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Gaetz Takes His Shot
Plus: Trump’s bad day in court
In today’s Morning Shots: Trump’s trial; Gaetz’s play; Kelly’s story; Davis’s plans; donor delusions; and the GOP’s many death wishes.
Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman reports that as Matt Gaetz left the floor, after filing his motion to vacate the chair (and oust Kevin McCarthy), “the Democratic side of the House erupted in laughter.” How could they not? The GOP clown car was careening into a massive pile of merde, and the only thing America desperately needed was a bigger bowl of popcorn.
As we discussed yesterday, the one thing that members of a bitterly divided Congress seem to agree on is the bipartisan (and wholly merited) loathing of Gaetz. But now he has taken his shot. Will it work? Will he be able to oust My Kevin from his etiolated speakership?
Nobody knows, but it should be a helluva show for all you fans of Veep, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones. The state of play this morning:
A CNN tally indicated at least five House Republicans were supportive of Gaetz’s effort — enough to strip McCarthy of his gavel if all Democrats also line up against him. Over a dozen other Republicans were at least open to deposing McCarthy.
So let’s be abundantly clear where things are for McCarthy — he’s in immediate danger of losing his speakership. Even though McCarthy’s allies are publicly expressing confidence, behind the scenes, his leadership team is taking the threat very seriously.
McCarthy has two days — today and tomorrow — to schedule a vote on Gaetz’s resolution. That vote could come up as early as noon today.
McCarthy is stuck. He probably can’t win with Republican votes alone. Democrats don’t trust him and are less than eager to waltz into the middle of a Republican civil war in order to prop McCarthy up.
What they're saying: "I'm not a cheap date," House Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said of his vote on a motion to vacate, signaling that his support would come at a cost.
*McCarthy didn’t vote to certify the election on Jan. 6, 2021. The attack on the U.S. Capitol is still raw on Capitol Hill, and Democrats will never forgive McCarthy for voting against certification after the mob was cleared from the building.
*McCarthy said former president Donald Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 riot — and then, a few weeks later, traveled to Mar-a-Lago and took an infamous picture with Trump with their thumbs up. Democrats are still furious about the incident, which helped revive Trump politically and whitewash the severity of his role on Jan. 6.
*McCarthy worked against the creation of the Jan. 6 select committee, which Democrats viewed as an attempt to protect Trump.
*McCarthy gave the Jan. 6 security footage to since-fired television host Tucker Carlson without releasing it to news outlets.
*McCarthy delivered votes for the Cares Act — a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in 2020 and signed by Trump — and later became highly critical of pandemic relief legislation.
*He worked with Democrats to help put together the microchips manufacturing bill last year and then whipped his party to vote against it.
*McCarthy backed out of a spending agreement he made with President Biden as part of a deal to lift the debt limit less than two weeks after Biden signed the law in an attempt to placate the furious conservatives in his conference. Democrats on the House floor on Saturday chanted, “Keep your word!”
*McCarthy said in August that he would hold a vote on the House floor to open an impeachment inquiry against Biden. In September, on the first day back from summer recess, McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry and did not hold such a vote.
*On Saturday morning, McCarthy didn’t give lawmakers 72 hours to read the short-term spending bill to keep the government open despite House rules. Republicans argued that it was an amendment and not a full bill so the 72-hour rule didn’t apply. But Democrats were given just minutes to read it and vote on it despite asking Republican leadership for more time. (Democrats deployed stalling tactics to get about two hours to read and discuss the bill.)
*On Sunday, McCarthy went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and charged Democrats with wanting a shutdown. That infuriated Democrats, who voted nearly unanimously for the government spending bill when fewer than half of Republicans did.
Exit take: As we said, stock up on the popcorn.
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Everybody Hates Matt Gaetz
On Monday’s podcast, Will Saletan and I discussed the chaos in the House, and Trump’s latest endorsement of extra-judicial killing.
Trump’s bad day in court
By now, Donald Trump is no stranger to courtrooms, but he seemed unusually unhappy yesterday, don’t you think?
He began the day with a bitter rant, attacking both the prosecutors and the judge.
Outside the courtroom, Mr. Trump fired a fusillade of personal attacks on Ms. James and the judge, Arthur F. Engoron. He called the judge “rogue” and Ms. James “a terrible person,” even suggesting that they were criminals.
The rage seems unusually raw, even by Trumpian standards. The sense of humiliation was fully on display. This morning, he amplified the attacks on his social media account:
“He [Engoron] should resign from the ‘Bench. and be sanctioned by the Courts for his abuse of power, and his intentional and criminal interference with the Presidential Election of 2024, of which I am leading all candidates, both Republican & Democrat, by significant margins,” argued Trump on Truth Social Monday Morning. “Likewise, Letitia James should resign for purposeful and criminal Election Interference. She is fully aware that Mar-a-Lago, and other assets, are worth much more than what she is claiming. Both of these Democrat Operatives are a disgrace to New York, and to the United States of America!”
On Monday, Trump spent much of the rest of the day watching his various frauds laid out before the judge who has already delivered the equivalent of a corporate death penalty. (Trump’s lawyers apparently failed to file the paperwork required to get a jury trial, so it’s all up the judge whom Trump is attacking. Which should go well.)
Nota bene: Trump faces more than 90 felony indictments in four separate cases. If he loses, he could be forced to disgorge $250 million in ill-gotten profits and forced out of business in New York. That would undoubtedly hurt.
David Cay Johnston, a long-time Trump critic and author of The Big Cheat, believes the trial will be fatal for Trump’s business interests. “This is incredibly serious for him because he’s not in business any more,” Johnston said. “Money is everything to him.”
“Donald has been a thief and a liar his entire life. But nothing’s happened to him. That’s a really astonishing part because there’s an unbelievably robust record, establishing that Donald has cheated people lied to people,” said Johnston.
But there’s more…
The trial will feature testimony from many of the denizens of Trump World, including family members, former lawyers, and his financial consigliere Allen Weisselberg. For Trump it probably felt like an episode of “This Is Your Fraudulent Life.”
Because it is a civil trial, Trump doesn’t need to worry about criminal convictions or jail time. But the real threat is that it could unravel his carefully crafted image as a savvy and successful businessman. That image has survived his long and extraordinary strong of failures, frauds, and busts.
Trump: The Game
And who could forget Trump University?
Apparently, tens of millions of Trump voters.
After his stint on “The Apprentice,” millions of Americans thought of him as a mogul nonpareil. Trump desperately wants them to keep thinking so. But this trial could expose the fake underbelly of the whole thing.
At some level, Trump fears being thought poor more than he fears going to prison.
John Kelly confirms
Yes, it would have been nice if he had said this earlier, but the former COS is not holding anything back. At all. Via CNN:
“What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly said, when asked if he wanted to weigh in on his former boss in light of recent comments made by other former Trump officials.
“A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.
“A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women,” Kelly continued.
“A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.
“There is nothing more that can be said,” Kelly concluded. “God help us.”
1. Those Crazy Plans for Trump 2.0? Take Them Seriously.
MASS FIRINGS. INDICTMENTS OF POLITICAL FOES. Deportations of legal residents. More kids in cages. Detaining “a lot of people” in Gitmo and a D.C. gulag. Pardons for insurrectionists.
This is the stated agenda that Mike Davis, a former high-ranking staffer for Chuck Grassley and Neil Gorsuch, recently laid out for the Justice Department in a second Trump term. Davis has become an influential voice in MAGA media and activist circles—understandably so, given his crossover appeal as someone who combines legitimate bona fides as a GOP staffer with the incendiary, burn-it-all-down rhetoric that the MAGA base laps up.
And should, God forbid, Trump win a second term, Davis will be emblematic of the type of person who will staff the government.
So threats from figures like Davis about what that administration would attempt to do to its enemies should be listened to with care.
2. When the Donors Are Delirious
JUST 24 HOURS AFTER last week’s waste-of-time Republican primary debate, GOP donors still hoping to stop former President Donald Trump set out to narrow the field between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, while also plotting to try and draft Glenn Youngkin for a late entry to the race.
These plans are being launched and funded despite what else happened last week: new polls show Trump’s lead is growing, a memo from an anti-Trump PAC reported that no lines of attack against him are working, and a Trump event on Friday showed a roomful of California Republicans laughing and chanting at some of his most incendiary lines, as he remains positioned to bag all of the Golden State’s delegates in its winner-take-all primary on March 5.
3. The GOP’s Death Wishes
Trump, for his part, also thinks political violence is funny, last Friday joking about the brutal hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, the former speaker’s husband. “We’ll stand up to crazy Nancy Pelosi, who ruined San Francisco. How’s her husband doing, by the way, anybody know?” Trump said at a California GOP convention. Audience members laughed. How, really, could they not have?
More laughter and wild cheers greeted the former president’s call at the same event for the execution of shoplifters: “Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store!”
The crowd broke into a chant: “TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” It went on like that.