When In Doubt, Pivot To The Laptop

INSIDE: Proud Boys ... Alex Jones ... Ronald Reagan???
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: With a poster of a New York Post front page story about Hunter Biden’s emails on display, Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and Rep. Jim Jordon (R-OH) listen during a hearing ... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: With a poster of a New York Post front page story about Hunter Biden’s emails on display, Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and Rep. Jim Jordon (R-OH) listen during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on February 8, 2023 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "Protecting Speech from Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter's Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story." (Photo by Alex Wong/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.

Something Something Hunter Biden

Since January Republicans have been using their hanging-by-a-thread majority in the House to launch fake investigations into the various entities investigating Donald Trump, host photo-ops with fake explosives at the border and seize on any and all opportunities to yell about Hunter Biden’s laptop. It’s a well-worn Republican strategy at this point — a one-size-fits-all distraction tactic designed to give GOPers an out to not engage seriously, one that walks and talks like “but her emails.”

In the wake of news of Trump’s potential indictment this week, things are no different.

Obviously a few big things happened over the weekend.

  • Donald Trump posted an ALL CAPS APOCALYPTIC SCREED on Truth Social, informing his supporters that he believes he will be arrested on Tuesday and inviting his truest believers to protest the potential impending indictment. 
  • It’s unclear where Trump’s information is coming from — whether he was told he would be indicted on Tuesday or if he’s just playing fast and loose with his own speculation. The ex-president did claim that his info came from “ILLEGAL LEAKS.”
  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg privately, without naming names, reassured his team that the office would not be intimidated by threats.
  • “We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he wrote in an email to staff Saturday.
  • Trump is posting through it. On Sunday he shared some conspiracy theories claiming that President Biden “‘stuffed’ the D.A’s Office with Department of Injustice people,” including some sort of “DOJ operative” from D.C. 
  • Some Trump supporters are responding to the call for protest with online chatter about blocking off the “the bridges and tunnels” surrounding New York City and/or building a “patriot moat” around Mar-a-Lago to protect Trump. 

Republicans, meanwhile, are doing one of two things in response.

  1. The Kevin McCarthy route: performatively straddling the line between unironic outrage over politically motivated investigations and grave concerns about a Jan. 6 2.0 or …
  2. Pulling a James Comer.

During an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Features” Rep. James Comer (R-KY) suggested the coming indictment is part of some grand scheme to distract from his and other House GOPers’ Very Important Research:

“Well, it’s very odd that [the news of a possible Trump indictment] would come out just the very next day after I revealed bank records which showed that the Biden family — the president in particular — hasn’t been truthful with respect to his family receiving payments directly from the Chinese communist party,” Comer said, referencing some memo he released last week about Hunter Biden potentially sharing money with his brother’s widow at some point.

Manhattan DA’s office to Comer:

Pence Pours The Kool-Aid

Around the time Trump posted his incendiary statement on his knock-off Twitter app, Pence sat down for an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in Iowa and responded to news of the potential indictment — using it all as a vehicle to go after the “radical left” and fuel right-wing conspiracy theories about America’s cities crumbling into hell holes as they burn up with crime.  

“I’m taken aback at the idea of indicting a former President of the United States, at a time when there’s a crime wave in New York City, that — the fact that the Manhattan DA thinks that indicting President Trump is his top priority, I think is, just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left in this country,” Pence told Karl. “It just feels like a politically charged prosecution here. And I, for my part, I just feel like it’s just not what the American people want to see.”

But First …

Before the Manhattan grand jury votes on whether to indict Trump this week, the panel will hear testimony from at least one more witness: lawyer Robert J. Costello. 

The news about the additional testimony from the New York Times is significant. While Trump’s team reportedly rebuffed the DA office’s invite for Trump to come testify before the grand jury last week, Costello is appearing at the request of Trump’s lawyers. Under New York law, a person who is facing indictment can call in witnesses to testify on their behalf, which is what’s happening here. Costello will likely go after the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, because the two have bad blood. 

Vintage Trump

Josh Marshall unpacks what he agrees with and disagrees with about arguments centered on why, after all these years, it doesn’t really matter whether the Stormy Daniels’ hush payment case goes first.

The Jack Smith Files

In addition to reacting to his former running-mate’s potential indictment, Pence also discussed the Jack Smith grand jury subpoena for his testimony with ABC News over the weekend. He indicated he doesn’t plan to fight the entire thing. 

  • “We’re not asserting executive privilege, which may encompass other discussions,” Pence told ABC. 
  • “I just believe that the work that I did preparing for and conducting on my role as President of the Senate is covered by the speech and debate clause. I believe we have the law on our side.”

This Is Why We Don’t Mess With NYC Drag Shows

When they’re not busy trying to overthrow the government, they’re out on the streets, confronting the Real Enemy.

Most of the details are still unclear, but here’s the gist: Some Proud Boys tried to protest a drag show story hour in Manhattan, hosted by New York Attorney General Letitia James. A clash broke out between supporters and some of the Proud Boys. At least one person wearing Proud Boys colors was arrested and one of the protesters wearing the far-right militia group’s attire appeared to have some bloody facial injuries. 

Some tweets documenting the clash:

Purveyor Of Lies Continues Taunting Families Of Dead Children

Alex Jones is reportedly moving his money around to avoid paying the families of Sandy Hook victims the $1.4 billion in damages he owes them for spreading lies and conspiracy theories about their children’s deaths. The New York Times conducted a review of his finances and court records and found that he has transferred millions in cash and assets to family and friends over the past year, potentially keeping his money out of creditors’ reach. More here

DJ Milk And Cooks

Rarely, if ever, is my high school friend group chat abuzz with messages about a Politico article, but that was the case this weekend. These guys used to DJ at the dingiest dungeon of a campus bar in my hometown back when I was 18 and … absolutely not sneaking into college bars. 

How 2 Midwestern College Kids Became Trumpworld’s Favorite DJs

Constitutional Sheriffs Craze Swells In Illinois

Read the Chicago Tribune’s new deep-dive into the constitutional sheriffs movement as a group of Illinois sheriffs refuses to follow or enforce the state’s new assault weapons ban.

The OG October Surprise

Four decades too late, a former Texas politician spilled the details of secret meetings between former Texas Governor John B. Connally Jr. and Middle Eastern leaders ahead of the 1980 presidential election, revealing the Ronald Reagan “October Surprise” plot was real after all. 

According to Ben Barnes, who spoke to the Times, Connally pushed Middle Eastern officials to delay the release of the 52 American hostages being held captive in Iran until after the election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, a plan that would eventually help rob the incumbent Carter of a diplomacy win ahead of Election Day.

Barnes was moved to finally tell the story amid news of Carter’s failing health. A must read: “History needs to know that this happened.

Do you like Morning Memo? Let us know!

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Barnes’ political affiliation. TPM regrets this error.

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