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New Hampshire, Roger Stone, China, and more.
Lots of big news this week: Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar surprised in New Hampshire in a good way, while Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren stumbled in a bad way.* Oh, and Bernie won, but we suspected that would happen. Donald Trump found new ways to abuse power, this time calling for the military to investigate Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against him during impeachment, and meddling in the sentence recommendations for his pal Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress.
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Critics of impeachment warned that if Trump were acquitted (as he was) that he would be further emboldened to act with impunity. Right on cue, he launched a tweet storm protesting the recommendation by prosecutors that Roger Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and other crimes. The Department of Justice then announced it was overturning those recommendations. Writing on the website, Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith, a former top Justice Department official under George W. Bush, compared Trump’s norm breaking to Obama’s during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and issued his own guidance to AG William Barr: “[H]e needs to make the president stop barking politicized commands to the Department. Or he needs to stop acting in ways consistent with those orders and provocations. Or, if he cannot do one of those two things, he should quit.”
Tuesday had to be a weird day for Michael Bloomberg. He awoke to the news that he had won the earliest votes—in both the GOP and Democratic races in the New Hampshire primary—as tiny Dixville Notch famously holds its contest at midnight and a handful of voters wrote him in. It was mere hours before old interviews started surfacing of Bloomberg defending both stop-and-frisk and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Our own Sarah Isgur, a veteran of several presidential campaigns, offered an explainer on how opposition research happens.
Fortunately, the New Hampshire primary went off without the hitches that bogged down the Iowa caucus and so the attention of the political world has already moved on to the next contests in Nevada and South Carolina. But it’s worth revisiting Declan Garvey’s preview of New Hampshire, where he examined at the tension voters felt between voting their hearts and voting for someone who could beat Donald Trump. With socialist Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner for now, but trailed closely by more moderate Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, it’s likely to be a recurring theme for the rest of the primary.
Other highlights from The Dispatch this week:
Two good takes on China: One from Thomas Joscelyn in Vital Interests, in which he wrote, “As of 2019, five of the 10 ten largest companies [in the world] were Chinese, including three of the top four. Only four of the top 10 were American. This is a stunning reversal in the relative positions of America’s and China’s economic powerhouses”; the other from Danielle Pletka suggesting we turn to our tactical successes in the Middle East for guidance on how to rein in the Chinese: “Yes, the part of the world where strategic success goes to die actually presents a menu of policy options for managing the People’s Republic. Hear me out.”
The Roger Stone story took yet another twist when it was revealed that one of the jurors had once been a Democratic candidate for Congress and had tweeted various criticisms of Donald Trump. Time for a new trial? Not so fast. David French reported that Stone’s own lawyers declined to ask for the juror to be stricken He writes: “The law does not require judges to sideline potential jurors who have strong political beliefs. ... The key question isn’t whether a person is partisan but rather whether they’re capable of setting aside political bias to decide questions of fact fairly and impartially.”
On the one hand, it was just another embarrassing flub for AOC when she made an Instagram video talking about “Milton Keynes,” mashing up the names of two very different economists, stimulus-loving John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, who called his theories naive. But James Pethokoukis remarks that, well, actually, that’s a pretty good description of GOP economics in the age of Trump.
On the podcasts: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah tackled the Roger Stone kerfuffle and also the Netflix series Cheer; Jonah talked China with Derek Scisssors in one episode of The Remnant and indulged in rank punditry with Josh Kraushaar in another. And on the flagship Dispatch podcast, the gang talked about electability and ideological lanes.
Correction, Feb. 15: The article incorrectly said that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar performed well in Iowa this week.