February 21, 2024

A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Drinking From A Firehose

After drinking from the firehose of news for several hours yesterday, I felt untethered and adrift. In trying to make sense of it all this morning, I’m aware that some of you may have been preoccupied with your actual lives yesterday – teaching a class, seeing patients, in court, on teleconferences – so let me take a little bit of a different approach to Morning Memo today and give you a rundown of how the day unfolded.

In the morning:

  • The high court signaled that it will overwhelmingly toss out the Colorado Supreme Court decision keeping Donald Trump off the GOP primary ballot.
  • The Supreme Court put on an institutional display that showed how little the justices actually know about elections and indeed federalism, which is shocking to have to say, but there you have it.
  • The justices will probably wave their hands toward Congress to “do something” to make the Disqualification Clause enforceable, but in reality they are setting up a potentially cataclysmic and unworkable test for the constitutional framework in the calm (lol) period between Election Day 2024 and Inauguration Day 2025.
  • The primary lawyer defending the Colorado decision presented a half-hearted and subdued argument to the court that turned the Jan. 6 insurrection into almost an afterthought. Trump’s lawyer was measured and humble, conceding more than one might have expected.
  • The liberal justices were of little help.

In the afternoon:

  • Special Counsel Robert Hur’s final report on his investigation of Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents was released. Hur declined to charge Biden, though Biden’s conduct was more egregious and the decision whether to prosecute was a closer call than expected.
  • In his report, Hur rightly distinguished Biden’s conduct from Trump’s in the Mar-a-Lago case but took gratuitous swipes at Biden and his memory, cognition, and age. The political press lapped it up.
  • The Senate surprisingly surmounted a procedural obstacle to the standalone foreign aid bill (Ukraine, Israel, etc) when a group of Senate Republicans broke ranks. So after months of Republicans insisting that foreign aid must be paired with border security measures, the Senate may ultimately pass the aid anyway – though it has no chance in the House.

In the evening:

  • Rushing to respond to the Hur report, Biden gave a White House speech and took questions from the press. Biden had his moments, but the political press is delighting in the blood in the water and won’t soon settle down.
  • U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon relented, temporarily, and allowed Special Counsel Jack Smith to file ex parte and under seal arguments for why she messed up in ruling that certain discovery in the case could be filed by Trump publicly and without redactions.
  • Smith quickly filed a thorough takedown of Cannon’s original decision and pleaded with her to reconsider it in order to protect witnesses, another investigation, and innocent bystanders to the case. (Smith also filed a harsh assessment of Trump’s delay tactics in the case.)

What To Make Of A Day Like Yesterday?

If fascism is a disease, then the United States is a vulnerable, immunocompromised patient unaware of its own risk, unwilling to alter its behavior to protect itself, and working hard to convince itself that everything will be fine.

There are many good people fighting the good fight, but institutionally we are either too blinkered or too slow to respond to the emerging crisis.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of that crisis, but it’s not just him, his supporters, his enablers, or the opportunists looking to capitalize on the chaos he unleashes. The problem is deeper than that, and on dark days like yesterday it’s easier to see and that can be jolting and unnerving.

I tend toward a combination of optimism and vigilance, which exist together in some tension. Days like yesterday strain both impulses: not much to be optimistic about and too much to be vigilant about.

But elsewhere today, people are back at it: election administrators preparing for the next election, federal prosecutors honing their case against Trump, and others carrying on with the normal functions of government in the face of relentless attacks. And so we soldier on. Because we must.

Signs O’ The Times (Election Version)

  • CNN: Biden officials confront limits of federal response in exercise preparing for 2024 election threats
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is deploying additional election inspectors ahead of this year’s election.
  • WaPo (emphasis mine):

In training poll workers for this year’s presidential election, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes is preparing them for a series of worst-case scenarios, including combat.

His office is coordinating active-shooter drills for election workers and has sent kits to county election offices that include tourniquets to stem bleeding, devices to barricade doors and hammers to break glass windows.

2024 Ephemera

  • WA-05: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will not run for re-election. The veteran pol from Eastern Washington was first elected in 2004. She is only 54. It’s a safe red district.
  • Nev-Pres: Donald Trump won the GOP causus in Nevada.
  • Senior Biden campaign officials met with House Democrats to coordinate on general election strategy.

Get Some Rest This Weekend!

A lot to process from this week. The DC Circuit immunity decision, the week’s bright spot, seems like a lifetime ago. Get outside, if you can. Back at it next week.

Do you like Morning Memo? Let us know!