The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Trump’s New Indictments

Of all the commentary I’ve seen today about the new indictments, this is the best bit:

According to the document, on June 27, 2022, De Oliveira told someone who is identified as “Trump Employee 4” that “‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted.” When the employee balked, “De Oliveira then insisted to Trump Employee 4 that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted and asked, ‘what are we going to do?’’ (“The boss,” as it turns out, is not a particularly failsafe nickname for the guy in charge—in this case, Donald Trump.)

Nauta was allegedly covering his own tracks with a similar level of diligence. According to the charging document, after multiple subpoenas were sent for missing Mar-a-Lago security camera footage in June 2022, Nauta made a quick change of plans. Instead of traveling to Illinois with Trump the next day, “he changed his schedule and began to make arrangements to go to Palm Beach, Florida instead.”

Nauta then “texted one person that he would not be traveling with Trump the next day because he had a family emergency and used ‘shushing’ emojis; at 9:48pm that night he texted a Secret Service agent that he had to check on a family member in Florida.” This was allegedly all part of “the attempt to delete security camera footage” to prevent federal prosecutors from obtaining it.

Ah, the “shushing emojis!” Not the best ones to use whilst covering up a potential crime.

The consensus appears to be that Jack Smith is putting together a case that even a South Florida jury of MAGA-heads would find incriminating. See David Kurtz at TPM, The New Evidence Against Donald Trump In The MAL Case Is BRUTAL.

Aaron Blake writes at WaPo that the new indictments and the supporting documentation accomplish three things:

One, they strengthen the case for obstruction of justice. With shushing emojis.

Two, one of the new indictments is a “presentation concerning military activity in a foreign country.” This appears to refer to the Pentagon’s standing plans to invade Iran if that ever became necessary. This was the document Trump is heard on tape admitting is classified even as he waves it around and tells random people to look at it.

And three, the prosecution no doubt is attempting to flip Trump employee Carlos De Oliveira.

I’ll add to this post if I hear of more juicy bits today.

How the Young Folks May Save Us

Some stuff to read today. Start with Greg Sargent, Striking new data about young voters should alarm Trump and the GOP. (No paywall.)

New data supplied to me by the Harvard Youth Poll sheds light on the powerful undercurrents driving these developments. Young voters have shifted in a markedly progressive direction on multiple issues that are deeply important to them: Climate change, gun violence, economic inequality and LGBTQ+ rights.

John Della Volpe, director of the poll, refers to those issues as the “big four.” They all speak to the sense of precarity that young voters feel about their physical safety, their economic future, their basic rights and even the ecological stability of the planet.

“This generation has never felt secure — personally, physically, financially,” Della Volpe told me.

My take: The New Deal brought prosperity and stability to working and middle class Americans by the mid-20th century. And for decades conservatives plus neoliberals have chipped away at the New Deal to the point that much of its support and protections for ordinary working people are gone. As a Boomer, when I was young the economy wasn’t a concern for most of us. We all assumed that economic growth and financial stability for most working folks was just a given. The bad old days of the Great Depression was just history.

But that’s not the reality the young folks of Gen Z are dealing with. For them, nothing is certain. They can’t even count on the planet being there for them their whole lives. Conservative/neoliberal financial policies have turned us into a nation of the exploiters and the exploited, and young people who aren’t from monied families will be among the exploited.  And it appears a majority of them aren’t buying into the culture war distractions.

Many of today’s 18-to-29-year-olds, who are mostly older Gen Z Americans plus the tail end of the Millennial generation, lived their formative years during the Great Recession and the election of Trump. What’s more, these new voters are politically coming of age during a remarkable confluence of events that appear to be conspiring in an improbable way to push them to the left.

Mass shootings have been on the rise, with the 2018 massacre at a school in Parkland, Fla., acting as a galvanizing moment. Heat waves and wildfire smog have driven home the realities of climate change with new urgency and vividness.

The problem with younger voters has long been turnout. The article says a higher percentage of younger voters has been turning up at the polls beginning in 2018. There’s probably room for improvement.

See also ‘This Is a Really Big Deal’: How College Towns Are Decimating the GOP at Politico and Swing to the Left by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

In other news: Hunter Biden’s plea deal over federal tax charges fell apart in court, and now he is pleading not guilty, according to NBC News. I’m sure Fox News is all over this, if you’re interested.

Rudy Giuliani concedes that he made false statements about the two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who became targets of the MAGA mob. Freeman and Moss are suing Giuliani and a lot of others because of the hell the false charges put them through.

In a two-page declaration, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he had in fact made the statements about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss that led to the filing of the suit and that the remarks “carry meaning that is defamatory per se.” He also admitted that his statements were “actionable” and “false” and that he no longer disputed the “factual elements of liability” the election workers had raised in their suit.

But Mr. Giuliani, insisting that he still had “legal defenses” in the case, said that he continued to believe his accusations about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss were “constitutionally protected” under the First Amendment. He also refused to acknowledge that his statements had caused the women any damage — a key element required to collect a judgment in a defamation case.

You’ve been toast for some time, Rudy. You might as well accept it.

The Irish Times is reporting that Sinéad O’Connor died. She was only 56. The news story doesn’t say what she died of.

Kevin Spacey has been cleared of all sexual assault charges. Sorry about your career, Kevin.

This may be significant — “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly stopped speaking during a weekly Republican leadership news conference on Wednesday afternoon, appearing to freeze, and then went silent and was walked away.” After a few minutes, he walked back and was able to speak. A TIA, maybe?

See Josh Marshall on the latest on the shrinking presidential hopes of Rhonda Santis.

The Tale of Baby Cyrus

Rhonda Santis is downsizing his campaign staff by about a third. It turns out he’s been burning through his campaign cash on things like private jets. I don’t think he’s going to drop out anytime soon. He is in second place, still.  But it’s safe to say things are not going his way, and I don’t see them turning around. The only way he gets the nomination is if Trump suddenly tanks.

This is a little out of the loop of politics, but remember the Bundy family? The anti-government so-called “cattle ranchers” and occupiers of bird sanctuaries? Here’s the latest:

Anti-government agitator Ammon Bundy must pay an Idaho hospital more than $50 million for defaming it and targeting it with protests while it cared for an associate’s grandson—who was taken into protective custody after child welfare officials determined he was malnourished.

According to the Idaho State Journal, this ten-month-old baby was not gaining weight. In March of 2022 the baby was admitted to a hospital because he appeared to be malnourished.  In the hospital the baby got regular meals and did gain weight, and he seemed to be perking up, so he was returned to his parents after about four days. In a follow up appointment the baby had lost weight again. The parents cancelled the next appointment, and the doctors couldn’t find them to ask why. So the doctors called the police, and Child Protective Services took the baby. Daily Beast:

One pediatrician told the jury about the danger she believed Baby Cyrus was in: He allegedly couldn’t sit up, had a distended stomach and sunken eyes. “In my opinion, if he had been allowed to go home with his parents and continue on the trajectory he was on, he would have died,” Thomas testified, according to the Idaho Statesman.

After a few more days in the hospital the baby was returned to his parents again. I have no more information about the baby. I assume he is still alive.

Aamon Bundy organized a week-long protest to “save baby Cyrus.” It was nothing short of terrorism aimed at the hospital. Bundy’s people were harassing people in waiting rooms; they doxxed doctors, cops, and a social worker; it got so bad that emergency helicopters wouldn’t land there for fear the mob outside the hospital would shoot them down. They also spread slander about the hospital online. So, the hospital sued.

Bundy and his co-defendants did not respond to the suit, and the trial went on in their absence.

The conflict with St. Luke’s had become so antagonistic that Bundy was accused of threatening process servers and local deputies who delivered court papers, and one doctor expressed concern that witnesses would be too intimidated to participate in the case.

In his February video post, Bundy warned followers that St. Luke’s was trying to have him arrested. While a judge issued a warrant for Bundy in April over alleged witness intimidation, authorities never came for the 47-year-old provocateur. The Gem County sheriff, in a letter filed on the docket, said he didn’t want to risk deputies’ safety “over a civil issue.”

That last part is how Bundy has gotten away with terrorism all this time.

I have a lot of questions about the baby that the news stories didn’t answer. There are all kinds of reasons a baby might not gain weight, and not all of those reasons come from neglectful parents. We don’t know what the parents were advised to do. But it does sound as if they weren’t doing it, and that there was nothing physically wrong with the baby except that he wasn’t being fed properly.

I have a hard time believing that medical professionals would go to those lengths unless they were genuinely concerned that the baby was in danger. That the parents weren’t willing to work with the hospital to make sure their baby was healthy tells me there is something seriously wrong with them. Even if little Cyrus manages to survive, he’s already screwed with parents like that.

If he follows his usual pattern Aamon Bundy will ignore the court verdict. But eventually his assets will be garnished. That might get his attention.

Do People See What’s Happening in the GOP?

Writing at Vanity Fair, Molly Jong-Fast asks Is the Sheer Stupidity of Republican Politics Breaking Through?

The problem Republicans find themselves in is perhaps best summed up by Democrat Eric Swalwell, who texted me that his colleagues across the aisle could use some stronger leadership. “Typically the Speaker of the House sets a party’s agenda in Congress. But there is no functional leader of the House Republican Party. Instead, it’s made up of an ensemble cast of chaos agents providing a comedy of errors each week Congress is in session.”

He was commenting mostly on the House’s Hunter Biden hearings, which have devolved into one of the longest-running displays of face-palming stupidity in the House’s history, or at least since the invention of videos.

Every week is another episode of political satire show Veep, except with no likable characters. House Republicans are back this week with another hearing about the Bidens, with two IRS whistleblowers, as McCarthy increasingly faces pressure from his party’s extremists to target the current administration’s cabinet. As New York Democrat Ritchie Torres told me, “No one or nothing in America is safe from the sheer stupidity of modern Republican politics.” The party has “become monomaniacally anti-woke culture warriors whose ever-lengthening list of targets include acronyms like DEI and ESG, Barbie, gas stoves, Hunter Biden, trans people.” Yes, Ted Cruz called a scene in Barbie “Chinese communist propaganda.”

It’s a good article. If you click on the link and run into a paywall, just open it in an incognito window. Works for me, anyway.

Ted Cruz is allegedly a senator from Texas. Texas has real problems. Texas has been getting its ass kicked by extreme weather in recent years, for example. I understand much of Texas has been under a heat dome for a few weeks that is expected to last into August. How has the Republican-led state government responded? This is from the Texas Tribune:

Six out of ten construction workers in Texas are Latinos, the Texas Tribune says. A construction worker named Gabriel Infante, 24, developed heat stroke while installing fiber optic cables in San Antonio last year and died as a result. His family is suing the employer for $1 million. Will the law offer some protection from criminal liability for dead workers? Priorities, you know.

Greg Abbott also has responded to the heat wave by dissing renewable energy and pushing “on demand energy” (fossil fuels). He also recently “vetoed a bill designed to strengthen energy efficiency in new construction, saying it wasn’t as important as cutting property taxes.” This while some sweltering Texans can’t afford to run their air conditioners.

I’ve already written about Florida governor Rhonda Santis‘s completely ignoring very real problems being suffered by Florida residents — such as a growing number of property insurers refusing to do business in the state — while he pursues ridiculous “culture war” issues to get his name in the news. Just this week he threatened legal action against Anheuser-Busch because of the Bud Light flap. And he is forcing Florida schools to teach that slaves benefited from slavery. Meanwhile, he is ignoring the dangers that climate change hold for his state.

But let’s go back to Washington. House Republicans are showing us their true priorities. Kate Riga at TPM:

To hear them tell it, House Republicans are solely focused on fiscal conservatism, on undercutting the appropriations levels agreed to in the Kevin McCarthy-Joe Biden debt ceiling law so they can “rein in federal spending.”

That’s what they’d like to be fighting about. But their actions, the riders they’ve larded up these bills with, reveal a different priority: an obsession with fighting battles in the culture war, a fixation on extinguishing any semblance of abortion access in particular, no matter the repeatedly demonstrated political radioactivity of the issue post-Dobbs. 

Do read all of Riga’s article, because you won’t believe some of the stuff the House Clowns are trying to pull. All of this junk is dead on arrival in the Senate, but the extremists in the House could tie up essential appropriations indefinitely with this nonsense.

See also the GOP’s crumbling case against Biden on crime, immigration and inflation. While Republicans play stupid culture war games, the Biden Administration has been addressing the real problems. The question is, how much recognition is the administration getting? And is the public really aware of how off the war the Republican party has become?

“Now it’s just up to Democrats to ensure Americans know just how much more this could spiral out of control if Republicans actually controlled all of government,” Molly Jong-Fast writes at Vanity Fair. But are Democrats capable of getting that message across? They haven’t been good at that sort of thing in the last few election cycles. They tend to stay on defense instead of offense. That has to change.

Headlines for July 21

Judge Cannon has set the documents trial for May 20, 2024.

In the Friday order, Cannon wrote that Trump’s arguments about his status as a current presidential candidate were “unnecessary to resolution of the Government’s motion at this juncture.” It leaves room for the issue potentially to reappear in the future, but takes it out of consideration for now.

Trump’s lawyers will try to push that further down the road, of course. I’m not going to try to guess if Jack Smith will try to move it up.

Tony Bennett died, age 96. He had a good run.

The Guardian is reporting that Fani Willis is preparing to bring racketeering charges against Trump.

Lots and Lots of Legal Jeopardy for Trump

Yesterday, in the carnival sideshow known as the “U.S. House of Representatives,” Marjorie Taylor Greene held up posters showing Hunter Biden in sexually explicit activities. She was “uncomfortable” showing nude photos of President Joe Biden’s son, she said, but “the American people deserve to see” them. Our tax dollars at work.

But what did the American people do to deserve Hunter Biden dick pics? Enquiring minds want to know.

Greene was attempting to claim that H.B. was engaging in trafficking and had claimed payments to sex workers as tax writeoffs. However, her only proof was … dick pics. I’m not sure that Greene quite grasps the concept of “proof.”

Kevin McCarthy did not reprimand Greene. But then, McCarthy has his own problems. Politico is reporting that McCarthy has promised Trump that the House would vote to “expunge” his two impeachments. The Constitution doesn’t provide a process for doing that, but whatever. And he’s supposed to do this before the August recess. But even some Republicans think it’s likely the vote would fail.

Trump had another great day in criminal justice yesterday. One judge denied his motion to move Alvin Bragg’s hush-money prosecution to a federal court. Said the judge,

Hellerstein found that the allegations pertained to Trump’s personal life, not presidential duties that would have merited a move to federal court.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was a purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” Hellerstein wrote in a 25-page ruling. “Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President’s official acts. It does not reflect in any way the color of the President’s official duties.”

Another judge denied Trump’s request to have E. Jean Carroll’s first suit against him re-tried. And the judge said other things Trump probably didn’t want to hear.

After Donald Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, his legal team and his defenders lodged a frequent talking point.

Despite Carroll’s claims that Trump had raped her, they noted, the jury stopped short of saying he committed that particular offense. Instead, jurors opted for a second option: sexual abuse.

“This was a rape claim, this was a rape case all along, and the jury rejected that — made other findings,” his lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said outside the courthouse.

A judge has now clarified that this is basically a legal distinction without a real-world difference. He says that what the jury found Trump did was in fact rape, as commonly understood.

Of course it was. E. Jean Carroll will probably file a second lawsuit against Trump for the smack he talked about her since the first one.

We’re learning more about what charges Jack Smith will likely throw at Trump.

Federal prosecutors have introduced a new twist in the Jan. 6 investigation by suggesting in a target letter that they could charge former President Donald J. Trump with violating a civil rights statute that dates back to the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The letter to Mr. Trump from the special counsel, Jack Smith, referred to three criminal statutes as part of the grand jury investigation into Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss, according to two people with knowledge of its contents. Two of the statutes were familiar from the criminal referral by the House Jan. 6 committee and months of discussion by legal experts: conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of an official proceeding.

But the third criminal law cited in the letter was a surprise: Section 241 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which makes it a crime for people to “conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person” in the “free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

Congress enacted that statute after the Civil War to provide a tool for federal agents to go after Southern whites, including Ku Klux Klan members, who engaged in terrorism to prevent formerly enslaved African Americans from voting. But in the modern era, it has been used more broadly, including in cases of voting fraud conspiracies.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to discuss the target letter and Mr. Smith’s theory for bringing the Section 241 statute into the Jan. 6 investigation. But the modern usage of the law raised the possibility that Mr. Trump, who baselessly declared the election he lost to have been rigged, could face prosecution on accusations of trying to rig the election himself.

Heh. Emptywheel:

The recent news that Jack Smith has subpoenaed the security footage from the State Farm arena vote count location in Georgia, taken in conjunction with Trump’s efforts in places like Michigan — where his efforts focused on preventing a fair count of Detroit, where he had actually performed better than in 2016, rather than Kent County, the still predominantly white county where he lost the state — is a reminder that Trump and his mobs, many associated with overt white supremacists like Nick Fuentes, aggressively tried to thwart the counting of Black and Latino people’s votes. It was the same play Roger Stone used when he sent “election observers” to Black precincts in 2016, just on a far grander scale, and backed by the incitement of the sitting President.

In other news, some fascists in Florida are trying to ban Arthur’s Birthday from Clay County schools. Will Pat the Bunny be next?

Today in Criminal Justice News

Judge Aileen “Loose” Cannon just ended her pre-trial hearing in the documents case, with no rulings. The reporter on MSNBC is saying that Cannon seemed sympathetic to giving Trump a generous amount of time to review documents and videos, but we don’t know.

However, now that Trump (according to Trump) has received a January 6 target letter from Jack Smith, there could very well be other indictments coming sooner rather than later. And that case sure as bleep won’t be handled in Florida.

[Update: This is from Rolling Stone: “The letter mentions three federal statutes: Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States; deprivation of rights under color of law; and tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant. It does not offer further details, nor does it detail how the special counsel believes Trump may have violated the statutes, the source tells Rolling Stone.

“The letter does not mention statutes on sedition or insurrection, according to the source. Trump is the only person named in the letter, the source says.”]

Also this afternoon, the Attorney General of Michigan, Dana Nessel, announced this afternoon that she has filed charges against 16 people in the “fake electors” scheme. Just for fun, here are the Michigan fake electors being turned away from the Michigan statehouse on Elector meeting day.

See also this list of all the fake electors.

For your reading pleasure: Here’s the decision from the Georgia Supreme Court that smacked down Trump’s request that Fani Willis be blocked from indicting him.

In other news: Forgive me for linking to Fox News, but this was unintentionally funny. Trump was bragging about how he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours. How? “Former President Donald Trump explained his plan to secure peace in Ukraine within 24 hours of taking back the White House on Sunday, saying he would tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make a deal.”

So, boys and girls, what do you think Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would say if Trump ordered him to make a deal with Putin? Try to keep it clean.

You may have seen this one — MTG warns her fellow MAGAts that Joe Biden is likely to finish was FDR started.

I understand the Biden campaign has been promoting this video.

DeSantis Is Breaking Florida

One, I wish the Kennedy family would do something about Robert Junior.

Calling him “nuttier than a peanut farm” doesn’t begin to cover it. In the video he’s saying that Covid 19 was “ethnically targeted” to especially attack White and Black people, while Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese were “most immune.” He’s now denying these comments were anti-Semitic. He’s also said that Trump is the best debator since Lincoln. Seriously, if this guy didn’t have old family connections and money behind him he’d be wandering about in a bathrobe arguing with mailboxes.

But what I really want to talk about is Florida. There’s an amazing article by Fred Grimm in the South Florida Sun Sentinel headlined MAGA propaganda collides with Florida reality. It’s a bit tricky to read if you aren’t a subscriber (and I’m not), but if the pop ups are too persistent in one browser, try another. I managed to copy and paste the thing into Word so I could read it.

Imagine the cognitive dissonance in mocking climate change as so much liberal hype even as the heat index in South Florida exceeds 100 degrees for the 33rd straight day. And counting.

Imagine hewing to the official state pretense that Florida’s property insurance crisis isn’t a crisis in the same week that Farmers Insurance Group notified the state that it was skedaddling. [Note: AAA has since announced it’s leaving Florida too.]

Imagine acting as if the spate of racist, homophobic, sexist laws spat out by the Florida Legislature embodies sound policy rather than the cynical contrivances of the governor’s presidential campaign. Never mind that Florida cities are losing convention business due to the state’s “unfriendly political environment.”

Imaging trying to convince farmers and builders that Florida’s draconian anti-immigrant legislation hasn’t chased away much needed workers, even as farmers and builders insist otherwise.

Imagine ignoring the damage caused by agricultural runoff, leaky septic tanks and other pollutants in a week when 440-square miles of toxic green algae was smothering Lake Okeechobee.

DeSantis’s response to climate change is to pretend it isn’t happening.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis demonstrated his contempt for climate change mitigation by vetoing a budget item that would have qualified Florida for a $346 million federal grant to improve energy efficiency. DeSantis told Fox News that he “rejects the politicization of the weather.”

And the insurance crisis? The guy who oversees insurance regulation in Florida is named Jimmy Patronis.

“The more we learn about Farmers Insurance the more it’s clear its leadership doesn’t know what they’re doing. While they’re bad at helping people, they’re good at virtue signaling,” Patronis claimed Tuesday.

Patronis didn’t say whether three other major insurers who’ve abandoned Florida, or the 15 companies that have stopped writing new policies, or the seven firms that have gone bankrupt covering disaster losses were similarly undone by liberal wokeness. He accused Farmers of “playing politics” and said the company was “well on its way to becoming the Bud Light of insurance,” referencing the MAGA hate frenzy ignited last month by the appearance of a transgender woman in a Bud Light ad.

Florida property owners are in big trouble, and this guy does stand up comedy. The insurance crisis isn’t going to go away. The hurricanes are not going to go away.

Grimm discusses the canceled conventions along with the canceled indurance policies. The looming worker shortages. The increasing rate of gun deaths. These are problems being caused by Florida government policies. Do they actually ever solve a problem?

The political press is writing that DeSantis is losing the nomination campaign because he has no personality. How about because he can’t govern his way out of a wet paper bag?

“Florida hasn’t reached that crucial breakpoint where truth matters more than ideology,” Grimm writes. I wonder if there is such a place.