Trump: Can We Please, Please Wait to Have My Criminal Trial Until After the Election?
Plus: Remember how bad he was on the world stage?
Good Wednesday morning. Charlie remains on a well-earned vacation. I’m Mona Charen, host of the Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast.
Prosecutions Piling Up
Strap in, more indictments are coming. Fulton County, Georgia has empaneled two new grand juries to consider whether Trump’s attempt to strong-arm officials to “find” the votes he needed to overturn the 2020 election results amounted to criminal offenses. CNN reports:
A special grand jury previously heard testimony from 75 witnesses, including Trump advisers, his former attorneys, White House aides, and Georgia officials. That panel issued a redacted report with charging recommendations, which will soon be weighed by the new grand jury.
District Attorney Fani Willis has said indictments could come between July 11 and September 1. In other words, any day now.
Meanwhile—no surprise—Trump’s attorneys in the classified documents case are asking Judge Aileen Cannon for a delay, to, you know, past November 2024 (or so it could be interpreted; see Dennis Aftergut’s Bulwark article yesterday). It makes for amusing reading as the lawyers note that they require more time for security clearances and yet cannot quite admit that that classified documents were indeed taken. The complaint refers to “purportedly classified documents.” There is also a highly dubious reference to the Presidential Records Act. Many laws are ambiguous, but the PRA, passed in the wake of Watergate, is not one of them. The purpose of the law was to clarify—contra Nixon—that nearly all presidential documents are the property of the U.S. government. The exceptions are very narrow. As Ed Whelan, a right-leaning legal analyst, has noted,
Insofar as classified materials that Trump retained fall under PRA, they are obviously not "personal records." Nothing in PRA remotely suggests that former president may take and retain classified materials. PRA sharply limits possessory rights of former presidents.
The complaint further attempts to protect Trump by hiding behind the skirts of the presidential campaign:
This extraordinary case presents a serious challenge to both the fact and perception of our American democracy. The Court now presides over a prosecution advanced by the administration of a sitting President against his chief political rival, himself a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Therefore, a measured consideration and timeline that allows for a careful and complete review of the procedures that led to this indictment and the unprecedented legal issues presented herein best serves the interests of the Defendants and the public. Thus, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A), based on the extraordinary nature of this action, there is most assuredly no reason for any expedited trial.
Judge Cannon was rebuked twice by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for giving too much deference to the former president. This will be the first big test of whether she has absorbed the lesson.
Remember Trump on the World Stage?
Speaking of the political campaign, one of the most absurd claims the leading candidate for the GOP nomination makes about himself and his term in office is that he restored global respect to the United States. He said it frequently when he was in office, and stressed to Bret Baier three weeks ago that he’s running again “because I want to make America great again. We had great—we were respected all over the world. Very simple.”
Did you spit out your coffee?
This is one of those claims that, alas, enjoys some currency even among non-cultists. Ask your average Republican whether Trump restored America’s image around the world and they are quite likely to say yes.
This isn’t a case of both sides having a fair point. This is bonkers. Trump was perceived as a boob and a fool the world over. (And BTW, it caused many of our friends to doubt Americans’ sanity, too.) He was a global laughingstock. Literally.
Remember when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and launched into his typical bombastic BS about his administration accomplishing more than almost any in history? The assembled delegates, who are VERY accustomed to political exaggeration and even inanity, burst out laughing.
Then, there was the time when European leaders were caught on a hot mic mocking him at a NATO summit in London. Princess Anne, Emmanuel Macron, Mark Rutte, Jens Stoltenberg, and Boris Johnson smiled knowingly as Justin Trudeau regaled them with accounts of Trump’s antics. Trump was so personally wounded that he cut short his participation in the summit.
International summits were often stages for Trump’s cringe-inducing conduct—behavior that many Americans as well as nearly all non-Americans found stunningly gross. Here, he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside in order to pose at the center of the group.
Worse than the shove was his credulity. If a dictator or a thug whispered something in his ear, he believed it. The examples are legion, but since the Montenegro leader was manhandled, let’s recall what Trump said about that recent entrant to the alliance. Just days after meeting with Putin, Trump told Tucker Carlson that Montenegrans are “very aggressive people. . . .They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III.”
Let’s be real, before that meeting with Putin, what are the chances that Trump had ever heard of Montenegro, far less had views about their national character? Naturally, it was in Putin’s interest for Trump to think that enlarging NATO threatened World War III. And Trump believed it, not necessarily out of stupidity (though we can’t rule that out) but because his sick attraction to naked power made him unusually susceptible to Putin’s propaganda.
Trump routinely insulted allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Teresa May. At one summit, he reportedly reached into his pocket for some candy, threw them across the table to Merkel and smirked, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” Americans elected a mental 7-year-old.
Not just a child, but a ridiculous child. He attempted to buy Greenland from the Danes, and when he was rebuffed, he canceled a planned diplomatic visit to Copenhagen.
His initial fiery bluster against North Korea was unnerving and his later obsequious fawning was vile. Neither accomplished anything except to remind the world what a moron America had elevated.
Jay Nordlinger joins me on The Bulwark Podcast to discuss the masculinity contest in the Republican presidential primary, Chris Christie truth bombs, and how the trans issue is the new wall. Plus, Sweden, Ukraine and NATO, and a debate over ending legacy admissions.
Trump’s International Rep
Trump wasn’t just a joke though. His obvious instability and tenuous hold on reality were unnerving to the world. His America First slogan alienated allies. And his softness toward dictators and strongmen emboldened adversaries.
International opinion polls leave no doubt about how America’s reputation fared under Trump. In September, 2020 Pew found that
America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the [Pew Research] Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.
Some of this was in response to the U.S. handling of COVID-19. Among thirteen European nations, only an average of 31 percent held a positive view of the United States, while only 16 percent expressed confidence in Trump. In fact, Trump was less trusted than the leaders of Germany, France, the U.K., China, or Russia.
President Biden has gone some way toward restoring America’s global image. Pew reports that a new survey of public opinion in 23 countries finds an average of 59 percent holding favorable views of the United States and 54 percent having confidence in President Biden.
Though views of the United States have improved during the Biden years, doubts must persist. Hell, they persist among Americans. Though other presidents have been unpopular (George W. Bush in particular), our foreign friends and foes never before had to wonder about America’s political stability. Confidence about that will take years to rebuild, or just another election to wreck utterly.
A Pod Plug for You
Thanks for reading. Hope you’ll check out Beg to Differ this week. Our usual panel (Bill Galston of Brookings and the Wall Street Journal, Linda Chavez of Niskanen, andauthor of the Middleground newsletter) will be joined by guest , author of the Substack newsletter Noahpinion, who never fails to have original takes.
1. Ukraine Needs NATO—and NATO Needs Ukraine, Too
Claim 1: Russia does not threaten NATO. “The idea that Russia could pose a serious threat to Poland, much less to France or Germany, is outlandish.”
This claim is so divorced from reality, so historically illiterate, that it shocks. For more than fifteen years, Vladimir Putin has waged war on NATO, directly and indirectly. When democratic Georgia sought NATO membership of its own free will, Putin invaded. When Ukrainian citizens marched in the pro-European Maidan Revolution (the Revolution of Dignity) in 2014, Putin invaded Ukraine. Putin and his Wagner Group proxies carpet-bombed hospitals in Syria, on the border of another NATO member, Turkey. And they armed coups around the world, with the aim of undermining democracy everywhere.
Russian state agents have murdered British citizens, attempted to conduct a coup in a country that had already signed a NATO accession protocol, kidnapped an Estonian border guard, and are currently holding multiple American hostages. Russian influence operations left fingerprints on the pro-Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom and Yevgeny Prigozhin rose in the Kremlin’s mafia ranks by helping Putin interfere with U.S. elections. And when Putin deemed NATO nations weak—mistakenly, this time—he invaded Ukraine again. Every action Putin has taken, every person Putin’s forces have killed in his bloody-minded fixation on undermining NATO, demonstrates clearly his intentions. If you are still fooled by Putin, I cannot help you.
2. Rough Days for Biden, Rougher Days for Trump
Was last week “hellish” for President Joe Biden? Is he in for a cruel summer, filled with setbacks, scandal and calls for him to step aside because he’s too old? On the contrary. The cruel, hellish summer of setbacks and scandal is coming for Donald Trump. (And he’s no youngster, either.)
The blockbuster feature of the season showcases, on one side, a serious president focused on democracy, national security, and building up American manufacturing and competitiveness, and on the other side, a circus ringmaster dodging indictments and eleven primary opponents. There will never be a starker, more compelling contrast than what’s before our eyes right now.
3. Wisconsin’s Latest Elections Brouhaha
In today’s Bulwark, Bill Lueders explains that Wisconsin Republicans want to fire the administrator of the state’s elections commission in part because she has worked to rebut lies about the 2020 election:
Despite such exertions to defend reality by the state elections commission and others, the lies persist. They are driving the actions of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere because they are potentially useful in the next election, where even a remotely close result will surely spark fresh allegations of electoral fraud. The more competent the administrator, the more difficult it is for these lies to gain traction. And so Wolfe finds herself with a target on her back.