt that Manchin's political career is near its end. If he's reelected to the Senate, he would be 83 at the end of his next term. If he returns to the West Virginia governor's mansion (manchin?), he would be 81 on reaching the end of that term. And that's with his political identity falling more and more out of alignment with his home state. What it boils down to is that he needs to pull one last rabbit out of the hat in order to win one more election and then exit the political arena on his own terms.

Further, at this point, it seems to us that Manchin has largely shown his cards. If he was going to run for president as the "No Labels" candidate, there would be no need for all of this public gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. The only point to his regular public dithering about whether or not he is really a Democrat anymore is to give West Virginia voters the strong impression that, well, he's not really a Democrat anymore. It's either a built-in apology for the (D) next to his name on the ballot, or it's laying the groundwork for the "I've decided that I'm now an independent" press conference.

Of those two options, it's considerably more likely that it will be the latter. Manchin has spent too much time trashing the Democratic Party, in terms that are far too clear, for him to run for reelection as a member of Team Blue. It is probable that the public performances will continue for another few months, until it's too late for any sort of meaningful primary campaign by an actual Democrat. Then, Manchin will execute the Sinema Maneuver and announce that he's decided to become an independent. His regular performances of the "The Ballad of Joe the Independent" will make it look like a tough, heartfelt decision, as opposed to the opportunism it really is.

If this is the plan, then it makes much more sense if Manchin is aiming to keep his U.S. Senate seat. If his Republican opponent is Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), Manchin can say: "I embrace the commonsense ideas of both parties, as opposed to my opponent, who is beholden to far-right elements that want to shut down the government, stage fake impeachments, and otherwise run the government into the ground." And if his opponent is (term-limited) Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), Manchin can say: "I'm a true independent, as opposed to my opponent, who changes political parties like some people change their underwear."

And speaking of Sinema, we still don't get what she's playing at. There is no way that her switch from Democrat to independent made her more electable, because she represents a very purple state that is trending blueward. Manchin, of course, represents a very red state that is trending even further redward. "Independent" makes a heck of a lot more sense for him than for her. And as far as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) & Co. are concerned, they're happy with whatever it takes to hold on to that seat. They know full well that Manchin will continue to caucus with them, since he's still far more a Democrat than he is a Republican. For example, he has approved all the judges Joe Biden has nominated and has always been a strong supporter of the coal miners union. (Z)

Skeletons in the Closet: Sooner or Later

Most political figures think they are pretty clever. Some of them are even right about that. However, the various activist groups and media organizations out there have some pretty clever people on staff, too. And those folks are very good at turning over rocks and looking in closets, in order to find any dirty secrets that might be hidden. It's really only a matter of time, particularly now that we live in the information age. Yesterday, there were three different stories about bad behavior that the perpetrator tried to hide.

First, and most important, is a regular "star" of items like these: Clarence Thomas. ProPublica continues to haunt the Associate Justice's every waking moment; their latest report dramatically expands the picture of how very much he was on the take. Specifically, the organization has now uncovered 38 different luxury vacations that Thomas took on someone else's dime. And, in an absolutely stunning coincidence, all of the folks providing those dimes just so happened to have a stake in business before the Supreme Court. What are the odds?

The rundown of the various trips reads like a "greatest hits" episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous:

[A] voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.

Somehow, Thomas forgot to include any of this information on his disclosure forms. And his list of benefactors has expanded; it wasn't just Harlan Crow who provided these perks, it was also billionaire investor David Sokol, billionaire entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga, and billionaire oil baron Paul "Tony" Novelly. All of these men, like Crow, became "friends" with Thomas after the Justice's appointment to the Supreme Court.

There's no need to mince words; this is corruption on a grand scale. There is no doubt that Thomas has persuaded himself that it was all kosher, but that doesn't mean much, since corrupt people always convince themselves that their behavior is honest. Congressional Democrats are once again calling for Thomas to resign, but there is zero chance he's going to listen. The only slight possibility for a premature departure is if he is charged with a crime and if he is convicted. Those are some pretty big "ifs," and even then, he might try to hold on.

Moving along, The Washington Post decided to put Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL?) under the microscope, and they discovered something interesting: He is clearly a resident of Florida. He owns a fancy house in Florida, along with a condo there. Until a week before he declared for the U.S. Senate, he was registered to vote in Florida, and cast his ballots there. Tuberville's wife is employed as an agent by a Florida real estate firm, and his expense reports are full of items from Santa Rosa Beach, FL, which is where the fancy house is, and virtually nothing from Alabama.

In order to qualify for Alabama residency, Tuberville claimed that his primary residence is a house in Auburn, which is owned by his wife and by "Tommy Tuberville." However, a close look reveals that the Tommy Tuberville in this case is the Senator's son (who has a different middle initial). And even the son doesn't actually live at the house, as he is employed in New York City.

Even though the Senator has clearly misrepresented himself, and has almost certainly violated the constitutional requirements for service as a senator ("No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."), it is very unlikely that anything will come of this. There is no mechanism for removing a member of Congress, once they have been formally seated, outside of expulsion by the chamber in which the member serves. No member of the Senate has been expelled since 1862, and no member of either chamber has ever been expelled because they were not legally qualified to serve. When the Senator comes up for reelection in 2026, however, he will undoubtedly draw one or more challengers who attack him as a carpetbagger. Maybe that will work, because Southerners hate carpetbaggers. But probably not, because their love for football coaches is even greater.

And finally, there is sleazy news involving a much smaller fish than Thomas or Tuberville, which makes the cut only because we were writing this anyhow. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) represents the pretty red FL-11, which is R+8. Although he's plenty Trumpy, he's being challenged from the right by former state representative Anthony Sabatini, who is a MAGA favorite. In general, Trumpers frown on education and pointy-headed intellectuals unless the educated person is one of their own. And in Sabatini's case, his supporters have often trumpeted the fact that he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Florida.

Unlike, say, Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY), Sabatini really does have a diploma from U of F, and it really does say magna cum laude on it. However, the Daily Beast discovered that his honors thesis, which was necessary to both his graduation and his Latin honors, was substantially plagiarized from Wikipedia. We're not sure how honors theses are reviewed at that institution, but it surely must have been read by at least one faculty member (and possibly more), right? How the plagiarism, which was extremely clumsy, escaped them, we do not know. Especially since the thesis was about Friedrich Nietzsche, and yet the first name was consistently rendered as "Freidrich." It's certainly not like (Z)'s honors thesis as an undergrad; on every reference he got Aberaham Lincoln's name exactly right.

Under normal circumstances, something like this would be fatal to an aspiring member of Congress. However, Sabatini just went from being a guy with a fancy degree to a guy who put one over on the liberal elites in their ivory towers. Given the worldview of the MAGA crowd, not to mention the biography of their Dear Leader, Sabatini might actually be more marketable today than he was yesterday. Who knows? (Z)

Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part II: The Ballad of High Noon

On Wednesday, we had an item about woke movies. Specifically, we asked readers to guess which movie, from each of the following pairs, is deemed "woke" by a notable right-wing website that keeps a lengthy list of such things. Here, again, is the list:

1. Inspired by Toys:
        Transformers: Dark of the Moon

2. Disney:
        Beauty and the Beast (2017 release)
        The Lion King (1992 release)

3. World War II:
        Das Boot

4. Post-WWII American Conflicts:
        Born on the Fourth of July

5. Starring Tom Hanks:
        The Da Vinci Code
        Forrest Gump

6. Black Protagonists:
        Django Unchained
        Black Panther

7. Westerns:
        High Noon
        Blazing Saddles

8. Directed by Mel Gibson:
        The Passion of the Christ

9. Urban Corruption:

10. Presidents:

11. Amoral Tycoons:
        The Wolf of Wall Street
        Citizen Kane

12. Sci-Fi:
        Star Trek Into Darkness
        Close Encounters of the Third Kind

13. Supernatural:
        Ghostbusters (1984 release)

14. Indiana Jones:
        Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
        Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

15. James Cameron Ocean Movies:
        The Abyss

We had a couple of readers who sent in their guesses and, as it turns out, the piece reads better with some of those included. So, we're going to table the results until next Tuesday. If you still want to try your hand at guessing, then the quiz is here. And, whether you did the quiz already or not, if you're up for explaining your guess for one pair, or two, or three, please send that here. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Have you ever heard of malicious compliance? As its name suggests, it's a technique wherein one or more people follow the rules/follow their orders, knowing full well that doing so will have the opposite result from what was intended.

We've had a fair number of items about Americans trying to impose their anti-trans views on others, and that blowing up in their faces, so how about one out of Italy? Beauty pageants are, let's face it, kind of dumb, but nearly all nations still have one, including the land of the Caesars and da Vinci. And the woman who is currently overseeing the Miss Italy pageant, one Patrizia Mirigliani, is no fan of trans people. So, despite the fact that the world just witnessed its first trans national pageant winner (Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kollé), Mirigliani sniffed that trans women would not be allowed to compete in her pageant.

Undoubtedly you can see where this is headed. Trans men may not have the gender identity that Mirigliani prefers, but—in large part because Italy makes it tough to change one's legal documents—they do have the correct letter on their driver's licenses. And that is what matters for purposes of the Miss Italy contest. So, over a hundred trans men have now signed up for the competition.

Consequently, ipso facto, what was meant to be an exclusionary event has effectively turned into a nationally televised trans pride rally. Malicious compliance, indeed. Too bad that Italian, like English, does not have a direct translation for "schadenfreude." (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Things Have Changed

The final version of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was passed by Congress on August 12 of last year, and was signed into law on August 16. Inflation has been reduced, but it's hard to say what role (if any) the legislation had. However, rather more clear is the impact of the federal investment in the environment. Just about a year out, it is working out nicely. In the last year:

Between the IRA and the infrastructure bill, it's now projected that the U.S. will be able to reduce emissions by 37-41% below 2005 levels by 2030. That's less than the 50% promise the U.S. made in the Paris Agreement, but it's not too far off and Rome wasn't built in a day. There's still time to drive that figure up.

And that brings us to what might be the most important development of all. The biggest solar company, as noted, is in Ohio. The state that added the most solar capture infrastructure is Florida. A lot of the rare-earth mining is happening in Texas. The first nuclear power plant to go online in 7 years just did so in Georgia. In short, a lot of the money and jobs are flowing to red states and counties. That, plus the unmistakable signs of climate change, might be enough to change Republicans' tune on green investment, regardless of what Donald Trump thinks. In fact, in some cases, it already has. And so, although the planet is teetering on the brink of disaster, there's at least some reason for hope that the worst might be avoided, and that Congress might soon be able to have a meeting of the minds on this issue. Not this month or this year, mind you, but soon. After all, the President doesn't need all the Republicans on his side; he just needs 10-20% of them.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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