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“I Was the Apple of His Eye”
A cult by the numbers.
We’ll get to “listless vessels,” the “apple of his eye,” and weighty issues of constitutional law in a moment.
But amid the flotsam and jetsam of the weekend’s various absurdities and outrages, let’s start with this new CBS poll:
Yes, it’s a cult. But you knew that. Even so.
David French commented on Threads: “Whoa. It’s just hard to wrap your mind around this level of devotion. It also demonstrated why religious objections to Trump fall on deaf ears. His base trusts him sometimes more than their own pastors. Incredible.”
Let’s ponder this for a moment. The question was not about any political, cultural, or social issue. Trump voters were asked who they believed was telling the truth.
Overwhelmingly, they picked the chronic liar, fabulist, fraudster, con man from Mar-a-Lago.
They picked Trump The Truth Teller over their religious leaders by a margin of 29 points.
They picked the twice-impeached, four-time-indicted Trump over conservative media figures by 15 points.
And they said they were more likely to feel that Trump was telling the truth than their own friends and family. By a margin of eight points.
So this story via AP is unlikely to surprise you: “Trump and his allies double down on election lies after indictments for trying to undo 2020 results.”
ICYMI: Brave Sir Donald announced yesterday afternoon that because he’s so awesome, “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
Because, of course.
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“The Apple of His Eye”
Here’s Trump this weekend:
“Putin would have never gone into Ukraine, but that was just on my relationship with him. My personality over his. [He] would have never gone in. I used to speak to him. I was the apple of his eye, but I said ‘Don’t ever do it.’ It was tough stuff there, but he would have never done.”
Where to start? The fawning? The delusion? Or is there really any distinction?
Trump seems to believe that Putin really really liked him. The Russian autocrat stroked, fondled, and caressed Trump’s ego to the point where the former president thinks that Putin is somehow in awe of him.
The lapdog imagines that he is the alpha.
There is, however, what David Frum calls a “perverse truth” here. “Helping Trump into the US presidency was Putin’s supreme accomplishment as dictator. A Trump 2nd term would have wrecked NATO from within. With no one to help, Ukraine would have been easy pickings for Putin.”
NOTE: My colleague heard the quote differently:
When we last looked on Ron DeSantis’s stumbling campaign, he was being urged to (checks notes) DEFEND TRUMP at this week’s Trumpless debate in Milwaukee.
Over the weekend, he took another tack.
“A movement can’t be about the personality of one individual,” DeSantis said. “If all we are is listless vessels that’s just supposed to follow, you know, whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement.”
Well, yes, and welcome to Reality, Governor. You’ve figured out that your party has become a cult of snowflakes.
And so, predictably MAGA twisted itself into knots of thin-skinned outrage over DeSantis’s comments, because deplorables really hate being called… “deplorables.”
“To Hillary Clinton, Trump supporters are ‘deplorables.’ To Ron DeSantis, they are ‘listless vessels.’ The truth is, Trump supporters are patriots,” MAGA, Inc. spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. “DeSantis must immediately apologize for his disgraceful insult.”
“Looks like Ron DeSanctimonious just had his ‘Basket of Deplorables’ moment,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller.
DeSantis’s WTF Memo
ICYMI: The governor of Florida is being treated like a low-IQ child. Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t been treated like the common criminal he is: mugshot him, weigh him, jail him. Plus, the Democrats’ Senate leadership is MIA. Tim Miller and I hashed it out on our weekend podcast.
The Standing Order That Wasn’t
Well, this is awkward: Meadows told investigators he couldn't recall Trump declassifying Mar-a-Lago docs — ABC News.
Appearing to contradict former President Donald Trump's primary public defense in the classified documents case, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has told special counsel Jack Smith's investigators that he could not recall Trump ever ordering, or even discussing, declassifying broad sets of classified materials before leaving the White House, nor was he aware of any "standing order" from Trump authorizing the automatic declassification of materials taken out of the Oval Office, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.
Former Vice President Mike Pence said on Sunday that he knew of no widespread declassification of documents by President Donald J. Trump when they were in the White House together, refuting one of the former president’s main defenses against charges of endangering national security.
Our Constitutional Crisis
Must-read from this weekend: J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe write in the Atlantic: “Trump Is Constitutionally Prohibited From the Presidency.”
Having thought long and deeply about the text, history, and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment’s disqualification clause for much of our professional careers, both of us concluded some years ago that, in fact, a conviction would be beside the point. The disqualification clause operates independently of any such criminal proceedings and, indeed, also independently of impeachment proceedings and of congressional legislation. The clause was designed to operate directly and immediately upon those who betray their oaths to the Constitution, whether by taking up arms to overturn our government or by waging war on our government by attempting to overturn a presidential election through a bloodless coup.
The former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the resulting attack on the U.S. Capitol, place him squarely within the ambit of the disqualification clause, and he is therefore ineligible to serve as president ever again. The most pressing constitutional question facing our country at this moment, then, is whether we will abide by this clear command of the Fourteenth Amendment’s disqualification clause.
But David French offers a word of caution. While the case for invoking Article 3 is “a fascinating and compelling argument,” he writes, “a single, depressing thought came to my mind.”
[It’s] difficult to imagine, at this late date, the Supreme Court ultimately either striking Trump from the ballot or permitting state officials to do so.
As powerful as Baude and Paulsen’s substantive argument is, the late date means that by the time any challenge to Trump’s eligibility might reach the Supreme Court, voters may have already started voting in the Republican primaries. Millions of votes could have been cast. The Supreme Court is already reluctant to change election procedures on the eve of an election. How eager would it be to remove a candidate from the ballot after he’s perhaps even clinched a primary?
He’s not wrong.
1. Russia’s Vile New Anti-Ukraine Propaganda
LAST WEEK, RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA achieved a new low in its quest to sell Russia’s war in Ukraine. A slickly produced but extremely unsubtle feature film underwritten by Vladimir Putin’s government falsely suggests that the Russian invasion was merely a preemptive strike about an imminent Ukrainian attack; that it’s a war against “Nazis,” not Ukrainians; and that the atrocities known around the world as Russian war crimes in Ukraine were actually perpetrated by the Ukrainian side. The fictional story of a Belgian Jewish violinist who accidentally becomes an eyewitness to the awful truth, the film deliberately evokes World War II and Holocaust films, above all Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, to frame Ukraine’s defenders as the new Nazis.
2. Trump Shoots Himself in the Foot with Demand for Trial Date in 2026
Almost certainly, Judge Chutkan will set a trial date before the November 2024 election and make every effort to stick to it. In one of the most important trials in American history, she will not want justice delayed until after voters have made their decisions in a crucial presidential election.
It would have been more savvy for Trump to propose as late a date in the 2024 campaign calendar as reasonable, or perhaps just a smidgen beyond. But by proposing a date on the far side of bonkers, Trump has encouraged Judge Chutkan to ignore his papers as she picks the earliest date that gives him adequate time to prepare.