Discover more from Morning Shots
A Nation on the Brink
“If even half of it is true, he’s toast.”
To say we “are on the brink,” is another of those overwrought clichés like “the walls are closing in,” that we’ve worn out in the last few years.
And yet. We are edging closer, aren’t we? The storm really is coming.
Morning Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
In today’s Morning Shots:
Trump is nailed dead to rights, and what matters most of all is that it’s not on some technical offense. What he was doing, before only a physical raid on Mar-a-Lago stopped this madness, turns out to have been less an act of mere carelessness than an active threat to United States national security, one fueled solely by Trump’s demented behavior and sense of self-entitlement.
Trump summons the mob and pours kerosene on the flames.
“Now the Marxist left is once again using the same corrupt DoJ and the same corrupt FBI, and the attorney general and the local district attorneys to interfere … They’re cheating. They’re crooked. They’re corrupt. These criminals cannot be rewarded. They must be defeated. You have to defeat them.
“Because in the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you and I’m just standing in their way.”
The historic federal criminal case against former President Donald Trump has been assigned to a judge he appointed who faced blistering criticism over her decision to grant his request for an independent arbiter to review documents obtained during an FBI search of his Florida estate
What the polls are telling us. Check this out:
Meanwhile: Silvio Berlusconi dead. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski dead. Boris Johnson out of parliament. Fox News sends Tucker a “cease and desist” letter.
A very big deal
Let’s catch up on the numbers (via Peter Baker):
Trump legal woes by the numbers: 17 (felonies for which his business was convicted)
5 million (dollars ordered to pay for sexually abusing Jean Carroll)
34 (New York felony counts)
37 (federal felony counts)
2 (potential future indictments)
Countless (former Trump lawyers)
I hope it’s not redundant to point out that no former president of the United States has ever been charged with a single felony before this.
On Friday we got a look at the 49-page indictment captioned: United States of America v. Donald J. Trump and Waltine Nauta. You should read the whole thing (it is really a corker), or listen to it here:
Pause a minute over that caption. The United States of America is seeking justice against Donald Trump. The executive branch of the government of the country is accusing its most recent former leader of crimes that put our national security at risk.
That is a very big deal.
Don’t take our word for it. Listen to Trump’s own former AG, Bill Barr: “If even half of it is true, he is toast,” Barr said. “I mean, it’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning.”
“This idea of presenting Trump as a victim here or a victim of a witch hunt is ridiculous,” Barr said. “Yes, he’s been a victim in the past. His adversaries have obsessively pursued him with phony claims. And I’ve been at his side defending against them when he is a victim. But this is much different. He’s not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets that the country has. They have to be in the custody of the archivist. He had no right to maintain them and retain them.”
Trump reacted about as you’d expect, lashing out at Barr as a “gutless pig”.
But that just highlighted how badly it stings Trump to have his former loyalist — someone who shamelessly covered up, prevaricated, and lied for him — break with him now in his moment of legal peril.
The gathering storm
It’s ugly out there, and after January 6th, it would be naïve not to recognize the danger. Trump rages, blusters, and lies, while his followers engage in increasingly violent rhetoric.
In Georgia, at the Republican state convention, Kari Lake, who refused to concede the Arizona election for governor in 2022 and who is an ardent defender of Mr. Trump, emphasized that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters owned guns.
“I have a message tonight for Merrick Garland and Jack Smith and Joe Biden — and the guys back there in the fake news media, you should listen up as well, this one is for you,” Ms. Lake said. “If you want to get to President Trump, you are going to have go through me, and you are going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the N.R.A.”
Clay Higgins, another Republican congressman from Louisiana, gave militaristic instructions to his followers. “This is a perimeter probe from the oppressors. Hold. rPOTUS has this,” he tweeted, using an abbreviation to refer to Trump as the real president.
Higgins added: “Buckle up. 1/50K know your bridges. Rock steady calm. That is all,” he added, using an apparent reference to military-scale maps. (Two days later Higgins tweeted: “Let Trump handle Trump, he’s got this. We use the Constitution as our only weapon. Peace. Hold.”)
The fulminations from Lake and Higgins were not isolated. As the NYT reported over the weekend:
In social media posts and public remarks, close allies of Mr. Trump — including a member of Congress — have portrayed the indictment as an act of war, called for retribution and highlighted the fact that much of his base carries weapons. The allies have painted Mr. Trump as a victim of a weaponized Justice Department controlled by President Biden, his potential opponent in the 2024 election.
The calls to action and threats have been amplified on right-wing media sites and have been met by supportive responses from social media users and cheers from crowds, who have become conditioned over several years by Mr. Trump and his allies to see any efforts to hold him accountable as assaults against him…
How bad is it? This bad, via Vice News:
“We need to start killing these traitorous fuckstains,” wrote one Trump supporter on The Donald, a rabidly pro-Trump message board that played a key role in planning the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Another user added: “It's not gonna stop until bodies start stacking up. We are not civilly represented anymore and they'll come for us next. Some of us, they already have.”
“Perhaps it’s time for that Civil War that the damn DemoKKKrats have been trying to start for years now,” a member of The Donald wrote. Another, referencing former President Barack Obama and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said: “FACT: OUR FOREFATHERS WOULD HAVE HUNG THESE TWO FOR TREASON…”
The GOP goes all in
On Earth 2.0, this would be the moment when sober heads would recognize the need to moderate the rhetoric and dial down the temperature. Republican leaders could urge the base to keep calm and carry on, trusting the rule of law and criminal justice system.
But, as we have frequently noted, we do not live in this world. Tom Nichols writes:
When Trump learned of the indictment yesterday, he and his devoted coterie of Republican apologists, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, got right to work trying to minimize the charges as a politically motivated “weaponization” of the law. Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who (at least in theory) is running against Trump, felt the need to side with the most notorious Florida Man now facing justice. As my colleague David Frum notes, this is about as sincere as the grief at a Mafia funeral, but the fact that DeSantis and others feel the need to placate such paranoia is indicative of how unhinged the GOP base has become.
So we get stuff like this:
"If the president in power can jail his political opponents, which is what Joe Biden is trying to do tonight, we don't have a republic anymore."
This does not even rise to the level of nonsense on stilts. It’s not Joe Biden. It’s Jack Smith, and a grand jury of Florida residents. And Trump is not being jailed. He’s being charged. Under our system, Trump is innocent until proven guilty, and he will get his day in court — with all of the protections of due process.
Hawley doesn’t care. And neither do other alleged GOP “thought leaders.” I won’t bore you by running down the cascade of asininity we endured on Sunday’s talk shows.
By now, this is all too predictable, but it is more than a little problematic for the party as a whole. For the time being, the indictment seems to have given Trump a boost. A new CBS News poll found that only 7 percent of GOP primary voters say the indictment makes them think less of Trump. He now leads Ron DeSantis by an impressive 61% to 23% margin.
But the gap is widening between the GOP and the rest of country.
The ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 61 percent of Americans think the charges against Trump are “serious.” Nota bene: That includes 38 percent of Republicans, a number up significantly since April.
“The conduct is bad,” he said of actions described in the indictment. “And it is bad for anybody in this country to do it, but it’s particularly awful for someone who has been president and who aspires to be president again.”
1. Is the Law Coming for Erik Prince at Last?
ERIK PRINCE—THE COFOUNDER of the controversial private military contractor Blackwater—is one of several right-wing figures recently subpoenaed by federal prosecutors investigating a scheme to spy on progressive groups in Wyoming before the 2020 election. Meanwhile, in an unrelated development largely unnoted in the American press, Prince was indicted with four other individuals in Austria on April 20 for exporting war materials without a license back in 2014 and 2015.
2. Why Deneenism Fails
George Orwell offers what is the most likely explanation for Deneen’s extraordinary contentions: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool.” In this respect, the bogus theory of peak oil and the apocalyptic advocacy of regime change share in common something amusingly grotesque. But there is nothing amusing about postliberalism—or Trumpism without Trump. It is a tyrannical fantasy whose proponents, launching fusillades not from foxholes but from ivory towers in the name of “ordinary people,” are intellectual cranks with a dangerous will to power.