Patterico's Pontifications


More Reasons the Potential Trump Charge Is Not Necessarily That Much of a Stretch

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:22 am

Over the weekend, David French had a piece in the New York Times arguing that the potential prosecution of Trump in Manhattan is unwise. I didn’t know about it until I listened to the Advisory Opinions podcast yesterday because I don’t make a habit of reading the New York Times. (Sorry, David!) I learned some interesting information from the piece and the podcast, though, about the statute of limitations argument that was part of what had Sarah Isgur losing sleep. Namely, there is almost certainly no statute of limitations problem, because of a weird quirk of New York statute of limitations law:

New York law states that the limitation period, whether two or five years, does not include “any period following the commission of the offense” when “the defendant was continuously outside this state.” A 1999 New York Court of Appeals case held that the law meant that “all periods of a day or more that a nonresident defendant is out of state should be totaled and toll the statute of limitations.” Under that reading, that statute of limitations clock stopped ticking when Trump was away.

Trump was “away” a while, since he was president for four years. This means that, for the felony, there is almost certainly no statute of limitations issue.

That leaves two primary objections: a) the difficulties of proving that a payment to hush up an affair is a campaign finance violation, and b) the oft-stated claim by French and Isgur that the feds declined to prosecute the conduct that elevates the crime to a felony. We’ll start with the latter issue. French says:

Even though I believe Cohen committed a campaign finance violation (and even though the Department of Justice mounted an unsuccessful prosecution of the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards on a similar legal theory), I’m still skeptical of Bragg’s Manhattan case. Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann recently argued in these pages that “it would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator”— meaning Cohen — “has been prosecuted.” Yet that’s exactly the choice the Department of Justice made. Neither the Trump nor the Biden Justice Department brought federal charges against Trump. In addition, Cyrus Vance Jr., a previous Manhattan district attorney, investigated the same case and did not bring charges.

Add these factors, and Bragg’s case against Trump starts to look, well, unique. We’re talking about the first-ever indictment of a former president brought by a state district attorney — one that his predecessor didn’t choose to seek and that relies on federal criminal claims that the Department of Justice declined to prosecute.

As I argued in a long Substack piece, I disagree with French and Isgur that the potential New York felony charge “relies on federal criminal claims that the Department of Justice declined to prosecute.” In my piece, I argued that the relevant “federal criminal claims” could be the campaign finance charge against Michael Cohen, which the feds did prosecute and as to which they obtained a conviction. All the state prosecutor need show is that Trump falsified records to conceal Cohen’s crime. Consult my piece for the full argument.

Also, in my piece I argued that you can’t attribute too much significance to the feds having declined to prosecute Trump for this behavior. They weren’t allowed to prosecute Trump while he was president under longstanding DOJ policy. Once Biden took office, reporting suggests they thought the incident trivial in light of the events of January 6. It’s how Trump escapes liability for thing a; the next day he commits thing b, which is worse. (He escapes liability for thing b by committing thing c, which is still worse. Etc. We’ve been through the alphabet of depravity multiple times over now.)

Isgur tells me (see comments here) that my post might be in the show notes for the next episode of Advisory Opinions, which is a hint that they might be discussing my arguments today. If so, how exciting! If that does come to pass, you guys will be among the first to hear about it.

That leaves the second potential objection: showing a hush money payment to the other half of an adulterous pair is a campaign expense. I don’t think this part is all that hard, the dreaded John Edwards case notwithstanding, because of the timing element. And in his recent piece, French agrees, citing an older piece of his in which he argued that the facts of this case are much stronger than in the John Edwards case. The timing of the payments–close to the election despite a years-old affair–are striking. And as I have written before, the treatment of the similar Karen McDougal affair by the National Enquirer appears to have been motivated by campaign purposes, at least in part. As I explained in 2018, a Wall Street Journal story reported on all this at the time:

[T]he Wall Street Journal reported it on November 9 (credit to Justin Miller for catching this):

As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request.

What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

I find it very interesting that David Pecker was apparently a witness at the grand jury Monday.

Keep in mind that the payments don’t have to have been exclusively for campaign purposes. The intent need only include a motive to influence the election. Even John Edwards’s jury was instructed:

If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that one of [the donor’s] purposes was to influence an election, then that would be sufficient.

(My italics.) As French argued in 2018:

Here is the fundamental reality, Republicans — there is already far more evidence of legal culpability against Trump than ever existed against Edwards, and a federal judge permitted the Edwards case to go to trial. It is true that, if Trump does eventually face indictment, a different judge may have a different view of the law, but if Trump is counting on a favorable legal ruling, he’s playing a dangerous game indeed.

I agree. And now that we know that the statute of limitations issue is of no moment, and given my arguments that it is essentially irrelevant that the feds declined to prosecute Cohen . . . I don’t think this charge would be as much of a stretch as the rest of the crowd all agrees it is.

I guess we’ll see.


Constitutional Vanguard: Questioning an “Advisory Opinion” About the Possible Stormy Daniels Trump Prosecution

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:52 pm

I have a new free 5000-word post up, questioning the analysis of Sarah Isgur and David French regarding the potential Manhattan prosecution of Donald Trump for falsifying business records.

The long and short of the piece is this: French and Isgur argue that the Department of Justice declined to prosecute the conduct that elevates the charge to a felony. I disagree — because I think Michael Cohen’s crime might be the relevant conduct. And all Trump had to do was try to cover up Cohen’s crime.

I also point out that, while DOJ did decline to prosecute Trump, it does not appear they did so because they doubted his guilt. To the contrary.

It’s all there in the post. This one is fully free. If you like it, subscribe to get more like it, right in your inbox.

ESPN Marks (or Mocks) Women’s History Month by Celebrating Transgendered Athlete

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:44 am

[guest post by JVW]

The painfully-woke sports network apparently ran a segment on Lia Thomas, last-year’s cause célèbre:

ESPN recognized Lia Thomas in a TV special dedicated to Women’s History Month, sparking outrage from female competitors who swam against the transgender-identifying man from the University of Pennsylvania.

The segment honored Thomas for being the first transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division I championship title by winning the 500 freestyle race.

“Thomas made her debut as a member of the women’s team in December 2021,” the network said in a glowing highlight, complete with uplifting instrumental music, of the student’s collegiate swimming career. Thomas was on the men’s team until sophomore year, after which he began transitioning.

Riley Gaines, the former University of Kentucky All-American swimmer who is now a spokeswoman for the Independent Women’s Forum, is none too pleased:

I have a great deal of sympathy for the position of Ms. Gaines on this issue, but I do wish she could be a little more compassionate, or at least eschew some of the more inflammatory language. But I have nothing but contempt for ESPN, who clearly knew this would be a controversial move but seems to either revel in the notoriety or else to be so dedicated to the trans ideology that they are willing to alienate a strong portion of their user base.

I assume that the NCAA will follow the lead of World Athletics, which announced last week that henceforth all trans athletes who reached puberty as males but have since decided to live as women will no longer be eligible for women’s competition, though in the past the corrupt and feckless NCAA has been happy to mount the trans sports bandwagon. Trans advocates have at best provided hasty and incomplete research into the issue, and at worst they have outright lied about the advantages which trans athletes have over female competitors. The latest kerfuffle with NPR provides a perfect lesson in how trans ideology is prioritized over basic science in the progressive eschaton. I have for the past three years argued that we should treat transgendered people with dignity and understanding, but that we should not be succumbing to their empire of lies. I continue to stand by that assessment.


Dog Trainer Columnist Wakes Up to Reality

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:20 am

[guest post by JVW]

Los Angeles Times (known ’round these parts for some time as the Dog Trainer; just check out the banner at the top of the page) columnist George Skelton acknowledges what observant people have long understood:

It turns out high-income people are also fleeing the state — a new twist in the California exit.

That should worry ruling liberal Democrats who love to tax wealthy people and spend their money, especially on social programs.

Some golden geese are taking flight.

I’m going to overlook the insipid modern journalistic practice of writing a column in which each sentence is its own separate paragraph.

It seems to have been all the rage ever since USA Today started covering complex topics with a grade-school reader narrative.

And end it with a short sentence.

For effect.

Anyway, it’s long been understood by people who know how macroeconomics works that the more dependent a state becomes upon lots of tax revenue each year coming in from high-income earners, the more likely that state is to see massive fluctuations in revenue from year to year. If you lived here in 2001 and 2009 you certainly recall how stock market woes cut tens of billions of dollars from state coffers. Yet the trend ever since the second — make that fourth, counting his first go-around — term of Jerry Brown, when he abandoned his third-term fiscal restraint and unleashed his inner tax-and-spender, has been to call upon the wealthiest citizens of this fair state to take on more and more of the financial burden for government largesse. As everyone who has read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein knows, eventually you are down to a stump, or in this case the tree uproots and moves to Texas.

To his credit, after acknowledging this problem Mr. Skelton makes a mea culpa:

Entering the 21st century, when California’s population was about 34 million, we were predicted to reach 45 million by 2020 and 59 million by 2040. So much for that. We hit a peak of 39.6 million in 2019 and have been losing population ever since.

Until now, we’ve been in denial, telling ourselves that college-educated, upper-income people weren’t leaving. Our progressive tax base and growing economy were secure. The departees were lower-to-middle-income people who weren’t the heavy taxpayers or big job producers.

Everyone seemed to buy into that, although many could cite anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

I plead guilty. This is what I wrote two years ago:

“More affluent people have been moving here than departing. They can afford our escalating costs of living. Political spin about wealthy people abandoning California is fake news.”

In Mr. Skelton’s defense, he was just repeating the assurances from smug left-leaning academics and think tank trolls. This blog busted the eternally annoying Tom Elias nearly seven years ago pooh-poohing the idea that people with high incomes might leave the Golden State for less chaotic destinations. He based this assessment on the work of a think tank which insisted that for every middle-class family leaving California for a more hospitable social environment there would be some techie singles making well into the mid six figures to replace them. Anyone noticed what’s going on at Meta and Amazon recently? Way back in 2016 Mr. Elias cautioned us, “[D]on’t expect the state to lose congressional or Electoral College clout after the next Census in 2020.” We know how that worked out.

For his part, Mr. Skelton really wants to believe that things would be so much better if we only would build more houses to help break the pricing logjam, but he’s honest enough to see that is only a part of the problem. He quotes a researcher from the Public Policy Institute of California who bluntly asserts that taxes play a key role here:

The net loss of high-income people is relatively small, [Eric] McGhee says. But the number leaving California “increased dramatically” to 220,000 in 2021, he reports.

It wouldn’t take many fleeing rich people to hurt the state treasury. The top 1% of earners pay nearly 50% of the state income taxes. The top 10% kick in roughly 80%.

“Taxes definitely are part of the story” why high-income people are leaving, McGhee says. “Taxes is the last straw that pushes them over the edge.”

Delusional Democrats in Sacramento seem to think they can extort another $20 billion out of state residents who have at least $50 million in total wealth, while the governor can only come up with small-bore “soak the rich” proposals consisting of closing an out-of-state trust loophole which would likely at most net the state about $20 million towards the $267 billion budget. Given the huge financial hole the state finds itself in, Sacramento is going to find itself desperate to snatch any revenue they possibly can, especially since the California Legislative Analyst has already declared that Greasy Gavin’s proposed 2024 budget is “likely unaffordable in future years,” and “there is a two-in-three chance that state revenues will be lower than the governor’s budget estimates for 2022-23 and 2023-24.” Lots of luck to the supermajority in trying to reconcile all that. It’s highly unlikely that the Democrats are going to con the super-rich into picking up the entire tab.

And I haven’t even gotten around to kvetching about the High-Speed Rail Authority.



Allahpundit — Er, “Nick Catoggio” Opines on the Stone Salami

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:32 am

If you have read the Weekend Open Thread you saw Dana cover the controversy over a sixth-grade Renaissance art class being shown Michelangelo’s David in all its unclothed glory without prior notice to parents . . . and the forced resignation of the principal (as a result? We’re not entirely sure).

Nobody, and I mean nobody, covers this subject like Allahpundit over at The Dispatch, with more synonyms for David’s naughty bits than you can possibly imagine. Just a sample:

The debate that raged in the site’s internal Slack this morning had nothing to do with banning TikTok or the latest 2024 polling or the decompensating lunatic who’s taken to warning of “death and destruction” to come if he’s indicted. The subject was more urgent, and closer to home.

It was wieners. We were talking about wieners. One wiener in particular.

. . . .

Excluding David from a class on Renaissance art history because of a moral panic is indefensible, but it wouldn’t be the first time adults have gotten the vapors upon glimpsing a schwanz rendered in gleaming marble.

. . . .

There’s a second problem with the pat narrative. If you believe Bishop, the problem with the David episode wasn’t that a group of 11- and 12-year-olds espied a stone salami. It was that the school had a policy of notifying parents about “controversial” elements of the curriculum in advance and in this case that policy wasn’t followed.

. . . .

Call that the “tossing kids into the cultural ocean to teach them how to swim” approach to child-rearing. It’s not the style I’d follow if I had children and it’s not the style many, many parents follow either. The fact that some do—and that, as my colleague noted, they’re overrepresented in media—encourages some moms and dads to put their guards up and err on the side of overcaution about what goes on in schools.

Which, in some cases, means being sticklers about demanding advance notice before their children confront history’s most widely viewed willy.

I laughed out loud several times. Yes, I am an immature child. But in addition to all the fun with the phallus, it’s a nuanced view of the matter, in a world where most takes adopt the “pat narrative” and move on. How could there be any nuance here, you ask? Click and learn. And if you’re not a subscriber to the Dispatch, what are you waiting for?


Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:03 am

[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

President Biden orders retaliatory strikes:

The US military has carried out multiple airstrikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups who it blamed for a deadly drone attack that killed a contractor, injured another and wounded five US troops, the Pentagon said.

The strikes were in retaliation for an attack against a US-led coalition base near Hasakah in north-east Syria on Thursday, it said.

Second news item

Tik-Tok unites Democrat and Republican lawmakers:

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for roughly five hours…Members grilled Chew, citing concerns about privacy for Americans’ data, protections for children online and TikTok’s connection to the Chinese Communist Party…Congress and President Joe Biden are looking at ways to crack down on the app, including a potential U.S. ban. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters during the hearing that he’d back a ban…Chew said in his opening statement that TikTok is safe and secure and that it shouldn’t be banned. He also noted that 150 million people in the U.S. are active TikTok users, underscoring how entrenched the app has become in the three years Washington has sought to rein it in.

Chew stressed that Tik Tok is not an arm of the Chines government:

Chew used his testimony to stress TikTok’s independence from China and play up its US ties. “TikTok itself is not available in mainland China, we’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the U.S. today,” he said in his opening remarks.

“Still, we have heard important concerns about the potential for unwanted foreign access to US data and potential manipulation of the TikTok US ecosystem,” Chew said. “Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action.”

P.S. Accusations of “xenophobia” were made after the hearing.

An oldie, but a goodie:

By combining personnel data with travel records, health records, and credit information, Chinese intelligence has amassed in just five years a database more detailed than any nation has ever possessed about one of its adversaries. The data and its layers work both to identify existing US intelligence officers through their personnel records and travel patterns as well as to identify potential weaknesses—through background checks, credit scores, and health records—of intelligence targets China may someday hope to recruit. Numerous cases in recent years have shown the creative ways China has identified and targeted potential spies, even sometimes using LinkedIn to find employees at companies of interest. The wealth of combined data now in the hands of Chinese intelligence will only make such targeting easier in the future.

Third news item

Trump crazily ratchets up the rhetoric, warns of possible violence if indicted, and goes after District Attorney Alvin Bragg:

What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!


Peggy Noonan: This is the wrong indictment:

Charging him in the Stormy Daniels case is below us—not below him, but us. The subject matter is below us. The nature of the charges is below us. The players in the drama aren’t people of import who stand for big things, they’re not fate-of-the-republic people, they don’t have any size. They’re tacky lowlifes doing tacky lowlife things. The case involves a questionable legal theory that depends on the testimony of Michael Cohen, who is half-mad in his own right and also in the way all “close Trump advisers” past and present are half-mad: money-addled, fame-addled, power-addled, screwball in their thinking…“No one is above the law.” True, and an important tenet of democracy. But no nation is above good judgment…“But the hush money payments likely had tax implications.” Everything has tax implications, hold your fire…Whether indictment helps or hurts Mr. Trump’s political prospects is irrelevant. We have to think more broadly than that. He has called on his supporters to arise and . . . do something, it’s not quite clear. He wants a big public reaction. Will he get it? I don’t think he has that kind of juice anymore. His followers know what happened to the people he inspired to overrun the Capitol: They’re in jail…Are we doing the wise thing? No. Hold your fire. Save the mug shot for Georgia, the handcuffs for Jan. 6. Those were real offenses against the country. Not Stormy Daniels, which was an offense against his wife.

Fourth news item

Florida principal: quit or be fired:

Aschool principal in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced to resign because, she said, a Renaissance art lesson included a section on Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Bible’s David, which one parent described as pornographic.

Hope Carrasquilla, who had been the principal at Tallahassee Classical School, stepped down Monday during an emergency board meeting, the Tallahassee Democrat reported…The school board’s chair, Barney Bishop, told Carrasquilla that she could either quit or be fired but gave no reason for the ultimatum. She told the newspaper that she believes it was because of the art lesson, saying, “It saddens me that my time here had to end this way.”

Carrasquilla said that the school is obligated by law to teach lessons on the Renaissance to sixth graders as part of the annual curriculum. But three parents complained that their children felt uncomfortable with the lesson, which included a section on David, a marble statue of a nude male that represents youthful beauty as well as the Italian city of Florence. It is considered one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces as well as one of the Renaissance’s greatest sculptures.


Bishop is a lobbyist who has expressed his support for DeSantis’ approach to Florida’s K-12 education…”We agree with everything the governor is doing in the educational arena. We support him because he’s right,” Bishop said…”The whole woke indoctrination going on about pronouns and drag queens isn’t appropriate in school.”

In an interview at Slate, Bishop answered questions about the incident:

I think in this situation, some boards would say: We’re going to stand by the principal, the trained educator, as opposed to a handful of parents who have an issue. Why did you not go this way?

What issue do you believe people had?

That the statue was pornographic.

You’re operating from the wrong premise. The teacher mentioned that this was a nonpornographic picture, No. 1. The teacher said, “Don’t tell your parents,” No. 2. So the issue, Dan, isn’t whether children should see these pictures or not. Gosh, we’re a classical school. Why wouldn’t we show Renaissance art to children?

Fifth news item

The House passes the Parents Bill of Rights Act:

The House on Friday passed GOP-sponsored legislation aimed at providing parents with more information about their children’s educations…would require public school districts to publicly post information about curricula for students, including providing parents with a list of books and reading materials available in school libraries…schools would be required to offer at least two in-person parent-teacher meetings annually, and school boards would be required to hear feedback from parents about students’ educations…Schools would have to publicly disclose their district budgets as well as the budgets of each school, including revenues and expenditures. They would also have to notify parents of violent activity occurring at schools or at events sponsored by schools…the bill would require parents to consent before any medical exams, including mental health or substance use disorder screenings, take place at school.

Sixth news item

A.I. copyright rules:

The U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) has issued guidance clarifying that material created solely by artificial intelligence (A.I.) cannot be copyrighted. Under the new rule, though applicants may claim a copyright for an arrangement or editing of such material, the original work is ineligible. “In these cases, copyright will only protect the human-authored aspects of the work, which are ‘independent of’ and do ‘not affect’ the copyright status of the AI-generated material itself,” the USCO says…Generative A.I. such as the chatbot ChatGPT and image maker DALL-E can create artistic content in response to human prompts. A prompted A.I. creation does not fit traditional legal conceptions of expression and property rights.

Speaking of A.I., here’s some A.I. generated art:

Trump even reposted an A.I. image of himself:

*The hands in A.I. works are usually a dead giveaway that the work has been artifically created.

Seventh news item

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, is demanding that there be demilitarised corriders around the territory Russia is claiming in Ukraine, and vows to “destroy this infection.” He also suggested retaliation after a German official said that Vladimir Putin would be arrested if he steps foot in Germany:

A top Russian security official warned Thursday about the rising threat of a nuclear war and blasted a German minister for threatening Russian President Vladimir Putin with arrest, saying that such action would amount to a declaration of war and trigger a Russian strike on Germany…Asked whether the threat of a nuclear conflict has eased, Medvedev responded: “No, it hasn’t decreased, it has grown. Every day when they provide Ukraine with foreign weapons brings the nuclear apocalypse closer.” …the 57-year-old Medvedev denounced the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin on charges of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine as legally null and void…Medvedev specifically blasted German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, who said last week that Putin would be arrested on the ICC’s warrant if he visits Germany.

“Let’s imagine … the leader of a nuclear power visits the territory of Germany and is arrested,” Medvedev said, adding that it would amount to a declaration of war against Russia. “In this case, our assets will fly to hit the Bundestag, the chancellor’s office and so on.”

Eighth news item

Soon to be a free man:

Imprisoned political activist Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from his incarceration as early as Saturday morning, senior Rwandan and Qatari officials have told Semafor.

At the conclusion of a key cabinet meeting on Friday, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, plans to announce that Rusesabagina and twenty others sentenced with him on terrorism-related charges will have their prison terms commuted. Their underlying convictions will remain intact, according to two senior Rwanda government officials.

“Should any of these individuals return to the criminal activities for which they were originally charged, the sentence will be automatically reimposed,” one official said.

Rusesabagina, a high-profile critic of Rwadan President Paul Kagame, became a global celebrity after Hollywood memorialized his efforts to save more than 1000 Hutus and Tutsis during during his country’s 1994 genocide. But in 2021 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges for his role leading the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, the dissident coalition whose militant wing Rwandan authorities accused of violent attacks resulting in civilian deaths.

Have a great weekend!



A DeSantis Clarification? Well…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:08 am

[guest post by Dana]

In an interview with Piers Morgan concerning Gov. DeSantis’ answers to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson last week, in which he said that the situation in Ukraine was not of vital interest to the United States and that the war was a “territorial dispute,” his walk-back, er uh, flip-flop, hm, clarification is, well, interesting. Especially as he opened by saying that the ensuing fallout wasn’t his fault:

When [Piers Morgan] asked him specifically if he regretted using the phrase “territorial dispute,” DeSantis replied, “Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded (last year) — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — That was wrong.

“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it, but I think the larger point is, okay, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified (in invading) – that’s nonsense.”

“I think they have the right to that territory,” he replied. “If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake. So, that was the point I was trying to make but Russia was wrong to invade. They were wrong to take Crimea.

“Russia did not have the right to go into Crimea or to go in February of 2022 and that should be clear.”

I just really don’t buy that the Yale University-Harvard Law School-educated governor and one with an eye toward the presidency didn’t say just what he meant in the questionnaire. He is a practiced politician who regularly speaks to voters on issues facing Floridians, and now that he is campaigning-not-campaigning throughout the country, he is also addressing hot-button issues impacting voters at large. Filling out the questionnaire wasn’t a stretch for either the governor or his team – especially when one considers with whom the questionnaire originated and Carlson’s audience. Clearly, DeSantis chose to play to *that* audience with his original Ukraine remarks. And almost certainly, DeSantis was bruised and taken aback by the angry reaction of Republicans and knew that he had to explain what he really meant. Or, clarify, if you will. It’s funny how the word clarify is so much more forgiving than cleanup, back-pedal, U-turn, flip-flop, or pivot…

But let’s take a minute to look at his clarification. While he correctly states that in 2014, Russia illegally invaded Crimea and subsequently claimed it as theirs and that it was wrong, he then says:

What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it, but I think the larger point is, okay, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified (in invading) – that’s nonsense.”

His larger point then is, that because Russia isn’t able to take over all of Ukraine and topple its government or threaten NATO, there isn’t sufficient interest for us to be involved any more than we are. In other words, the illegal invasion, the untold thousands of children kidnapped and taken into Russia to be re-educated and made Russian, the targeting, torture, rape, and murder of Ukrainian civilians, the genocide of a Western nation, and the threat that a Russian victory would pose to the rest of Europe and the West doesn’t move the dial. I want to point out too that there has not been any call for American troops to be involved, contrary to the MAGA distortion of President Zelenky’s comments.

With regard to DeSantis’ comment that ethnic Russians are already there:

The reason why there is “fighting going on” in Donbas, Crimea, and well beyond since 2014 isn’t because native Russian-speaking Slavs populate those portions of Ukraine. It’s because Moscow invaded and illegally annexed those territories.

The existence of ethnic Russians in the nations Moscow regards as its “near abroad” — the former Soviet space and some portions of the Warsaw Pact — serves as Moscow’s pretextual justification for its expansionist ambitions. The existence of an ethnic diaspora beyond the borders of revisionist powers has justified irridentist ambitions since the dawn of nationalism. It’s not a legitimate rationale for wars of aggression, and DeSantis says he doesn’t regard Putin’s war as just. So why bring it up?

DeSantis also addressed the issue of whether a China invasion of Taiwan would be seen as a more critical issue:

“That would be aggression,” he replied. “Absolutely it would be aggression. Taiwan is a strong ally of the United States. I think that’s a critical interest, for us but also for our key allies like Japan and South Korea, and I think overall the number one issue that we face internationally is checking the growth and the rise of China.

“They’re much more powerful than Putin and Russia are, and they really represent the biggest threat that we’ve seen to our ability to lead since the Soviet Union.”

And yet:

The Taiwanese are of full or partial Han descent. Would DeSantis lend credence to Beijing’s narratives about uniting (the ruling caste of) the Chinese people? Of course not. In fact, he insists that checking Chinese aggression with a deterrent posture in the Indo-Pacific is “a critical interest” and crucial for “our key allies like Japan and South Korea.” But the same rationale applies to Europe, where the U.S. has mutual defense pacts with nations like Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, all of whom have plenty of “ethnic Russians” within their borders — a condition Moscow is keen to bring up, and which justifies in the Kremlin’s view efforts to destabilize those nations.

I agree that China is watching and waiting to see if Russia’s illegal invasion will be met with impunity and how long the West is willing to aid and support Ukraine’s efforts to expel Russia from its borders. If we waver or back off in our support and Ukraine is lost to Russia, China will be more emboldened to make an advance on Taiwan. If China does invade Taiwan, not just our economy, but the global economies would be far more devastated, given the dependence on Taiwan’s chips and cheap manufacturing:

Looking at this situation from an economic perspective, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could mean trillions of dollars in losses and a serious global recession. Taiwan is home to TSMC, the world’s biggest chipmaker. Given that no other company makes such advanced chips at such a high volume, a conflict could mean the production of everything from cars to iPhones grinds to a halt… “Given how predominant Taiwan is in the global semiconductor value chain, even with adjustments, any type of disruption to access to Taiwan semiconductor output is going to have tremendous consequences for the global economy[.]”

So, I agree with DeSantis about his concerns regarding China. They are very real. But at the same time, what the U.S. does today to support Ukraine is also what keeps China in check, and also prevents a revival of the Soviet Union tomorrow, especially if China provides Russia with lethal weapons.



John Cornyn Brings Down the . . . Well, It’s Not a Hammer. What Is That Thing Anyway?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:01 pm

A noodle?

Cornyn has put his finger on the real problem with Congress trying to interfere with an active criminal investigation nearing the point of indictment:

It’s too trivial.

Nobody But This One Guy Who Was Already Charged With This Would Be Charged With This

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:23 am

Andy McCarthy: “no one who was not Donald Trump would conceivably be charged with this.”

ANDY MCCARTHY: Well, I think it’s clearly a misdemeanor. It’s one that shouldn’t be brought. And the attack on Bragg here, it shouldn’t be a defense of Trump, because it looks like this is a falsification of records. But the attack on Bragg ought to be that no one who was not Donald Trump would conceivably be charged with this. And then with respect to Bragg, the second part, where he’s being super aggressive, even though he’s incredibly not aggressive when it comes to like real crime in New York. This idea of trying to sort of bootstrap campaign finance violations on this, I mean, it’s first of all, most campaign finance laws are federal, which is not what the New York penal code is talking about, he’s apparently going to try to say, well, it could have been a violation of New York’s election law. Did Trump lose New York by like 30 points?

Michael Cohen was not just charged, but also convicted of substantially similar allegations. From the press release announcing his plea agreement:

The plea was entered followed the filing of an eight-count criminal information, which alleged that COHEN concealed more than $4 million in personal income from the IRS, made false statements to a federally-insured financial institution in connection with a $500,000 home equity loan, and, in 2016, caused $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election. COHEN pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.

. . . .

On February 14, 2017, COHEN sent an executive of the Company (“Executive-1”) the first of his monthly invoices, requesting “[p]ursuant to [a] retainer agreement, . . . payment for services rendered for the months of January and February, 2017.” The invoice listed $35,000 for each of those two months. Executive-1 forwarded the invoice to another executive of the Company (“Executive-2”) the same day by email, and it was approved. Executive-1 forwarded that email to another employee at the Company, stating: “Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.”

Throughout 2017, COHEN sent to one or more representatives of the Company monthly invoices, which stated, “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for” the relevant month in 2017, and sought $35,000 per month. The Company accounted for these payments as legal expenses. In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017.

As Andrew Weissman and Ryan Goodman write in the New York Times:

But does that mean the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as “Individual 1”). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted.

This is not a case of selective prosecution but of selective outrage on the part of McCarthy and his ilk.

McCarthy is right that “most” campaign finance laws are federal, and Cohen was convicted in federal court. But New York also has laws against misreporting campaign-related expenditures to influence the campaign. It’s a bit odd for an ostensible conservative to complain that an exercise of police power, typically a local issue, is being handled locally and not by the feds. But you say what you gotta say to get on TV, I guess.


Constitutional Vanguard: You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Piece

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:09 am

What did you do during the great Los Angeles rains, Daddy?

Well, son, I wrote this nearly 8,000 word piece with no real thesis.

Um, why did you do that?

Well, I had a bunch of new subscribers from Jonathan V. Last’s recommendation of a recent piece of mine about backing away from Twitter. Evidently I felt the need to drive most of those subscribers away! Weird, isn’t it?

I guess. Can I go outside and play?

Sure, son. Sure you can.


If there is a thesis to my latest Substack piece, it is that almost whatever you believe, there is often a pretty good counterargument . . . unless you restrict your beliefs to very simple and incontestable propositions like: “I should always strive to do the right thing.”

In the piece, I examine the arguments for things like: the notion that a writer should challenge his readers; the dangers of tribalism; the importance of expertise; the case for prosecuting Donald Trump; and the notion that Trumpism is worse than wokeness. But I also explore why a writer should reassure his readers; the importance of questioning expertise and conventional wisdom; the case against prosecuting a candidate like Trump; and the dangers of wokeness that make them potential harbingers of totalitarianism.

In short, there’s something there for everyone to hate. Hence the title.

In the course of the discussion, I recommend a few books and podcasts along the way, and engage in a rant or two. Here’s a sample:

One of the things that irritates me the most about Big Media is the sheeplike herd mentality that reporters and editors adopt about all conventional wisdom. Big Media positively sneers at anyone who bucks the Conventional Wisdom on any topic. Their attitude seems to be: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows . . . everything he needs to know, and the opinions of adversaries can always be safely dismissed as ridiculous.” In that way, Big Media is the anti-Mill (John Stuart Mill, that is) when it comes to questioning the conventional wisdom.

To take one glaring example: it is Conventional Wisdom that it is stupid for any politician to talk about entitlement reform. When have you ever seen anyone on a major network make the case, at length, in reasoned discussion, that the current path we are on is unsustainable? Anyone who even thinks of mentioning such a thing is ultimately bullied into claiming that they never really said such a thing (see: Rick Scott, Mike Lee, Ron DeSantis, and the list could go on and on). No major news anchor will ever have any of these people on and express sympathy for the undeniable fact that these programs can’t go on this way forever. Instead, they harangue them over and over: but you do want to reform entitlements, dontcha? Dontcha? Dontcha? Example:

And if any of these folks ever even hinted that it’s not a crazy topic to broach, the anchor would simply point out that the American people won’t stand for it and it’s very, very unpopular. Well, sure, in no small part due to the way that Big Media refuses to explain why it’s necessary.

Nearly 3000 words of the piece are free. It’s enough to decide if you do indeed hate it, as I warned you that you would, or if instead you want to subscribe to read the other 5000 words or so.

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