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A New York grand jury sent shock waves throughout the country — and Mar-a-Lago — as for the first time in history, a former U.S. President is indicted.
In a lengthy statement, Donald Trump denounced his indictment, announced Thursday, as “Political Persecution.”
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable — indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” he said in a statement.
So, what happens now as a Florida man faces still sealed charges in his old home state? He’s expected to turn himself in next week in New York, somewhat undercutting the drama of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis making clear the state “will not assist in an extradition request.”
Ultimately, the legal system will render a decision on Trump’s guilt or innocence, and none of it will force the end of his candidacy for President in 2024.
If reactions to the news from the Florida congressional delegation offer a hint, Trump’s team may want to pay close attention to the partisan makeup of the jury. The difference in sentiment among Republican and Democratic members proved predictably stark.
“With former President Trump having been indicted, we are reminded that no American — not even the President — is above the law,” said Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Miramar Democrat. “However, in true Trump fashion, the former disgraced President opted to rile up his supporters in opposition to the indictment. This act clearly displays his flagrant disregard for the rule of law.
“In my home state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis had also used his podium to downplay the severity of the indictment, sticking to MAGA extremist talking points and casting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a ‘(George) Soros-funded prosecutor.’ I commend District Attorney Bragg for his decision to move forward with this indictment — despite the deluge of Republican backlash — holding Trump accountable for any alleged wrongdoing and ensuring that we all play by the same rules.”
Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat who represents the district containing Mar-a-Lago, signaled similar confidence in the system. “No one is above the law in our country, and that includes the former President of the United States,” she wrote. “People should be patient and peaceful as the judicial process moves forward.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and close Trump ally, said he personally spoke to the former President. He slammed the indictment and said it would hurt the U.S. standing on the global stage.
“I spoke with President Donald Trump moments ago. He is resolute and focused,” Gaetz tweeted.
“He is also concerned about what this politically-motivated indictment will do to America’s brand around the world. We will wake up in a very different America tomorrow because we can no longer have moral authority against the dictators and despots who find it easier to jail their political rivals than to compete against them in free and fair elections.”
But those members with the strongest background in law enforcement, while still signaling their loyalties, did warn it best to let the process play out.
“As a lifelong law enforcement officer, I’ll wait to hear Bragg’s evidence for the indictment of a former president — it damn well better be good,” said Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican and former Sheriff. “Now, I want to see indictments for the (Joe) Biden regime. I’ve seen that evidence!”
The new war
A war with China could be fought over the dollar, Sen. Marco Rubio suggested in a Fox News interview.
The Miami Republican started out by stressing an absolute belief that China intends to go to war with the United States.
“I was very young, obviously, at the end of the Cold War, but it’s been about 30 years since there was another superpower on the earth that was in conflict with the United States,” the 51-year-old Rubio told host Sean Hannity. “We are back in that place. We need to stop pretending that’s not the case now. I hope it’s never an armed conflict, but it’s a conflict at every level you can imagine.”
But if not fought with rifles and missiles, how will China hurt the U. S.? By disrupting its economic standing in the world, Rubio said.
“Just today, Brazil, the largest country in the Western Hemisphere, cut a trade deal with China,” Rubio said. “They’re going to, from now on, do trade in their own currencies, get right around the dollar. They’re creating a secondary economy in the world totally independent of the United States. We won’t have to talk about sanctions in five years, because there’ll be so many countries transacting in currencies other than the dollar that we won’t have the ability to sanction them.”
And of course, the Senator swiped at President Biden’s administration both for holding to a dated view of the world and focusing more on its domestic agenda.
“We are sitting here, focused on some of this nuttiness that’s going on, people that are basically dedicating their lives in this country to ensuring that it is legal to mutilate children, to do drag shows in schools,” Rubio said. “They dedicate their lives to this. And we have another superpower that basically wants to become the world’s dominant power at our expense. These people don’t want to focus on it. We had some person on ‘The View’ yesterday say that our criminal justice system is no better than what China is doing with its genocide of Uyghur Muslims.”
Florida has long suffered an outsized share of pain from the opioid crisis. Now Sen. Rick Scott is reaching across the aisle to find ways to remove more drugs from the streets. The Naples Republican introduced the Overcoming Prevalent Inadequacies in Overdose Information Data Sets (OPIOIDS) Act with Sen. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat.
The bill outlines a four-pronged approach to combating the fentanyl crisis.
First, it would direct the Attorney General’s Office to issue grants to local communities to boost data collection.
Those would be coupled with Justice Department grants to law enforcement to bolster drug tracing capacity and better identity overdoses.
The bill would then direct the National Drug Control Policy to collaborate with the National Forensic Laboratory Information System and DOJ to create national standards for submitting and sharing data.
Finally, the legislation calls for the Drug Enforcement Agency to report to Congress on the funding needed for a Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program.
“Illicit fentanyl continues to endanger communities and families all across the country and it must be stopped,” Scott said.
“We have lost too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, and I will not allow the horrific consequences of inadequate policies in Washington, or the heartbreak of families hurt by this terrible drug, to be ignored. Today, I am proud to introduce the bipartisan OPIOIDS Act to bring much-needed action against the crisis that is hurting so many Americans and their families. I want to thank Sen. Welch for joining me on this important bill and urge all of our colleagues to stand with victims of fentanyl, their families and everyone fighting this battle by supporting this legislation.”
Withdrawing from Somalia?
For the second time in as many months, Congress will stop other business and vote on a war powers resolution filed by Gaetz. The Fort Walton Beach Republican wants President Biden to remove all U.S. forces from Somalia, with soldiers in place to protect a U.S. embassy there.
War powers resolutions are privileged, and the House must take them up for a full vote within 18 days of being filed. Gaetz earlier this month forced a vote on ending military presence in Syria, though it failed on a 321-103 vote.
Gaetz will employ the war powers tool again after pressing Army General Michael Langley about the training of soldiers in the Gulf of Guinea who later led coups. When Langley said the U.S. shared “core values” with some of the groups, Gaetz said that shocked him.
“The American people have extremely low confidence in our military leaders and their ability to assess their own efficacy,” he said. “How do they expect Americans to believe their justification for occupying Somalia when they can’t even determine who in their own training programs will lead a violent coup afterward?
“When the House debated my resolution to withdraw troops from Syria, both Republicans and Democrats argued the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Afghanistan serves as a global permission slip for every neocon fantasy. They will argue the same for Somalia. But as Americans become more aware of our country’s military misadventures abroad, the calls to end forever wars are growing. While the Congressional War Machine has decided to rage on in Syria, they must explain how continuing the occupation of Somalia best serves the interests of the American people at home.”
Up for the fight
If the U.S. needs to engage in military conflict, Rep. Michael Waltz isn’t so sure the nation is ready.
The Chair of the House Military Readiness Subcommittee said in an address to the conservative Heritage Foundation that too many progressive agenda items have distracted the armed forces from their chief purpose.
“Whether it’s mandating politicized (diversity, equity and inclusiveness) initiatives or focusing on eco-friendly strategies rather than lethality, our military faces a readiness crisis,” Waltz said. “It’s critical we implement the recommendations of this panel to address our recruiting crisis, reinstate meritocracy to our ranks, and refocus our efforts on warfighting. I’m thankful to the Heritage Foundation and panel members for coming together to identify solutions for our military.”
He cited a National Independent Panel on Military and Service Readiness report that spotlighted what Waltz viewed as politicization. Based on that, he called for eliminating any DEI constructs within the Defense Department and the implementation of standards focused on military readiness. He also wants the need of waging wars prioritized over combating climate change.
The Heritage Foundation welcomed the message.
“The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place, and defense leaders need to remember that at its core the United States Armed Forces have one mission: to protect our nation from foreign enemies,” said Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts.
“While the Biden administration pursues a politicized ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ experiment, the National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness has focused on recommending actionable steps to solve our government-created military recruitment and readiness crises. Now is the time for patriots to step up and restore our military’s warrior ethos and readiness; not to be distracted by the political agenda of bureaucratic elites.”
The bombing of a Kabul airport during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 drew instant condemnation. Now Rep. Cory Mills is arguing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should be impeached as a consequence.
The Winter Park Republican drafted impeachment papers this week. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Mills presented the papers to Austin and said he believed the Cabinet official guilty of “willful dereliction of duty.”
In a statement, Mills said Americans killed during the withdrawal deserve justice.
“When we had the chance, our leadership blew it,” Mills said in the statement.
He also alluded to testimony earlier this month by Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a Marine maimed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at the Hamis Karzai International Airport. Vargas-Andrews said troops on the ground had identified suspicious individuals and reported that to superiors but were told not to engage.
“We were just helpless,” Vargas-Andrews said, as reported by Stars and Stripes. “We passed over intel, let people know what was going on but (we were) unable to do anything.”
Ultimately, the bomb killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghan civilians.
Mills said that’s just one troubling event in the chaotic removal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“Sergeant Major Vargas-Andrews had the bomber in his sight, and in my view, it was a failure of leadership that he was not given the OK to take him down,” Mills said.
“This is not about politics; this is about accountability. That is why I drafted articles of impeachment to hold Secretary Lloyd Austin accountable for his dereliction of duty. Americans deserve accountability for this, and more importantly, the 13 Gold Star families deserve to know who is responsible.”
Oh, the irony
The timing of the Senate’s passage of permitless gun carry days after the mass school shooting that killed six people, including three children, has the state’s Gen Z Congressman “absolutely disgusted,” according to a prepared statement.
Lawmakers should hang their heads, Rep. Maxwell Frost argued. More guns on the street are not going to make Florida safer, he said while predicting more death and destruction ahead as a result.
“I join survivors and advocates in being absolutely disgusted that the state home to tragedies like Pulse and Parkland took 10 steps back when it comes to protecting our people from gun violence,” the Orlando Democrat said. “Republicans in the Florida House and Senate are lying to Floridians when they say this legislation will make our communities safer — the fact of the matter is that we will have more guns on our streets and more opportunities for the next tragedy to happen.”
People are going to die because of the Governor’s political ambition to win over Presidential Primary voters, he asserted.
“Ron DeSantis is going to sign this bill into law not because it’s the right thing for Florida, but because he’s running for President,” Frost’s prepared statement said. “Every member that voted for this should be ashamed. This will result in more shootings and loss of life.”
The closing of Midnight Pass has been controversial in Sarasota County for decades. Now Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, wants the federal government to fund reopening the waterway. He held a virtual briefing with county Public Works Director Spencer Anderson and Director of Government Relations Rob Lewis on the matter this week.
“Reopening Midnight Pass would bring a series of positive improvements to Little Sarasota Bay — from both a water quality standpoint and a healthier environment for wildlife, homeowners on the bay, and visitors,” Steube said.
“My office stands ready to assist our local leadership in jump-starting a critical project that will make a real difference in Sarasota County. We are prepared to be a partner at the federal level as we navigate the many federal and state agencies involved in the unique nature of opening an inlet and restoring the bay to a marine system.”
The pass was closed in 1983. While there was initially a promise to re-open the pass further from Siesta Key homes threatened by erosion, the matter has been fought over for decades by local, state and federal officials. Environmental groups say reopening a direct channel now between an estuary and the Gulf of Mexico would threaten a brackish habitat that formed over decades since the pass closed.
But The Midnight Pass Society II, a local nonprofit supporting the project, released a statement arguing it would be best for the community to restore the pass.
“Opening the Pass would revitalize the sea grasses, permitting new fish varieties and birds in the immediate vicinity, and restore the crystal blue of the Gulf waters,” the statement reads. “The new hydrology would improve water circulation, reduce pollution, and increase the viable breeding areas for shrimp, clam, and oysters, all of which are now gone due to the stagnation of the waterways.”
Some lawmakers in Washington are learning the hard way that going toe-to-toe with first-termer Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, on the issue of gun violence is a rough outing.
This week, the target of Moskowitz’s ire was Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a prominent Second Amendment absolutist and conspiracy theorist whom he castigated for putting politics and culture wars over children’s safety. Their exchange came during a discussion in the House Oversight and Accountability Committee over the Monday massacre at a private, Christian elementary school in Nashville, where a shooter killed six people, including three 9-year-olds, before being killed by police.
The shooter may be transgender, something Greene and other conservatives seized on as a major cause for the murders while sidestepping the fact the assailant legally obtained seven guns, including at least two AR-15-style assault rifles.
“You want to know why the shooter is dead in Nashville, the trans shooter? You want to know why? Because the good guy with a gun killed that woman,” Greene continued. “She identified as a man. She was mentally ill, probably taking hormones. And she went and murdered children and adults in this Christian school in Nashville. So, if you want to have a good talk about schools and protecting children, we need to talk about protecting our children the same way we protect our President, we protect our celebrities, we protect this building.”
Moskowitz — whose passionate speech on the Florida House floor after the 2018 massacre in Parkland helped pass the state’s first gun safety law in two decades — interjected.
“There are six people that are dead in that school, including three children, because you guys got rid of the assault weapons ban, because you guys made it easy for people who don’t deserve to have weapons, who are mentally incapable of having weapons of war, (to be) able to buy those weapons and go into schools,” he argued.
Moskowitz took aim at legislation Green and Republican Rep. George Santos, a New York Republican, are sponsoring to ban books with LGBTQ content from schools, an effort reflective of similar initiatives in several states, including Florida.
“You guys are worried about banning books,” he said. “Dead kids can’t read.”
Who was weaponizing?
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz through several hearings of the Select Committee on the Weaponization of Government has pushed back on assertions by Republican witnesses that a Democratic administration uses the levers of power with political spite. Now the Weston Democrat said the “experts” being brought in by the other side have résumés that make her case for her.
“Today, for the 1st time in 3 hearings, Republicans actually had a witness at a Weaponization hearing who not only knows but was likely involved in weaponizing government to carry out a political agenda: ex-Missouri (Deputy Attorney General) D. John Sauer,” Wasserman Schultz tweeted.
“A public records request shows Sauer worked w/ a dark money group tied to Republican AGs called the Rule of Law Defense Fund, or RLDF, while he was on the job in the AG office for Missouri taxpayers. Leading to the 2020 Election, RLDF held ‘war games’ with GOP state AGs to plot what to do if Trump lost to Biden. He definitely did. One post-election RLDF tactic: urge ‘patriots’ on J6 to ‘march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal.’”
Wasserman Schultz contended Sauer and other state Attorneys General laid the groundwork for violent insurrectionists to riot.
“We all saw the violence and efforts to subvert our democracy that took place (on) Jan. 6th. As it turns out, the RLDF’s ‘war game’ planning for Trump’s loss didn’t result in any game, but it sure looked like a war,” she tweeted.
The Congresswoman said Sauer told her when she asked that he met with RLDF once, to discuss legal, not political issues.
“I asked Republicans to subpoena records from Sauer and Schmitt in the 2020 Election lead-up, to see if they weaponized Missouri’s AG office to help Trump and block our democracy’s peaceful transition of power — possibly on the taxpayer’s dime. They refused. Republicans showed us they are not truly interested in real examples of weaponizing government and House Judiciary Democrats proved that again today.”
Sauer, for his part, challenged Wasserman Schultz’s characterization. Most of his remarks focused on censorship by the federal government.
On this day
March 31, 1968 — “Lyndon Johnson surprises nation with announcement he won’t seek re-election” via NPR — The networks had been told Johnson’s speech would be about Vietnam, and he indeed would devote nearly 40 minutes to talking about it. Johnson’s speech was his most earnest plea yet to be taken seriously as a peacemaker. He meant that to be validated by the closing statement he had chosen to include. Instead, that statement caught the nation by surprise, shattered the political landscape and utterly overshadowed the rest of the speech. “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”
March 31, 1980 — “Jimmy Carter signs banking legislation” via Federal Reserve History — One of the most important pieces of legislation to affect the Federal Reserve in its hundred-year history is known formally as the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act. The title of the act itself indicates two major areas of concern that the legislation hoped to address — the deregulation of institutions that accept deposits and efforts to improve the control of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. The regulatory environment that banks and other depository institutions operated under required a major overhaul. Interest rates rose to double-digit levels, primarily as a result of high rates of inflation.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Anne Geggis and Jesse Scheckner.