ICYMI: Trump’s dire VP shortlist, and Sinema’s uncertain future

Republicans proceed with impeachment effort to spread Russian disinformation

Because who needs facts?

Trump daughter-in-law: ‘We get ahead and succeed by merit and merit alone'

Sure, if you count the added benefit of generational wealth.

Time's almost up for Sinema to run again—if she even wants to

The future is looking uncertain for Miss Independent.

Cartoon: Worst president ever

Watch what happens when you stir up a hornet’s nest.

Trump's shortlist of VP candidates is all about who will go the lowest

From Byron Donalds to Ron DeSantis, it’s a list of the worst of the worst.impr

Every warning of post-Roe America is coming true, and there’s worse ahead

Republicans want to roll back women’s and pregnant people’s rights to somewhere around the Bronze Age.

VP wannabe Kristi Noem thinks it's just great that Trump 'broke politics'

Noem takes kissing the ring to a whole new level.

Ron DeSantis hired an anti-vaxxer, and now Florida kids are paying the cost

Florida’s surgeon general is giving more questionable guidance.

GOP congresswoman who used IVF wants to ban IVF

So it’s okay for her to use it, but not her constituents?

Trump's lawyers call for dismissal of classified documents case, citing presidential immunity

Because presidential immunity worked so well for him last time …  

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Former GOP officials warn of ‘terrifying possibilities’ if Trump immunity claim accepted

by Jacob Fischler, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Accepting former President Donald Trump’s claim of presidential immunity would embolden future presidents to use military force to stay in office indefinitely, a group of anti-Trump Republican former officials warned in a Tuesday brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rejecting Trump’s immunity claim, which he has said should protect him from prosecution on charges of lying to and encouraging supporters who turned violent on Jan. 6, 2021 and attacked the U.S. Capitol, is essential to preserve American democracy, the officials wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief.

The 26 former U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, lawmakers and others who authored the brief were elected Republicans or served in Republican administrations. They include former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth of Missouri and former U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

Trump, who is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, asked the court Monday to further delay his trial in District of Columbia federal court as the justices consider his presidential immunity claim. Trump’s attorneys asked the justices to adopt a broad view of presidential immunity, which they said was critical for protecting the power of the office.

In Tuesday’s brief, the Republican officials said the implications of the former president’s argument present “terrifying possibilities.”

“Under former President Trump’s view of absolute immunity, future first-term Presidents would be encouraged to violate federal criminal statutes by employing the military and armed federal agents to remain in power,” they wrote.

“No Court should create a presidential immunity from federal criminal prosecution, even for official acts, that is so vast that it endangers the peaceful transfer of executive power that our Constitution mandates.”

While Trump argues that such a “lurid hypothetical” of a president using the military or armed federal agents should not prevent him from being granted immunity, the former Republican officials say the particular allegations against the former president weigh heavily against accepting his argument.

For one, they write, the federal indictment against Trump alleges he used the Department of Justice as a tool in his fake elector scheme.

Specifically, the amici point out, the indictment alleges that a letter signed by Trump’s acting attorney general pressured states to replace legitimate Biden electors with false ones supporting Trump.

“Under Mr. Trump’s vast rationale for federal criminal immunity, a future President would be emboldened to direct the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as the Attorney General, to deploy the military and armed federal agents to support efforts to overturn that President’s re-election loss,” they wrote.

The framers of the Constitution meant to limit executive power and highly valued a peaceful transfer of power, the officials wrote.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in a Federalist Papers entry that the Constitution meant to prevent a “victorious demagogue” from staying in power, they wrote. Accepting Trump’s broad interpretation of presidential immunity would threaten that protection and encourage future presidents to go to extreme lengths to stay in power, they said.

“What kind of Constitution would immunize and thereby embolden losing first-term Presidents to violate federal criminal statutes — through either official or unofficial acts — in efforts to usurp a second term?” they wrote. “Not our Constitution.”

Constitutional experts weigh in

In addition to the former Republican officials, several constitutional law experts filed an amicus brief Tuesday arguing that Trump is not immune from federal prosecution.

The six law professors argued that Trump’s dual claims that he is immune because his actions were taken while he was still president, and that he is protected from any criminal prosecution following his Senate impeachment trial acquittal, are a “misreading of constitutional text and history as well as this Court’s precedent.”

The absolute immunity argument “finds no support” in the Constitution, the experts wrote.

“Seeking to distinguish the president from a British King, the Constitution’s framers and ratifiers repeatedly indicated that a president ‘may be indicted and punished’ after ‘commit[ting] crimes against the state,’” the experts wrote, citing debates at several state conventions about the federal Constitution.

Like the former Republican officials, the professors of law and politics asked the Supreme Court to deny Trump’s request to further delay the trial court’s proceedings.

On Trump’s impeachment clause argument, the constitutional law experts wrote: “The framers viewed the impeachment process as entirely distinct from criminal prosecution and thus thought that a verdict against an officer in one proceeding should have no impact on the other.”

The brief’s authors include Frank O. Bowman III, of the University of Missouri School of Law, Michael J. Gerhardt, of the University of North Carolina School of Law, Brian C. Kalt of Michigan State University College of Law, Peter M. Shane, of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and New York University School of Law, Laurence H. Tribe, professor emeritus of Harvard University and Keith E. Whittington, professor of politics at Princeton University and forthcoming chaired professor of law at Yale Law School.


Also on Tuesday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. set a Feb. 20 deadline for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting the case for the Justice Department, to respond to Trump’s request for a stay in the trial.

The one-week deadline suggests the justices are seeking a speedy resolution to the issue.

Attorneys for Trump filed the request with the Supreme Court late Monday following a ruling last week from a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, comprising judges appointed by members of both parties, upholding a lower court’s decision to reject Trump’s immunity claim.

Trump’s stay request noted the former president would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, as well as petition for a rehearing by the full D.C. Circuit. Trump asked that pretrial activity in the federal district court not proceed while those appeals are ongoing.

The immunity issue, which does not address the merits of the case Smith’s team has compiled against Trump, has gone on for months and delayed the scheduled March 4 trial date.

Trump made a pretrial motion to U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in October seeking to throw out the four-count indictment based on his presidential immunity theory.

Chutkan denied the request, and Trump appealed her decision to the D.C. Circuit.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments last week in a case over whether Colorado could bar him from the presidential primary ballot because a provision in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment disallows insurrectionists from seeking office. The justices met Colorado’s argument with skepticism. A decision is expected soon.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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Appeals Court cuts down every piece of Trump’s immunity claim—with flair

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Donald Trump is not immune to prosecution for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The 57-page ruling takes apart the claims that Trump made one by one, thoroughly dismembering his arguments to conclude that Trump’s declaration of “categorical immunity from criminal liability” is “unsupported by precedent, history or the text and structure of the Constitution.”

As The New York Times notes, the unanimous ruling is unlikely to be the last word on executive immunity, but the appeals court “handed Mr. Trump a significant defeat.” Not least of all in determining that, as far as the court is concerned, it’s very much Mr. Trump.

For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.

There’s nothing about this ruling that is going to make Trump happy.

Trump's former attorney Tim Parlatore predicts he's likely bothered by being referred to as "citizen Trump" in yesterday's ruling denying him presidential immunity. pic.twitter.com/E7RDId3wfU

— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) February 7, 2024

Mother Jones has sifted the ruling for some of the best lines, and that definitive stripping away of Trump’s former title is just one of them. There’s also the section where the court notes that during his second impeachment trial, Trump’s legal representative tried to have it the other way. In 2021, they argued that Trump shouldn’t be impeached because he was out of office and the proper place to deal with this was in court by writing “[w]e have a judicial process” and “an investigative process ... to which no former officeholder is immune.’”

The judges also noted that Trump wasn’t alone in making this argument: Thirty senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also argued that once he left office, Trump was no longer the proper subject of impeachment and was subject to the courts. 

But the portion of the ruling most likely to get wide play is one in which the judges point out the pure silliness of what Trump is suggesting.

It would be a striking paradox if the President, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity.

This is connected to what others have described as the center of the judges' reasoning: Giving the president the kind of immunity Trump seeks would “collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches.” It would immediately elevate the president to an all-powerful dictator, unbounded by anything Congress or the courts might do.

In addition to declaring that he should have absolute immunity, Trump’s appeal included a backup claim that because he had been impeached and Republicans had voted to save him in the Senate, taking him to court on the same issues would be “double jeopardy.” But the court also swiftly dealt with that assertion, making it clear that impeachment and indictment were unrelated.

The ruling gives Trump until Feb. 12 to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the district court can once again move forward on charges of election interference. The ruling is so definitive that numerous experts have suggested the Supreme Court might not take up an appeal from Trump. 

“My guess is that he’ll be a convicted felon when he gets on the stage to accept the Republican nomination for president.” Chris Christie predicts the Supreme Court will not hear Trump’s appeal, and the trial will begin in May. pic.twitter.com/6n5CXOejRc

— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) February 7, 2024

However, some are suggesting that because special counsel Jack Smith originally tried to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case before it was sent back to the appeals court, this could be an opening for Trump’s attorneys to press the court to take up the case.

Trump has responded to the ruling with numerous repetitions of his assertion that presidents must have a level of immunity that no president has ever enjoyed in real life. 

When Trump brought this appeal, legal experts agreed that the issues around presidential immunity were novel and that whatever the court determined it would be making new law. Now a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals has filled in those gaps, and their ruling seems so definitive that they may be the last word on this topic.

Except for Trump. He’ll keep on demanding absolute immunity. Even if he’s doing it from a prison cell.

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Republican Party suffers the most humiliating 24 hours in recent memory

Every party loses an election now and then. Both parties have spent whole decades on the outs, railing from the sidelines while their opponents controlled the agenda. However, it’s hard to think of a 24-hour period where any party has suffered so many self-inflicted disasters as the Republican Party experienced on Tuesday.

This beautiful run of disintegrating dignitas began on Monday evening when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out to explain why the border security deal that had been negotiated over months was exactly what was needed to address “a humanitarian and security crisis of historic proportions.” Then he went behind closed doors three hours later to kill the bill on orders from Donald Trump. 

The morning opened to chaos. Sen. James Lankford, who had been McConnell’s chief negotiator on the bill, explained how it felt to be run over by a bus. McConnell, who once completely dictated the actions of Republicans in the Senate, was revealed as a sad puppet. The remaining Republicans were left stumbling over themselves, trying to justify sabotaging the best deal they’re ever going to get.

In hours Republicans took the issue at the heart of their 2024 campaign and turned it into an anchor that President Joe Biden will hang around their necks.

And their day only went downhill from there.

After a morning spent scrambling to create a reason for their actions that went beyond simple fear of Trump, Republicans got some troubling news about their golden ruler. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia took Trump to task with a 57-page decision that shredded any delusions about “absolute immunity.”

For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.

The unanimous decision was extensive and authoritative enough that experts are suggesting the Supreme Court might not consider Trump’s appeal, assuming Trump’s crack legal team manages to meet the short filing deadline provided by the appellate court.

But that was far from the end. Over on the House side of the Capitol, Republicans had cooked up the ridiculous impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for not being tougher on the border. Despite having just shot down a bill to get tougher on the border, they were determined to plunge blindly ahead under untested Speaker Mike Johnson.

Once again, Republicans learned that just because Nancy Pelosi made running a House vote look easy, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The reason Republicans were so eager to hold the vote on Tuesday evening was because they knew that Democratic Rep. Al Green was in the hospital after undergoing emergency abdominal surgery on Friday. Republicans hoped to take advantage of Green’s absence to give them a buffer against any Republican defections from their unjustified and patently ridiculous impeachment.

But with the vote already underway, Green appeared in a wheelchair to cast the decisive vote, putting the motion into a 215-215 tie. Johnson was forced to flip his vote to preserve the issue for a re-vote at a later date, resulting in a stunning and deeply embarrassing loss for the Republicans.

Democrat Al Green surprised Rs when he showed up for the Mayorkas impeachment vote tonight -- and ultimately helped Ds sink sink measure. (It will pass when when Scalise returns.) But Dem leaders were ready. "It was not a surprise," House Minority Whip Katherine Clark told me pic.twitter.com/HpyJbWBt75

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 7, 2024

And the night still wasn’t over.

Earlier in the week, Republicans had prepared a stand-alone aid package for Israel in hopes that they could avoid having to vote on the Ukraine assistance and border security bill they had demanded for months. Johnson tried to push the Israel assistance package through using an accelerated procedure that required two-thirds of the votes. 

Proving once again that counting is considered higher math for this Republican team, that bill also failed, falling over 30 votes short.

Republicans have suggested that House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who missed the Tuesday night vote while undergoing cancer treatment, will be back on Wednesday so they can call a do-over. However, there is disagreement on this point.

Scalise’s office tells me his return “won’t be tomorrow” https://t.co/ZxyY0McK3S

— Morgan Phillips (@_phillipsmorgan) February 7, 2024

But if there is one thing this Republican-led House knows how to do, it’s hold one humiliating vote after another. So they will probably make it happen someday. 

But even after these two disastrous votes, the day still wasn’t over.

Soon after Johnson finally gaveled an end to fruitless efforts in the House, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced that she was stepping down. McDaniel has been under heavy pressure from Trump for failing to keep the RNC coffers filled with cash. 

McDaniel is the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, but she stopped using her family name at Trump’s request. Now he has essentially fired her. As usual, Trump’s idea of loyalty is strictly one-way.

Republicans are rolling into the new day with absolutely nothing to show for surrendering everything to Trump. The best bill they could have hoped to negotiate is gone, they didn’t get their sham impeachment, they didn’t get their Israel-without-Ukraine funding package, and the chair of the party is packing up to leave. Meanwhile, Trump is entering the day with a much greater chance that he will face criminal proceedings before the election.

There aren’t a lot of New York Times headlines that bear repeating, but this one works:  

And it’s only Wednesday.

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ICYMI: FBI misses ‘hidden’ Mar-a-Lago room, and ex-Trump CFO perjury charge weighed

What did the FBI miss in Trump’s hidden room at Mar-a-Lago?

It’s one thing to miss a closet when you’re searching a 126-room mansion, but it’s another story when it’s purposely locked.

Jim Jordan’s using subpoenas to do Trump’s dirty work again

The House Republicans are at it again.

Cartoon: Not racist

You sure about that, Nikki Haley?

Prosecutors weigh perjury charge for ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg

The longtime Trump employee is reportedly angling for a plea deal.

‘That’s crazy’: Swing-state voters aghast to learn of Trump’s immunity claim

This focus group was illuminating and frankly, a little scary.

GOP congressman admits Mayorkas impeachment is bogus

Outgoing Colorado congressman found a drop of courage, but read why he still doesn't get a pat on the back.

Ken Paxton sues five Texas cities that decriminalized marijuana

In the words of Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused”: “alright, alright …” all wrong.

Republican lawsuits challenge mail ballot deadlines. Could they upend voting across the country?

Is your state going to be affected by these shenanigans?

Trump campaign to donors: Ignore what he says and just write the checks

This was a truly telling admission that Donald Trump's campaign operatives have no control over their candidate.

Adam Schiff is trying to pick his opponent—and he wants it to be a Republican

Is the California congressman pulling a "Claire McCaskill"?

Republicans get Ukraine demands met, so of course they change their minds

House Republicans found a way to smash it all to bits.

US employers added surprisingly robust 353,000 jobs in January

Much to Republicans’ chagrin, jobs are up and unemployment continues to be low.

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McConnell unwittingly explains why Trump now owns the Republican Party

During the same February 2021 impeachment trial speech in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Donald Trump "practically and morally responsible" for the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, McConnell also argued that impeachment alone was never intended to be "the final forum" for justice.

"Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office—as an ordinary citizen," McConnell said as he sought to explain away the vote he had cast to acquit Trump.

"We have a criminal justice system in this country," McConnell continued. "We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

Yet on Tuesday when McConnell was asked if he still believes Trump isn't immune from prosecution, McConnell dodged the question, choosing instead to reframe the legal query as an electoral matter.

"Well, my view of the presidential race is that I choose not to get involved in it, and comment about any of the people running for the Republican nomination," McConnell responded.

Q: “You had argued, after voting to acquit the former president that presidents are not immune from prosecution is that still your view?” McConnell: “I choose not to get involved...and comment about any of the people running for the Republican nomination.” pic.twitter.com/uhVut62se8

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) January 9, 2024

If anyone wonders why Trump now owns the GOP, they need look no further than the feckless leadership of McConnell, who has failed at every turn to challenge Trump's takeover of the party.

It's a point former Rep. Liz Cheney has made repeatedly during her book tour for "Oath and Honor." In the book, Cheney writes that McConnell originally seemed "firm in his view" that Trump should be impeached. But as the vote approached, he got squishy and ultimately folded.

“Leader McConnell, who had made a career out of savvy political calculation and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, got this one wrong,” Cheney writes.

After years of McConnell worship by Beltway journalists, the fact that he 100% whiffed on the most consequential issue of our time might finally be sinking into the psyche of some political journalists and analysts.

As former U.S. attorney, deputy assistant attorney general, and “Talking Feds” host Harry Litman noted this week on NPR's “Trump Trials” podcast, we would never be here if McConnell hadn't "blinked" on convicting Trump.

"When you think of all the forks in the road over the last several years, that one moment with McConnell who was obviously saying that [Trump] was guilty and should have been convicted, stands out to me as the absolute road not taken," Litman observed.

That would have been the most "straight-forward" and appropriate way for McConnell to have "solved this national nightmare," Litman added, "and he blinked."

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Trump attorney defends the right to assassinate political opponents

On Tuesday morning, attorneys for Donald Trump appeared in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to argue that Trump can’t be prosecuted for his acts in attempting to overthrow the 2020 election. Rather than trying to weave some complex legal theory under which recruiting false electors and spreading claims of election fraud is a presidential duty, Trump attorney John Sauer took a decidedly more radical approach.

According to Sauer, a president can do just about anything without facing criminal prosecution unless they are first impeached on the same charge. It was an approach that led to some decidedly jaw-dropping back and forth with the panel of appellate judges.

Judge Florence Pan: Could a president order SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That is an official act, an order to SEAL Team Six?

Sauer: He would have to be, and would speedily be impeached and convicted before the criminal prosecution.

Pan: I asked you a yes or no question.

Sauer: If he were impeached and convicted first.

If that sounds like Trump’s attorney saying a president could order a hit on a political opponent and never face prosecution unless his own party supported his impeachment, that’s exactly what he said.

Could a president sell pardons? Yes, according to Sauer. Could a president sell military secrets to a foreign government? Sauer tried to weasel out of giving a simple answer to any of the hypotheticals thrown his way, but eventually went back to his central theme: A president has total immunity from all prosecution, civil and criminal, unless they are first charged in the House and impeached in the Senate.

Not only was this a position so extreme that even former Trump attorney Ty Cobb wrote to the court to oppose this view, but it turned out to be a wee bit contradictory to a position that Trump held when he was actually facing impeachment.

In 2021, Trump argued that there was no need for a last-minute impeachment since he could always be prosecuted later. Now Trump is attempting to use his party’s failure to vote for his impeachment as a guarantee that he can’t be prosecuted.

Pan: Say the president was impeached and convicted on a charge of incitement of insurrection. Then the government could bring a prosecution for the same or related conduct?

Sauer: Correct.

Again, I can't WAIT for the reports of how Trump is taking this -- his attorney arguing that Biden can assassinate him.

— emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 9, 2024

At the close of Sauer’s presentation, Pan made it clear that everything in Trump’s case hinged on this interpretation that any charges required an impeachment first.

“That is, if he’s correct that the impeachment judgment clause includes this impeachment first rule, then he wins,” Pan said, “and if he’s wrong, if we think the impeachment judgment clause does not contain an impeachment first rule, then he loses.”

Sauer agreed with the statement.

But the best summary of Sauer’s argument may have come from Judge Karen Henderson. “I think it is paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care of the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate criminal law,” Henderson said.

The arguments in court followed a midnight social media appearance from Trump in which he delivered a string of false accusations against President Joe Biden. This included claims that all the state and federal charges leveled at Trump were on Biden’s orders.

Following the hearing, which Trump attended, his attorneys were back with a repeat of those same false claims. They threatened that unless Trump gets complete immunity, Biden could be prosecuted just because the DOJ brought charges against Trump.

Lauro: Joe Biden could be prosecuted from trying to stop this man from becoming the next president of the United States. pic.twitter.com/AeXXc5d8az

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 9, 2024

Or, to put it another way …

So far, Trump's lawyer's argument comes down to: If you prosecute Trump, we'll come after you, whether what you've done is crimes or not, and we'll do it in Texas with a Texas jury.

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) January 9, 2024

Arguments on Tuesday were related to the four-count indictment special counsel Jack Smith filed against Trump in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 results. The trial in that case is slated to begin on March 4, but U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has put further hearings on hold until the issue of immunity is resolved.

Whatever happens at the appellate level, the results are almost certain to be immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.

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