DeSantis Takes Off the Gloves

In an interview with Piers Morgan that will be broadcast on Thursday, Ron DeSantis finally takes aim at Donald Trump. Until yesterday, he had remained silent in the face of Trump’s usually childish attacks on him. No more: Morgan provides a preview:

[I]n a series of jabs at his likely biggest Republican nominee rival, DeSantis slammed Trump over his character failings, chaotic leadership style, and for his handling of the COVID pandemic — especially in keeping controversial health chief Dr. Anthony Fauci in his post helping to run the White House Coronavirus Taskforce.

Trump even awarded a presidential commendation medal to Fauci in one of his last acts as president.

That’s a great wedge issue for DeSantis. Fauci’s favorability among Republican primary voters is probably in single digits.

When I asked DeSantis to cite specific differences between him and Trump, he said: “Well I think there’s a few things. The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage.”

Inevitably, DeSantis will draw personal contrasts between himself and Trump, given that the two men are in general agreement on most policy issues:

DeSantis also slammed Trump’s chaotic, self-obsessed, and divisive management style, saying:

“I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the Government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. You bring your own agenda in you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the Government I think is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board and I think that’s something that’s very important.”

Morgan brought up the comments DeSantis made yesterday about Stormy Daniels and Trump’s allegedly impending arrest. Mostly, DeSantis bashed the New York prosecutor for bringing a political prosecution. But he also distanced himself from Trump’s sometimes-indefensible conduct, as he did again with Morgan:

When I asked if he meant to be as censorious as he sounded when talking about Trump allegedly paying off porn stars, he doubled down and replied: “Well, there’s a lot of speculation about what the underlying conduct is. That is purported to be it, and the reality is that’s just outside my wheelhouse. I mean that’s just not something that I can speak to.”

The message was clear: I’m nothing like Trump when it comes to sleazy behavior.

I think we can say the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination began this week.

The Daily Chart: Democrats and Anti-Semitism

It’s by now an iron law than leftist campus fads eventually come to define Democratic Party mainstream opinion. As we know, anti-Semitism is sharply on the rise in the U.S., following more than 20 years of campus agitation to legitimize anti-Semitism. Gallup has a shocking new poll out showing that for the first time, Democrats are more positive to Palestinians than to Israel.

The TV version:

Chaser—Jonathan Tobin in the NY Post:

Progressives turned Democrats against Israel

The era of bipartisan support for Israel is over. Anti-Israel activists have worked for decades to undermine support for the Jewish state.

Now, as the latest Gallup tracking poll of attitudes toward the Middle East conflict indicate, Democrats now sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel.

Currently, 49% of Democrats favor the Palestinians with only 38% backing Israel. That’s the culmination of a trend decades in the making, as the two parties have largely swapped identities in the last 60 years when it comes to Israel. . .

From now on, it isn’t possible to pretend that both parties are equally committed to Israel’s defense. Thanks to the influence of the ideology to which even President Joe Biden bends his knee, the Democrats have reached a tipping point on Israel from which there may be no road back.

In a Just World, Final Witness in Bragg’s Grand Jury Would Have Ended the Case Against Trump

Attorney Robert Costello, who represented former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in 2018, was the final witness to appear before the grand jury in New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against former President Donald Trump. Following two hours of testimony earlier in the day, Costello joined Tucker Carlson on Monday night to weigh in.

Costello attacked Cohen’s credibility. He described Bragg’s case as “weak,“ and said that Cohen has a “lie, cheat and steal, mindset.”

He told Carlson it was clear to him that “the Manhattan DA’s office did not want to get to the truth.” Costello explained:

I called them up after I saw Michael Cohen on TV stating things that he said he was going to tell the grand jury and had told the grand jury that were contrary to what he told us when we first represented him in April of 2018. So I’m sitting at home watching these lies and I said I’ve got to do something about it. I don’t represent Donald Trump, but I do stand for justice. And I think I have a legal obligation to inform both sides. So that’s what I did.

He recounted a meeting he’d had with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Costello told officials that Cohen had been suicidal in 2018. He was extremely frightened about the prospect of going to prison. Costello alleged Cohen had told him and his partner that he had stood on the roof of the Regency Hotel in Manhattan and contemplated jumping. Costello said this episode was later corroborated by the Reverend Jerry Falwell and his wife.

That was important because, had Cohen chosen to share information about Trump, he may have been able to avoid serving time in jail, something he feared deeply.

When you’re suicidal, thinking that’s the only way out of your legal mess, and you’re presented with the following options, that you can cooperate against Donald Trump and provide information that would get you a get out of jail free card, and you respond to us, ‘I do not have any information on Donald Trump,’ … then you know that you’ve got a guy who probably doesn’t have anything.

During their first meeting with Cohen, Costello and his partner asked him numerous times if he could provide any derogatory information about Trump that might help his case. According to Costello, Cohen repeatedly replied, “‘I swear to God Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.'”

He’s marching up and down on the other side of the conference table like a tiger in the zoo. Back and forth. … He looked like he hadn’t slept in five days. He looked like somebody who was suicidal. And every once in a while, he would stop and point at us … he did this at least 20 times, and say, ‘Guys, I want you to know, I will do whatever the f*** I have to do. I will never spend one day in jail.’

Now what he’s saying is, ‘I’ll lie, cheat, steal, shoot somebody.’ … Do you think a guy whose mentality is that is going to not admit he has information on Donald Trump?

Carlson asked Costello, “If you were a prosecutor and you were trying to be fair and honest and serve the law rather than a political agenda, you’d want to know that, wouldn’t you?”

Absolutely. And I told them and told the grand jury today I was Deputy Chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District. I said I wouldn’t touch a witness like Michael Cohen for any amount of money. You simply cannot rely upon this guy.

And tonight, he [Cohen] was on another station denying that he waived the attorney-client privilege. [Costello held up a document] Here it is – in writing – and that’s his signature on the second page.

Costello was the last witness presented to the jury. And the consensus is that his attacks on Cohen’s credibility are unlikely to stop the indictment. MSNBC characterized Costello as a “last ditch witness.”

The New York Times reported that Costello had had a “falling out.” The jury would likely take that into account when weighing his testimony.

MSNBC legal reporter Jordan Rubin noted that the standard of proof threshold for a grand jury is far lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt standard” required by a jury at a trial. Rubin wrote:

Rather, the grand jury decides whether to formally accuse a person of having committed a crime, based on whether there’s reasonable cause to believe that the person committed that crime.

And if last-minute testimony has the ability to throw the case in Trump’s favor, even under this relatively generous standard for prosecutors, then Bragg might not have had a case to begin with.

Psssst: Bragg still doesn’t have a case and every serious person knows it.

Memo to Supreme Court: Save the First Amendment!

The First Amendment is under unprecedented attack, as the Democratic Party has weaponized one federal and state agency after another to go after its opponents. An important instance of this phenomenon is the effort by Democratic banking regulators to deprive disfavored organizations of access to our financial system.

The issue is raised in NRA v. Vullo (the link goes to Eugene Volokh’s discussion of the case). The facts underlying the case are shocking:

New York’s powerful Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) [took action] against financial institutions doing business with the [National Rifle Association]. Among other things, the Complaint states that Superintendent Maria Vullo: (1) warned regulated institutions that doing business with Second Amendment advocacy groups posed “reputational risk” of concern to DFS; (2) secretly offered leniency to insurers for unrelated infractions if they dropped the NRA; and (3) extracted highly-publicized and over-reaching consent orders, and multi-million dollar penalties, from firms that formerly served the NRA. Citing private telephone calls, internal insurer documents, and statements by an anonymous banking executive to industry press, the Complaint alleges that numerous financial institutions perceived Vullo’s actions as threatening and, therefore, ceased business arrangements with the NRA or refused new ones.

It is hard to imagine a clearer or more important violation of the First Amendment, and yet, almost unbelievably, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to dismiss the NRA’s case. The Second Circuit panel actually endorsed the idea that groups that advocate positions in opposition to the Democratic Party should be deprived of financial services:

The Second Circuit goes on to suggest that even if Vullo did make threats, such threats were justified by the “general backlash” against the NRA “and businesses associated with them” which “was intense after the Parkland shooting.” Indeed, this backlash “continues today,” with many people “speaking out” against the NRA’s gun rights advocacy. Such “backlash” against a speaker’s viewpoint, the Second Circuit opines, “likely” has financial consequences that would justify financial blacklisting of that speaker for its controversial advocacy.

In support, the Second Circuit cites a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” consultant who charges companies for “consulting packages” to implement “corporate social responsibility” programs, as well as a “survey” commissioned by a marketing company that “strives to insert the brand’s social mission and innovations into mainstream conversations through traditional and social media.”

If you are wondering what judges could issue such a politicized order, their bios are here, here and here.

The NRA, represented by Volokh among others, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari. The Supreme Court should grant the petition and reverse the Second Circuit’s order.

Tony Bobulinski comments

With a single subpoena to Bank of America, House Oversight Committee James Comer has advanced the story of the Biden family business. Comer has posted a memo breaking down the apparent distribution of part of the suspect $3 million payment from a Chinese energy company among Biden family members and associates. I discussed the story and linked to Comer’s memo in “Hallie Biden in family business.”

White House scandal attack dog Ian Sams released an inane, insane, and unresponsive statement condemning Comer’s revelations that I quoted in my post. I also quoted the statement released by a spokesman for Hunter Biden’s legal team in a slightly different key: “Hunter Biden, a private citizen with every right to pursue his own business endeavors, joined several business partners in seeking a joint venture with a legitimate energy company in China. Hunter received his portion of good faith seed funds which he shared with his uncle, James Biden, and Hallie Biden … and nobody else.”

My eyes glazed over as I read it without thinking it through. In his New York Post column this past Sunday, Michael Goodwin quoted the statement and sought out Tony Bobulinski for comment:

“It’s absolutely laughable,” Bobulinski told me Friday.

“That money wasn’t seed funds for future work. It was part of the payment for work the Bidens did for the Chinese in 2015 and 2016.”

Indeed, Bobulinski previously said publicly — and told the FBI — that he witnessed Hunter screaming at the Chinese official involved in the joint venture that the Biden family was owed $20 million for work it did for those two years.

The timing distinction is significant because Joe Biden was still vice president in 2015 and 2016.

Also, Bobulinski says he met with Joe Biden in May of 2017, just months after Joe left the White House, and Biden knew all about the China deal.

Tom Lifson catches up with the story as of last week here and Fox News has more here (with a useful collection of quoted statements).

Terrorists at the border

President Biden’s dissolution of our southern border on day 1 of his administration is a grave offense against the United States. Todd Bensman has followed the story as Senior National Security Fellow for the Center For Immigration Studies. He posts his work at his own site. He is the author, most recently, of Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History, published by Post Hill Press/Bombardier Books last month. He has made the rounds publicizing the book. Several videos featuring him are accessible online.

Yesterday Bensman held a webinar on the subject of the book for the Middle East Forum. I have posted the video below. In his remarks Bensman discussed several cases involving members of the FBI terrorist watch list such as Issam Bazzi, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and Isnardo Garcia-Amado. At about 19:00 of the video Bensman takes us inside the “Muslim-only migrant shelter” that has been opened in Tijuana, Mexico for seekers on their way.

As Bensman puts it toward the end of the video in response to one of the questions, “The aperture has been widened to the maximum for people to cross over the southern border.” The consequences are predictable and well-known, but it is useful to be reminded that they are catastrophic and that the catastrophe continues.

Guess What: Reparations Already Unpopular in San Francisco

As suggested here yesterday, the idea for a multi-billion dollar “reparations” payment to blacks in San Francisco is swiftly proving unpopular with San Francisco’s oh-so-progressive citizens. And so the city’s board of supervisors is reacting according to script: San Franciscans who oppose the reparations plan are racist.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

‘Overheated and irrational’: S.F. politicians take constituents to task over racist reparations response

San Francisco supervisors forcefully defended the city’s unfolding reparations effort on Tuesday, with several members of the board using the public hearing to denounce the nasty backlash that a committee’s draft proposal has provoked.

In doing so, local politicians called out racism among their own constituents. . .

“I, too, have been startled in this allegedly liberal progressive city by the response that I have heard on the streets, that I have received in email and in letters, that is antithetical to my beliefs of what I think San Franciscans believe,” said board President Aaron Peskin.

Peskin was among several members of the board who debunked the notion that it’s only obnoxious outside Republicans who freaked out over the draft reparations plan released by the city’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee in December. Sadly, some of the most poisonous reactions are believed to be coming from inside the famously blue city, where nearly two-thirds of eligible voters are registered Democrats and less than 7% are Republican.

Despite the city’s reputation as a progressive stronghold, recent years have shown San Francisco isn’t immune to being swayed by conservative ideology on critical issues, whether it’s policing or criminal justice reform.

My popcorn futures position is so long these days it wraps around the world twice.


Newsom under pressure to take executive action on reparations if California Legislature doesn’t act

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing increased pressure to use his authority to unilaterally enact proposals that would dole out billions of dollars to Black residents in reparations as a way to make amends for slavery if the state legislature doesn’t act.

Because governors are totally free to spend any amount of money they want without an appropriation from the state legislature.