Democrats eye DeSantis, a climate-only Biden bill, and pundits embrace a bogus midterm theory
Plus, a celebrated novelist’s Nazi sympathies, and more…
The New Republic
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Encouraging news from Georgia, of all places, where a Fulton County judge has granted the county’s district attorney the right to convene a grand jury in her criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election. Fani Willis told the judge a grand jury was needed because a “significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony,” and the judge agreed.
Key point: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has criticized Willis (a Democrat) for being partisan, but he said that he would comply with any subpoena and testify. In a rational world, the tape of Trump telling Raffensperger to find him votes would be evidence enough of fraud, but that isn’t our world. This is a big development—and apparently a rare move in Georgia jurisprudence.
Also on the insurrection front, Politico reports that Bernie Kerik told the January 6 committee that former Army Colonel Phil Waldron was the guy who suggested that Trump have the military seize voting machines in Michigan (publication of a draft executive order written for Trump that he never acted on was a big Politico scoop last week). The committee subpoenaed Waldron last year. The extent to which he’s cooperating isn’t clear. He could be a key piece in putting together the puzzle of the Willard Hotel chain of command on what the coup plotters wanted to happen on January 6, 2021.
Turning to Ukraine—hey, don’t worry! All this talk about a Russian invasion is overblown. At least that’s what you’ll see if you read RT.com, the Western-facing Kremlin “news” agency. Here are some headlines on the site Tuesday morning: “No threat of immediate Russian attack on Ukraine—EU”; “No respect for Putin: how a call for cooperation with Russia ended a vice-admiral’s career”; “Germany has ‘betrayed’ Ukraine—Kiev mayor.” It’s always interesting to see the other side (and that thing about the vice admiral is for real, and a fascinating story—here’s The Guardian’s version). Meanwhile, from The New York Times comes word that Joe Biden had an 80-minute call with European leaders, and there was “total unanimity” that an invasion would invite “massive consequences and severe economic costs” for Russia. “Total unanimity” seems, well, open to question. Here’s a good piece from Foreign Policy explaining how and why Germany sees things differently from the United States.
Encouraging development on a news front of importance to me: New antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter gave a major speech Monday laying out a new and harder line on monopolies. He said his division will no longer seek settlements but will just move to block mergers that are deemed “likely to lessen competition” and added that the new guidelines “will often mean that we cannot accept anything less than an injunction blocking the merger—full stop.” This may be an issue you haven’t given much thought to, but it’s music to the ears of progressives, for whom monopoly power is one of the key factors that has produced inequality and crushed the middle class. Whatever else Biden does or doesn’t manage to accomplish on Capitol Hill, he deserves huge props for reigniting antitrust policy.
Oh—and fuck Aaron Rodgers.
And hurray for Neil Young. No Clapton he.
At NewRepublic.com today, Rachel Cohen makes a convincing case that Democrats should not panic about school closures, as parents’ actual views are more nuanced than the media conventional wisdom indicates; Grace Segers gets Democratic Representative Ro Khanna on the record with his views on how best to pare Build Back Better down to its essentials; Daniel Strauss looks at whether a Democrat can beat Ron DeSantis in this fall’s Florida governor’s race; and Matt Ford warns that the Supreme Court is ready to bury affirmative action.
Yesterday’s geopolitics question: There is one Baltic city that looms larger in U.S.-Russia tensions than any other, because there is a constant, low-simmering fear in the West that Putin may make a move on it. What is the city, in which country is it located, and what would be Putin’s justification for some sort of action?
Answer: The city is Narva, Estonia, and the justification would be that a large majority of the population is Russian. How the city ended up part of Estonia rather than Russia is a long story, but the upshot is that if Russia were to try to take Narva back, the population would likely support the move—and of course, unlike Ukraine, Estonia is a NATO member, which would oblige the U.S. and other NATO nations to come to the country’s defense, for a small city that no one in the U.S. has even heard of. This 2019 piece in The Atlantic explains how Narva could be “the next Crimea.” When I visited Russia in 2016 and gave a few talks to different audiences about American politics, I asked audiences about this Narva scenario, and they just laughed. And my audiences were hardly Putin apparatchiks. So who knows. But it’s worth being aware of.
Today’s politics questions: Exactly how many votes did Donald Trump tell Brad Raffensperger he needed to find so that Trump would win Georgia? Also, who besides Trump and Raffensperger was on that phone call? One person was a Trump aide; the other was a longtime vast right-wing conspiracist whose name, God willing, will soon be more widely known in this country.
Today’s must reads:
Ron DeSantis Is Eyeing the White House. Florida Democrats Are Eyeing Him.
He seems to be the heavy favorite for reelection at the moment. But remember—he only won by 30,000 votes last time. And he’s under 50 percent. Stranger things have happened.
by Daniel Strauss
Ro Khanna on a Climate-Only Biden Bill: “There’s No Other Option”
The California representative says Build Back Better needs to get pared down to some urgent essentials.
by Grace Segers
The Bogus Claim That School Closures Will Doom Democrats
Pundits are acting apocalyptic about pandemic education policy and the midterms. The evidence paints a far shakier picture.
by Rachel M. Cohen
The Ghosts of Céline
Is it possible to separate the celebrated novelist from the disgraced writer of fascist polemics?
by Scott Bradfield
The Supreme Court Gets Ready to End Affirmative Action
Conservative legal activists looking to roll back the legal remedies for historical racial discrimination couldn’t ask for a more accommodating high court.
by Matt Ford
Thanks for reading,
—Michael Tomasky, editor
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