Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: Great Timing For All Involved!
This is your TPM evening briefing.

The day has come. Donald Trump returned to Facebook. Elon Musk has invited him to come back to Twitter, and we can only assume he will do so as imminently as his Truth Social agreement allows. And, now, the big man is making his Fox News comeback.

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The Box Checker Fumbles

As Nicole LaFond explains in today’s Morning Memo (David Kurtz is on vacation), Ron DeSantis has got his first big fumble in his presidential roll out. He staked out an aggressively anti-Ukraine position on the conflict and American involvement in that conflict, going as far as to label it a “territorial dispute” and suggest no real U.S. interests at stake. This is in line with most Republicans in the Trump wing of the party and not surprising. But he got major pushback from a number of Senate Republicans and GOP foreign policy hands. So he shifted gears, now saying that the Russian invasion is really pretty bad after all, identifying Putin as a “war criminal” who must be “held accountable.” As Nicole notes, this is grist for Trump’s virtuoso taunting and pillorying. He commits the ultimate sin in the Trump GOP — admitting error, retreating rather than going on the offensive. Trump can do that. Because he’s Trump. But no one else can.

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Another Delay. At Least.

Insider is reporting that while the New York City grand jury dealing with the Trump “hush money” case is meeting today, it won’t be working on the Trump case. That means nothing new is likely to happen in the case until Monday at the earliest. (The grand jury has been meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Grand juries routinely work on multiple cases at once.) What does this mean? I have no idea. Assuming the Insider report is correct, my best guess is that the reporting predicting an imminent indictment is still broadly correct. It was just off on the day it would happen, helped along in large part by Trump’s claim that he would be “arrested” Tuesday, March 21. That’s my pretty strong assumption: That there is still going to be a New York City indictment. But really who knows?

Alleged Santos Accomplice on the Run from Child Torture Charge

There’s a dark coda to one of the latest tales in the legend of Rep. George Santos (R-NY). As you will remember, a good bit of December and January were taken up by the ongoing saga of Santos and the slow unraveling of a life made up of a long litany of fabrications and criminal behavior. One of the last big stories to come out on Santos was about his alleged role as a mastermind of an ATM fraud ring in Seattle, allegedly working with a one-time roommate named Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha.

Trelha was arrested for running the fraud scheme in 2017. Santos was questioned by investigators probing the scheme and he later testified on Ribeiro’s behalf. Trelha eventually pled guilty, served seven months in jail and was deported to Brazil in early 2018. Once Santos became an international sensation, Trelha came forward to submit a sworn declaration to federal authorities changing his story and now accusing Santos of being the mastermind of the fake ATM card racket.

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Trump’s to Lose

This is just out tonight from the insider sheet Puck …

With the Manhattan district attorney threatening to put Trump on trial, and DeSantis declining to stand in his way, G.O.P. operatives are coalescing around the notion that it’s now the ex-president’s race to lose.

I think this is right and I think it’s been clear for a while. This doesn’t mean Trump will definitely be the nominee. We can’t know that. But people are starting to see what, again, should have been clear for a while. With Trump’s remaining support — which is diminished but still robust — and the likelihood of multiple indictments, there’s just not room for a challenger to confront and unseat him.

A Conversation With Michael Kofman About the Ukraine War Prime Badge

Last week we sat down with Michael Kofman, the head of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses, to discuss the Ukraine War. The CNA is an independent but government-funded think tank which is tasked with generating scholarship and analysis to serve the Department of the Navy (the Navy and the Marine Corps) and the larger U.S. national security community. You may not have heard his name before but Kofman is one of the country’s most knowledgable people on the ins and outs of the Russian military, its strengths, doctrines, culture and challenges. Among the many subjects we discussed was why a direct military assault may not be the best or most feasible way for Ukraine to reclaim Crimea, if that’s in the cards at all; and the downsides of having so many different countries donating so many different weapons systems for the Ukrainian war effort. If you’re a member, join me for our TPM Inside Briefing with Michael Kofman after the jump.

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And There It Is

The DeSantis administration is moving to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law to all grades. The initial law applied to kindergarten through 3rd grade. It will now expand to grades 4 through 12.

Low Energy DeSantis

Ron DeSantis is now slowly, kinda starting to announce his presidential candidacy and criticize Donald Trump. He says, for instance, that the “underlying conduct” in the Stormy Daniels case is “just outside my wheelhouse.” And if that seems a bit underwhelming, yeah, that was kind of my impression too. He also says that a political leader should try to be “like our founding fathers” and have “character.” He notes at one point in an interview with Piers Morgan that George Washington “always put the Republic over his own personal interest.” As I think about it, in a pre-Trump world these might be fighting words. Sorta. But not in the Trump era. Not if you’re trying to take down Donald Trump.

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Big Picture

It now seems clear that a New York City indictment of Donald Trump won’t happen today and may not even happen tomorrow, based on some tenuous reporting over the last 24 hours. But there’s a good chance that almost all the current commentary will end up mattering much, much less than the simple fact that almost five months after the 2022 midterm the GOP remains thoroughly chained to Donald Trump.

Looking Back Twenty Years On

As we consider the 20-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I wanted to acquaint you with or remind you of some of the intellectual and emotional climate of the moment. This is separate from the reminders of the sheer deception that made the war possible. But it’s quite important. I’m linking two pieces I wrote at outside publications around that time — one for The New Yorker and another for The Washington Monthly. I covered much of the same ground at TPM, in these virtual pages. But because of the nature of this venue, the ideas and observations are more spread over various posts, often keyed to the immediate developments of the day, many short and momentary.

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