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October 5, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

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Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin, and Mike Levine of ABC News reported today that sources have told them that former president Trump shared information about U.S. nuclear subs with Anthony Pratt, an Australian billionaire who was a member of the Mar-a-Lago club. The sources say Pratt then shared that information with at least 45 others: more than a dozen foreign officials, his own employees, and a few journalists. Trump allegedly shared the exact number of nuclear warheads U.S. submarines carry, and exactly how close they can get to a Russian submarine without being detected. 

Former defense secretary William Cohen explained to CNN’s Anderson Cooper how information about nuclear submarines fit into the larger picture of what’s known as the nuclear triad, the land, sea, and air systems that protect the U.S. “Out of the triad,” he said, “the submarine is the one that is most secure for us because it’s not targetable…. So they’re special. And he is giving away special information on what is protecting us around the world.”

FBI agents and the team overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, looking into Trump’s mishandling of national security documents, have interviewed Pratt at least twice. About a year ago, on November 9, 2022, U.S. Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Dianna, were sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for conspiring to sell classified information about nuclear-powered warships to a foreign country.

“Naval nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe was entrusted with our nation’s critical secrets and, along with his wife Diana Toebbe, put the security of our country at risk for financial gain,” U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung for the Western District of Pennsylvania said at the time. “Their serious criminal conduct betrayed and endangered the Department of the Navy’s loyal and selfless service members. The seriousness of the offense in this case cannot be overstated.”

Trump today endorsed Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) for the speakership. There is an important history to this endorsement. On January 11, 2021—five days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the attempt of some Republican lawmakers to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election—Trump awarded Jordan the Medal of Freedom without a real explanation of why he deserved it. 

On January 6, 2021, then-Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) told Jordan to get away from her because “You f*ck*ng did this!” 

Yesterday, in a speech at the University of Minnesota, Cheney explained: “Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for January 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives. Jim Jordan was involved, was part of the conspiracy in which Donald Trump was engaged as he attempted to overturn the election…. There was a handful of people, of which he was the leader, who knew what Donald Trump had planned. Now somebody needs to ask Jim Jordan, ‘Why didn’t you report to the Capitol Police what you knew Donald Trump had planned? You were in those meetings at the White House.’”

She concluded: “If the Republicans decide that Jim Jordan should be the Speaker of the House…there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers are trying to get the indictments against him for trying to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election thrown out, arguing that a president has absolute immunity from prosecution for criminal as well as civil prosecutions. If this argument succeeded, it would mean that a president was above the law and could do anything they wanted without fear of prosecution. In her newsletter Civil Discourse, Joyce White Vance suggests this is likely an attempt to delay the trial at least until after the Republican National Convention nominates a presidential candidate and possibly until after the 2024 election itself.  

Trump’s tangles with the law are not going well, and in a sudden flurry today, his lawyers tried to delay or get rid of them. In his coverage of Trump’s fraud trial in New York this week, Daily Beast political investigations reporter Jose Pagliery noted that Trump likely appeared in person because he had cited the trial as the reason he could not give a deposition in his $500 million lawsuit against his former fixer Michael Cohen for talking about him and thus breaking his fiduciary duty to act solely in Trump’s interest. That deposition was rescheduled for Monday. Today, Trump withdrew his case against Cohen, clearly suggesting he was afraid to testify. 

In the New York fraud trial, a document introduced into evidence today undermined the argument that Trump wasn’t involved in the fraudulent valuations at the heart of the case. The Trump Organization’s 2014 statement of financial condition included a note from the organization’s comptroller saying: “DJT TO GET FINAL REVIEW.” 

Apparently concerned that Trump would try to move his assets around to hide them, Justice Arthur Engoron today ordered Trump, his older sons, and the two Trump Organization employees in the suit not to move money or open a new business without reporting it to the independent monitor overseeing the businesses. They must also provide a list of each of their businesses and anyone who shares ownership of those businesses. 

Trump has also asked Judge Aileen Cannon to delay his trial for mishandling the national security documents he stashed at Mar-a-Lago until after the 2024 election. 

Notes:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/after-white-house-trump-allegedly-discussed-potentially-sensitive/story?id=103760456

https://abcnews.go.com/US/trump-drops-500-million-lawsuit-former-attorney-michael/story?id=103772572

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-sues-former-lawyer-michael-cohen-500/story?id=98536685

https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-award-medal-freedom-jim-jordan/

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/588616-cheney-confirms-she-told-jim-jordan-on-jan-6-get-away-from-me-you-f-did-this/

The Distinguished Carlson Lecture: An Evening with Liz Cheney, October 4, 2023, Humphrey School, UMN, on YouTube.

Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance
Not a quiet Thursday
A surprising number of things happened today for what should have been a quiet Thursday in October. That seems to be true more days than not with a former president, his party’s frontrunner presidential candidate, facing four criminal indictments and mid-trial in a civil fraud case that will end his ability to conduct a real estate business in the state…
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https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.258149/gov.uscourts.dcd.258149.74.0.pdf

https://www.thedailybeast.com/judge-tries-to-stop-trump-from-hiding-his-money

​​https://www.politico.com/news/2023/10/05/trump-election-case-immunity-motion-00120225

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/maryland-nuclear-engineer-and-wife-sentenced-espionage-related-offenses

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WATCH: ‘This Is My First Rodeo’ | Ben Meets America Ben Kawaller

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In the latest stop on his cross-country quest to understand America, Ben Kawaller watches men hurl cows to the ground.

Last month I attended The American Rodeo in Arlington, Texas, a city of around 400,000 souls situated between Dallas and Fort Worth. This was my first rodeo, and it did not take me long after entering its host venue, the gargantuan Globe Life Field, to realize that I did not know what a rodeo was. If you’d asked me six weeks ago to define the term, I would have said something like, “It’s when you watch someone career around an enclosed pen on an animal.” 

Which is actually not too far off. But what I hadn’t realized is that a rodeo is actually a sporting event. 

You see, some people are especially good at bending these animals to their will, and if you are one of those people, you can win competitions for things like making the animals run very fast, or tying the animals up very quickly, or not dying while trying to sit on one of the animals.

Of course, I wasn’t really there for the games; I was there to talk to the crowd about what makes our society so divided. If you’re tuning in for the first time to my new series—“Ben Meets America”—I was born and raised in progressive Brooklyn, I now live in West Hollywood, and I will admit to being soft in some fundamental way. Suffice it to say I get a more transcendent high from watching a torch song than I do from watching a man hurl a small cow to the ground.

But, in fact, theater and rodeo have their similarities. If you’ve been to a play in recent years, you will have suffered the degradation of a “land acknowledgement.” This is when the audience is told before the show—either in an announcement or in the program notes—that they’ve gathered on land stolen from whatever Native American tribe existed there years ago. My sense is that some of this is rooted in the idea that America itself is fundamentally illegitimate. Whatever’s behind it, the inclusion of a land acknowledgement has become de rigueur.

I did not think conservatives did land acknowledgements, so I was surprised when the Native American actor Mo Brings Plenty appeared before the start of one of the competitions and performed a minute or two of indigenous wailing. I believe the intent of this was to, well, acknowledge the fact that Native American bloodshed was central to the expansion of the American West. What I did not expect was the incongruence of what came after. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. I’m still puzzling over its significance.

In the end, however, I decided I prefer the conservative version of a land acknowledgement. Unlike the inane liberal sacrament, it appears to be capable of expressing two truths at once: that oceans of indigenous blood were spilled in the creation of this country, and that we live in one of the greatest nations on earth.

Even if one of our favorite spectator sports is man versus cow.

Only paid subscribers can see Ben’s video on The American Rodeo. Become one today and scroll down to watch.

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April 14, 2024 Garamond

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Senate spotlight: A Trump Republican’s China problem Judd Legum

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November’s election will not only determine which party controls the White House but also the United States Senate. Currently, the Democratic caucus holds a narrow 51-49 advantage. Control of the chamber will come down to a handful of competitive races. This is the first installment in a series that takes a deep dive into the issues shaping these campaigns. 

In Ohio, businessman Bernie Moreno (R) is attempting to unseat Senator Sherrod Brown (D). Ohio, once a swing state, has been trending Republican. Moreno’s campaign strategy is to attach himself at the hip to Donald Trump. He refers to himself as the “Trump endorsed Republican nominee for US Senate from Ohio.” This helped him easily win the Republican primary against a field of more politically experienced opponents.  

In a potential second term, Trump is vowing to declare economic war on China, promising to “tax China to build America up.” Trump’s plan is to revoke China’s most favored nation trading status and impose a tariff on Chinese goods of up to 60%. (The policy would cost the typical American household thousands of dollars annually and increase inflation.) Imports of “essential goods” from China, including electronics, steel, and pharmaceuticals, would be completely banned

Moreno has taken a similar approach, saying he is running for Senate to “Beat Communist China.” To bolster his anti-China credentials, Moreno claims to have a history of combating Chinese power. These stories, however, don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Moreno made his fortune through buying and selling car dealerships. As his wealth increased, so did his interest in Republican politics. In 2011, former Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) appointed him to the board of trustees at Cleveland State, one of Ohio’s public universities. Moreno served as chairman of the Cleveland State board from 2016 to 2018.

Confucius Institutes, which offer “Chinese language and culture programs,” were established at numerous U.S. universities beginning in 2005. They were partially funded by the Chinese government. Over time, there were bipartisan concerns that Confucius Institutes were being used to promote Chinese government propaganda or even to facilitate espionage. On the campaign trail, Moreno has repeatedly claimed that, in his role as chair of Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees, he eliminated the university’s Confucius Institute.

Here is how Moreno described his role in a March 2023 campaign event:

I chaired the board of trustees at Cleveland State University, and I’m very proud of the fact that when I was there, we got rid of our Confucius Institute. We made certain that we focused everybody on student achievement, and we respected free speech on campus.

He made a nearly identical claim in October 2023. But it is a lie.

Moreno’s service on the board ended in May 2018. Cleveland State did not shut down its Confucius Institute until 2021. The truth is, while Moreno was on the board, he repeatedly approved funding for Cleveland State’s Confucius Institute. In 2016, when Moreno was still vice chairman, he voted to approve $38,000 in funding for the school’s Confucius Institute. The following year, as chairman, Moreno voted to re-up the funding. Minutes from these meetings show that Moreno did not express any concerns about the Confucius Institute

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Moreno told the Columbus Dispatch that he deserves credit for the elimination of the Confucius Institute at Cleveland State because of “his role in the hiring of Harlan Sands, who was Cleveland State’s president when the institute closed.” There are a couple of issues with this response. First, this is not what Moreno said previously. He clearly said that the board “got rid” of the Confucius Institute while he was chair. Second, Cleveland State did not eliminate the Confucius Institute because of the initiative of President Sands. Cleveland State, along with nearly all other universities, closed its Confucius Institute after Congress passed legislation in 2018 and 2020 limiting federal funding for universities that maintained the Confucius Institutes. From 2019 to 2023, the number of Confucius Institutes operating in the United States went from about 100 to fewer than 5.

The truth about Moreno and Chinese-made SUVs

“When I was a General Motors dealer, I sold Buicks. The Buick Envision was made in China. I told General Motors I wouldn’t sell one of them, don’t even ship it to me,” Moreno said during a February 10, 2024 radio interview. “They threatened me and sent me all kinds of nasty notes… we have to actually take this stand…”

That story, which Moreno also told during his brief run for Senate in 2021, is a lie. 

In reality, Moreno sold the Buick Envision at his dealership for at least five years — from 2014 to 2019 — and promoted the vehicle repeatedly on its social media channels, an investigation by NY1 revealed

A December 13, 2016 video published on the “Bernie Moreno Companies” YouTube page begins with this testimonial: “My name is Kayla McCullough. I purchased a 2017 Buick Envision from Buick GMC of Beachwood… I highly recommend you visit the team at Buick GMC of Beachwood, a Bernie Moreno company.”

Moreno’s campaign “acknowledged to Spectrum News that his dealership did sell the Chinese-made SUVs.” It claimed that “in response to the closure of the Lordstown Plant here in Ohio [in March 2019],  Bernie made a decision to stop any new inventory of Envision’s from being sold at his dealership. After he sold off the inventory he already had on the lot, he refused to take orders for more Envisions.” This explanation, however, makes little sense as the Envision was also produced in China and never at Ohio’s Lordstown Plant. Moreno’s dealerships also continued to advertise for the Envision months after the closure of the plant. 

 

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