Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Trump’s Stooges Flip

Trump’s Stooges Flip

Plus: Greta Thunberg gets booted from Israeli schools, Spain gets even less serious about work, regulating skyline views, and more…


Cooperation time: In August, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought racketeering charges against former President Donald Trump and 18 of his associates under Georgia’s statute, on charges relating to their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Over the last few days, three guilty pleas have followed: Sidney Powell to misdemeanor charges and Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis to felony charges. Now, Ellis, Chesebro, and Powell will cooperate with prosecutors.

“Proof of criminal intent is indispensable to the criminal cases against Trump, both in Georgia and in the federal election case,” writes David French for The New York Times. “While the specific intent varies depending on the charge, each key claim requires proof of conscious wrongdoing—such as an intent to lie or the ‘intent to have false votes cast.'”

The lawyers flipping “may grant us greater visibility into Trump’s state of mind during the effort to overturn the election,” adds French. “The crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege prevents a criminal defendant from shielding his communications with his lawyers when those communications were in furtherance of a criminal scheme.”

Some, like Andrew McCarthy writing for National Reviewargue that “Willis wildly overcharged the election-interference case and is now picking off some defendants on minor charges.”

The upshot from French:

“As a general rule, when evaluating complex litigation, it is best not to think in terms of legal breakthroughs (though breakthroughs can certainly occur) but rather in terms of legal trench warfare. Think of seizing ground from your opponent yard by yard rather than mile by mile, and the question at each stage isn’t so much who won and who lost but rather who advanced and who retreated. Willis has advanced, but it’s too soon to tell how far.”
Speaker update: Rep. Mike Johnson (R–La.) was chosen last night to be the new nominee for speaker of the House. This is after Minnesota’s Tom Emmer dropped out, having spent much of yesterday securing votes.

Johnson, who is serving his fourth term in the House, was named to Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team and “played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results,” reports The New York Times. He’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government and is broadly well-liked by colleagues.

The House will probably vote on Johnson today; 217 votes must be secured to become speaker.

Make no mistake: “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations Security Council yesterday. “But if Iran or its proxies attack US personnel anywhere, make no mistake: We will defend our people, we will defend our security, swiftly and decisively.”

“To all the members of this council: If you, like the United States, want to prevent this conflict from spreading, tell Iran, tell its proxies—in public, in private, through every means—do not open another front against Israel in this conflict,” Blinken continued.

Blinken is referring to the possibility of strikes escalating between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah on the much-watched northern front. Many observers fear that a ground invasion of Gaza with the intent of wiping out Hamas could trigger entry into the conflict from Hezbollah, seeing a weakened Israel and pushing them to fight on two fronts at once.

Officials also report that strikes from other Iran-backed groups on U.S. targets have ramped up in recent days; back-channel talks with Iran have been ongoing, but Blinken’s admonition yesterday was significant due to its public, urgent nature.

Scenes from New York:

Regulating skyline views would “guarantee a collective experience, a sense of shared identity and civic meaning, which can bind New Yorkers across generations and centuries,” Jorge Otero-Pailos, the director of Columbia’s historic preservation program, tells The New York Times.

The best part is that this is mentioned immediately after a few paragraphs on how unaffordable the city has become. If only we could grasp the connection between the two!


  • Due to her posts on Hamas, the Israeli Ministry of Education will be removing any references to Greta Thunberg in school curricula. Forgive me, but I don’t think Greta Thunberg should ever have been taught in Israeli schools.
  • No truer words:
  • “Mr. Emhoff, the husband of Kamala Harris, is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president,” reads a New York Times subheading. “He has focused on providing comfort to people in pain after the Hamas attack.” Doesn’t this read like a press release?
  • Bad move by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis:
  • Comparing the tech industries in the U.S. and the E.U. (Good observations herehere, and hereTough but fair, from Paul Graham. Is European (lack of) venture capital also part of the equation? Genuinely asking.)
  • Color me skeptical that Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, misheard that recent question on antisemitism.
  • In Spain, the workweek will drop from 40 hours to 37.5, at least if acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz (“a card-carrying Communist,” per Bloomberg) get their deal passed. “The minimum wage has risen by about 47% since Sanchez first formed a government in 2018.” Amusingly, a 2019 report from BBVA Research notes that “productivity growth has been one of the Spanish economy’s chronic weaknesses.” What a stumper!
  • “Who is the Greatest Economist of all Time and Why Does it Matter?” Check out economist Tyler Cowen’s generative book. “This book is not just the text, it’s the text plus what you use AI to do with it,” writes Cowen.
Liz Wolfe is an associate editor at Reason covering tech, free speech, and China and co-host of the Reason Livestream. She has interviewed sex workerstattoo artistsventure capitaliststech CEOscrypto hype men, and the occasional restaurateur. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.


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