Rand Paul Wants Trucks to “Clog Things Up”

The cognitively challenged Sen. Rand Paul wants truck convoys to disrupt the Superbowl and then head for D.C. He wants the trucks to “clog things up,” he said.

Yeah, Rand, so do I. They should be as obnoxious as they can. I want lots of videos of trucks helching out exhaust and of angry people unable to get to work or school or the hospital. That’s the ticket. Just the thing to make Americans sick to death of right-wing assholes, assuming they aren’t already.

Zack Beauchamp writes at Vox that the Freedom Convoys in Canada aren’t a people’s revolt. It’s just some fringe losers protesting their impotence.

News coverage of the convoy, especially from sympathetic anchors on Fox News, may lead Americans to believe that Canada is in the midst of a far-right popular uprising. In reality, the mainstream consensus in Canada about Covid-19, and the nation’s institutions in general, is holding. The so-called trucker movement is on the fringe, including among Canadian truckers — some 90 percent of whom are vaccinated.

They are angry because they have lost.

However, the convoys are getting lots of money and attention, and they are providing a focal point for far-right organizing. Canada’s relatively weak extreme Right could start being a bigger factor, even if they are unpopular.

And this happened, which really sucks

Ottawa police said Thursday that a significant amount of calls that “almost jammed” the city’s 911 phone system on Wednesday evening came from U.S. addresses.

“They were coming in from the United States,” Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said in a news conference Thursday.

“Not exclusively, but significantly from United States addresses.”

How big of a jerk does one have to be to think it’s fun to jam up a city’s 911 system?

Josh Marshall points to a Canadian blog, which reports,

What’s happening in Ottawa, they were clear, is two separate events happening in tandem: there is a broadly non-violent (to date) group of Canadians with assorted COVID-related gripes, ranging from the somewhat justified to totally frickin’ insane. But that larger group, which has knocked Ottawa and too many of our leaders into what my colleague Jen Gerson so perfectly described as “stun-fucked stasis,” is now providing a kind of (mostly) unwitting cover to a cadre of seasoned street brawlers whose primary goal is to further erode the legitimacy of the state — not just the city of Ottawa, or Ontario or Canada, but of democracies generally.

There are reports the Canadian police are clearing trucks away from the Ambassador Bridge into the U.S. right now, but I have no sense of how that’s going. Update: The bridge is still clogged as of late this afternoon. They’re going to have to call out troops, I’m afraid. This is not something police can handle, I don’t think.

Josh Marshall writes,

One thing that becomes clear reading this is that the important stuff happened before the authorities in Ottawa even knew what was happening. And then it was too late. Once you have an organized, fortified encampment of far-right agitators you can’t just dismantle that without the potential or maybe certainty of a lot of violence. I really hope U.S. authorities are watching this closely to prevent things like this from happening on the U.S. side of the border. At the beginning you can deal with it in a pretty straightforward way. If you let it get out of control, as they did in Ottawa, the options become really bad.

Maybe between this and January 6 they’ve learned a couple of lessons. Like, take threats from right-wing white dudes seriously.

On to Toiletgate. Do see 15 boxes: Inside the long, strange trip of Trump’s classified records at WaPo (subscription firewall should be down). Important takeaways:

One, “Trump was noticeably secretive about the packing process, and top aides and longtime administrative staffers did not see the contents, the people said.” So Trump is the only one who knows what documents were packed.

Two, the National Archives started asking about missing documents in the summer of 2021. “But it was not until the end of the year that the boxes were finally readied for collection, according to two people familiar with the logistics, one of whom described the ordeal as ‘a bit of a process.'” Trump had plenty of time to go through the documents and destroy those he REALLY doesn’t want anyone to know about. So a surprise raid with a search warrant might do no good, although I’d like to see it tried anyway. It’s possible there’s juicy stuff he didn’t try to flush.

Three, understandably, there are all kinds of security protocols that are supposed to be followed when classified documents are moved, but none of those were followed in Trump’s case.

Trump Took Top Secret Documents to Florida

So late last night, reports started coming out about how many of the documents the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago were clearly marked “classified,” and some were “top secret.”  Oops!

There was some excuse-making about how the packing was done in a rush. It may well have been. Usually the packing process would have began as soon as the election was called, but since Trump refused to concede it probably was a last-minute thing. In the rush, who wouldn’t have confused a document marked “top secret” with one of Melania’s favorite family recipes? (/snark)

Was Trump thinking of selling some secrets, I wonder? He’ll do anything for a buck.

Even before the “top secret” news was released, there was musing that Trump’s reaction to criticism of his handling of documents was unusually lawyerly. Trump is  “characterizing the whole thing as a big misunderstanding and trying to appear collaborative rather than combative,” writes Amber Philips at WaPo.

His usually pattern, of course, is to deny, insult whoever criticized him, and then whine piteously about how unfair it all is. Instead, he released a statement that said this:

“Following collaborative and respectful discussions, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) openly and willingly arranged with President Trump for the transport of boxes that contained letters, records, newspapers, magazines, and various articles. Some of this information will someday be displayed in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library for the public to view my Administration’s incredible accomplishments for the American People.”

Yeah, for once, he’s letting the lawyers do their jobs.

Oh, wait, cancel that. This just in today:

On Friday, the former president lashed out at the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol as “out of control” while reviving baseless voter fraud narratives.

He can’t help himself. It’s a compulsion. Like dropping random things into a toilet to see if it will flush.

As a US congressional committee prepares to investigate Donald Trump’s handling of administration documents after 15 boxes of records were transferred from his Florida resort, the former president is insisting he was “under no obligation” to hand any materials over – despite laws requiring him to do exactly that.

The thing is — and I would have explained this to him back in 2016, if he’d asked — that when you’re the POTUS you can’t hide. You may be able to hide a few things for a little while, but sooner or later everything you did in the White House will become public. And all the financial shenanigans he got away with for years, because no one wanted to bother about investigating and prosecuting him, are now a big bleeping deal that will be publicly unraveled sooner or later. Because now a whole lot of people are really, really eager to investigate and prosecute Trump

Anyway, not it’s not just the January 6 Committee but the House Oversight Committee looking into things. And the National Archives is bringing the Justice Department into the mix, if the JD wasn’t already in it. It’s hard to tell with the JD.

In other news — There are several reports that Sarah Palin pretty much screwed her own lawsuit against the New York Times. See:

Erik Wemple, WaPo, Sarah Palin bombs on witness stand in New York Times trial

Seth Stevenson, Slate, The Moment Sarah Palin’s Testimony Fell Apart

Forbes (Video), Sarah Palin Struggles To Show Professional Damage From N.Y. Times Op-Ed In Defamation Trial Testimony

The judge hearing the case has already said, when the jury was not present, that he would not award punitive damages against the Times. “The evidence frankly that Mr Bennet harboured ill will toward Ms Palin is quite modest indeed,” he said. Let’s see what the jury does. I believe closing arguments are today.

A worker stacks boxes on West Executive Avenue before loading them onto a truck at the White House in Washington.
Image Credit: AFP https://gulfnews.com/photos/news/photos-moving-out-of-the-white-house-ahead-of-biden-inauguration-1.1610693122302?slide=11

Trump Accused of Flushing Evidence

The first thing I read this morning was this:

While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man.”

Of course he did. One, because he was a spoiled brat and probably never got punished for flooding the bathroom, so he never learned that some things don’t flush. And two, because he had a lot to hide.

A couple of years ago he was going on about how toilets don’t flush any more at his rallies. At the time, people assumed he resented government water-saving regulations. But I guess if he was trying to flush documents he probably did need to flush ten times. More, even. The White House custodial staff must have been glad to see him go.

So Trump ripped up documents that had to be taped back together to be preserved, and in some cases what the National Archives sent to the January 6 committee was just paper bits that hadn’t been re-assembled. I believe some time back I wrote about Trump’s poor staff having to scotch tape papers together after he’d ripped them up, but I can’t find the post now. Then the Archives had to retrieve 15 boxes of White House documents, including the love letters from Kim Jong Un and the famous Sharpied hurricane map, from Mar-a-Lago.

The map definitely needs to be in the Trump Presidential Library, if it’s ever built.

Trump’s representatives — the Mar-a-Lago staff, I assume — said they “are continuing to search for additional presidential records that belong to the National Archives,” the Archives said in a statement.  There are reports that some of the documents Trump removed from the White House and took to Florida may have been classified. An inspector general in the Justice Department is supposed to be looking into this.

And it’s known he took a scale model of a redesign for Air Force One from the Oval Office to display in Mar-a-Lago. I think the White House staff needs to audit the art and the silverware.

And, of course, Trump was advised multiple times about the Presidential Records Act and why he couldn’t destroy documents, but he did it, anyway. This tells us he can’t change. He probably even was told as a child not to flush random things down the toilet and clog it up, but he won’t do as he’s told, probably because he’s a sociopath and he’s never had to do as he’s told.

Could Trump be prosecuted for violating the Presidential Records Act? I take it this has not happened before, although it’s never been so flagrantly violated before. Per Peter Weber in The Week:

Trump’s repeated ripping up of documents “is against the law, but the problem is that the Presidential Records Act, as written, does not have any real enforcement mechanism,” James Grossman at the American Historical Association tells the Post. One Archives official described the Presidential Records Act as functionally a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

“You can’t prosecute for just tearing up papers,” Charles Tiefer, former House counsel, tells the Post. “You would have to show [Trump] being highly selective and have evidence that he wanted to behave unlawfully.”

Trump routinely ripped up papers throughout his presidency, despite repeated warnings from lawyers and two chiefs of staff that he was violating the Presidential Records Act, the Post reports, citing 11 former Trump aides and associates. “He didn’t want a record of anything,” one former senior Trump official said. “He never stopped ripping things up. Do you really think Trump is going to care about the records act? Come on.”

While Trump was still president the citizens’ watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a suit challenging the use of encrypted messaging apps among the Trump White House staff, which was a lot skeezier than anything Hillary Clinton did with the damn emails. CREW said the messaging apps violated the Presidential Records Act, since there was no record kept of the messages. Other groups filed similar suits when it was learned Trump was not keeping records of meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders — especially Vladimir Putin — and also that he was ripping some documents up. The cases were all dismissed by various courts; I don’t believe any are still pending. As I understand it, the various courts ruled that the Presidential Records Act is a rare thing that can’t be enforced through a court. Congress or the Justice Dpeartment would have to get involved, I believe.

But we also learned that the White House phone records received by the January 6 committee from the National Archives have gaps during times it is known Trump was on a phone.

The call logs obtained by the committee document who was calling the White House switchboard, and any calls that were being made from the White House to others. Mr. Trump had a habit throughout his presidency of circumventing that system, making it far more difficult to discern with whom he was communicating.

This really cannot be allowed to stand.

Elsewhere in Trump World — the Derp abides. I got a kick out of this Lawrence O’Donnell sequence calling out the relentless stupidity of Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Trumpers.

Of Course There Are Freedom Convoys

Since I am a long way from Canada I can’t very well speak for Canadians. But I get the impression that most Canadians aren’t that happy with the trucker protests in Ottawa and elsewhere. See Majority of Ottawa residents oppose ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest, poll finds.

See also After weekend of protests, Ottawa residents are feeling the effects at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. My impression is most people are way over having their lives disrupted. Businesses have closed, people can’t get to work, it’s a mess. And now I’m reading that “freedom convoys” are starting up in other countries, including Europe.

J.J. McCullough, a Canadian writing in the Washington Post, wrote,

On television and social media, representatives of both the right and left frequently seem to be on the brink of tears when discussing the event, suggesting that in just a few short days the irate convoy has already achieved a totemic importance in Canadian political culture far exceeding technical debates over what exactly the protesters “want” or whether they represent the interests of the broader Canadian trucker community.

In many ways, the protest feels almost exquisitely designed to inflame every current anxiety in the Canadian psyche.

And Gary Mason writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail,

MAGA hats and Trump signs have been ubiquitous at the Freedom Convoy occupation in Ottawa, which has attracted donations and political support from the U.S. One man rode a horse through the downtown streets carrying a flag emblazoned with the word “Trump.” The word ‘freedom’ could be found on most signs being touted by the protesters. For many, it’s a word that has become code for white-identity politics and the far-right’s weapon of choice in the culture wars.

Now even Canada won’t be a safe place to escape to. The Times of Israel reports that the “protesters” have displayed swastikas and Confederate flags also. Yes, swastikas and Confederate flags say so much about vaccination mandates.

Times of Israel photo

I understand a “freedom convoy” is being organized to converge on Washington DC, although I don’t know when. Right now the organizers are upset because their Facebook page was taken down. So sad.

See also Paul Waldman, The American right’s hypocritical embrace of the anti-vaccine Canadian truckers.

Turn on Fox today and you’ll find one host after another — Sean HannityLaura IngrahamTucker Carlson — waxing poetic on the noble cause of the “Freedom Convoy.” This is a group of Canadian truckers who descended on the capital city of Ottawa to protest a requirement that those who cross back and forth over the U.S. border be vaccinated.

Not only have they shut down large portions of the city, but they’ve also been honking their horns at all hours, in an apparent attempt to drive residents out of their minds.

Now Republican politicians are getting into the act: After GoFundMe announced that it would be returning money raised for the truckers, whose ranks include a variety of far-right cranks, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas announced they’d be mounting investigations of the company. And of course, Donald Trump — who as president loved nothing more than sitting in a truck like a big boy — expressed his support for the truckers.

It’s somewhat ironic that DeSantis would come to the defense of these protesters, because in the past he hasn’t looked on the exercise of that particular right with a great deal of sympathy. Last April, he enthusiastically signed a bill that makes it a felony to block traffic in a protest and “grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road,” as the Orlando Sentinel put it.

A similar law passed in Texas, as it has in a number of conservative states. Oklahoma’s version gives drivers both civil and criminal immunity for injuring or killing protesters.

I do have a quibble with this analysis, which is this: The Right is all about punching down. Right-wing “humor” is nearly always aggressive, punching down on women, minorities, and whomever they don’t like. Anger is praised in right-wing white men and deplored as “unhinged” or “dangerous” or “hysteria” in anyone else. Last year I wrote about gun-carrier privilege, which allows people with guns more privilege to claim self-defense than unarmed people they are menacing. And, of course, so far when protesters are run over by car drivers, the driver has been a rightie and the pedestrian was a leftie. Were it reversed, the driver probably wouldn’t be given immunity no matter what the law says. To a wingnut, privilege belongs to the individual in a position of power, whether that power is social, cultural, financial, or who is in a car or has the gun. So yes, it’s hypocritical, but it also fits a long-established pattern.

On the other hand, it seems to me the percentage of the U.S. population that holds this perspective is shrinking. The Ahmaud Arbery verdict seemed to me to be something of a breakthrough, as was the conviction of George Floyd’s killer.

And then, there is the Bigger Asshole rule, . From Stupid Protesting, a Primer, November 2015:

The Bigger Asshole Rule

Effective demonstrations are those that make them look like bigger assholes than us.

It’s important to be clear how mass demonstrations “work.” Demonstrations should be viewed as a form of public relations. The point of them is not to somehow intimidate or change the minds of the people you are protesting. The point is to win public sympathy to your cause. Demonstrations can also be tools for organizing, among other things. But demonstrations are a dangerous tool, because they can just as easily work against you as for you.

The really great mass protest movements — the prototypes are Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement — worked because the public at large sympathized with the protesters. The protesters behaved in a way that demonstrated they were worthy of respect, and the Powers Than Be they were protesting — whether redneck southern sheriffs or the British Empire — behaved like assholes. Eventually it was public sympathy — not the protests themselves —  that forced the Powers That Be to step down.

In short, if your demonstrations don’t win public sympathy, you are shooting yourself in the foot and hurting your cause more than helping it.


Trump supporters take assholery to levels rarely seen before in human history, so there is no way they aren’t going to shoot themselves in all their feet if they go ahead with “freedom convoys.” Bring it.

Why CNN Imploded

Here’s a quick update on last week’s post, How Jeff Zucker made Trump. The Hill reports that CNN’s ratings seriously imploded last year. “Ratings fell 90 percent overall when comparing January 2021 to January 2022,” it says.

That may have a lot to do with Jeff Zucker’s “resignation.”

The article reviews Zucker’s tenure. As soon as he took charge, he threw standard news coverage out the window in favor of chasing sensantional narratives such as24/7 coverage of the missing Malaysian passenger plane. And then from 2015 on he made Donald Trump the centerpiece of CNN’s news coverage, in one way or another. Once the network had helped make Trump president, it led the way in sensationalized negative coverage. (I assume that’s true, as I don’t usually watch CNN.) But once Trump was out of office, it appears CNN couldn’t remember what else there was to talk about in the world, and ratings plummeted.

CNN has been purchased by the Discovery Channel, which in itself says something. The Discovery Channel’s largest stockholder, John Malone of Liberty Media, is a big-time Trump donor, so I don’t have a lot of hope that CNN will go back to being about news coverage.

Missouri’s Right-to-Murder Law

Just how nutso is the Missouri state legislature? This is how nutso: This week one of the legilators introduced a bill to legalize murder.

The Kansas City Star explains,

State Sen. Eric Burlison, a Republican lawmaker from near Springfield, wants to give qualified immunity to suspected murderers. Here’s his proposed law: “A person who uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless such force was used against a law enforcement officer who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the person reasonably knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer.”

Burlison believes it is OK for a person to use physical or deadly force by simply fearing for their life — a “presumption of reasonableness,” his bill calls it. The proposed law prohibits police from even detaining those suspected of violence. In effect, killers would be rewarded. And he’s not the only supporter. The measure has already advanced to the Missouri Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

Here’s the text of the bill, SB 666. Seriously. I’m not making this up.

So if I came to seriously dislike somebody and decide to eliminate them, I can shoot and kill that person and be safe from prosecution as long as there are no witnesses? I can just say it was self-defense and go my merry way? Okay.

It may not surprise you to learn that some people think this is a grand idea.

Mark McCloskey, an attorney and pardonee-turned-Senate candidate, is leveraging his gun-hero status to support a Missouri bill nicknamed the “Make Murder Legal Act” by its opponents. The legislation, which happens to be numbered S.B. 666, is a Republican-driven effort to upend one of the most standard procedures in criminal law and to expand Missouri’s “Castle Doctrine.”


Missouri already has a “stand your ground” law that requires defendants to prove they reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to defend themselves.

This Law & Crime article explains that, normally, defendants claiming self-defense “must prove that they feared for their safety or the safety of another person, that the fear was objectively reasonable under the circumstances, and that they used force in response to their belief that force was necessary to protect themself or others.”

The “objectively reasonable” standard, normally, “measures whether the situation as a whole should have been perceived as fearful by someone thinking logically in the defendant’s shoes. A defendant whose fears were unreasonable, exaggerated, or blown out of proportion will lose a self-defense claim.”

But under SB 666, it’s presumed that fears were reasonable and up to the prosecutor to show that they weren’t. So, as I said, if there are no witnesses or surveillance videos the prosecutor may be helpless to prove the act of violence wasn’t self-defense. Several of the state’s prosecutors have spoken up to call SB 666 the “Make Murder Legal” act.

And then there’s our senator, Josh Hawley. A few days ago Sen. Hawley sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the Biden administration to drop longstanding U.S. support for Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO. In other words, give Vladimir Putin what he wants. When I heard this I promptly sent an email to Hawley’s office telling him that Neville Chamberlain would be proud.

Hawley’s letter argues, in brief, that if we’re messing around defending Ukraine’s right to join NATO we’d be taking our eye off China. Certainly it would be nice if Ukraine keeps its independence, but “we must aid Ukraine in a manner that aligns with the American interests at stake and preserves our ability to deny Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.” Apparently we can’t support Ukraine’s eventual acceptance into NATO and keep an eye on the Indo-Pacific at the same time.

And then he adds a couple of paragraphs about how other NATO countries aren’t paying their “fair share” of collective defense expenses, which was an ignorant argument when Trump made it, and it hasn’t improved.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger responded to the letter by calling Hawley “one of the worst human beings, and a self egrandizing con artist,” and I can’t argue with that.

And then Hawley tweeted this:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial in response headlined Hawley posts a fist-pump to ignorance with his position on Ukraine.

Perhaps the young senator should be forgiven for his naivete regarding Russia. He wasn’t even born during the worst years of the Cold War, and he was still in diapers when Moscow invaded Afghanistan and dominated half of Europe. So he might not remember why containing Russian expansionism remains such a big deal for older Americans. Republicans these days seem averse to reading any history that makes them feel bad about themselves, which could explain why Hawley’s ignorance is so embarrassingly on display in Washington.

First-rate snark there, Post-Dispatch. Bravo.

A short history lesson is in order. Biden became president a year ago. Before that, Donald Trump was president. Trump is the one who denied military aid to Ukraine to extort its leader into helping with Trump’s reelection effort. The person who failed Ukraine was Trump, and it earned him an impeachment. Biden in the past year has shipped around $650 million in military aid to Ukraine as Russia amasses more than 100,000 troops on its border. So Kinzinger’s “con man” critique of Hawley seems precisely on target.

Hawley describes Europe as a “secondary theater” and suggests that the only international situation worthy of administration attention is China. He outlined his limited understanding of world affairs in a three-page letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Hawley was “parroting” Moscow’s talking points and “digesting Russian misinformation.”

The right-wing echo chamber is all-in on the idea that Russia’s threats to Ukraine are really Joe Biden’s fault, but I’ve seen some on the Left repeat the same thing. Let’s just hope Putin stands down.

The famous Hawley fist bump of January 6.

How Jeff Zucker Made Trump

Jeff Zucker’s resignation from CNN was welcome news to me, at least. I agree with Margaret Sullivan at WaPo:

Zucker, as much as any other person in the world, created and burnished the Trump persona — first as a reality-TV star who morphed into a worldwide celebrity, then as a candidate for president who was given large amounts of free publicity.

The through line? Nothing nobler than TV ratings, which always were Zucker’s guiding light, his be-all and end-all and, ultimately, his fatal flaw.

Yeah, when he was head of NBC Entertainment Zucker helped create “The Apprentice” as a vehicle for Trump. And then as head of CNN Zucker helped make Donald Trump president. Alex Shephard writes at The New Republic,

Speaking to Vanity Fair in 2018, then–CNN chief Jeff Zucker made the case that his decision to transform the network he ran into a near 24/7 Trumpathon was just good business. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, I don’t want to talk about Trump. I’ve had too much Trump,’” he said. “And yet at the end of the day, all they want to do is talk about Trump. We’ve seen that, anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away. So we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.”

Zucker was not, I don’t think, the first media executive who sought to package news as entertainment. The networks used to keep the news and entertainment divisions strictly separate and accepted that news coverage would be unprofitable. But that changed in the 1970s. See this 1999 Neiman Reports article for how pressure for television news to be profitable changed television news coverage for the worse.

Before “The Apprentice” debuted in 2004, Trump appears to have been circling the drain as any kind of big-shot executive. He was over his head in debt, and his casinos and hotels were not generating enough money to get out of debt. There were reports he had barely enough cash on hand to keep up daily operations. (See Is Trump Headed for a Fall? from March 2004.) “The Apprentice” literally saved his ass. He still had to walk away from the casinos, dumping his debt load on his gullible investors, but after the show became a hit (or so I’m told; I never watched it) his fortunes looked up. By 2006 he was flush with cash of unknown origin (see Trump’s Mystery Money from May 2018). This was after U.S. banks had stopped doing business with him.

See also Adam Davidson, Where Did Donald Trump Get Two Hundred Million Dollars to Buy His Money-Losing Scottish Golf Club?, The New Yorker, July 2018. By 2018 Trump had spent a few years doing deals all over the world and buying properties with cash, and there literally was no way to know where all that money was coming from. It couldn’t be accounted for through available information. Did “The Apprentice” somehow make all that possible, whatever “all that” was?

And then came the 2016 election, and Zucker was head of CNN Worldwide. In 2017 Warren Olney wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Trump owed his election victory to  Zucker.

During the election season, I saw entire Trump rallies carried live by CNN, interrupted only for mandatory commercials. Not only was there no critical fact-checking, there was no serious effort to provide context for viewers. Never raised, let alone answered, was the question: Why should a developer with a shaky reputation and no relevant experience be seriously considered for the most powerful job in the world?

It wasn’t just CNN, of course, as I described in a 2017 post, Are Our News Media Learning? They all managed to “normalize” Trump, giving him billions of dollars of free air time for the sake of ratings. But CNN led the way.

Then came 2020, and I despaired of anything improving. CNN’s hosting of the 2nd set of Democratic candidate debates in August 2019 was just awful. See John Delaney, Tim Ryan, and Other Tools (about the first night) and CNN’s Hot Mess, Night 2. See also David Dayen, CNN’s Debate Fail. It begins:

Everyone working for CNN should walk into network president Jeff Zucker’s office and resign en masse on Wednesday morning. A “debate” that spent its opening 25 minutes less efficiently than a Super Bowl pre-game show got dramatically worse as the actual questions got started. Jake Tapper then delivered instructions, warning the candidates not to go over time after CNN saw fit to run the national anthem and then a commercial break after the scheduled start time. The only ones wasting time on debate night would be CNN.

It would give Tapper and his other moderators too much credit to say that their relentless right-wing framing of the questions was animated by a desire to protect the insurance industry and the border patrol. But that’s not really it. CNN has no politics. CNN has no understanding of politics or policy. I doubt the combined firepower of the 20-person post-game panel could name a bill currently before Congress. The CNN debate was an inevitable by-product of turning news into an entertainment and cultural product.

So you can assume I’m not weeping any tears over the departure of Zucker. Let’s just hope whoever replaces him isn’t just as bad.

There’s a lot of speculation that the stated reason for Zucker’s resignation, that he’d had a secret relationship with an employee, was not the real reason he left. There is talk that Zucker’s resignation has something to do with the the Cuomo brothers, Chris and Andy. Especially Chris. The Daily Mail thinks that CNN fired Zucker at the insistence of a billionaire stockholder who is also a Trump donor, who wanted to end the network’s “left-wing bias.” To which all one can say, is …

But I really don’t care how it happened. Zucker, the Man Who Made Trump, is gone. Let’s just hope CNN doesn’t get even worse.

In other news: Here’s today’s new Trump insurrection revelation, ironically reported by CNN:  Newly obtained records show Trump and Jim Jordan spoke at length on morning of January 6. This is a matter that has strangely eluded Rep. Jordan’s memory.

Trump’s Crimes Are Plainly Visible

I wanted to post this a couple of days ago, but it took me this long to find it. Here is Laurence Tribe on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show Monday night, reacting to Trump’s “overturn the Election!” memo.

Maybe it’s just me, but he seems on the edge of a panic attack.

Recently it seems we get some new details about The Plot to Steal the Election every day. Today’s bit is that Trumpers wanted to seize raw data from the National Security Agency and Defense Department and sift through it for evidence of foreign interference in the election. See also Trumpers Wanted Conspiracy Theorist Help On Proposed NSA Effort To Steal Election at Talking Points Memo.

We don’t know if this idea was ever presented to Trump. However, we do know that Trump was involved in the scheme to seize voting machines.

Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Giuliani did so, calling the department’s acting deputy secretary, who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines.

The reporting, by the New York Times, says that on Rudy Giuliani’s advice, Trump rejected the suggestion to ask the Pentagon to seize voting machines. So instead he had Giuliani go to DHS. After being shot down by DHS, Trump asked Attorney General Barr to do it. Barr also shot the idea down. But in the meantime Trump also asked lawmakers in contested states to seize voting machines.

Later in the story —

Mr. Giuliani was vehemently opposed to the idea of the military taking part in the seizure of machines, according to two people familiar with the matter. The conflict between him and his legal team, and Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell and Mr. Byrne came to a dramatic head on Dec. 18, 2020, during a meeting with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office.

At the meeting, Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell presented Mr. Trump with a copy of the draft executive order authorizing the military to oversee the seizure of machines. After reading it, Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Giuliani to the Oval Office, according to one person familiar with the matter. When Mr. Giuliani read the draft order, he told Mr. Trump that the military could be used only if there was clear-cut evidence of foreign interference in the election.

Hence, the need for a fishing expedition to find evidence of foreign interference.

There’s a long article by Ed Kilgore at New York magazine that lays out the plot(s) to overturn the election. (If you don’t have a subscription, you can probably read it in an incognito or inprivate window. That’s what I do.) I linked yesterday to Philip Bump’s “the sloppy, patchwork, spaghetti-at-the-wall effort to steal the presidency.”  See also Trump’s Words, and Deeds, Reveal Depths of His Drive to Retain Power by Shane Goldmacher at the New York Times. These all go over much the same material. But the point is that there’s a bleeping avalanche of evidence that Trump was actively attempting to overturn the election, and it’s all out in the open. There’s enough stuff out in public to put him away for years, as Laurence Tribe said.

We don’t know if the Justice Department is working on any of this. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. Waiting for Merrick Garland to Do Something is an ongoing topic of consternation in the nation’s op eds. Lots of people discuss the virtue of caution. But Trump is out in public telling his followers to violently punish any prosecutors, whether Letitia James, Fani Willis,  or Alvin Bragg, who dare to indict him for anything. Fani Willis asked the Justice Department for protection.

That all three of these prosecutors are Black has not escaped Trump’s notice. Jonathan Chait:

Addressing a rally last weekend, former president Donald Trump presented himself as the victim of racist prosecutors. “These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick. They’re mentally sick,” he bellowed. “If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal,” Trump said, “I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere. Because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

Yesterday, his largest adult son, Eric, took up the refrain with a slightly classier spin, filing suit against New York Attorney General Letitia James for what he called her “third world” conduct.

If you still need a decoder ring, the Trumps habitually attack whomever is prosecuting them as corrupt, but the alleged corruption is usually cast as either akin to Russia (i.e., second world) or embodying the corruption of American institutions Trump frequently alleges. Eric’s “third world” epithet is a specific reminder that the prosecutors in New York are Black and therefore lack the standing to charge his upstanding family with crimes.

I’m rooting for Fani Willis especially. Her taking down Trump on criminal charges would be just about the sweetest thing that ever happened in American history. Everything I hear about her says she is thorough and professional and won’t make a move until she’s got every “i” dotted.

In other news — in a hopeful sign, Trump-endorsed primary challengers to Republican politicans Trump doesn’t like are lagging way behind in fundraising.

Key Trump-backed Republican challengers were heavily outraised by their Republican primary opponents late last year, newly filed financial reports show. …

… The trend was most evident in Wyoming.

The incumbent, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), more than quadrupled the fourth-quarter fundraising haul of her top primary opponent, fellow Republican Harriet Hageman.

Cheney’s $2 million haul, her best-ever fundraising quarter, came as she spearheaded efforts to investigate Trump’s role in the January 6 Capitol attack — triggering the ex-president’s fury.

Hageman reported raising $443,000.

However, Trump’s candidates would be weaker general election candidates, I suspect, so Democrats might be better off if some of them won.


Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis


Trump Still Pushing His Batty Election Theories

Aaron Blake writes that two days after his “he could have overturned the Election!” remark, Trump is asking for a mulligan.

A new statement from Trump on Tuesday morning is ostensibly about attacking the Jan. 6 committee — going so far as to suggest it should actually investigate Pence for not going along with Trump’s scheme.

But if you drill down, what the statement really seems to be about, in large part, is walking back his comments on precisely what that scheme entailed.

Mr. Stable Genius may have realized he had clarified his criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, or maybe not.

On January 6, Trump wanted Vice President Pence to take one of two options — either reject some states’ ballots outright — immediately giving the election to Trump — or declare that some states’ ballots were in dispute and had to be sent back to the states, where the outcome might be settled by (Republican) state legislators — eventually giving the election to Trump. Or, maybe it would have resulted in a vote in the U.S. House, with one vote per state. Any of those outcomes would have given the election to Trump. Pence didn’t act as instructed, either because of a momentary flush of principles or a loss of nerve.

In his Sunday statement, Aaron Blake said, Trump favored the immeciate option — Pence could have just tossed the “bad” ballots and given the election to Trump.  Blake writes that by Tuesday he had changed his tune.

On Tuesday, though, Trump very conspicuously focused only on the latter option, mentioning it twice in the course of a characteristically false series of claims.

Trump said the Electoral Count Act reform effort shows that “the Vice President did have this right or, more pointedly, could have sent the votes back to various legislators for reassessment after so much fraud and irregularities were found.”

The “more pointedly” is doing a lot of work here. Trump’s use of it makes clear this is intended to suggest his goal might have been the supposedly more-benign option — no matter what he said Sunday.

Perhaps he’s thinking that “sending the contested ballots back to the states” is less obviously criminal than “overturning the election.”

To drive the point home, Trump returned at the end of his statement to the idea that sending it back to the states was what Pence should have and could have done — rather than, apparently, trying to overturn the election himself.

“Therefore, the Unselect Committee should be investigating … why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval, in that it has now been shown that he clearly had the right to do so!” Trump concluded.

Of course, that hasn’t been shown at all, except in Trump’s head.

Also at WaPo, Philip Bump describes the sloppy, patchwork, spaghetti-at-the-wall effort to steal the presidency. This one shouldn’t be behind a paywall, so do read it.