FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- Lock Him Up!

[ Posted Friday, August 12th, 2022 – 16:39 UTC ]

The irony is delicious, we cannot deny it. A man who rose to power by leading chants of: "Lock her up!" against his political opponent (for mishandling classified documents -- a man who later signed a law making the offense a felony with up to five years' prison time) is now in the process of being hoist by his own petard. So it's been a rather schadenfreude-y kind of week.

We have to admit we were a little taken aback at what seemed to be an invasion into the regularly-scheduled start of the August "Silly Season" in politics (where Congress scarpers off to sunny shores while political reporters are left scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with something to write about) by a week that seems to have been taken straight from the middle of Donald Trump's presidency and plonked down now, just to liven up August of 2022. Remember those agonizingly-long four years? When one week's news contained so many revelations and outrages that it was just hard to keep up with it all? That's what this week felt like, at least, to us. More than a little déjà-vu-esque in other words.

But we're going to buck all trends and give President Biden some top billing. Because he deserves it much more than his criminally-inclined predecessor, that's for sure.

Biden began the week (which we count from Friday afternoon to Friday afternoon, we should point out) watching major portions of his political agenda pass in one huge budget reconciliation bill through the United States Senate. Because Chuck Schumer refused to allow them to disappear for their August vacation, the opposition didn't even fight all that hard. The bill was debated on Saturday and by Sunday actually got a floor vote (Republicans could have wasted a lot more time, but it was time that would have eaten into their own vacations, so...). It passed 51-50, with all Democrats standing firmly together (including Vice President Kamala Harris, casting yet again the tiebreaking vote), and headed over to the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi called the House back from their own vacation (which they had started a week earlier than the Senate) and will be holding a vote on the bill as soon as this afternoon (it may have already even passed by the time you read this). [Editor's note: it did.]

Biden also held two signing ceremonies, for the previously-passed "Chips and Science" bill and for the PACT Act, to help veterans exposed to burn pits get the care they deserve. Midweek, he got a monthly inflation report which showed the rate of inflation (measured year-to-year) had gone down faster than anyone expected, and which also amazingly showed that the month-to-month inflation rate for July was zero percent. Falling gas prices drove much of this, but not all of it. Certain sectors of the economy are indeed cooling off, which is exactly what needs to happen to achieve a "soft landing" that doesn't involve a recession.

The biggest news was the Inflation Reduction Act, though. Because with this passed into law, Democrats have a much better outlook on the midterm elections. Rather than trying to somehow motivate Democratic voters to make it to the polls with nothing more than promises of future good legislation, now they can explicitly make the case: "Promises made, promises kept!" Biden did successfully get the biggest-ever effort to fight climate change through Congress. Democrats are working hard to bring down the obscene prices for prescription drugs. And the price of gas keeps going down, to boot.

All in all -- and setting aside all the melodrama from the other side of the aisle -- that's a pretty good week for President Biden.

But in all honesty, the political week truly began with the news that Donald Trump's golf resort in Florida had been searched by the F.B.I. Trump himself was the bearer of this news -- the F.B.I. bent over backward to be as low-key as possible about the whole thing. But Trump always sees all events through the lens of: "How can I make some money off of this?" so he riled up his base and invited them to send him lots of money to fight off all the imaginary dastardly forces that were, once again, attacking him for no reason.

Salon got this part exactly right:

There is no limit to the depths Donald Trump will explore to beg for money.

A day after the FBI executed a search warrant on his home at Mar-a-Lago, the former president sent out emails to his supporters saying the FBI had "raided" his home, "broke into" his safe and possibly planted evidence. Was he upset? Maybe. Was he innocent? Who cares? But he was open about needing money to help battle "the corrupt left," whatever that means. And so, dear friends and neighbors, the preacher in the big pop-up tent is going to pass around the hat, and if you'd very graciously give everything you have, the billionaire who needs your money would much appreciate it. By the way, would you like a new shirt with Donald's portrait? He's got those too.

After the initial search (conducted via a completely legal search warrant signed by a federal magistrate), Republicans dutifully flipped out. Their new political slogan is: "Defund the F.B.I.!" which is a rather amusing turnaround for them. Only a handful of GOP politicians kept their powder dry and took a "let's wait and see what this turns out to be" approach. Chris Christie is the only Republican we heard this week who actually admitted the truth (since he was previously a federal prosecutor, he's well-versed in the legalities and the propriety of what happened). He called the search (even the part about breaking into Trump's safe): "fair game."

His was a lonely voice, however. The rest of the Republican Party absolutely went bonkers. They inched right up to calling for violence against the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice, with some of them blatantly crossing that line or even suggesting what America needed was a "civil war." And then one of the January 6th insurrectionists took them up on their incitement and tried to force his way into a regional F.B.I. office with an assault rifle and a nail gun (to break the bulletproof glass he knew was there). He was later shot and killed by Ohio police. Since then, precious few Republicans have denounced such violence. It's only a matter of time until Trump declares the guy a new martyr for his cause, just like the insurrectionist woman from January 6th who died trying to force her way into the same room where members of the House of Representatives were cowering in fear.

Because that's where we are in politics in America right now. One major political party is openly flirting with fomenting open violence against the federal government in order to cover up crimes committed by their leader. While many rightwingers threw the term around with abandon this week -- to describe a legally-executed search warrant signed off on by a judge -- what the Republicans are doing in a not-so-hidden way would indeed turn this country into a banana republic. A place where brute force is the only thing that mattered in politics.

At the height of all this, Attorney General Merrick Garland called Trump's bluff. Trump always had the power to release the search warrant and the list of items taken on his own, but Garland announced the Justice Department would ask the judge to unseal the warrant and the property list -- unless Trump's lawyers objected. Trump painted himself into a corner and the only ways out were either to admit to the world that he wanted to keep the whole thing secret (to better make money off the suspicion, no doubt), or to acquiesce to releasing what the F.B.I. hauled away in (reports vary) the 10 to 20 boxes they seized and confiscated.

Trump chose the latter, and today it was revealed that he had 11 sets of classified documents -- one of which was classified at the highest level that exists ("Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information"). Here was one of the earliest reports today:

A search warrant viewed by Politico reveals that the FBI is investigating Donald Trump for a potential violation of the Espionage Act and removed classified documents from the former president's Florida estate earlier this week.

A receipt accompanying the search warrant shows that Trump possessed documents including a handwritten note; documents marked with "TS/SCI," which indicates one of the highest levels of government classification; and another item labeled "Info re: President of France." Also among the items taken from Mar-a-Lago this week: An item labeled "Executive grant of clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr.," a reference to one of Trump's closest confidants who received a pardon in late 2020.

The warrant shows federal law enforcement was investigating Trump for removal or destruction of records, obstruction of justice, and violating the Espionage Act. Conviction under the statutes can result in imprisonment or fines.

The Washington Post earlier ran an article stating how serious things could be:

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump's Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

The people who described some of the material that agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation. Nor did they say if such documents were recovered as part of the search. A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

The New York Times also reported this week that Trump had received a subpoena "this spring" for all these documents, and (obviously) had refused to cough them up. Which is why a search was necessary in the first place. Because he was illegally in possession of top secret documents.

There was one amusing side note during the week, as it was reported that the information for the search warrant (and, assumably, that subpoena from back in the spring) came from an inside informant. Someone who knew not only exactly what Trump had in his possession in detail, but someone who also knew exactly where it all could be found. This led to a bout of acute paranoia inside Trump's inner circle. Trump's even afraid that people he meets with are wearing a wire, it now seems. You know, just like a real mob boss.

But the real irony in all of this is that this is all precisely what Trump continually denounced Hillary Clinton for. This was the heart of all those "Lock Her Up!" chants. So whenever the media interviews a Republican denouncing the "raid" on Trump, they should really go back and dig out what that person said back in 2016 about Hillary's emails. Because there's plenty of hypocrisy to mine there.

While they're at it, journalists should also ask a few more tough questions of GOP politicians these days. Because things are getting completely out of hand -- an F.B.I. office was attacked at gunpoint this week. Here are a few Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post came up with:

When considering an invitation to Republican propagandists to appear on TV or when airing their attacks on law enforcement (who must execute warrants every day, running the risk of violent responses), the media might want to rethink their role in helping to stoke another MAGA meltdown. At the very least, they should ask Republicans some tough questions:

  • Where is the evidence of abuse by the FBI or Justice Department?
  • Since a federal magistrate must sign off on a warrant, are you accusing the judiciary of abuse of power?
  • Why was the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails appropriate but investigation of Trump's document removal a horrible abuse?
  • Trump could release his search warrant if he wanted to. Why hasn't he? Have you asked him to?
  • Trump himself signed a law increasing the penalty for anyone who "knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location" from one to five years. Isn't this a serious crime? Should the Justice Department not enforce this law?
  • Since the FBI cannot comment on pending investigations or reveal grand jury information, why are you demanding an "explanation" of the search? Isn't threatening to investigate the investigators an attempt to chill (i.e., "obstruct") the investigation?
  • Why are some Republicans now calling to defund the FBI? How can the party claim to be on the side of law enforcement with such proposals?
  • Is Trump subject to laws prohibiting unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and solicitation of voting fraud (under Georgia statute)?
  • Since you've already asserted without evidence that the FBI abused its power, why would Americans trust any "investigation" you oversaw?
  • When you say a search of a former president's home has never happened before, has there ever been a president who instigated a coup attempt? Has there ever been a president who encouraged submission of phony electors? Or one who removed 15 boxes of presidential documents from the White House, including highly classified material?

This is yet another dangerous moment in which Republicans are fanning the flames of indignation with lies, unfounded accusations and baseless conspiracy theories. This time, the media should reflect on its own role in enabling the GOP to tear down our democracy.

We have to agree, wholeheartedly. The rightwing fringe is going through exactly the same explosion of calls for violence and civil war that they went through right before January 6th happened. That is happening right now. And Republicans are either ignoring it or openly enabling and supporting it (to some degree or another -- some of them choose their words more carefully than others, we should mention).

They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. There should be outraged cries for Republican leaders to denounce such violence immediately and unequivocally. The failure to do so is a dereliction of duty, because it allows such sentiments to grow.

This is dangerous stuff, people. So far, only one F.B.I. office was attacked. Let's hope it stays that way.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got a couple Honorable Mention awards to hand out before we get to the main one for the week.

The first goes to Letitia James, the prosecutor in New York who finally forced Donald Trump to sit down and answer questions under oath this week. The only question he would answer was what his name was, and then from that point forward -- for hours and hours -- he repeated that he was "taking the Fifth." Reportedly, he used this answer or a variation over 400 times.

This was highly amusing to everyone on the internet who remembered that, as usual with Trump, there was an earlier Trump quote on the same subject: "You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" Yet another petard to hoist Trump's oversized hindquarters upon.

Our second Honorable Mention goes to Beto O'Rourke, who during a campaign stop this week was denouncing the Texas gun law that allowed an 18-year-old to buy an AR-15 military rifle and shoot small children at a school, when someone interrupted him with laughter.

Beto's response came straight from the gut, but it also comes with an "if strong language offends you, please skip to the next paragraph" warning. Beto departed from his remarks to denounce the heckler: "It may be funny to you, motherfucker, but it's not funny to me!"

The crowd erupted in cheers. Beto's anger and revulsion worked. And the video clip immediately went viral (8.1 million views and counting...).

But the winner of this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was President Joe Biden. Even while he was still dealing with a bout of COVID, Biden still had a rather extraordinary week. And it began earlier than usual, as the Senate debated on Saturday and then passed on Sunday the biggest chunk of Biden's political agenda to date. The House will vote on it today and the outcome is certain. The Inflation Reduction Act will be on Biden's desk soon for his signature, capping off a year and a half of his presidential legacy.

Here's how one Washington Post columnist summed it up:

President Biden, despite his party's thin House majority and the 50-50 Senate, has arguably passed more important bills than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. And LBJ had a filibuster-proof Senate majority throughout his presidency (a high of 68 Democrats at one point) and huge House majorities (his low, after the 1966 election, was a 61-vote advantage).

With the passage Sunday [by the Senate] of the historic Inflation Reduction Act, which would invest in green energy, contain prescription drug costs and make it much more difficult for big corporations to evade paying taxes, Democrats capped a run of victories. That includes the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure plan, the gun-safety bill, the semiconductor manufacturing bill, expanded health care for veterans exposed to burn pits, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Senate approval for admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO, and confirmation of 76 federal judges (including the first Black female Supreme Court justice).

Throw on top of that the 9 million jobs gained since Biden took office; the widely successful rollout of coronavirus vaccination and treatments that are preventing serious illness for the vast majority of Americans; the record-low 8 percent uninsured rate; and the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and it's clear this administration has a remarkable record.

Remarkable indeed, especially when you add in the rest of the week: zero inflation in July, gas prices dipping below $4 a gallon nationwide, and Biden successfully signing two major pieces of legislation: the bill which will boost our competition with China and bring semiconductor manufacturing plants back home, and the PACT Act, to protect veterans exposed to toxic burn pits by giving them the health care they now need. Biden explicitly said it during the signing ceremony: he believes that this is what caused the brain cancer which killed his own son, Beau. So it was a very personal victory for Biden to sign the PACT Act for all the other veterans (and parents) out there.

The bookend to this week will be the House passing the Inflation Reduction Act and putting it on his desk for Biden's signature. All in all, an extraordinarily good week. Which is why we have to say that President Biden was this week's 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

There's an argument to be made that Beto O'Rourke also deserves this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, for using that one particular word.

There are, obviously, a whole bunch of other insulting terms he could have substituted. Since we printed the quote unexpurgated, however, we're going to refrain from listing a few choice selections. We're sure you can think a few on your own, right?

But we decided not to give Beto even a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award, because, after all, he was reacting to a man who was laughing at the slaughter of small children in a school. That is pretty heinous. Would we have been able to restrain ourselves if we had been in Beto's position? Probably not. So how can we judge him for his reaction?

So we're going to put the MDDOTW back on the shelf, since we can't come up with any other Democrats who transgressed enough to deserve it this week. If you feel we've missed someone, please feel free to make nominations in the comments, as usual.

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 672 (8/12/22)

A rather varied bunch, this week. No real coherent theme, just a mixed bag.

 

1
   Lock him up!

Too, too funny....

"OK, we're just going to use exactly the same logic and exactly the same respect for due process that Donald Trump and his crowds showed towards Hillary Clinton and her emails. Trump has been caught red-handed with documents with the highest secret classification that exists in his possession. There is no possible justification or excuse for him holding on to a whole bunch of national security secrets as a private citizen. None. And the documents weren't just casually in his possession, they were documents his lawyers have refused to hand over after getting a subpoena for them back in the spring. It's not like Trump or his legal team were taken by surprise by this, in other words. The warrant specifically mentioned possible crimes Trump has committed under the Espionage Act. So what do we say in this circumstance? Well, Trump himself taught it to us all, although we have to change the second word to make it fit -- Lock him up! Lock him up! And throw away the key, while you're at it."

 

2
   Just look in the toilet

A nice footnote to the week.

"Donald Trump is obviously guilty of breaking the law regarding presidential records and he has been all along. He illegally ripped up too many presidential documents to even count. Some his aides would find later and tape back together so they could go -- as the law dictates -- to the National Archives. But some Trump literally just flushed down the toilet. And we've now even got proof of this, as a New York Times journalist posted this week. You want to see what Trump's level of respect for the law truly is? Just look in the toilet."

 

3
   $2,000 cap!

This is enormous news, politically, but both the Democrats and the media really need to do a lot better job prioritizing it, when speaking of the Inflation Reduction Act.

"Next year, diabetics on Medicare will only have to pay a maximum of $35 a month for the insulin they need to survive. Soon after that, an even more amazing new policy will start to take effect. No senior on Medicare will ever again have to pay more than $2,000 a year for prescription drugs. That's a hard cap. Think of the savings! Think of the peace of mind millions will now have because they'll know that once they've paid two thousand dollars, that will be it for the year -- no having to budget for thousands and thousands more dollars in drug costs. This is going to be revolutionary folks! And yet, every single Republican voted against that. So every senior in America should really think about this, just before they go to the voting booth this November. Because one party capped drug costs for seniors while the other party fought hard against it."

 

4
   GOP stripped insulin cap from applying to private insurance

This is truly shameful, but that only works if you point it out.

"Republicans in the Senate were able to remove one portion of the Inflation Reduction Act -- a provision that would have also allowed everyone with private health insurance to also only pay $35 a month for insulin. This would have been a dramatic savings for millions upon millions of Americans. But Republicans shot it down. So to every diabetic in America who isn't on Medicare yet -- when the new $35-a-month cap begins next year, you won't be covered, sorry. Democrats tried to get it included, but Republicans stripped it out. So please blame them for all the money you pay each and every month above $35. We tried, but Republicans insisted that you pay exactly the same exorbitant prices you are now paying."

 

5
   They want it all to be a political football

This is going to work best up in Wisconsin, but "guilt by association" can work to some degree with all Republicans.

"Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin actually came out and admitted what the Republicans really want to do, not just to Medicare but also to everyone's Social Security. They want to force Congress to debate the entire program's existence each and every year. They want your retirement money to be a giant political football. Republicans aren't content with occasionally stopping Social Security checks from going out with their government shutdowns, they want to be able to actually slash the amount you get in that check each and every year. Democrats fight for Social Security and Medicare. Republicans want to abolish both -- just as they always have, ever since the programs began."

 

6
   The price red states will pay

This would have been a much bigger story this week, if Donald Trump had never decided to use the F.B.I. search of his property as a fundraising device.

"Indiana just passed the first post-Dobbs abortion ban, and it's about as Draconian as you can imagine. But an interesting thing happened after they did. One of the state's largest employers, Eli Lilly, announced that the company would be looking to expand its workforce outside of Indiana. Because it's a lot harder to convince new workers to join your company when it is in a state that is moving backwards on human rights. Red states are already having a tough time -- understandably -- getting OB/GYN doctors to work there, and college students are refusing to even consider attending colleges in red states. There will be an economic price for attacking women's freedoms, mark my words. Giant corporations have loved setting up in red states because of their anti-Union laws and cheap labor, but there's a price to be paid for doing so. So now more than one of them is going to have to rethink that calculation, and the red states might just wind up paying a big economic price that they didn't expect."

 

7
   Exhibit A: Tim Scott

Hoo boy.

"Republican Senator Tim Scott just showed precisely why ignorant and untrained men who have no idea what they are talking about should not be the ones in charge of women's rights, women's freedoms, or women's health care, period. He warned, in a fundraising letter, that if Democrats held the Senate in the midterms all sorts of dire things would happen, including 'abortions up to 52 weeks.' Um... human pregnancies only actually last nine months. Call it 40 weeks. When asked about this idiocy while being interviewed, Scott tried to throw as much sand in the issue as possible but could not come up with any answer (he really should have just admitted the truth: 'I am completely ignorant about such things, as you can see') as to what exactly he was even talking about from week 41 through week 52. Once again, this is precisely why men with no medical training -- or even common sense -- should never, ever be in charge of making a decision which belongs between a woman and her properly-trained doctor. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Exhibit A: Tim Scott."

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground