The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Today’s Law and Crime News

Today’s law and crime news — Trump filed a plea of not guilty in the Georgia case. But the far more interesting news is out of New York.

Yesterday Attorney General Letitia James asked a judge to find that Trump had fraudulently overvalued his assets. The judge should do this without bothering with the trial thing, James said. I believe that’s called a “summary judgment.” James alleges that Trump had lied about his assets over a period of several years in order to get loans, and the lies overstated his worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.

Trump’s lawyers are asking to get the suit dismissed. They say most of these loans happened too long ago to be litigated now. There is, apparently, some precedent for their argument. If the Trump lawyers prevail, James’s case will be severely limited.

But also yesterday Trump’s deposition to James from last April was unsealed. And it’s a doozy. Among other things, Trump claimed to have averted nuclear war with North Korea.

MR. TRUMP: I was very busy. I was — I considered this the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives. I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea. I think you would have a nuclear war, if I weren’t elected. And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.

In other words, while he was POTUS he was too busy saving us all from thermonuclear destruction to be bothered with petty details about the value of assets.

Charles Pierce:

The deposition is a terrific window into what kind of witness El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago is going to be over the next couple of years, and into what his strategy is going to be in the various courtrooms in which he’ll be engaged. He will attempt to turn them all into facsimiles of his rallies. He will bloviate, prevaricate, denounce, distract, and deplore. Judges are going to need a whip and a chair.

Of course, Kim Jung Un still has all the nuclear capabilities he had when Trump became POTUS, and he is planning to expand them. The BBC reported today that North Korea recently fired two short-range ballistic missiles to simulate nuclear strikes on military targets in South Korea. Kim is just as treacherous as he ever was. Trump accomplished nothing. But you knew that.

I understand Trump is continuing to launch social media screeds against “prosecutors, judges, witnesses, the FBI, DOJ, and the justice system broadly.” Will nothing be done?

In other what the bleep news — Justice Clarence Thomas now is saying he had to accept flights on private jets for security reasons after the Dobbs leak. Seriously.

Here’s some housekeeping.

I haven’t heard any more from our friend gulag, and I’m getting worried again. Although he sounded optimistic when I heard from him last week, he must be having a rough time. If anyone wants his email to send a cheer-up note, just say yes in the comments. I believe I have your email addresses.

Also, thanks so much for your response to the recent mini-fundraiser. I received more than enough to fill in the shortfall, so I won’t nag you any more about it. (Although I won’t object to more donations.)

Update: Proud Boy Joe Biggs Sentenced To 17 Years Over Jan. 6 Plot

The Politics of Drug Prices

Yesterday the Biden Administration released the list of the first ten prescription drugs that will be subject to price negotiation with Medicare. And at the top of the list is Eliquis.

I take Eliquis because I have a history of TIAs, which are temporary strokes caused by blood clots in the brain. Eliquis is supposed to prevent the blood clots. It’s said to be a lot safer than the older drug for that purpose, Warfarin, and I get the impression that the nation’s doctors have been persuaded it’s the best drug available for people with my history.

I was heartened when I heard Eliquis was on the list, because it’s costing me a $47 a month copay with Medicare. The “list price” of the drug, according to Bristol Myers Squibb/Pfizer, is $561 for a 30-day supply. But I’ve run into other sources that say it sometimes retails for around $700-800 a month.

According to this 2022 news story, Eliquis and a similar drug, Xarelto, which also is on the list, have cost the government $46 billion since 2015.

Unfortunately, the reduced, negotiated price of Eliquis won’t go into effect until 2026. And I read recently there are generic versions already approved that are supposed to be released for sale in 2026. So the price would have dropped then, anyway.

From a 2019 news story about the generics:

As Bristol’s best-selling drug before the Celgene merger—even ahead of PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo—the drug delivered $5.9 billion to the company’s top line in the first nine months of 2019. Its 25% year-over-year growth rate during the period also far exceeded Opdivo’s 10%.

As for Pfizer, Eliquis delivered a total of $3.1 billion in the first nine months, mostly in revenue from its Bristol alliance but some via direct sales in smaller markets.

In 2017, 25 generics companies told Bristol that they had filed for FDA approval of their copycats. The pair soon erected a patent wall, launching lawsuits against all those drugmakers.

That August, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Eliquis a key composition of matter patent, extending it from February 2023 to November 2026. Bristol and Pfizer have argued that’s when Eliquis generics can enter.

So, during the Trump Administration, somebody allowed the pharma company to extend the patent three more years so the price gouging could continue.

I am acquainted with someone who somehow missed out on Medicare Part D and is working way past retirement just to pay for Eliquis, she told me.

I’m sure most of you remember when the Bush II Administration got Part D enacted only if price neogiations were prohibited. In Bushie world, this was supposed to make Medicare Part D a better deal for seniors. Right.

The price negotiation thing, once it’s fully into effect, really ought to bring drug prices down to something closer to what they are in other countries (about 80 percent less than what we pay, I understand). But that’s assuming Republicans don’t get control again and cancel it, which they are itching to do.

Piggybacking on the pharmaceutical industry’s strategy, Republicans are working to persuade Americans that the Biden plan will stifle innovation and lead to price controls, several strategists say.

“The price control is a huge departure from where we have been as a country,” said Joel White, a Republican health care strategist. “It gets politicians and bureaucrats right into your medicine cabinet.”

Better that than Big Pharma fatcats raiding my bank account, I say. And this has been another episode of “Why Free Market Capitalism Can’t Be Trusted to Provide Health Care.”

In Other News: Before any more time goes by, do see Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama by David Lynch in WaPo.  No paywall. It says Biden is breaking with the old pro-globalization policies in favor of policies that are more protective of U.S. labor.

In More Other News: It’s reported that Mitch McConnell had another “freeze” moment today. Maybe he’s having TIAs. He can afford the bleeping Eliquis.

And So On: A judge rules that Rudy Giuliani is legally liable for defaming Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.

Worth Reading: Will Bunch, Journalism fails miserably at explaining what is really happening to America.

J6 Trial Set for March 4, 2024

It’s reported that Jack Smith was in the courtroom when Judge Chutkan made her decision. March 4, 2024 is the day before the Super Tuesday primaries. Heh.

Here is a bit of this morning’s drama, per the Washington Post:

John Lauro, an attorney for former president Donald Trump, blasted the federal prosecutors’ arguments for an earlier trial date in D.C. as absurd and unfair.

“This is a request for a show trial, not a speedy trial,” Lauro fumed. “I’m sorry, your honor; for a federal prosecutor to suggest that we could go on trial in four months is not only absurd, it’s a violation of the oath to do justice.” …

… As Lauro’s voice rose, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan sought to calm him down. “Let’s take the temperature down,” she twice advised the lawyer.

Lauro argued that he needed ample time to review the evidence and prepare a defense for Trump.

“This man’s liberty and life is at stake and he deserves an adequate representation,” Lauro said. “As an experienced defense lawyer, we cannot do this in the time frame that the government has outlined.”

Chutkan replied: “I understand, Mr. Lauro but you are not going to get two more years. This case is not going to trial in 2026.”

There’s also a live report about the hearing at Talking Points Memo. Here we see that Chutkan told Lauro that the indictment was hardly a surprise.

Lauro appears to have calmed down a bit now as he tries to argue that Trump is no different than any other defendant.

While some of the material has been publicly available for years, it now must be reviewed within the context of this case, Lauro said. Chutkan pushed back, saying some of the materials are statements made by Trump himself and cannot be considered brand new information.

The judge appears visibly annoyed — eyebrows raised, tapping her pen on her desk — as Lauro explains that he has worked large cases before and going through discovery can be complex.

“This is an overwhelming task,” he said.


Before setting the trial date for March 4, 2024, Chutkan said she takes seriously the defense’s ask that Trump be treated like any other defendant, but points out that normally the defense doesn’t get organized discovery like Smith’s team has provided.

She acknowledged that the government’s request for a January trial date would not give the defense team enough time to prepare, but said the Trump’s ask was way too long to delay.

Trump may have screwed himself by asking for a 2026 date.  And I’m sure that was Trump’s idea, not the lawyers’. If Trump is anything at all like Sociopaths I Have Worked For, most of the time the only way to work “with” him is to do what he says. And if what he says contradicts what he said 10 minutes earlier, don’t argue. Erase the old order and start on the new one. There may be an occasional example of someone changing his mind, but it doesn’t happen often.

The mini-fundraiser is going great and is still open. Here’s the gofundme page, and you can give to PayPal on the link on the right.

The Week Ahead in Law and Crime News

Note — I am embarassed to say I need a small fundraiser to keep me going here and to keep me from hitting the credit cards for groceries before the September Social Security deposit appears. Here’s the gofundme page, and you can give to PayPal on the link on the right. (Any additional money will go into the Furniture Fund. Maybe someday I will have two chairs. Right now the only chair I own is a decrepit desk chair that seems to sink lower and lower every day.)

On to business — Tomorrow Mark Meadows will have a hearing about getting his Georgia trial moved to federal court. As I understand it, even if Meadows is successful about the only difference will be that he’ll enjoy a larger jury pool. The case would still be tried under Georgia RICO laws, and there will be no presidential pardons for any convictions. If his case is moved to federal court, apparently there’s a lot of confusion about how this would impact the case as a whole. Nobody knows how this is supposed to work.

Axios is reporting that the Georgia indictees are looking at five-figure legal fees for each motion filed, and most of them should expect to pay something well into six figures for their legal fees if they go to trial.  The less expensive option is to get a plea deal early on. I’m betting some of the indictees are already thinking about that real hard. They must all be looking for and talking to lawyers by now. This may be sinking in.

And I understand three of the fake electors in Georgia are saying their cases should be moved to federal court, too, on the grounds that they were taking direction from President Trump. Of course, they probably didn’t talk to Trump directly, but they were led to understand by White House figures that Trump wanted them to be his electors.

See also Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

The GOP Debate Changed Nothing

As promised, I did not watch the Republican debate last night. I might have done so for a significant amount of money, but I got no offers.

So I’m reading the reviews. The first thing I wanted to know is, did anything significant happen that might change the trajectory of anyone’s campaign? And the answer appears to be, probably not.

Rhonda Santis didn’t catch fire. Early this morning I saw some conservative commentary that labored mightly to put some lipstick on him, but then I read this in National Review of all places, by Christian Schneider.

DeSantis, on the other hand, was shaky throughout. The one-liner-o-matic machine was belching smoke all night, as he tried desperately to resemble an actual human. It is a tough act for the Florida governor — if he were to flame out of this race (and recent results haven’t been good), it means returning to a state where he set a bonfire of bridges on his way to becoming a national candidate. Imagine the pathetic image of poor Ron walking back to his state, gluteus in hand, and having to repair relations with Disney and his university system.

Does DeSantis have any genuine supporters left who aren’t on his campaign staff?

Mr. Schneider of National Review didn’t care for Vivek Ramaswamy, either. “If you listened to what he actually said, Ramaswamy exposed himself as a fraud,” Schneider wrote. “His takes on foreign affairs sound like Wikipedia articles that have been translated from English to Hungarian, then back to English.” But that won’t matter, because the target audience doesn’t care about policy, especially foreign policy. I take it Ramaswamy revealed himself to be an aggressively ignorant asshole, but that’s what the MAGA crowd likes. I’d say he has a shot at being Trump’s new Veep pick, but only if he’s willing to convert from Hinduism to evangelicalism first.

Conversely, Nikki Haley impressed some of the old-school Republicans at National Review, which means the base will continue to ignore her.

At the other end of the scale, I haven’t heard a word about Tim Scott in any of the reviews. I assume he was there. It sounds as if Mike Pence was being more aggressive than usual. Chris Christie was less entertaining than some had hoped. But other than a bump for Ramaswamy I doubt anything was accomplished last night.

Word is that Trump’s pretaped interview with Tucker Carlson had Tucker fantasizing about violence — in particular, Tucker predicted “they” will soon try to assasinate Trump — and Trump basically ignoring Tucker and rambling on about his usual grievances. Tucker also spent time on the pressing question of whether Jeffrey Epstein was murdered. Trump is claiming some huge million-something number of views of the interview, but this Yahoo article explains why counts of “views” on X are meaningless. It appears that the number of people who engaged in any way with the interview is in the hundreds of thousands, but not millions.

Best review I’ve seen is at Talking Points Memo, by David Kurtz. Just go read it.

Trump is still expected to surrender at the Fulton County Jail during prime time this evening.

In other news: It now appears to be official — Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash caused by an intentional explosion, the Associated Press is reporting.  “In all, the other passengers included six of Prigozhin’s lieutenants, along with the three-member flight crew,” the AP says. I guess falling out of high-rise buildings was getting old. .

The Latest in Trump Criminal Indictment News

Many games are afoot, my friends. A lot of news broke late yesterday that appears to send Trump’s legal issues into new trajectories.

Among these: Today Rudy Giuliani will be meeting with Fani Willis and her team, says the Daily Beast. Nobody knows what this meeting is about. He doesn’t need to meet with them just to surrender and post bail, I don’t think. Should Trump be worried? Michael Cohen thinks so:

Donald Trump is an “idiot” for not paying legal expenses incurred by his attorney the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in the Georgia election subversion case, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen said. …

… Cohen suggested Giuliani would be wise to “flip” on Trump.

“Allegedly from Rudy’s own mouth, he claims that he has a smoking gun, information about Donald,” Cohen said. “Well, if that’s true … I don’t have to suggest anything to Rudy. He’s the one that basically came up with this concept of strong-arming when he was head of the southern district of New York. He’s going to need to speak and he’s going to need to speak before everybody else does.”

Giuliani’s work for Trump also included digging for political dirt in Ukraine, efforts which contributed to Trump’s first impeachment.

Cohen said: “The job that Rudy did for Donald, I don’t know if I would pay either. But at the end of the day, when your life is basically hanging on the line once again, you just don’t really want to throw another lawyer under the bus.”

By all accounts Rudy is in a desperate financial situation and is watching the shabby remnants of his personal fortune and career circle the drain. And it was widely reported that Trump recently rebuffed Rudy when Rudy begged for a financial lifeline. Rudy surely has insider information on the fake electors scheme, for example, that Fani Willis might find useful. This is all speculation, of course.

But speaking of fllipping — this was revealed in a court filing late yesterday —

A key witness against former President Donald Trump and his two co-defendants in the Mar-a-Lago documents case recanted previous false testimony and provided new information implicating the defendants after he switched lawyers, special counsel Jack Smith’s office said in a new court filing.

Yuscil Taveras, the director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Florida, changed his testimony last month about efforts to delete security camera video at the club after he changed from a lawyer paid for by Trump’s Save America PAC to a public defender, Tuesday’s filing says.

David Kurtz at TPM breaks it down more:

In March 2023 testimony to the DC grand jury, Taveras and De Oliveira perjured themselves by denying having any conversations about the security footage at Mar-a-Lago.

In June 2023, Smith advised Woodward that Taveras was a target of its investigation and sought a hearing with the chief judge in DC over Woodward conflict of interest. Woodward was repping both Nauta and Taveras.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg provided Taveras with a public defender to confer with about the conflicts of interest Woodward had. On July 5, Taveras informed Boasberg that he was changing lawyers from Woodward to the public defender.

Soon after, Taveras recanted his prior false testimony to the grand jury and implicated Trump, Nauta, and De Oliveira. The superseding indictment soon followed.

Possibly related, but I’m not sure — earlier this month Smith filed additional grand jury information from the D.C. grand jury in the documents case, and Loose threw a fit over it.

Cannon said there was not “sufficient legal or factual basis to warrant” the “secrecy” — and ordered a clerk to remove both of Smith’s filings from the South Florida docket.

Cannon also asked Trump’s legal team to respond to allegations from those grand jury proceedings that attorney Stanley Woodward — representing Trump valet Waltine Nauta — has conflicts of interest in the documents case, since three of his clients may be called to testify as government witnesses.

The potential witnesses include Mar-a-Lago IT director Yuscil Taveras and two others who worked in the Trump White House and followed the 45th president to Florida, filings show.

Loose threw this fit shortly after the superseding indictment had been filed, or at least it was reported on after the superseding indictment had been filed, but I suspect there’s a connection.  Back to David Kurtz:

Smith is hitting back hard on three main points: (1) his use of the grand jury in DC was proper; (2) Woodward is deeply conflicted for all the above reasons but also because he was provided to Taveras and paid for by Trumpworld entities; and (3) there is zero precedent for resolving this kind of conflict by barring the testimony of a key witness, which is what Woodward proposed.

The legal expert bobbleheads on MSNBC have been saying all along that there is nothing at all wrong with having two grand juries in two places, considering that the alleged criminal activity was taking place in two places. Loose is just incompetent.

And then there’s Mark Meadows, who seems to be trying to have it all different ways at once. See How Mark Meadows Pursued a High-Wire Legal Strategy in Trump Inquiries by a bunch of people at the New York Times (no paywall).

In brief, Meadows appears to be cooperating, at least partly, with Jack Smith, but he’s resisting cooperation with Fani Willis. Regarding Georgia, Meadows wants his case moved to a federal court. He’s got a hearing on this next week, but his deadline for surrender to Fulton County is this Friday. And Fani Willis refused Meadows’s request for an extension. So he’s asking a judge to protect him from being arrested.

[Update: A judge told Meadows and Jeffrey Clark he can’t stop Fani Willis from having them arrested if they don’t surrender by Friday.]

But we learned this week that Meadows told federal prosecutors he doesn’t recall former President Trump “ordering, or even discussing, declassifying broad sets of classified materials before leaving the White House,” for example. So he’s not totally stonewalling Jack Smith. He appears to be trying to avoid a criminal conviction while not becoming a rage target of the Trump base. Good luck with that.

Word is that Trump plans to turn himself in at the Fulton County jail on Thursday night to get maximum television coverage.

In other news: Tonight is the first Republican presidential nomination debate. A lot of commentators are saying that if Ron DeSantis doesn’t do especially well tonight he might as well drop out. That’s probably true.

The eight finalists who are eligible and expected to debate are DeSantis, Asa Hutchison, Tim Scott, Doug Bergum, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy. But Bergum (and who is he, again?) was injured playing basketball yesterday and may not be able to be there. So they can’t hook the guy up on Zoom or something?

In other other news: There are reports that Trump’s big idea for the economy is a “universal baseline tariff” on virtually all imports to the United States; something in the neighborhood of 10 percent. Even the mouth breathers at Power Tools are appalled and talking about Smoot-Hawley II. WaPo:

On Fox Business on Thursday, the former president called for setting this tariff at 10 percent “automatically” for all countries, a move that experts warn could lead to higher prices for consumers throughout the economy and could likely lead to a global trade war.

“I think we should have a ring around the collar” of the U.S. economy, Trump said in an interview with Kudlow on Fox Business on Thursday. “When companies come in and they dump their products in the United States, they should pay, automatically, let’s say a 10 percent tax … I do like the 10 percent for everybody.”

In brief, after all this time he still doesn’t understand how tariffs work.

The Coming Campaign Season Will Be Worse Than We Imagine

Regarding Trump’s eligibility to be POTUS per the 14th Amendment — Kate Riga at TPM has a rundown on what people are doing to get Trump declared ineligible. See also Protecting the Constitution from Trump by Gerard N. Magliocca at Washington Monthly. Although it’s a long shot to work, at the moment enough important people are taking it seriously that the ineligibility theory needs to be factored into the Republican nomination contest. Next year’s presidential elections are likely to be an even bigger chaotic nightmare than these things usually are.

Also at TPM, see The Plutocrats’ Low Energy Bark by Josh Marshall. Josh Marshall wonders why no alternative to Trump has broken out of the pack. “The only surprise to me is that there hasn’t been any coalescence behind a new guy, even as DeSantis’s campaign has become little more than a running joke,” he writes.

Along these lines, Chris Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire and son of odious piece of slime John Sununu, whom I’m sure many of you remember, has an op ed in the New York Times. In this Sununu the Younger practically begs the GOP presidential candidates to stop tip-toeing around Trump and go after him. He is certain that Trump would not only lose the 2024 election but would be a disaster for other GOP candidates. “Every candidate with an (R) next to their name, from school board to the statehouse, will be left to answer for the electoral albatross at the top of the ticket,” he writes. And he thinks Trump is beatable, not just in the general but in the primaries as well.

The headlines tell us that Trump’s lead over the other candidates is growing. But to continue Sununu’s argument, this is partly because the “other” votes are being broken up among so many other candidates. “After the results from Iowa come in, it is paramount that the field must shrink, before the New Hampshire primary, to the top three or four,” Sununu writes. Candidates who stay in the race who have no viable way to win need to be called out.

The Republican base makes no sense to me. I’m not going to predict that some not-Trump candidate can somehow catch fire and challenge His Orangeness, or which one that might be.

And if Trump realizes he has a genuine rival for the nomination, there could be a literal bloodbath. Trump is fighting for his life. He’ll stop at nothing to get his way.

Karma Comes for the Republican Party

There will be a GOP presidential candidate’s debate, hosted by Fox News, on Wednewsday in Milwaukee. There’s another one scheduled for September 27 in Simi Valley, California, to be hosted by Fox Business and Univision.

I have no intention of watching either one. I’m sure somebody will post highlights.

Trump intends to skip the first debate. Instead, he’s going to be interviewed online by Tucker Carlson. I’ve just learned this interview will be prerecorded and released at the same time as the televised debate. It would be great fun if the official debate gets a lot more viewers than the interview, however.

It’s tempting to dismiss the GOP nomination contest as Trump and the Seven or So Dwarves. But it’s not impossible for one or two of the not-Trump candidates to break out of the pack and become serious contenders after the debates. No, I’m not going to guess who that might be. But televised debates have been known to elevate minor candidates while deflating major ones.

The candidates who for sure will be debating Wednesday are Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy. Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Doug Burgum. Mike Pence allegedly qualified, but some news sources still have him listed as maybe.  Chris Christie is maybe still a maybe. Asa Hutchinson, Francis Suarez, and Will Hurd are probably nots. But that could change.

Note also that the big money donors of the GOP are backing away from Trump. They would prefer someone who could pass for a normal human being, which leaves out most of the current field. But there’s a lot of interest in Glenn Youngkin and Brian Kemp. Meanwhile, Trump is burning through donors’ money paying for his legal defense(s). Even if he’s the nominee and stays out of jail, he’s not going to have much left to pay for a national general election campaign. Although maybe the big money guys will bail him out.

There is roughly eleven months before the 2024 RNC Convention in Milwaukee. A whole lot could happen in those months that none of us anticipate. But I can’t imagine how the Republican Party is not royally bleeped right now.  If Trump is the nominee, they’re bleeped. If he isn’t the nominee he’s likely to attempt an independent run, and the GOP is still bleeped.

How Badly Has the GOP Screwed Itself?

You probably heard that Trump had promised us a news conference on Monday in which he would reveal the long-hidden proof that there was voter fraud in Georgia. Now his lawyers are begging him to cancel it. ABC News reports:

Sources tell ABC News that Trump’s legal advisers have told him that holding such a press conference with dubious claims of voter fraud will only complicate his legal problems and some of his attorneys have advised him to cancel it.

Those lawyers are no fun at all.

“A Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia is almost complete & will be presented by me at a major News Conference at 11:00 A.M. on Monday of next week in Bedminster, New Jersey,” Trump wrote on his social media platform.

Georgia’s Republican governor responded to that with his own social media post declaring, “The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward — under oath — and prove anything in a court of law.”

So maybe Trump had real evidence all along and was keeping it hidden just in case he was indicted in Georgia while running for another shot at the White House, and then he could prove his masterful mastery of time and space by the BIG REVEAL.

Or not. I was really looking forward to Trump’s making a big fool of himself on Monday. It’s possible he won’t listen to his lawyers and release the “proof” anyway. We can hope.

What I was going to write about — of late there have been two kinds of Republicans — those who are frantic to defend and protect Trump at all cost, and those who, um, aren’t. Right-wing WaPo columnist and all-around waste of space Henry Olsen wrote,

Republican leaders rushed to defend Donald Trump after a Georgia grand jury levied charges against the former president for his scheme to interfere in the state’s 2020 presidential election. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy described the indictment as a “desperate sham.” Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was a “WITCH HUNT” and that Trump “did nothing wrong.”

See also Republicans rally to Donald Trump’s defense after Georgia indictment at The Guardian, which documents the various degrees of gaslighting being employed on Trump’s behalf. For example,

New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a member of House leadership, insisted Trump “had every legal right to challenge the results of the election” he conclusively lost.

She added: “This blatant election interference by the far left will not work, President Trump will defeat these bogus charges and win back the White House in 2024.”

In the Senate, Ted Cruz of Texas, in 2016 Trump’s closest rival for the Republican presidential nomination, said he was “pissed”. Cruz also called the Georgia indictment “disgraceful” and repeated McCarthy’s “weaponization” complaint – a party talking point.

Stefanik didn’t use to be as much of a right-wing toadie as she is now. Her district is way upstate and mostly rural, I understand, but it’s still New York. Will this crapola really help her keep her seat? We’ll see.

And then there are the other Republicans. Many elected Republicans of Georgia are pretty much done with Trump. They are having no trouble saying the 2020 election results were legitimate and Trump shouldn’t have tried to strong-arm them into “fixing” it. I suspect they still blame him for costing them two U.S. Senate seats. But they also noticed that voters in 2020 really weren’t into the election denial thing. Since most of them seem okay with prosecuting Trump, I hope that means they won’t use their new law to remove D.A. Fani Willis from office.

And with some exceptions like Ted Cruz and Miz Lindsey Graham (and Josh Hawley, who is making even less sense than usual), most Republicans in the U.S. Senate so far are not rushing to microphones to complain about the Georgia indictment.

The only thing that’s safe to say is that the 2024 contest for the Republican presidential nomination is going to be the most bleeped up in the history of presidential nominations.

Regarding Georgia, there’s a lot of talk about the several indictees getting their cases moved to federal courts. From what I’m reading, about all this would accomplish is to broaden the jury pool beyond Fulton County. The case would still be tried under Georgia RICO laws, and convictions would still be out of reach of federal pardons.

Pardons in Georgia are hard to come by. Jim Newell writes in Slate,

Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, does not have the authority to hand out pardons. Under the Georgia Constitution, a five-person State Board of Pardons and Paroles is “vested with the power of executive clemency, including the powers to grant reprieves, pardons, and paroles; to commute penalties; to remove disabilities imposed by law; and to remit any part of a sentence for any offense against the state after conviction.”

Even if that board were stacked with appointees who were clones of Donald Trump, the board has a very strict interpretation of what a pardon is. To qualify for a pardon, an applicant must have already completed his or her sentence five years prior to applying. They must have lived a law-abiding life during those five years, not have any pending charges, and have paid all fines in full. A “pardon,” in the Georgia state government’s parlance, is “an order of official forgiveness and is granted to those individuals who have maintained a good reputation in their community following the completion of their sentence,” according to the pardon board’s website. It “does not expunge, remove or erase the crime from your record. It may serve as a means for a petitioner to advance in employment or education.” In other words, it’s a piece of paper that would do little else besides get Trump a job as a line cook at 97 years old.

Changing that setup would require amending the Constitution, and Georgia Republicans on the whole don’t seem to be in a big toot to do that.

In other news: You probably heard that at some point Jack Smith got hold of Trump’s private Twitter messages. That was awhile back, and had there been anything juicy in them that probably would have bee included in indictments already. But Elon Musk stupidly tried to stall a warrant for the message files, and according to Marcy at Emptywheel, Musk met with Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy while stalling. Was that to protect Trump, or to protect Jordan and McCarthy, who probably had messages in those files?

In Rudy Giuliani news: One of the biggest meltdowns in political history continues. See Rudy Giuliani made desperate appeal to Trump to pay his legal bills and Rudy Giuliani pocketed $300,000 from farmers investing in anti-Biden documentary that was never made, lawsuit claims

We Have Trump Criminal Indictment #4

Here is the text of the newest indictment. And here are all of the people being charged in the Georgia indictment, courtesy of Atlanta News First:

  • former President Donald Trump
  • lawyer Rudy Guliani
  • lawyer John Eastman
  • former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
  • lawyer Kenneth Chesebro
  • former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Jeffrey Clark
  • lawyer Jenna Ellis
  • lawyer Ray Smith III
  • lawyer Bob Cheeley
  • Trump campaign staffer Michael Roman
  • former Chair of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer
  • Georgia State Senator Shawn Still
  • police chaplain Stephen Lee
  • Black Voices for Trump leader Harrison Floyd
  • lawyer Sidney Powell
  • publicist Trevian Kutti
  • poll watcher Scott Hall
  • former Coffee County elections official Misty Hampton
  • former chair of the Coffee County Republican Party Cathleen Latham

Newsweek provides a bit more detail about what these people are alleged to have done.

Aaron Blake at WaPo says that Trump is now looking at a total of 91 criminal charges. He also says that the Georgia indictments focus on false speech and oaths.

A core Trump defense in the federal Jan. 6 case is the idea that he was merely exercising free speech.

But that defense won’t work as easily in Georgia, which has a broad prohibition against making “a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation … in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government.”

From a couple of experts at the New York Times:

Georgia has one of the most capacious RICO statutes in the country. The state’s Legislature enacted it specifically to “apply to an interrelated pattern of criminal activity” and mandated courts to “liberally construe” it to protect the state and its citizens from harm. Under the law, prosecutors can charge a sprawling criminal enterprise that even includes individuals who may not have known “of the others’ existence,” as one court put it.

Here, the statute may be triggered by violations of an array of federal crimes as well as over 40 charges specific to Georgia, including forgeryfalse statements and influencing witnesses. …

…The overall charge includes four core schemes. The first was to pressure government officials to advance the objective of securing Georgia’s electoral votes for Mr. Trump, even though he lost. For the evidence here, in addition to Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger, Ms. Willis details other efforts by Mr. Trump and his co-defendants, ranging from Mr. Giuliani’s pressuring of state legislators to Mr. Meadows’s pressure on election authorities to the co-conspirators’ lies and intimidation targeting the ballot counters Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss, who goes by Shaye. This also includes efforts in Washington that impacted Georgia, such as the D.O.J. lawyer Jeffrey Clark’s preparation of an allegedly fraudulent draft letter targeting the state.

The second scheme was the organization of electors falsely proclaiming that Mr. Trump was the winner in Georgia. Here Ms. Willis alleges that Mr. Trump personally participated in this effort — for example, he called the Republican National Committee with Mr. Eastman from the White House to organize the fake slates of electors, including in Georgia. And she charges a great deal of other activity in and outside of Georgia.

The third scheme was the allegedly unlawful accessing of voting machines in Coffee County, a rural county southeast of Atlanta. The indictment asserts that, following a White House conversation about getting access to actual election machines to prove supposed vote theft, Sidney Powell, a lawyer tied to Mr. Trump, along with Trump campaign allies and computer consultants conspired to illegally access voting equipment in Coffee County. …

… The fourth and final scheme is what has become a trademark allegation against Mr. Trump and his circle — obstruction and cover-up. Ms. Willis alleges that members of the conspiracy filed false documents, made false statements to government investigators and committed perjury during the Fulton County judicial proceedings.

In addition to the RICO charges, every one of the 19 defendants is charged with at least one, and in many cases multiple, other offenses. Perhaps most telling among these is Ms. Willis indicting Mr. Trump and six others with felony solicitation of violation of oath by public officer. This fits Mr. Trump’s demand for those 11,780 votes like a glove.

I’m hearing that D.A. Willis wants to go to trial in six months, but there is much skepticism it will happen before the election. We’ll see.

Update: By popular demand …