FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- Week One Of The 'Don Snoreleone' Trial

[ Posted Friday, April 19th, 2024 – 17:12 UTC ]

We begin today with some rather sad breaking news. Outside the trial of Donald Trump in New York City, a man lit himself on fire in the protest area. However, from initial reports, this act of self-immolation was not actually political in nature, instead it appears to be the act of a man suffering from serious mental problems. From live reports from the scene:

A person familiar with the investigation into the man who set himself on fire said that one of the fliers that the man threw in the park referred to [New York University] as a mob, and another talked about the CIA and called the entire government a criminal operation.

A witness who saw the entire thing from a very short distance away said the man: "had a sign saying something about Trump and Biden working together to orchestrate a 'coup'," which clearly shows the act can't really be classified as partisan in any way. Anyone thinking that President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are "working together" on anything is obviously not in his right mind, to state the obvious. The man was still alive when taken to the hospital, but was said to be in critical condition. As of this writing, that's all the news there is on the subject.

Inside the trial room, the week ended with both a full jury and six alternate jurors being successfully seated, so everything is now on track for opening arguments to begin Monday morning. This is a faster schedule than some had anticipated, but the trial itself may take over a month to complete.

So far the biggest news (other than today's horrific events) has been that Trump can't seem to stop falling asleep in the courtroom. He drifts off, closes his eyes, his head slumps down on his chest, his mouth goes slack... and then eventually he snaps back awake. It hasn't happened every day, but one does wonder if he's going to be this lethargic when the actual case gets rolling. Jury selection is a repetitive process than can get monotonous at times, but hearing the case presented by both the prosecution and the defense might be a little more interesting to Trump, so we'll just have to see.

Currently (as we write this) a hearing is taking place which will determine what subjects the prosecution can ask Trump about in cross-examination, if he actually decides to testify in his own defense. So far, Trump has indicated publicly that he is eager to testify, but that should really be taken with a grain of salt -- because it would be such a monumentally stupid thing for him to do. It's hard to imagine a more damaging thing for Trump's defense than him being asked questions under oath that he either: (1) doesn't want to answer, or (2) is almost guaranteed to lie about. Any decent courtroom prosecutor in the country could easily make mincemeat of Trump's believability without even breaking a sweat, obviously.

But that's all for next week. For now: the jury's set, the last details are being worked out, and the real show will begin Monday morning, as the first criminal trial of an ex-president gets underway.

One rather odd thing about the trial so far is that the judge, for no apparent reason, has delayed holding a hearing or issuing a ruling on a rather important (and ongoing) issue: Donald Trump defying his gag order in the case (which is supposed to prevent him from attacking any witnesses or jury members). This Monday, the prosecution filed a request for the judge to sanction Trump over three violations of the gag order, with an incredibly modest suggestion that Trump be fined $1,000 for each instance. They also asked the judge to warn Trump that future violations would be dealt with more harshly, perhaps landing Trump in jail for contempt. Mystifyingly, though, the judge scheduled the hearing not for this Wednesday but for next Wednesday (all Wednesdays will be breaks from the trial, throughout the whole case). This gives Trump a whole extra week to rack up violations, and the prosecution later counted seven violations so far. It's a safe bet that by next Wednesday that number's going to be even higher, so why the delay? As we said... mystifying....

One other high-profile trial was -- very briefly, mind you -- in the news this Wednesday, as the Senate promptly disposed of the laughably unconstitutional impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. We say "very briefly" because the entire trial ended before it even began -- which robbed the impeachment managers (which included Marjorie Taylor Greene, proving how unserious the entire exercise was) of any ability to score political points while completely ignoring the Constitution's requirement of "high crimes or misdemeanors." But we're going to cover that a bit later, so we just mention it in passing....

Other congressional news -- things are actually happening in Congress! No, really! In both houses, even! Could've knocked us over with a feather....

Snark aside, both the Senate and the House are actually moving to pass some critical and very serious bills. The Senate (as of this writing) is moving a bill to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is important because it is about to expire. There is some last-minute haggling going on, and there may even be a short period when the law lapses, but they seem on track to finish soon afterwards, at the very least. The House is going to be in session tomorrow to vote on a package of foreign aid bills -- including military aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan -- which has already led to some rather unprecedented bipartisanship (over parliamentary moves), but again, we're going to cover all of this in more detail later as well.

House Speaker Mike Johnson is skating on some mighty thin ice within his own caucus by moving these bills along, as we've now got three Republicans backing the "motion to vacate the chair" Marjorie Taylor Greene is using to threaten Johnson's job. After this week, Republicans will only have a one-vote majority, so normally this would mean he's toast. However, as a side product of the deal to move the foreign aid bill, Democrats might actually come to his rescue. Which would also be rather unprecedented, but we live in strange times indeed.

President Joe Biden has really amped up his campaign, as he made multiple appearances in Pennsylvania this week (and released an ad specifically designed to court Pennsylvania voters). Team Biden also went with a "deploy the Kennedys" strategy, to blunt the impact of gadfly R.F.K. Jr.'s quixotic campaign. Biden is hoping for lots of "split-screen moments" during the Trump trial, where he is shown either vigorously campaigning or quietly doing the nation's business while his opponent faces dozens of felony charges in a court of law. Possibly related to the new focus on Trump's past (which many voters seem to have forgotten) was the news that Biden is inching up in the polls. Perhaps the polls should be taken with a grain of salt this far out, but good news is always better than bad, right?

Republicans in Arizona continue to shoot themselves in the foot by blocking a bipartisan (technically: "all Democrats plus a few Republicans") effort to repeal the 1864 abortion law that has no exceptions for rape or incest victims. If they were smart, they'd quickly get rid of the law so that Arizona reverted to their previous abortion ban (of 15 weeks), which might have defused the issue for November -- when a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to secure the provisions of Roe v. Wade will be on the ballot -- but apparently they're not that smart. Or, at least, not in the lower chamber -- the state Senate appears likely to pass a repeal bill, but the speaker of the state house is a forced-birth radical and actually likes the 1864 law. So we'll have to wait and see, as the clock ticks down to when the 1864 law will fully take effect again.

What else? Senator Tom Cotton became the latest Republican to just openly advocate for political violence against peaceful protestors, as we all slide down the slippery slope to normalizing something that used to be universally condemned by all.

That's about it for the big political stories this week, which is just the first week of Donald Trump's criminal trial sucking all the oxygen from the room. Things are only going to get worse, in this regard, as time goes on, so we encourage everyone to buckle up for the whole bumpy ride.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, for showing the country that there is one sober-minded political party that is interested in governing and getting the people's business done, while the other is an unserious trainwreck of a clown show (not to mix metaphors or anything, but today's GOP certainly does have aspects of both).

Our first goes to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who immediately shot down the entirely-not-serious impeachment articles the House of Representatives finally sent over to them (after delaying this for months, for no particular reason).

The House Republicans were petulant, because their investigation into President Biden didn't turn any sort of evidence of wrongdoing up at all, so they were denied their real objective (which was to impeach Biden in a tit-for-tat retaliation for Trump having been impeached twice). Since this big prize was denied to them, the House GOP decided to impeach the first sitting cabinet secretary in history, for purely political reasons (also a historic first). They didn't even really pretend to have found that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had committed "high crimes or misdemeanors," they just impeached him for being a Democrat in a Democratic administration, carrying out Democratic policy objectives. That was it. It was pure partisan spite, nothing more.

So the Senate shot the entire circus down before it could even get started. Schumer started off by offering Republicans a chance to vent their spleens on the floor for awhile before Democrats shut the whole thing down, but they turned his offer down so they didn't even get that. Instead, the articles of impeachment were voted to be unconstitutional and dismissed with no trial. The "trial" would have been nothing short of an extended campaign ad for Republicans running for office, slamming Biden's border policies. Democrats had no obligation to provide this platform to the opposition, and so they didn't.

Republicans howled, but the fact is that most of them also voted to dismiss all charges without holding a trial for Trump's second impeachment, so it's not like they had any sort of moral high horse to preach from here.

Schumer did exactly what he should have done, after the House abused the constitutional process of impeachment: he shut them down before they could say a word. Which was impressive indeed.

On the other side of the Capitol, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is aiding Speaker Mike Johnson in almost unprecedented ways, in order to get military aid packages for both Ukraine and Israel finally passed. Democrats are crossing party lines to make this all possible, and may even wind up saving Johnson's speakership from an expected challenge from within his own Republican caucus. Which, as we said, is virtually unprecedented, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

House bills have to go through a process to get a floor vote. The usual way is for the Rules Committee to vote on how exactly the bill will be voted on (defining all the parliamentary questions of amendments and whatnot), and then for this "rule" they pass to be voted on by the full House. After the rule is in place, then the bill itself can be debated and voted upon. That's how it is supposed to work, at any rate.

Except that when Kevin McCarthy (remember him?) got elected speaker (after a tortuous few weeks of repeated votes), he had to agree to put three of the Chaos Caucus hotheads on the Rules Committee. And Johnson didn't change this setup when he became speaker, so the three are still there. This committee is also usually known as "the Speaker's Committee," since it is usually packed with the speaker's staunch supporters. But with the radicals there, the Rules Committee keeps voting down bills that Johnson wants to pass -- meaning they never even make it to the floor (without extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers). Voting down your own party's rules in committee almost never used to happen, mind you. It is extraordinary, but has become normal in this House.

Traditionally, the members of the Rules Committee from the minority party always vote against every bill the speaker wants to move. The speaker's got to get the votes he needs from within his or her own party, in other words. But today all the Democrats on the Rules Committee voted for the foreign aid package to move forward, which defeated the move by the three radicals to vote against it. Again: this is almost unheard-of.

The rule then went to the House floor, where it passed 316-94. It got more Democratic "aye" votes than Republican votes -- also an extraordinary thing to happen (although not nearly as rare as what happened in the Rules Committee). This tees up the bills for votes tomorrow afternoon, since Johnson kept to the House rule to give members 72 hours to read the text of bills before votes happen. It is likely to pass, with that much Democratic support. So Ukraine military aid could begin flowing again by as early as next week, which is a huge accomplishment.

Without Hakeem Jeffries allowing such extraordinary actions by his fellow Democrats, it never would have happened. Which is why we're also giving Minority Leader Jeffries his own Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

As we said: there are two parties, but only one of them is serious about getting things done. The other is a complete Dumpster fire.

[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on his House contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

In case anyone was wondering the precise level of sleazebagginess Senator Bob Menendez could possibly display, we now have an answer: maximum levels!

In a court filing that was previously sealed (but was recently unsealed due to pressure from reporters of various media organizations), Menendez lays out his defense's legal strategy:

Sen. Bob Menendez may plan to blame his wife for actions that led to a federal bribery case against him, a newly unsealed court filing suggests.

The senator's legal team plans to try to show the "absence of any improper intent on Senator Menendez's part" by "demonstrating the ways" in which his wife, Nadine Menendez, "withheld information from Sen. Menendez or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place."

Yep -- he's going to blame his wife for everything. And she won't even be present, since the case against her was postponed due to her needing surgery. So he's not just blaming his wife, he'll be blaming his wife who will currently be either undergoing or recuperating from surgery.

What a stand-up guy!

Menendez is a sleazeball who got caught with the gold bars a foreign nation had bribed him with. He has refused to step down from the Senate, and his trial will begin shortly (it was just postponed a week, but will begin next month). We'll doubtlessly be giving him more awards when the trial begins, but in advance we're giving him this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, just on the grounds of general sleaziness.

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

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 748 (4/19/24)

We begin with a link, just because.

If we had had the choice of who we'd like to hear interview the protestors outside Donald Trump's trial, we would have said (in a New York minute): "Triumph The Insult Comic Dog." Only he could have done it justice -- and he did.

Go ahead and enjoy watching (and do so knowing that this was posted earlier in the week, long before today's self-immolation horror).

Our talking points this week aren't quite as snarky or absurdist as only Triumph can manage, but we couldn't resist taking a number of cheap shots of our own.

 

1
   Election interference trial

This is a point about branding that others have made as well, but that we addressed in a column at the start of this week (after someone helpfully pointed it out to us in a tweet).

"It's not a case about a porn star. It's not a case about hush money. That makes it sound trivial, when it is not. It is a case about the election interference that Donald Trump did before the 2016 election. Just think of what this election interference might have done, given the thin majority Trump eked out in a handful of swing states. Without Trump killing negative stories about him, we could be in the final year of President Hillary Clinton's second term in office. Imagine how different things would be, if Trump had just skulked off back to Trump Tower after losing in 2016. That is how important this trial is, because it involved election interference and could have been responsible for changing the course of history."

 

2
   Fun with acronyms (Part 1)

This is actually a commonsense thing to do, which has never been necessary before. But with the House in Republican hands it's never going to pass, so why not have some fun with it?

"Representative Bennie Thompson -- who chaired the January 6th House committee -- has introduced a bill to strip lifetime Secret Service protection from, and I quote: 'any person upon sentencing following conviction for a Federal or State offense that is punishable for a term of imprisonment of at least one year.' Got that? Anyone convicted of a crime that is punishable by at least a one-year jail term -- even if that is not the sentence they actually get -- forfeits their right to lifetime Secret Service protection. The bill is pretty easy to understand, it is only two paragraphs long, and the first one merely defines the name of the bill: the 'Denying Infinite Security and Government Resources Allocated toward Convicted and Extremely Dishonorable Former Protectees Act' or the 'DISGRACED Former Protectees Act.' Yeah, that sounds about right...."

 

3
   Churchill or Chamberlain?

We thought this was a pretty good framing of the choice, personally.

"Speaker Mike Johnson was presented with what many have been calling his 'Churchill/Chamberlain moment' -- where he could choose appeasing a tyrant after a land-grab in Europe just like Neville Chamberlain did, or where he could choose to fight back, like Winston Churchill ultimately did. Thankfully, Johnson seems to have chosen Churchill. But that is the magnitude of the stakes here, as the Ukrainian military has all but run out of ammunition to use in their fight against Vladimir Putin's illegal invasion. We saw before -- with Hitler's Nazi Germany -- what inaction could lead to, so now was not the time to dither and do nothing. I am thankful Speaker Johnson chose Churchill and not Chamberlain this week."

 

4
   Fun with acronyms (Part 2)

We wrote about the next two yesterday, for those who simply don't believe that we aren't making this stuff up....

"The hotheads in the Republican Chaos Caucus got scared this week when rumors were flying that Speaker Mike Johnson was considering kicking three of them off the Rules Committee (in order to put a stop to their nonsensical obstructionism), or maybe even change things so that a 'motion to vacate the chair' would take more than one member to propose. So the hotheads got together and decided to post one of them on the House floor at all times, in rotating duty, to protect against Johnson sneaking some vote by them when they were least expecting it. And -- I swear, you cannot make this stuff up, folks -- they decided to give their little group a name. Which has to go down as perhaps the worst Washington acronym ever, since they decided to call themselves the 'Floor Action Response Team.' That's right -- there will be one vigilant FART on the House floor at all times... stinking up the place."

 

5
   If it's good enough for the Jews....

Marjorie Taylor Greene is certainly in a class of her own when it comes to beclowning herself. This week, she managed a self-own of hilarious proportions.

"Marjorie Taylor Greene proposed an amendment to the foreign policy bill in the House this week which would have -- are you sitting down? -- appropriated money to build some, quote, space lasers, unquote, on our southern border. She wanted to develop these space lasers, since she bragged she had 'previously voted to fund space lasers for Israel's defense' -- which is false, since Israel does not actually have any space lasers deployed. Greene is not just the butt of many comedians' jokes, she's now making herself the butt of her own jokes. Maybe she's angling for a spot in the Beclowning Hall of Fame? As usual, it's hard to tell, with her."

 

6
   Place your bets

Here's a fun project you can try at home!

"Somebody should start a betting pool for how long Donald Trump can go during his trial without totally blowing his stack and losing his cool altogether. What will it be? Ranting at the judge? Shouting down a witness? Ripping into a jury member? And how long do you think he can sit there and stay silent before 'Mount Trump' erupts again (sending the villagers fleeing)? What's the over/under, do you think? Place your bets, folks! I think I'm going to go with 'the fourth day of the trial -- next Friday -- he'll lose it while a witness is testifying.' So where would you put your money?"

 

7
   Lullaby... and good night...

Heh. This one's just pure fun -- because it is always fun to mock a bully using his own terms.

"Donald Trump couldn't even stay awake during the first week of his trial. Joe Biden's campaign has begun calling him 'Sleepy Don,' which is appropriate since Trump has been using 'Sleepy Joe' for a while now. But there are all kinds of other names we could use, right? Just from watching what trended on social media this week, two related ones caught our eye: 'Don Snoreleone' and 'The Nodfather.' It's always nice to see a bully get hoist by their own petard, isn't it?"

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground