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What About the Next Indictment?
Trump's problematic candidacy.
I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend. While the Jackal was off, basically three things happened that were a big deal:
Prosecutors apparently have a recording of Donald Trump admitting he has/had classified documents, continuing the saga at Mar-A-Lago (MAL).
DeSantis launches his Campaign and it goes horribly bad.
I want to go into the first two because it seems like the last one is largely self-explanatory.
Talk dirty to me about Trump being in trouble.
The big story about the potential Trump Tapes™ came via CNN this week, with the New York Times later confirming. Here is the New York Times:
In the recording, Mr. Trump suggested he knew the document was secret and had not declassified it, one person briefed on the matter said.
The existence of the recording could undermine Mr. Trump’s repeated claim that he had already declassified material that remained in his possession after he left office. Prosecutors are scrutinizing whether Mr. Trump obstructed efforts by federal officials to retrieve documents he took with him after leaving office and whether he violated laws governing the handling of classified material.
Here’s why this is super relevant: The conversation in question apparently happened at Trump’s property in Bedminster, not MAL. That means that Trump wasn’t just hoarding documents in Florida, but also potentially carrying them around with him.
It would also factor into two things:
Trump’s mens rea, or his state of mind about the documents. If he fully understood they were classified and acknowledged that he took them, then that increases his legal exposure.
If Trump knew he had the documents and didn’t turn them over to the government, it would increase the chances of an obstruction charge.
This is, undoubtedly, the biggest news of the week. Basically, Trump has made Jack Smith’s job incredibly easy, and the likelihood of a charge coming soon is pretty high.
It’s also important to note that this is only one of two (that we know of!) investigations that Smith is handling. There is also a possibility that Trump will be indicted for his actions on January 6th, and a separate indictment is reportedly coming in Georgia.
The obvious question becomes, how does a dude who is under multiple investigations and could be indicted three times get the Republican nomination? It could actually be easy if his strongest opponent is Ron DeSantis.
In case you missed it (and you might have, for technical reasons), Ron DeSantis officially announced his campaign for President last Wednesday night, during an interview with Elon Musk on Twitter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it went…poorly. After it became clear that the interview was suffering from technical issues, #DeSaster started trending.
The universal reaction - from both the Left and Right - was that DeSantis (or maybe Elon) flubbed it. I rounded up a few headlines from the way Memerandum looked the next morning:
Yikes. However, even leaving the technical glitches aside (though you can bet Donald Trump will not let DeSantis forget this mistake), it’s truly puzzling why DeSantis went this route. Over the past few weeks as DeSantis’s star has begun to fade, a narrative has been emerging: The guy is simply not good at retail politics. He is socially awkward and insulated from a lot of criticism. Also, his team is overly focused on Extremely Online™ political battles as opposed to basic kitchen table issues that speak to voters.
DeSantis previously had a solid, winning argument against Trump, which is that he can beat Joe Biden and Trump can’t. DeSantis is still going to try and make that argument, but after meeting with DeSantis in D.C. a few weeks ago, Republican donors began to doubt that. I think there is a plausible argument that DeSantis would actually lose to Joe Biden by more than Trump if he were to secure the nomination. It goes like this:
Among GOP voters, there are some who are #OnlyTrump and it ranges anywhere from 3% to 5%.
Those voters will not vote for DeSantis, and will sit out the general election.
DeSantis does not have a base of support that strong.
DeSantis has moved so far to the right on issue like abortion, LGBTQ rights, attacking Mickey Mouse, etc., that he has made himself about as poisonous to independent voters as Donald Trump.
In a head-to-head against Biden, DeSantis loses as badly as Trump would, but then also loses the 3-5% of Trump voters who would’ve been there had The Donald been the nominee.
Don’t believe me? A focus group for the Washington Post basically found the same thing. Specifically, voters said lots of negative things about Biden: He is really old, and they are not sure about him running again, but all of that became a wash once Trump was his rival. It was bad news for Trump, but many overlooked that DeSantis didn’t perform any better:
But as DeSantis prepares a formal announcement of his campaign, Trump’s leading challenger for the nomination did not perform any better in a hypothetical head-to-head with Biden. The focus group voters cited his controversial positions in Florida and governing style as reasons for turning away from him. A majority of the participants chose Biden in that scenario, with a handful taking DeSantis or saying they were undecided.
One of the focus group’s members was a DeSantis voter who called him a divisive, “mini-Trump,” who would “separate the country.” This is normally where the wincing emoji would pop in.
Wow, it sounds like the GOP is screwed next year.
Crazy things happen (see: 2020), but if this ship just keeps coasting it will inevitably dock in Biden’s Reelection Bay at some point next year.
I think one thing could change this for Republicans: They actually choose to elect someone normal. Tim Scott, the junior Senator from South Carolina, recently announced his candidacy. He would be a serious contender against Biden. To a lesser extent, so would Nikki Haley. Glenn Youngkin, the governor of Virginia, would also have a shot. Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, would possibly the most dangerous out of all of them.
But Republicans aren’t going to nominate any of those people, unless Donald Trump drops out of the race. And, again, it is a huge assumption that Trump will simply endorse the eventual GOP nominee and not sabotage their campaign. But the problem remains, and it was even laid out by skeptical Biden voters: They are not crazy about Biden. They want someone younger. They think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
But they say if it Biden vs. another Republican, they will hold their noses and vote for him again.
This piece by Will Selber written for Memorial Day will make you cry.
Luke Mogelson’s report from the front line in Ukraine is harrowing.
David French takes us behind the MAGA curtain.
Enjoy the weekend, everyone. The Jackal comes back next week.