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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Haley Caves
      •  Issues for the Trump Jury
      •  Lara Trump Is Reshaping the RNC
      •  Giuliani Pleads Not Guilty in Arizona Case
      •  Many Voters Don't Have a Clue
      •  Expect a Reproductive Rights Blitz in June
      •  Republicans Want to Talk about the Border
      •  Biden Keeps Trying to Cancel Student Loans
      •  Biden's 200th Judicial Nominee is Confirmed by the Senate
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

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Haley Caves

It's not terribly surprising, but Nikki Haley has delusions of a future in Republican politics, so she caved and said she will vote for Donald Trump in November, warts and all. She said Trump has not been perfect, but Joe Biden has been "a catastrophe." Does she believe anything she is saying? No, she's too smart for that, but to salvage any hope of a run for president in 2028 or maybe the Senate someday, she had to give in. Such is the power of Trump.

Haley criticized Trump on everything for months. He disrespected the military, she questioned his mental fitness, and so much more, but who cares when there is an a** to be kissed? So far, Trump has not extended an olive branch to Haley, but that is not his style.

Haley may still have a future in South Carolina politics, once Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hangs it up. After all, South Carolinians like their senators to be lacking in principles. However, she's cooked as far as president goes. She's too much an apostate for the Trumpers and too much a Trumper for the sane Republicans. She'll never be able to put together a coalition that can power her to the nomination.

The big question now is what the 20% or so of Republicans who have been voting for Haley consistently will do. Will they follow their woman and vote for Trump, vote third party, stay home, or even vote for Biden? We don't know and hope there is some polling on this soon. (V)

Issues for the Trump Jury

Next Tuesday, the opposing sides in Donald Trump's hush-money trial will summarize their arguments for the jury. Then deliberations will begin, Tuesday or Wednesday. Here are the five big moments the jury will have to weigh:

  • The Oval Office Meeting: In early 2017, Trump met with Michael Cohen in the White House. Trump then asked Cohen if he needed money. Cohen said he did and Trump told him to see Allen Weisselberg. Cohen did and checks began to arrive. This meeting showed that the checks were not for any legal services Cohen provided. This is a crucial part of the case: The records were falsified and Trump knew all about it.

  • Cohen's theft from Trump: One of the toughest moments for Cohen on the stand was when he admitted that he effectively stole money from Trump. He paid $20,000 of a $50,000 bill owed to a company the Trump Organization had hired, but he requested and got the full $50,000. Thus, he stole money from Trump. Will that impact his credibility with the jury? If the prosecution points out that in criminal cases, many of the witnesses are criminals themselves because criminals tend to consort with other criminals, maybe the jurors will accept that and still believe Cohen.

  • Stormy Daniels: Trump maintains that he never even met Daniels, but rather she extorted $130,000 from him over an event that never took place. Will the jury believe Daniels? There are photos of them together, so his claim that they never met is pretty weak. Also, her detailed testimony revealed things that most porn stars would never think to bring up. In particular, Trump was interested in the business aspects of porn. How much do the women get paid? How much do the men get paid? How much does a finished video sell for? What is the business model for the porn companies? All of this could convince the jury that Daniels would never have thought of this on her own and that her story is true.

  • Hope Hicks: A key issue is whether Trump tried to suppress the story on account of the campaign or to spare Melania Trump some grief. Hicks testified that Trump was concerned about the effect the story would have on his campaign, not about Melania's feelings. This ties cooking the books to the election. To make the conviction a felony, there has to be an underlying crime, and violating election law could be the underlying crime.

  • Pecker: Although his testimony was not directly relevant to the case, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that he and Trump made a deal in which he would look for damaging stories out there, buy them, not publish them, and then Trump would reimburse him. He was a credible witness. If the jury believes him with respect to the Karen McDougal catch-and-kill story, it will be easy to believe it happened the same way with Daniels.

Juries are funny, and sometimes other items catch their attention more than what the lawyers think are important. We won't know what mattered to this one until one of the jurors writes a book. Though they'll probably have to sell it in a plain brown wrapper. (V)

Lara Trump Is Reshaping the RNC

Although Donald Trump's daughter-in-law is only co-chair of the RNC, there is little doubt who is running the show—and it is not RNC chairman Michael Whatley, even though he was Trump's choice. It is Lara Trump. She is changing the RNC in radical ways since the departure of Ronna Romney McDaniel. In a recent interview with the AP, Lara said: "My No. 1 goal is making sure that Donald Trump is the 47th president." Under McDaniel and previous chairs, the goal was electing Republicans up and down the ballot.

Lara wasted no time copying her father-in-law's pugilistic style and brash approach to management. She also fired dozens of long-time staffers and sought alliances with election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and alt-right types that McDaniel wouldn't have anything to do with. She has also promised 4 years of scorched-earth retribution if her father-in-law wins. She has inserted herself into the limelight much more than McDaniel, especially on far-right media outlets, and has been good at fundraising. Given how much of the campaign money is going to legal fees, the money is welcome. Ms. Trump hasn't done this kind of work before, but she says her background in Trump's previous campaigns is all she needs. She is also aware that she is in the crosshairs for a lot of people.

Another thing Lara Trump did is basically merge the RNC into the Trump campaign. Or, more accurately, make the RNC a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump campaign. This is the opposite of the way it used to be. Previously, the RNC was independent of the campaign and made its own decisions about which elections to pursue. That model is no more.

Former RNC Chairman Marc Racicot said of Lara Trump: "It kind of suggests an expectation of complete, unabashed and, perhaps, a blind loyalty to the candidate." Other insiders have other criticisms of the new RNC. The main ones include failing to build up a county-by-county infrastructure and putting far too much attention on the presidential race.

Another one concerns who the RNC is now partnering with. For example, Lara speaks highly of Scott Presler, an election denier who called the Jan. 6 insurrection "the largest civil rights protest in American history." The RNC is going to work with his Early Vote Action group on ballot harvesting.

Another group Lara Trump is working with is Turning Point USA, which is run by Charlie Kirk, a student organizer. Kirk has questioned whether Black pilots are qualified to fly and derided gymnast Simone Biles after she withdrew from the Olympics. His group has raised $250 million, much of it going to Kirk, and his track record winning elections is weak.

One change that Lara is making that may actually be good for the Party is encouraging mail-in voting, something that her father-in-law says is rife with fraud. She believes it will make it easier for many Trump voters to vote. However, she opposes counting any ballots after Election Day. That is actually none of her business. Most states have laws saying that ballots postmarked before Election Day are valid, even if they arrive a few days later. It is not the voter's job to determine how much Postmaster General Louis DeJoy plans on slowing the mail around election time. Stephen Richer, a Republican who runs elections in Maricopa County, AZ, said that Lara's policy would actually hurt Donald since in 2020 more Trump ballots than Biden ballots arrived after Election Day. He also said that fraud and voter suppression are at an all-time low and that the Trumps' insistence that elections are rigged brings up questions about their motivations.

Our take on Lara Trump's leadership is that it is going to hurt the Republican Party as an institution. She has little to no interest in things like control of the Arizona state legislature, where flipping two seats in each chamber would give Democrats the trifecta in the state. If the DNC spends $1 million in Arizona, it might be able to take over the state government and undo years of damage. The same thing holds for all other races up and down the ballot. The RNC is the only group that has funds that can be applied wherever they are needed to help Republicans, but this cycle, and perhaps going forward, it looks like it is going to spend every penny it gets on the presidential race. If Trump wins and faces a hostile Congress because the RNC dropped the ball, he is not going to get much done. You can't govern by XO (eXecutive Order). (V)

Giuliani Pleads Not Guilty in Arizona Case

Not that this is a big surprise, but Rudy Giuliani pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges relating to his role in the Arizona fake electors scheme in 2020. Ten others, including former Arizona GOP state chair Kelli Ward, have also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, forgery, and fraud charges.

The indictment alleges that Giuliani spread false claims of election fraud in Arizona in 2020 and presided over a gathering in Phoenix where he accused election officials of not doing their jobs to ensure accuracy of the results. He is also accused of pressuring Arizona officials to change the outcome of the presidential race among other things. Noteworthy is that Giuliani was not represented by an attorney during the arraignment. It is true that Giuliani is a lawyer and understands how the system works, but generally even experienced lawyers get lawyers for every step of the process when they face years in prison. After all, MAGA stands for: "Make Attorneys Get Attorneys." Could it be that he can't afford a lawyer or that he can't find one who is willing to work with him? Or maybe those few lawyers that are willing to represent him want to be paid in advance and he is broke? Prosecutors requested that Giuliani post a $10,000 cash bond but Court Commissioner Shellie Smith agreed to a secured bond of $10,000. She won't be the trial judge, though. That will be a regular judge, not a commissioner.

Other high-profile indictees in the case include Christina Bobb, Jenna Ellis, Michael Roman, Mark Meadows and Boris Epshteyn. Will any of them flip and rat on the others? Time will tell. As you know, in criminal cases, the early bird gets the worm. And worm is better than prison food.

The trials are scheduled for Oct. 17. That is about 2½ weeks before the election. Probably one thing Donald Trump really does not want just as early voting is ramping up is a media circus about the 2020 fake electors scheme in an Arizona courtroom, especially since Arizona is definitely a swing state. It will remind everyone how Trump tried to steal an election. He and Giuliani will move heaven and earth to get the trial postponed, but the judge is under no obligation to move the date. (V)

Many Voters Don't Have a Clue

The headline is a polite way of saying there are a lot of low-information voters out there. A Harris poll, done for The Guardian, shows that a depressingly large percentage of Americans are clueless about the economy. Here are some of the findings:

Poll finding Planet reality
55% believe the economy is shrinking GDP is growing
56% believe the U.S. is in a recession The last recession was in 2020
49% believe the S&P is down for the year The S&P was up 23% last year and is up 12% this year so far
49% believe unemployment is at a 50-year high It is actually near a 50-year low
58% say the lousy economy is Biden's fault Presidents don't generally have much effect on the economy
72% think inflation is increasing During COVID it was 9%; now it is stable at 3-4%

Biden has his work cut out to slice through the fog and explain that the economy is actually in pretty good shape. The economy is growing, nearly anyone who wants a job can find one, people's 401(k) accounts are way up, and wages have grown faster than inflation this past year. Over 15 million jobs have been created on Biden's watch and the Dow Jones index has gone from 31,000 to 40,000 during Biden's time in office while inflation has been tamed.

Republicans know even less than Democrats, with 67% believing the U.S. is in a recession (vs. 49% of Democrats). Republicans probably hear "recession" all the time on Fox, but where are Democrats getting this from? CNN and MSNBC don't claim the country is in recession. Maybe it's the price of gas. That is definitely up since Biden was inaugurated, even more than wage increases:

Gas prices during Biden's term

For people who measure the economy simply by the price of a gallon of gas, Biden does have a problem. (V)

Expect a Reproductive Rights Blitz in June

Now that Donald Trump said that he may try to ban some contraceptives—and then tried to walk it back—reproductive rights in its many facets is once again a hot topic. Axios got a scoop that a small group of Senate Democrats are working out the details of a series of bills relating to abortion, contraception, and IVF, among other related topics, and they plan to force Senate votes on them next month. The senators know the bills will never become law (because they have no chance of passing the House), but it will force Republican senators to go on the record with votes on the various bills. If a senator up for reelection votes against a bill that specifically legalizes all forms of contraception, including the "morning after" pill by name, he or she will be hearing about that vote until Nov. 5. If the senator votes against all the bills, the senator will be attacked as being thoroughly anti-woman.

Some senators who are involved aren't telling much. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said that the leadership plans some floor actions, but wouldn't give any details now. Sen. Ben Ray Lújan (D-NM) said: "I imagine that there'll be some more policy legislation that will be discussed—whether it's on the floor or through committee gatherings." Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said it is important for the Senate to debate a bill making it easier to access contraceptives. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, did confirm that he expects to use his power as chairman to push for abortion rights around the anniversary of the Dobbs decision (June 24, 2024).

The Senate isn't the only place where reproductive rights are hot. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D-CA), who is almost certainly going to run for governor of California in 2026, has created a new super PAC to help Joe Biden and herself. Her organization, Californians for Choice, will mobilize voters in neighboring Arizona and Nevada, specifically pro-choice voters. Both states may have initiatives to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution this fall. In addition, both states are swing states in the presidential election and both states have competitive Senate races.

The group will also work in several contested House districts in California. Kounalakis said: "I know that there is nothing more important for women's freedom than the ability to control our bodies. And like so many Californians, so many Americans, I've been in absolute shock about the possibility of a Trump administration with a MAGA Republican Congress that issues a national abortion ban." Here is the group's first ad.

While Kounalakis' campaign is nominally about the 2024 race, getting established now as a key spokeswoman on abortion rights will give her a leg up on other 2026 California gubernatorial candidates. (V)

Republicans Want to Talk about the Border

The key word in the headline is talk. What the Republicans don't want to do is pass legislation dealing with the border. They want it to be available as a campaign issue so they can attack the Democrats on it. Back in February, a bill written by Sens. James Lankford (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) provided billions of dollars for the Border Patrol to better enforce existing immigration law. It also had money for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in it. The bill had bipartisan support—until Donald Trump ordered Republican senators to oppose it because he wanted to keep the border open as a campaign issue. That killed the bill.

Now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to hold a vote today to move the bill to the floor. So far, no Republican senator has stated that he or she will vote to debate the bill. Not even Lankford, who largely wrote the bill. Lankford said about his own bill: "This is not trying to accomplish something. This is about messaging now. This is trying to poke Republicans rather than try to actually solve a problem." His own bill. This makes it crystal clear to anyone actually following politics that Republicans have no interest at all in sealing the border as that would destroy a potent campaign issue. Fortunately for Republicans, few people actually follow politics.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who championed the bill earlier this year, is now against it. He has advised Joe Biden to use XOs to stem the flow of immigrants, even though McConnell knows very well that XOs won't do the job. After all, he doesn't want the job done. Three Republicans who voted for the bill in February are now against it. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) called it "an entirely political ploy." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said: "I think the whole thing is dumb." Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said: "It's hard to determine whether this is a genuine attempt to deal with border security." Maybe she should check with Lankford. As is well known, in the 4 years preceding a presidential election, it is impossible to pass any legislation, even if the parties actually agree on it.

And now that the Ukraine money is no longer in the bill, some Democrats may balk this time, as well as all Republicans. So, maybe Schumer will rethink his plans. (V)

Biden Keeps Trying to Cancel Student Loans

As noted above, Mitch McConnell is urging Joe Biden to use XOs to solve the immigration problem, which is clearly impossible since it requires legislation and a large amount of money. But Biden does like working around Congress when he can. One area he likes is canceling student loans. One of the gripes some young voters have is that Biden said he would cancel student loans and wasn't able to do so unilaterally because the Supreme Court said he didn't have the authority to do so. But the voters blame Biden, not the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, Biden keeps trying to do what he can using existing legislation. Yesterday, the administration announced that it will erase an additional $7.7 billion in federal student loans. In all, Biden has erased $167 billion in student debt for 5 million former students. That is a small fraction of the total, but every vote is welcome.

The new relief goes to 54,000 borrowers who enrolled in Biden's income-driven repayment program, 39,000 who enrolled in earlier programs, and 67,000 who are eligible because they worked in public service jobs. Biden's new plan allows some borrowers to get their loans canceled after having made payments for 10 years. Every month Biden announces another batch of cancellations.

Conservatives oppose the relief. They say it represents an unfair bonus for college graduates at the expense of taxpayers who didn't go to college or former college students who have already repaid their loans. They have challenged all of Biden's relief plans in court and some cases are ongoing. (V)

Biden's 200th Judicial Nominee is Confirmed by the Senate

Yesterday, Joe Biden got his 200th pick to the federal courts, Angela Martinez, confirmed as a U.S. district judge in Arizona. During his term as president, Donald Trump had 234 nominees confirmed. Biden still has over a half a year to go and the Democrats control the Senate, so Biden might well catch up to Trump.

Biden's nominees have been far more diverse and far less conservative than Trump's. Biden's nominees have been 36% white, 27% Black, 16% Latino, 14% Asian and 5% multiracial. Trump's nominees were 84% white, 4% each Black, Latino, and Asian, and 3% multiracial. Additionally, 63% of Biden's nominees have been female vs. 24% of Trump's. The majority of appointees from both presidents were under 50. That used to be different. Only 25% of Dwight D. Eisenhower's and 33% of John F. Kennedy's nominees were under 50. The courts weren't as political and partisan back then, so it wasn't important to pick judges who could serve 30 or 40 years.

While all judges are equal, some judges are more equal. In particular, Biden has gotten only 42 appellate judges approved whereas Trump had 51 at this point. And Biden has only one Supreme Court nominee to his credit vs. three for Trump.

The winner of the election could get to pick more Supreme Court justices. As of Jan. 20, 2025, Clarence Thomas will be 76 and Samuel Alito will be 74. Sonia Sotomayor will turn 70 next month. John Roberts will hit 70 on Jan. 27, 2025.

It is a given that no Republican appointee will toss in the towel when there is a Democratic president, except maybe in the last year of his term if the Republicans control the Senate and the justice is deathly ill. If Trump is elected and Republicans control the Senate, Thomas and Alito are likely to call it quits before Jan. 3, 2027; otherwise, no. But not all vacancies are voluntary. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said: "Father Time marches on. There could be some vacancies for whoever wins. And we could all get hit by a car tomorrow." You never know.

In addition to picking new justices, the two parties differ on some issues that relate to the Court. For example, Democrats want a binding code of ethics and recusal standards. They also want Congress to take a more active role in dealing with the Court. The second paragraph of Art. III, Sec. 2 of the Constitution, reads:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

In other words, Congress has the explicit power to make whatever Exceptions it wants to relating to the Court's jurisdiction. A federal law stating that the Court has no authority to rule on cases relating to reproductive rights or even all health matters would be perfectly constitutional. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Our earlier statement that the "northern route" (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) looks easier than the "southern route" (Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina) still holds. But again, we don't have much faith in the details of polls this early. For example, is Trump really going to come in below 50% in Tennessee?

State Joe Biden Donald Trump Start End Pollster
Arizona 41% 44% May 07 May 14 Noble Predictive Insights
Arizona 44% 49% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
Georgia 44% 47% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
Michigan 46% 45% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
North Carolina 42% 49% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
New Hampshire 42% 36% May 06 May 14 U. of Mass.
Nevada 47% 47% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
New York 47% 38% May 13 May 15 Siena Coll.
Pennsylvania 46% 48% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult
Tennessee 29% 47% Apr 26 May 09 Vanderbilt U.
Wisconsin 46% 47% May 07 May 13 Morning Consult

Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.

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