Prime

A Bit Deeper on the Great Balloon of Doom Prime Badge

David Ignatius is a consistently good and informative read. This column is not really an exception. But it’s notable that Ignatius feels the need to kick off with a classic ‘to be sure’ sentence – “an embarrassment for the Biden administration, to be sure” – before going on to explain that shooting the balloon down over the ocean was the most logical course of action and that it will likely yield more intelligence for the United States than for China.

What an embarrassment!

But with so much attention to it I thought it made sense to put together what we actually know and where the story is at.

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WTF? Now There’s a Balloon over Costa Rica? Prime Badge

I’ve been sort of mystified by the apparent Chinese spy balloon over Montana. It seems highly provocative for relatively little intelligence pay-off. And it happens at a time when both countries appear to be attempting to at least stabilize tensions between the two countries. But TPM Reader JS points out that there seems to be another unauthorized and unidentified balloon currently over Costa Rica. Weird!

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Does the White House Need to Restate Its Refusal to Negotiate the Debt Ceiling? Prime Badge

It seems like the White House may have some clarifying to do about just what came out of this week’s first meeting between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. The statement from the White House seemed pretty clear. They’re ready, eager to negotiate budget issues separate from the debt ceiling, which has to be passed without conditions. This I think has always been the actual and proper position and the one I noted back on Monday was worth reiterating.

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Meet the Contract Killer who Now Represents George Santos in Brazil Prime Badge
Jonymar Vasconcelos, 47, lawyer for Rep George Santos in Brazil

I’m not sure the George Santos stories keep getting worse. But they do get weirder, more bizarre.

As we learned way back at the beginning of the Santos saga, he remains a wanted man in Brazil for check fraud he committed back in 2008. After he became an international celebrity in December, Brazilian authorities decided to reinitiate the case which had stalled when they couldn’t locate him. After the case was reopened, Santos hired a Brazilian lawyer to represent him in the revived case. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, since it’s George Santos, that he managed to find a lawyer who’s a convicted murderer. In fact, he’s a convicted contract killer.

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Santos Touches the Third Rail of Big Dog Prime Badge
George Santos

There now appear to be multiple federal investigations of George Santos. This is in addition to a number of investigations in New York state. The one we learned about today is based on the truly hideous story in which Santos used his sham charity to raise $3,000 for life-saving surgery for a disabled vet’s service dog and then pocketed the money and let the dog die.

You can read the story here, if you haven’t already. It’s almost cartoonish in its horribleness.

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Preparation Prime Badge

To many it seems premature to be thinking concretely about these things or planning them. But that’s wrong. The most logical and least destructive path out of the GOP radicals’ debt-ceiling hostage taking is for Democrats to temporarily ally with a group of House Republicans to force a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill through a discharge petition.

A discharge petition is a parliamentary tool by which a majority of members signs a petition which then forces a bill to be brought to the floor for a vote.

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The Trump Question Prime Badge

From TPM Reader JS

My working hypothesis is that there’s not much reason to see Trump 2024 different than Trump 2016. In fact, he had less establishment support in the 2016 primary. Up until the end there was talk of a floor challenge, not to put John Kasich in, but a sort of pre-DeSantis in Ted Cruz.

I’m open to convincing that we’re not in for a repeat, but if, even after this, Trump is holding on to 30% or so of the primary electorate those folks are never, ever going to give up on him. So maybe he’ll lose in a one v one with DeSantis, but I think, paradoxically, the more polls like this come out the more likely it is for others to get in and I don’t think there are lanes other than “Trump” and “Not Trump.”

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SantosMentum! 78% of Constituents Say He Should Resign Prime Badge

I’ve been so eager to see data on how George Santos is doing in his home district that I half considered having TPM sponsor a poll, which is completely insane because quality polls are super expensive and we don’t have anything like that kind of money. But now we can rejoice because Siena College has leapt into the breach. They did a poll and Santos currently clocks in with 7% favorability and 83% unfavorability, which is fairly poor. Even with Republicans he’s at 11%.

Generally, when you poll the constituents of incumbent politicians, you poll “approval” rather than “favorability.” But I think we can likely infer that his approval is fairly low too.

But there’s more!

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So Many Dangling Threads Prime Badge

TPM Reader RC has some thoughts and questions about the Charles McGonigal case. McGonigal is the former FBI counterintelligence agent arrested a week ago. Knowledgeable people I’ve spoken to tell me that McGonigal was much less involved in the Trump-Russia probe than many people on the outside seem to think. But like others, I’m very interested in what’s come out of Mattathias Schwartz’s reporting at Business Insider.

McGonigal’s girlfriend, who may have been the one who tipped the feds off to McGonigal’s corruption, also happens to be so close to Rudy Giuliani that Rudy put her up for some time at his home while she was recuperating from a burn? I’m not sure what that means beyond them both being part of the social and networking scene around the FBI’s NYC field office, but that and other details in Schwartz’s reporting really got my attention.

From TPM Reader RC

Something I thought your crew might be interested in, from Mattathias Schwartz’s Business Insider article last fall about the McGonigal investigation, which included a copy of a subpoena in the case.

Marcy Wheeler suggests (convincingly to me) that Guerriero, the girlfriend, was the person who got the subpoena, and therefore (the? / a?) source for the piece.

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Numbers Prime Badge

The Bulwark has a poll out today which shows a greatly weakened Donald Trump but one who still holds an iron grip on about a third of the GOP primary electorate. In this poll he loses to Ron DeSantis in a head-to-head match-up (52 to 30), in a three-way race with “another candidate” (44 to 28) and even in a ten-candidate race (39 to 28). These numbers are substantially different from other recent polls which have consistently shown Trump leading DeSantis in an actual multi-candidate race, usually by double digits. (538; RCP)

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