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Friday Talking Points -- Quad-Indicted?

[ Posted Friday, August 18th, 2023 – 16:54 UTC ]

Once again, the political week was dominated by news of Donald Trump. And we can all now properly identify Trump as a "twice-impeached, four-times-indicted ex-president." Sadly, the English language stops after "once... twice... thrice..." so there is no (legitimate) snappier way to say that (although we would suggest "quad-indicted," since it does seem to have a ring to it... but we digress...).

Linguistic kidding aside, Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis finally completed Trump's quartet of indictments, adding 13 more felony charges for Trump (who has now been charged with a whopping 91 felony counts in total) as well as plenty of other felonies to go around among his 18 co-defendants. Rather than take a targeted approach by just charging Trump with the easiest-to-prove-in-court charges, Willis swung for the fences and corralled all the wrongdoing within one RICO charge covering everyone. Trump and his campaign and all his legal team and even his thugs on the ground in Georgia are all now accused of being a "racketeering-influenced and corrupt organization." Sounds about right... especially after the news broke that the grand jurors who voted for the indictment have been doxxed online and are now getting threats -- just like you'd expect to see in any mob case. Trump even attempted to tamper with a witness before he even showed up to testify for the grand jury on Monday. The witness was not cowed and did testify, and very late in the evening the indictment was made public.

The indictment itself runs 98 pages long and (as we wrote about earlier this week) is breathtaking in its scope. Not since the hearings and report from the House January 6th Committee have we seen the entire narrative laid out so comprehensively, to put this another way. Willis had some choices to make, and by going for the big picture she may have guaranteed that the trial won't happen until after the election -- with 19 defendants (and their lawyers), there are going to be all kinds of logistical and legal issues raised. Some of these defendants may flip, of course, especially considering the minimum 5-year jail sentence on the RICO charge. And the trial itself is likely to be a very long one -- even the jury selection process could drag on for months. Willis has asked the judge to start the trial on March 4th of next year, which happens to be one day before Super Tuesday. The Trump legal team has yet to suggest their own date, but it will likely be just as laughable as the filing they just made in the federal January 6th case. In that one, prosecutors asked for the trial to start at the beginning of January, 2024, so Team Trump countered with a suggestion that the trial begin in April... of 2026.

This could all be the end of the first act of this drama, since it hasn't been reported that any other prosecutors in any other jurisdictions are either actively investigating or preparing to bring any further charges against Trump. Some of the indictments may be amended (as indeed the one covering the national security documents already was), so Trump's final count of accused felonies may inch up over 100 before all is said and done, but at this point there don't seem to be any other new criminal indictments in his future.

The second act has already begun -- all the jockeying over legal motions and appeals, and trying to win the case in the court of public opinion. One thing that was interesting to see develop this week on this front was that Trump seems to have actually listened to his lawyers and taken their legal advice. Hey, there's a first time for everything, right? Immediately after the Georgia indictment was made public, Trump posted the following on his pet social media network:

A Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia is almost complete & will be presented by me at a major News Conference at 11:00 A.M. on Monday of next week in Bedminster, New Jersey. Based on the results of this CONCLUSIVE Report, all charges should be dropped against me & others -- There will be a complete EXONERATION! They never went after those that Rigged the Election. They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!

We will let you draw your own conclusions about the inclusion of that final word, but Trump obviously was quite eager to air a whole bunch of his favorite conspiracy theories all over again. The report was said to be "over 100 pages long," so it should have contained all sorts of nonsensical claims (all just as divorced from reality as all the others). After three years, does anyone really believe Trump (or anyone else) has truly uncovered any actual evidence? Instead, this was all teed up to be just as wildly lunatic as those conventions Mike Lindell keeps hosting (for some unfathomable reason).

And then came a shift. People in the media started pointing out that after being charged with making wild and unsubstantiated claims about election theft, it might not be a great idea to go out and make a bunch more wild and unsubstantiated claims about election theft, all over again. Because it all might come back to haunt Trump, by being used as evidence against him. Trump's lawyers doubtlessly sat him down and explained this to him in great detail, and a few days later Trump had to back down (which you just know he hates doing). His followup statement:

Rather than releasing the Report on the Rigged & Stolen Georgia 2020 Presidential Election on Monday, my lawyers would prefer putting this, I believe, Irrefutable & Overwhelming evidence of Election Fraud & Irregularities in formal Legal Filings as we fight to dismiss this disgraceful Indictment by a publicity & campaign finance seeking D.A., who sadly presides over a record breaking Murder & Violent Crime area, Atlanta. Therefore, the News Conference is no longer necessary!

So for the first time... well, ever, that we can recall... Donald Trump actually took the advice of his lawyers. Things must really be getting bad if he's gotten to that point -- he must be absolutely terrified at the Georgia charges. Especially since getting pardoned for everything isn't even really an option in this case. Even if the Republican governor of the state wasn't already a Trump foe, he wouldn't even have the power to pardon Trump. A commission takes care of that in the state, and only when five years have passed after the completion of the sentence. So there's no easy way out for Trump.

While we won't have Trump's three-ring-circus press conference (and "Irrefutable REPORT") to amuse us early next week, there will indeed be at least two circuslike performances emanating from Republicanland. Trump has to surrender at the local jail by noon next Friday, so that'll be amusing to watch on live television. However, unlike in his other cases, it appears he won't be immediately arraigned -- the arraignment probably won't happen until the first week in September. But it'll be worth the wait because for the first time there will be television cameras inside the courthouse. So we'll actually get to see Trump having to behave himself in front of a judge for the first time.

The second circus performance next week will come on Wednesday night, when the first GOP debate of the 2024 presidential cycle will happen. Trump is already successfully playing a game of: "Will he or won't he?" with the media, and it's anyone's guess whether he'll actually show up or not. He's currently floating the idea of doing a simultaneous interview with Tucker Carlson, to compete with the Fox debate. And today the news broke that a few more very minor candidates might have actually qualified for the debate stage, so there could be as many as ten other (non-Trump) people on the stage.

Our bet (at this point, at any rate) is that Trump won't show up. He really wants to stick his finger in the eye of Fox, he knows he is dominating the polls and his closest rival seems to be collapsing, so there really is no upside for Trump to showing up. Other than having his ego fed and having fun tossing playground-bully attacks around with abandon. But if he sits out the first two debates, it'll almost certainly weed out a lot of the minor candidates and leave just a core for Trump to tangle with later. So our bet is that he probably won't show up for either of the first two debates.

But we could be wrong, of course. Stay tuned! Will he... or won't he?

Even if Trump doesn't show up, he's still going to be the center of attention in the debate, that much seems certain. Every single candidate on the stage is going to have to not only answer questions about what they think about Trump's actions surrounding January 6th, but they are also going to have to provide the voters with some sort of reason to vote for them instead of Trump. Some are trying to finesse this issue by saying, more in sorrow than in anger, something like: "Sure, Trump was great -- I voted for him! But we've got to move on now or we're going to lose." Good luck with that -- that's all we've got to say.

It is slightly comforting to see more and more of the Republican candidates admitting actual reality, though. Mike Pence this week stated flatly: "The Georgia election was not stolen." Even Ron DeSantis is inching towards this conclusion. They're all going to be asked about it (in one form or another) Wednesday night, so they better get their answers ready in advance.

Which brings us to our final item of the week. It seems Ron DeSantis got some debate-prep memos, in a rather roundabout way. They were posted on a website by his super PAC, since they can't directly coordinate with the DeSantis campaign organization. Where it was all noticed by reporters.

Here's the advice the super PAC gave DeSantis (whom they call "GRD," assumably for "Governor DeSantis"):

There are four basic must-dos....

1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times. 2. State GRD's positive vision 2-3 times. 3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response. 4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.

Hoo boy -- that last one is a doozy!

They even included a suggested response to Christie attacking Trump: "Trump isn't here, so let's just leave him alone. He's too weak to defend himself here." This is a masterful way of attempting to walk the tightrope with Trump supporters -- both standing up for Trump and simultaneously slamming him by calling him "too weak to defend himself" (for being too chicken to show up). But now DeSantis is sort of stuck, since if he does follow through on this advice, he'll look like a puppet or a robot (which is already kind of a problem for him). But if he doesn't follow through on the advice, then what's he going to do? Rip into Trump? His whole "lane" in the primary field is "Trumpism without Trump's baggage," so that's not going to go over very well.

The memos also suggested giving Ramaswamy a Trumpian playground-bully nickname: "Fake Vivek" or "Vivek the Fake." Neither is very impressive, and once again if DeSantis uses them he's going to look pretty inauthentic (which is a big problem for him in general).

In any case, come next Wednesday night, no matter who appears on the stage and what they have to say, we'll be popping lots of popcorn and having fun watching it all play out.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Before we begin, we really have to bestow some sort of approval on two groups this week, but since neither is overtly partisan we can't actually give them an award.

The first is a group of kids in Montana, who successfully sued their state for violating their right to a clean environment. Monday, a judge agreed with them:

In doing so, the district court struck down a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act that barred the state from considering climate impacts when permitting energy projects. The court also affirmed that climate is included in the state constitution's guarantee of a right to a "clean and healthful environment."

The kids ranged from 5 to 22 years old (the youngest was 2 when the case was first filed). The judgment is being described as "one of the strongest decisions on climate change ever issued by a court -- both in the United States and worldwide." The case may not survive on appeal, but it has already made history, which is pretty impressive for a bunch of kids.

The second story that we had to applaud was a small newspaper in Kansas (the Marion County Record) who, rather incredibly, got raided by their local police. All their computers were seized, the weekly struggled to get this week's copy out, and one of the co-owners of the paper (a 98-year-old woman) died the day after the raid, from the stress of it all.

This all led to intense criticisms across the entire newspaper landscape, which was heartening to see. Freedom of the press -- the only form of business to be specified in the U.S. Constitution -- is sacrosanct among those who work in the field. And cops aren't supposed to just get a search warrant and grab everything they can. They're supposed to get a subpoena and fight the issue out in court instead.

But the story has a happy ending of sorts, as the local county attorney realized how bad it all looked and withdrew the warrant and will be returning all the computers and other items seized. But it never should have happened in the first place.

Moving on to Democratic awards, it's an easy choice this week. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is easily the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

This was the indictment we've all been waiting for. It was designed to hold not just Donald Trump accountable, but also a wide range of his co-conspirators. Whatever the eventual outcome of this case -- whether Trump is convicted at trial or not -- Willis certainly deserves credit for not shying away from throwing the book at Trump and his ilk. If anyone deserves to be treated as a mobster, it is Donald J. Trump, after all.

The judge assigned to the case is somewhat of a mystery (he's fairly new on the job), so it remains to be seen how quickly this trial will happen, and whether he'll be friendlier to the prosecution or the defense, but at least now it all is in the hands of a judge. We admit we have been somewhat impatient with Willis (after she stated in January that "charging decisions are imminent"), but at this point we can say that it was worth the wait.

For having the spine to take on Trump in such sweeping fashion, it was pretty obvious that there could be no other candidate for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week than Fani Willis.

[Congratulate Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Senator Bob Menendez is -- yet again -- facing a federal investigation into his actions. The story reporting this pointed out: "Menendez has found himself the subject of similar investigations again and again -- about once every decade. It happened in the 2000s, the 2010s, and it's happening now." So it's not exactly a new situation for him or anything.

The article continues, explaining:

This time, federal prosecutors are examining both the senator and his wife, looking into any connections to a company that secured an exclusive contract to certify meat exports to Egypt despite inexperience in the field. Several New Jersey politicians have reportedly received subpoenas for correspondence between Menendez, the owner of the New Jersey-based company and a powerful waterfront developer who owns its offices.

A later article pointed out that his approval rating in New Jersey is down... and he is up for re-election next year.

But so far (at least) it all seems rather nebulous. Menendez hasn't been charged with anything, swears he is innocent, and he's beaten raps before. So until something concrete develops in his case, we find we can't even give him a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

And since the political world was transfixed on the other side of the aisle this week, we also find that no other Democrat even appeared on our radar, in terms of being disappointing. Well, OK, there was R.F.K. Jr., but we're maintaining a policy of "the less said about him the better," so that doesn't even rise to a nomination (at least not this week).

So we once again will place the MDDOTW award back on the shelf until next week, unless readers have their own nominations in the comments.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 719 (8/18/23)

Most of our talking points this week deal with the big news, although we did throw a few in at the end just to change things up (the last one we couldn't resist, just because the concept is a funny one to think about).

As always, use responsibly and we'll see you back here next week for another dose (so to speak).


   And this is going to help you how?

This is more of a taunt than anything else. But heck, why not?

"Do Republicans really think that nominating a man who has been accused of 91 felonies is going to somehow win him more votes than he got last time? Do they really think this is going to help them recapture suburban voters? How many suburban moms are going to say to themselves, 'Well, four years ago I didn't like him but now that he's facing serious jail time I think I'll give him another chance'? Do Republicans really think that independent voters are somehow going to vote for Trump and guarantee that we'll have four solid years of chaos, at this point? I mean, do they really think all of this is going to help them? How?!?"


   The Don

This one deserves to go viral.

"We've always known Trump is a wannabe mob boss. He's always conducted his business through intimidation and threats. If he doesn't feel like it, he doesn't pay you. If you get on his bad side, he will come down on you like a ton of bricks. He makes sideways suggestions to his henchmen and minions, and they get the message and do what he wants -- just like every other mob boss who has learned never to say anything too illegal. Just listen to that phone call where he drops dark threats if the Georgia Republicans didn't 'find 11,780 votes' for Trump! It's always been plain to see, it's just now that he's been charged in Georgia we can officially use the term: 'accused mob boss Donald Trump.' Which is about the most accurate description of him I've ever heard."


   Trump's DMs

This was a little-noticed sidebar to the week.

"Not only did federal special counsel Jack Smith get all of Donald Trump's tweets -- after Twitter had to be held in contempt of court for not producing them -- but he also got an absolute trove of other data as well. He's got draft tweets that were never sent. He's got all of Trump's direct messages to others on Twitter. None of which has even been made public. How much does Trump DM other people? Nobody knows... except Trump and, now, Jack Smith. This should make for some entertaining evidence, when Trump's cases get to court, don't you think?"


   Rudy getting desperate

It's always amusing when Trump stiffs some lawyer or friend and refuses to pay what he promised. But in this case, it could have further consequences.

"Rudy Giuliani seems to be broke. He's facing several court cases against him, both civil and (now) criminal. He essentially had to punt on one case and admit his own wrongdoing, just to avoid being found in contempt because he couldn't afford to pay to have his own records searched (as the judge had ordered). He's being sued by two elections workers in Georgia for defamation, and Rudy had to officially admit that he both lied about them and that it was defamatory for him to do so. And all of that was before the criminal charges in Georgia got handed down. If I was betting on any one of those 18 co-conspirators listed in the indictment to flip, at this point my money would be on Rudy. Not because he wanted to, but because he couldn't afford the lawyers' fees to fight it. Trump's about to find out that sometimes not paying his lawyers can come back to bite him, that's my guess."


   Trump's ineligible

Their whole paper hasn't been published yet, but it's already having an impact.

"Two very conservative law professors -- both respected constitutional experts, and both members in good standing of the Federalist Society -- spent a full year digging into the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. And they have concluded, in a paper soon to be published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, that Donald Trump is ineligible to serve as president again. Under the amendment, passed in the wake of the Civil War, anyone who has 'engaged in insurrection or rebellion' against the United States government, or 'given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,' means, in William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen's opinion, that: '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 January 6th.' These aren't some tree-hugging liberals, these are serious conservative legal scholars. Their conclusion is that it is the duty of any official who certifies candidates for the ballot to reject Trump on their own, without anything else having to happen. This could bar Trump from the ballot in all kinds of places next year, so it is definitely going to be interesting to read their full paper."


   America's image dramatically improving worldwide

This one's just a bit of good news to brag about.

"After four years of sinking under Donald Trump, America's standing in the world has dramatically improved under President Joe Biden, Pew just reported. As they put it: 'there's been a big shift in America's global image in a positive direction.' We've gone from our president being a literal laughingstock at the United Nations to once again commanding respect from the rest of the world. That's a big change, folks, even if it isn't at all surprising. Joe Biden is a decent man and a good leader -- Trump was neither."


   Like, wow, man...

We had to end on a lighter note today, just because.

"My eye was certainly caught by a Washington Post headline this week that started off with 'Yes, Janet Yellen Ate Magic Mushrooms,' for obvious reasons. Can you picture the secretary of the Treasury tripping her face off? Can you imagine what she'd be saying? 'Like, wow... have you ever really... like thought about money, man? What a total trip it all is!' But then we finished reading the headline, which ended with: 'Here's why she didn't get high.' That's what she said about the experience, mind you. But I'll personally be keeping an eye on her, just in case she proposes a redesign of dollar bills to include Day-Glo ink or something...."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


7 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Quad-Indicted?”

  1. [1] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Quick note about the DM’s. The reason that getting the draft Twitter messages is important is because draft messages and emails have been used by organized crime and terrorist organizations for decades. Since sending emails and messages can be captured by government’s monitoring the internet, criminals learned to just leave drafts of messages they want other criminals to get in their draft folders. So instead of sending the messages, you just have whoever you want to communicate with sign into your account where they can read the draft, delete it, and respond to you with a draft of their own — that way the messages get communicated without the risk of it being captured. To get into your account, the government has to get a warrant to do so… which makes communication via drafts a safer way to commit crimes.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    She actually said she didn't get high!? Well, that really killed it for me ... just when I was beginning to like Janet Yellen a lot ... :(

    Up here, they're still charging people for possession and closing stores that sell them. Of course, you can still order them online from Canadian websites. What a country.

    Btw, this another issue that Biden and I have never seen eye to eye on, sadly.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I won't be able to make it tonight - circumstances unforeseen, you know ... next Sunday for sure! Sorry. :(

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hoping all of my California friends survive Hilary!

    Seriously, stay safe everyone!!!

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    No worries, I wasn’t in the mood yesterday.

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Out of respect for California’s deep blueness they took away one “l” from Hillary Clinton’s name.

    It’s nice to have that kind of juice.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    True dat.

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