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October 2, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

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The trial of former president Trump, his oldest sons, two associates, and the Trump Organization began today in Manhattan. Jose Pagliery, political investigations reporter for The Daily Beast, noted that the presiding judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, started with a reference to Friday’s rainstorm that flooded New York City, saying: “Weeks ago, I said we would start today ‘come hell or high water.’ Meteorologically speaking, we’ve had the high water.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James launched the investigation in 2019 after Trump fixer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump had been engaging in fraud by inflating the value of his property. Last week, Justice Engoron issued a partial decision establishing that the organization and its executives committed fraud. Engoron canceled the licenses under which the organization’s New York businesses operated, provided for those businesses to be dissolved, and provided for an independent monitor to oversee the company. 

With that major point already established, the trial that began today will establish how much of the ill-gotten money must be given up, or “disgorged,” by the defendants and whether they falsified records or engaged in insurance fraud in the process of committing fraud. James has asked for a minimum of $250 million in disgorgement, along with a ruling permanently prohibiting Trump and his older sons from doing business in New York, and a five-year ban on commercial real estate transactions for Trump and the organization. 

Trump is attending the trial in person, likely because, as Pagliery noted, he cited this trial as the reason he couldn’t show up for two days of depositions in his federal case against Michael Cohen. If he didn’t show up, he would be in contempt of court. So he is there, but his goal in all his legal cases seems to be to play to the public, where his displays of victimization and dominance have always served him. 

He has already said it is “unfair” that he isn’t getting a jury trial in New York, but his lawyers explicitly said they did not want one, possibly because a bench trial gives Trump a single judge to attack rather than a jury. Today, his lawyer Alina Habba, who along with her law firm and Trump has been fined close to $1 million by a federal judge for filing a frivolous lawsuit, gave a fiery opening statement aimed at “the American people” rather than the judge. When the court broke for lunch, Trump went straight to reporters to rail at the prosecutors holding him to account.

Historian Lawrence Glickman noted that the press is emphasizing Trump’s anger at the proceedings as if a defendant’s anger matters, but it is starting to feel as if bullying and bluster to get away with breaking the rules is not as effective as it used to be. Legal analyst Lisa Rubin notes that this case is a form of “corporate death penalty” that strikes at his wealth and image, both of which are central to his identity and to his political power.

And it is not just Trump; another case announced on Friday suggests the era of real estate crime is ending. The Department of Justice announced that a California real estate executive had pleaded guilty the previous day to a multi-year scheme that looked a lot like the one Trump’s organization is charged with: fraudulently inflating the value of real estate holdings of a Michigan company in order to defraud lenders. 

“My office will not hesitate to prosecute those who lie in order to engage in financial crimes, regardless of the titles they may have,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Dawn N. Ison.

The drive for the impartial application of the rule of law is showing up among the Democrats, as they seek to illustrate the difference between them and the Republicans. New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez is insisting that the federal indictment against him and his wife for bribery, fraud, and extortion in exchange for helping Egypt is a political smear campaign, but more than half of Democratic senators have called on him to resign. 

Trump is increasingly being held to account by former staff, as well. In the wake of his attacks on former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Trump’s former chief of staff Marine Corps General John Kelly went on the record today with Jake Tapper of CNN, confirming a number of the damning stories that emerged during Trump’s presidency about his denigration of wounded, captured, or killed military personnel as “suckers” and “losers,” with whom he didn’t want to be seen. 

Kelly called Trump: “A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason—in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law…. There is nothing more that can be said,” he added. “God help us.”

The confirmation of Trump’s attacks on wounded or killed military personnel will not help his political support. After reading Kelly’s remarks, retired Army Major General Paul Eaton, a key advocate for veteran voting, released a video he recorded more than two years ago when he first heard the stories about Trump’s attack on the military. “Who could vote for this traitor Trump?” he asked on social media. In the video, Eaton urges veterans to “vote Democratic,” because “our country’s honor depends on it.” 

That Trump is concerned about his ebbing popularity showed tonight when his campaign released a statement demanding that the Republican National Committee cancel all future debates and focus on Trump’s evidence-free allegations that the Democrats are going to steal the 2024 election. If it refuses, the statement says, it will just show that national Republicans are “more concerned about helping Joe Biden than ensuring a safe and secure election.” 

Popular pressure against the extremism of the Republican Party showed up today when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recused himself from participating in a case related to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Thomas’s wife, Ginni, was a staunch supporter of Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in the past, Thomas had voted on related cases nonetheless. Today’s case involved John Eastman, formerly one of Thomas’s law clerks. 

There were interesting signs today that the tide seems to be turning against the MAGA Republicans elsewhere, too. In an op-ed in the New York Times, former South Carolina representative Bob Inglis told his “Fellow Republicans: It’s Time to Grow Up.” He expressed regret for his votes in 1995 to shut down the government and in 1998 to impeach President Bill Clinton, and for his opposition to addressing climate change on the grounds that if Al Gore was for it, Republicans should be against it. 

But he had come to realize that “the fight wasn’t against Al Gore; it was against climate change. Just as the challenge of funding the government isn’t a referendum on Speaker McCarthy; it’s a challenge of making one out of many—E pluribus unum—and of bringing the country together to do basic things.” He called on Republicans to remember that we must face the huge challenges in our future together: language that echoes President Joe Biden, who has been making that pitch since he took office. 

The fight over funding the government has contributed to growing pressure on the extremists. The chaos in the Republican Party as the factions fought each other with no plan to fund the government until McCarthy finally had to rely on the Democrats for help passing a continuing resolution was a sign that the extremists’ power is at risk. 

Today, there was much chafing over the threats of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to challenge Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, and he actually did it this evening, although it is not clear that he has the votes either to remove McCarthy or to prevent his reelection as speaker. What is clear is that Gaetz is forcing a showdown between the extremists and the rest of the party, and while such a showdown is sure to garner media attention, it is unlikely to leave the extremists in a stronger position.

Indeed, when he left the floor after making the motion to vacate the chair, some Democrats laughed.

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/10/02/trump-fraud-trial-ny/

Public Notice
How Trump’s fraudulent business practices finally came back to bite him
Read more

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/20/donald-trump-fine-court-clinton/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/10/02/trump-fraud-trial-ny-2/

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/26/nyregion/trump-james-fraud-trial.html

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/real-estate-executive-pleads-guilty-multi-year-conspiracy-falsify-financial-statements

https://edition.cnn.com/2023/10/02/politics/john-kelly-donald-trump-us-service-members-veterans/index.html?s=09

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/02/opinion/kevin-mccarthy-house-republicans-shutdown.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/clarence-thomas-recuses-supreme-court-rejects-trump-lawyer-eastman-rcna117607

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/10/02/kevin-mccarthy-matt-gaetz/

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23989449-menendez-indictment

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-democratic-senators-baldwin-tester-call-menendezs-resignation-2023-09-26/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/york-ag-letitia-james-files-250m-lawsuit-trump/story?id=90240332

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23991865-trump-ny-fraud-ruling

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/donald-trumps-business-empire-peril-civil-fraud-trial-opens-new-york-2023-10-02/

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Mark Pincus: Biden Is Even Riskier Than Trump Mark Pincus

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“Only one strategy has a chance for the party and the country: an open convention. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain,” writes Mark Pincus. (Mandel Ngan via Getty Images)

Being a large donor to the Democratic Party is like having elective surgery. You know it’s the right thing to do, but you also know it will be painful. You are often going to be thrown under the bus by the very candidates you support. 

I would know. I maxed out my giving in the last four presidential elections to the Democratic candidate: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Biden again, this cycle. 

Perhaps that makes me sound partisan, but I don’t align with either party. Like many of my peers in Silicon Valley, my views can be described as libertarian. I’m skeptical of big government, and both parties have recklessly printed money and spent the U.S. into a deep, dark debt hole. 

And unlike a lot of President Biden’s donors, I don’t think everything Donald Trump says or does is awful. I’ve been encouraged by the unwavering support for Israel he’s shown at the RNC this week. And looking back, I like that Trump was tough on China and Iran, and that he pushed European countries to contribute their fair share to NATO. 

I am also very scared of the extreme left, who seem to hate capitalism—a force I see as the engine of our exceptional country.

So why did I throw my support behind Biden?

Because throughout this campaign I have thought that a second Trump presidency is risky. In the past he has supported right-wing policies on abortion and climate. He’s also been oddly positive about dictators like Vladimir Putin. 

At this week’s RNC, the party of Trump sounds more mainstream. Who knows which Trump we will get? It’s a gamble. 

In December I attended a small lunch conversation with Biden. He was engaging and thoughtful. Our interactions gave me confidence that he still had enough drive to beat Trump a second time and be a reliable leader.

Seven months later, I have a radically different perspective. Biden looks even riskier than Trump. His debate performance made his age and competency the central issue in the 2024 election. And Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be moving further left by the day. 

Many of us are left wondering who is currently running the country. How else to explain the insane proposal he just put forward to put caps on grocery prices and rent increases?

Biden, in his current state, cannot beat Trump. Everyone knows this. Which is why, in the past few days, Schumer, Pelosi, and now Obama have called for Biden to step aside.

So what comes next? 

There are those who suggest that the ticket should automatically go to Kamala Harris. I strongly disagree.

Only one strategy has a chance for the party and the country: an open convention. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Turning the convention into an open forum would be dramatic and exciting, and offer the best chance to produce a leader with a positive, mainstream agenda for our country. Someone we could trust more than Trump, but with a platform that is also about economic growth, secure borders, support for allies like Israel, and climate and civil liberties protection. Josh Shapiro, Gretchen Whitmer, and Cory Booker are strong contenders. There are also black swan outsiders who could energize this race.

Some Democratic insiders continue to insist on accepting fate and remaining unified behind Biden. That’s ridiculous. It’s time to get behind a candidate and platform that has a viable chance of winning and moving our country forward. Let’s find out who that is on August 19 in Chicago.

Mark Pincus is the founder of Zynga. Follow him on Twitter @markpinc

 

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Abigail Shrier: California’s New Law Lets Schools Keep Secrets from Parents Abigail Shrier

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Protests at a Chino Valley Board of Education meeting on gender policy on July 20, 2023, in Chino, California. (Photo by David McNew via Getty Images)

Child predators follow a common playbook: target the victim, gain their trust, fill a need, and, crucially, isolate the child from her parents. For several years, this has also been standard California state protocol with regard to schoolchildren questioning their gender identities. On Monday, this scheme became law.

The “SAFETY Act,” AB 1955, signed by California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, legally forbids schools from adopting any policy that would force them to disclose “any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent.” Schools may not, as a matter of policy, inform parents of a child’s new gender identity unless the child volunteers her approval. The law also prohibits schools from punishing any school employee found to have “supported a pupil” hurtling down a path toward risky and irreversible hormones and surgeries.

The law effectively shuts down the local parents’ rights movement in California by eliminating its most important tool: the ability to organize at the community level to stop schools from deceiving them. No longer can families hope to convince their school boards to require schools to notify parents that their daughter, Sophie, has been going by “Sebastian” in class; that her teacher, school counselor, and principal have all been celebrating Sebastian’s transgender identity; that they’ve been letting her use the boys’ bathroom and reifying the sense that she is “really a boy.” 

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the law supports the priming of minor children for a secret life with a new gender identity. This includes having school-aged children participate in sexualized discussions and make identity declarations with school faculty, which are often actively hidden from the child’s parents. Elon Musk called the law “the final straw” for families and announced his intention to move both SpaceX and X, two of California’s most prominent tech companies, out of the state as a result. “The goal [of] this diabolical law,” he tweeted, “is to break the parent-child relationship and put the state in charge of your children.”

While researching my book, Irreversible Damage, and in the four years since its publication, I have talked to hundreds of parents whose daughters suddenly identified as transgender. Many of their daughters were encouraged in this revelation by school counselors and teachers in school districts across America. One parent told me a California school counselor had given her son the address of an LGBTQ youth shelter and suggested he emancipate himself from parents who were loving but skeptical of his sudden transgender identity. Another recent California law, AB 665, would have made reclaiming that young man from the youth center all but impossible because he was over the age of twelve.

In California, instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity has been mandatory for all public school students K–12 since the passage of the Healthy Youth Act in 2016. Because such instruction typically occurs within the required “anti-bullying curriculum” rather than the sex education curriculum, parents cannot elect that their children opt out of what is, in practice, a full-bore indoctrination into gender ideology. 

When a child then predictably decides in class that she too may be nonbinary or transgender, this revelation will often trigger schools’ gender support plan, effectively a school-wide conspiracy to promote the child’s new name and gender identity without tipping off Mom and Dad. Official documents and emails and report cards are sent to parents to preserve the child’s birth name and pronouns, concealing the social transition from parents. 

I have talked to parents who discovered their middle-school daughters had spent the better part of an entire academic year known to the entire school as “Spencer” or “Ethan.” One of these girls had even roomed with the boys on an overnight school trip.

I have investigated many cases in which social transitions were concealed from families. In no case did the girl flourish with this new identity. Maintaining a new, secret identity more often became a weight and burden to the girls. Inexplicably to the parents, their daughters became morose, dropped activities they once loved, wore baggier clothing, and begged to cut their hair shorter. The parents became desperate and unsure of what to do. The hidden transition resulted in children’s alienation from loving parents trying to protect them. 

But in the years since I first reported on this practice, political opposition has grown. Parents whose daughters were socially transitioned behind their backs have filed lawsuits against the school districts in California and Florida and Michigan. California public school teachers have sued school districts to block policies that could result in their firing if they inform parents that their children’s names and identities have been changed behind their backs. And a recent statewide initiative in California to require parental notification before a school changes a child’s gender identity as well as ban puberty blockers and gender surgeries for minors garnered over 400,000 signatures, falling just short of making it onto the ballot. 

The SAFETY Act would significantly stymie, if not eliminate, this local pushback to the increasingly unpopular practice of schools playing adoptive parents with other people’s children. (Although already, the Chino Valley Unified School District has filed suit against Newsom over this act.) The plain text of the California law claims that it merely prevents schools from adopting policies that “forcibly out” trans kids—as if confused fifth-grade girls are in the same position as closeted gay adults in decades past who risked arrest and firing for being outed. 

The law’s clever sponsors are typically quiet on the subject of “outing” to whom. The entire school already knows that Lily is now “Tyler.” Teachers will cheerfully share that information with each other, school mental health staff, administrators, and other students. The only ones who don’t get to know are the parents.

A favorite talking point of activists on the left is that with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, schools must keep secrets with young children to protect them from transphobic and homophobic parents. Even in the most progressive of states, the claim that parents who discover that their child is transgender might abuse or kick her out is used to justify a policy that would otherwise be difficult to understand and impossible to justify.

Aurora Regino is a single mother in California who last year sued the Chico Unified School District for secretly pushing social transition on her then–11-year-old daughter. Regino told me that the “phobia” rationale seemed “ridiculous.” She added, “How is it not outing a kid if you’re telling an entire school that they’re a different sex? That’s outing right there. So everybody knows except the parents? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.”

Erin Friday, a California attorney and author of bills in several states requiring parental notification for any change in a child’s gender identity at school, vented exasperation at the idea that California parents are so homophobic or transphobic they cannot be trusted. “This is California, for crying out loud.”

Regino agreed. “Both my girls are very active. We do swimming, theater, soccer, softball. We are in connection with I don’t know how many families. And there’s not one family that I can think of that we are around that would kick out their kid because they thought that they were ‘nonbinary’ or trans or gay,” she said. “I mean, to me, that’s an extreme statement that these kids are going to get kicked out. Are we saying one in ten thousand? So we’re going to risk the rest of the children and separate them from their parents during the time that they need them the most?” Her now–13-year-old daughter no longer wants to be a boy.

One might think Newsom would realize that a policy this unpopular for Democrats could easily become a political albatross in an election year. Perhaps realizing this, the governor—who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate if Biden drops out—when defending the bill resorts to dissembling. On Wednesday, the governor’s press office declared on X that the bill “protects the child-parent relationship by PREVENTING politicians & school staff from inappropriately intervening in family matters & attempting to control if, when & how families have deeply personal conversations.” The bill only “protects” the parent-child relationship if you assume that relationship depends on the parents’ being entirely ignorant of their child’s growing attachment to this new, secret identity.

Governor Newsom also declared: “Under California law, minors CANNOT legally change their name or gender WITHOUT parental consent.” That’s placing a lot of weight on the word legally. The obscurantist governor is correct only in the most technical sense: yes, a child’s legal name can be changed only on official records with parental approval. But in the world of the SAFETY Act, the parents may be the only ones in a child’s life who use that name. 

In the past few years, moderates across the American political spectrum have awakened to the pernicious effects of gender ideology on children. England, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have, in recent years, warned the public of the risks of pediatric gender medicine, banned the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children, or restricted their use to research settings. The Cass Review, published this year by one of England’s premier physicians, noted the serious risks and specious benefits of pediatric gender transition. My own investigation, published four years earlier, reached the same conclusions. The Cass Review also acknowledged that social transition is an active intervention that puts many children on an inexorable path to medical transition. 

Recent polling shows that voters across the political spectrum believe that schools should be required to inform parents if their children are using different gender pronouns at school than they are at home.

But California Democrats appear ready to drag their party down with them. Parents’ best hope may be federal legislation mandating parental notification before a school can reassign a child’s name and gender. Candidates for president and vice president ought to be asked whether they would support such a bill.

Until her daughter was socially transitioned behind her back, Regino had been a lifelong progressive Democrat. “Now, I’m a registered Republican,” she said.

Abigail Shrier is the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

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Disenchanted with Democrats: The Black Voters Going for Trump Bari Weiss

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For the past few decades, it’s been conventional wisdom in D.C. that “demographics are destiny.” That the increased share of immigrants, young people, and racial minorities across the country would build a bulletproof coalition for the Democratic Party, swelling their ranks and keeping them in power forever.

Those who deviated from this expectation could expect to be called sellouts, race traitors, and Uncle Toms. Recall Joe Biden’s infamous interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God, when he said: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But in the past year, Donald Trump has been winning over more minority voters than any Republican in decades. Recent polls have consistently shown that Trump has reached a shocking 20 percent support among black voters. That’s compared to the 8 percent he got in 2016. And Biden’s polling with black voters has dropped dramatically.

This is a monumental, and to many, unexpected turn. And it was noticeable at the RNC. When Michael Moynihan went to the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, the audience was more monochromatic. While certainly not as racially diverse as the Democratic coalition, the convention in Milwaukee felt younger and less white.

Monday night, Amber Rose opened the proceedings. Tuesday night, Madeline Brame, the mother of a murdered veteran, gave a thunderous speech explaining why she’s supporting Trump. She said: “Our eyes have been opened, just like so many other poor minorities across America. Donald Trump shares our values, love of God and family and country. He’s been a victim of the same corrupt system that I have been and my family has been.”

What’s behind this shift? Why do Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be losing their edge with black voters? And could this end up making a real difference for the 2024 election?

Last night, Michael Moynihan went to an event at the RNC put on by the Black Conservative Federation to ask them why they think that MAGA conservatism is appealing to black voters.

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