DeSantis seems to be fading fast— even before he’s announced or debated. If the old GOP establishment is going to find someone to stop Trump before he drags their party down the toilet with him next year, it’s probably not going to be a proponent of tyranny from Florida. Trump, though, isn’t leaving anything to chance. As Isaac Arnsdorf, Issac Stanley-Becker and Hannah Knowles wrote over the weekend “Trump’s relentless attacks against Ron DeSantis and his recent polling gains” have freaked out DeSantis-world in a big way. Any MAGAts who were drifting away are back in Trump’s corner. At his anti-US rally in Waco Saturday, Trump “made an extended attack on DeSantis, at one point giving a mocking portrayal of DeSantis begging for his endorsement in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial primary. But the audience appeared most engaged when Trump was railing against targets that unify the Republican base— President Biden, the ‘fake news,’ ‘gender ideology.’ Trump spoke of ‘demonic forces’ and reiterated a dark refrain that, ‘for those who have been wronged and betrayed … I am your retribution.’.. [C]oncern is mounting among some on DeSantis’ team about the toll of Trump’s attacks, according to two people familiar with the discussions, with one saying Trump was ‘trying to kill him in the crib.’”
There’s no doubt that despite everything, Trump is still the frontrunner— by far. “In the last 28 months,” wrote Michael Bender and David Goodman, “Trump has been voted out of the White House, impeached for his role in the Capitol riot and criticized for marching many of his fellow Republicans off an electoral cliff in the 2022 midterms with his drumbeat of election-fraud lies. He dined at home with a white supremacist in November. He called for the termination of the Constitution in December. He declared himself ‘more angry’ than ever in January. He vowed to make retribution a hallmark of a second term in the White House in March. He has embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, described Putin of Russia as a genius and used a gay joke to mock a fellow Republican. He has become the target of four criminal investigations, including one in New York that he warned might result in ‘potential death & destruction.’”
The reason why was on display in Waco Saturday. His moron supporters came 10 hours before his plane arrived. Bender and Goodman speculated that it’s Trump’s base of hard-core followers, who show up to his rallies in force, that has allowed him to maintain his grip on the party despite a pattern of dangerous, discordant behavior that would have sunk most traditional politicians.” That’s probably enough to win a Republican primary, but not a general election.
They fly “Trump or Death” flags from Jeep Wranglers outside Mar-a-Lago. Many have fallen out with family and friends over their devotion to the former president. They view themselves as mistreated and unappreciated, and view Mr. Trump as not so much a man but a cause. “Jesus, Freedom & Trump” read the T-shirt worn by one woman who went to see the former president in Iowa recently.
Amid overlapping investigations and the looming possibility of arrest, the ardor of these supporters has not faded but, many said, has grown only stronger.
…Still, the support that Trump has coalesced has given him the luster of an incumbent in the primary contest. That means to overtake the former president, other Republican contenders face the difficult task of first peeling support away from Trump before they can persuade those same voters to back their own bid for the nomination.
In Waco, some rallygoers were skeptical of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Trump’s chief potential rival.
“I like DeSantis, I do, but the ground that needs to be covered is going to take Trump to get it done,” said Jeff Fiebert, 69, a farmer who described himself as a die-hard Trump supporter and who moved to Waco from California during the pandemic, a move he said was motivated almost entirely by politics.
Asked what Trump could do that DeSantis could not, he said the former president was the kind of person “who goes into the bar and knocks all the bottles off the shelf just to see where they land.” DeSantis, he added, does not do that sort of thing.
…Trump has spent years on the campaign trail persuading supporters to interpret pressure on him— from his opponents, law enforcement and members of Congress— as attacks on them. That is why some of his allies believe that becoming the first former president to face criminal charges— as expected in the Manhattan district attorney’s case— could carry political upside for Trump, at least in a Republican primary.
“And no matter what happens,” Trump wrote this week in an email seeking supporters’ campaign contributions, “I’ll be standing right where I belong and where I’ve always been since the day I first announced I was running for President… Between them and YOU.”
Trump rally goers often explain their continued backing of Trump in terms of gratitude. They say he has stood up for them and, as a result, has been targeted with investigations into his company’s finances, his handling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
And in deep red districts around the country, Republican officials are just fine with this kind of craziness. Statewide and in districts that Republicans barely won… a lot less so. This kind of talk makes House Republicans like Zach Nunn (IA), Don Bacon (NE), Brian Mast (FL), Kevin Kiley (CA), Nick LaLota (NY), Tom Kean (NJ), John James (MI), Michelle Steel (CA), Juan Ciscomani (AZ), Richard Hudson (NC), David Schweikert (AZ), María Elvira Salazar (FL), Ashley Hinson (IA), Andrew Garbarino (NY), John Duarte (CA), Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), David Valadao (CA), Mike Lawler (NY), Mike Garcia (CA), Jen Kiggans (VA), Tony Gonzales (TX), Mike Turner (OH), Marc Molinaro (NY), Young Kim (CA), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Ken Calvert (CA), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR), Bryan Steil (WI), Aaron Bean (FL), Bill Huizenga (MI), Cory Mills (FL), Monica De La Cruz (TX), Ann Wagner (MO), Carlos Giménez (FL), Brandon Williams (NY), Laurel Lee (FL), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA), Nancy Mace (SC) and Anthony D’Esposito (NY) nervous… or it should. I wonder how they feel about passing a new law to protect Trump from accountability for his crimes.
With McCarthy on board, 3 House committee chairs— Gym Jordan (Judiciary), James Comer (Oversight) and Brian Steil (Administration)— are threatening to “take up legislation to strip state and local prosecutors of the authority to prosecute former presidents.” The 3 of them wrote to Bragg demanding that he give evidence before their panels about the ongoing investigation into Trump. “Last week, Bragg’s office slammed the 20 March demand for his testimony as ‘an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution’ which only arose ‘after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged [Congress] to intervene… Your letter treads into territory very clearly reserved to the states. It suggests that Congress’s investigation is being conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to punish those investigated,’ and is, therefore, indefensible’ said Leslie Dubek, who is Bragg’s general counsel, in a response sent to the chairmen on Thursday.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland,. has condemned his GOP colleagues’ actions as “nonsensical interference” committed at the behest of Mr Trump, who faces multiple criminal investigations into his conduct being overseen by Mr Bragg, as well as Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis and a federal special counsel, Jack Smith.
“These Committee chairs have acted totally outside their proper powers to try to influence a pending criminal investigation at the state level,” Mr Raskin added.
Because the Senate has a Democratic majority and the White House is held by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, it’s highly unlikely that any bill shielding ex-presidents from prosecution could ever be enacted into law.
But House Republicans have vowed to use their authority to protect Trump even as the criminal investigations into his conduct move closer to the charging stage.
A spokesperson for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee told The Independent the trio GOP committee chairs who signed the letter to Bragg “believe former President Trump is above the law.”
“This outrageous position is further evidence of former President Trump and MAGA extremists’ hold on Congressional Republicans,” he said.
I asked Ted Lieu how he interprets what's going on with these extremists in Congress. "This is insane," he told me last night. "Most criminal laws are written by states. The radical GOP House now wants to prevent local and state prosecutors from enforcing state criminal laws against former Presidents. That means a former President could get away with sexual assault, cheating on state taxes, defrauding state chartered banks, falsifying business records, and multiple other crimes. MAGA Republicans show once again that they represent the party of chaos."
I asked Jim Himes (D-CT) the same question. He told me that “Trump’s defenders in Congress have shown time and again that they will pervert democracy and even the idea of law in his defense. The only interesting thing about this pathetic effort will be to see how the 'Lock her up!' gang will apply it only to Donald Trump.”