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Our Best Stuff From the Week of Indictment 3.0
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Our Best Stuff From the Week of Indictment 3.0

Donald Trump appears in federal court. Again.

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday, August 3, 2023, after appearing at E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Court House. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Washington Post/Getty Images)

Last month, Facebook’s “Memories” feature reminded me of a post I’d made in the summer of 2016, right after the Democratic and Republican national conventions made it official that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would face off in that fall’s presidential election. “The next four months are going to be really exhausting, aren’t they?” I asked.

Such naivete. 

Four exhausting months have become 84, and the end is nowhere in sight. Trump was indicted Tuesday, his second federal indictment and his third indictment overall. These charges, related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, are the most serious: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote. They might also be the hardest to prove. 

As Sarah explains in The Collision, “Trump lied to the American people repeatedly about the results of the 2020 election. He pressured elected officials to do things that would have been good for him politically and bad for the country. He allowed a mob to overtake the Capitol while he lobbied senators for their votes, and he considered replacing his attorney general with an incompetent toady who would support his political whims. But none of that is criminal if Trump believed the election was riddled with fraud.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Therein lies the rub. Those charges come down to his intent, which means getting into his state of mind. Prosecutors will have to prove that Trump didn’t actually believe that the election was stolen and lied about it anyhow. 

It will be a tough sell in federal court, and also in the court of public opinion—at least among Republicans. The Collision is covering both the legal and political aspects of the cases against the former president, and Mike Warren and Sarah note that “While 53 percent of registered voters polled said that Trump ‘went so far’ after the 2020 election that ‘he threatened American democracy,’ just 19 percent of likely Republican primary voters said the same thing. Instead, 75 percent of those Republicans agreed more with the statement that Trump ‘was just exercising his right to contest the election.’” 

Which brings us to Boiling Frogs, where Nick (or his mom, rather) asks the big question: “My mother asked me recently what would happen if Donald Trump were convicted of a crime and then elected president. Would he command the military from inside a prison cell? Would his Secret Service detail be incarcerated with him? Could he pardon himself?” That we even have to consider these scenarios has him a little depressed. “The American right is a wrecked culture,” he writes. “Top to bottom, it’s lost its capacity for moral reasoning where political priorities, particularly Trump’s continued viability, are involved. If nothing else good comes from the indictment, the Republican reaction it elicited at least provided some more clarity about that.” 

I’d like to say that it’s “always darkest just before the dawn,” but it’s still the middle of the night. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to announce whether she will file charges against Trump for his efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results soon. (And road closures around the Fulton County Courthouse begin Monday.) 

Rest up, everyone. It’s going to be a journey. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Donald Trump, Kevin notes in Wanderland, has a “valet problem,” both literal and figurative. His valet, Walt Nauta, has been charged along with another Trump employee, Carlos De Oliveira, on allegations that they attempted to destroy security footage that the Justice Department had requested. But it’s not just the Mar-a-Lago staff that Kevin’s talking about. He notes that Trump treats everyone like a servant—even Cabinet secretaries and generals—and that makes it hard to get good help: “One of the reasons for Trump’s failure as a president—and one of the reasons for his current legal troubles—is that anybody around him who had the brains and the guts to say, ‘Hey, dummy, you can’t do that!’ got fired before he could explain things to the game-show host with whom the people of this country entrusted the nuclear codes for four long years.”   

And now for a palate cleanser. Soylent Green, anyone? Just kidding. The dystopian sci-fi flick was set in 2022, and it was released 50 years ago. And media folks love nothing more than an easy hook like an anniversary to hang a column on, which means there have been a few “Soylent Green was sooooo prescient” pieces in the last year. Prescient about what, exactly, Jonah asks in the Wednesday G-File (🔒). The movie depicts a world that is so overpopulated that New York has 40 million people, real food is unimaginably expensive, and people subsist on kelp wafers. Only the massive overpopulation has stripped the oceans of kelp and, oh hey, people are being euthanized because everything is so terrible and, well, they make a heckuva protein source. Somewhere in there, people have found a message about … climate change. Jonah’s not having it. He writes: “If you can watch this dark fable about a world where most people live in grinding, sweltering poverty, living off the emulsified and congealed corpses of euthanized masses, and think it gets the important stuff right about contemporary America—or climate change—you have issues.”

I really don’t share The Morning Dispatch (🔒) often enough in this space. It’s nothing personal (even if Declan is a Cubs fan), it’s just that even good analysis can feel dated by the weekend. But on Friday the crew delved into Devon Archer’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Archer, a former associate of Hunter Biden, spoke to lawmakers investigating the president’s son. Democrats are saying that Archer’s testimony “absolves” Joe Biden of helping his son and Republicans are saying it validates their allegations. As we report,  the truth is somewhere in between. Archer said that Hunter would occasionally put his dad on speaker phone during  business meetings but that they didn’t discuss business. But what Hunter would do was make his proximity to the then-vice president part of his pitches. And so none of the political actors here come out looking good.  “While Republicans remain focused on stretching the evidence to support thus far unproven claims that Joe Biden profited off his son’s business, and Democrats continue to dodge questions about the president’s past statements by dunking on Republicans’ exaggerated claims, it’s worth noting Joe Biden hasn’t acknowledged that some of his past statements have been contradicted by newer revelations.”

And here’s the best of the rest.

  • Harvest reports from the southern border that people on the ground are frustrated by the disputes between the Biden administration and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over how to address illegal immigration.
  • The Dispatch Politics team checks in on Ron DeSantis’ ongoing attempts to overhaul his campaign, writing that “Republican insiders are already doubtful the changes will improve the Florida governor’s sagging presidential prospects.”
  • Congress is in recess, but when members return, they’ll need to get right to work on the farm bill, which—as Price explains in Uphill—is less about agriculture and more about nutrition assistance.
  • In his weekly column, Chris Stirewalt journeys back a century to look at how Calvin Coolidge cleaned up the mess that President Warren G. Harding made of Washington.
  • On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss the Wall Street Journal’s recent interview with Justice Samuel Alito. That episode was recorded before the latest Trump indictment, so Sarah discussed that with Jonah on The Remnant. But they had more to talk about, so the conversation moved to The Dispatch Podcast, where Steve joined in to share his thoughts.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.