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“Congratulations to Kim Jung Un!” (sic)
The GOP (finally) pushes back. Sort of.
A few must-reads for your Monday morning:
In complete sentences and a narrative tone that sounded as if it had been ripped from a novel, Mr. Corcoran recounted in detail a nearly monthlong period of the documents investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Just Security: (Bookmark this.) Model Prosecution Memo for Trump Classified Documents.
This model prosecution memorandum assesses potential charges federal prosecutors may bring against former President Donald Trump. It focuses on those emanating from his handling of classified documents and other government records since leaving office on January 20, 2021. It includes crimes related to the removal and retention of national security information and obstruction of the investigation into his handling of these documents. The authors have decades of experience as federal prosecutors and defense lawyers, as well as other legal expertise. Based upon this experience and the analysis that follows, we conclude that Trump should–and likely will–be charged.
Donald J. Trump: It’s coming.
Mark Leibovich: Ron DeSantis’s Joyless Ride.
His whole act can feel like a clunky contrivance—a forced persona railing against phony or hyped-up outrages.
Tim Alberta: Inside the Meltdown at CNN.
At the least, even absent some official agreement, it seemed obvious that CNN leaders had been contorting the coverage to keep Trump happy—perhaps to prevent him from walking offstage. At one point during the pregame show, when the words sexual abuse appeared on the CNN chyron, one of Licht’s lieutenants phoned the control room. His instructions stunned everyone who overheard them: The chyron needed to come down immediately.
(Alberta tweeted: “Cannot overstate how shocked/shaken CNN staffers were at the time of this episode, and how irate others have been as the story spread. Justifiably so. If this decision was indeed made to appease the Trump team—to keep him from quitting the town hall—it is an absolute scandal.”)
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Pushing back on Kim
After North Korea was bizarrely named to the World Health Organization’s executive board, Donald Trump bleated out his congratulations on Truth Social (while misspelling Kim’s name).
Reaction came quickly from Trump critics like John Bolton:
Other GOP candidates quickly chimed in:
Nikki Haley: “Kim Jong Un is a thug and a tyrant, and he has tested ballistic missiles against our allies. He’s threatened us. There’s nothing to congratulate him about. I mean, he’s been terrible to his people. He’s been terrible to America and we need to stop being nice to countries that hate America….”
Mike Pence: “Whether it’s my former running mate or anyone else, nobody should be praising the dictator in North Korea or praising the leader in Russia, who has launched an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine. This is a time when we ought to make it clear to the world that we stand for freedom and we stand with those who stand for freedom.”
Asa Hutchinson: “Kim Jong-Un, the tyrant dictator in North Korea should not be praised by Donald Trump for a leadership role in the World Health Organization. We sanction leaders who oppress their people. We do not elevate them on the world stage.”
Ron DeSantis (who felt the need to also attack the WHO): “I was surprised to see that. I mean, one, Kim Jong-un is a murderous dictator. They just imprisoned for life a family, including an infant, which is just outrageous. The World Health Organization is a bankrupt organization, like Kim Jong Un's bad but then joining that. We need to be getting out of that and rejecting the WHO lockdown treaty, not congratulating [anyone] about being involved in the WHO."
And especially interesting: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (who is not running for president) also jumped into the scrum; “Taking our country back from Joe Biden does not start with congratulating North Korea’s murderous dictator,” he tweeted.
Why is this happening now?
This is hardly the first time that DJT has lavished praise on the brutal despot of the Hermit Kingdom; for years he has boasted about his “love letters” with the gelatinous gangster.
And Kim is not the only thug Trump has fawned over.
Trump’s bro-crushes on murderers have been a defining feature of the man for years. Surely every Republican knows that. So the feigned outrage over the weekend was both belated and disingenuous.
But the blowback was still welcome, because (1) it shows a willingness to hit Trump, (2) underscores his fundamental unfitness for office, and (3) may exploit a political vulnerability, because the pro-Kim wing of the GOP electorate is vanishingly small.
FLASHBACK: “Top of the Line!” Trump Fawns, Again.
Indicted felon Donald Trump returned to Fox News last night, and FAWNED on some of the world’s most brutal dictators. Because, of course.
Watching the video is bad enough. Reading the actual transcript is a wild ride through the recesses of the former president’s mind:
TRUMP: Top of the line. Top line. They’re all top of the line. Are our guys not top of the line? Never was.
These are top of the line people at the top of their game.
President Xi is a brilliant man. If you went all over Hollywood to look for somebody to play the role of President Xi, you couldn’t find, there’s nobody like that.
The look, the brain, the whole thing. We had a great relationship….
People ask how smart is Kim Jong Un? Kim Jong Un is smart too.
You know, when you come out and as a young man at 24, 23, even though he sort of inherits it, most people when they inherit, they lose it. And that’s easy stuff.
He took over a country, a very smart people, very, very energetic people, very tough people at a very young age. And he has total dominate control. That’s not easy. These are these are very smart.
Putin, very smart.
Now, he’s had probably a bad year. If he took over all of Ukraine and what are we going to do because Biden is so committed to Ukraine. What happens if it’s a not winnable war?
You know, there are people that say Ukraine cannot win.
War crimes? Genocide? Murders? Not something that the GOP frontrunner seems to care about. But we knew that, didn’t we?
Thirty years ago, Donald Trump said that China had shown the "power of strength" when its troops massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before….
It was March 1990, and Trump was being interviewed by Playboy magazine about his life as a real estate mogul. At one point, Trump was asked about a trip he'd taken to Moscow a few years prior.
Trump said he'd been "very unimpressed" with the Soviet Union.
"Their system is a disaster," Trump said. "What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That's my problem with [former Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand."
Trump was then asked if he meant "firm hand as in China."
"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength," Trump replied. "That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak...as being spit on by the rest of the world."
1. Team DeSantis Can’t Run to Trump’s Nutball Right and Then Get Mad at Us For Noticing
If someone is aspiring to the presidency and their critical takeaways regarding the Trump administration are that Trump was:
Too deferential to experts on COVID
Too anxious to distribute a life-saving vaccine
Not harsh enough on immigrants who were brought here as children
Too adversarial to the prison-industrial complex, and
Not passionate enough about the need for a rhetorical attack on the “woke left”
Well, then you are going to have to forgive me if I come to the conclusion that you are a deranged lunatic.
And yet there is a category of DeSantis supporters who become incandescent with rage at any suggestion that their guy might be worse than Trump in certain ways.
Andrew Sullivan has a Trig Palin–esque obsession with any former Republicans who deign to observe what is in front of their eyes when it comes to the DeSantis campaign. And the Ron johns on Twitter mock anyone in the media who suggests DeSantis is more extreme than Trump.
2. Harlan Crow’s Weak Argument for Refusing to Cooperate with Senate Investigators
Crow has refused to comply, claiming that the request is unconstitutional. In a letter responding to the committee on Crow’s behalf, lawyer Michael Bopp of the elite law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher argues that “Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court,” and therefore the whole investigation is illegitimate, ergo any related request from the committee is invalid.
If Bopp’s letter were filed with a federal court, it would come precariously close to violating Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which enables courts to impose sanctions on lawyers for advocating excessively frivolous arguments. But before getting into the legal issues, let’s consider, for context, why Congress might be poking around Crow’s business with the Supreme Court in the first place.
3. The Rise of the Troll King: How Yevgeny Prigozhin Came to Power
What’s behind the Kremlin crony’s self-reinvention as a quasi-dissident and a possible contender for Putin’s job? Here, opinions differ wildly. Some think that Prigozhin is a talented psychopath; others that he’s crazy like a fox. Some say he is nothing more than Putin’s loyal attack dog, a useful weapon for bullying the generals and defense officials and keeping them under control. Others believe the attack dog is off the leash and snapping at his former master—either because Prigozhin is in disfavor and fighting for his life, or because the growing instability in Russia is enabling him to claim power in his own right, or because he has powerful backers who are using him in a game of their own.