Calling You as a Witness

You saw what you thought you saw.

If you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes, you’d accuse Jack Smith of crossing the Hollywood writer’s picket line to write the latest, and by far the most damning, indictment of Donald Trump. But you did see it. Like anyone else with access to a TV and a computer, you were a witness to these crimes. Give yourself some credit. After relentless lying and a coordinated misinformation effort that continues to this day, you still aren’t looking at the world through orange colored glasses. What you saw and heard during Trump’s efforts to overturn an election and cling to power was exactly what happened. We got a lot more details behind the plot from the vital January 6 Committee hearings. And we got a few new details from Jack Smith’s indictment. And you should definitely read that indictment for yourself. The NYT (Gift Article) has an annotated version. But you live in reality, so this will be a re-run. You know what happened. If you were paying attention, you even knew what was going to happen before it did. A few months before the 2020 election, I mentioned to my dad that the numbers looked pretty good for Biden and Trump was starting to lose his grip (political and mental). My dad, who had survived the Holocaust and knew a thing or two about the rise and tactics of strongmen, said, “Yeah, but he’ll never accept the results.”

Around the same time my dad was predicting that Trump would never leave the White House in a normal, orderly transition, The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman wrote his piece, The Election That Could Break America. “The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.”

Trump had been sowing doubt in the election results for years before the election even took place. So we knew he was going to try to cling to power and then we watched him do it real time. And, contrary to Trump’s advice, we believed what we were seeing and hearing. Thankfully, so did Jack Smith.

+ “The oddity of the indictment is that a great deal of it—the overwhelming majority of its narrative, in fact—is already quite familiar. The reason is that the story it tells tracks closely with the work of two prior investigations, both conducted by Congress. First, on Jan. 13, 2021, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection; the outlines of the story the special counsel tells here first emerged in the proceedings surrounding Trump’s trial in the Senate.” Lawfare Blog: The Big One: Trump is Indicted for Jan. 6.

+ Joyce Vance has a good overview of the indictment, including the identities of most of “the six uncharged and therefore unnamed (but as good as identified) co-conspirators.”

+ “The third and latest indictment against Trump sets out four charges and makes the case against him in the plainest terms. ‘Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power,’ the introduction to the forty-five-page document reads—and where have you seen a more succinct summary of criminal intent?” David Remnick in The New Yorker: The New Trump Indictment and the Reckoning Ahead. “With the former President still far ahead of the rest of the Republican field, the American electorate is likely headed for a crucial test.”

+ “The federal judge assigned to the election fraud case against former President Donald Trump has stood out as one of the toughest punishers of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attack fueled by Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election.”

+ Daniel Dale on the 21 Donald Trump election lies listed in his new indictment. Narrowing Trump’s oeuvre down to just 21 lies should make Jack Smith a Pulitzer contender.


The Coup Klutz Clan

“The indictment handed down today challenges every American to put a shoulder to the wheel and defend our republic in every peaceful, legal, and civilized way they can. According to the charges, not only did Trump try to overturn the election; he presided over a clutch of co-conspirators who intended to put down any further challenges to Trump’s continued rule by force.” Tom Nichols in The Atlantic: This Is the Case. “Special Counsel Jack Smith has sounded the call, but voters must answer it if they wish to preserve American democracy.” Unfortunately, many of those voters will be falsely influenced by the craven, treacherous enablers who continue to this day to pretend that the latest indictments are part of some effort to weaponize the government against Trump, or attempt to create some laughably false equivalence between some of the most serious crimes committed against America and Hunter Biden’s legal snafus. These people saw exactly what you saw and they know exactly how much danger Trump poses to America. They just care less about that than they do their own limp grip on personal power. To quote the defendant in this case, “Sad!”

+ “With polls showing that most Republican voters still believes the election was stolen from Trump, that the January 6 riot was legitimate protest, and that Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 results did not violate the law or threaten the constitutional system, the United States faces a stark and unprecedented situation. For the first time in the nation’s modern history, the dominant faction in one of our two major parties has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to accept antidemocratic means to advance its interests.” Ron Brownstein: Trump’s Threat to Democracy Is Now Systemic.


Life Stories

“Listening to the men in the short Opinion Video above is like encountering visitors from another planet. They are serving life sentences at Angola prison, in rural Louisiana, with little to no hope for release. Many are elderly; they have not seen the outside world, or their families, for decades. They do not face execution, but they have been sentenced to death all the same, their lives spooling out endlessly on the cellblock and in the cotton fields, then ending in a prison hospice bed.” NYT video (free): This Is What It’s Like to Spend Your Life in Prison.


Screen Savers

“Screening can improve prognosis and reduce mortality by spotting breast cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage. Preliminary results from a large study suggest AI screening is as good as two radiologists working together, does not increase false positives and almost halves the workload.” (When it comes to things like ChatGPT, AI is worth worrying about. But the health advances are going to be remarkable, as will be the pace at which they emerge.)


Extra, Extra

Fitch, Please: Wondering what happened to your stock portfolio today? Here’s a clue: “Fitch downgraded the U.S. credit rating due to fiscal concerns, a deterioration in U.S governance, as well as political polarization reflected partly by the Jan. 6 insurrection, Richard Francis, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, told Reuters on Wednesday.”

+ Pittsburgh Justice: “The gunman who stormed a synagogue in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and killed 11 worshippers will be sentenced to death for perpetrating the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.”

+ Don’t Be Fresh: “With its cashier-less checkout and computerized shopping carts, Amazon Fresh was supposed to revolutionize grocery shopping when it launched at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But the high-tech stores have proved more frustrating than fun for some customers, current and former employees say. In February, as the company cut costs and laid off workers amid economic head winds, Amazon pressed pause on its grocery expansion, halting projects in more than a dozen locations and leaving prospective landlords and locals in the lurch.” WaPo: Amazon mastered the internet. Grocery stores are a different story. (I’m only an occasional customer, but Whole Foods also seems markedly worse since Amazon took over…)

+ Mo Money, Mo Problems: “With its dual revenue stream — fees from cable subscribers and advertising — the sports juggernaut continues to earn billions of dollars for Disney. In the first six months of the 2023 fiscal year, Disney’s cable networks division, which is anchored by ESPN and its spinoff channels, generated $14 billion in revenue and $3 billion in profit.” But that’s not enough these days. Even in an era when live sports seems to be the last of TV’s selling points, ESPN is in trouble. NYT (Gift Article): How ESPN Went From Disney’s Financial Engine to Its Problem.

+ Canadian Achin’: “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, announced Wednesday that they are separating after 18 years of marriage.”


Bottom of the News

“Mounds of writhing sea creatures are piling up on Florida beaches, and authorities are warning concerned beachgoers to avoid the embarrassment of calling 911. It’s likely a herd of manatees, and they are engaging in very public group sex, experts say. ‘Don’t call us. …. We can assure you they are more than fine,’ the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.” (It’s not really an orgy until someone calls 911.)

+ How hot is it in Arizona this summer? Cacti are collapsing.

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