July 16, 2024 / by 


America’s Hitler/JD 2024

Bronzer/Eyeliner 2024: MakeUp America Great Again

Consider this an open thread.


Aaron Blake looks at how JD underperformed fellow Republicans in Ohio.

Robert Kuttner on JD’s false compassion.

A video with some of JD’s criticism from 2016.

This goes to a trusted Google page with tons of links on JD.

Aileen Cannon Unwound the Stolen Documents Prosecution Back to November 2022

There’s a detail of Judge Cannon’s order throwing out the stolen documents case that people seem to be missing.

She unwound the prosecution back to the time when Jack Smith took it over from when Jay Bratt had the lead.

Here, as in Lucia, the appropriate remedy is invalidation of the officer’s ultra vires acts. Since November 2022, Special Counsel Smith has been exercising “power that [he] did not lawfully possess.” Collins, 594 U.S. at 258. All actions that flowed from his defective appointment—including his seeking of the Superseding Indictment on which this proceeding currently hinges [ECF No. 85]—were unlawful exercises of executive power. Because Special Counsel Smith “cannot wield executive power except as Article II provides,” his “[a]ttempts to do so are void” and must be unwound. Id. at 283 (Gorsuch, J., concurring). Defendants advance this very argument: “any actions taken by Smith are ultra vires and the Superseding Indictment must be dismissed” [ECF No. 326 p. 9]. And the Court sees no alternative course to cure the unconstitutional problem.

There are a lot of people saying that DOJ can just charge the 18 USC 793 charges in SDFL or charge obstruction in either DC or SDFL.

But they can only do so relying on evidence obtained prior to Smith’s appointment. Some key things they got after that?

  • Evan Corcoran’s testimony
  • Yuscil Taveras’ cooperation
  • Some, but not all, of the surveillance footage
  • Testimony from Mark Meadows’ ghost writers, reflecting Trump’s knowledge that he had not declassified the Iran document

Probably, a simple obstruction charge limited to Trump’s refusal to respond to the subpoena might survive (though such a case would be stronger with Corcoran’s testimony). But there is no way they could charge the stolen documents case without recreating some of this investigation.

Update: Jack Smith has announced he will appeal.

Aileen Cannon Dismisses Stolen Documents Case Based on Special Counsel Appointment

Here’s the 93-page opinion, which I’m still reading.

Procedurally, this may actually not help Trump in the way he’d like (because DOJ has the option of appealing it or having a US Attorney charge Trump).

But it’s also hilarious, since Aileen Cannon has been treating herself like an Appellate Judge that she hasn’t been confirmed to be.

Update: One thing Cannon appears upset about is Merrick Garland’s invocation of Section 533, which appoints FBI-like figures.

Special Counsel Smith argues that Section 533(1) confers on the Attorney General the authority to appoint special counsels, specifically, constitutional officers wielding the “full power and independent authority . . . of any United States Attorney.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.6. After careful review, the Court is convinced that it does not. Congress “does not . . . hide elephants in mouseholes.” Whitman v. Am. Trucking Associations, 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001). Special Counsel  Smith’s interpretation would shoehorn appointment authority for United States Attorney-equivalents into a statute that permits the hiring of FBI law enforcement personnel. Such a reading is unsupported by Section 533’s plain language and statutory context; inconsistent with Congress’s usual legislative practice; and threatens to undermine the “basic separation-of-powers principles” that “give life and content” to the Appointments Clause. Morrison, 487 U.S. at 715 (Scalia, J., dissenting). The Court explains below.

33 Order No. 5730-2023 (appointing David C. Weiss); Order No. 5588-2023 (appointing Robert K. Hur).

That is her only mention of Robert Hur, whose appointment would be unconstitutional under her theory as well. (I’m still trying to figure out whether Cannon will help Hunter Biden go free, too.)

Update: Okay, I’ve read the thing.

It’s hilarious.

It’s hilarious, because it doesn’t create any delay that Cannon was not pursuing anyway. Indeed, Jack Smith could immediately appeal this and try to get her tossed, so it may hasten things (unless Trump wins!).

It’s hilarious because it is unbelievably hubristic. The only credible future for Judge Cannon now is Trump’s first SCOTUS appointment in a second term.

It’s hilarious because the way she did this, if it were upheld (not an impossibility given how nutty SCOTUS has gotten), it would be even more useful for Hunter Biden than Donald Trump (especially if Trump didn’t win reelection), because the statutes of limitation on Hunter’s alleged crimes have started to expire.

Update: Jack Smith has announced he will appeal.

The Taiwan Snub

I believe I remain the only person who has reported that China was involved in a suspected $10 million payment to Trump in 2016. When Egypt National Bank was dodging compliance with a Robert Mueller subpoena in 2018-2019, they said complying with the request might violate Chinese law. That investigation was shut down in 2020 in a period when Bill Barr was otherwise shutting down all of Mueller’s then-ongoing investigations.

Among the new details of Trump’s financial ties to China revealed when his tax records were stolen and leaked is that Trump made $5.6 million from selling the penthouse Ivanka used to live in to a well-connected Chinese businessperson.

And not long after winning the 2016 election, Mr. Trump reported selling a penthouse in one of his Manhattan buildings for $15.8 million to a Chinese-American businesswoman named Xiao Yan Chen, who bought the unit, previously occupied by Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, in an off-market transaction. Ms. Chen runs an international consulting firm and reportedly has high-level connections to government and political elites in China.

Mr. Trump’s tax records show that he reported a capital gain of at least $5.6 million from the penthouse sale in 2017, his first year as president.

Those are interesting details, given China’s ties to Russia as Trump runs for President on a platform of capitulating to Vladimir Putin’s whims.

After all, at the NATO summit that the press largely ignored in favor of complaining that Joe Biden is old, the parties approved a declaration that called out China’s role in facilitating Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) stated ambitions and coercive policies continue to challenge our interests, security and values. The deepening strategic partnership between Russia and the PRC and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut and reshape the rules-based international order, are a cause for profound concern.


26. The PRC has become a decisive enabler of Russia’s war against Ukraine through its so-called “no limits” partnership and its large-scale support for Russia’s defence industrial base. This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbours and to Euro-Atlantic security. We call on the PRC, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a particular responsibility to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to cease all material and political support to Russia’s war effort. This includes the transfer of dual-use materials, such as weapons components, equipment, and raw materials that serve as inputs for Russia’s defence sector. The PRC cannot enable the largest war in Europe in recent history without this negatively impacting its interests and reputation.

27. The PRC continues to pose systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security. We have seen sustained malicious cyber and hybrid activities, including disinformation, stemming from the PRC. We call on the PRC to uphold its commitment to act responsibly in cyberspace. We are concerned by developments in the PRC’s space capabilities and activities. We call on the PRC to support international efforts to promote responsible space behaviour. The PRC continues to rapidly expand and diversify its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems. We urge the PRC to engage in strategic risk reduction discussions and promote stability through transparency. We remain open to constructive engagement with the PRC, including to build reciprocal transparency with the view of safeguarding the Alliance’s security interests. At the same time, we are boosting our shared awareness, enhancing our resilience and preparedness, and protecting against the PRC’s coercive tactics and efforts to divide the Alliance.

China scoffed that the charge.

“On the Ukraine crisis, NATO hyped up China’s responsibility. It makes no sense and comes with malicious intent,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jin told a regular media briefing.

“We urge NATO to reflect on the root cause of the crisis and what it has done, and take concrete action to de-escalate rather than shift blame.”

Then it kicked off war games with the Russian navy.

China and Russia’s naval forces on Sunday kicked off a joint exercise at a military port in southern China on Sunday, official news agency Xinhua reported, days after NATO allies called Beijing a “decisive enabler” of the war in Ukraine.

The Chinese defense ministry said in a brief statement forces from both sides recently patrolled the western and northern Pacific Ocean and that the operation had nothing to do with international and regional situations and didn’t target any third party.

The exercise, which began in Guangdong province on Sunday and is expected to last until mid-July, aimed to demonstrate the capabilities of the navies in addressing security threats and preserving peace and stability globally and regionally, state broadcaster CCTV reported Saturday, adding it would include anti-missile exercises, sea strikes and air defense.

All of which makes this detail — part of the RNC platform that wasn’t the subject of a disinformation campaign in which credulous reporters claimed that endorsing fetal personhood was not a wholesale attack on choice — of more interest. In addition to (predictably) removing even the watered down Ukrainian position that was so controversial in the 2016 platform, the RNC also removed all mention of Taiwan.

— TAIWAN TICKED OFF OVER RNC SNUB: For the first time since 1980, Taiwan didn’t rate a mention in the Republican National Committee’s party platform released this week. Compare that with the platform in 2016 [link replaced] (the GOP didn’t produce one in 2020) that described the island as a “loyal friend” and pledged to “help Taiwan defend itself.” The RNC’s exclusion of Taiwan in the platform came despite intensive outreach by Taiwan’s diplomatic outpost in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, to persuade GOP allies to get Taiwan into the platform, two people familiar with that effort told China Watcher. China Watcher granted the two anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss U.S.-Tawan issues on-record.

Messages shared with China Watcher between a former U.S. government official perceived as friendly toward Taiwan and a senior TECRO official included that official’s (unsuccessful) pleas that the platform reference Taiwan’s importance to Indo-Pacific security.

The platform supports a trade war with China — but makes no commitment to combat Chinese expansion to Taiwan, as Republicans committed in 2016.

We salute the people of Taiwan, with whom we share the values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy, and the rule of law. Our relations will continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, and we affirm the Six Assurances given to Taiwan in 1982 by President Reagan. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate those principles, the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself. We praise efforts by the new government in Taipei to continue constructive relations across the Taiwan Strait and call on China to reciprocate. As a loyal friend of America, Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines, and full participation in the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and other multilateral institutions.

Trump is solicitous not just of Putin. He is also impressed by Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-Un, too.

And Kim Jong-Un, and President Xi of China – Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, all of these – Putin – they don’t respect him. They don’t fear him. They have nothing going with this gentleman and he’s going to drive us into World War Three.

Which could make Trump really susceptible to an offer most other people would refuse.

Shooting at Trump Event

There was an apparent attempt to shoot Donald Trump at his campaign event in Butler, PA tonight.

The Secret Service spox has released this statement.

I condemn political violence, and I call for better control on dangerous weapons. I am grateful that Trump was not badly injured.

There is already far too much disinformation and polarized reaction to this event. Because I don’t want this site to be a part of either (and because we don’t have the resources to track comments closely), I’m setting this post not to accept comments.

It will take some time to have a better understanding of this event. Please allow that to happen.

President Biden issued this statement.

Fridays with Nicole Sandler

Listen on Spotify (transcripts available)

Listen on Apple (transcripts available)

What If You Had a Military Summit Defending the Future of Democracy and No One Gave a Damn?

If you read the dead tree NYT this morning, you might be forgiven for thinking that Joe Biden was isolated from America’s NATO allies.

That’s because the front page put a big picture of Biden’s NATO appearance next to an article describing Biden as isolated within his own party. That story described President Biden’s press conference marking the end of the NATO summit this way:

He faced a new test on Thursday night in a news conference following the NATO summit in Washington. In an early stumble before it even got underway, Mr. Biden flubbed his introduction of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, President Putin.” He quickly caught himself.

During the news conference, he referred to “Vice President Trump” when he meant Vice President Kamala Harris, a mistake that former President Donald J. Trump immediately mocked on social media.

But Mr. Biden showed a command of the issues on foreign policy, although he spoke slowly and meandered at times. Lawmakers and aides in Congress said it was a strong enough performance to keep the dam from breaking with mass calls for Mr. Biden to step aside, but with enough missteps to prolong the anxiety on Capitol Hill.

There was no description of the summit itself at all in the article. Nor was there a story on the summit anywhere on the dead tree front page.

That “Biden isolated” story didn’t even make the top of digital front page (at least for me), which looked this way this morning:

At that point, the top news included:

  • A story from Peter Baker acknowledging Biden’s command of foreign policy, sandwiched between a description of his flubs and a super helpful explanation of how, “every momentary flub, every verbal miscue, even if quickly corrected, now takes on outsize importance, ricocheting across the internet in viral video clips”
  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs cataloging five takeaways, in which is command of foreign policy was third:
    • He said he is not leaving
    • He got off to a rough start
    • He showed a command of foreign policy
    • He struggled to articulate why he is the best person to defeat Mr. Trump
    • He offered a strong defense of Kamala Harris
  • A Nicholas Nehamas story that, when written, focused exclusively on those (like Jim Himes) who called for Biden to drop out
  • A piece on how Joe Biden lost Hollywood
  • One of the many stories that described Biden’s polling on Kamala Harris’ strength against Trump was “quiet” (though the ridiculous claim that this was quiet has now been relegated to a subhead)
  • A purported fact check of Biden’s press conference that claimed Biden’s observation, “He’s already told Putin — and I quote — do whatever the hell you want,” needed context

The fact check said nothing about Biden’s claim, in response to a question from AFP journalist Danny Kemp, that world leaders credited Biden for bringing NATO together.


I’m sure you actually could find a world leader who was unimpressed with Biden’s summit — like Viktor Orbán, who scurried from the conference to plan capitulation to Putin at Mar-a-Lago. But no one wanted to talk about that — about Biden’s efforts to stave off authoritarianism, about Biden’s efforts to reverse Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, about Biden’s efforts to save the idea of democracy, about the substance of the summit. So it didn’t merit a fact check either.

There’s a horse race to be run. And there’s absolutely no place for actual policy outcomes when there’s a horse race to be had!

When I first started writing this story, I had to look way down here at the bottom of the NYT page to find any report that was, substantially, about the NATO Summit at all.

The story has been promoted, placed in a section on Trump, not Biden, though still the fourth horizontal section on the page.

The story, from David Sanger, also focused on the press conference and noted Biden’s flubs. But it also described how Trump congratulated Putin’s genius after Russia invaded Ukraine.

[T]he session also served as a platform for him to show a command of foreign policy, including describing in detail the decisions he has made over three and a half years that have been punctuated by wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

He took credit for warning the Europeans of an impending invasion of Ukraine in late 2021 and early 2022, and for preparing NATO to provide arms and intelligence as soon as war broke out. And he used the moment to remind American voters that Mr. Trump’s first reaction to the invasion was to praise President Vladimir V. Putin.

“Here’s what he said,” Mr. Biden added, his voice dripping with sarcasm: “‘It was genius. It was wonderful.’”

The biting comparison, with its suggestion that Mr. Trump admires only brute force and is in Mr. Putin’s pocket, was the kind of attack on his opponent that Mr. Biden’s supporters were hoping for in the debate between the two men two weeks ago but never heard.

Further down in that story, starting at ¶18 of a 23¶¶ story, Sanger described the news of the summit: that NATO was going to try to disrupt the relationship between China and Russia.

But it was on the question of Russia’s rapidly expanding relationship with China — and its alignment with North Korea and Iran, two other arms suppliers to Russia — that Mr. Biden broke the most new ground.

Until the news conference, he had never conceded that the United States was seeking to disrupt the relationship between the two countries, just as President Richard M. Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, did a half-century ago, by surprising the world with a diplomatic opening to Beijing.

He declined to discuss details of the strategy in public, but went on to say that “you’ll see that some of our European friends are going to be curtailing their investment in Russia — I mean, excuse me, in China, as long as China continues to have this indirect help to Russia.”

That was a significant reversal. Two years ago, Mr. Biden expressed doubts that the two countries, with their centuries of enmity and border disputes, could ever get along.

By the time the NATO leaders gathered this week for the 75th anniversary of the alliance, however, they were denouncing China as “a decisive enabler of Russia’s war against Ukraine” and hinting that European nations might restrict their economic interchanges with Beijing.

China “cannot enable the largest war in Europe in recent history without this negatively impacting its interests and reputation,” the summit’s declaration says, wording that was pressed by Mr. Biden’s aides.

So to find actual news of Biden’s NATO summit, you needed to scroll down the NYT to find the Sanger article, then scroll down in that article to find the news: that NATO is attempting to disrupt a growing alliance of authoritarian countries challenging democracy.

I’m genuinely not sure how NYT (and other outlets, who offered similar coverage) understand the world, wherein the fate of Joe Biden on a minute-to-minute basis can be divorced from the fate of democracy, globally. You have to have democracy before you can have horse races.

Yes, in an op-ed yesterday, NYT included Trump’s disdain for democracy and fondness for “strongmen” among the reasons he’s unfit to lead.

Mr. Trump has demonstrated contempt for these American ideals. He admires autocrats, from Viktor Orban to Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un. He believes in the strongman model of power — a leader who makes things happen by demanding it, compelling agreement through force of will or personality. In reality, a strongman rules through fear and the unprincipled use of political might for self-serving ends, imposing poorly conceived policies that smother innovation, entrepreneurship, ideas and hope.

But NYT did not mention that Trump not only admires these thugs, he is allied with them against democracy.

Yes, it matters that Democrats beat Trump in November. It matters that Democrats have a candidate with the stamina to do that.

But the bigger picture matters, too. And Biden’s success at marshalling democratic powers in alliance is one of the reasons he believes he has demonstrated his fitness to remain President.

His efforts to defend democracy are not news, apparently.

Trump May Attempt to Disavow Project 2025 — but He’s not Disavowing Viktor Orbán

The press has been a bit befuddled by Trump’s repeated attempts to disavow Project 2025.

One of the best debunkings of Trump’s false disavowal came from CNN, which made a list of the 140 Trump associates involved in Project 2025.

“I have no idea who is behind it,” the former president recently claimed on social media.

Many people Trump knows quite well are behind it.

Six of his former Cabinet secretaries helped write or collaborated on the 900-page playbook for a second Trump term published by the Heritage Foundation. Four individuals Trump nominated as ambassadors were also involved, along with several enforcers of his controversial immigration crackdown. And about 20 pages are credited to his first deputy chief of staff.

In fact, at least 140 people who worked in the Trump administration had a hand in Project 2025, a CNN review found, including more than half of the people listed as authors, editors and contributors to “Mandate for Leadership,” the project’s extensive manifesto for overhauling the executive branch.

Dozens more who staffed Trump’s government hold positions with conservative groups advising Project 2025, including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime adviser Stephen Miller. These groups also include several lawyers deeply involved in Trump’s attempts to remain in power, such as his impeachment attorney Jay Sekulow and two of the legal architects of his failed bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman.

To quantify the scope of the involvement from Trump’s orbit, CNN reviewed online biographies, LinkedIn profiles and news clippings for more than 1,000 people listed on published directories for the 110 organizations on Project 2025’s advisory board, as well as the 200-plus names credited with working on “Mandate for Leadership.”

Overall, CNN found nearly 240 people with ties to both Project 2025 and to Trump, covering nearly every aspect of his time in politics and the White House – from day-to-day foot soldiers in Washington to the highest levels of his government. The number is likely higher because many individuals’ online résumés were not available.

Others, like Media Matters, are unpacking video where Trump endorses or is described endorsing the program.

NYT, which led reporting on these plans last year, has abandoned that leadership position to instead both-sides the question. It promised to lay out “a few ways” Project 2025 and Trump’s formal platform differ. Then it offered one: Abortion. NYT proceeded to provide Trump’s false spin that a platform that calls for fetal personhood says nothing about abortion.

There are a few ways the two plans differ.

One is on abortion. Project 2025 takes an aggressive approach to curtailing abortion rights, stating that the federal Health and Human Services Department “should return to being known as the Department of Life” (it was never known by that name) and that the next conservative president “has a moral responsibility to lead the nation in restoring a culture of life in America again.” Agenda47, however, does not mention abortion once.

Mr. Trump’s public position on abortion has regularly shifted. When he ran in 2016, he pledged to install justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. He called the ruling that overturned it “a great thing” at the presidential debate this year. He also said at the debate that abortion rights should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Worse still, USA Today attempted to fact check a claim that Trump supports Project 2025 and declared it false, relying on nothing more than Trump’s denial.

Trump, however, has sought to publicly distance himself from the effort, as reported by The Washington Post.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” Trump wrote in a July 5 Truth Social post. “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

Trump is lying to hide the true scope of his second term agenda, and too many people claiming to be journalists are buying those lies. Personnel is policy, and for Trump, that personnel has and will be Johnny McEntee, a key player in Project 2025.

But there may be a more useful way of understanding the tie, especially today.

Project 2025 is the American instantiation of a authoritarianism adopted from Viktor Orbán, right along with his apology for Russia.

As Casey Michel laid out in the New Republic in March, Orbán has been using the Heritage Foundation as a beachhead to sustain Hungary’s influence operations during the Biden Administration.

Enter the Heritage Foundation. While Heritage grew to prominence in the 1980s as a font of Reaganite policy, in recent years the organization has undergone a monumental shift in terms of both policy and priorities. Rather than persist in its stolid dedication to conservative values, Heritage has swung in a far more reactionary—and far more authoritarian—direction in recent years. Across the policy landscape, Heritage has become little more than an intellectual breeding ground for Trumpist ideas.

While much attention has understandably focused on Heritage’s so-called “Project 2025,” which provides a roadmap for Trump to seize as much power as he can, such a shift has extended to foreign policy. This has been seen most especially in Heritage leading the effort to gut funding for Ukraine. But it’s also evident in the way Heritage has endeavored to anchor its relations with Orbán, making Budapest once more America’s preferred partner in Europe—regardless of the cost.

Much of that shift is downstream from Heritage’s leadership, overseen by Kevin Roberts. Appointed as Heritage’s president in 2021, Roberts immediately began remaking Heritage’s priorities with a distinctly pro-Orbán bent—and began opening up Heritage as a vehicle for Hungarian influence in the U.S.

Part of that involved things like last week’s confab, one of many meetings between Roberts and Orbán. (After one 2022 sit-down, Roberts—who, among other things, has said he doesn’t think Joe Biden won the 2020 election—posted that it was an “honor” to meet with Orbán, praising his “movement that fights for Truth, for tradition, for families.”) But the relationship is structural as well: Heritage finalized what they refer to as a ‘landmark’ cooperation agreement with the Danube Institute, a Hungarian think tank that appears to exist only to praise Orbán’s government.*

The Budapest-based Danube Institute is largely unknown in the U.S., but it has transformed in recent years into one of the premier mouthpieces for propagating Orbánist policies. While it is technically independent, it is, as Jacob Heilbrunn notes in his new book on the American right’s infatuation with dictators, located “next to the prime minister’s building and funded by Orbán’s Fidesz party.” Indeed, the Hungarian think tank is overseen by a foundation directly bankrolled by the Hungarian state—meaning that the Danube Institute is, for all intents and purposes, a state-funded front for pushing pro-Orbán rhetoric.


Most important, however, is the man currently running the Danube Institute: John O’Sullivan, a British conservative who once served as the director of studies at—you guessed it—the Heritage Foundation. “With his extensive connections in the conservative universe, [O’Sullivan] became Orbán’s conduit to the American Right,” Heilbrunn noted.

Unsurprisingly, the key to O’Sullivan’s and the Danube Institute’s outreach to American conservatives has been the Heritage Foundation. A post in early 2023 from the Hungarian Conservative noted that the Danube Institute and the Heritage Foundation had “signed a landmark cooperation agreement, deepening Hungary’s transatlantic relations.”

Trump may be disavowing Project 2025 — or attempting to. But he’s not disavowing Orbán.

On the contrary, he and Orbán seem intent to run, hand in hand, to clothe a Transatlantic authoritarianism in the face of Christian nationalism.

NYTimes Launders Its Own Agency

After having scolded the President that he “should leave the race” that Democratic primary voters elected him to run.

And having ordered the Democratic Party to “speak the [NYT’s] plain truth to Biden,

And having ignored Trump’s own actions in the meanwhile (for example, NYT has no report yet on Viktor Orbán’s latest shenanigans, and they’ve only just reported on Trump’s attempts to disavow Project 2025, which they put in a both-sides frame and don’t cite NYT’s long focus on his Project 2025 aligned plans; Update, 10:09AM ET: NYT has now posted a cursory 7¶¶ 3-byline piece on Orbán.), NYT has now weighed in against Trump.

At least in its headline, the NYT doesn’t scold Trump. It doesn’t order the GOP to do anything.

It observes.

Once you click through to their actual op-ed, however, NYT does something else.

It launders agency it has been exercising all over its front page.

“The Democrats are rightly engaged in their own debate,” the paper that has supplanted every other kind of news to frame that debate says.

“The debate is so intense,” NYT says, not because reporters have engaged in conspiracy theorizing, lied, and (as Nancy Pelosi said of NYT’s overreading of her attempt to be subtle, “ma[d]e stories up.”

After which, NYT has relabled as “analysis” and done significant massaging of their story — though not without labeling Biden “defiant” again.


The debate is so intense because, NYT says, “a compelling Democratic alternative is the only thing that will prevent [Trump’s] return to power.”

Which is to suggest that Joe Biden’s historic success  — the policy stuff that, at NYT, always takes the backseat to Biden’s age — is not compelling at all.

Meanwhile, rather than bossing the Republican Party around like NYT did Democrats, NYT wrings its journalistic hands: “It is a national tragedy that the Republicans have failed to have a similar debate,” like the one NYT has forced down Democrats’ throats.

Rather than scolding about what Trump “should” do or ordering what Republicans “must” do, NYT simply “urges” voters here.

This is the op-ed page. It’s where NYT is supposed to exercise the omniscient narrator they’ve sicced on a non-stop flood of Joe Biden stories.

But it would be really nice if elsewhere, off the op-ed page, NYT would focus on reporting, including on the guy they claim is unfit to lead.

Viktor Orbán’s Mar-a-Lago Field Trip

The Atlantic has a very good piece on how Trump campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita plan to win November’s election by shifting a focus from traditional field work to (stop me if this gives you 2016 headaches) digital microtargeting.

Published as it was in the last few days, it starts by laying out the premise: Wiles and LaCivita, to the extent they were going to work, presumed that Joe Biden was the nominee.

Only one thing could disrupt that plan: a change of candidates atop the Democratic ticket.

There was always a certain danger inherent to this assault on Biden’s faculties. If Wiles and LaCivita were too successful—if too many Democrats decided, too quickly, that Biden was no longer capable of defeating Trump, much less serving another four years thereafter—then they risked losing an ideal opponent against whom their every tactical maneuver had already been deliberated, poll-tested, and prepared. Campaigns are usually on guard against peaking too soon; in this case, the risk for Trump’s team was Biden bottoming out too early.

Of course they would build a campaign against Biden. Trump has been tailoring all his electoral plans — all of them — to Joe Biden since 2018. Six years, Trump and the GOP have focused on dirtying up Joe Biden.

And they’ve had help.

In conjunction with the disruption of a Russian botnet operating on Xitter (which I may return to) on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines issued one of the announcements that the Intelligence Community has been trying to get right since 2016: Russia, Iran, and China are playing in US electoral politics again. And Russia continues to target Joe Biden.

Russia’s efforts to influence this year’s U.S. election through information warfare have the same aim as in previous elections — to undermine President Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic Party and weaken public confidence in the electoral process, intelligence officials said Tuesday.

Russia’s election influence operations, which include covert social media accounts and encrypted direct messaging channels, are targeting key voter groups in swing states to exploit political divisions in the U.S. and erode support for Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion, officials with the Office of the Director National Intelligence, or ODNI, told reporters.

Asked whether Russia’s information campaign is trying to boost or undermine one of the presidential candidates, an ODNI official said: “We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections, given the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia.”

Speaking without attribution, some spook further said that Russia was laundering its efforts through “influential US voices” and commercial firms.

“We are beginning to see Russia target specific voter demographics, promote divisive narratives and denigrate specific politicians. Moscow seeks to shape electoral outcomes, undermine electoral integrity and amplify domestic divisions,” the ODNI official said.

“To accomplish this, Moscow is using a variety of approaches to bolster its messaging and lend an air of authenticity to its efforts. This includes outsourcing its efforts to commercial firms to hide its hand and laundering narratives through influential U.S. voices,” the official said.

Such microtargeting of disgruntled types has a European counterpart — not just efforts to sway the various recent elections (which were wildly successful at the EU, but less so elsewhere), but also recruiting people to engage in sabotage.

A trove of Kremlin documents obtained by a European intelligence service and reviewed by The Washington Post illustrate the breadth of Russia’s efforts to identify potential recruits.

The documents show that in July 2023, Kremlin political strategists studied the Facebook profiles of more than 1,200 people they believed were workers at two major German plants — Aurubis and BASF in Ludwigshafen — to identify employees who could be manipulated into stirring unrest.

The strategists drew up excel spreadsheets analyzing the profiles of every worker, highlighting posts that demonstrated the employees’ anti-government, anti-immigration or anti-Ukrainian views.

At the BASF chemical plant, special attention was paid to the workers’ attitudes toward the closure of several facilities at the plant in spring 2023 because of soaring production costs, including natural gas price hikes, which led to the loss of 2,600 jobs. At the Aurubis metals plant, the strategists noted anti-immigrant views in the posts of some of the workers, one of the documents shows.

“We can concentrate on inciting ethnic hatred,” one of the strategists wrote. “Or on organizing strikes over social benefits.”

We see more on intelligence targeting in Europe than we do in the US, which is one of many reasons to suspect we know about it because the US has shared information to be released publicly (something they can’t do for US persons). But all that would change if Trump were to win the election: He has already threatened to stop sharing that kind of intelligence.

Trump advisers have told allied countries the reduced intel sharing would be part of a broader plan to scale back U.S. support and cooperation with the 32-nation alliance, according to three European officials and a senior NATO official, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

The officials said they learned about the proposal to curb intelligence-sharing during discussions with Trump advisers about broader plans to reduce U.S. involvement with NATO. The former president repeatedly questioned and sought to undercut the alliance during his first term in office.

The curtailment of intel could have dire security consequences, especially for Ukraine as it tries to repel the Russian invasion.

“It’s the American intelligence that helped convince a lot of NATO countries that Putin was resolved to invade Ukraine,” one European official said. “Some countries didn’t believe Russia had the capabilities to carry out a successful military campaign.”

Which brings us to Viktor Orbán’s shenanigans.

Hungary just started serving a six-month term as President of the EU. No sooner had Hungary adopted that position than Orbán promptly used it to fly around the world seeking to do Vladimir Putin’s bidding.

In a leaked letter seen Tuesday by POLITICO, the Hungarian prime minister underlined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s maximalist position on Ukraine so thoroughly he could have been auditioning for the role of Kremlin spokesperson.

The missive, addressed to European Council President Charles Michel and shared with other members of the European Council, lays out Putin’s thinking about the status of his war in Ukraine — and what Orbán reckons the EU’s next steps should be.

It caps a week of manic diplomacy, during which Orbán visited Kyivthen Moscow, and then Beijing, on a self-described Ukraine “peace mission” days after Hungary assumed command of the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

Orbán told Michel that, according to Putin, “time is not on the side of Ukraine, but on the side of the Russian forces,” without providing evidence for the battlefield analysis.

Having largely blown off Biden at the NATO summit, Orbán heads to Mar-a-Lago today to pitch this “peace” deal.

A person familiar with Trump’s plans said the former president was scheduled to stay in Florida until Friday, at which point he would fly to Philadelphia for a rally, and that there was “no time even hypothetically” to meet with Orbán afterwards. That left Thursday as the only day that Orbán could fly down to meet with the Republican candidate.

Trump would also be wary of Orbán trying to position himself as a power broker in Europe, the person said. Bloomberg News reported that Trump had not asked Orbán to negotiate the peace deal for him.

Orbán has not had an official meeting with Biden for the past four years but met Trump in March this year at his beachfront compound in Mar-a-Lago. Orbán endorsed him several times throughout the past eight years and expressed support, calling him a “man of honor” after Trump was found guilty on 34 counts in a criminal trial.

This all comes after Trump performed like a trained seal at the debate, twice raising the Hunter Biden laptop, repeatedly claiming that Putin wouldn’t have invaded if he had been President, describing speaking to Putin before Putin did invade — and promising to achieve a peace deal before inauguration.

To think that I would, in front of generals and others, say suckers and losers – we have 19 people that said it was never said by me. It was made up by him, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was made up, just like the 51 intelligence agents are made up, just like the new thing with the 16 economists are talking.

It’s the same thing. Fifty-one intelligence agents said that the laptop was Russia disinformation. It wasn’t. That came from his son Hunter. It wasn’t Russia disinformation. He made up the suckers and losers, so he should apologize to me right now.


As far as Russia and Ukraine, if we had a real president, a president that knew – that was respected by Putin, he would have never – he would have never invaded Ukraine.

A lot of people are dead right now, much more than people know. You know, they talk about numbers. You can double those numbers, maybe triple those numbers. He did nothing to stop it. In fact, I think he encouraged Russia from going in.

I’ll tell you what happened, he was so bad with Afghanistan, it was such a horrible embarrassment, most embarrassing moment in the history of our country, that when Putin watched that and he saw the incompetence that he should – he should have fired those generals like I fired the one that you mentioned, and so he’s got no love lost. But he should have fired those generals.

No general got fired for the most embarrassing moment in the history of our country, Afghanistan, where we left billions of dollars of equipment behind, we lost 13 beautiful soldiers and 38 soldiers were obliterated. And by the way, we left people behind too. We left American citizens behind.

When Putin saw that, he said, you know what? I think we’re going to go in and maybe take my – this was his dream. I talked to him about it, his dream. The difference is he never would have invaded Ukraine. Never.

Just like Israel would have never been invaded, in a million years, by Hamas. You know why? Because Iran was broke with me. I wouldn’t let anybody do business with them. They ran out of money. They were broke. They had no money for Hamas. They had no money for anything. No money for terror.


TRUMP: No, they’re not acceptable. No, they’re not acceptable.

But look, this is a war that never should have started. If we had a leader in this war – he led everybody along. He’s given $200 billion now or more to Ukraine. He’s given $200 billion. That’s a lot of money. I don’t think there’s ever been anything like it. Every time that Zelenskyy comes to this country, he walks away with $60 billion. He’s the greatest salesman ever.

And I’m not knocking him, I’m not knocking anything. I’m only saying, the money that we’re spending on this war, and we shouldn’t be spending, it should have never happened.

I will have that war settled between Putin and Zelenskyy as president-elect before I take office on January 20th. I’ll have that war settled.

People being killed so needlessly, so stupidly, and I will get it settled and I’ll get it settled fast, before I take office.


TRUMP: Just going back to Ukraine for one second, we have an ocean separating us. The European nations together have spent $100 billion, or maybe more than that, less than us. Why doesn’t he call them so you got to put up your money like I did with NATO? I got them to put up hundreds of billions of dollars. The secretary general of NATO said Trump did the most incredible job I’ve ever seen. You wouldn’t – they wouldn’t have any – they were going out of business. We were spending – almost 100 percent of the money was – it was paid by us.

He didn’t do that. He is getting all – you got to ask these people to put up the money. We’re over $100 billion more spent, and it has a bigger impact on them, because of location, because we have an ocean in between. You got to ask them.

As far as Israel and Hamas, Israel’s the one that wants to go – he said the only one who wants to keep going is Hamas. Actually, Israel is the one. And you should them go and let them finish the job.

He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him, because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one.


And we mentioned the laptop, We mentioned “Russia, Russia, Russia,” “Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine.” And everything he does is a lie. It’s misinformation and disinformation. The “losers and suckers” story that he made up is a total lie on the military. It’s a disgrace.


TRUMP: Just to finish what he said, if I might, Russia – they took a lot of land from Bush. They took a lot of land from Obama and Biden. They took no land, nothing from Trump, nothing.

He knew not to do it. He’s not going to play games with me. He knew that. I got along with him very well, but he knew not to play games.

He took nothing from me, but now, he’s going to take the whole thing from this man right here.

That’s a war that should have never started. It would’ve never started ever with me. And he’s going to take Ukraine and, you know, you asked me a question before, would you do this with – he’s got us in such a bad position right now with Ukraine and Russia because Ukraine’s not winning that war.

He said, I will never settle until such time – they’re running out of people, they’re running out of soldiers, they’ve lost so many people. It’s so sad.

They’ve lost so many people and they’ve lost those gorgeous cities with the golden domes that are 1,000-years-old, all because of him and stupid decisions.

Russia would’ve never attacked if I were president.

Trump said he’d get Ukraine settled, and Orbán swooped in, with his plan to “settle” it.

Note, too, how Trump links Hamas and Ukraine (and the slur, Palestinian, here). With both Hamas and Russia, Biden is facing hostage situations — most notably with Evan Gershkoich’s detention — that Trump claims he can solve.

While Trump claims to be wary of following Orbán’s lead, that’s no more credible than his claim to disavow Project 2025, the Heritage-linked project with its own ties to Orbán.

It’s all happening in front of our eyes.

But back to Trump’s campaign plan to use digital microtargeting instead of traditional field. The idea is that Trump is going to focus on people who don’t vote, and after getting people who never turn out to turn out, he’ll then throw his election deniers — people like Christina Bobb, who was indicted in Arizona for her false claims in 2020 — to “protect the vote.”

Scouring precinct-level statistics from the four previous times Trump had competed in Iowa—the primary and general elections in 2016 and 2020—they isolated the most MAGA-friendly pockets of the state. Then, comparing data they’d collected from those areas against the state’s voter file, LaCivita and Wiles found what they were looking for: Some 8,000 of those Iowans they identified as pro-Trump—people who, over the previous seven or eight years, had engaged with Trump’s campaign either physically, digitally, or through the mail—were not even registered to vote. Thousands more who were registered to vote had never participated in a caucus. These were the people who, if converted from sympathizers to supporters, could power Trump’s organization.


The RNC under Ronna McDaniel, who chaired the national party from early 2017 until LaCivita’s takeover, had become a frequent target of Trump’s ire. He didn’t like that the party remained neutral in the early stages of the 2024 primary—and he was especially furious that McDaniel commissioned debates among the candidates. But what might have bothered him most was the RNC’s priorities: McDaniel was continuing to pour money into field operations, stressing the need for a massive get-out-the-vote program, but showed little interest in his pet issue of “election integrity.”

“Tell you what,” Trump said to Wiles and LaCivita. “I’ll turn out the vote. You spend that money protecting it.”

The marching orders were clear: Trump’s lieutenants were to dismantle much of the RNC’s existing ground game and divert resources to a colossal new election-integrity program—a legion of lawyers on retainer, hundreds of training seminars for poll monitors nationwide, a goal of 100,000 volunteers organized and assigned to stand watch outside voting precincts, tabulation centers, and even individual drop boxes.

The Atlantic piece is really good for understanding what Wiles and LaCivita claim they’re doing.

But it suffers from a category error, which is believing that Trump is thinking exclusively in terms of electoral victory.

It’s all happening in front of our eyes.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/emptywheel/