O Dearie (Again)
Plus: Putin’s act of desperation
Greetings from beautiful Austin, where the temperature on the first day of Autumn is…
Tim, Amanda, and I are all here for the Texas Tribune Festival and will be on a high-octane panel later this afternoon with the founder and CEO of the Trib, Evan Smith.
… so apologies in advance if today’s Morning Shots is a bit thinner than usual. (Tim and I are also going to do our first-ever live and in-person Friday pod this morning too, so stay tuned.)
The firehose of our times continues, but please take a moment or two to savor this story because it underlines (1) the difficulty of being Donald Trump in a court of law, and the (2) agony of being his lawyers. Via NBC:
The special master appointed to review documents federal agents seized at Donald Trump’s Florida estate has given the former president until Friday of next week to back up his allegation that the FBI planted evidence in the search on Aug. 8.
You’ll recall that after the search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump and his lawyers threw a bunch of stuff against the wall — including suggesting “that agents planted evidence during the search. ‘Planting information anyone?’ Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform Aug. 12.”
But federal court is not Truth Social. And on Thursday Judge Raymond Dearie told Team Trump to put up or shut up:
He … ordered Trump's team to submit a "declaration or affidavit" of any items in the inventory that were removed from Mar-a-Lago that the "Plaintiff asserts were not seized from the Premises," meaning items that were put there by someone else.
Dearie also asked Trump's lawyers to identify any items that were seized by agents but not listed in the inventory. "This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory," he wrote.
Trump has also suggested — outside of court —that the items he’s stashed at MAL were declassified. On Thursday Dearie — special master picked by Team Trump — also pushed the lawyers to back up that claim.
Dearie’s approach is strikingly different from how Judge Aileen M. Cannon — the Florida-based district court judge who granted Trump’s request to appoint a special master earlier this month — has handled her part of the case.
Cannon never asked Trump’s attorneys to explain why they thought the inventory list might be inaccurate or why they implied that some of the documents that were labeled as classified were not actually classified.
So to sum up (TRIGGER/LANGUAGE WARNING):
Exit take: Writes Russell Berman, “Pour one out for Donald Trump’s lawyers: Their client has had a miserable week in court, and his legal woes are mounting.”
If you are keeping track at home:
Trump faces at least eight ongoing criminal and civil proceedings, increasing the prospect of becoming the first former U.S. president to face indictment after leaving office.
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Anatomy of desperation
Make sure you read Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic:
But while losing support abroad is bad, losing support at home is worse, and there are some signs of that too.
Putin might not care much about the Russian liberals and exiles who oppose the war, but he may worry (and should worry) about people who are supposed to be on his side—people such as Alla Pugacheva, a Soviet-era pop star who has millions of mainstream followers and has recently proclaimed both her patriotism and her opposition to the war. Putin may also worry about the disappointed, pro-war nationalist bloggers, active on social media, who have been criticizing the conduct of the war for some time.
“Mobilization is, let’s put it bluntly, our only chance to avoid a crushing defeat,” one of them recently wrote. No one has stopped or arrested these critics, perhaps because they have protectors high up inside the security services, or perhaps because they are connected to the heavily armed mercenaries who are now doing much of the important fighting in Ukraine.
If their loyalty isn’t assured, then Putin isn’t secure either….
Over the next few days, the bogus referenda will gather headlines, and the nuclear threats will create fear, as they were designed to do. But we should understand these attempts at blackmail and intimidation as a part of the deeper story told by this delayed speech: Support for Putin is eroding—abroad, at home, and in the army. Everything else he says and does right now is nothing more than an attempt to halt that decline.
In today’s Bulwark, Cathy Young also looks at Putin’s desperate sabre-rattling: “The Weakness of the Strongman.”
There is no question that the “partial mobilization” will have a major disruptive effect on Russian society. Writing in Novaya Gazeta, political scientist Mikhail Komin points out that it drastically changes the tacit “social contract” between Putin and the Russian populace under which people stayed out of politics and allowed the elites to enrich themselves while, in return, the state allowed them a reasonably decent standard of living and mostly left them alone. Now, says Komin, “the machinery of the state has invaded your home and intends to take your son, brother or husband for its own purposes—and this can happen to anyone who is not a part of the elite.” Or, as political satirist Viktor Shenderovich put it, “War has come from the TV screen to the couch of the man watching TV—and the man wasn’t ready for it.”
Whatever effect mobilization ultimately has on the situation in Ukraine, it has greater potential than anything thus far to motivate the Russian people to express their displeasure with Putin’s ugly, botched war of choice. Is this, as dissident Russian punditry almost unanimously claims, the beginning of the end for Putin, a harbinger of imminent doom? Such predictions inevitably have an element of wishful thinking. But today, the possibility that we are watching Putin’s reenactment of Downfall looks more credible than ever.
1.What the Ukrainians Need to Succeed
The needs of Ukraine’s military are well known. The first priority is for wide-area air and missile defenses; the only even marginally effective weapon in Russia’s conventional arsenal is the long-range missiles being employed against Ukrainian cities. These are few in number, and—as has been the historical record with terror-bombing campaigns—have only hardened Ukrainian resolve. Defenses against such weapons are near to hand, easy to emplace, and relatively plentiful—as indicated by the bubble around the supply and assembly areas in eastern Poland, where Western armaments are transferred. This is the first step in the “taking back the skies” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasizes.
The second and related step is to provide Ukraine fighter jets with the capability to broadly suppress Russian local air defenses over the battlefield and to render null the rump of the Russian air force, thus clearing the way for more vulnerable Ukrainian reconnaissance and strike unmanned aircraft. Longer-range rocket artillery—the Army Tactical Missile System—would speed the Ukrainians’ ability to retake Crimea, one of the toughest challenges remaining to Kyiv but also the sine qua non of its victory.
It’s also time to give the Ukrainian army the qualitative advantage in direct combat that Western artillery has provided in indirect fires. This means late-model Western tanks—either the German Leopard or, preferably, American M1s like those the Poles are buying—and fighting vehicles.
2. Gay Marriage Bill Delayed in the Senate
Tim Miller’s latest Not My Party:
Liz is calling out the Murdochs.
One of Tucker Carlson’s go-to experts on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, told the top-rated Fox News host on Friday night that “things are going very, very badly” and the “entire war may be over” very soon.
Macgregor’s bleak assessment of the Ukrainians’ chances of maintaining territorial integrity and sovereignty over their own country was quickly debunked by current events as headlines over the weekend announced Ukrainian gains.