Playbook: “To call it a shitshow would be generous.”
“CNN’s New Hampshire town hall with Donald Trump last night may have done more to boost his chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination than anything that’s happened since the 2020 election.”
“Over and over again, a self-assured Trump lied and rewrote history. He claimed to have finished the border wall. (He didn’t.) He asserted that he’d been ‘exonerated’ from accusations that he attempted to strong-arm Ukraine into digging up dirt on Biden. (He wasn’t.) He refused to apologize to Mike Pence for putting him in harm’s way on Jan. 6 and insisted that his ex-VP had the power to overturn the election. (He didn’t.) He called Michael Byrd — the Black Capitol Police lieutenant who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt while protecting lawmakers during the storming of the Capitol — a ‘thug.’ (He isn’t.) He called Jan. 6 ‘a beautiful day.’ (It wasn’t.) He defended his infamous ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ comments. (Really?)”
“And the live studio audience — which seemed vocally pro-Trump, as if imported from Mar-a-Lago — ate it up.”
New York Times: “Late Wednesday, the Biden campaign was already figuring out what segments could be turned quickly into digital ads, seeing Mr. Trump staking out positions that would turn off the kind of swing voters that Mr. Biden won in 2020.”
“Shortly after the event ended, Mr. Biden issued a tweet. ‘Do you want four more years of that?’ it read. It was a request for donations. It was also a reminder how much of the Biden 2024 campaign is likely to be about Mr. Trump.”
Said one Democratic strategist to Politico: “Trump saying he’s proud and honored to overturn Roe? That clip is going to get played over and over.”
Said another to the New York Times: “It was quite efficient. Weeks worth of damning content in one hour.”
Scott Jennings: “To analyze this town hall, you have to understand that Trump speaks a language that is understood by his biggest supporters and most GOP primary voters but is not and has never been understood by the media or the Democrats.”
“It has never proven to be a language that can attract more voters in a national popular election. But he’s still the master of this language, which he invented back in 2016, and Wednesday’s engagement will be judged a complete success by his campaign as it tries to lock up the 2024 nomination.”
Trump had complete control from the start. He pushed the Big Lie that he won the election during his very first response. Moderator Kaitlan Collins attempted to interject that “it was not a rigged election.” But Trump just responded by lying some more. I think Collins did the best she could, but there’s only so much anyone can do in the face of Trump’s endless fire hose of disinformation. It’s impossible to fact check something like this in real time.
Furthermore, the idea that you can discuss something — anything — with Trump is crazy. He is indifferent to reality. The only way to combat Trumpian Lies is to not air them, to not give him a platform.
The town hall format made the night worse. Limiting the audience to Republican primary voters was a huge mistake. It allowed the crowd to cheer him and laugh at his jokes.
The crowd cheered along as Trump defended the Capitol riots and mocked E. Jean Carroll after he was found liable for sexual abusing her. They clapped when he endorsed the U.S. defaulting on its debt. He got applause when he said he would pardon the Capitol riots.
That said, I’m not sure it will help Trump in a general election campaign. The Biden campaign could make an entire library of attack ads just using video from tonight. You may even see ads with this line as soon as tomorrow: “The fact that I was able to terminate Roe vs. Wade… I was so honored to have done it.”
But none of that makes up for CNN’s decision to host this event. It was deeply irresponsible to put this on live television.
From CNN’s media newsletter: “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump’s unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage.”
One CNN staffer told the Daily Beast: “One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen on our air.”
Michael Fanone: “Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did.”
“It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them.”
Tom Nichols: “Trump, of course, has the self-awareness of a traffic cone, and he is seemingly incapable of remorse. But CNN’s decision to move ahead with the event, as if nothing has happened, is disappointing.”
“A more defensible position would have been to scrap the town-hall format and tell Trump that he is still invited to sit, one-on-one, with a CNN reporter. To present him to voters as just another candidate, however, is the very definition of normalizing his behavior.”
Amanda Carpenter: “The event was a disaster for the reason that all of Trump’s live events are problematic: It’s much easier to spew lies on live television than it is for anyone to push back against them. Live coverage privileges the liar, no matter how nimble the interviewer.”
“But it all happened because CNN wanted a show. And they sure got one. No one should pretend it was some kind of public service.”
Charlie Sykes: “Critics had worried that giving the indicted, twice-impeached, coup-plotting, chronically-lying sexual predator an unedited, live television forum might turn out badly.”
“The reality, however, was far ghastlier; a shit show for the ages, and a moment that captured the thorough degradation of both our politics and the media.”
Said one observer: “It was a fucking nightmare and it was programmed to be a fucking nightmare.”
“Trump was, of course, thrilled.”
“It’s simple, folks. Do you want four more years of that?”— President Biden, on Twitter, after Donald Trump’s town hall event on CNN.
Boston Globe: “The most heated exchange that Trump had with Collins was over the special counsel investigation into his possession of hundreds of presidential records, including more than 300 individual classified documents, at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, after he left office. And it was the area in which he walked himself into the biggest problems.”
Said Trump: “I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified… I had every right to do it, I didn’t make a secret of it. You know, the boxes were stationed outside the White House, people were taking pictures of it.”
“In what will be of great interest to the special counsel, Jack Smith, Trump would not definitively rule out whether he showed classified material to people, something investigators have queried witnesses about, in particular in connection with a map with sensitive intelligence.”
Wall Street Journal: “Forty-five percent of respondents to a recent Wall Street Journal poll said they didn’t favor Congress lifting the debt ceiling, the mechanism used to avoid default in the past. Some 44% favor lifting it.”
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told Punchbowl News that even getting close to the debt ceiling could be catastrophic.
Said Dimon: “This can cause panic. And you’ve seen, panic isn’t necessarily a rational thing. People panic. And when you see people panic — that’s ’08, ’09 again, and that’s really what you want to avoid.”
He added: “I think there’s a higher chance of a mistake here because of the politics of the situation.”
And more: “On the default itself, think of it in two pieces: the run-up to a default and an actual default. It’s even bad to have the run-up to default because that can question American debt ratings. We’re foundational to the economy of the world.”
Brookings: Don’t count on the House discharge rule to raise the debt limit.
CNN: “As spending negotiations get underway, the White House has conveyed to congressional negotiators that President Joe Biden’s most recent legislative accomplishment, the Inflation Reduction Act, is off the table as the two sides begin to eye potential spending cuts.”
“The law, which makes historic investments in combating climate change, was targeted as part of House Republicans’ bill to cut spending alongside a debt ceiling increase.”
“Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Republican lawmakers to let the United States default on its debt if Democrats don’t agree to spending cuts,” CNBC reports.
Said Trump: “I say to the Republicans out there — congressmen, senators — if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to do a default.”
He added: “I think the Democrats will absolutely cave, will absolutely cave because you don’t want to have that happen. But it’s better than what we’re doing right now because we’re spending money like drunken sailors.”
“President Joe Biden took his debt ceiling appeal to the road on Wednesday, part of an effort to more aggressively utilize the bully pulpit as default inches closer,” Politico reports.
“Speaking just one day after an Oval Office meeting with congressional leadership led to little progress in striking a deal to ward off default as the deadline rapidly approaches, the White House’s choice of venue was deliberately chosen: a suburban GOP-held New York state district within commuting distance of Wall Street. The area also is home to a Republican lawmaker who narrowly captured a district last year that broke for Biden in 2020.”
- Santos and an unnamed political consultant encouraged donors to give money to an LLC he controlled instead of his campaign. He then used the money for personal expenses.
- Santos applied for unemployment relief during the early months of the pandemic, even though he was employed by a Florida-based investment firm where he made $120,000 per year.
- Santos lied to the House of Representatives on financial statements during his first campaign in 2020, overstating one source of income while failing to disclose another. And then he did it again when he ran a second time in 2022.
However, there are plenty of questions that remain unanswered — an indication more charges may be coming. Chief among them are the source of mysterious money he supposedly “loaned” to his campaign.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he will not support Rep. George Santos (R-NY) for reelection, CNN reports. He also “confirmed that if the Ethics Committee determines Santos broke the law, he would call for him to resign.”
“Tucker Carlson’s announcement that he is moving to Twitter isn’t getting an enthusiastic reception on Madison Avenue, as many advertisers are already skittish about spending on the Elon Musk-owned social-media platform,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Several ad buyers said the arrival of Mr. Carlson will make it even harder for Twitter—which has faced an exodus of advertisers—to lure brands back.”
“Fox News was hit on Wednesday with another defamation lawsuit, this one from a woman who said the network promoted lies about her that generated serious threats to her safety and harmed her career prospects,” the New York Times reports.
“The suit was filed on behalf of Nina Jankowicz, the former executive director of a short-lived Department of Homeland Security division assigned with coordinating efforts to monitor and address disinformation threats to national security.”
“Right-wing pundits and politicians falsely portrayed her group as part of an Orwellian bid to control the speech and thought of ordinary Americans.”
Tucker Carlson told Insider he is running for president in 2024, then claimed he was joking.
He added: “Totally kidding. Sorry. I can never control myself. I’m fundamentally a dick. My apologies.” For once he told the truth.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) “returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to cast her first vote in the Senate since taking an extended absence because of an illness that threatened Democrats’ slim majority and led to mounting calls for her resignation.” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Feinstein, who at 89 is the eldest sitting senator, was wheeled onto the Senate floor in a wheelchair that she may at times require to travel around the Capitol as she works ‘a lighter schedule.’”
Politico runs an excerpt from The Big Break by Ben Terris: “About a year earlier, Feinstein had approached Senator Tim Scott, stuck out her hand, and told him she had been rooting for him and was so happy to have him serving with her in the Senate. It was obvious to Scott and the staffers in tow that Feinstein had mistaken the South Carolinian for Raphael Warnock, the newly elected Democratic senator from Georgia.”
Scott had played along. ‘Thank you so much,’ he had told Feinstein, according to the staffer who told me about the incident. ‘Your support means a lot.’”
“Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), chair of the Senate Energy Committee, said Wednesday he would oppose every Biden administration nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency in anticipation of a ‘radical’ regulation the agency is expected to propose Thursday regulating emissions from fossil fuel power plants that are driving climate change,” Politico reports.
“The EPA is expected to unveil a sweeping proposal Thursday to slash greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s thousands of power plants, requiring sharp pollution cuts from plants burning coal or natural gas, the country’s two biggest electricity sources.”
“It is expected to hasten the closure of many aging coal plants, which are the predominant power source in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.”
“After more than 11,000 migrants were caught crossing the southern border on Tuesday, the Biden administration is now preparing a memo that will direct Customs and Border Protection to begin releasing migrants into the United States without court dates or the ability to track them,” NBC News reports.
Punchbowl News: “With Title 42 health policy expiring at midnight and a huge new surge of migrants expected at the U.S.-Mexico border, the House is set to vote today on the Republicans’ signature border security and immigration package. It’s taken months for GOP leaders to get it this far.”
“The House Republican proposal won’t go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And more importantly, this moment may be forgotten entirely if the U.S. government defaults in a few short weeks.”
“Yet slowly — very slowly — Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House GOP leaders have begun advancing their legislative agenda after four months in power.”
“The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would allow schools to employ chaplains in addition to school counselors, with Republicans overriding objections by Democrats to send the proposal to the governor’s desk,” the Religion News Service reports.
Politico: “FDA career scientists have raised red flags about the drug’s safety and efficacy, even as the agency and the White House are under pressure to expand contraceptive options in a highly charged political environment around access to abortion, which has dramatically shrunk since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.”
“FDA approval would be a major step forward for the decadeslong campaign to have the U.S. join dozens of other countries where hormonal contraceptives are available without a prescription. A decision is expected sometime this summer.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) said “there should be no efforts to block different ideological groups, including white nationalists, from serving in the military and criticized President Joe Biden for taking steps to remove them even as concerns about extremism in the military dates back to the Trump administration,” AL.com reports.
Asked if he believed white nationalists should be allowed to serve in the military, Tuberville said in referring to the Biden administration: “They call them that. I call them Americans.”
Matt Bai: “So if I were giving Biden advice he surely doesn’t want, I’d tell him to steer into the storm rather than away from it, and run with Harris almost as if he expected her to take over. I’d make her a constant fixture at Biden’s side in public events and in the kind of extended interviews she’s mostly avoided doing. I’d turn the campaign into what Hollywood calls a ‘two-hander’ — a show with two protagonists.”
“Because this is the lot Biden chose, inevitably, when he elevated Harris nearly three years ago. He knew the stakes. He must have believed then that she had the ability to win over voters and lead the nation if it came to that — and it’s hard to believe she could have come this far if she didn’t. There’s really no choice now but to find out.”
Seth Masket: “Former President Donald Trump is regaining favor with once skeptical Republican grassroots leaders — largely at the expense of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — according to my latest survey.”
“My survey of GOP county chairs is part of an effort to track the ‘invisible primary’ for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — the action that takes place before the first ballots are cast and which will do much to determine the eventual winner. County chairs are figures who will play a key role in shaping the race. They are highly attentive to the party’s internal dynamics and are influential in local GOP circles; they offer the kind of endorsements that candidates are eager to collect.”
Arizona state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D), who is a Presbyterian minister, has been hiding Bibles from the Arizona House members’ lounge in odd places, like inside a refrigerator, NPR reports.
“Stahl Hamilton has explained it as a playful commentary on the separation of church and state and a protest against the weaponization of religion in politics.”
However, “the prank captured the attention of GOP leadership who, after finding the missing Bibles, decided to install hidden cameras to catch the culprit. Since being caught, not all of Stahl Hamilton’s colleagues are laughing. Three even filed a formal ethics complaint against her.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that he does not support Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) blanket hold on more than 180 non-political military promotions, which Democrats say is keeping qualified people out of key roles, The Hill reports.
Said McConnell: “I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations, I don’t support that.”
Wall Street Journal: “A bill being introduced Wednesday by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) would establish a 10-person task force, with half the members selected by each party.”
“Its mandate would include investigating the preparedness of the U.S. healthcare system and the availability of medical supplies. It would have subpoena power and would issue an interim report within one year.”
Time: “While the conventional wisdom suggests that a presidential candidate facing criminal charges and having been found liable for sexual battery would be anathema to the moderate voters who decide general elections, Trump’s cascade of legal troubles is creating a dynamic that both his allies and his adversaries recognize as helping to corral Republican voters to his defense. It’s also boxing in GOP challengers who represent the wing of the Republican Party that would like to move on from Trump.
Said David Axelrod: “He’s set up a construct where he’s being unfairly persecuted to try to stop him from running. So if you’re a Republican candidate, and you try to make the case that he can’t win because of all of this, you’re essentially embracing the alleged conspiracy Trump is promoting that all of this is meant to stop him from running.”
“Another component is that many Republicans simply don’t buy the notion that Trump can’t win in 2024.”