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Fentanyl Is Killing American Kids. Most Don’t Even Know They’re Taking It. James Fishback

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Clockwise from top left: Breanna Scott, Marco Troper, Tiffany Iler, Noah Rodriguez, and Luca Manuel. (Illustration by The Free Press using images courtesy of the families)

Just over a week ago, Marco Troper, the 19-year-old son of former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, died in his Berkeley dorm room after taking a drug. 

“We don’t know what was in it,” his grandmother Esther Wojcicki told local media. “Teenagers and college students need to know that drugs today are not the same as the drugs of yesterday. They’re often laced with fentanyl.”

His family are waiting on the results of a toxicology report, which could take up to a month. But if it’s true that Marco lost his life to fentanyl, one thing is clear: he did not die of an overdose. 

He was poisoned.

Every week in America, about 22 kids die of a drug overdose. Eighty percent of those deaths are linked to fentanyl—a cheap synthetic opioid fifty times more potent than heroin. Even with illicit drug use among middle and high school students on the decline, fatal teen overdoses have never been higher.

Marco Troper, 19, was a freshman at Berkeley when he died after taking a drug that his family suspect was fentanyl.

As some regular Free Press readers may know, I run a high school debate nonprofit called Incubate Debate. In early 2023, frustrated by how few students we worked with knew about fentanyl, my colleague and I began hosting free in-school assemblies with the singular goal of educating youths about this deadly substance. As part of this work, I have met 18 families across the country who have lost children to fentanyl. The parents of these victims include lawyers, day laborers, business owners, and cashiers. No race, class or ethnicity has been spared. But like the family of Marco Troper, they all share one thing in common: they did not appreciate the danger of fentanyl until it took a child from their lives.

Fentanyl is so deadly it often kills kids experimenting with drugs for the first time. Between July 2019 and December 2021, according to the CDC, 86 percent of adolescents who died of a fentanyl overdose had never previously experienced a drug overdose.

In August 2020, 13-year-old Luca Manuel became one of them.

Known in his neighborhood of Shasta County, northern California, as kind and generous, Luca started his first toy drive at the age of five and fed the homeless on the weekends with his mom, Amanda Faith, 45.

In August 2020, Luca went on Snapchat and bought what he thought was a Percocet to numb the pain from a recent root canal. The dealer, who had previously sold Luca marijuana, used the social media platform’s mapping feature to deliver the pill to the boy at his home. 

Hours later, Luca died in his bedroom from a fentanyl overdose. 

Luca Manuel, 13, took what he thought was Percocet to numb the pain of a root canal. It turned out to be fentanyl.

Luca’s dealer, who operated under the handle P_man2730, turned out to be 19-year-old Ryan Harrison. In 2021, he was arrested with over 900 pills in his possession, all of which tested positive for fentanyl. Two years later, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and the possession and sale of the drug. 

“It was no Percocet. It wasn’t even mixed with Percocet,” Amanda says of the pill that killed Luca. “He only had fentanyl in his system.”

Amanda, who has one older son, told me she remains shocked over the loss of Luca. “The last time I held my son was in a body bag.”

Tasha Edwards knows Amanda’s pain. 

Her daughter Breanna, 18, had just graduated from her high school near Atlanta, Georgia, when she went to a Memorial Day weekend party with a new group of friends. When Tasha hadn’t heard from her daughter for more than 12 hours, she asked her eldest daughter to scour Breanna’s social media to see if she could find any information.

That’s when they came across an Instagram post from Breanna’s friend. 

It showed a photo of Breanna next to the caption, “OMG I lost my best friend last night.”

Later, Tasha found out that Breanna had been offered a pill at the party and told it was Percocet, which she split with her friend. By cutting the pill in half and sharing it, the teens had unwittingly taken a deadly gamble: the friend survived, but Breanna was dead within hours. Fentanyl is made so sloppily by Mexican cartels that one part of a single pill can contain a high dose of the fatal drug, while the other carries no risk.

“A lot of people feel like when this happens it’s happening to bad kids or troubled kids or kids who are addicts,” Tasha told me. “My daughter had never popped pills. I didn’t know about fentanyl until I read it on my daughter’s death certificate.”

Breanna Scott, 18, died at a party after splitting a fake Percocet with a friend. Her half contained a fatal amount of fentanyl, killing her in hours.

Mexican drug gangs are primarily responsible for spreading this poison. The Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels import fentanyl’s precursor chemicals from China (in Wuhan, of all places) to Mexico, where they manufacture the drug, pressing it into counterfeit prescription pills. These pills are then moved across the border, both via legal checkpoints and illegal border crossings, to dealers in the U.S., who often use the social media app Snapchat—where messages are anonymous and disappear within an instant—to peddle the drug. 

In 2023, the DEA seized more than 77 million fentanyl pills, the most in a single year. 

“It costs the cartels as little as 10 cents to produce a fentanyl-laced fake prescription pill that is sold in the United States for as much as $10 to $30 per pill,” Drug Enforcement Administration administrator Anne Milgram told Congress in July 2023. “The cartels make billions of dollars from trafficking fentanyl into the United States.” 

You might ask why cartels would make a drug that so easily kills off its customer base. The simple reason is greed. Even if one percent of their buyers die, the profits they’re making are worth it. It’s just collateral damage for the cartels—and they continue with business as usual.

At just 15, Noah Rodriguez lost his life to fentanyl. Raised in a Christian home in Kyle, Texas, he had struggled with substances in the past, but he was no addict. He was an honor roll student who wanted to join the U.S. Navy. 

One evening in August 2022, Noah was hanging out with his girlfriend just a short drive away from his home. Shortly before midnight, his mother Janel Rodriguez heard her phone vibrating and pressed it to her ear. 

On the other end was a person screaming.

“It was one of those screams you hear in a horror film,” she said.

A friend told Janel that Noah had overdosed on a drug. 

Noah Rodriguez, 15, died after taking a counterfeit Percocet that contained eight milligrams of fentanyl—four times the lethal dose.

Immediately, Janel and her husband Brandon scrambled into their car and raced over to Noah’s girlfriend’s home, but when they got there, they saw his grandmother had already arrived.

“She stood with her head shaking,” Janel said. 

A lethal amount of fentanyl is two milligrams. Janel later found out that the counterfeit Percocet that killed Noah contained eight milligrams of fentanyl.

“People come to me all the time to say they have lost a sibling, parent, relative to this poison,” Janel told me. “Fentanyl knows no barriers. It can affect anyone.”

It can even kill kids who take drugs to help them excel at school.

Tiffany Iler, 21, was a pre-med junior at Ohio State, majoring in neuroscience, who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often, young people will take Adderall to help treat ADHD or help them focus on their studies.

In May 2022, Tiffany’s father Rich Iler had planned to pick her up at school after finals week. But before he got there, she died at her apartment, along with her friend Jessica Lopez, a computer and information science major. A pill that looked identical to Adderall was found on their desks, but a coroner’s report showed both young women had died of fentanyl poisoning—and had no other drugs in their system.

Rich Iler later told local news outlets that his daughter had wanted to be a doctor and help other people with ADHD.

“I didn’t know there was a fentanyl problem,” Rich told 10 WBNS. “I didn’t know it existed, frankly. I can’t get angry at her because she had no interest in losing in her life.”

Ohio State student Tiffany Iler, 21, died on campus after taking what she thought was Adderall—but was actually fentanyl—during finals week.

The CDC has taken a bizarre approach to the fentanyl crisis. Although the agency’s official fact sheet warns of the deadly risks of the substance, it also suggests the public need only use test strips to ensure the drugs they take are safe.

But this advice is dangerous. Though test strips tout a 96 percent accuracy rate, that’s true only if the tested sample reflects the entire contents of a pill. As we saw in the tragic case of Breanna Scott, two halves of the same pill led to two radically different fates. 

The CDC also recommends the nasal spray Narcan as a lifesaving cure for fentanyl overdose victims. Narcan can, has, and will continue to save lives, but it’s no panacea. For one, stocking it inside American schools—a gargantuan and costly task—will do nothing to help the 82 percent of teens who overdose at their or someone else’s home. What’s more, thirty percent of fatal adolescent overdoses happen when the victim is alone. Narcan is useless if no one is around to administer it.

As part of the organization I launched last year, Not Even Once, I’ve spoken to over 15,000 middle and high school students to educate them on the dangers of this drug. Part of my reason is personal. When I was eight years old, I lost my uncle Mike to his prolonged battle with illegal drugs on the streets. Then, his poison was heroin. But even that dangerous drug is nothing compared to what kids are facing now. 

Just as every child is told they must look both ways before crossing the street, every child in America must be told that counterfeit drugs are everywhere, and they are deadly. It’s up to every teacher, principal, and faith leader in America to relay the risks of this poison now. 

Here’s what children need to know:

There is a poison killing 200 Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and races every single day. It’s called fentanyl. Most kids who die from it don’t even know they are taking it.

Drug dealers are selling fake pills, cocaine, and meth with fentanyl to boost their profits.

These fake pills look identical to the real ones—Xanax, Adderall, Oxycontin, Percocet, and others. You cannot see, smell, or taste fentanyl. Even DEA agents can’t tell the difference between what’s real and fake.

Do not accept any pill of any kind if it didn’t come from a doctor or pharmacist. Even if your best friend offers you a pill, they won’t know if it contains fentanyl.

In the age of fentanyl, your life will become a coin toss. Heads, you get high. Tails, you die. The only way to win this twisted game is to refuse to play.

James Fishback is a writer for The Free Press. Follow him on Twitter @j_fishback. And read Sam Quinones’ recent piece, “Opioids Decimated a Kentucky Town. Recovering Addicts Are Saving It.”

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The Free Press LIVE from the RNC: Biden’s Interview, Trump, J.D. Vance, and More! Bari Weiss

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A lot happened in American politics last night: the Biden interview, the Vance unveiling, Trump’s RNC entrance—his first public appearance since Saturday’s shooting. And there, to help you all make sense of it, was The Free Press team in our first-ever live video on X. To be honest, we weren’t sure how it was going to go. We were blown away by the response.

There were some 350,000 of you watching this experiment, in which we had the kind of panel we wish were assembled on cable news, or as host Michael Moynihan put it: “the Traveling Wilburys of political panels.”

Monday night’s supergroup included Newsweek editor and Free Press contributor Batya Ungar-Sargon, Puck correspondent Tara Palmeri, Red Scare co-host Anna Khachiyan (chain-smoking, of course), legendary pollster Frank Luntz, Manhattan Institute president Reihan Salam, author and Free Press contributor Rob Henderson, and journalist James Pogue. This is a group of people you just cannot find anywhere else.

Today, we’ll play that live conversation for you. And stay tuned for more live! Follow The FP on X.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

 

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These Republicans use violent rhetoric. They are featured speakers at the RNC. Judd Legum

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A view of the convention floor before the 2024 Republican National Convention on July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Donald Trump, his top political aides and allies are blaming Democrats for inciting the horrific attack. The co-manager of Trump’s campaign, Chris LaCivita, wrote that “for years, and even today, leftist activists, democrat donors and now even Joe Biden have made disgusting remarks” about Trump and it’s “high time they be held accountable for it.” (LaCivita later deleted the post.) “This isn’t some unfortunate incident,” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) said. “This was an assassination attempt by a madman inspired by the rhetoric of the radical left.” Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) flatly asserted that the Biden campaign’s rhetoric “led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

Authorities have not determined the motive of the shooter, who was registered as a Republican.

The Republicans’ concern about violent and extreme rhetoric is a new phenomenon. This is a party that nominated Trump, who has spent his political career advocating and encouraging violence. Here are just a few examples:

At an event in 2017, Trump encouraged the police to rough up protesters. “Please don’t be too nice,” Trump said.

In 2018, Trump praised then-Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT) for assaulting a reporter. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” Trump said. “You know, that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” Gianforte pled guilty to misdemeanor assault.

During the protests following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, Trump tweeted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase was used by notorious segregationist George Wallace and others to justify police brutality. 

In a September 2020 presidential debate, Trump refused to denounce the Proud Boys, a militant far-right organization, telling the group to “stand back and stand by.”

After he was indicted for fraud in New York in March 2023, Trump warned of “potential death & destruction” that “could be catastrophic for our country” if he was convicted. 

In an interview with Time Magazine earlier this year, Trump was asked if he was concerned about “political violence” following November’s election. “[I]f we don’t win, you know, it depends,” Trump responded. “It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

This week, the Republican National Convention features numerous speakers who have used violent and extremist rhetoric.  

Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake: “Strap on a Glock”

After Trump’s conviction for falsifying business records to cover up payments to Stormy Daniels, Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake (R) suggested that she and other supporters would fight the verdict with firearms. In a video, Lake said, “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re gonna have to go through me and you’re gonna have to go through 75 million Americans just like me, and I’m going to tell you … most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA.” Lake continued to say that it was “not a threat,” but “a public service announcement.” She later defended her comments, posting on X, “I meant what I said.” 

Lake also encouraged her supporters to arm themselves during an April campaign event. “They’re coming after us with lawfare. They’re going to come after us with everything. That’s why the next six months is going to be intense,” Lake said. “We are going to put on the armor of God. And maybe strap on a Glock on the side of us just in case.” 

North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson: “Some folks need killing”

In June, North Carolina Gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson (R) promoted the murder of “socialists,” “wicked people,” and other perceived enemies. “Some folks need killing,” Robinson said. “It’s time for somebody to say it. It’s not a matter of vengeance. It’s not a matter of being mean or spiteful. It’s a matter of necessity.” 

Robinson has also said that he owns semi-automatic rifles in case he needs to use them against the government, the Charlotte Observer reported. “I’ll tell anybody, I got them AR-15s at home and I like to go target shooting and all that. That’s not what they’re there for,” Robinson said in May. “I’m not ashamed to say it, I’m probably not supposed to say it, but I’m gonna say it anyway — I got them AR-15s in case the government gets too big for its britches. Cause I’m gonna fill the backside of them britches with some lead.”

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene: Nancy Pelosi deserves to be executed

In response to the attempted assassination of Trump, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) posted on X that Democrats were “the party of pedophiles, murdering the innocent unborn, violence, and bloody, meaningless, endless wars.” Although the shooter was a registered Republican, Greene said that the “Democrat party is flat out evil, and yesterday they tried to murder President Trump.”

A 2021 CNN investigation found that Greene “repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.” In one instance, Greene liked a comment calling for the execution of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with “a bullet to the head.” Greene later claimed that staff members ran her account. But in 2019, Greene “created a White House petition” to impeach Pelosi for “crimes of treason,” for supporting immigration policies that Greene opposed. “[I]t’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is,” Greene said. “Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason.” 

Senator Tom Cotton: Throw pro-Palestine protesters off the Golden Gate Bridge

In April, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) encouraged people to respond to pro-Palestine protesters on the Golden Gate Bridge with violence. “I encourage people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense,” Cotton posted on X. On Fox News, Cotton was more explicit, saying that he would support throwing protesters off a bridge. “If something like this happened in Arkansas, on a bridge there, let’s just say I think there would be a lot of very wet criminals that had been tossed overboard not by law enforcement, but by the people whose road they’re blocking,” Cotton said. “If they glued their hands to a car or the pavement, well, probably pretty painful to have their skin ripped off but I think that’s [how] we would handle it in Arkansas.” 

Congressman Matt Gaetz: We should “hunt down” Black Lives Matter protesters

In 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) posted, “Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?” The post was flagged as violating X’s rules because it promoted the “killing of fellow Americans.”

Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson: Democrats are seeking a “one-party state”; Republicans should not “give up your AR-15s”

In March 2023, after Trump was indicted in the Stormy Daniels case, Tucker Carlson said that Democrats were involved in a “political purge” and are “pushing the population to react.” He described the charges as a test to see if Trump’s supporters were “demoralized and passive.” After a guest asserted that Democrats were pursuing “a one-party state and authoritarian government,” Carlson advised that it was “not the best time to give up your AR-15s.”

Senator Ted Cruz: “Grab a battle axe and… go fight the barbarians”

In a 2022 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) described the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress as “power hungry, abusive totalitarian nitwits.” He said his job as a Senator was to “grab a battle axe and… fight the barbarians.” He said that the conservative activists at the conference should think of themselves as “dangerous radicals… like those who died at the Alamo.”

 

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Who Is J.D. Vance? Plus. . . Oliver Wiseman

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(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot going on. On The Front Page today, we bring you reporting, analysis, and commentary on the ongoing fallout of Trump’s brush with death; another prime time Biden interview; the dismissal of the Trump classified documents case; and much more. 

But first: the Hillbilly running mate. 

Donald Trump’s selection of J.D. Vance as his running mate is remarkable in more ways than one. There is Vance’s journey from the broken home in a poor, rural Ohio he wrote about in Hillbilly Elegy, to the Marines, to Ohio State, then to Yale Law School and to the Senate, and now a presidential ticket. Also remarkable is his transformation from a prominent “Never Trumper”—who once called his now–running mate “America’s Hitler” and an “opioid for the masses”—to an enthusiastic Trumpist in the vanguard of the New Right. 

For some, Vance’s journey is simple enough to explain: it’s the story of a smart and ambitious “sellout” and an “angry jerk,” as one of his (ex-) friends from law school put it on X yesterday. To this crowd, Vance is only the most extreme example of a familiar story of Republicans kowtowing to the man who took over their party. 

But Vance is a much more complicated—and interesting—figure than that. 

Agree with him or not, he has undergone a sincere ideological conversion since 2016. That much was obvious to me when I followed him on the campaign trail in 2022. And it’s obvious from any speech or interview he gives. He is not someone who just parrots his party’s talking points. (He has also undergone an actual conversion: I recommend Rod Dreher’s interview with him on the day he was baptized and received into the Catholic Church in 2019.) 

In the Senate, he hasn’t just voted with the GOP herd but teamed up with Democrats on a range of bills that stake out new ideological territory for Republicans. He makes some of Trump’s donors uncomfortable. 

By picking Vance, Trump has made clear his project is about more than personality. The Republican presidential ticket now has a distinct ideological flavor. It has teeth. National Review’s Philip Klein called the pick “another nail in the coffin of Reagan Republicanism.” (This is not a compliment at that magazine.) Vance is a prominent critic of U.S. involvement in Ukraine (for more on his foreign policy views, I recommend this piece by my colleague Isaac Grafstein). 

He’s also economically unorthodox—and more relaxed about government involvement in the economy than many of his colleagues. He has backed a higher minimum wage and praised Lina Khan, Joe Biden’s FTC chair and a proponent of more robust antitrust policies. 

Did these ideological considerations clinch it for Vance? I suspect a bigger factor was that in Vance, Trump saw someone who was welcomed into the elite—as Trump never has been—but who turned his back on it.

How did the pick go down at the RNC in Milwaukee? Olivia Reingold was on the convention floor to find out. 

It’s just before 4 p.m. and everyone at the Republican National Convention is jockeying for a glimpse of Senator J.D. Vance. A woman kicks off her bedazzled heels, then stands on her seat barefoot to get a better view. A delegate tells me he just borrowed a woman’s lipstick to scrawl “VANCE” in capital letters on a white Trump sign.

Everyone is craning their necks toward the Ohio delegation, where Vance is shaking hands, posing for selfies, and gleefully fist-bumping attendees who pull away with a bewildered look, as if they can’t believe they just crossed paths with the future vice president of the United States.

“We love you, J.D.,” a man bellows through a rolled-up “Trump 2024” poster.

Vance—the man of the evening—pulls back for a second, as if to process the surreality of the moment, then shouts back: “I love you too, man.”

On Monday, Vance continued his ascent as the wunderkind of the Republican Party by becoming Trump’s 2024 running mate. In a statement released on Truth Social, the former president—and recent survivor of an assassination attempt—announced that 39-year-old Vance, who was elected senator of Ohio only two years ago, was “the person best suited to assume the position of Vice President of the United States.” Click for more from Olivia on the Trump critic turned Trump running mate.

A lot happened in American politics last night: the Biden interview, the Vance unveiling, Trump’s RNC entrance—his first public appearance since Saturday’s shooting. And there, to help you all make sense of it, was the Free Press team in our first-ever live video on X. To be honest, we weren’t sure how it was going to go. We were blown away by the response. 

There were some 350,000 of you watching this experiment, in which we had the kind of panel we wish were assembled on cable news, or as host Michael Moynihan put it: “the Traveling Wilburys of political panels.” 

Monday night’s supergroup included Newsweek editor and Free Press contributor Batya Ungar-Sargon, Puck correspondent Tara Palmeri, Red Scare co-host Anna Khachiyan (chain-smoking, of course), legendary pollster Frank Luntz, Manhattan Institute president Reihan Salam, author and Free Press contributor Rob Henderson, and journalist James Pogue. This is a group of people you just cannot find anywhere else.

If you missed it, catch up below. And stay tuned for more live! Follow The FP on X.

Doug Mills is the photographer who captured the remarkable image of Donald Trump and the bullet that clipped his ear on Saturday. Here he gives his first account of the shooting. “I probably did not do the smartest thing by running right at it, but that’s what [photojournalists do],” he said. (Fox News

In a New York Times/Siena survey conducted before Saturday’s shooting, Kamala Harris outperforms Joe Biden in two states: Pennsylvania and Virginia. The near assassination of Donald Trump has bought Joe Biden time in his fight to remain his party’s nominee. One Democratic insider said Sunday the shooting “probably saved Biden’s nomination” but also “doomed his reelection.” (New York Times

If any Democrats thought Joe Biden was their only problem, a new poll from NBC makes for a sobering read. It finds that the popularity of the Democratic Party has taken a dive and now matches its all-time low in the three-decade history of the survey. The party is the most unpopular figure or institution in the poll. (NBC

Trump once unified Democrats and divided Republicans. The shooting and the debate have turned the tables, writes Jonathan Martin. He reports that Nancy Pelosi, convinced that Biden will lose, has been “working the phones” since the debate looking for a “way to ease him off the ticket.” (Politico

Joe Biden agreed to extend Secret Service protection to RFK Jr. on Monday. The independent presidential candidate, whose father was assassinated on the campaign trail in 1968, has been asking for federal protection for months. After Saturday’s assassination attempt on Trump, the only question is: What took Biden so long? (Associated Press

Comparisons between Trump and nineteenth-century president Andrew Jackson are nothing new. But Walter Russell Mead argues that “Saturday’s events made America more Jacksonian and gave Mr. Trump an unbreakable hold on Jacksonian America.” (Wall Street Journal)

The system is out to get you, says Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie: “Our leaders have called for a cooling down of our political rhetoric, but unfortunately this is not a problem that can be solved by presidential decree. To change the conversation—not just its contents, but also its tenor and tone—we need to change the incentives of a system that has ensnared us in its addiction feeds.” (Substack Reads)

Forty-four percent of Ukrainians support starting peace talks with Russia, compared to 35 percent who say it is not time to negotiate yet, according to a new poll. Zelensky said he was open to a Russian delegation attending peace talks later this year. (Semafor

A French soldier was stabbed Monday in Paris, eleven days before the Olympic opening ceremony. The soldier was injured but is not in a life-threatening condition. (ABC

Rapper 50 Cent has been shot nine times. His song, “Many Men (Wish Death)” is an ode to cheating death. In Boston on Saturday night, he performed the song in front of a blown-up version of his album cover Get Rich or Die Tryin’, only Donald Trump’s face replaced that of the rapper. There is chatter that “Fitty” might perform at the Republican convention this week. (Vibe

As the dust settles after Saturday’s very nearly successful attempt on Donald Trump’s life that killed one person in the crowd and left two in critical condition, one of the many confounding questions that linger is: How did the Secret Service fail so badly? Some have noted the Secret Service’s DEI push under current head Kimberly Cheatle. Amid serious retention and recruitment struggles, she has said she is focused on “attracting diverse candidates.” Does this suggest an organization laser-focused on its purpose: ensuring the safety of its protectees? Or does it suggest a bloated and distracted bureaucracy in dire need of reform? Rupa Subramanya investigates. 

→ Trump’s classified documents case is thrown out—for now, writes Yale Law professor Jed Rubenfeld: In a legal stunner, Judge Aileen Cannon yesterday threw out Special Counsel Jack Smith’s classified documents prosecution of former president Trump.

Contrary to early reporting, Judge Cannon’s dismissal of the case had nothing to do with the presidential immunity ruling recently announced by the Supreme Court in Smith’s other prosecution of Trump—the one dealing with January 6.

Instead, Judge Cannon ruled that Attorney General Merrick Garland had no constitutional authority to appoint Smith as special counsel in the first place. Because the appointment was unconstitutional, Smith had no power to bring a criminal case against Trump. So the whole case had to be dismissed. 

Boiled down, Judge Cannon’s key conclusion is that no statute authorizes the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor if the appointee is someone from outside the Department of Justice, as Smith was when he was appointed. But Judge Cannon faces a little problem in reaching her conclusion: the Supreme Court stated the opposite in 1974. 

In the landmark U.S. v. Nixon case, the Court ordered President Nixon to comply with a subpoena issued by Leon Jaworski, who had been named special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate scandal even though he was outside government at the time of his appointment. Citing the same statutes that Garland and Smith relied on, the court stated that Congress had “vested in the Attorney General” the power to make Jaworski a “Special Prosecutor with unique authority and tenure.” 

In the decades since, lower courts, including appellate courts, have considered this statement conclusive. But Judge Cannon held that the Court’s statement was mere “dictum”—a point of law assumed only by the Court, not actually ruled on, and therefore, not binding on her. 

This remarkable conclusion makes her ruling extremely vulnerable on appeal. 

In her favor is the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas, in the immunity case, strongly implied that he views Jack Smith’s appointment as unconstitutional. Against her is the fact no other justice joined Thomas.

Smith will undoubtedly appeal, but one consequence is certain. Just as the Supreme Court’s presidential immunity ruling guaranteed that Smith’s January 6 case against Trump won’t be tried before the election, Judge Cannon’s ruling has the same effect on the documents case. Given the appeals process, it will be a very long time before this case could ever be tried. And long before then, there may be an occupant of the Oval Office who sees to it that this case is dropped. —Jed Rubenfeld

→ Biden doesn’t lower the temperature: For Americans looking to see if President Joe Biden has changed his approach to the presidential election after an assassin nearly killed his opponent, Donald Trump, Monday evening’s interview on NBC will have been disappointing. 

Biden stuck to his talking points about lowering the rhetorical temperature in the nation. But he seems to believe this advice does not apply to himself. Holt asked the president about some of his own overheated rhetoric. “You called your opponent an existential threat,” Holt said. “On a call a week ago you said, ‘It’s time to put Trump in the bull’s-eye.’ ”  

Biden replied with confused defiance. “I didn’t say cross-hairs,” Biden said in response to a question about putting Trump in the “bull’s-eye.” When Holt corrected him and said he indeed did say “bull’s-eye,” Biden responded, “It was—it was a mistake to use the word. I didn’t mean—I didn’t say ‘cross-hairs.’ I meant ‘bull’s-eye.’ I meant focus on him. Focus on what he’s doing.” 

Biden recovered a bit after that, but still made the case that his calls for calm after Saturday’s shootings referred to Trump and his supporters and not his own side. “I’ve never seen a circumstance where you ride through certain rural areas of the country and people have signs there stand—big Trump signs with—middle—signs saying ‘F Biden’ and the little kid standing there putting up his middle finger,” he said. 

Apparently, Biden is unfamiliar with the last eight years of his party and supporters comparing Trump to Hitler and asserting that Trump is a Russian agent. Biden seems unaware of his own Twitter feed. On June 28, Biden’s X account posted, “Donald Trump is a genuine threat to this nation. He’s a threat to our freedom. He’s a threat to our democracy. He’s literally a threat to everything America stands for.” 

None of this is to absolve Trump for his own excessive rhetoric. Trump’s irresponsible speech is well-known because it has been covered extensively by the mainstream media since he announced his first bid for the presidency in 2015. 

But the excesses in countering Trump by the Democrats have been papered over. After Saturday’s near catastrophe in Butler, Pennsylvania, one might expect the leader of the Democratic Party to pull back and reassess. After Biden’s interview Monday evening, don’t hold your breath. —Eli Lake

→ Morning No: In the wake of Saturday’s near assassination of Donald Trump, everyone from elected officials to media bigwigs agrees it’s time to “lower the temperature.” At 30 Rockefeller Center, NBC executives decided that the only way they could ensure they were seen to calm things down was to turn the dial right down to zero in the studio of Morning Joe, MSNBC’s flagship breakfast news show. Per one report: “A person familiar with the matter told CNN that the decision was made to avoid a scenario in which one of the show’s stable of two dozen-plus guests might make an inappropriate comment on live television that could be used to assail the program and network as a whole.” 

Translation: At a crucial moment for the country—right after an attack on American democracy, as the RNC gathers to nominate Trump, and with Joe Biden fighting to stay in the race, we don’t trust the people we pay to bring you the news to bring you the news. It’s confirmation that so much of cable news exists for partisan entertainment, not to inform its audience. And next time you think of switching on MSNBC, ask yourself: If the network’s own executives don’t trust these people, why should I? —OW 

→ Who wants a Trump Got Shot tattoo? America’s great entrepreneurial spirit kicked into full gear over the weekend, after the attempted assassination of former and probably future president Donald Trump. A veteran of reality TV, Trump knows better than anyone how to play for the cameras, and he proved it this weekend. The bloodied face, the raised fist, the American flag in the background—it’s a hell of a picture, and now, it’s everywhere. You can buy it on t-shirts from former Trump assistant Sebastian Gorka, or right-wing commentator Candace Owens, or Etsy, or even from random boardwalk shops

Images of the bloodied, defiant Trump are also available on trading cards; a fake $2 bill that, perhaps criminally, advertises itself as “Genuine U.S. Legal Tender”; coffee mugs; and much more. People have already designed and administered tattoos of it. They vary in quality.

Is it in bad taste to profit from an act of political violence that left an innocent bystander dead? Yeah, probably. But do you think anyone wearing a politically charged graphic tee is worried about taste? This is America, a country where people go to museums and visit the gift shop first. There’s no version of our nation where this doesn’t happen, so if you’re on the fence about making your own Trump assassination merch, strike while the iron is hot. This is the American dream, and if you aren’t selling out, you’re buying in! —River Page

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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