A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh discuss the verdict in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case, the ongoing Fani Willis drama and the latest, Ezra-Klein-sparked round of fretting over Joe Biden’s age.
You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.
I know that’s a big headline that promises a lot. But I think it’s true. David has a good rundown of the events in the Morning Memo. But I want to do my best to set them out on a larger canvas that goes back to the “Hunter Biden laptop” and really all the way back to 2015, a continuing Russian information operation that has been ongoing for almost a decade.
Let’s review recent events. First came the news that prosecutors in special counsel David Weiss’s office had decided that the confidential FBI informant who had been one of Biden’s top accusers had been lying and that they were charging him for lying to the FBI. That next step is critical. Informants lie to prosecutors all the time. They seldom get charged. It’s one standard to decide your informant isn’t telling the truth and/or won’t hold up at trial. It’s an entirely different one to think that you can prove they knowingly lied beyond a reasonable doubt. Clearly investigators felt they had caught Alexander Smirnov dead to rights. Yesterday came news that Smirnov has admitted that he got his false stories from Russian intelligence officers. Smirnov isn’t just at the center of the DOJ investigation, he’s at the center of what we have to generously call James Comer’s House inquiry, the premise for Joe Biden’s increasingly wobbly impeachment.
First, remember the Central Bucks (County) School Board? This is the school board north of Philadelphia that got caught up in the Moms for Liberty tide in 2021 and then flipped back in 2023 when the locals — good upstanding folks, which I know from personal experience — got sick of the crap and turned out the Moms for Liberty crowd and gave Democrats a 6-to-3 majority on the board. This is the place where there was a very suspicious sweetheart deal cut with the departing superintendent — about which there’s now ongoing litigation. It’s also the stomping ground of our good friend “Cool Mom” Clarice Schillinger.
Well, now it turns out that two of the remaining three right-wingers — Lisa Sciscio and Debra Cannon — are done. Like they’ve resigned. First, they verbally resigned on February 13th. And apparently you can’t do that. So now they’ve resigned in writing, which you can. A special meeting of the board will be held this Friday to officially accept those resignations.
Klein begins his essay by assuring us that he likes Joe Biden and actually thinks he’s done a good job as President. This is to soften the reader up and dispel any notion that he’s got some anti-Biden axe to grind. I don’t think Klein is disingenuous or cynical about this. I think he believes it. He not only doesn’t think age has hindered Biden in doing the job as President so far; he doesn’t think it would in a second term either. The issue for him, Klein says, isn’t about being President but running for President: Biden has slowed down considerably, even from his last run in 2019–2020, and Biden simply is not up to running a vigorous campaign in which the candidate is an asset, not a liability.
Let me share some numbers with you. And let me preface this by saying that I am also very concerned about how perceptions of Joe Biden’s age and mental acuity are going to affect the outcome of this election. Emerson just released a new presidential poll which has Donald Trump up by 1 point over Joe Biden. It’s 45% to 44%. That’s in line with polls over the last month or so which show a very slight move back in Biden’s direction. (All margin of error but across numerous polls means a touch more.) It’s also a “registered voters” screen. And there’s decent evidence that those polls are understating Biden’s strength. They also polled Harris, Whitmer and Newsom. They were down, respectively, 3 points, 12 points and 10 points. Trump’s support was basically identical in every case. 45% with Biden and Whitmer, 46% with Harris and Newsom.
Importantly, this poll is generally in line with other polls going back many months. Most others I’ve seen don’t show Whitmer and Newsom quite that far back. But they’re consistent in showing the other top tier contenders to be no stronger than Biden and usually weaker.
I’m tempted to say, TPM gets results! But it’s not quite that simple, at least in terms of mainstream chronology.
But it’s still super good. So hold tight.
Yesterday I brought you the news of the war time school board of Douglas County, Nevada, which culminates in the hiring of a new superintendent who has the kind of rap sheet that might normally get you expelled from a public high school as a student. All true!
But I’d missed the latest development.
As I explained, last week, the Douglas County School District school board formally offered the job of superintendent to John Ramirez, Jr., by a 4-to-3 vote, notwithstanding the fact that, according to this article at local news site Carson Now and other reports, he has a long list of bad acts, misuse of school credits cards, alleged frauds and multiple formal complaints of sexual harassment. Even more dirty laundry came out in subsequent days. Then on Tuesday of this week a new board meeting was held.
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When I got interested in taking a second look at some of the many school boards that were taken over by far-right “anti-woke” activists in 2022, it was hard to know where to start. You know about threesomer and Moms for Liberty Cofounder Bridget Ziegler and “Cool Mom” Clarice Schillinger, who will soon stand trial for the underage keggers she allegedly held in her home before decking various high school students who left too early. But there are so many other cases across the country. Most examples aren’t so lurid, eye-popping or hilarious. But they give those high flyers a run for their money. There is a common theme. It’s not all right-wing politics and bans on transgender students in sports. There is also a common pattern of taking over school boards and then pulling up stakes from the mundane but critical task of overseeing local public schools and instead refashioning the office into what amounts to a jurisdictional castle from which traditionalist culture warriors sally forth into the local community on various right-wing power trips, usually spending tons of money and violating numerous laws in the process.
A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh discuss Tom Suozzi’s win in the special election to replace George Santos, the Hur report heard ’round the world and Mike Johnson’s foreign aid pickle.
You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.
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It’s unclear why the 2024 candidate would pivot to such an extreme-appearing position ahead of her home state primaries, though it could be an attempt to knock a few uneasy evangelical voters away from Trump and in her direction.