Friday Talking Points -- Programs! Getcher Programs Here!

[ Posted Friday, July 21st, 2023 – 17:49 UTC ]

We do try to resist the urge (we really do!), but this week it was impossible to focus on just about anything else in politics other than the tsunami of bad legal news for Donald Trump. Remember how Trump dominated each and every news cycle for over four years? Those days are back, sadly enough, and will likely continue (at some degree of intensity or another) for the foreseeable future. He is the quintessential car wreck towards which we all must dutifully rubberneck, so here we go....

Our headline isn't much of an exaggeration. Here was the news from just the last week alone, in bullet-point format (because there is just so much of it to cover):

  • Donald Trump announces on his pet social network that he received a "target letter" from the federal special prosecutor, which means the grand jury is convinced he has committed crimes in his activities after the 2020 election which led up to the January 6th insurrection attempt.
  • This same grand jury also heard testimony from a close Trump aide this week as well.
  • The first hearing in the federal national security documents case was held in Florida, and the judge set the tentative start date for the trial in May of next year.
  • A federal judge rejected Trump's plea for a new trial in the civil case he lost to E. Jean Carroll, in which a jury awarded her $5 million. The judge strongly rejected Trump's assertion that he didn't rape Carroll as well.
  • Trump also lost a bid to move the New York Stormy Daniels hush money case to federal court, as a judge shot down his legal team's arguments that it was all somehow "presidential official duties" to pay off a porn star.
  • The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously turned down Trump's bid to have both the prosecutor and all the evidence against him tossed out in the election interference case being made against him in Atlanta.
  • The Guardian scooped that the Georgia prosecutor is preparing racketeering charges against Trump as well as multiple other defendants. These charges will almost certainly be filed during the first two weeks of August.
  • Settlement news, part 1: Trump has apparently settled with his former lawyer Michael Cohen, in a trial that was scheduled to begin on Monday. Cohen was suing Trump for $1 million in legal fees that Cohen claimed Trump promised, but then stiffed him on.
  • Settlement news, part 2: The shell company that was trying to cash in on Trump's pet social media company agreed to pay $18 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission for the shady nature of how they put the deal together.
  • Tangential news: In Michigan, all 16 of the "fake electors" who tried to defraud the citizens of their state (and every other American voter to boot) have now been charged with multiple felonies for their attempt to subvert an American presidential election. Arizona's attorney general is also investigating the fake electors there, too.

Whew! As you can see, that's a lot to cover, and allow us to remind everyone that all this happened in a single week. And with so many court cases in the pipeline, this flood of legal bad news for Trump is only really getting started. It really does take a program or scorecard to keep track of everything, and we're just getting started.

Such a scorecard would have to have a calendar page to help people keep track. An article on the Cohen settlement had a pretty good rundown of how things are shaping up so far:

Though the settlement between Mr. [Michael] Cohen and the Trump Organization will almost certainly scuttle the scheduled trial, Mr. [Donald] Trump has no shortage of legal engagements on his calendar. A lawsuit filed against him by the New York attorney general is scheduled to go to trial in October, and the criminal trial related to the hush money payments is set for March of next year. There are also two civil trials scheduled for January, including a second trial on whether he defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll.

Mr. Trump has also been indicted by federal prosecutors for his handling of sensitive material and for obstructing their investigation. On Friday, the judge in that case scheduled a trial date for May 2024. And two more potential indictments loom over Mr. Trump: one from federal prosecutors related to the former president's actions in the lead-up to the January 2021 attack on the Capitol and one by a Georgia district attorney, Fani Willis, related to possible election interference in the state.

In the civil trials, Trump can opt to not attend, but his presence will be mandatory at the criminal trials. As you can see, this is going to impact Trump's campaign well into the primary season next year, and he's still got two more serious criminal indictments looming over him as well.

There are a few footnotes from that bullet list worth pointing out:

On the target letter: Trump reported that he received the letter last Sunday and that it gave him "four days" to respond voluntarily, by appearing before the grand jury. He declined to do so. Four days means the end of Thursday, so there is now nothing to stop the grand jury from issuing an indictment at any time. Such letters usually immediately precede charges being filed.

In the documents case: Trump is now in the phase of "just makin' stuff up," which might help him in the court of public opinion, but will have zero legal value in an actual court of law:

While railing against last month's federal Espionage Act indictment over his handling of classified documents taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump claimed: "Whatever documents a president decides to take with him, he has the absolute and unquestioned right to do so."

"This was a law that was passed and signed," he insisted. "And it couldn't be more clear."

Legal experts did not agree. Laurence Tribe, a legal scholar and Harvard University professor emeritus, said "no such law exists."

On the E. Jean Carroll rape case: The judge shot down Trump's claim that he was "cleared" of raping Carroll:

A lengthy memorandum, which took into account the two separate lawsuits Carroll had filed against the ex-president, acknowledged that the "only point on which Ms. Carroll did not prevail was whether she had proved that Mr. Trump had 'raped' her within the narrow, technical meaning of a particular section of the New York Penal Law."

"The jury's unanimous verdict... was almost entirely in favor of Ms. Carroll," the opinion continued, adding, "The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.' Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that."

So we interpret that as it now being legally permissible to just go ahead and call Donald Trump a rapist.

From the judge's ruling denying Trump's bid to retry the Carroll case in federal court:

Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President's official acts. It does not reflect in any way the color of the President's official duties.

On the Georgia case: The article in The Guardian is well worth a read, and it begins with:

The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia has developed evidence to charge a sprawling racketeering indictment next month, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Again: "Whew!"

It's getting hard to keep track of it all, even for seasoned political junkies. So we do strongly urge everyone to buy a program, the next time the hawker comes around the stadium, because at this point you really need one to sort it all out.

As usual, for such a Trumpian week, most of the other political news barely made a splash, in the background. The Republican House of Representatives is busy waging a full-on culture war, which does not bode well for the inevitable budget negotiations later this year.

That's when they're not displaying pornographic pictures in committee hearings, of course. In a hearing dealing with the I.R.S., of all things. Marjorie Taylor Greene thought it'd be a great idea to display large blowups of Hunter Biden in various pornographic poses, to make some sort of point that only lunatics can comprehend.

Democratic Representative Robert Garcia summed up the Keystone Kops nature of the current House Oversight Committee by pointing out:

Today's hearing is like most of the majority's investigations and hearings, a lot of allegations, zero proof, no receipts, but apparently some dick pics. Now, at a certain point, the American people need some actual evidence. Actual evidence, but we've seen absolutely none.

Which is about par for the Republican course, these days.

Out on the campaign trail, Ron DeSantis had planned a big media day, but he was absolutely eclipsed by Trump breaking the story of his target letter. The punditocracy has all but written the political obituary for DeSantis, in their seemingly neverending cycle of boosting DeSantis and then viciously turning on him (a cycle we've already been through a few iterations of, and it's not even August).

Campaign finance reports came out which showed (among other things) that very few donors are willing to give Mike Pence the money he needs to prove to himself that he has zero chance of beating Donald Trump. Everyone else is already aware of this fact, it seems, at least to the extent of not funding Pence's pointless exercise in futility.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has not actually announced she will be running for re-election yet, was outraised yet again by the Democrat who is running to take her on.

Let's see, what else? Florida released educational standards on the issue of race, which were precisely as bad as you would expect. It included standards that would instruct Florida schoolchildren: "how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit." See, kiddies? Slavery wasn't really so bad!

At the other end of the political spectrum (to close on a few positive notes), Barack Obama has been weighing in heavily on the side of librarians, in the battle over banning books. He personally appeared in at least two TikTok videos for local libraries, which is pretty cool.

And on the day that Oppenheimer was released, we have to include a bit of news from last week -- the very last stocks of chemical weapons held by the U.S. military have now been destroyed. OK, it's not the same thing exactly, but it's still a step in the right direction for both humanity and for this country as a moral leader in the world.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have a Honorable Mention award to hand out before we get to the main event, which will be somewhat foreshortened here in this section.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has been fighting an 11-year battle to get the Supreme Court to adhere to an actual code of ethics. This week, he finally got a bill to do so out of committee (on a party-line vote). This is just the first step in what may prove to be an even longer attempt at reforming the nation's highest court, since Republicans have vowed to filibuster the bill if it comes to the Senate floor -- and even if they did somehow allow it to pass, the GOP House of Representatives is going to ignore it anyway.

Still, fights like this can stretch for a generation, and it is honorable indeed to wage such battles for a just cause. So kudos to Whitehouse for the progress he has managed.

However, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award has to once again go to President Joe Biden. Biden has had a pretty good couple of weeks, which is reflected in multiple ways (most of them having to do with the economy). But as we mentioned we're not going to go into any detail about any of it because we have turned over the entire talking points segment to touting Biden's successes. So you'll have to read to the end this week to fully appreciate why Joe Biden is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Representative Pramila Jayapal said something rather inarticulate this week, which (as usual) the Republicans in the House pounced on with glee.

While speaking at Netroots Nation, Jayapal was interrupted by pro-Palestinian protestors. Jayapal told them:

As somebody who's been in the streets and participated in a lot of demonstrations, I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us, that it does not even feel possible.

Jayapal is the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and was forced to retract her statement. A group of Democrats released a letter calling her comments "unacceptible" and went on to state:

Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people and efforts to delegitimize and demonize it are not only dangerous and antisemitic, but they also undermine America's national security. We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.

The House, in a near-unanimous vote, passed one of those "sense of Congress" messaging bills that affirmed that Israel is not, in the opinion of the U.S. House of Representatives, a racist state.

Jayapal released a long statement which stated that she did not "believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist." She also apologized to "those who I have hurt with my words."

But she did clarify what she meant, which is important:

I do, however, believe that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government.

This is actually an undeniable fact. And she did apologize. So we couldn't give Jayapal the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, instead we are just going to hand her a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

Instead, we are giving this week's MDDOTW to a frequent winner of the award: Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin appeared at an event held by "No Labels" which is a well-funded effort to create a third party in American politics, in order to run a slate of candidates in next year's presidential election. They ostensibly say that they want some bland "middle ground" of politics, so people don't have to vote for an extremist on either the left or right.

The problem with this framing is that No Labels is actually funded (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) by some serious right-wing extremists. They are pretty obviously only interested in being a spoiler that guarantees that Joe Biden loses to Donald Trump. They even admit as much -- they say they won't even bother running a candidate if Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee. DeSantis is every bit (even more so, in many ways) as right-wing extremist as Donald Trump, so their rationale for creating a third party obviously falls apart right there. And that's even before pointing out that Joe Biden being a "left-wing extremist" is a pretty far-fetched thing to argue.

In any case, Joe Manchin has apparently decided that he'd be a great nominee for the No Labels party. He appeared at a rollout event (for a party platform document that was noticeably thin on actual policies) with Republican Jon Huntsman.

This is just the beginning of a very long campaign of teasing, by Manchin. "Will he or won't he?" is the question he wants on every pundit's lips, from now until "sometime next year" when he decides whether he will run for president or not. Which is classic Manchin, playing eternally coy while he rakes in plenty of face time on all the political shows. And like we said, this is just the start of this endless tease -- we can all look forward to it for at least six more months, maybe more.

For being such a drama queen, we hereby award Joe Manchin yet another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

Sadly enough, we are absolutely certain it won't be his last.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 715 (7/21/23)

As promised, since we were forced to begin our column today with another rundown of Trump's legal woes, we decided to make equal time by making the focus of all the talking points President Joe Biden. He's had a rather stellar couple of weeks (this column was playing hooky last week), and he is rightfully trying to nurture and build upon a growing sense of optimism in the general public.

Owning a term that was originally intended as a slur by his detractors -- "Bidenomics" -- is a risky political strategy, since if the economy turns south at any point next year it may become a metaphorical millstone around the president's neck, but since he has chosen to embrace the term so fully he should certainly try to get all the mileage he can out of the continuing good economic numbers coming out. After all, the presidential election is over a year away, and if Biden can renew a sense of economic optimism in the country now, it will pay off politically for him throughout the entire campaign. So we thought we'd take a crack at doing so (although admittedly the first two of our talking points are not specific to the economy).


   The difference could not be more clear

Last week, Joe Biden had a few presidential moments on the world's stage.

"President Joe Biden, more than anything else, has restored America's prominence in the world. We are no longer a country whose leader is openly laughed at in front of the United Nations, instead we are a country that shows strong leadership and has earned the respect of our allies. Biden surprised the world when Turkey announced it had relented and would allow Sweden into NATO -- a crucial show of unity in the face of Russian aggression. And then he followed it up with a visit to Helsinki. Finland also agreed to join NATO, so this was a victory lap for Biden. And the difference between Biden celebrating the expansion of NATO in defiance of Vladimir Putin's naked aggression and the pathetic and demeaning display by Donald Trump in the same city could not be greater. Trump kowtowed to Putin and sided with him over America's own intelligence community. Biden stood up to Putin and got other countries to stand with us. America is no longer a laughingstock on the world's stage, thanks to Joe Biden."


   Border getting more secure

Fox News is never going to admit this, but that doesn't make it any less real.

"In June, illegal border crossings on America's southern border dropped to their lowest level since Joe Biden's first full month in office. The figures for illegal entry dropped below 100,000 for June, which is a whopping 42 percent decline from May -- when Biden implemented new immigration policies when Title 42 was lifted. These policies are working. Fewer people are trying to enter illegally because of the penalties they face and because it is now easier to apply for entry. This is a huge success story, but it's one we don't expect Republicans to ever mention, because they much prefer fear-mongering on the issue rather than actually doing something to make it better."


   Inflation falls yet again

The good news just keeps right on coming...

"Inflation is now down to just three percent, which isn't quite at the two-percent target the economists prefer, but it is getting awfully close and still heading in the right direction. Inflation is now down more than two-thirds from the spike during the COVID aftermath. This is the lowest level inflation has been since March of 2021, just after Joe Biden took office. In other words, Bidenomics is working."


   Real wages are up

Beat the Bidenomics drum in as many ways as you can!

"For the past four months, wages have risen faster than inflation. This means that people's real take-home pay is rising. Taming inflation has brought back the wage gains that started in the COVID recovery and is making life better for millions of American families. Unemployment remains at or near 50-year lows, meaning jobs are plentiful while wages continue to go up. Bidenomics is working for working-class Americans."


   And it is beginning to show

People are feeling better about the economy -- which is a trend worth boosting!

"The University of Michigan's well-respected consumer sentiment index was way up last month too -- it jumped 13 percent in a single month, the biggest one-month increase in the index since 2005. Consumer confidence is now higher than at any point since September of 2021. People are looking around and realizing that things are getting better, even with all the doom-and-gloom talk from Republicans. Don't listen to the stale nonsense on Fox News -- people are feeling better about the Bidenomics economy across the country, and for good reason."


   A moment in the Sun (Belt)

This could be crucial in a handful of states.

"Donald Trump promised to revive American manufacturing. He failed utterly at doing so. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has revived American manufacturing in a big way and the legislation he has passed through Congress -- some with the help of Republicans, some without -- has resulted in an even bigger boost. Consider that in Georgia there have been announcements of investment in renewable energy and semiconductor production to the tune of $33 billion -- and that's on top of $5.3 billion in public infrastructure investments heading to the state. In Arizona, the numbers are even more impressive: $69 billion in new investment is now flowing in. While this is helping states all across the Sun Belt (and elsewhere), Arizona and Georgia are key presidential battleground states. Joe Biden will be able to campaign there by telling people: 'Trump promised more manufacturing but never got it done, while I delivered.' Bidenomics is working everywhere, but it may become a deciding factor in such key swing states."


   What she said...

This is perhaps the most hilarious campaign ad we have ever seen. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene gave a speech to one of those far-right gatherings recently, and she tried to horrify her audience with tales of all the dastardly things President Joe Biden is doing or attempting to do. This brought a rather strange response from the White House press secretary, who agreed that they had gotten caught red-handed trying to: "make life easier for hardworking families. We agree with Marjorie Taylor Greene, which is not something that we say very often. We agree with her all around, all around on this. We are opposed to rural poverty, and the president is committed to protect Medicare and committed to protect Social Security." Joe Biden posted the video of Greene to his Twitter account with the comment: "I approve this message," as a campaign ad. The ad itself is worth watching just to hear M.T.G.'s voice drip scorn at all of these goals, but even if you don't have time to watch it, here's the entire text of it:

Joe Biden had the largest public investment in social infrastructure and environmental programs that is actually finishing what F.D.R. started, that L.B.J. expanded on, and Joe Biden is attempting to complete. Programs to address education, medical care, urban problems, rural poverty, transportation, Medicare, Medicaid, labor unions, and he still is working on it.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


20 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Programs! Getcher Programs Here!”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    imagine, a world where the government took away people's right to be poor and miserable. oh how awful it would be!

  2. [2] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Re: MIDOW.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the Democratic Senators who are making "Supreme Court ethics" a talking point are to be acknowledged. Democrats need to keep this in the news as much as possible, also tying it to the abortion, affirmative action, and student loan forgiveness decisions.

    'The strategy will bolster Democrats’ message heading into 2024. And it’s a sign that Democrats think the long-term political fight over the high court will ultimately shake out in their favor.

    “Think of a boxing match. If you don’t fight the first round, you can’t win the match,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the lead sponsor of the ethics bill.'

  3. [3] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    In a week in which the Earth cooked, it's astonishing that *zero* talking points are about the Democrats' decades-long attempts to address climate change. Heck, you can even given Biden all the credit for the "Inflation Reduction Act", as usual, instead of the hard-working Democratic leadership in the 2020 Congress.

    The southern states, which the Democrats have seemingly written off as a "Lost Cause", are suffering the worst consequences of the record heat. This is instead a "lost opportunity" to highlight the GOP's "distract 'em with culture wars" governing strategy.

  4. [4] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Talking points about a warming Earth will have the added bonus of motivating young voters. By coincidence, I read this interesting article in Politico about how "blue bubble" university towns are having a marvelous impact on elections.

  5. [5] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    On an unrelated note, I notice that this Friday Talking Points column includes a link to "Obama Poll Watch", which I assume is obsolete - but then, perhaps I'm not the target audience?

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    did you click the other end of that link? it's pretty funny, but i have no idea what if anything it has to do with president obama.

    hair stylist est 2025

    the hell?


  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    apparently is a hair stylist, sports and advice columnist from the future.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I wish there was a bidenpollwatch segment here!

    Why is Joe Biden's job approval rating so low among the voting public?

    Why are 66% of people saying that it would be a disaster or setback if Joe Biden were to be re-elected when 'only' 54% say the same thing about Donald Trump?

    A bad omen about things to come?

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    to paraphrase the old saw, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the electorate.

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    TP 3

    "Inflation falls yet again" only when you mis-define it.

    The historical definition of the word 'inflation' was always something to the effect of 'expansion of the money supply', which was understood to mean raising the ratio of amount of money in circulation relative to the amount of goods and services available in the marketplace (aka GDP).

    Doing that always results in rising price levels caused by inceasing demand. while holding supply constant.

    The problem with Bidenomics creating a false definition for the word is, it obfuscates the true cause of the problem and pretty much eliminates any chance of ever achieving a realistic cure.

  11. [11] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    That’s Milton Friedman‘a definition but not necessarily anyone else’s…

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Yeah, but I'd be OK with any definition you prefer. Go ahead and define it as "The rate prices happen to be currently rising" or define it as "Blowing balloons up". But that wouldn't change the incontrovertible fact that raising the ratio of money in circulation to GDP will always create price inflation by raising demand while holding GDP constant.

    The level of ignorance on the subject of inflation would justify a law forbidding anybody to ever use the word without one of the two necessary qualifiers, of either 'Monetary' or 'Price'.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    total non-sequitur:

    has anybody considered calling biden JBJ (joseph biden junior) as a campaign strategy? it hearkens back to LBJ and invites a favorable comparison - as the former VP of a highly charismatic and world-changing president, as a legislative expert who got things done in the face of insane opposition, as a guy who (although both had some foreign policy missteps) was widely disliked for no real objective reason.

    he could sell the moniker by touring with another JBJ, jon bon jovi (who has already done events for him). okay, all done... just a little speculative campaign brainstorm. carry on, as you were, etc. etc.


  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    carry on, as you were, etc. etc.

    Yeah, like I can somehow “unread” [13] that I just read.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I love, love, LOVE that idea!

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Jon could host some presidential wine and cheese parties!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... killing two birds with one stone, so to speak!

    By the way, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album was produced by none other than Bruce Fairbairn, original member of my favourite band of all time, PRiSM. An album that featured this personal BJ favourite!

  18. [18] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Re: MDDOW
    I'm puzzled that Chris spent spilled so much ink on Rep. Jayapal's statements about Israel, and yet didn't dedicate even one sentence to the Democratic Presidental candidate who spouted anti-semitic rhetoric this week.

  19. [19] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    And let's not forget Israel's actions in the not-too-distant past against one of Rep. Jayapal's fellow "squad" members.
    'In a statement Friday morning, Tlaib said that she "decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart."

    Israel's shift regarding Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants to the U.S. and who has close relatives in the West Bank, came hours after Israel banned her and Omar, ...'

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i think it's a question of expectations. RFKJ is already on record as an anti-vaxxer and general kook. jayapal has had fewer prior incidents that would indicate she might be a bit cray-cray, so she gets held to a higher standard.


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