Live coverage: Trump trial resumes with payoff to Stormy Daniels front and center

The third day of testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records begins Thursday morning. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is expected to resume the stand, and based on where his testimony left off on Tuesday, prosecutors are likely to move directly into aspects of the incident that led to Trump’s indictment. 

Jurors have already heard how Trump, Pecker, and attorney Michael Cohen set up a “catch-and-kill” scheme to buy stories that threatened Trump’s 2016 campaign for the White House. Pecker’s testimony made clear that the scheme was not meant to protect Trump from personal scandal, but to prevent the public from hearing stories that might affect the outcome of the election. The scheme was outlined in a Trump Tower meeting that included not just Cohen, but Trump’s campaign press secretary, Hope Hicks. Pecker even noted that he would have published one of the stories directed at Trump, but would have held it until after the election.

On Thursday, it’s expected that Pecker will be questioned about the events surrounding Trump’s encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, how the National Enquirer purchased Daniels’ story, and how Daniels was persuaded to sign a non-disclosure document that kept her from revealing her relationship with Trump before the election.

Pecker will also be able to answer some of the questions at the heart of the trial, such as how Trump handled paying back the funds that were used to quiet Daniels. So far, the prosecution has been very effective in making the case that this isn’t about a personal scandal or about hush money. This is about a conspiracy to affect the results of the 2016 election by illegally covering up information from the public.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 9:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This would seem to put a large dent in the law school-worthiness of Bove’s work today.

Bove will start tomorrow w/ a real embarrassment before jury, as judge tells them Bove basically misled them in characterizing document he was supposedly using to "refresh [Pecker's] recollection." A bad way to start the day and +-undoes the solid if not very damaging work he did

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:47:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin with high praise for both sides today.

Between four trials and multiple additional hearings in GA, DC, and FL, I've seen a lot of lawyering in the Trump cases, and not all of it good. But today's direct and cross examinations of David Pecker were the sort of things you'd want to show law students.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:41:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Truthfully, when it came to what he needed to accomplish in the courtroom today, it didn’t seem that Emil Bove did that poor a job. He showed that Trump was just one of several pals of Pecker who had been given breaks when it came to holding back negative stories or playing up positive news, he reiterated that Pecker conducts intrinsically unethical checkbook journalism, and presumably, he was going somewhere with the questions about Hope Hicks.

But when it comes to dealing with Merchan, both Bove and lead attorney Todd Blanche are scoring idiot goals all around.

Merhcan to Bove: "Are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to my statement. you gave the impression there was something in the document when there wasn't. so please be more careful." not as bad as "you're losing all credibility," but not great.

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

Merchan announces he’s adding the four new instances of potential gag order violation that the prosecution brought up today to the list of Trump statements the defense has to … defend. Now everybody gets another hearing on Wednesday afternoon to deal with this. That’s supposed to be everyone’s day off from this trial, so no one is going to be happy.

But it’s a good example of how Merchan is keeping things moving along (except in making rulings about those violations).

Merchan’s anger at the end of the day was also directed at the way Bove went after Pecker. Basically, he felt that the way Bove acted as Pecker tried to refresh his memory was meant to mislead the jury into thinking that Pecker was unreliable or following a script. So the jury is going to get a special jury instruction before court begins again in the morning. 
Which it will, no matter what some knucklehead told you on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:30:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A flurry of post-trial action.

Post-trial proceedings: Prosecution accuses Trump's counsel of improper impeachment, leading to an exchange where Emil Bove tests the judge's patience. Merchan: "Mr. Bove, are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to what I'm saying."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:27:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Meanwhile, things are getting shaking-fist-at-clouds cantankerous outside the courthouse.

I am here outside NY Trump trial Courthouse and as far as I can tell only one pro Trump protester is in the vicinity The area is totally open and people are coming and going but only this gentleman bothered to show to support the former president

— Norm Eisen (#TryingTrump out now!) (@NormEisen) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:25:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The day ends with the attorneys still in a sidebar with Merchan. Pecker is off the stand. He’s expected to be back tomorrow.

With the attorneys and Trump remaining in the room, the court may now rule on the gag order hearing. Hang in there.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:21:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of this in the last few minutes. Not sure if Trump’s team intends to say that Hicks was not there, of if they’re saying Pecker has a bad memory, or if they're accusing him of collaborating with the government.

Trump's lawyer Bove: And on August 2, 2028 you met again with the prosecutors about the August 2105 meeting Pecker: I need to see the report... Bove: You need to see a report to remember? Pecker: Yes. Bove: At no point did you mention Hope Hicks Gov't: Objection!

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:18:08 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove is now hitting Pecker on the idea that he didn’t claim Hope Hicks was at the Trump Tower meeting in his initial statements. This has generated a couple of objections and a sidebar. Pecker starts to argue with Bove, Bove gives him a document to read through.

Q: You didn't initially tell prosecutors that Hope Hicks was in aug 2015 meeting in Trump Tower, right? [it's not in 302-- ie FBI report -- of the meeting] A: correct, but-- Q: just yes or no A: no

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:14:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Not sure where Bove is going with this, other than to claim that the Trump Tower meeting was just something that happened, not a turning point.

Pecker agrees that Cohen acted as an intermediary for potentially negative stories. Bove notes that Cohen worked for Trump for at least eight years before the Trump Tower meeting.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:12:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m honestly surprised the prosecution didn’t bring this up. It could have been run through in a couple of “you’ve had other dealings with Cohen...” sentences and largely defused as fuel for the defense.

Pecker testified that Michael Cohen often asked Pecker for favors for himself, including asking Pecker to arrange paparazzi shoots of Cohen and to promote Cohen's daughter’s rock climbing.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:10:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove’s questioning has now turned to Cohen. Considering what Pecker said during the prosecution, it seems likely the defense will present Cohen as someone who was in it for himself and who was frequently lying when he claimed to be representing Trump.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:09:10 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove discovers that Pecker doesn’t just say “yes” to everything he asks.

Trump lawyer trying to suggest he rehearsed, went over material repeatedly. Pecker pretty well punctures the line of questioning: "What I said under oath was the truth. That's all I planned on doing today."

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:07:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting tales of Pecker helping out celebrities by holding back negative stories or running more favorable stories. Unclear how many more of these Bove has in his pocket.

Considering the long-time friendship between Pecker and Trump, his defense may have a pretty complete list.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:02:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why Bove brought up Ari Emanuel—his brother.

Pecker said he helped suppress a potentially negative story about Rahm Emanuel while he was running for mayor of Chicago, at Ari Emanuel's request.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:00:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of very similar statements are going past, some of them slightly worded repeats of statements already asked. Again, the idea is to make it seem that, no matter how shocking Pecker’s deal with Trump may seem, it was nothing special for National Enquirer.

Bove asks Pecker about other celebrities with whom he had a "mutually beneficial" relationship and for whom he has sought to publish positive stories or kill negative stories. You had similar relationships w/ people other than Trump? Yes. Meaning other people who you would…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:57:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker gets led through efforts AMI has made to support others in the past, including Ron Perlman, who Pecker considered a friend and media agency owner Ari Emanuel, who was embroiled in a lawsuit over supposed sexist and racist remarks in 2002.

Not sure either of these does much other than to give Bove some additional examples of Pecker refusing to run every story.

Pecker says that AMI only runs about half the stories it buys. However, what doesn’t get said, because Bove doesn’t ask, is that most of those stories that don’t get run are killed because they proved to be untrue or simply weren’t interesting enough on closer examination.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:50:29 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What Bove is doing is setting up the idea that there was nothing unusual or illegal about buying stories to hide them, and that just because it was being done to support a campaign doesn’t make any difference.

He’s trying to elicit testimony to support the defense theory of the case: That there’s nothing illegal about hush money payments. And that there’s nothing unusual about a campaign coordinating with friendly media entities. In the defense narrative, that's just standard operating…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:47:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker admits that the first time he heard the term “catch-and-kill” it was from the prosecution.

Bove seems to think this is a mic drop moment, giving the jury a long pause for this to sink in. But this term has been a part of journalistic ethics for some time. Among other things, it was the title of a 2019 book by Ronan Farrow.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:39:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove hitting Pecker over the idea that slanting his paper for Trump was a long-time practice, diminishing the importance of the post-Trump Tower meeting scheme. 

During cross, Bove is driving home the point that Pecker long sought to publish positive stories about Trump, because it was good for business, and hide negative ones.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:36:46 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove may not quite accuse Pecker of holding onto the doorman, McDougal, and Daniels stories to use against Trump, but that’s certainly the initial implication.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:35:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ah, here’s where Bove was going. In addition to buying stories to run, and buying stories for Trump’s catch-and-kill scheme, there was a third category: buying up stories to use them as leverage (i.e. blackmail) to convince celebrities to give interviews.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:33:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove starts off by reiterating National Enquirer’s checkbook journalism process.

"AMI wasn't a charity?" Bove asks.

"No, it was not," Pecker says.

"Part of AMI's business model was to purchase stories, correct?" Bove asked.

"Yes, it was," Pecker responded.

Bove hasn’t yet asked Pecker how many times he purchased stories to not run them, which is the critical factor in this case.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:30:05 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker closed out his answers for the prosecution with a big My Pal Donald story.

Pecker launches into a story about how, in 2001, all of his magazine offices were consolidated in one building in Boca Raton. That October, shortly after 9/11, his office received multiple anthrax letters. One of the editors at his magazine inhaled anthrax and ended up dying.…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

Trump called him to provide help by … recommending an attorney. Pecker doesn’t say if this was so he could sue the FBI.

Anyway, on to the defense.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:25:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And that’s it. The prosecution announces that it is done with Pecker for now.

Emil Bove is up to cross-examine for Trump’s defense. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:23:09 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you run a tabloid whose business is based on exaggerations, slander, and plain old lies, who could be a better mentor than Trump?

Asked if he has any ill-will toward Trump, Pecker emphatically answers in the negative. "On the contrary, [...] I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me out throughout my career."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:21:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The documents include a list of accepted facts that Pecker is now reading. Many of the items on this list seem to match things that have been in testimony this week. This could suggest that prosecutors are nearing the end of what they want from Pecker.

Jurors are reportedly still paying attention and taking notes. Good for them.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:12:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still at it. 

Prosecutors are now presenting the cooperation letter David Pecker signed to assist with the Manhattan district attorney's investigation. It is dated October 25, 2019.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:10:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker still reading through agreements with law enforcement. This can’t be exciting for the jury. I still don’t understand why the prosecution didn’t just enter the agreements as exhibits, then question Pecker about the parts they wanted to highlight.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:08:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin comes through with the explaination.

David Pecker is now reading from American Media's non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, which have been public for years but which misled the public about who exactly was involved in the alleged conspiracy to promote Trump's election. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Those documents never reflect Trump or "Individual-1"'s participation; instead, they disclose only that AMI acted in concert with "one or more members or agents" of the Trump campaign & refer to the August 2015 meeting between Pecker, Cohen & "at least one other member of the…

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:59:23 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The questioning moves from pre-election corruption to post-election dictatorship.

In 2018, Pecker received a letter from the federal election commission. He called Cohen “immediately” after receiving the letter. Pecker told Cohen he was worried. "Why are you worried?" Cohen asked. "Jeff Sessions is the AG and Donald Trump has him in his pocket," he said.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:56:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker and Steinglass are looking at AMI’s non-prosecution deal that landed Pecker on the stand the first three days of trial.  Merchan reminds jurors that they can’t use anything in the agreement as evidence against Trump. Not quite sure why the prosecution pulled out this document. Again, we’ll probably find out.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:51:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Well, come on down, queen of the podium! Welcome to the case.

Pecker testified he remembers a call with Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"Both of them said that they thought it was a good idea," Pecker said, referring to extending McDougal's contract.

Trump’s PR front was united in trying to keep his affairs hidden. That may be understandable, considering that they might have to answer questions about Trump's mistress.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:48:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That they swerved back for another question about McDougal suggests there’s still something they’re trying to get Pecker to say about the biggest case in the catch-and-kill triptych. But it’s unclear exactly what they’re going for now.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:46:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump got angry at seeing McDougal interviewed, even though this was after the election.

According to Pecker, Trump got angry after seeing Anderson Cooper interviewing McDougal. Trump said that he thought there was an agreement forbidding her from speaking to the press. Pecker replied: "Yes, we have an agreement but I amended it to allow her to speak to the press."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Trump got even angrier when he learned about the amendment. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:43:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

CNN reports questioning has moved back to a discussion of Stormy Daniels, but there have been mentions in the last few minutes around a White House dinner, discussions with both Trump and Cohen, and issues in handling McDougal that are likely to surface again.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:38:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker explaining a meeting with McDougal after she seemed upset about the pace at which the deal was moving.

Pecker said the purpose of the meeting was to make sure they were complying to the agreement. "I wanted her to remain within our (pause) family, I should say."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:36:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

All these questions about McDougal, and referring to her as “our girl,” will be hard for Trump to explain if he sticks to his prior claims. It could get 10x worse for him after McDougal testifies.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:34:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Another example of how Trump seemed to take a very personal interest in someone whose story he still claims to be false.

During the visit to the White House, Trump walked with Pecker to the Rose Garden. Trump asked, “How’s Karen doing?” It was a reference to McDougal. Pecker replied: She’s good, she’s quiet.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:31:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Some cross-story synergy for your afternoon.

Boris Epshteyn, the Trump aide who was among several people indicted Wednesday by an Arizona grand jury for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is in the courtroom.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:30:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I can’t visualize, so tidbits like this don’t really help set the scene. But I realize that most people have that internal movie rolling, so …

David Pecker returns to the witness stand. He's wearing a charcoal suit, a light pink collared shirt, and a red tie. Then the jurors file into court. Steinglass, for the prosecution, trots to the lectern to resume his direct examination.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

I do like the idea of the prosecutor “trotting.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:23:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And we’re getting underway for the afternoon.

Pecker is returning to the witness stand.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

This may not be Pecker’s last day on the stand. Prosecutors have indicated that they may not finish his questioning today, and then Trump’s team will get to cross-examine. Which at this point will likely consist of Blanche asking Pecker to prove “who’s ‘the boss’” over and over.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:36:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Something missed earlier that at least seems like it should be important.

Trump didn’t just thank Pecker for saving him from scandals through the catch-and-kill scheme, he did this in front of FBI Director James Comey.

Somehow, it seems that might have triggered some kind of alarm. But Comey might not have been able to hear it over all the self-congratulations he was handing himself for violating DOJ rules and making public statements about Hillary Clinton days before the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:14:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What did we get out of the morning? Quite a bit, actually.

Though there were moments when it seemed as if things were going to sink into a morass of agreements and shell companies, overall the questioning and answers remained pretty lively.

  • Pecker has now outlined his behavior in the three catch-and-kill schemes he conducted for Trump following the Trump Tower meeting with Hope Hicks and other members of the campaign. In each case, Pecker made it clear that he didn’t believe he was acting to protect Trump’s reputation, but to protect his campaign-—a critical part of the underlying conspiracy that makes Trump’s falsifying business documents into a felony offense.
  • Pecker went over how he had previously attempted to shield Arnold Schwarzenegger during his run for governor in California, and how that effort generated legal issues for the National Enquirer and parent company AMI.
  • The concern over what Karen McDougal had to say was so extensive that Cohen and Trump urged Pecker to give her what she asked for. That didn’t mean just money, but two columns and a modeling contract. Trump personally checked in on “our girl” to see that she was staying quiet. 
  • Pecker made it clear that when he appeared to get cold feet in paying McDougal, it wasn’t over concerns about whether Trump would cough up the $150,000 she had been promised. It was because he had legal counsel look over the arrangement that he, Trump, and Cohen had cooked up using a shell company to confuse the control of McDougal’s contract and that counsel sniffed something wrong.
  • It’s a good bet that wrongness is related to something AMI ran into with Schwarzenegger, considering the emphasis the prosecution brought to those acts, but Pecker was unwilling to go into details to protect himself and AMI.
  • Finally, whatever had happened with McDougal made Pecker reluctant to directly pay Stormy Daniels when that incident came up. Pecker encouraged Cohen to pay for himself, but seemed surprised that Cohen had covered Daniel’s $130,000 payment out of his own pocket.
UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:02:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lunch recess. Everyone is due back in court at 2:15 PM ET.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:01:17 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump talking to Pecker about McDougal during a private meeting.

Trump asked Pecker, “How’s our girl doing?”

Pecker said he told Trump, “She’s writing her articles. She’s quiet. She’s fine.”

This is profoundly creepy.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:55:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is Pecker after saying that Trump thanked him for covering up the McDougal and Dino the doorman stories. Every time Pecker says something like this, an angel in the DA’s office gets its wings.

Asked by the prosecutor whether Trump's concern about the stories getting out was primarily about his family or the campaign, Pecker responds: "I thought it was for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:50:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker ultimately ignored Cohen’s advice and amended the agreement with McDougal, allowing her more freedom to speak publically.

But he waited until December, more than a month after the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:48:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If there were worries that Cohen was misrepresenting what “the boss” wanted … nope. 

Pecker describes a conversation in Trump's office: "I said Michael Cohen is very concerned about his bonus for this year, and I wanted you to do that he's very loyal." He said Cohen was working very hard. "I believe that he would throw himself in front of a bus for you."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:46:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting it through my head that, as prosecutors are questioning a tabloid publisher about Trump’s affairs with a Playboy model and a porn star, more Trump attorneys are in another courtroom defending his appeal over defaming a woman he assaulted in a dressing room, and still more Trump attorneys are in front of the Supreme Court arguing that he can sell nuclear secrets or carry out political assassinations without consequence.

He truly is God’s man on Earth.+

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:42:16 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker: “I wanted to protect my company, I wanted to protect myself and I wanted also to protect Donald Trump. ”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:40:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

For those still covering the details of Trump’s body position. 

As David Pecker testified about learning of Stormy Daniels’ allegation of having sex with Donald Trump, the former president leaned back in his seat and appeared to close his eyes, per @benfeuerherd

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

Maybe he’s getting sleepy. Maybe he’s just visualizing a fond memory.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:38:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen instructed Pecker to keep McDougal under wraps despite the WSJ article which made most of her story clear.

Cohen recommended that Pecker not release McDougal. Q: Did you take that advice? A: No, I did not.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:33:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker testifies that Trump got angry when some parts of the McDougal story were published by the Wall Street Journal before the election. 

Trump accused Pecker or one of his employees of leaking.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:28:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Questions to Pecker are generating some discussion on the frustrations of practicing checkbook journalism. It seems that some of those connected to the Daniels story were good sources for Pecker’s pay-as-you-go story mill, so he didn’t want to burn those bridges. But Pecker and Cohen continued to dicker over who should pay.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:23:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The New York Times is providing a lot of reporting on Donald Trump’s interpretive courtroom dance. Trump reportedly let out a “big yawn” when the prosecution first mentioned Stormy Daniels. Since then, he has reportedly become “more animated” including motioning to his lawyers and crossing his arms.

This announcement is brought to you by the Dept. of Is That Journalism?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:19:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen tried to muscle Pecker into buying the Daniels story, once again threatening that Trump would be angry. But Pecker turned it around on Cohen, telling him to buy the story or Trump would be angry at Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:16:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Heavens forbid that something sully the sterling reputation of the National Enquirer.

Pecker told Howard that they couldn't pay $120,000. "I don't want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star," Pecker says he told Howard that night. Chuckles in the gallery.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:15:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The courts are a very busy place today. This is only tangentially related to the trial underway, however… 

Breaking Trump LOSES his bid for a new trial or a judgment overturning the more than $80 million verdict for E. Jean Carroll in the second trial. Ruling

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:08:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker continues to be pretty straightforward in his answers.

“Do you know of someone named Stephanie Clifford?” Steinglass asks Pecker.

Pecker replies: "Stormy Daniels was a porn star." 

So far, there’s only been one instance where Pecker claimed to not know what the prosecution was talking about. That one related to Howard mentioning an “other” thing he discussed with Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:06:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen spoke with Pecker about the tape. 

Email exhibit: After the "Access Hollywood" tape, Pecker said he spoke with Cohen and learned about the campaign's concerns about an old Radar Online article titled "Donald Trump, Playboy Man." Radar is an AMI property.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Dylan Howard then wrote that he had “deleted the article entirely.” So it appears that Pecker and Howard were even destroying existing articles to help protect Trump’s campaign.

Questions are now going to the main event — Stormy Daniels.

Daily Kos is the largest independent, progressive news outlet and activism hub in the country. Can you please support our work with a $5 monthly recurring donation?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:02:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker being asked about his knowledge of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Asked if he remembers the "Access Hollywood" tape coming out, Pecker says: "I do. It was very embarrassing, very damaging for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:01:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That Rubin post explains something that happened right before the break.

Steinglass just stood up & yelped loudly to stop Trump lawyer Emil Bove from saying something. It's not clear exactly what or why, but it seems like Steinglass was suggesting that Bove was about to describe the nature of a relationship btwn Dylan Howard & someone he was texting.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:58:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Dylan Howard was editor-in-chief at the National Enquirer. Everything we’re hearing this morning suggests that Howard and Pecker knew this was an illegal scheme to conceal information during an election at the time it was happening.

NEW: On Election Night 2016, Dylan Howard texted an unknown "first-degree relative," "At least if he wins, I'll be pardoned for electoral fraud." Fortunately for the defendant, that text has been excluded by the judge for now. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:56:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

We’re back, Pecker is back on the stand (and I’m running about 5 minutes behind, but will rectify).

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:51:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m posting all three of these Lisa Rubin quotes that cover what the jury just heard, because they go a long way to covering a misconception that I had coming into this testimony—one that I repeated in an earlier update because of what I “knew” about this case.

NEW: It has long been conventional wisdom that David Pecker did not pay Stormy Daniels himself because he was angry Trump never reimbursed him. Not so, Pecker testified. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

And if that’s not enough, here’s another Anna Bower to make it doubly clear.

Pecker did not say why he decided he no longer wanted the reimbursement. But he said he made the decision after speaking with legal counsel. [Pecker does not have to reveal the legal advice he was given during that meeting bc it's privileged.]

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:29:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The reason I can indulge in reviewing how Cohen handled McDougal and how it relates to the shell company he created for Daniels is that we went into a morning recess about ten minutes ago. I should have given a hand signal at the time.

Anyway, hustle for that next cup of coffee if you need it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:21:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The source of that anger was an agreement to transfer McDougal’s story from AMI to a shell company, Resolution Consultants, that Cohen created strictly as an oubliette for any information about Trump’s relationship with McDougal.

The equivalent of Resolution Consultants in the Stormy Daniels story was Essential Consultants, another single-purpose shell company created by Cohen.

And yes, all this is tangled and feels a couple of steps removed from the action. That’s the purpose of shell companies: to be confusing and hide motivations.

Hopefully, the jurors are still taking good notes.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:16:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The ugly end of the McDougal agreement, after Pecker got cold feet and asked Cohen to rip up the contract.

Pecker says of Cohen's reaction: "He was very very angry, very upset, screaming at me basically." [...] "Cohen said, 'The Boss is going to be very angry at you.'" But Pecker said he stuck to his guns: "I said I'm not going forward. The deal is off."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:13:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of what’s going on now is talking about how, despite that Trump Tower meeting and despite Cohen’s assurances, Pecker had a hard time getting repaid by Trump. This is important because when it came time to buy Stormy Daniel’s story, Pecker was no longer willing to float Trump what amounted to a campaign protection loan.

That’s why Cohen ended up having to shoulder the expense, and why Trump made his illegal payments to Cohen, not Pecker.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:06:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The Washington Post with more details on what McDougal was offered for this story that Trump denies.

Pecker said she wanted to write for celebrity magazines and wanted to be on the cover of some health and fitness publications. She also wanted to launch a fitness clothing line and a beauty products company, and that she wanted to be an anchor for red carpet events, according to Pecker.

Pecker said he told Cohen he didn’t have a problem with what McDougal was asking, but asked again, “who is going to reimburse me for this?”

McDougal had Trump over a barrel, and both she and Pecker knew it. She got an entire wish list of items to keep her silent during the campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:02:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jesse McKinley at The New York Times.

David Pecker is now describing Trump’s interest in obtaining boxes of material regarding Karen McDougal, saying that Trump was worried about what would happen if Pecker got “hit by a bus” or his company was sold. Trump “did not want someone else to potentially publish those stories.”

That’s a whole heaping lot of concern over something Trump says wasn’t true. It’s going to be interesting to see which way Trump tilts his head when McDougal takes the stand later in this trial.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:58:52 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Yes, he is watching closely. Head tilted to the right.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:57:15 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker is being asked to look at additional paperwork. Other than the court TV show joy of watching each item held up and asking for it to be entered into evidence, the jury isn’t likely getting a lot out of this part/

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:54:59 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass asks a question that goes directly to those 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Steinglass is asking whether Pecker was aware that corporations making campaign expenditures in coordination with a campaign without disclosing them was unlawful.

Yes, Pecker says.

Pecker also confirms the transaction was not reported under campaign finance obligations.

That seems like a big whoopsie from someone who just testified that he had structured McDougal’s contract after running into problems during Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:50:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Again, this was about protecting the campaign. The prosecution is never going to tire of leading Pecker back to this point, because that underlying conspiracy is at the core of their case.

Pecker: "We didn't want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Pecker then says that he would not have purchased the story at the price McDougal demanded if Cohen hadn’t promised that Trump would pay for it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:47:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker reiterates that for the National Enquirer, McDougal’s story was “a very, very large purchase.”

On a threat level, Cohen and Trump seemed to have rated this story the one that might create the most potential damage.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:45:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jurors seem to be staying engaged. Not only are heads swiveling back and forth as Steinglass questions Pecker, there have also been reports that jurors are back to making lengthy notes.

The biggest group waiting for them at the door of the courtroom may be literary agents.

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UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:38:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Make everything clear to the jury.

Question from Conroy: Q: Do you know whether anyone other than Michael Cohen had knowledge of this contract? A: Yes, I believe Donald Trump did.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:36:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why the prosecution made that side trip into discussing Pecker’s deal with Schwarzenegger before bringing out McDougal’s contract—there’s a direct connection.

Because Pecker had found himself in some hot water after he paid then-Governor Schwartzenegger's housekeeper in exchange for the Terminator's continued association with two of his fitness titles--and after Arnold was running for governor.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Again, the prosecution is underscoring that this isn’t about protecting Trump’s personal reputation. It was about protecting his chances in the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:31:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is not exactly subtle.

Exhibit: The deal with Karen McDougal. The contract purchased the "Limited Life Story Rights" for "any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married man."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:30:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The contract was signed the first week of August, five months before Election Day. McDougal didn’t just get the money, but a two-year contract for columns in two AMI magazines.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:28:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass has brought out McDougal’s contract with AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:24:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The prosecution has moved on to asking Pecker about other incidents where he got involved in a political campaign. Pecker says Arnold Schwarzenegger called during his run for governor and Pecker agreed to refuse to publish stories from women who came forward about affairs with the would-be governator. At least one of those stories ended up being published in the LA Times.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:20:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Much of the questioning that’s gone in in the last few minutes has been around the issue of payment for the McDougal story. While Cohen began by saying that Trump would take care of it, he later told Pecker that “you should pay,” which concerned Pecker because not only was it a sizable chunk of money, McDougal was asking to appear in other publications controlled by Pecker’s company, AMI. Cohen eventually came back around to saying that “the boss” would take care of it, but this took several calls with Pecker and with others at AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A reminder of why Pecker was so concerned about hanging McDougal $150,000 to bury her story. On Tuesday, Pecker testified that the $30,000 he paid to quiet the “Trump’s secret love child” story was already way above what the National Enquirer normally paid. Pecker’s first offer to McDougal was just $10,000.

Trump really wanted this story buried.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:09:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Politico with more details on the latest gag order violations by Trump. That includes speaking directly about Pecker’s testimony.

Conroy told the judge: “This is a message to Pecker: Be nice. It’s a message to others: I have a platform and I can talk about you and I can say things like this, or I can say things like I said about Cohen.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:07:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

You can almost hear The Godfather theme playing every time there is a quote from Cohen.

Pecker says Michael Cohen told him: "You should go ahead and buy this story." "I am going to have Dylan Howard negotiate the terms," Pecker said he responded, before asking: "Who's going to pay for it?" Cohen: "Don't worry. I'm your friend. The Boss will take care of it."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:05:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jonah Bromwich at The New York Times:

Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, is now asking David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher, about a call he had with Trump about Karen McDougal … Steinglass is reminding [jurors] that it happened, and reemphasizing that Trump himself was personally involved, this time with more details. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:03:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

According to The Washington Post, Trump made an announcement on the way into court that seems aimed at winning over those fickle New Yorkers. Trump told reporters that he plans to hold a rally in Madison Square Garden that will honor police officers. Or maybe firefighters. Or maybe teachers.

It seems unlikely that Madison Square Garden knows anything about this rally.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:01:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The opening round of questions to Pecker are centered on the case of model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump that lasted for over ten months. As CNN reports, McDougal had more than one offer for her story, but Michael Cohen encouraged Pecker to buy it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:58:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Before the jury came in, Merchan talked with both defense and prosecution. Prosecutors insisted that Trump continues to break the gag order by talking about witnesses and threatens the jury be insisting that Merchan hurried to seat “95% Democrats.” Still no ruling from Tuesday’s gag order hearing.

Now: Prosecutor Chris Conroy files ANOTHER order to show cause to hold Trump in contempt for "four violations in the last three days" of the gag order.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:53:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The jury has entered and Pecker is heading back to the stand.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:49:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

One source you won’t be hearing this morning is MSNBC’s Katie Phang. That’s because Phang is in Washington this morning for that other court proceeding. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning on Trump’s claim of total immunity. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:46:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Just a few choice examples of the things David Pecker ‘s publication cranked out in 2016. Was National Enquirer enough to sway the results of the election? Maybe. Considering the razor-thin margins that determined the outcome, there were half a dozen issues, any one of which could have made the difference. 

It took everything falling Trump’s way for him to get that last-minute nudge across the line, and Pecker was shoving all the way.

Good morning from New York. On Day 1 on the stand, David Pecker described how he turned his tabloid empire into the Trump campaign's "eyes and ears": promoting him, attacking his rivals, and silencing "women selling stories." The ex-AMI chief's testimony resumes today. 🧵

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:44:11 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you’re shocked to find that court is actually in session today, that’s probably because you listened to some knucklehead who said there would be no court on Thursday because he didn’t notice an update to the schedule that happened a week ago.

Sorry about that.

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Why conservative attacks on Trump and his GOP sycophants are the most cutting

The op-ed sections of various traditional media outlets have provided ample opportunity over the past few years for Donald Trump’s many detractors to vent their contempt and frustration. This is an opportunity to call out not only Trump’s heinous behavior but also the behavior of those who continue to pledge their support to him, in spite of—or because of—his actions. Based on the sheer amount of impassioned invective alone, there’s little doubt that Trump has proven to be the most polarizing figure in our nation’s political history.  

Most of that criticism has come from the left side of the political aisle. Adam Serwer’s essay in The Atlantic, aptly titled ”The Cruelty Is the Point,” described the malicious Trump mentality and its attraction for Trump’s supporter base as well as could be imagined. Charles Blow of The New York Times certainly deserves accolades for his tireless efforts in the wake of the 2016 election to contextualize, among other things, Trump’s appeal in terms of racism. And though it’s not clear whether she’d identify as left-leaning, Jane Mayer’s investigative work produced what is undoubtedly some of the best journalism about Trump. Obviously this list omits a lot of stellar writers whose political sensibilities, one way or another, have combined to form a durable and thorough evisceration of Trump and Trumpism.

But a discrete line of attack from certain conservatives, many of whom have styled themselves “Never Trumpers,” has also emerged as particularly acute over the past eight years. The writings of The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, The Atlantic’s David Frum and Tom Nichols, and certain pieces written by David French and even Robert Kagan have been unusually acute in conveying an almost-palpable indignation and outright disgust. And this is not just aimed at Trump but at their fellow conservatives who have so obsequiously debased themselves by adhering to him. 

Of course, liberals are outraged and disgusted by Trump as well. But there is a wounded betrayal infusing the critiques by these (some could be called “former”) conservatives that invigorates their rhetoric to levels that even the most ardent anti-Trump voices from the left can’t quite capture. Something that makes their feelings of disgust stand out with a peculiar, inscrutable resonance that liberals, by definition, lack to adequately express.

RELATED STORY: Police union endorses Trump despite his glorifying jailed Jan. 6 'hostages' who attacked officers

This phenomenon is important because it provides a unique reminder of just how far the Republican Party has fallen. To fully comprehend it, though, it’s helpful to try to imagine ourselves experiencing the events of the past eight years from the same vantage point as these now-disaffected Republicans. 

This is the point where many will remind us that these same Republicans (some of them former die-hard neo-cons who led the cheerleading for George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War) are responsible for Trump’s ascension in the first place. That it also led to the descent of the GOP into its current putrescent, cadaverous state is the natural, inevitable outcome of their efforts. The only way to understand that is to imagine—as Democrats—what our reactions would be under similar circumstances. And putting it mildly, that is not easy.

First, you have to assume that for the better part of their waking political lives these folks—like Democrats—proceeded under the assumption that theirs was the “proper” course for the country, that their values were “good” values that ultimately portended a “good” result for the nation. They never, ever anticipated that someone possessed of such pervasive duplicity, outright fraudulence, and raw criminal mindset as Donald Trump could ever establish such complete, unquestionable domination of their party. They never anticipated that all of the racist dog-whistles their party relied upon for decades to muster their voters would suddenly be unleashed and openly normalized. They never foresaw that, facing the threat of demographic irrelevancy, their party and its leader would revert to openly embracing violent, murderous dictators and welcoming their meddling in our elections as an effort to preserve their political power. 

For Democrats to really appreciate the overwhelming degree of cognitive dissonance that clearly discomfits these “Never-Trumpers,” some analogies have to be drawn from an “alternate universe.” Imagine that instead of the morally upright, civic-minded fellow we all know, Barack Obama had spent the entirety of his life as a self-aggrandizing, misogynist blowhard with a long track record of corrupt business ventures, serial infidelity, and dependence on Russian financial largesse. Imagine him crudely projecting his own moral decrepitude on his opponent and eagerly allying himself with some of the most insidious and criminal personages in the country to attain the presidency. Imagine that instead of Michelle, Sasha, and Malia flanking him his offspring were the likes of Melania, Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric, for whom the only salient characteristics were grifting off their father’s existence. Imagine him eagerly and actively soliciting the assistance of our most ruthless strategic enemies to gain the presidency. 

Would Democrats enthusiastically elect such a person to represent them? Not very likely, but let’s just imagine they did. And in one of his first official acts as president, Obama proceeded to dispatch his openly racist underlings to implement a policy of child kidnapping toward undocumented immigrants and permanently separating them from their mothers and fathers. Imagine a long train of his own hand-picked officials resigning to write books decrying his absolute incompetence and sociopathic instability. Imagine him trying to condition military assistance to an erstwhile ally upon inventing political dirt on his presumed opponent in the next election. Meanwhile, imagine his fellow Democrats in Congress ignoring, then emulating his behavior. And they refused to criticize him and actively engaged themselves in performative, imitative acts, rubber-stamping his selection of political candidates. And all of those candidates invariably displayed the same corrupt tendencies before they went on to overwhelmingly lose in the next election.

Then imagine the world is stricken by the worst pandemic in a century, and rather than rallying to protect Americans, the Democratic president is more concerned with his own political viability. He and his closest advisers openly plan to leverage the pandemic against his political opposition, hiring quack physician advisers to ridicule the medical establishment and encourage the American people to eschew protecting themselves. All of this is being done, mind you, with the eager cooperation and praise of the Democratic Party and Democratic voters, many of whom begin to outdo themselves with public displays of obsequious sycophancy. During this interlude, nearly 1 million Americans die, a large number of those deaths stemming directly or indirectly from this president’s malevolent inaction.

Obviously at this point, any moral justification or excuses for such a hideous transformation affecting a political party would have long since evaporated. Which brings us back to reality, a reality that these “conservatives” appalled by Trump surely recognize: that Democrats would never, ever have allowed this to happen. Period.

But Republicans didn’t do that. In fact, they did the exact opposite, affirming and cementing their abandonment of all morality, all respect for the nation and its institutions, probably forever. Every action by Republicans since Trump lost in 2020 has revealed their party and almost all of its voters as swirling ever-downward in a nihilistic death spiral, from which there appears to be no return. Rather than acknowledge their gross, self-destructive miscalculation, they’ve simply doubled down like lemmings, eagerly chasing Trump as they rush toward the cliff’s edge.

And all during this time they’ve continuously excoriated—at times violently threatening—any Republican who refuses to go along with them. The storming of the Capitol by members of Trump’s voting base on Jan. 6 didn’t change their minds. Trump’s second impeachment didn’t change their minds. The serial lies about the election and Trump’s submergence beneath the weight of harsh criminal and civil liability didn’t change them, either.

The “Never-Trumpers” were, from the outset, operating under at least the assumption that their beliefs and goals were rooted in some semblance of civic responsibility, one which they—misguidedly or not—believed would serve the nation. Whether that belief was actually well-founded is or not is beside the point; the sad reality is that for them, there simply is no longer any place to go. As David French obliquely pointed out in his latest piece in The New York Times, their fellow Republicans really don’t want them. And Democrats don’t particularly need them, either. They have lost their tribe and realistically don’t seem to stand much chance of ever getting it back in their lifetimes. They could, of course, become Democrats (Jennifer Rubin said in 2020 she’s already one). That may just be a bridge too far for some of them, for whatever reasons.

But they still have a voice—an unusually strong one, because their acute sense of betrayal has put them in an uniquely shrewd position to bear witness to the self-destruction their party has wrought. Historically (in this country, at least), a political party must have some commonality of purpose, rooted in some actual benefit to the society that sustains it. When the whims of a single leader become the sole reason a party continues to exist, that party is no more than a cult, and when cults finally die they tend to collapse. This country has, however, never seen a political party abandon itself the way the modern Republican Party has abandoned itself to Trump, and there’s a chance that the cult will continue for some time even after Trump himself departs the stage.

But ultimately—maybe sooner, maybe later—it will implode. And after that happens, somebody (at least) has to be around to pick up the pieces, however ugly and painful a task that’s going to be.

RELATED STORY: Turns out the GOP does have a few ideas—and they're all terrible

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Wisconsin Democrats fear ‘usual tricks’ after GOP passes new maps

Both chambers of Wisconsin's Republican-dominated legislature on Tuesday passed new maps for the state Assembly and state Senate that were proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Yet even though Evers submitted those very maps to the state Supreme Court, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Molly Beck reports that the governor is "facing pressure by high-powered Democrats" to veto them.

Shortly after passage, however, a spokesperson for the governor reiterated his earlier promise to sign his maps if they were passed without changes. He has until Tuesday to act.

Wisconsin Republicans have fought relentlessly to preserve their extreme gerrymanders, which in 2022 gave them a veto-proof two-thirds supermajority in the Senate and left them just two seats shy of that mark in the Assembly. Last year, they repeatedly threatened to impeach newly elected Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who was part of the liberal majority struck down the GOP's current gerrymanders and ordered fairer maps for 2024.

Desperate to avoid that fate, Republicans recently passed versions of Evers' maps that were altered to protect GOP incumbents, prompting the governor to veto them. That turn of events caused Democratic legislators to be suspicious of the GOP's apparent about-face, with Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer warning that Republicans might be "up to their usual tricks."

Last month, the court received six sets of proposed maps from parties and interested outsiders, four of which a pair of court-appointed experts said met the court's criteria for neutrality in a non-binding report. Of this quartet, Republicans reportedly believed the governor's plans were "more favorable for them" than the other three submissions.

Data from Dave's Redistricting App show that Joe Biden would have won an 18-15 majority of seats in the Senate, though with many districts just narrowly favoring the president. Meanwhile, Donald Trump would have won a 50-49 majority of seats in the Assembly in a state he lost by a slim margin.

However, Democratic lawmakers were nearly unanimous in their opposition to Evers' approach, with some arguing that letting the court-supervised process play out could produce better maps. Democrats also focused their opposition on a separate provision in the bill that would prevent the new maps from taking effect before November's general election, meaning the GOP's current gerrymanders would remain in place for any recalls or special elections before then.

Despite his hardline record, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is facing a recall effort from MAGA extremists for not fully embracing Trump's election conspiracy theories, so this provision would ensure the recall would take place in his current district instead of a new one if the effort qualifies for the ballot.

In striking down the GOP's maps, the Supreme Court laid out a two-track process for implementing remedial plans, both soliciting submissions from litigants and also giving legislators the chance to pass their own maps first. However, the court would still have to sign off on whether any newly enacted maps comply with the criteria it laid down, which include political neutrality along with other traditional nonpartisan considerations.

For Republicans, it’s now ‘Trump First, Putin Second, America Third’

From a domestic perspective, the Republican Party’s embarrassing failure to follow through on its Fox News-goaded attempt to impeach Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas proved to be a blessing. It was wholly performative theater, without any legitimacy. The party’s abrupt, equally embarrassing turnabout on immigration—an issue that Republicans had planned on wielding against Democrats going into 2024—was just more evidence of the GOP’s terminal dysfunction. 

As schadenfreude-y as it may have been for Democrats to watch as the Republicans immolated themselves on the altar of immigration, the rest of the world was far more concerned about how the U.S. would follow through on its prior strategic commitments to Ukraine and Israel. By Wednesday morning, aid packages to both nations were hopelessly consigned to the quicksand of GOP intransigence and finger-pointing. Since aid to those countries was tied—at Republicans’ insistence—to border legislation, the Republicans’ pathetic submission of their much-vaunted immigration concerns to Donald Trump’s electoral whims may have doomed the prospects of further aid to Ukraine and Israel for the remainder of the fiscal year.

(Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is now crafting separate packages, without immigration reform included, but their likelihood of success appears murky.) 

From the perspective of our allies, however, what occurred this week is seen less as habitual Republican dysfunction and more as the total abandonment of American resolve. In a week’s time, we have proved ourselves, as Anne Applebaum presciently warned last month in The Atlantic, worse than an unreliable ally: We’ve become “a silly ally”—one that can no longer be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

Applebaum isn’t alone in that assessment. Tom Friedman’s Tuesday opinion piece in The New York Times, acidly titled “The G.O.P. Bumper Sticker: Trump First. Putin Second. America Third,” explains just how damaging and consequential the Republicans’ actions this week have been to the nation.

As Friedman wrote, even before the immigration and foreign aid bill collapsed under the weight of Republican cowardice:

There are hinges in history, and this is one of them. What Washington does — or does not do — this year to support its allies and secure our border will say so much about our approach to security and stability in this new post-post-Cold War era. Will America carry the red, white and blue flag into the future or just a white flag? Given the pessimistic talk coming out of the Capitol, it is looking more and more like the white flag, autographed by Donald Trump.

There is no serious doubt that House Republicans rejected the Senate’s painstakingly crafted immigration legislation, which satisfied nearly all prior GOP demands for border enforcement, at the behest of Donald Trump. Trump prefers to do nothing, effectively maintaining the status quo at the border for another full year so he can use it as a campaign talking point, assuming he's still eligible to hold public office

Fearing Trump's wrath, House Republicans swiftly pronounced the immigration and foreign aid package "dead on arrival" before most had even read it. Meanwhile, Republican senators began to quaver at the prospect of being primaried by Trump-chosen challengers for the audacity of trying to actually pass meaningful legislation. Faced with Trump’s continued vise-like grip on their party, upper chamber Republicans opted to jettison the legislation altogether. 

But, as Friedman observes, there’s another key player in the mix: Vladimir Putin. Putin is well-aware that Trump will abandon Ukraine—and likely NATO—the instant he returns to power. Friedman recognizes that Trump’s interests—and thus the interests of a supine Republican Party intent on enabling Trump’s dictatorial ambitions—now necessarily dovetail with Putin’s.

After Ukraine inflicted a terrible defeat on the Russian Army — thanks to U.S. and NATO funding and weapons — without costing a single American soldier’s life, Putin now has to be licking his chops at the thought that we will walk away from Ukraine, leaving him surely counting the days until Kyiv’s missile stocks run out and he will own the skies. Then it’s bombs away.

This week, one of Putin’s primary assets, the propagandist and “useful idiot” Tucker Carlson, is purportedly being wined and dined in Moscow so he can provide cover for Republicans to gut Ukrainian aid. Carlson’s paywalled, one-on-one interview with Putin, and how it might enable the murderous dictator’s “outreach” to Republicans, is already the talk of Russian state television.

As reported Wednesday by The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova:

State television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, one of the Kremlin’s anti-Western attack dogs, seemed to suggest that Carlson’s interview would torpedo any last hope for approval of new American military aid for Ukraine.

Solovyov said Carlson’s visit came “at the worst possible time for the West,” and he begged Carlson to join the Russian Union of Journalists, which Solovyov heads.

As Friedman points out, this eagerness of Republicans to betray American strategic interests in order to satisfy both Trump and Putin transforms America’s credibility with our allies into a mere afterthought.

If this is the future and our friends from Europe to the Middle East to Asia sense that we are going into hibernation, they will all start to cut deals — European allies with Putin, Arab allies with Iran, Asian allies with China. We won’t feel the change overnight, but, unless we pass this bill or something close to it, we will feel it over time.

America’s ability to assemble alliances against the probes of Russia, China and Iran will gradually be diminished. Our ability to sustain sanctions on pariah nations like North Korea will erode. The rules governing trade, banking and the sanctity of borders being violated by force — rules that America set, enforced and benefited from since World War II — will increasingly be set by others and by their interests.

The saddest fact is that no one should really be surprised by Republicans’ behavior. For a substantial segment of their caucus, their order of loyalty really is “Trump first, Putin second, America third.” Evidently they feel that the risk of betraying their own constituents on the immigration issue is well worth the effort and impact, if it means pleasing their two masters. And if they have so small a regard for their own constituents, there’s little doubt they feel even less toward the American republic writ large.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to force House GOP to take a Trump loyalty test

On Tuesday, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and honorary “Florida man” Rep. Elise Stefanik, and 64 House Republicans presented a resolution to declare that Donald Trump “did not engage in insurrection or rebellion” related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Gaetz began the press conference by saying “We are here today to authoritatively express that President Trump did not commit an insurrection,”

More importantly, Gaetz made it clear that he plans to use this as a MAGA purity test. After thanking Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio for filing a companion bill in the Senate, Gaetz said, “And now it's time for members of the House and Senate to show where they stand on this question.” And just like that, Gaetz’s remarks were followed by a series of Republicans praising dear leader Trump and saying how the insurrection on Jan. 6 was a concoction by “leftists.” 

“[What] we have seen is mass hysteria caused by you, the reckless leftist media,” said Rep. Andy Biggs. “That's what we've seen.”

Stefanik flanked Gaetz during the press conference, suggesting they’ve patched things up since the two spent October bickering at one another’s expense. Gaetz’s resolution reads in its entirety

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that former President Donald J. Trump did not engage in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or give aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

You can flip the paper over if you don’t believe me.

The idea that after hundreds of arrests, convictions, and prison sentences—as well as a congressional investigation that left very little to the imagination about how very much Trump and his allies orchestrated the insurrection—the horrors of Jan. 6 should be forgotten with a single-sentence resolution is almost hallucinogenic! It also signals how Trump and his supporters expect the GOP to fall in line. Those who sign on to Gaetz’s resolution will be on a list that Trump can point to and threaten Republican officials with for however long he lives.

As of now, two names are conspicuously absent from the list of sponsors of the bill: Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer, both of whom have been doing Trump’s dirty work as chairs of House oversight committees.

Maybe they are too busy not finding evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden to sign on to a bill as ludicrous as this one. But as former Rep. Liz Cheney knows, Jordan will surely sign on to any bill pretending that Jan. 6, 2021, never happened.

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GOP congressman admits Mayorkas impeachment is bogus

House Republicans caught some friendly fire on Thursday, when Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado went on MSNBC to say that GOP members pushing for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment would not get his support. Calling the process “wrong,” Buck told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, “This is not a high crime or misdemeanor. It’s not an impeachable offense. This is a policy difference.”

The Colorado Republican went so far as to admonish his party, saying, “If we go down this path of impeachment with a Cabinet official, we are opening a door, as Republicans, that we don’t want to open.” When asked if he might change his mind, Buck said that unless new evidence materialized, it was unlikely since he has done his “due diligence” and doesn’t see any impeachable actions on the part of the secretary.

Republicans have repeatedly admitted that their attacks on Mayorkas are purely political. The idea that there might be legal reasons for impeachment seems to have escaped them entirely. For their part, House Democrats have been using these circus impeachment proceedings to point out how deleterious this political theater is to our country while also reminding voters about the absurd “solutions” that  Donald Trump and his MAGA lawmakers have for our country’s problems—the same problems Republicans are choosing not to address with policy, in favor of this this stunt impeachment.

Buck, who is retiring and leaving his seat to the wolves, now seems free to point out some of the more egregious actions of his fellow Republicans. He joins the GOP officials who have fallen out of favor with their political party—for not setting the world on fire—and who have become prone to pointing out how crappy their new members are

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It is primary season, and Donald Trump seems pretty low energy these days. Kerry and Markos talk about the chances of Trump stumbling through the election season and the need to press our advantage and make gains in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, the right-wing media world is losing its collective minds about Taylor Swift registering younger Americans to vote!

Congressman shreds Trump’s worst ‘ideas’ for border security

The House Homeland Security Committee convened on Tuesday to discuss and vote on two Republican-led articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Democratic members of the committee decided to take a two-pronged approach to managing today’s proceedings.

First, they pointed out how overtly political this impeachment process has been, and second, Democrats stressed how Republicans spend most of their time and energy complaining about border security while fighting tooth and nail to stop anything from actually being done about border security. That obstructionism includes trying to impeach Mayorkas.

Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California used his time to detail how “Donald Trump and House Republicans also have their own ideas for the border” and went on to helpfully list these actual proposed solutions. 

So let's review the majority’s border ideas, that they've actually presented. Here they are:

Donald Trump actually has said that he wants to build alligator moats along the border. That's one of his incredible ideas. 

Another idea that Donald Trump has promoted is he actually wants to electrify the border fence, and maybe even put some spikes on the border. That's another Donald Trump and MAGA-majority border idea. 

Another idea, which I'm not sure how well it would go, is he wants to actually bomb northern Mexico with missiles. That's another Trump idea.

And finally, I think one of the ones that I think is the most grotesque, is suggestions that instead we should maybe just shoot migrants in the legs as they cross the border. So once again, the Donald Trump and MAGA plan is alligator moats, bombing northern Mexico, shooting migrants in the legs, and electrifying the fence, and putting spikes on them. That is the Donald Trump border plan. 

And so again, we are here today with these horrific ideas being presented constantly by the former president. This is all about trying to get Donald Trump reelected. Donald Trump himself is saying he wants no solutions this year out of the Congress. And Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden continue to offer solutions every day and are ready to actually talk about real immigration and border solutions in this country.

The Republican Party has admitted too many times that these committee hearings and impeachment pushes are entirely political maneuvers, fueled by petty revenge and attempted power grabs. These partisan performances have nothing to do with the checks and balances in our Constitution.

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It is primary season, and Donald Trump seems pretty low energy these days. Kerry and Markos talk about the chances of Trump stumbling through the election season and the need to press our advantage and make gains in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, the right-wing media world is losing its collective minds about Taylor Swift registering younger Americans to vote!

In 2024, Trump voters are motivated by one thing above all: Revenge

Americans typically frame their politics as a contest between “right” and “wrong.” In our two-party system today, voters usually believe both they and their party are completely in the right, while those on the opposite side are completely wrong. And this belief persists even after one side concedes defeat: Yes, my party lost the election, but your party is still wrong.

There’s nothing unusual about this. Americans have generally viewed elections that way since the founding of the republic. One side is invariably left unhappy with the result, but they’ll invariably lick their wounds, galvanize behind a new candidate, and try again next time. There’s usually been no burning sense of resentment, no designs of revenge held against the voters who repudiated their decision the last time around. When Barack Obama beat John McCain in 2008, Democratic voters didn’t want “revenge” on McCain voters. That was just the way things were in those halcyon days.

Until Donald Trump, that is. Trump himself has been soundly and decisively dismissed by most Americans. He was repudiated by multiple impeachments that he richly deserved, and emphatically rejected by an electoral and popular majority of American voters in the 2020 election. Now, in 2024—amidst a swirling maelstrom of serious legal and criminal charges against him—Trump has made revenge the central focus of his campaign.  He’s still insisting to his supporters that his 2020 loss was fake (it wasn’t), and that they’ve been insidiously victimized by some type of amorphous, pervasive fraud and Democratic chicanery that essentially played them for fools. It’s a con that Trump started cultivating well before the 2020 election itself, that only went into overdrive after his failed coup of Jan. 6, 2021. 

As Tom Nichols, writing for The Atlantic, observes, the Republican electorate has swallowed Trump’s fiction and internalized it. Republicans have transformed Trump’s embarrassments into an insult against their own personal identities and belief systems. It’s an offense that demands and necessitates revenge against those fellow Americans who dared to insult them.  

RELATED STORY: A reelected Trump would mean living under the constant threat of modern-day Brownshirts

As Nichols observes:

These voters are not settling a political score. Rather, they want to get even with other Americans, their own neighbors, for a simmering (and likely unexpected) humiliation that many of them seem to have felt ever since swearing loyalty to Trump.

A lot of people, especially in the media, have a hard time accepting this simple truth. Millions of Americans, stung by the electoral rebukes of their fellow citizens, have become so resentful and detached from reality that they have plunged into a moral void, a vortex that disintegrates questions of politics or policies and replaces them with heroic fantasies of redeeming a supposedly fallen nation.

It’s terribly difficult and gut-wrenching to admit that one’s choices were wrong. For some people, it’s impossible. For voters who fatefully cast their lot with Trump (and have been subjected over and over to glaring examples of his unfitness), there is no way to save face but by “plunging into that moral void,” as Nichols puts it.

They have to ignore Trump’s 91 criminal charges and his wholesale moral bankruptcy. They have to invent preposterous stories about President Joe Biden and his family. They have to believe, Nichols points out, that violence may be the only path to get their way—and it’s all to salvage their own sorry egos from the unforgivable slight of being wrong. So, egged on by their media bubble and abjectly Trump-dependent political leaders, these voters invent horrors that don't exist, imagine dire threats that they'll never personally face, and conjure up enemies they'll never encounter. It's all, as Nichols seems to imply, a coping mechanism to internally justify their own bad choice.

He wants revenge, and so do his supporters.

But, Nichols asks, against whom are they seeking violence and revenge? Why, Democrats, of course. Those neighbors who had that Biden-Harris 2020 sign have left them seething for four years, as has the local election board that processed all those mail-in votes. As Nichols observes, “When people talk about ‘resorting to violence’ they are, by default, talking about violence against their fellow citizens, some of whom have already been threatened merely for working in their communities as election volunteers.”

Unlike in previous elections, the motivation of these Trump loyalists isn’t really about policy, and it’s not really about “the border” or trans kids. It’s about a sense of revenge that Trump has cynically, deliberately cultivated in them. So they can finally come out on top.

As Nichols writes:

Much like Trump himself, these voters are unable to accept what’s happened over the past several years. Trump, in so many ways, quickly made fools of them; his various inanities, failures, and possible crimes sent them scrambling for ever more bizarre rationalizations, defenses of the indefensible that separated them from family and friends. If in 2016 they suspected, rightly or wrongly, that many Americans looked down on them for any number of reasons, they now know with certainty that millions of people look down on them—not for who they are but for what they’ve supported so vocally.

Nichols—a conservative, adamant “never-Trumper”—gets it mostly right here about Trump’s base, but he omits an important fact: that “what they’ve supported so vocally” is in fact quite telling about “who they are.” Still, he effectively dispenses with all the time and pixels wasted by major media in trying to “understand”—via visits to homey small-town diners and such—Trump voters’ motivations, ostensibly in the vain hope “that more listening and more empathetic nodding would put things right in a few years.”

That time has mercifully passed. Assuming Nichols is right, then there’s precious little to be gained by trying to understand Trump voters or ascribe any rationality to them. Revenge is a raw human emotion, not something that can be dealt with through discourse or reason. As Nichols cogently explains, more than anything, Donald Trump’s loyal base wants revenge “on their fellow citizens” for their attacks, critiques, and disparagement of Donald Trump.

No doubt they’ll be sorely disappointed when they don’t get it.

Caribbean Matters: The severe impact of climate change on the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

While many media outlets only seem to pay attention to the U.S. Virgin Islands these days when discussing Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous private island of Little St. James and Puerto Rico when it comes to Bad Bunny concerts, it is important that we take note of the reality that both U.S. colonies in the Caribbean are on the front lines of climate change.

The islands have been hit with scorching, record-breaking heat over the past summer, drought, flooding, erosion of the coastlines, damage to coral reefs, and waves of foul-smelling seaweed called sargassum. Climate change greatly affects the health and safety of those who live in the areas, not to mention the economic impact.

RELATED STORY: Caribbean Matters: A stinky 'golden tide' of sargassum seaweed strangles the Caribbean

Caribbean Matters is a weekly series from Daily Kos. If you are unfamiliar with the region, check out Caribbean Matters: Getting to know the countries of the Caribbean.

When discussing the impact of climate change on the daily lives of Puerto Rican and Virgin islanders, one aspect that I don’t often see mentioned are the are health-related impacts, both mental and physical. Writer, reporter, photographer, and producer Pearl Marvell published this report for Yale Climate Connections about the damage extreme weather does to areas already impacted by colonization and systemic inequality:

Puerto Rico has seen an alarming increase in deaths over the last two years caused by cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and mental health conditions like overdose, alcoholism, and dementia. There are a number of reasons for this, but the Fifth National Climate Assessment released last month warned that more intense and frequent hurricanes and other extreme weather events caused by climate change will likely bring more illness, higher mortality, and an overall decrease in quality of life to citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Perhaps we are among the least responsible for climate change, but we are being among the most impacted,” said Pablo Méndez-Lázaro, one of the lead researchers of the chapter. 


The 32-chapter national assessment, which will be published in Spanish in the coming months, is filled with information on the effects of climate change and potential solutions in the United States. This is the first assessment to fully assess the devastating effects of Hurricanes Maria and Irma on the islands in 2017. Chapter 23 focuses on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, examining the climate crisis in the context of the sociological, psychological, and historical situation of this region. It paints a more nuanced and complex picture than the fourth assessment in 2018, which focused on the effects of climate change on rainfall, coastal systems, and rising temperatures.

Back in 2016, the federal Environmental Protection Agency published this fact sheet on the USVI and climate change. It covered issues such as ocean warming and sea level rise, coral reef damage and ocean acidification, storm impact on homes and infrastructure, the shrinking of forests, and interference in agriculture productivity which could affect food supplies. We have seen the EPA’s predictions for human health impact come to pass:

Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Certain people are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. Rising temperatures will increase the frequency of hot days and warm nights. High air temperatures can cause heat stroke and dehydration and affect people’s cardiovascular and nervous systems. Warm nights are especially dangerous because they prevent the human body from cooling after a hot day. Although reliable long-term temperature records for the U.S. Virgin Islands are unavailable, the frequency of warm nights in nearby Puerto Rico has increased by about 50 percent since 1950.

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ climate is suitable for mosquito species that carry diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever. While the transmission of disease depends on a variety of conditions, higher air temperatures are likely to accelerate the mosquito life cycle and the rate at which viruses replicate in mosquitoes.

The warm marine environment of the Virgin Islands helps promote some water-related illnesses: Vibriosis is a bacterial infection that can come from direct contact with contaminated water or eating infected shellfish. Ciguatera poisoning comes from eating fish that contain a toxic substance produced by a type of algae found in this area. Higher water temperatures can increase the growth of these bacteria and algae, which may increase the risk of these associated illnesses.

RELATED STORY:  Caribbean Matters: Dengue cases are rising, and not just in the Caribbean

Far too many mainlanders not of Puerto Rican or Virgin Islands ancestry only think of the islands as a tourist destination. The USVI economy is far more dependent on tourism than Puerto Rico’s. Tourism and related economic areas in USVI account for more than half of its GDP, whereas in Puerto Rico it is far less, according to data from the Financial Oversight Board:

While Puerto Rico’s tropical climate, sandy beaches and thriving culture attract close to a million visitors each year, tourism is not a leader when it comes to economic activity on the island. Despite a popular belief that tourism is a significant contributor, this industry only represents about 2% of the island’s GDP. That share has grown 1% over the last 5 years, which is significantly less than the 15% growth reported within the industry during the same period in the mainland United States.

The USVI, however, winds up being caught between a rock and a hard place. Island leaders and residents promote tourism for economic survival while at the same time attempting to mitigate its environmental harm. Shannon Garrido wrote for Pasquines:

It took the United States government an entire decade to grant the largely African-descended population American citizenship. US Virgin Islanders have remained unable to elect the President of the United States or have a voting delegate in Congress. Needless to say, residents have little to no power in dictating the United States’ use of their land, and upon the turn of the 20th century, this has had significant environmental effects.

The island of St. John is home to the 29th US National Park and was founded by Laurance S. Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. As a result, exploitation and protection for the enjoyment of wealthy and white visitors are at the expense of the island and its native inhabitants.

This unsustainable trend continues, and the USVI is facing environmental pressures from increased tourism that threaten vital natural resources. This type of development impacts the environment in multiple ways, especially through sediment pollution, increased demand for sewage treatments, and direct ecosystem damage from an increased number of tourists.

RELATED STORY:  Caribbean Matters: Danish history, slavery, resistance, and colonialism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

This news report from TRT World details many of the current climate issues, especially threats to the coral reefs:

As the US Virgin Islands continue their long recovery from the devastation caused by the 2017 hurricanes, there's increasing concern about the possible impact of climate change. Experts fear that global warming is not only increasing the intensity of hurricanes in the region but is also having an adverse affect on the islands' marine life.

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, the non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the USVI, was interviewed briefly in the report. While many Americans got their first look at her when she served as a floor manager for former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, it’s important to point out that she has not ignored climate change as a major issue for the people she represents.

Here’s her brief floor speech on climate change from Sept. 26, 2019:

Mr. Speaker, this week, the United Nations is hosting its Climate Action Summit. Robust funding and sound policies are needed to ensure we effectively combat climate change. Threatened by increasingly more frequent and extreme changes in our climate, territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands stand at the front line of this quickly escalating climate crisis.

Within the past decade, my district has reduced fossil fuel use by 20% and has become a regional leader in clean energy. States and territories have also passed regional and state-specific legislation to combat climate change, but we need a comprehensive, forward-looking national plan to address this threat to our children and our children's children.

 While we don't yet have all the tools to address rapid climate change, we must create them through increased Federal investment in research, development, and deployment of emerging technologies. Across the nation, climate change is threatening our economy and our lives. Hurricanes like Irma and Maria collectively cost $140 billion, according to NOAA, and, most importantly, they cost thousands of lives. America must lead the charge to preserve our planet.

Fast forward to July 24, 2023, when Plaskett shared this statement on the inclusion of the USVI in the government’s seasonal drought outlook:

“My office successfully worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include the Virgin Islands in the U.S. Drought Monitor in 2019, which provides a general summary of current drought conditions and provides access to permanent disaster relief programs related to drought. As a result of the new inclusion in the CPC Drought Outlooks, our farmers will now have access to additional resources that can assist with their planning and preparation for adverse conditions, as well as their maximization of expected favorable conditions. The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency alongside environmental monitoring volunteers, the farming community, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands Drought Coordinator, Christina Chanes, worked in partnership to collect, compile, and analyze data on precipitation and particulate matter. This community-wide effort played an instrumental role in the Climate Prediction Center’s decision to include the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Operational Drought Outlooks.

“Given the immense impact of weather on agriculture, skillful weather forecasts provided by CPC Drought Outlooks are of tremendous importance to farmers for effective decision making on critical matters, including which crops are most likely to flourish in the predicted growing season, how much of each crop to grow, whether to irrigate, the timing of planting and harvesting and whether to purchase crop insurance.

“This is a critical and timely development for the agricultural community in our territory. It is my hope that the data and resources provided by the Drought Outlooks will be a well-utilized resource by our local farmers and those in the Virgin Islands agriculture sector.”

My question about this is: Why was the USVI not included until 2019, and only in the monthly outlook in 2023? 

There are efforts underway in the USVI to preserve and replenish the coral reef system. This video from the Nature Conservancy documents them:

While I think many people have the impression that climate change is only a concern for those who dub themselves “climate activists,” it’s an issue that most Puerto Ricans worry about. Politicians running for office in Puerto Rico and in mainland areas with large Puerto Rican communities should take note of this recent report from the Yale School of the Environment:

Residents of Puerto Rico are among the most worried in the world about climate change according to a new study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC).

The study, conducted in partnership with Rare and Data for Good at Meta, found that 93% of Puerto Ricans said they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about climate change; 84% said climate change will harm future generations “a great deal”; and 61% said climate change will harm them personally “a great deal.” Puerto Rico also had the highest number of respondents in the world who believe that climate change should be a high government priority.

Republican climate change deniers, listed in this opinion piece by Glenn C. Altschuler in The Hill, will hopefully be turning off mainland Puerto Rican voters in the next election as a result:

Not one Republican in Congress voted for the Biden administration’s bill to combat climate change. The percentage of rank-and-file Republicans who think global warming is caused by human activity has declined over the last two decades. These days, 70 percent of Republicans say climate change is a minor threat or no threat at all.

Democrats running for office should take note.

Please join me in the comments section below for more on Caribbean climate change issues and for the weekly Caribbean news roundup.

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The most overhyped stories of 2023

Welcome, fellow political enthusiasts, to the ultimate rundown of the year's most hyped-up, exaggerated, and downright overblown political sagas! From politicians who were hailed as up-and-coming only to fizzle, to news anchors juggling breaking news like hot potatoes, to conspiracy theories juicier than a ripe watermelon on a summer day, I give you my contenders for the most overrated, overreacted, and overhyped political stories of the year!

1. The white knight: Ron DeSantis

Most outlets and pundits, including CNN’s now unemployed Chris Cillizza, said Trump was heading for a reckoning. The Republican Party still wants a right-wing white supremacist wannabe dictator, but one without the immense stupidity and baggage. Whatever to do? DeSantis was the lone bright spot for the Republicans on election night 2022. He defeated the Democratic opponent by nearly 20 points and even won the blue county of Miami-Dade. He really fit the bill: He hated the right people and promoted the wrong people. He had zero qualms with violating the state constitution again and again while daring someone to do something about it. He literally bullied childrenattacked teachers, and proceeded to pick fights with our state’s largest employers if they offered the slightest critiques of his destructive policies. Our state legislature gave in to his bullying repeatedly, even allowing him to illegally redraw the political map. DeSantis was the one to watch in 2023, we were told.

So what went wrong? In a word, everything. DeSantis waited too long, he didn’t prepare, and wasn’t used to having to answer real questions from journalists outside of Florida, much less talk and act like a regular human. There was his campaign’s launch, which was a complete disaster on Twitter, and making gaffe after gaffe on the campaign trail. Let’s not forget the viral clips of him awkwardly laughing at nothing, wiping his fingers on supporters, and wearing elf boots to appear taller. He showed everyone that he was one weird dude. He continued to refuse to denounce Nazism, and his campaign even put out ads embracing Nazi imagery. He blew up at reporters for asking sensible questions and decided to go all in on defending the merits of slavery.  

Ron and Casey DeSantis.

His wife, nicknamed “Tacky O” here in Florida, was better, but not by much. She crisscrossed the state with the Moms for Liberty crowd and her “Mamas for DeSantis” before they became super-toxic. She tried to humanize Ron by crying into the camera saying how wonderful he was for finally agreeing to drop off his children at school because there was a brief time she just wasn’t able to. (Because she was fighting cancer!

Oh, and Ron refused to take on the front-runner he was scared to mention, fearing he’d alienate Trump’s supporters. This was, by far, his dumbest decision. Trump gave him no quarter and used him as a punching bag every day while DeSantis just stood there.  

Now Ron is behind Trump in the polls by 39 points ... in Florida! His own state legislature no longer fears him, as most of them have endorsed Trump. DeSantis’ requests for appointments and ideas for legislation have been ignored, which was unheard of last year. His entire political career has collapsed, and he’s been forced to debate other governors since Trump has completely ignored him. The best news is that he won’t even be a contender for 2028. He’s hated by the MAGA crowd and just about everyone else. The most-hyped threat to America is now a joke. It couldn’t have happened to a worse guy. 

RELATED STORY: DeSantis blasting Trump is too little, too late—but not for Biden

2. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter/Twitter Files

There was a time that Twitter was a huge deal. It altered the media landscape, changed our political discourse, and amplified marginalized voices. It provided a platform for citizen journalists and sparked movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Yet when plutocrat Elon Musk wanted to control it as his plaything, there was much fear from everyone except the right, who thought they would finally have a wide-ranging legitimate platform to spew their hateful and conspiratorial nonsense. Musk himself promised to release what he dubbed the "Twitter Files" late last year, which several outlets described as a “big deal.” 

In fact, it was a desperate attempt to legitimize the well-worn conservative narrative that the suppression of Hunter Biden’s “laptop” proved collusion with the so-called deep state. This had conservatives salivating as they felt it was going to be spectacle on par with the Jan. 6 hearings. Democratic careers would be destroyed and Jim Jordan would lead it all. Kevin McCarthy promised a major hearing.

We're learning in real-time how Twitter colluded to silence the truth about Hunter Biden's laptop just days before the 2020 presidential election.⁰ In 32 days, the new House Republican majority will get answers for the American people and the accountability they deserve.

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) December 3, 2022

Have you heard or thought about that since? The only thing it “showed” was that Twitter's former content moderators were doing their best to fight political disinformation. When people say “Twitter” now, (I refuse to call it “X”), they don’t think about Hunter Biden’s laptop. They instead associate the word with Elon Musk’s antisemitism and his multibillion-dollar business failure. In fact, 2023 might well be regarded as the fall of Elon.   

Gone are the days Elon would make an appearance on “The Big Bang Theory” to cheers or be taken seriously as some kind of scientific guru. What he showed the world is not just what a terrible business man he is, but also what an awful person he is. His attempt to turn a once-prominent social media platform into a forum for the far right has flopped spectacularly, with major advertisers leaving in droves, which happened even before Elon literally told them in a fit of rage to “F off.”

Elon Musk.

Millions upon millions of users, including many celebrities who made extensive use of the platform, have signed off. And while it’s still being used by some—including me—its reputation is now synonymous with misinformation and hate since Elon decided it was a good idea to elevate Nazis and conspiracy monsters. (As I write this, he has reinstated Alex Jones.) Elon leveraged Tesla stock to buy Twitter, effectively sabotaging both ventures. Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion, is now worth to be estimated somewhere around $19 billion. My dumb cat could have done a better job—at least she wouldn’t have tweeted that Jewish communities were anti-white. The fact that Elon still has money isn’t a testament to his professed “genius,” but rather a testament to how broken our economic system is and the benefits of generational wealth. 

Regardless, the hype was misplaced. Twitter once had the power to set the narrative of the masses, and that is what Elon and his ilk wanted. Yet its reputation is in such tatters that it’s seen as just another toxic waste dump that conservatives like to use. Threads, which was Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to Twitter, is abhorrent but it says something that tens of millions of users left Twitter the day it first launched. There are also now other options to use, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, so Twitter becomes more irrelevant each day.

RELATED STORY: Elon Musk goes to war against X users who dare tell the truth

3. NY Times/Sienna poll

After the 2022 midterms, Biden held a comfortable lead over Trump. No one cared. In October this year, a poll showed Trump with a slight lead in several battleground states. Other polls disagreed, but that didn’t matter. The media went nuts, and the typical Democratic bedwetters shouted the sky was falling. Almost immediately after the poll was released, Democrats swept every major race in the 2023 election. They flipped the Virginia House, held the Virginia Senate, elected a Democrat in Kentucky and New Jersey, and damn near almost won Mississippi if not for the shenanigans. They won every ballot measure, every important judgeship, and every important local race. It was one of the best elections in our party’s history. The result? The press doubled down on Biden being in trouble

Damn. What do you suppose they would have written if the Democrats actually lost?

Need more proof of bias? Our economy is outperforming every metric and is the envy of the world, but people have only recently begun feeling it. It takes time, but it will happen—especially within the next few months.

And yet we have headlines like this:

Really? The economy is booming! (Which could have been its own overhyped story from the doom and gloom predictions last year.) So the economy is great but once again, this means bad news for Joe Biden? I guess if the economy were in the toilet, he’d be better off?  

Here we are, one year out. We are winning elections, people are employed, inflation is dropping, and Trump’s convictions haven’t even started. They are going to be coming fast and ugly, and that’s just not going to sell with non-cult suburbia. In fact, the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll said 31% of Republican voters won’t vote for Trump if a jury convicts him of a felony.  

Clearly, despite what Republicans say, the media is not Biden’s friend. Trump called to terminate the Constitution and promised to be a dictator on Day One, but you gotta let Trump be Trump, I guess. The media wants a horserace and they’ll get one. But I’m not worried about a poll a year from an election, and you shouldn’t be either. Even good polls only give a snapshot in time, not a prediction one year away. Meanwhile, Biden has more accomplishments under his belt than any Democratic president in modern history, the economy is on the upswing, and the people are just beginning to feel it.  

I went back to 2011 for some perspective, and Obama's former campaign manager said the exact same story is playing out. 

Nate Silver declared our campaign and President Obama “toast.”

A lot of Democrats romanticize the 2012 Obama campaign. But if you were there, you know it was a knock-down, drag-out battle — not just with Republicans, but with bad media narratives. One such narrative hit us on Nov. 3, 2011, when the New York Times Magazine published an analysis giving Obama a 17 percent chance to win reelection.

When that magazine hit my desk, I knew it was trouble. Not because I believed it, but because of the anxiety it would stir up. Immediately, we had donors, elected officials, and my Mom absolutely freaking out. We couldn’t get supporters to rallies. People were calling for me to be fired.

We all know how that played out. It never changes. The same when we were told there would be a red wave in 2022 and Democrats were in trouble in 2023. Yes, there is a real danger of Trump winning: there is and always was, even if Biden weren’t our nominee. But Biden is doing everything right. He’s not only the incumbent this time, he’s beaten Trump before. He is constantly underestimated, he knows what he’s doing, and he has a crack campaign team. A week is a long time in politics, but a year is an eon.

By the way, multiple polls one year ago were coronating Ron DeSantis, including this one reported by U.S. News and World Report:

The Florida governor would beat Trump by double-digits in four critical states, according to a poll released by an influential conservative group just a day before the former president may announce his 2024 bid.

RELATED STORY: How can Democrats persuade the voters they need?

4. Numerous GOP House investigations

Most stories about the imminent GOP takeover of the House last year focused on the myriad investigations that would haunt the Biden administration. The “weaponization of government” was supposed to be the big one, and it flopped as hard as Kevin McCarthy’s disastrous impeachment inquiry. It was so bad that even Fox News chose not to cover it. But there were so many hearings, and none of them stuck. There were hearings on border security, Afghanistan, one on the deep state (seriously), the Biden family’s business practices, Hunter Biden’s laptop, the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and even one on the Pentagon’s alleged cover-up of space aliens. Great job. I’m not even touching the litany of attempts to find things to impeach Biden, which is still ongoing one year later. 

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The fact is that most of these groups only met once or twice, didn’t have anyone of substance attending outside of discredited right-wing cranks, and was completely ignored by the public. Even right-wing outlets were embarrassed and frustrated. People know exactly what the Republicans are trying to do in the House, and they just aren’t interested. 

In fact, there were only two big stories from the House this year: the fact that they couldn’t pick a leader, and the fact that the GOP had to admit in their official report that they found no wrongdoing by Joe Biden. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Nothing they do at this point is going to hurt Biden next year because their sham investigations are a joke, and all the press energy is going to be sucked up by Trump’s actual multiple criminal cases. That is the most painful reality of all that the right wing is now facing.  

RELATED STORY: House approves impeachment inquiry into President Biden as Republicans rally behind investigation

5. Trump’s indictments will rip this country apart

Once again at good ol’ CNN:

“A criminal prosecution of an ex-president and current presidential candidate by the administration that succeeded him would subject the country’s political and judicial institutions to more extreme strain than even Trump has yet managed. If Trump were indicted, the uproar could be so corrosive that it’s fair to ask whether such an action would be truly in the national interest – assuming special counsel Jack Smith assembles a case that would have a reasonable chance of success in court.”

It wasn’t as bad as when the disgraced former CNN legal pundit Jeff Toobin begged Merrick Garland not to prosecute Trump, or when Trump himself promised “death and destruction” if he were to be indicted for his many crimes. I remember watching a pundit this time last year calling the Jan. 6 riots a “tea party” compared to the violence that would occur if Trump was indicted. Trump also promised the biggest protest the world would ever see would happen after his first indictment.

This is the reality of what actually happened. 

Two lone demonstrators show their support for the former President outside of Trump Tower

— Dean_Moses (@Dean_Moses) March 21, 2023

More reporters than protesters showed up. But the second time would be different. Then the third time. Nope. Then the fourth time:

Jack Smith was there. Gave live shots of the massive protest at tRump's 4th indictment. So scary!

— Lea💙DragonSlayin💛💙SoothSayin💙💛VaXXinatedLib🟧 (@LeeZee_Bee) August 14, 2023

I’m hearing the same garbage now about if Trump is jailed for his crimes that it will amount to a civil war. It won’t. The people who ruined their lives storming the Capitol serve as a reminder to everyone who thinks about putting their lives in jeopardy for Trump. He could have pardoned all of the J6 insurrectionists, but didn’t do that for any of them. He just doesn’t care. He desperately wants violence and has outright called for it, but it hasn’t happened. There will be a few nutballs for sure, but we’ll deal with them. 

RELATED STORY: After 40 witnesses and 43 days of testimony, here's what we learned at Trump’s civil fraud trial

6. Moms for Liberty school takeover:

Going on the Google time machine, there many stories about this new powerful group—some of which were cheered: 

The lazy media bought into the narrative that it was just two moms selling T-shirts that spawned a nationwide movement on banning books, bullying LGBTQ+ teens, and terrorizing teachers and administrators. The fact that this was an astroturfed right-wing takeover attempt of public schools funded by spiteful billionaires didn’t seem to register at first.  

Protest sign outside Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors summit in Pennsylvania.

Yet their multiple times quoting Hitler, their open antisemitism, their bigoted book bans on everything from Anne Frank to Amanda Gorman, and their designation as a hate group turned many people against them. And that’s not to mention their most recent sex scandal. (Don’t all right-wing “values” groups have at least one sex scandal?)

The most recent election gave them a drubbing even in deep red areas. The headlines now read a little differently:

They’ll still be around next year, but no one is tolerating their BS anymore, least of all this amazing Sarasota student who was personally attacked by Bridget Zeigler, the Moms for Liberty co-founder on the Sarasota school board who is embroiled in a sex scandal and refuses to resign. 

Holy shit — this is fucking fire. 🔥

— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) December 17, 2023

RELATED STORY: Florida school board recommends ouster of Moms for Liberty co-founder over Republican sex scandal

Those are my picks. If you have any that you think I missed, please put in the comments. 

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