The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Libertarians Remain Useless

You probably heard that Trump got booed and heckled at a Libertarian Convention yesterday. Before you get the impression that Libertarians suddenly grew some sense, let’s look at why they booed and heckled Trump.

Libertarians, who believe in limited government and individual freedom, blame Trump, a Republican, for rushing through the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine when he was president and for not doing more to stop public health restrictions on the unvaccinated during the pandemic.

Other than that, they’re fine with a neo-fascist who wants to make himself dictator-for-life and unaccountable to the law.  So Libertarians are still, basically, arrested adolescents who don’t want to be told to eat their vegetables. Most of them, anyway, although the more extreme Libertarians are just fascists in denial about fascism.

RFK Jr. got a better reception from the Libertarians, I take it —

Addressing a few hundred delegates, Kennedy accused Trump of allowing the government to abuse individual liberty during the pandemic. He said: “I think he had the right instinct when he came into office. He was initially very reluctant to impose lockdowns, but then he got rolled by his bureaucrats. He caved in and many of our most fundamental rights disappeared practically overnight.”

Kennedy earned further applause when he asserted: “All of our constitutional rights were ploughed under. They closed all the churches but they kept open the Walmarts and the liquor stores.”

President Biden sensibly declined the Libertarian invitation to speak at their convention. From the Maha Archives: Libertarians Are the Enemy.

In the Truth Social Universe, Trump’s Libertarian address was a triumph. From Rolling Stone:

Although he received a less than friendly reception from Libertarians, you’d never know from Trump’s posts on Truth Social about the night. Trump reposted a video from GOP Rep. Mike Lee where Lee said, “Trump knocked it out of the park tonight at the #LibertarianConvention. Well done, sir!”

Trump posted at midnight after his address, “Everyone here tonight believes that we must fight for the same fundamental freedoms: Freedom of Expression. Freedom of Religion. Freedom to own a Firearm. Freedom from over-Taxation. Freedom from over-Regulation. Freedom from government Discrimination. And we believe that we do not have a FREE COUNTRY if we do not have FREE SPEECH!”

Don’t get me started on the famous Republican hypocrisy on free speech.

In other news: I’m so disgusted with the mess Loose Cannon has made of the Mar-a-Lago ducuments case that I don’t even want to think about it. I am just hanging on to faint hope that the case will be tried some day, even if it’s next year. Or the year after. But you’ve probably heard that Trump has claimed recently that the FBI had planned to assassinate him when they executed the search warrant in August 2022. In spite of the fact that the FBI knew full well Trump was in New York that day. Somebody should explain to Trump that if the FBI really wanted him dead, he would be.

Anyway, Jack Smith has asked Loose to place a gag order on Trump to keep him from talking about assassination. Marcy Wheeler wrote a good post about all this, and I direct you to her place.

Enjoy Memorial Day, everybody.

Thomas and Alito Are Destroying This Country

Do watch this bit from Alex Wagner’s show on MSNBC last night:

Try the link.

Here’s more from Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

Alito says, in short, that courts should pretty much never find that state legislatures acted with racist intent, because they are owed this presumption of good faith that cuts in their favor. And he just makes up the reasons why—he’s just pulling it out of his pocket. Alito says: First, state legislators are bound by an oath to the Constitution, and we should assume they’re following that oath. Second, when we accuse state legislators of doing race-based redistricting, we’re accusing them of “offensive and demeaning conduct” that bears a “resemblance to political apartheid,” and “we should not be quick to hurl such accusations at the political branches.” Finally, he says, we should be wary of voting rights plaintiffs “who seek to transform federal courts into weapons of political warfare” through racial gerrymandering claims.

Whoever could imagine the state legislature of South Carolina enacting anything racist, right? Or, in other words, Sam Alito must be living on another planet, because he doesn’t seem to get this one.

This case should have been really easy because the Supreme Court decided a similar one in 2017: Cooper v. Harris, which involved a North Carolina congressional district. The court, which looked very different in 2017, struck down the district. And in her majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan rejected all the garbage that Alito shoveled into the law on Thursday. She wrote that plaintiffs don’t have to present a specific kind of evidence and appeals courts should defer to district courts’ findings, not go over them with a super-skeptical eye.

Here, rather than acknowledging that he’s overturning Cooper v. Harris, Alito accuses Kagan of misreading her own opinion from just seven years ago. He says she was talking about “an imaginary version” of Cooper v. Harris—which, I cannot stress enough, is a decision that she herself wrote. It is a noxious mix of mansplaining and gaslighting for Alito to overrule this precedent without admitting it, then tell the author of the precedent that she misunderstood the meaning of the opinion that she wrote.

As much as I’d love to smack Alito around with a blunt object, I do not advocate doing such things. Violence is wrong. I just want Alito removed from the court and banished from politice society. Maybe even deported. He should just go away.

Sometimes when you’re in dissent, you try to make the best of the majority opinion: You can suggest that there are still ways around the new blockade, other approaches or theories or methods that might get around the majority’s roadblock. But here, Kagan gives it to us straight. As she puts it, the majority tells states to “go right ahead” and draw racial gerrymanders because “it will be easy enough to cover your tracks in the end.” If this is now the law, there is really no law against racial gerrymandering. The equal protection clause has been gutted. The post–Civil War amendments no longer have any meaningful application to racial gerrymandering.

It’s been 154 or so years since the 15th Amendment gave Black men the right to vote, and White racists are still pushing back any way they can think of. The only thing that’s changed is that the White racists have to frame their arguments as not being racist.

And then there’s Clarence Thomas … This is Mark Josephe Stern:

And yet, as bad as Alito’s opinion was, it didn’t go far enough for Justice Clarence Thomas, who penned a solo concurrence demanding a radical move: The Supreme Court, he argued, should overrule every precedent that limits gerrymandering—including the landmark cases establishing “one person, one vote”—because it has no constitutional power to redraw maps in the first place. And he places much of the blame for the court’s allegedly illegitimate intrusion into redistricting on a surprising culprit: Brown v. Board of Education.

Brown was, of course, the 1954 decision holding that racial segregation in public education violates the equal protection clause. Many of us celebrated its 70th anniversary just last week. But Brown has always had its detractors, and Thomas has long been one of them. He has written that the decision rested on a “great flaw” by focusing on the stigma that Jim Crow inflicted on schoolchildren. He rejectedBrown’s assertion that Black children suffered constitutional harm when denied access to integrated education. And he condemned the court’s ongoing efforts to remedy decades of segregation by integrating public school systems by judicial decree, decrying these integration efforts as “predicated on black inferiority.”

Again, what planet does this man live on? It can’t be this one.

In other news:The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to immediately halt its military assault on Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where more than 1 million people had sought refuge in dire conditions.” This is the UN’s highest court. Good luck with that.

The Daily Outrage, Sam Alito Edition

So Samuel Alito was caught flying an upside down flag at his house and an “appeal to heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach home. And there are reports Leonard Leo has been flying the “appeal to heaven” flag at his Maine summer home. Hmmm. I just published something at Patheos explaining where this flag comes from and why it’s controversial. But there’s something else I wrote about awhile back that connects Leonard Leo and Sam Alito.

Leo and his conplex of right-wing interest groups are pushing to get a Catholic charter school, funded by taxpayer dollars, open in Oklahoma. This would be St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, an online charter school already approved by an Oklahoma state agency called the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. The school is expected to open in August of 2024 for the 2024-2025 school year. The attorney general of Oklahoma is opposed to this school and says it violates the state constitution, and he’s been trying to stop the school in the courts. But here’s the Alito-Leo connection.

St. Isidore is represented by Nicole Stelle Garnett of the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Initiative, a clinic associated with Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Garnett, a law professor at Notre Dame, is on the board of the Federalist Society, where Leonard Leo is co-chairman. She is also on the advisory council of a Catholic University law school initiative that is funded by anonymous donations directed by Leonard Leo. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is the honorary chairman of that group. Lots of connections there.

There’s this vast network of hard-right Christian nationalists trying to turn the U.S. into a theocracy, and the “appeal to heaven” flag is a way to signal each other, I guess.

The irony is that the phrase “appeal to heaven” is taken from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, and among other things in this treatise Locke was arguing for  the end of the divine right of kings and in favor of governments that take their authority from the people. If Locke came back today he wouldn’t be part of Leonard Leo’s theocratic schemes, I’m pretty sure.

Speaking of Sam Alito, he wrote the majority opinion released today siding with South Carolina Republicans over a gerrymandered electoral map. Having gutted the Voting Rights Act passed by Congress, now the justices are saying that little ol’ them just don’t have the authority to override how the states draw their maps or run their elections.

But even worse was what Clarence Thomas wrote. I got a whiff of this watching Joy Reid and looked it up. Thomas in a concurrence actually wrote that the Warren Court back in 1954 overstepped in its decision in Brown v. Board of Ed. Yes, he did. Let that sink in. That worthless fat ass is sitting in the great Thurgood Marshall’s seat saying that, you know, white people will get around to being fair eventually. Let’s not rush things. In effect. You can find this part of the “opinion” beginning on page 64.

Trump’s Contraception Flipflop and Early Stage Alzheimer’s

You’ve probably heard that Trump was asked a question about restricting contraceptives. It’s at the beginning of this video —

Here’s what was said:

“Do you support any restrictions on a person’s right to contraception?” host Jon Delano asked.

“We’re looking at that, and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly and I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting,” Trump replied. “You will find it very smart. I think it’s a smart decision.”

“We’ll be releasing it very soon,” he added. Trump has often promised to release policy proposals “soon” and then never delivering — perhaps most notably as he was working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats’ 2010 health care law, during his first term in office.

And then, later, he denied it all.

It’s unlikely a proposal to limit contraception will be released considering Trump later on Truth Social denied he was ever considering it. “I HAVE NEVER, AND WILL NEVER ADVOCATE IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS ON BIRTH CONTROL, or other contraceptives,” he wrote. “This is a Democrat fabricated lie, MISINFORMATION/DISINFORMATION, because they have nothing else to run on except FAILURE, POVERTY, AND DEATH. I DO NOT SUPPORT A BAN ON BIRTH CONTROL, AND NEITHER WILL THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!”

Some Republicans have already taken steps to restrict birth control access, but let’s go on …

After the Truth Social all-caps denial, Bess Levin wrote at Vanity Fair:

Why didn’t Trump just say that in the interview? Only he knows. Regardless, it’s little comfort to hear that the ex-president supposedly won’t “advocate” for restrictions on birth control, given that his official stance on reproductive rights is that he’s more than happy to let states do whatever they want.

Why didn’t Trump just say that in the interview? I have a theory. My theory is that he didn’t understand the question and fell back on his tried-and-true response of “we’ll be releasing that soon” to cover up his confusion. I have some experience of being around someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s, and that’s the sort of thing they do. For example, when my mother couldn’t understand restaurant menus she’d just order the same thing someone else ordered rather than ask for help. I didn’t realize until after her diagnosis that’s what she’d been doing.

Trump’s initial answer gave no clue it was connected to the question. It was a boilerplate answer that didn’t quite fit. Later, I assume, someone must have explained to him what it was he said, and then when it clicked in his head he denied he ever said it.

Nicole Lafond writest at TPM,

Before he posted his statement fully walking back the remarks, his campaign told the Associated Press that the former president and 2024 candidate misspoke and meant to tease out a coming announcement on his position on medication abortion, not contraception.

Maybe, but what do you want to bet that there will be no announcement of his position on medication abortion, ever?

Meanwhile, the Republicans have worked out a theory as to why President Biden doesn’t appear mentally addled during public appearances. Dana Milbank:

Rep. Byron Donalds’s medical education consists of a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing from Florida State University. But the Florida Republican played a doctor on TV over the weekend, telling Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that, after examining President Biden, he suspects the president is receiving a secret medication that makes him appear to be sharp-witted and totally on the ball.

“The American people need to understand if they’re giving him some injection so that he can actually look like he’s coherent,” Donalds said.

If only there were such a drug.

There is a shot that cures incoherence in one dose? How can I get some? Why has nobody thought to give it to Kevin McCarthy all these years? And why, for that matter, doesn’t Dr. Donalds, who seems to think he should be Donald Trump’s running mate, inject his prospective boss with the stuff? Just last week, Trump’s attempt at saying “carried out by radical Democrats” came out as “carried owby rgbgb tdai.”

Righties have armored themselves in an impenetrable mass of confirmation bias, so that nothing that shakes their convictions ever breaks through. No matter what Trump does, they will never admit he is mentally impaired. Let’s hope the rest of America sees it before it’s too late.

Update: See Aaron Blake, The Many Punts of Donald Trump, at WaPo. “Over and over again in recent months, Trump has punted on many of the most important issues facing the country in 2024. Trump has done this for years — on his health-care and infrastructure plans, particularly — but it’s especially conspicuous these days.”

Testimony Ends in the Trump Trial

At one point yesterday it was revealed that Michael Cohen had, in effect, stolen money from Trump’s company. Aaron Blake at WaPo explains,

To recap: Cohen testified that he paid a technical services company named Red Finch about $20,000 to rig online polls in Trump’s favor, after initially agreeing to pay it $50,000. (The poll-rigging arrangement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2019.)

But Cohen testified that he sought to be and was reimbursed for the full $50,000 from the Trump Organization. He said he was ultimately paid $100,000 because of the practice of “grossing up” — reimbursing double the amount because the money is taxable income.

“You stole from the Trump Organization?” Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked.

“Yes,” Cohen said.

This morning I noticed that rightie sites were pratically giddy with glee at this admission. Alvin Bragg’s Case in Shambles said one headline at RedState. The Fox News headline proclaimed Cohen’s bombshell admission could lead to hung jury, if not acquittal: expert.

Really? Maybe not. As Aaron Blake explains, “While Monday’s testimony might have dinged Cohen’s already tenuous credibility, it could also have cast a spotlight on a major hole in the defense’s case.”

That $100,000 reimbursement for the Red Finch payment was actually part of the $420,000 Cohen was paid over 12 months ($35,000 per month) starting in early 2017. These are the very same payments that prosecutors say Trump illegally falsified as being legal expenses, even as they really included reimbursement for the $130,000 hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The charge is that Trump falsified the expenses to cover up the decade-old tryst Daniels alleged late in the 2016 campaign.

(Cohen described the $420,000 as being $130,000 for the Daniels payment plus $50,000 for Red Finch — both “grossed up” by doubling them — plus $60,000 to account for what Cohen viewed as an insufficient annual bonus.)

But despite drawing attention to this allegedly criminal reimbursement scheme, Trump’s lawyers have also argued that the payments to Cohen weren’t actually reimbursement at all. This despite Trump’s having seemingly indicated as much both publicly in 2018 and in anothercourt case.

As I understand it, the big bad crime here is that Trump falsified financial records to conceal another crime, which involved a conspiracy with the National Enquirer to keep the Stormy Daniels episode out of the news until after the election. The records he falsified were reimbursements to Michael Cohen for his out-of-pocket expenses. Trump tried to cover up these expenses by labeling the money to Cohen as a retainer for legal services. That’s the crime. And whether Cohen managed to squeeze some extra money out of Trump by concealing what he had really paid out doesn’t make any of that go away. If anything, the Red Finch story digs the hole Trump is in a little deeper, seems to me.

Aaron Blake:

That $100,000 reimbursement for the Red Finch payment was actually part of the $420,000 Cohen was paid over 12 months ($35,000 per month) starting in early 2017. These are the very same payments that prosecutors say Trump illegally falsified as being legal expenses, even as they really included reimbursement for the $130,000 hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The charge is that Trump falsified the expenses to cover up the decade-old tryst Daniels alleged late in the 2016 campaign.

(Cohen described the $420,000 as being $130,000 for the Daniels payment plus $50,000 for Red Finch — both “grossed up” by doubling them — plus $60,000 to account for what Cohen viewed as an insufficient annual bonus.)

Blake also points out that the information about Michael Cohen helping himself to some extra Red Finch money had come out in the prosecution’s questioning of Cohen last week, or whenever it was. They just didn’t use the word “steal.”

Trump’s lawyers have been saying that the reimbursements weren’t really reimbursements, but it’s not clear to me what their arguments are for that claim. They still look like reimbursements to me.

So testimony is finished, and I’m reading that the jury won’t be back until next Tuesday. Then they will hear closing arguments and begin deliberations. After the jury left the lawyers and the judge had a big debates over jury instructions. For example, from the New York Times:

For more details of the issues discussed, see Josh Kovinsky at TPM, DA’s Office And Trump Team Hash Out How Jury Will Evaluate Case.

The judge says he will have final jury instructions by the end of the day Thursday. The Times also reported this:

Texas’s lieutenant governor was among those who praised Trump outside the courthouse on Tuesday, but there was also an opposing voice from the Lone Star State. Cecy Vazquez Dreher stood in Collect Pond Park across the street with a handwritten sign noting that “Loser Trump” still owed her hometown, El Paso, more than a half million dollars for a 2019 rally.

“The El Paso taxpayers are still waiting for his bill to be paid,” said Vazquez Dreher, 57, a real estate agent. She was in town to see friends she made when she attended the Wharton School of Business, which Trump attended as well. When asked if that is where he learned not to pay bills, Vazquez Dreher said: “I don’t think it was part of the curriculum.”

As I think I may have already said, one of the subthemes of the trial has been what a deadbeat Trump is. Which we knew already.

Today’s Newsy Bits (updated)

Michael Cohen is back in court getting grilled by Trump’s lawyers. Opinions vary as to how effective Trump attorney Todd Blanche’s questions have been, but at least some commenters think he could very well have planted serious reasonable doubt in some jurors’s minds. It’s believed the lawyers will all wrap up their cases this week, but Judge Merchan wants closing arguments to wait until next week, after the Memorial Day weekend. I take it he’s trying to avoid a long weekend between closing arguments and jury deliberations.

Update: There was some kind of blowup in the trial today involving the defense’s one and only witness, Robert Costello, an attorney who once advised Cohen. I take it Costello smarted off to the judge, which caused the judge to clear the courtroom of jury and reporters so he could admonish Costello. The crew at MSNBC thinks this may have bleeped the defense.

The International Criminal Court has applied for arrest warrants for Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes and crimes against humanity. See also Timeline of Int’l Criminal Court Arrest Warrant Applications for Gaza War: What Comes Next and How We Got Here at Just Security.

Is RFK Jr. homeless? The New York Post reports that he doesn’t live at his “official” address.

The independent candidate claims his voting address is 84 Croton Lake Road In Katonah, though he is not the owner of the million-dollar, in-arrears property, does not show up in resident searches for it, and some longtime neighbors — and even local authorities — were shocked at the notion it’s his home.

“No … he doesn’t live here,” a local cop insisted Sunday.

A review of voting records show RFK Jr. voted in primary and/or general elections using that New York address as recently as 2020 — and in 2018, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010 and 2008. 

He voted by mail during the COVID outbreak using the Croton Lake address, too.  

The legal owner of the property is Barbara Moss, the wife of longtime RFK pal Timothy Haydock, a Westchester doctor.

Haydock and RFK Jr. served as the best man at each other’s first wedding, and RFK is the godfather of Haydock’s daughter.

The US Bank Trust Company filed a foreclosure action against Moss, an interior and landscape designer, in state Supreme Court in March, claiming she owed $46,106 plus interest.

A settlement conference is scheduled for June 7. …

… The Kennedy campaign insisted in a Sunday night statement that the home is RFK Jr.’s “official address.”

“He receives mail there. His driver’s license is registered there. His automobile is registered there. His voting registration is from there. His hunting, fishing, falconry, and wildlife rehabilitation licenses are from there. He pays rent to the owner,” the campaign said.

The statement went on to say that his law office is in New York and he pays taxes in the Empire State.

Maybe he lives in his office. Maybe he has a pod tucked away on Governor’s Island that he and the brain worm return to when they have to regenerate. Who knows?

If you can get to it without hitting a paywall, do read Will Bunch’s latest column, Scared About America Losing Democracy? Texas Is Already Gone. I went through incognito windows in three different browsers before I got it up long enough to copy and paste the thing into Word. The Philadelphia Enquirer is getting stingier about free peeks. Anyway, it’s about how Greg Abbott has declared war on protesters he disagrees with. Saying the wrong thing in Texas can get you arrested or killed. And if you murder someone saying something Greg Abbott doesn’t like, you get a pardon.


The Descent of Rudy

It’s late, but I have to say something about the continuing downward spiral of poor Rudy Giuliani. See, for example, Rudy Giuliani is served indictment papers at his own birthday party after mocking Arizona attorney general.

Arizona’s Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes on Friday announced that Rudy Giuliani had been served with the notice of his indictment in connection with an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results in Arizona.

The announcement came less than two hours after a social media post from Giuliani taunted Mayes for failing to deliver his indictment. The notice was served to Giuliani during a celebration in Palm Beach, Florida, for his 80th birthday.

In a now-deleted post on X, Giuliani taunted Arizona authorities. “If Arizona authorities can’t find me by tomorrow morning; 1. They must dismiss the indictment; 2. They must concede they can’t count votes,” Giuliani posted Friday night. Accompanying the message was a photo of Giuliani smiling with six others and balloons arranged behind them.

An hour and 14 minutes later, Mayes responded to Giuliani’s post, writing, “The final defendant was served moments ago. @RudyGiuliani, nobody is above the law.”

Surprise! Happy birthday! Rudy turns 80 on May 28.

And then there’s Rudy Giuliani Basically Dubbed a Deadbeat by Bankruptcy Judge by Bess Levin at Vanity Fair.

Earlier this month, we learned that Rudy Giuliani had earned the ire of the people he owes nearly $150 million to, on account of (1) blowing through the $43,000-a-month budget he told a bankruptcy court he would stick to, (2) allegedly lying about the value of his assets, and (3) continuing to live in his $3.5 million Palm Beach condo, instead of selling it and distributing the proceeds to his creditors. And as it turns out, those creditors aren’t the only people who think the former New York City mayor is a total bum.

On Tuesday, the judge overseeing Giuliani’s bankruptcy case was left aghast by the fact that the former attorney to Donald Trump has appeared to make no effort to pay the election workers he was found liable for defaming last year and ordered to pay $148 million. “They have done nothing. They sold nothing. They settled nothing,” Rachel Strickland, an attorney representing election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, said of Giuliani’s team, accusing the ex-mayor of getting fired from his radio job on purpose. “I agree with you,” US bankruptcy judge Sean Lane replied, according to Politico. “And I am disturbed about the status of this case.” (Last week, Giuliani was suspended from his show on WABC Radio after the station said he repeatedly aired false claims about the 2020 election.) Also on Tuesday, Lane denied a request from Giuliani to lift a legal barrier that has prevented him from challenging the $148 million judgment, a move that the creditors’ lawyers say would only delay the proceedings.

He just can’t stick to a $43,000 a month budget, poor thing. Here’s another headline —From ‘America’s mayor’ to ‘America’s deadbeat’: Giuliani faces more legal problems.

The way I see it, we probably all have some regrets. But who the hell has so thoroughly screwed up his life more than Rudy?

Cohen Cross-Examination and Other News

Michael Cohen is still being cross-examined today. As far as I can tell, the defense may be planting some reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds. However, it’s also the case that there is lots of corroboration for the prosecutor’s case. There’s very little Cohen has said on the stand that isn’t backed up, somewhere. They didn’t need him to testify to the facts but to tell the story of how the facts came together.

And as Maggie Haberman commented, “At the same time, prosecutors have and will demonstrate in closing arguments that Trump has told lies, big and small, about a number of people and issues in this case.”

So far, no “Perry Mason moments,” I don’t believe.

Update: Aaron Blake writes at WaPo that roughly half of the general public doesn’t believe the trial is “a sham.”  “Polling has consistently shown that Americans, while somewhat skeptical of the proceedings, are not adopting Trump’s claims of persecution,” Blake writes. “And in fact, there is now some evidence they could be moving in favor of the prosecution.”

In other news: There’s a new development in Israel. Yair Rosenberg writes at The Atlantic that The Israeli Defense Establishment Revolts Against Netanyahu. In brief, the IDF is fighting Hamas in areas that had been cleared on Hamas weeks ago. The military people are blaming Netanyahu for not allowing some kind of Palestinian government to be established.

In a televised address yesterday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—a former general and current member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party—publicly rebuked the government for failing to establish a postwar plan for Gaza. He then demanded that Netanyahu personally commit to Palestinian governance for the enclave, as opposed to Israeli settlement or occupation.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the cabinet, and have received no response,” Gallant said. “The end of the military campaign must come together with political action. The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’s rule.”

Without such a political strategy, Gallant argued, no military strategy can succeed, and Israel will be left occupying Gaza and fighting a never-ending counterinsurgency against Hamas that saps the country’s military, economic, and diplomatic resources. “Indecision is, in essence, a decision,” he said. “This leads to a dangerous course, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza. This is a negative and dangerous option for the state of Israel.”

See also Josh Marshall.


Biden/Trump Debates Are Scheduled

The Biden and Trump campaigns have agreed to two debates. I had mixed feelings about a Trump-Biden debate until I read this:

Mr. Biden and his top aides want the debates to start much sooner than the dates proposed by the organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates, so voters can see the two candidates side by side well before early voting begins in September. They want the debate to occur inside a TV studio, with microphones that automatically cut off when a speaker’s time limit elapses.

And they want it to be just the two candidates and the moderator — without the raucous in-person audiences that Mr. Trump feeds on and without the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or other independent or third-party candidates.

I don’t know if the Trump people have agreed to that, but if those are non-negotiable terms, I say go for it. The provision about mics being turned off when it’s the other guy’s turn to speak is especially important, since Trump won’t shut up. The debates are set for June 27 on CNN and September 10 on ABC. The Presidential Debate Commission had scheduled a debate for September 20, I believe, but early voting will have begun before that in some states. Plus, I read in Politico, President Biden was not happy with the way the Commission ran the 2020 debates, especially by allowing Trump to talk incessantly over both Biden and the moderators. And Trump, of course, complains that the Commission is “biased” against him.

And I hope CNN and ABC do a better job than they did in the Democratic nominee debates in 2020. I remember not being happy with those.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden believe firmly that if the American people get a look at their opponent on a debate stage they will be less likely to vote for them.

The Biden side opened the negotiations. I am not surprised. Trump has been saying many mangled and incoherent things at his rallies, but little of that is reaching the public. They’re both capable of misspeaking, but if I had to bet which one will make an utter fool of himself while speaking, unfiltered, directly to the American people, my money is on Trump. I agree with Digby:

Trump is convinced that Biden is such a doddering, drooling old fool that he’ll fall asleep during the debate. (This is rich considering that it’s actually drowsy Don who’s falling asleep every day in court.) His entire campaign is predicated on the idea that Biden is so ancient that he can’t run the country like the vital, virile superman Donald Trump. And yet, whenever the country tunes in to watch Biden fall off the stage he actually does quite well and Trump whines that he was on drugs.

Biden needs to be seen by a national audience right now to prove that this is all crap. It’s ridiculous but between the Republicans, the mainstream press and Biden’s lack of bronzer, hair dye and Aquanet he’s seen by the public as much older than Trump despite the fact that they are actually the same age — and Trump is the one showing signs of dementia, not Biden.

Of course, it’s still possible Trump will not agree to the terms. I’m sure he will want his mic kept open and would prefer an audience of his supporters to cheer him on and boo President Biden.

The Trial Continues

Trump’s lawyers are now grilling Michael Cohen. No blow-ups so far, but the crew at the New York Times believes Todd Blanche is trying to goad Cohen into one.

The prosecution has announced that Cohen is their last witness. They had one more lined up, a publisher, but decided they didn’t need that person. Most of the rest of the trial week probably will be Trump’s lawyers beating up Michael Cohen. And then it’s the defense’s turn to make a case for itself, if it’s going to. I haven’t heard if they plan to call witnesses or just rest without a defense, which they are allowed to do. So this trial could possibly wrap up next week.

Trump Nap Watch Update: Susanne Craig of the NY Times writes, “As Michael Cohen testifies, Trump has dropped his head repeatedly and appears to be struggling to stay awake.”

Trump Goon Squad Update: Reuters has a special report on threats of violence from Trump supporters. See Trump blasts his trial judges. Then his fans call for violence.