Trump’s Ridiculous Attempt To Escape The MAL Charges

INSIDE: Alexander Smirnov ... Ron DeSantis ... Nick Cave
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 22: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump, gestures while speaking during the 2024 NRB International Christian Media Convention Presidential Forum at Th... NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 22: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump, gestures while speaking during the 2024 NRB International Christian Media Convention Presidential Forum at The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on February 22, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. Trump's appearance comes shortly after judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Trump's $355 million civil fraud case in New York, denied the former president's request to delay the judgment for a month. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo, coming to you today from Manhattan. Sign up for the email version.

Trump: You Can’t Touch Me

Donald Trump filed a slew of motions Thursday seeking to dismiss the charges against him in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. Not all of the motions are public, but for our purposes the most important is probably the one arguing for presidential immunity. It makes the preposterous claim that magically deeming government records “personal” under the Presidential Records Act makes it an “official” act that is immune from prosecution.

Setting aside the extreme dubiousness of that proposition, the immunity claim gives Trump a chance to delay the MAL proceedings the same way he has used another similar presidential immunity claim to forestall the Jan. 6 trial in DC. Recall that he if loses on immunity at the trial court level, like he did in DC, he has a right to appeal that decision and the case will likely grind to a halt.

We are still awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether to take up the immunity appeal in the DC case. I would be surprised if we don’t hear from the Supreme Court today on that. It’s not clear how or if the two immunity claims will impact each other or the Supreme Court’s thinking on how to handle it.

Never Seen Anything Like It

I don’t recall ever seeing criminal defendants released from custody by federal judges and then immediately rearrested in the same case. It happened twice this week.

First, the case of former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, accused of a long-running smear campaign against the Bidens and being in bed with foreign intel, including Russia. A federal magistrate judge in Nevada granted his release Wednesday over the objections of prosecutors, who immediately appealed that decision to a federal judge in Nevada. But rather than wait for that judge to decide, prosecutors seem to have obtained a separate arrest warrant from the federal judge in California overseeing the case. (Smirnov was arrested in Nevada but the case is charged in California.) Rather than escaping, Smirnov went to his lawyer’s office to confer, where the feds found him and rearrested him.

Second, the case of violent white supremacist leader Robert Rondo (a.k.a. Robert Rundo). As I mentioned yesterday, Rondo was released from custody after a federal judge in California dismissed his indictment on selective prosecution grounds, making the insane claim that “Antifa” and left-wing activists haven’t been charged for similar behavior. Prosecutors raced to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking an emergency stay, which was granted. Another arrest warrant was issued yesterday, and Rondo self-surrendered to authorities.

Truly unusual developments in each case.

Consider Yourself Warned

HuffPost’s Matt Shuham: Federal Judge Ominously Warns That Trump Won’t Accept Defeat In 2024

Quote Of The Week

He said at some point he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Well, I think he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and the conservative media wouldn’t even report on it.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Donald Trump

A Valuable Skeptic

I often direct you to the work of Philip Bump because he’s an even-keeled fellow in the current maelstrom, seeing the Trump threat clearly for what it is but maintaining a skepticism that is valuable in helping navigate the current moment.

He offers not one but two correctives today. They don’t dramatically change the shape of the coverage, but they do nudge things a degree or two closer to the true course:

GOP: Less Sex, More Babies – But Not IVF Babies

  • TPM’s Nicole Lafond: Republicans Have No Effing Clue What To Do With The Alabama IVF Ruling
  • NYT: Alabama IVF Ruling Opens New Front in Election-Year Abortion Battles

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For Your Weekend

Our little shared obsession with politics only gets us so far. We need to get out in the world: breathe outside air, stub a toe, sweat, make something with our hands, relish music, absorb art. Make it real for a bit.

When I need a jolt to get me out of the politics bubble, I will sometimes turn to the music of Nick Cave. It’s often angry, always poetic, and has a primal urgency that strips away the pretense and fluff we surround and cushion ourselves with. You may know his work even if you’re not familiar with his name. His signature “Red Right Hand” is the theme song for the British TV series Peaky Blinders.

This is all by way of an introduction to The Red Hand Files, a newsletter Cave has been putting out for several years that has turned into a long-running conversation between him and his fans. It’s quirky as fuck, but often striking, occasionally memorable, and somehow feels quite real in its honesty and directness.

It usually takes the form of a letter from a fan, often framed as a question, and Cave’s response. Today’s installment is the kind of funky back and forth that makes the entire experiment delightful.

A subtext of the newsletter is Cave alternatively shrugging off the mantle of celebrity or guru or wiseman and yet dispensing the truth bombs, poetic prose, and glaring insight that draw people to him in the first place. I’m not your Yoda, Padawan. The one-man tug of war creates an underlying tension that makes the thing pop.

Cave’s teenage son died in a tragic accident almost a decade ago and that has made him a icon of sorts for people in mourning, suffering loss, or enduring trauma. I do not tend toward fandom. Too much skepticism and suspicion in my bones. I don’t need artists (or actors or athletes or billionaires) to be oracles or prophets. But with my own teenage son narrowly escaping death not once but twice in the last two years, I have drawn on Cave’s experience as proof of a kind that it’s possible to continue to create, to do public-facing work, and to be thoughtful even when nothing makes any sense to you.

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Notable Replies

  1. Of course, Just let god sort them out
    Florida Surgeon General Defies CDC Guidance During Measles Outbreak (

    FRIDAY, Feb. 23, 2024 (HealthDay News) – Amid an outbreak of measles at a Florida elementary school, the state’s surgeon general has defied federal health guidance and told parents it’s up to them whether they want to keep their unvaccinated child home to avoid infection.

    In a letter to parents of children attending Manatee Bay Elementary school in Weston, where six cases of measles have already been reported, Florida surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the state health department “is surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the state health department “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.”

    That advice runs counter to what Ladapo acknowledged in his letter was the “normal” recommendation that parents keep unvaccinated children home for up to 21 days – the incubation period for measles.

    This is not the first time that Ladapo has challenged health recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Last month, he called for halting the use of COVID vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

  2. Biden criticizes Alabama Supreme Court ruling on IVF embryos (

    Outrageous and unacceptable’: President Biden issues statement on Alabama IVF ruling

    “Make no mistake: this is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Biden said on Thursday. “I know that folks are worried about what they’re seeing happening to women all across America. I am too. I hear about it everywhere I go. My message is: The Vice President and I are fighting for your rights. We’re fighting for the freedom of women, for families, and for doctors who care for these women.”
    He added that his administration won’t stop until it restores federal protections for reproductive rights.

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