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Our Best Stuff From the Week Trump Got Arraigned
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Our Best Stuff From the Week Trump Got Arraigned

Plus: the Wisconsin Supreme Court race and Republican shenanigans in Tennessee.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits with his defense team in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023. (Photo by Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Saturday! It was another busy news week (is there any other kind at this point?), but it’s also an eventful weekend in the Ohio bureau. Our oldest is home from college for the weekend, his brothers have a bunch of baseball games, and we’re having family over to celebrate a few birthdays and my parents’ anniversary. (I’d throw in Easter, but it feels weird to say that when we’re laying out a taco bar for the occasion.) And so I’ll make this quick.

The three biggest stories of the week are all very different, but they are also all, in their own ways, reflections of the frustratingly polarized times that we live in.

Tuesday, of course, brought us a little history when Donald Trump became the first president to be indicted. As Nick put it, “the biggest political story in America this week involves an embarrassing right-wing authoritarian who threatens the rule of law being indicted by a left-wing prosecutor on a legal theory that’s embarrassing and threatens the rule of law.” It’s hard to put it better than that. (Though we did publish a piece Saturday from Patrick Frey—who some of you might know better as the blogger Patterico—arguing that the indictment might not be all that bad.)

Also on Tuesday, Wisconsin voters elected Janet Protasiewicz to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Conservatives had long held a 4-3 majority on the court, but her victory gives liberals control.

And lastly, there was a bit of a spectacle in the Tennessee House of Representatives as the Republican supermajority voted to expel two out of three Democratic lawmakers who participated in a protest by gun control advocates that disrupted proceedings.

Fortunately, we’ve got Jonah, Nick, the Dispatch Politics newsletter team, and others who covered all of those topics for us, so I’ll spare you my thoughts on those matters and let you get to those pieces.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Donald Trump wasted little time after his indictment before reaching out to his supporters, saying “I’m writing you this email as I fly back home to Mar-a-Lago. While we are living through the darkest hours of American history, I can say that at least for this moment right now, I am in great spirits.” ( Note that he said this on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) Now, Jonah is no big fan of Bragg’s case against Trump, but that reaction is a bit much for him. “Of course, Trump wants people to believe that he’s the nation made flesh, and so his darkest hours must also be the nation’s,” Jonah writes. He then goes on to take apart Trump’s claim that “If they can do this to me, they’ll do it to you.” Jonah notes that “Trump has spent a lifetime pressing his luck, cutting corners, and taking the low road. If you spend your whole life looking for trouble, odds are good that eventually you’ll find it. …If you juggle chainsaws for fun, I’m not going to be stunned if you eventually lose a finger.” 

Late last month, in the wake of the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville that left six people dead, gun-control activists disrupted the proceedings in the Tennessee House of Representatives. And they were joined by three Democratic legislators, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson. In Boiling Frogs, Nick argues that it would be fair to sanction the trio through censures and/or fines. But Republicans have a supermajority in the chamber, and they held a vote to expel them. That was bad enough on its own for the overreach, but then they voted to expel Jones and Pearson, who are black, but not Johnson, who is white. In the end, the move backfired: Both are likely to win special elections that will be held to fill the now-vacant seats, and are also likely to be reappointed in the interim by local authorities in their districts. “What, then, was the point? When Democratic members staged a sit-in in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016, then-Speaker Paul Ryan laughed it off as a ‘publicity stunt’ and the matter was quickly forgotten. In this case, Jones and Pearson are now progressive stars with presidential support and millions of liberals oohing and ahhing over their viral clips.”

There was a lot at stake in the Wisconsin Supreme Court: Conservatives had held a 4-3 advantage, and so a victory by a liberal judge would flip the court’s ideological balance and pave the way to overturn the state’s 19th-century abortion ban, throw out its gerrymandered electoral districts, and maybe even undo former Gov. Scott Walkers’ collective bargaining reforms. So Democrats raised money, coordinated, and ran a disciplined campaign. Meanwhile, Republican primary voters opted for a MAGA enthusiast who sought only the support of the base. And the result? A victory for liberal judge ​​Janet Protasiewcz. Andrew, David Drucker and Audrey have the details in the Dispatch Politics newsletter. They also analyze the results of Chicago’s mayoral election.

It seems like it would be hard to be gobsmacked by anything new that comes out of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against Fox News but a recent ruling really smacked Kevin’s gob. Judge Eric M. Davis declared the matter of falsity settled—but that wasn’t it. What Kevin found remarkable is “Fox did not even attempt to defend the truth of any of the statements at issue.” As he notes, there are three tests in any defamation case like this: the claims must be false, must be defamatory, and the defendant must have shown actual malice toward the plaintiff. Since Fox concedes that the claims are false, its only hope is to show that the defamation didn’t rise to the level of malice. But the real takeaway, at least for Kevin, is this: “Think of the searing, utter, bottomless contempt that Fox News here evinces for its audience—because Fox’s argument is, in essence: ‘It doesn’t matter whether we feed these rubes lies and conspiracy kookery and idiotic propaganda, unless doing so costs us money. In fact, we’re not even going to think about whether any of this is true unless broadcasting all these lies starts to hurt us financially.’”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • With Donald Trump seeking to be the first president since Grover Cleveland to be elected to non-consecutive terms, Stirewalt looks back on Cleveland’s legacy and argues “we ought to remember him for his courage, leadership, and devotion to American ideals.”
  • Long waits for both emergency and non-emergency care are nothing new for patients in Britain’s National Health Service, but they are getting worse even as funding has increased. James Capretta examines how the NHS got into this situation and what, if anything, can be done to fix it. 
  • As anti-China sentiment grows in the United States, Scott Lincicome worries that some policies designed to ding the Chinese Communist Party are overreactions that could have negative effects for Americans.
  • The COVID-induced trend toward working from home is becoming a permanent thing, and as a result we’re seeing migration out of expensive, high-tax blue states toward red states. How will it shape our politics and culture? It’s too early to say but Sarah has some fascinating analysis in Permanent Campaign
  • On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David French weigh in on oral arugments in a Supreme Court case about the IRS and third-party summons  the big indictment (I had you going, didn’t I?). On the Dispatch Podcast, Jonah and Sarah welcome Ruy Teixeira to talk about the indictment, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, and the generally awful week for the Republican Party. And, after all that, you’ll probably really enjoy Jonah’s Remnant conversation with Hot Air weekend editor Jazz Shaw, whose side gig is UFO-ology. 

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.