"As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."
—Proverbs 26:11, KJV
As New York prepares to arraign its most prominent chronic offender, a few things to ponder:
We’re about to be tested. Bigly.
The spectacle that is sure to unfold will mark an unprecedented moment in American history that will demonstrate once again how dramatically Trump — who already held the distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice — has upended democratic norms. But on a personal level, the indictment pierces the cloak of invincibility that seemed to follow Trump through his decades in business and in politics, as he faced allegations of fraud, collusion and sexual misconduct.
The rules are about to change. For years Trump has insulted and slimed judges. But tomorrow, for the first time, he will face a judge presiding over his criminal trial. It’s one thing to bloviate at rallies and bleat insults on social media, a very different thing when he is a man in the dock.
Trump may not realize that yet… He’s planning a primetime (televised?) address from Mar-a-Lago tomorrow night.
Despite the complaints about the “weaponization” of the justice system, it’s worth remembering that the guy who will be arraigned on dozens of felony charges has been calling for criminal charges against opponents for years. A month before the 2020 election, Trump tweeted, “Where are all of the arrests?” He added: “BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN - GOT CAUGHT!!!”
The cycle continues: the GOP can’t quit Donald Trump, and (for the most part) the elites can’t bring themselves to say out loud what they fervently hope in private. “Many prominent Republicans want Trump gone,” writes David Frum. “But they are caught in a trap of their own bad faith: They want prosecutors to do for them the job they are too scared and broken to do for themselves.” (See Proverbs 26:11.)
The fact that the Decency Lane is so narrow and so small says far more about the Republican base than it does about folks like Asa Hutchinson, who is waging a quixotic campaign to appeal to the party’s battered and bruised better angels.
Polls and fundraising numbers suggest that tomorrow may be “rocket fuel” to his big push for the Republican nomination. But what is good for Trump may turn out to be toxic for the rest of the GOP.
A new poll out this morning shows that 60 percent of Americans—including 60 percent of independent voters—say they approve of the indictment of Trump.
While views on the indictment are split along party lines, the poll finds that majorities across major demographic divides all approve of the decision to indict the former president. That includes gender (62% of women, 58% of men), racial and ethnic groups (82% of Black adults, 71% of Hispanic adults, 51% of White adults), generational lines (69% under age 35; 62% age 35-49; 53% age 50-64; 54% 65 or older) and educational levels (68% with college degrees, 56% with some college or less).
But Republicans bought the ticket, didn’t they? They embraced a man distinguished by his penchant for criming. Amb. John Bolton notes: “I think it's important to stress that in this case that involves hush-hush money to a porn star to cover up an affair that later involves cooking his company's books, you have not heard a single Trump defender stand up and say, oh, that's not the Donald Trump I know.”
And this is just the beginning. Next up: Georgia. And Jack Smith, who has been busy: “Justice Dept. said to have more evidence of possible Trump obstruction at Mar-a-Lago.”
Nota bene: Republicans who embrace Trump after his first indictment are likely to do it after his second. And third. And perhaps, his fourth, because, well, you know.
Bonus question: Has anyone asked TrumpWorld whether it was wrong for the Trump DOJ to prosecute Michael Cohen?As to bias, Davis says "the Southern District of New York prosecutors, in writing, stated that Donald Trump, Individual 1, directed Michael Cohen to pay the illegal hush money. They sent [Cohen] to jail." So Trump isn't being singled out by leftists. He's getting equal justice.
Special Indictment Podcast: Adam Kinzinger, Mona Charen, Will Saletan
Trump faces a 34-count indictment in New York and more charges may be on the way. But will it hurt him politically, or propel him to the GOP nomination? Adam Kinzinger, Mona Charen, and Will Saletan joined me for the weekend podcast.
You can listen to the whole conversation here.
Fox News also had a bad week
I know that the default setting of the commentariat is that there are never any real consequences for folks like Trump and Fox News.
And they have history and bitter experience on their side.
But… ICYMI: “Trump and Fox News, Twin Titans of Politics, Hit With Back-to-Back Rebukes.”
On Thursday, Mr. Trump became the first former president in history to be indicted on criminal charges, after a Manhattan grand jury’s examination of hush money paid to a pornographic film actress in the final days of the 2016 election.
The next day, a judge in Delaware Superior Court concluded that Fox hosts and guests had repeatedly made false claims about voting machines and their supposed role in a fictitious plot to steal the 2020 election, and that Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network should go to trial.
Fox News, in particular, had a catastrophic day in court, when a judge threw out many of their strongest defenses in the Dominion lawsuit.
The ruling spares the voting machine company from having to litigate baseless conspiracy theories about its role in the 2020 election during the upcoming trial against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp.
“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” Davis wrote in his 81-page ruling, emphasizing the word "crystal" in his ruling.
1. Never Again Trump?
In the Atlantic, David Frum asks: Can the GOP stop an indicted ex-president?
Republicans nodded along when Paul Ryan assured CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump was fading on his own. They took solace when Rupert Murdoch instituted a “soft ban” against Trump on his TV network, which instead hailed DeSantis as the party’s new leader.
All of that is proving false. Trump is triumphing—as an explicitly insurrectionary leader, on a platform of impunity for his own lawbreaking and presidential pardons for his supporters.
Inwardly anti-Trump Republicans reassure themselves that Trump at least cannot win the presidency again. Maybe they will have to endure him for a few more excruciating months—but November 2024 will arrive soon enough, and after that they’ll be done with him. This is false comfort. If Trump secures the Republican nomination, of course he can win the election. Maybe because of his bad record and personal obnoxiousness, he’s got a little less than the usual 50–50 chance, but not much less. The incumbent president and vice president have electoral vulnerabilities, too. And there could be anti-incumbent shocks—a recession, a natural disaster, a border crisis—between now and Election Day. Maybe Trump cannot win on his own merits, but Biden can fall victim to events.
Frum ends with a challenge:
A proverb says that even a worm will turn. The controlling elite within the Republican Party rejected “Never Trump” in 2016.
Now they have a second chance to put country before party: “Never Again Trump.” Let the lapel flag mean something. Don’t give up. Back an alternative to Trump, and win if you can. But if you can’t win with your candidate, keep fighting Trump. This time, no surrender.
Matt Labash: “The GOP once again dons knee pads for The Don.”
But saddest of all, as usual, was Lindsey Graham. If Graham were Trump’s canine companion – Trump’s not a dog guy, of course, as most indecent people aren’t – Graham would be his senatordoodle. Loyal, but demeaned as a breed. And in keeping with his lapdog duties, Graham’s eyes actually watered while trying to raise money from the gullible seniors who watch Sean Hannity’s show, in order to help poor Mr. Trump pay his lawyers, even though Trump is laughably famous for stiffing his lawyers. Here’s Graham doing his pathetic Jimmy Swaggart routine. Viewer warning: only watch it if you’re doing so on an empty stomach:
3. This Election Could Be the Beginning of the End of Scott Walker’s Legacy in Wisconsin
“The State Supreme Court has always been the trump card for Republicans,” Charlie Sykes, once an influential right-wing radio host in Wisconsin and now a co-founder of the Never Trump conservative publication The Bulwark, told me. “You flip that and it changes the rules and dynamics of Wisconsin politics pretty fundamentally.”
Why is a single state race crucial? Because whichever side prevails will hold a 4-to-3 court majority, and this is the first American election in which the winner will single-handedly determine two big issues: the fate of abortion rights and whether the state has a functional representative democracy. The winner will also set the course for the 2024 presidential election in a state where fewer than 23,000 votes decided four of the last six such races.
If the liberal candidate, Janet Protasiewicz, wins, Wisconsin will almost certainly become the first state to allow abortion again after outlawing it with last summer’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. And because Democrats are likely to challenge the makeup of the state’s legislative districts if the court has a liberal majority, the near supermajorities that Republicans enjoy in the State Legislature would also probably not survive until the 2024 election.
A victory for the conservative candidate, Daniel Kelly, would mean abortion remains illegal, the gerrymandered maps stay in place, and Wisconsin remains a dysfunctional democracy for the foreseeable future.
The worst idea in American politics? Discuss.
MTG is ready for her close up.
Somewhere today, as we type, Hillary Clinton is getting out of bed at a reasonable hour with a clear mind. She is enjoying a beverage of choice. Perhaps reading a good book. Talking with friends instead of a battery of lawyers. And not planning a long-distance trip that she does not want to make.
(Come to think of it, Barack Obama, too, probably is having a pretty good day, and on his terms.)
Politics are negotiable. Statesmanship is not. Elect a clown, expect a circus. Behave like a thug, expect a trial. File under: Character Matters.
"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories." Dun dun