[guest post by Dana]
First news item
A new GOP litmus test??
I listened to a smart podcast over at The Bulwark with Charlie Sykes and his guest, former U.S. representative Adam Kinzinger. During the discussion, the question of a new GOP litmus test was raised: Would the candidates be willing to agree that, if elected, they would pardon Donald Trump?
In 2017, after Trump won the election, the primary litmus test for Republicans was a demonstration of complete loyalty to Trump. It became necessary if an elected official wanted to remain in good graces of Trump, get re-elected, or increase their standing in the GOP.
After Trump’s election loss in 2020 (and especially after the insurrection on Jan. 6), the Republican litmus test was no longer just about loyalty to Trump. Parroting Trump’s incessant lies that the 2020 election was stolen was now on the bill. Republicans knew what was expected of them. And if they refused to play the game because their integrity and oath to the Constitution superseded all else, then the blasphemers found themselves on the outs with Trump and MAGA voters. (See: Liz Cheney) However, given that the predicted red wave didn’t happen in 2022, one could also reasonably say that, as time went on, some candidates’ loyalty to Trump and the Big Lie worked against them with voters.
Republicans may soon be facing a new litmus test. While not a leading candidate but a longtime Trump supporter with nothing to lose, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy is the first declared candidate to lay down the marker for said new GOP litmus test:
Vivek Ramaswamy stood outside the Miami courthouse…and said every candidate in the race should pledge to pardon [Trump].
“I challenge every one of the other candidates to actually act on their convictions,” he said. “If you’re not going to pardon President Trump on Jan. 20, 2025, you deserve to say why and we will hold you accountable.”
I challenge every US Presidential candidate to join me in standing for TRUTH. Commit to pardon Donald Trump for these federal charges on Day 1, or explain why you won’t. No one should hide. Not Biden. Not DeSantis. Not Haley. Not Pence. Not RFK. Not Scott. Not anyone. Principles… pic.twitter.com/qYP3fUrE5R
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) June 13, 2023
Kinzinger explained that he believes there would be two potential schools of thought behind any pardon of Trump. From true believers like Vivek Ramaswamy: We need to pardon Donald Trump because he’s innocent. And from the Mike Pence (and I would include Nikki Haley) corner: We need to pardon Donald Trump to heal the country.
You can read here where most of the Republican pack stands on the question of pardoning Trump.
Top Republican Party officials have a message for any candidate worried about signing a loyalty pledge to potentially support a convicted felon: There’s the door…[Asa Hutchinson] express[ed] concerns about the Republican National Committee’s requirement that they support the eventual nominee in order to qualify for the debate stage this summer, [but] the committee said there will be no changes to its protocols.
Hutchinson is the only Republican candidate who has called for Trump to step down.
Second news item
Former Marine indicted for death of Jordan Neely on New York subway:
A grand jury has indicted former U.S. Marine Daniel Penny in connection with the chokehold death of Jordan Neely aboard a subway train.
The exact charges will not be unsealed until Penny appears in court on June 28, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Penny was initially arrested on a second-degree manslaughter charge.
Last month, our host took a long, hard look at the media reports that immediately followed Neely’s death and found them wanting, to put it mildly:
I’d like to share some thoughts about this case that I have not seen discussed in too many places. The narrative we have heard from many quarters is that this was a murder of a black man who was not threatening in any way, but simply said he was hungry and thirsty. He was then choked for 15 minutes by a white racist until he died, despite warnings of onlookers who tried to get the white racist to stop.
Nearly every aspect of that narrative is false.
I want to say up front that I’m not sure whether the charges are sound. Whether Bragg has a solid case depends on the evidence, and we’re not privy to all of the evidence the D.A. has collected. As a result, I don’t think it’s possible to know at this point whether the Manhattan D.A. was justified in bringing this charge, the elements of which I will analyze below.
The reason I tell you that early on in this piece is simple: I want you know right from the beginning that, while I have a lot to say to debunk aspects of the lazy narrative you’ve heard, that doesn’t mean that I have concluded that Penny’s actions were wholly justified in every respect. Put simply: if you’re someone who tends to see this killing is unjustified, I think you may well be right.
So if I tell you, for example, that the public narrative is wrong about Neely presenting no threat, or about this obviously being a race-based killing, please resist the urge to react instantaneously with the comment: “Oh, so you’re saying it’s OK to just choke this guy to death?” No, that is not what I am saying.
Third news item
Young guardsman, Jack Teixeira, also indicted in leaked documents case:
The Air National Guardsman accused of posting a trove of classified documents to social media has been formally indicted on six counts of willful retention and transmission of classified information related to national defense, the Justice Department announced on Thursday.
Jack Teixeira, a junior enlisted airman who worked within the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, was arrested in April and charged under the Espionage Act. He allegedly took classified information from Otis Air National Guard Base and is accused of posting the information to Discord, a popular social media platform among gamers.
“Teixeira also posted images of classified documents to the social media platform, which bore standard classification markings – including ‘SECRET,’ ‘TOP SECRET,’ and SCI designations – indicating that they contained highly classified United States government information,” the Justice Department said in its announcement of the indictment.
Teixeira will remain in custody while he awaits trial.
Fourth news item
So exactly how has Trump polled since his indictment? Morning Consult:
Nearly 3 in 5 potential Republican primary (59%) voters back Trump for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, up from 55% last week before news of his indictment on charges related to his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House. Almost 1 in 5 (19%) support DeSantis, nearing an all-time low since tracking began in December.
Pence, Christie and Burgum enter race with meager support: Former Vice President Mike Pence is backed by 8% of potential Republican primary voters, similar to his standing before he launched his bid on June 7. Two percent of the party’s prospective electorate supports former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while zero percent support North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
It’s incredible that Trump continues to lead the Republican pack, even after a second indictment. It’s anybody’s guess what will finally break the back of Trump’s cult of personality. But given that there is an increasing number of actual conservative candidates to back, maybe MAGA voters will see that Trump really isn’t the best and the brightest…
Fifth news item
US President Joe Biden is comfortable with removing one of the hurdles for Ukraine to join NATO, a source familiar with the situation told CNN…Biden would be willing to drop the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine, which was described in a 2008 agreement as “the next step for Ukraine … on their direct way to membership.” The MAP, characterized as “the program of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance,” is a process that other nations have had to undertake to join NATO.
Why this matters: Its removal would represent a small step in easing Ukraine’s accession into the defensive alliance…however, the United States still does not view Ukraine’s membership into the alliance as imminent due to reforms that Kyiv needs to make, and the source said the Stoltenberg proposal reflects this.
The report confirms that President Zelensky understands that Ukraine cannot become NATO members while at war.
Sixth news item
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa claimed on the Senate floor earlier this week that the foreign national who allegedly bribed then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter has 17 audio recordings of their conversations but questioned whether those tapes even existed in an interview with CNN days later.
“I don’t even know where they are. I just know they exist, because of what the report says. Now, maybe they don’t exist. But how will I know until the FBI tells us, are they showing us their work?” Grassley said Thursday.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer of Kentucky, who is overseeing the GOP investigation into the Biden family business dealings and has been quick to make the alleged bribery scheme a focus of his work, admitted to not knowing whether the tapes were legitimate.
“We don’t know if they’re legit or not, but we know that the foreign national claims he has them,” Comer said of the alleged recordings during a Tuesday interview on Newsmax.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, who also serves on the Oversight panel and has made the Department of Justice and FBI a target of his investigative efforts, told CNN of the tapes, “I have no reason to doubt anything Senator Grassley says, but I don’t know if they exist or not.”
And Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who led his own investigation into the Biden family in 2020 and has long peddled the notion of wrongdoing, said in a separate Newsmax interview, “I’m not even aware that we verified those recordings exist.”
Seventh news item
The top Republican on the US Senate foreign relations committee has introduced legislation authorising President Joe Biden to seize Russian sovereign assets and transfer them to Kyiv for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine.
The move comes as both parties in Congress are increasing pressure on the Biden administration and its allies to find ways for Russian money to fund the billions of dollars that will be needed to rebuild Ukraine, rather than western taxpayers.
The bipartisan bill was filed on Thursday by Jim Risch, the Idaho Republican senator and the party’s top member of the foreign relations committee, along with Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee.
It argues Russia “bears responsibility for the financial burden of the reconstruction of Ukraine” and gives the president the ability to “confiscate” frozen Russian sovereign assets in the US, including Russian central bank assets, so they can quickly be directed to Ukraine.
In addition, it calls on Biden to push for the establishment of a “common international compensation mechanism” with foreign partners as an additional way to funnel the seized Russian money to Kyiv.
The bill is well written and the most serious effort to date to confiscate Russian gov’t reserves. This should set the ball rolling for other countries to follow.
Eighth news item
Excerpts from a great interview with Natan Sharansky:
In a society under dictatorship, Sharansky says — has long said — there are three groups. On one end, there are true believers in the dictatorship. Sincere supporters. On the other end, there are outright dissidents, ready to sacrifice life and limb in a struggle for freedom. Both of these groups are very small. In between, there are “double thinkers” (a term originating in Orwell). They say one thing with their mouths but harbor other thoughts privately. They are governed by fear. When the double thinkers lose their fear and move into dissent — the dictatorship is finished.
That is the state of Russia today, says Sharansky. The group of double thinkers is massive. It is very, very dangerous to dissent. But once the double thinkers tip . . .
Of one thing, Sharansky is sure: Trying to appease Putin would be foolhardy. If you feed him parts of Ukraine, or parts of Poland, or a Baltic state or two, he will not be sated. He will merely take this as proof that “his strategy or tactics are working,” says Sharansky. The dictator will forge ahead. “So the only way to stop a dictator is to resist. The Western world, finally, is united in its understanding that Putin is a big threat. And we have to resist.”
Read the whole thing.
And have a great weekend!