The new YouGov poll for The Economist indicates that currently only the hard core Trumpists oppose Trump being criminally prosecuted for stealing classified documents after he was kicked out of the White House by the American people. Just 34% of Americans oppose criminal charges. Presumably that number will shrink a bit if it turns out there is proof he actually sold or was in the process of selling top secret documents to the Saudis, Israelis, Russians or other bad actors.
And Trump is dragging down the GOP with him. They certainly deserve to be dragged down. The Financial Times: “Nine months ago, there was still some doubt whether the U.S. Republicans were Donald Trump’s personal possession. Glenn Youngkin had just won the Virginia governorship while keeping some distance from the twice-impeached former president. Here was, if not a brave soul, then an electoral model for non-populist conservatives to follow. How naive that doubt now seems. Trump-endorsed candidates are thriving in the primaries for the midterm elections. Those who take a stand against him are not. The rout of the Republican lawmaker Liz Cheney in Wyoming this month was retribution for her role in the probe into last year’s siege of the U.S. Capitol. About three-quarters of Republican voters deny that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected US president. Subscribers to the Big Lie include people attaining positions in the election bureaucracy of Arizona and other important states. Trump, if he runs again in 2024, will count on their chicanery. The decay of the GOP is existential for the republic.”
Yesterday’s Morning Consult survey of registered voters for Politico showed Democrats now leading the midterm generic congressional poll 47-42%, a significant, and generally growing, margin. Among Gen Z voters that’s 60% to 21% and among Millennials it’s 51% to 36%… and that polling was done before Biden’s student debt announcement.
So, back to Trump’s legal problems. How are they going to play in the midterms? Chris Smith reported today that New York Attorney General Letitia James is probably about to file charges against Trump… likely before the midterms. (And not his company; him.) And yesterday, Andrew McCarthy, writing for the conservative National Review, insisted that Trump fucked himself by shooting off his mouth in public with provably false assertions, particularly how he depicted himself “as fully cooperative and transparent, in contrast to the Justice Department, which is portrayed as the corrupt cat’s-paw of the Biden White House.” All of that has now been shown to be patently false.
There should not be any dispute that if highly classified documents had been retained at Mar-a-Lago, and had been accessible to people who did not have the top security clearances necessary to view them, then it was urgent for the FBI and other intelligence officials to examine the documents and assess the damage— to determine if informants were compromised and potentially in danger; if intelligence methods had been exposed, leaving the government vulnerable to disinformation; if sensitive intelligence operations had to be aborted; and so on. Representative Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who is no never-Trumper, told Politico, “I mean, if he had actual Special Access Programs— do you know how extraordinarily sensitive that is? That’s very, very sensitive. If that were actually at his residence, that would be a problem.”
If, as appears to be the case, it was appropriate for the FBI to conduct this review of Trump records, then the PRA mandated Biden’s approval and his review of any Trump privilege claims. As a result, there is very little upside for Trump in emphasizing Biden’s collaboration with the Justice Department.
By contrast, the downside for Trump is immense. [Acting Archivist, Debra Steidel] Wall’s letter not only lays out the scope of Trump’s recklessness to the extent it was known by May 10. It further invites consideration of the events that followed: Trump’s blocking the FBI’s access to the records that had been returned to the archives; the June 3 representation by Trump’s lawyers— in writing, in the context of responding to a May 11 grand-jury subpoena, and after representing that they had thoroughly searched records retained at Mar-a-Lago— that there were no more documents marked as classified on the premises; the subsequent surrender, also by Trump’s lawyers, of Mar-a-Lago surveillance-camera video that reportedly showed people breezing in and out of areas where Trump was storing his presidential records, apparently moving boxes around; and, finally, the seizure during the August 8 search of a significant amount of additional, highly classified information.
These revelations are condemnable. They provide a solid basis for Trump detractors to argue that the Mar-a-Lago search, though stunning and unprecedented, was justified— or at least not unreasonable.
For those of us who remain skeptical about whether the drastic measure of a search warrant was really necessary (especially given the FBI and DOJ’s evident lack of urgency in the months after Trump’s surrender of the 15 boxes in January 2022), these revelations require grappling with a hard question: Given that the former president was not responsibly securing the government’s most closely held intelligence, that he was trying to prevent the FBI from examining what he’d returned, that his lawyers were either misinformed about or lying about the classified information still retained at Mar-a-Lago, and that even the issuance of a grand-jury subpoena (with potential criminal penalties for noncompliance) had not succeeded in getting Trump to hand over the remaining classified information, what option short of a search warrant would have sufficed?
Meantime, some unsolicited advice to the former president and his apologists: If you are trying not to get indicted, the best defense is usually not a good offense. And it is never an offense that backfires.
How many points is this worth on Election Day and how many swing district seats in Congress does that translate to? I can tell you for certain, that Trump's legal problems are not going to help candidates he personally recruited-- think Herschel Walker (GA)-- or candidate's who won nominations because of his endorsement, such as Blake Masters (AZ), J.D. Vance (OH), Mehmet "Dr." Oz (PA), Kelly Tshibaka (AK), Ted Budd (NC), Adam Laxalt (NV). And it is likely to hurt incumbents who are seen to have backed Trump's coup, especially Ron Johnson (WI) but perhaps Rand Paul (KY) and Marco Rubio (FL) as well-- at least in terms of shaving a couple of points off each of their margins.
Among House candidates, it's going to hurt-- perhaps mortally-- Steve Chabot (OH), Yvette Harrell (NM), Maria Salazar (FL), David Valadao (CA), David Schweikert (AZ), Sarah Palin (AK), Mike Garcia (CA), Scott Perry (PA), Ken Calvert (CA), Young Kim (CA), Don Bacon (NE), Jay Obernolte (CA), Michelle Steel (CA), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR), Joe Kent (WA), Bo Hines (NC), Jen Kiggans (VA), Yesli Vega (VA), Barb Kirkmeyer (CO), Erik Aadland (CO), Juan Ciscomani (AZ), Kelly Cooper (AZ), Kevin Kiley (CA), Brian Maryott (CA), Regan Deering (IL), Scott Gryder (IL), Esther Joy King (IL), Lisa Scheller (PA), Jim Bognet (PA), Jeremy Shaffer (PA), George Santos (NY), Colin Schmitt (NY), Marc Molinaro (NY), Brandon Williams (NY), John Gibbs (MI), Tom Barrett (MI), Paul Junge (MI), to name some of the most obvious.