The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Trump’s Sandoval Ruling

Good morning everybody! This is the first day of what could be a significant week. And we have a ruling on Friday’s Sandoval hearing already.

Merchan granted questioning about the following:

*The New York Attorney General verdict that Trump misstated the value of his assets for economic benefit
*That he violated a court order in attacking Judge Engoron’s clerk during that case
*That he was found to have defamed E. Jean Carroll
*That he was found another time to have defamed E. Jean Carroll
*That he stipulated to the dissolution of the Trump foundation in another NYAG case

This is from the New York Times:

Here is the prosecutor’s original request. One of the items left out is the finding that Trump did in fact “secually abuse” (i,e., rape) E. Jean Carroll.

I’m reading in Newsweek that “Prosecutors cannot ask the former president about the Trump Organization’s tax fraud conviction in 2022 nor the frivolous lawsuit against Hillary Clinton in Florida.”

It remains to be seen if Trump will insist on testifying anyway. Only a moron would testify under these circumstances, but, well, Trump IS a moron, so … Maggie Haberman wrote in the NY Times live feed,

It was always clear that Trump was going to be told to wait to see the outcome of the Sandoval hearing before deciding whether to testify. Recall that he wanted to testify in his trial in the first E. Jean Carroll case, and several advisers and lawyers told him not to. He decided that had he only done so, he would have avoided the liability in that case.

And I’m sure he’s wrong. By all accounts it was his own bad behavior in court that helped put the jury on E. Jean Carroll’s side, and apparently he remains oblivious to that.

The judge is now instructing the jury. I’ll post more stuff today if and when anything significant happens.

Is Trump Losing His Grip on the Republican Party?

There’s an article in Salon by Jonathan Larsen that sheds more light on Mike Johnson’s shift toward Ukraine funding. And it indeed has to do with reports that Russians are  targeting evangelicals in Ukraine. Larsen writes that Ukrainians have been in contact with “the Family,” the Christian cult that runs the National Prayer Breakfast.  The  American evangelicals have been mostly focused on their version of “religious liberty,” by which they mean they get to have power in government to shape policy to fit their agenda. They’re big on anti-LGBTQ legislation, for example. I get the impression that they’ve generally approved of Vladimir Putin because of his anti-LGBTQ policies in Russia. But reports of brutality against Ukrainian evangelicals may have changed things. Larsen writes,

While most mainstream news hasn’t picked up on it, religious media outlets have started to notice how Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging a war on that most sacred of right-wing cows: Religious freedom.

That message is coming — with elements of truth but also an agenda — from a small but well-connected cadre of Ukrainian and American evangelicals, including prayer-breakfast leaders.

And right-wing Ukrainian evangelicals with strong ties to American counterparts just won an important ask from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right as House Republicans are considering whether to help him.

The “agenda” is that the Ukraine evangelicals also favor anti-LGBTQ politics and are promising to promote those policies in Ukraine if Ukraine prevails. They’re like 4 percent of the population of Ukraine, but they have big plans.

Still, if this causes a real shift in evangelical views about Putin, it could be huge. It might even cause some of them to think twice about Trump. And Marjorie Taylor Greene, too, if she doesn’t get the memo.

David Frum writes,

On aid to Ukraine, Trump got his way for 16 months. When Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives in 2022, they approved four separate aid requests for Ukraine, totaling $74 billion. As soon as Trump’s party took control of the House, in January 2023, the aid stopped. Every Republican officeholder understood: Those who wished to show loyalty to Trump must side against Ukraine.

At the beginning of this year, Trump was able even to blow up the toughest immigration bill seen in decades—simply to deny President Joe Biden a bipartisan win. Individual Senate Republicans might grumble, but with Trump opposed, the border-security deal disintegrated.

Three months later, Trump’s party in Congress has rebelled against him—and not on a personal payoff to some oddball Trump loyalist, but on one of Trump’s most cherished issues, his siding with Russia against Ukraine.

The anti-Trump, pro-Ukraine rebellion started in the Senate. Twenty-two Republicans joined Democrats to approve aid to Ukraine in February. Dissident House Republicans then threatened to force a vote if the Republican speaker would not schedule one. Speaker Mike Johnson declared himself in favor of Ukraine aid. This weekend, House Republicans split between pro-Ukraine and anti-Ukraine factions. On Friday, the House voted 316–94 in favor of the rule on the aid vote. On Saturday, the aid to Ukraine measure passed the House by 311–112. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will adopt the House-approved aid measures unamended and speed them to President Biden for signature.

As defeat loomed for his anti-Ukraine allies, Trump shifted his message a little. On April 18, he posted on Truth Social claiming that he, too, favored helping Ukraine. “As everyone agrees, Ukrainian Survival and Strength should be much more important to Europe than to us, but it is also important to us!” But that was after-the-fact face-saving, jumping to the winning side after his side was about to lose.

Still, 112 House Republicans voted against aid to Ukraine. So this doesn’t amount to a significant rebellion against Trump. But maybe it’s a little one. Frum also points to Trump’s badly lagging fundraising numbers and the minority of primary voters who continue to vote for Nikki Haley. There are cracks in the facade. Maybe more traditional Republicans are realizing they don’t have to be afraid of Trump. We can hope.

In other news: There’s an NBC poll showing that a third-party RFK Jr. candidacy hurts Trump more than Biden. As near as I can tell, RFK Jr. has adopted most of Trump’s positions on just about everything, so that would make sense.

The New York Post reports that Michael Avenatti — yeah, that guy — says he’s talking to Trump’s legal team — and would testify for the ex-prez. Michael Avenatti is currently locked up in a federal prison near Los Angeles, so testifying for anybody would be a nice break, I guess. Ari Melber on MSNBC interviewed Avenatti via Zoom a few days ago, and it was a waste of time. Avenatti just wanted to talk about himself. And he had nothing insider-y or original to say about the Manhattan trial.

At the Atlantic, see Boeing and the Dark Age of American Manufacturing. It puts the Boeing debacle into a larger context. Nice bit of writing.

One more thing: This just popped up at Salon — A prehistory of MAGA: “Mainstream” conservatives never really purged the fascists. Paul Rosenberg interviews David Austin Walsh, who is the author of a new book titled Taking America Back: The Conservative Movement and the Far Right, As I understand it, very briefly, the book chronicles that American conservativism tried to put up a wall between “principled,” “normie” conservatism and the fascist/racist Right (see Rachel Maddow, Prequel) , but it didn’t really.  In the struggle between the normies and the Nazis, the normies needed the Nazis to win elections and otherwise get anything accomplished. It seems to me the normies got way too comfortable with dog-whistling and otherwise pandering to the Nazis to keep them in the tent. And that  takes us from Reaganism to Newt Gingrich to Karl Rove and George W. Bush to Donald Trump. At some point the Nazis got the upper hand and decided they didn’t need the normies.

Ukraine May Get Some Aid

As expected, the House passed $61 billion in aid for Ukraine this afternoon, as well as $26 billion in aid for Israel and Gaza. Earlier they passed $8.1 billion in aid for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region and a bill that requires the current Chinese owner of TikTok to sell or face a potential ban.

Moscow Marjorie is pissed. I understand she threw a fit when many of the Dems started waving little Ukrainian flags when the bill passed.

Now these have to go back to the Senate. I don’t know how much the  House bills differ from what the Senate passed earlier. I hope the Ukraine bill can get done quickly.

The Mowcow caucus did its best to stop the Ukraine bill. MTG proposed an amendment that would have reduced the funding to zero. Some one else tried to get the bill sent back to committee. The final vote was 311 to 112. I believe all the Democrats voted yes. The vote among Republicans was 101 yes, 112 no, and one “present.”

The next question is, why did Mike Johnson decide to support aid to Ukraine? There is reporting from Politico that suggests he was swayed by new intelligence that Ukraine is on the ropes now. He seems to get that Putin wouldn’t stop and Ukraine and could eventually invade a NATO country eventually. And there’s World War III.

Will Mike Johnson be removed as Speaker? The Moscow Causcus will try. But there’s some interesting reporting from Sarah Posner at MSNBC. See Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempts to out-Jesus Mike Johnson aren’t going to work.

Greene and her fellow ideologues may want to tread carefully. There is a growing backlash on the Christian right against the move to oust Johnson. While Greene’s MAGA influencer antics garner significant media attention, people with longtime clout in the evangelical political trenches, including Johnson himself, have been waging a quiet but scathing war against her in Christian media. The GOP’s evangelical base — vital to Republican hopes in the fall — is hearing that Greene is groundlessly attacking a godly man and imperiling the party’s election chances, thus bringing (in Johnson’s words) the Democrats’ “crazy woke agenda” closer to fruition.

Johnson himself struck first, appearing on the Christian Broadcasting Network with David Brody, a popular evangelical reporter known for nabbing newsy interviews with Washington insiders. The speaker pushed back at Greene’s attacks on his faith, including a tirade on X, railing against Johnson’s supposedly un-Christian capitulation to big government spending: “@SpeakerJohnson you can’t follow Christ and fund full term abortion clinics,” Greene wrote. Never mind that there is no federal funding for abortion, nor is there such a thing as a “full-term abortion.” Greene’s aim was to one-up Johnson as the most ardent Christian patriot in the room.

The problem for MTG, says Posner, is that Mike Johnson has been a big deal in right-wing evangelicalism for a very long time. MTG is someone on the periphery of that world, not really a long-time participant in it, and certainly not a leader of it. There is widespread concern that if there is another messy change of Speaker, it could cost Republicans seats in the House in November. Also it may be that most evengelicals aren’t as fond of Vladimir Putin as MTG is.

There’s also reporting from Time magazine that Russians have been targeting evangelicals in Ukraine with torture and imprisonment. Putin has been oppressive to all religious groups that aren’t that aren’t the Russian Orthodox Church. But he seems to especially hate evangelicals because that’s an “American” relligion.

After they beat Azat Azatyan so bad blood came out of his ears; after they sent electric shocks up his genitals; after they wacked him with pipes and truncheons, the Russians began to interrogate him about his faith. “When did you become a Baptist? When did you become an American spy?” Azat tried to explain that in Ukraine there was freedom of religion, you could just choose your faith. But his torturers saw the world the same way as their predecessors at the KGB did: an American church is just a front for the American state. …

… Evangelicals are targeted by the Russians disproportionally, and Azat’s story is typical for Russia’s systemic persecution of Protestants in occupied Ukraine. Protestants were the victims of 34 percent of the reported persecution events, and 48 percent in the Zaporizhzhia region where Azat was held. Baptists made up 13 percent of victims – the largest single group after Ukrainian Orthodox. Under Russian control 400 Baptist congregations have been lost, 17% of the total in Ukraine.   

This is the first I’ve heard of this. I wonder if Mike Johnson heard some of this, also. Awhile back there was some reporting in Christian publications that it was Volodymyr Zelensky oppressing Christians in Ukraine. This Christianity Today article from 2003 making this claim mentioned Tucker Carlson several times, which makes me suspect he was the source. It’s also the case that before he died Pat Robertson declared that Putin was compelled by God to invade Ukraine because it was part of a larger plan to invade Israel and bring about the end times. I believe I mentioned this at the time, noting that perhaps God needs better maps.

As of this afternoon, the plan as I understand it is that the House crazy fringe is not going to call for Johnson’s removal right away, but instead will build up support for removal in the House which is somehow going to force him to resign. But as I’ve also said before I would not be utterly shocked if some Democrats would vote to keep him in place, if such a vote came to the floor. Because the Republicans could always do a lot worse.

In other news: There’s been a lot of yakking about whether the Manhattan Trump trial is going to help him or hurt him politically. A lot may depend on whether he is convicted, of course. Dahlia Lithwick addressed this last week. I liked this part:

And so, those who are dismissing the electoral consequences of this criminal trial by declaring that events in Manhattan over the next few weeks will merely animate Trump’s base—a base that will see this trial as yet more proof of the Deep State’s (™) persecution of their Lord—are also demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of electoral math. You cannot mobilize the voters who are already absolutely voting for Trump to any greater heights. No matter how rabid their fury, and how bottomless their sense of shared grievance, they still get only one vote each—at least until they figure out how to commit the voter fraud they love to decry on a broader scale. The rank and file in the tank for MAGA cannot become more impactful.

A lot about this trial could have an impact on people who aren’t tuned into politics and may just be starting to pay attention to the election. And I don’t see anythnng about this trial that makes Trump look good.

And let us not forget that Monday is the day Trump’s $175 million bond may be bounced. Or at least there will be a hearing. Yesterday Letitia James asked the court to bounce it.

In a filing on Friday, James said Knight Specialty Insurance Company, which underwrote Trump’s bond, has not been able to show that it has enough collateral to back it. She described KSIC as “a small insurer that is not authorized to write business in New York and thus not regulated by the state’s insurance department,” and said the company had never written a surety bond in New York or in the past two years in any other jurisdiction.

Next week could be eventful.

Evening Updates

The jurors and alternates are selected, and the trial begins Monday. There also was a Sandoval hearing today, which is “to let a defendant decide whether it is in his or her best interest to testify. In the hearing, which typically takes place before a trial begins, prosecutors are required to outline a defendant’s past crimes and misdeeds that could be brought up on cross-examination,” it says on the Internet somewhere. The judge will rule on Monday what questions would be allowed if Trump testifies, which he wants to do. Yes, he’s that stupid.

Some guy named Maxwell Azzarello of St. Augustine, Florida, set fire to himself in front of the courthouse. I haven’t heard if he’s dead or alive. If he’s alive he might wish he were dead. He was completely engulfed in flames. Apparently this guy tossed pamphlets around before he lit himself, and Newsweek has published a copy. He was deep, deep down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole that seems to have been of his own making. A shame. He was a young guy.

The House Moscow caucus is fixing to remove Mike Johnson as speaker. If it comes to a vote I wouldn’t be utterly surprised if some Democrats step in to save him. Not that Johnson isn’t a hard-right Christian nationalist whackjob, but I’m hearing that Democrats think he’s easier to work with than Kevin McCarthy was, Democrats might decide they’d rather have Johnson than some other House Repubican who might be another Kevin McCarthy, or worse.

When Your “Friend” Is Your Worst Enemy

I’m going to be straight with you here. If I were POTUS now, I’d be seriously considering a super-dark special ops operation that takes out Benjamn Netanyahu. With extreme prejudice. And any other extremist faction leader that’s keeping the hard-right coalition in power in the Israeli Parliament. They are a threat to the world at this point.

I understand the Biden Administration was going all-out to persuade Netanyahu to not retaliate. There are reports they even offered to step aside and let the IDF invade Rafah as long as there was no retaliation against Iran. So Bibi retaliated, and I’m sure he’ll invade Rafah anyway. There are also many reports that aid isn’t getting into Gaza any faster than it was before Israel bombed the World Kitchen trucks. Basically President Biden keeps drawing red lines, and Bibi merrily waltzes right over them.

I’m sure Netanyahu thinks Trump will be re-elected in November, which makes Biden  just a temporary annoyance in his view.

Right now it looks as if the Ukraine and Israel aid bills are about to be passed in the House. I understand they are both up for a vote in the full House tomorrow, and if that’s the case I don’t see how they wouldn’t pass. And if Congress passes an Israeli aid bill, President Biden either has to veto it or implement it. But I’d really like to cut off all military aid to Israel now. That might get Bibi’s attention.

In other news: Selection of alternate jurors continues in Manhattan. See also Trump’s covid response was even worse than you remember.

Maybe Ukraine Will Get Some Aid

It appears that Speaker Mike Johnson is going to allow votes on all the foreign aid packages passed by the Senate.

Johnson now intends to try to pass five bills — one each for aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Indo-Pacific allies, as well as a GOP wish list of foreign policy priorities and a fifth stand-alone bill to address widespread Republican demands to strengthen the southern U.S. border. GOP leadership announced that the House would stay in session until Saturday to consider the bills.

The first three, at least, ought to pass if the entire House votes on them. The Moscow Caucus is furious and wants to fire Johnson as speaker, and that could happen, also.

Josh Marshall:

Let’s start by noting the one thing that is at least a catalyst if not the trigger: the thwarted Iranian missile attacks on Israel. That clearly changed the game for many House Republicans. Passing some Israel aid became a necessity for a number of them. I assume that Johnson concluded that without assistance from at least some Democrats that too wouldn’t be possible and that he had no choice but to move ahead with Ukraine aid too.

If the House can pass the Ukraine packcage, that would be huge.

In other news: In the Manhattan Trump trial, today they unseated a couple of jurors who had been seated. So now they’re down to five. This could take a few more days.

In more other news: USA Today reports that a lot of Trump’s campaign money is being spent in his businesses.

Trump’s joint fundraising committee wrote three checks in February and one in March to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, totaling $411,287 and another in March to Trump National Doral Miami for $62,337, according to a report filed to the Federal Election Commission this week.

Federal law and FEC regulations allow donor funds to be spent at a candidate’s business so long as the campaign pays fair market value, experts say. Trump has been doing it for years, shifting millions in campaign cash into his sprawling business empire to pay for expenses such as using his personal aircraft for political events, rent at Trump Tower and events at his properties, which has included hotels and private clubs.

And there’s this:

In a letter received by Republican digital vendors this week, the Trump campaign is asking for down-ballot candidates who use his name, image and likeness in fundraising appeals to give at least 5 percent of the proceeds to the campaign.

“Beginning tomorrow, we ask that all candidates and committees who choose to use President Trump’s name, image, and likeness split a minimum of 5% of all fundraising solicitations to Trump National Committee JFC. This includes but is not limited to sending to the house file, prospecting vendors, and advertising,” Trump co-campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita wrote in the letter, which is dated April 15.

They add: “Any split that is higher than 5% will be seen favorably by the RNC and President Trump’s campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of leadership within both organizations.”

They claim they’re asking this to dissuade “scammers” from using Trump’s likeness. No, Trump just thinks everybody ought to be paying him.

Tuesday’s Trump Justice News Bits

It sounds like they’ve had some drama over jury selection. Here is a link to the New York Times updates on what’s going on. Apparently one of the prospective jurors back in 2020 had put a video of people celebrating Trump’s loss on social media. The defense lawyers want her dismissed. The prosecution wants her sworn in.

The lawyers brought the prospective juror who has prompted such a fierce argument into the courtroom to question her directly. Blanche, a Trump lawyer, is asking her about one of her Election Day posts from 2020, saying it appears that the video in it, recorded around 96th Street, was a celebration of Trump’s election loss. She responds that she came across this gathering, and it seemed like a “celebratory moment in New York City.”

She felt that she was a part of history. But she says that while she understands bias exists, she very strongly believes that regardless of her political feelings or thoughts, the job of a juror “is to understand the facts of the trial and to be the judge of those facts.” She contrasts herself with others who walked out yesterday when they thought they couldn’t be impartial, saying she believes she can.

The judge decided she was credible and did not allow her to be dismissed. Then this happened:

He is not allowing the defense to dismiss her for cause. Trump squints up at Justice Merchan incredulously as the judge reads the relevant case law.

Then they moved on to argue about a prospective juror who once posted a photo of Trump captioned “orange is the new black.” I’m not sure what happened with that one. One potential juror really had posted of Trump, “get him out and lock him up,” and the Judge said, okay, you can dismiss this one. I understand they have three jurors chosen as of 3:30 EST. Update: As of 4:00 they’re actually up to six jurors. And there is a foreperson who is “originally from Ireland,” the Times says. No comment.

I also wanted to add that Trump looked really awful in the photo from yesterday. It’s said he fell asleep; he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week. Poor baby.

Late last night Trump’s lawyers filed some documents regarding the $175 million bond in the New York fraud case. The hearing for this will be on Monday, April 22.

In documents submitted late Monday night, lawyers for the former president said the cash sum Trump posted to stop New York Attorney General Letitia James from seizing his assets was secured by Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC) and is collateralized by Trump’s Charles Schwab account, which contains just over $175 million in cash.c…

… Details of how Trump and KSIC were able to secure the money and prove they could guarantee the cash have been revealed in the motion submitted on Monday night, shortly before the deadline. Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann suggested there was something “fishy” about the arrangement between Trump and KSIC to secure the bond.

“The $175 million bond is collateralized by $175,304,075.95 in cash held in a Charles Schwab account pledged to KSIC, and KSIC has the right to exercise control over that account,” the court filings said.

“KSIC also independently maintains more than $539 million in assets and $138 million in equity and has access to more than $2 billion in assets and $1 billion in equity, of which nearly $1 billion is cash and marketable securities, pursuant to a reinsurance agreement with its parent company, Knight Insurance Company (KIC).”

OK, but Andrew Weissman wants to know why Trump bothered with a bond, for which he has to pay a fee, if he actually had the cash. “And the agreement does not give Knight a lien on the account as collateral and seems to afford Trump a two-day window to dissipate the account.”  Hmm.

Next week’s other hearing, on the gag order, is the following day, April 23.

Oh, and remember the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas? Yeah, I’d forgotten about that, too. The House sent the formal articles of impeachment to the Senate today. The Senate is expected to Do Something about the articles tomorrow. There are big doubts the impeachment will go to a full Senate trial.

Happy Jury Selection Day

Happy First Day of Jury Selection/Tax Day. The two things I’m going to watch for today is (1) will Judge Merchan address Trump’s continued violations of the gag order? And (2) will Trump try to behave himself? So far already the Judge has denied another  Trump request that he recuse himself.

I want to address what happened in Israel over the weekend. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Israel’s defense depended a lot on the U.S. and Arab partners. This is behind a paywall, but the Jerusalem Post reports Saudi Arabia acknowledges helping defend Israel against Iran. And Jordan also has been public in its participation in Israel’s defense. Basically, Jordan and the Saudis are saying this was more about their own self-defense than it was about helping Israel. And now President Biden is publicly telling Netanyahu to not retaliate.

The United States remains “committed to defending Israel,” a senior administration official said, and “what you saw last night,” as Israeli air defense — supplemented by U.S. planes and warships — shot down 99 percent of the Iranian fires, “is what that means in practice. … We are ready to do it again if we have to.”

But this official and others who spoke in official briefings, background interviews and on television throughout the day, emphasized that the United States would not participate in any offensive Israeli response against Iran.

“Our aim is to de-escalate regional tensions” and prevent the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza from becoming a wider conflagration, the senior official said.

There are reports that Netanyahu is still considering what he will do next regarding Iran. This tells me Netanyahu an idiot. He has no real choice except to declare victory and do nothing more. If he goads Iran into further violence, Jordan and the Saudis may not be so helpful next time.

I keep reading that Netanyahu is massively unpopular in Israel, but this is mostly because he never made retrieving the hostages a priority and because he was blamed for Israel being unprepared for October 7. What the Israeli public thinks about the suffering in Gaza isn’t clear to me.

But what is clear to me is that younger generations of Americans are learning to hate Israel. In the Social Media Version of Revisionist History, Israel has been a hostile warmongering state from the beginning, picking on all the innocent countries around it, and should be wiped from the face of the earth. I actually ran into somone today who declared that the creation of the state of Israel was part of Hitler’s Plan. Some of the dimmer bulbs on the anti-war Left are cheering for Iran and Hamas. To make any public statement suggesting that maybe given its history it’s a bit understandable why Israel would be a tad defensive is to support genocide. As soon as those of us who are old enough to remember the Yom Kippur War, Yitzhak Rabin, and the 1972 Munich Olympics are no longer in power, the U.S. is likely going to stop all aid to Israel. And yes, we probably should have dialed it back a long time ago. But as long as Israel was seen as a pro-western power in the Middle East standing against anti-western powers such as Iran and Iraq, one could argue that propping up Israel made some sense to U.S. interests. And of course American politicians of both parties have been way too obsequious toward AIPAC. But that will probably be less true going forward also. Way to go, Bibi.

Back to the trial. It doesn’t look as if there will be any penalties for breaking the gag order issued today.

Update: See Swalwell accuses Clay Travis of jury tampering in Trump trial.

Trump Is Having a Bad Month

(Update: Shortly after I published this Iran launched an airstrike into Israel, and Israel vows to retaliate, which is what nobody but right-wing warmongers wanted.)

I’m not sure why I haven’t seen more reporting on this, but I stumbled into a mention buried deep in this column that there will be a hearing on the $175 million appeal bond issued by Knight Specialty Insurance. This hearing has been set for April 22, which is one week from this Monday, when jury selection begins regarding the criminal charges brought by the Manhattan D.A. Good times. It is possible that if the bond is rejected, Letitia James can start seizing Trump’s assets immediately. That’s assuming some judge doesn’t decide to cut Trump another break, of course.

Going back to this article — For all his bombast, Trump is plummeting – financially, legally and politically, by Lloyd Green — bascially, it says little has gone well for Trump these past few days. And see also Jonathan Martin, Trump the Front-runner? Not so fast. The general election polls are still alarming, with Trump slightly ahead in most of them, but the gap is closing, at least.

Something else I learned today, from Paul Farhi in The Atlantic: Right-Wing Media Are in Trouble.

As you may have heard, mainstream news organizations are facing a financial crisis. Many liberal publications have taken an even more severe beating. But the most dramatic declines over the past few years belong to conservative and right-wing sites. The flow of traffic to Donald Trump’s most loyal digital-media boosters isn’t just slowing, as in the rest of the industry; it’s utterly collapsing.

This past February, readership of the 10 largest conservative websites was down 40 percent compared with the same month in 2020, according to The Righting, a newsletter that uses monthly data from Comscore—essentially the Nielsen ratings of the internet—to track right-wing media. (February is the most recent month with available Comscore data.) Some of the bigger names in the field have been pummeled the hardest: The Daily Caller lost 57 percent of its audience; Drudge Report, the granddaddy of conservative aggregation, was down 81 percent; and The Federalist, founded just over a decade ago, lost a staggering 91 percent. (The site’s CEO and co-founder, Sean Davis, called that figure “laughably inaccurate” in an email but offered no further explanation.) FoxNews.com, by far the most popular conservative-news site, has fared better, losing “only” 22 percent of traffic, which translates to 23 million fewer monthly site visitors compared with four years ago.

According to the author, the main cause if this implosion was a change in Facebook algorithms.

Facebook apparently came to question the value of featuring news on its platform. In early 2018, it began deemphasizing news content, giving greater priority to content posted by friends and family members. In 2021, it tightened the tap a little further. This past February, it announced that it would do the same on Instagram and Threads. All of this monkeying with the internet’s plumbing drastically reduced the referral traffic flowing to news and commentary sites.

Changes in Google algorithms also reduced digital news consumption, but not as much.

These changes impacted all digital news sites, but for some reason it slammed right-wing sites more. This suggests a lot more of their traffic was driven by social media links and not by regular returning readers. And while readership of the big-mainstrem-media sites and liberal sites has somewhat recovered or at least has stabilized, with few exceptions right-wing sites are still struggling to adapt. The bad news seems to be that while viewership of the Gateway Pundit is down 62 percent (yay), right-wing podcasters like Steve Bannon are doing fine. And I assume right-wing talk radio is still out there, somewhere.

And I have no idea if Mahablog readership has changed. I used to be able to see how many people viewed the site every day, but that feature disappeared some time ago and I haven’t figured out how to get it back.

But be of good cheer, because the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Leonard Leo. About time. Well, in fact, they subpoenaed him a few months ago, but I’m just now hearing about it. Of course, Leo assumes himself to be above accountability to any mere Congress.

The big-money rightwing donor Leonard Leo said he would not comply with a subpoena issued by the US Senate judiciary committee, as it investigates undisclosed gifts to conservative supreme court justices that have stoked an ethics crisis at a court already held in historically low public esteem.

Referring to Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee, Leo said: “I am not capitulating to his lawless support of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [a Democrat from Rhode Island] and the left’s dark money effort to silence and cancel political opposition.”

The “dark-money effort” was especially rich, coming from Leo. And Leo might want to check with Peter Navarro about how his four-month prison sentence, for ignoring a congressional subpoena, is going.

Finally, here’s an odd story — House Republicans fume over “messaging” votes by Andrew Solender at Axios.

The House Rules Committee’s schedule for next week consists entirely of a half dozen bills to prohibit the Energy Department from setting energy use standards for home appliances.

The Liberty in Laundry Act, the Refrigerator Freedom Act and the Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards, or SUDS, Act are among the bills.

There is no sign, however, of legislation to provide military aid to Ukraine, Israel or Taiwan, which some lawmakers have said they expect to come up for a vote next week.

I like the Refrigerator Freedom Act. The refrigerator in my apartment at random intervals toots out a noise that sounds somewhere between a tired bugle call and a foghorn. Maybe it wants to be set free.

The appliance bills have no chance in the Senate, and everybody knows that. They are pure “messaging,” to let the American people know what the Republican Party stands for, which apparently is major appliance personhood. But at least a handful of House Republicans are tired of “messaging” and want to, you know, do real things. Exactly what, I’m not sure. I doubt the House will get any more productive this year.

Where the Right Is Going on Abortion

Something I wrote back in 2006:

In the long term, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned and a whole mess of states criminalized abortion the next day, the overwhelming force of public opinion would eventually set things right again to make abortion legal. That is, unless the United States isn’t converted into a fundie theocracy, in which case all bets are off. And in that case abortion law will be the least of our problems.

Well, here we are. This week’s Arizona Supreme Court decision is still causing tremors. Republicans in Arizona are holding a master class in How to Look Stupid. On Tuesday they were denouncing the decision and trying to run away from the 1864 law. But then Republicans in the Arizona legislature blocked at attempt by Democrats to overturn the law. Which makes one question if they mean what they say. (/snark)

Meanwhile, Trump is still turning his unnaturally bronzed face toward cameras and promsing that just returning the issue to the states has already settled everything, and the states will sort it out (and don’t ask me about abortion again). But red states are descending into chaos over abortion (see: Arizona). It’s kind of been all over the news. Michael Tomasky writes at The New Republic that Trump has taken the dumbest possible position he could have taken.

The embrace of a 15- or 16-week ban would have left plenty of space between Trump and his party’s anti-abortion extremists. It would have enabled him to say, when some deep-red state passed some draconian ban, “No, I don’t agree with that at all; here’s my position, 15 weeks.”

But now? I remember thinking Monday morning that hypothetically, his new “states’ rights” position meant that any extremist position adopted by any state could now be hung around his neck.

The gods sure have a sense of drama because barely 24 hours passed before we went from hypothetical to all too real, when the Arizona state Supreme Court turned the clock back to General Sherman’s march to Atlanta. 

See also The problem with Donald Trump ‘leaving abortion to the states’? The states. And of course this chaos was entirely predictable. The Dobbs decision had sent the issue back to the states, and a number of state legislatures have since shown us all how bonkers they are. And the backlash against the Right over abortion was entirely predictable also; at least, I’ve been predicting it for some time. I wrote in 2005:

GOP dominance in the Midwest and South, especially in rural areas, came at a cost. Urban and suburban moderates and independents are getting squeamish about voting Republican. And if Roe v. Wade goes down, expect a stamped to the Left.

One sometimes hears that there was little abortion controversy before Roe, which is a flat-out lie. I well remember the Missouri state legislature did little else but argue about abortion, and I believe that was fairly standard. When Roe was decided, the relief in state capitals was palpable. If Roe is reversed, several states will outlaw abortion immediately, and most of the remainder will be embroiled in abortion wars as the Fetus People demand satisfaction. And Republicans won’t be able to hide any more. Most of ’em will have to find a way to placate the Fetus People while not scaring away everyone else.

Ain’t enough nuance on the planet to pull that one off.

Plus, “let the states decide” was the old, pre-Dobbs, talking point for the forced birth crowd. No one who has paid attention to this issue over the years believed they meant that, because there was no way they were going to stand aside and tolerate any states deciding to keep abortion legal. All too predictably, since Dobbs they’ve moved on to calling for some kind of national ban.

I don’t know if Ross Douthat fully appreciates what a tool he is here:

The captivity of the pro-life movement to the character of Donald Trump is a crucial aspect of contemporary abortion politics. But maybe not quite in the way suggested by Trump’s decision this week to publicly distance himself from his pro-life supporters by refusing to endorse national restrictions on late-term abortions.

Here Douthat has cheerfully forgotten that the old goal was letting the states decide. Now he’s embraced a new fiction that the abortion criminalizers only want to ban “late term” abortions. “Late term” here is Fetus People Speak for “whatever we say it means.” In medical science, a “late term’ pregnancy is one that has apparently gone on longer than normal, past the 40 week mark that is considered “full term.” In the context of Douthat’s column he seems to think that 15 weeks — less than the halfway point in the pregnancy — is “late term.” If a 15-week ban goes into effect, the Fetus People will gradually redifine “late term” to “ten seconds after fertilization.” You can count on that.

It’s clear where the Right is going on abortion, except to the Right. Even if they know deep down, they can’t sayit out loud.

See also Lawrence O’Donnell on Trump’s face paint.