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Trump’s Georgia Acts Were Even Worse Than You Thought

March 15, 2024
Notes
Transcript
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:09

    Welcome to Beg to Differ, the Bulwark weekly roundtable discussion, featuring civil conversation across the political spectrum, we range from center left to center right. I’m Mona Charen indicated columnist and policy editor, the Bulwark, and I’m joined by our regulars. Damon Lincoln, who writes the sub stack newsletter notes from the middle ground, Will Saletan of the Wall Street Journal and the Brookings institution and Linda Chavez of the Nescannon Center. Our special guest this week is Michael Isekoff, who has a new book out with his colleague, Daniel Clyde, called Find me the votes. And Michael, thanks so much for joining us.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:50

    This is a very important book. You did a tremendous amount of research and about Trump’s attempt to subvert the twenty twenty election. And there’s a lot of meat here. So I would like to begin though with something so we can get into the whole Fanny Willis controversy later because I gather that when you finished the book, the news had not broken about her relationship with Nathan Wade and all about it. Frankly, that’s kind of a sideshow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:24

    The fact is you so clearly outlined in this book and you broke some news but you so clearly outline the nature of the attempt. So if you would, can you address for a minute the fake elector scheme because people just toss it off and they and they mention it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:43

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:44

    But what comes through so clearly in your book is that But for Mike Pence, this very well could have worked. They had these slates of fake electors that they had sort of certified in various states. If Mike Pence had said he wasn’t counting certain electoral votes on January sixth, There were all of these Republicans in the House and Senate who stood ready. As we know, they didn’t certify the election, who stood ready to say, nope. We’re gonna send it back to the states, and then those fake electors might have been counted.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:18

    Right? So it it came pretty close to working, didn’t it?
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:23

    Well, it certainly, was something that could have created unbelievable disruption in our country. It had succeeded. And first of all, I am glad that you’re focusing on the substance of what we write about here. We’ve all been distracted by the salacious, controversy over Bonnie Willis in the relationship. But as our book shows, I, you know, the the real meat here, the real part of this that people should focus on is what took place and refocused on Georgia because Georgia was the crime scene.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:03

    It was the place where Trump’s efforts to overturn the election were most furious, most intense, most relentless, and went further than anywhere else. So if you wanna sort of take a step back for everything that went on right through to January sixth, you really have to start with what happened in Georgia. And when you focus on each and every step that was taken along the way, you see the enormity of what Trump was trying to pull off. And the fake elector scheme is a classic example of that. It was only one of many elements in what Fony Willis has charged as a racketeering conspiracy But, you know, it it sort of crystallized lengths to which the Maga crowd under Trump’s direction were prepared to go.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:53

    Trump had lost in Georgia. It was the state where he was closest, but it was still a, a pretty decisive defeat eleven thousand seven hundred eighty votes, seven hundred seventy nine votes at the time. And that’s not the kind of thing that’s easily overcome in a recount. And there had been three recounts under Brad Raffensberger in the secretary of state. And in each one, Trump came up short.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:20

    So they began they trump and his confederates been looking for other ways to overturn the results of the election and And as we, you know, explain, Georgia was sort of the the the key because it was the state Trump assumed he had in his pocket, Republican office holders up and down the board from governor to attorney general to lieutenant governor to secretary of state. Republican legislature. And it was the closest. So they figured if they could flip Georgia, that could create the domino effect. That would get other states, and it’s all they needed to create, as much commotion on January six to get pence to reject the Biden electors.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:06

    So one element was this fake elector scheme dreamed up by a John Eastman blessed by Trump implemented in part by Rudy Giuliani. And, you know, all the way down right through to the guy Mike Roman, who I’m sure we’ll come back to, one of the co defendants, who was the implementer of the scheme, sending out notices to everybody on the ground in each of the battleground states. Here are the trump electors we need to meet. Here’s where what time they have to be there. Here’s what they have to sign.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:41

    Here’s how we make this happen and in Georgia, the chairman of the Georgia public party, David Schaeffer, a Trump backer all the way, took his guidance from the trump crowd and convened this meeting with no public announcement of it. In fact, everybody was told to keep quiet about it, assemble on the second floor of the state capital, on December fourteenth, and they will anoint themselves as the legitimate electors from the state of Georgia. And that was the plan. In some states, people realized the, sort of how outlandishness of all of this and demanded in two states put in language that says this is only contingent on a court overturning in Georgia, they didn’t do that. They just signed these documents calling themselves the legitimate electors from the state.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:39

    Of Georgia. And that is, one of the one of the elements in the racketeering conspiracy case.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:45

    Yeah. So one of the great things about your book is that you, document some of the heroes we didn’t know about, some Republican officials in Georgia, including this young Jordan Fuchs, who was the assistant to Raffensberger, who was, I mean, talk about poise and, presence of mind. I mean, she comes off incredibly well in your account that, you know, and and was her decision apparently to tape record that famous phone call, which had huge, huge effects, but she she did more than that. But I wanna also just touch on the craziness of the people that Trump was very close to and taking advice from in the midst of all of this. So you talk about the Brain Trust at Tamate Plantation, which is the home of Lynnwood This is not political commentary.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:38

    I mean, I think the the the bar in Georgia declared that he was, like, not of sound mind or Somebody declared that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:46

    It requested that he submit to a psychiatric evaluation in order to maintain his law life. In the state of Georgia.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:55

    Okay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:55

    And rather than do that, Lynnwood surrendered his license to practice law in Georgia.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:02

    So this is one of the key figures advising the then president of the United States along with Michael Flynn, Sydney Powell, and the guy who is thought to be the sort of spearhead of the whole QAnon conspiracy.
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:18

    Right. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:19

    So that’s the brain trust.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:21

    This is the chapter that blows people’s minds when they read it. Chapter six, it’s the QAnon Commission. Because, just to sort of walk through what happened here is right after the election, Don Donald Trump Junior flies down to Atlanta and has these series of meetings at Buckhead Republican Headquarters and announces that Lynnwood is coming to the rescue to lead up the president’s legal fight in Georgia. In fact, Kimberly Coifel, his girlfriend, like, calls him up on his self, puts our cell phone on the chair, everybody’s listening, and you know, Lynnwood is Rara. I’m here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:04

    I’m here to save the day. Lynnwood at this point is a full blown Qanon acolyte. He has, adopted the QAnon slogan for one week you know,
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:16

    where we go one, we
  • Speaker 4
    0:09:17

    go all. Where we
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:18

    go one, where we go all, on his, Twitter account. He is immersed in QAnon He is tweeting and retweeting all sorts of qanon craziness. You know, Mike. Justice. Oh, yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:33

    Well, Mike Flynn, of course, was there.
  • Speaker 5
    0:09:35

    You
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:35

    know, they all assemble at this plantation in South Carolina and this is as you accurately call it the brain trust that’s feeding all these crazy conspiracy theories to Trump. At one point, do they send via private jet a a thumb drive to trump in
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:56

    the White House? With the with these lunatic ideas about, you know, satellites.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:01

    They found some former security guard to Hugo Chavez that hates him saying that seven years earlier, he remembers being in a meeting where they were talking about putting secret algorithms in smartmatic election machines and smartmatic was connected to dominion. So, therefore, that’s was the basis for the Venezuelan socialist rigging the election with secret algorithms, they get this video and they are pumped, Powell, and and Lynn Wood and Mike Flynn, they call up Trump, and this is one of many examples of where these people are talking directly to the president in the Oval Office. They get him on the line like that. And Trump is excite, you know, Hey, you know, Powell says the guys came through. We got the stuff.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:51

    Great. Trump says send it to me. Get it to me as soon as possible. And that became you know, central to the whole idea that there was something fishy in these dominion election machines, which ultimately leads to the president’s demands to seize the machines. Mike Flynn draws up the executive order to have the military do it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:12

    And ultimately to an actual illegal raid on this rural county in Georgia, Coffee County, to seize, the software and the hard drives of, dominion voting machines to prove these, this crazy conspiracy theory about Venezuelan socialist. And, you know, I I mentioned, you know, they were getting through to Trump. Trump is calling down. He calls down to Lynnwood and and, and Cindy Powell when they’re planning their jericho march. To surround the governor’s mansion, governor Kemp’s house, and blow horns, until he relents and agrees to call a special session of the state legislature, you know, give them hell.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:58

    Trump says, go go for it. And, and then as you pointed out, the real craziness is This guy Ron watkins, who is, like, at the heart of QAnon. He’s the administrator of the QAnon platform you know, there was an HBO documentary that strongly suggested he was q himself. Yes. You don’t know that for sure, but he certainly was right in the middle of the you know, crazy QAnon messaging.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:26

    And he is calling in to motley to talk to Powell, to talk to win would actually Powell and one of her lawsuits even cites Ron watkins as a computer expert who could testify to the, corruption of the, dominion machines. So, yeah, QAnon played a much bigger role in all this than anybody realized.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:54

    So so congratulations on on the book. You also give evidence that, you know, we all are very familiar with the fact that Ruby Freeman and Shay Moss were you know, horrendously harassed by Trump supporters, but what we didn’t know until reading your book was that actual Trump employees. A campaign employees were part of the effort to intimidate and harass these Yeah. These women, which is they were paid to to go to their homes. And, it’s just it is it’s so beyond appalling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:32

    Alright. So folks, I’m opening this up to the panel. This is the guy who is the leading candidate to be president again?
  • Speaker 5
    0:13:44

    I just want to, first of all, commend Michael on his book. You have been at the top of my list for many, many years now is one of the best investigative reporters in the business. And you’ve done a great job, in this book. What I wanna ask you though, and and maybe this isn’t your role, but maybe, you know, others will weigh in on it. Mona has just made the most salient point, which is despite what you describe, which is horrific.
  • Speaker 5
    0:14:16

    I mean, this is the greatest democracy in the world. We’re talking about a man who would be president again who is now at least in some polls leading in the race for the presidency. And yet we don’t have serious discussion going on about what took place in Georgia and other states And unfortunately, as you suggested, we now have seen the Georgia case devolve into a question of personal ethics on the part Fani Willis, in her personal relationship with mister Wade. We’ve also seen the judge in the case basically slapping, down. Some of the counts, three of them, I think, against Trump himself.
  • Speaker 5
    0:15:04

    In this case, they basically suggesting that the prosecution didn’t do its homework didn’t make the case about how Trump was asking the various officials to violate their oath of office and despite plenty of evidence that in fact, you know, all of these nefarious things took place He nonetheless lap down three of these these charges. So what is going to happen in this campaign? You know, in which we cannot get serious discussion about some of the things that you detail in your book.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:46

    Well, a couple of of of thoughts. First of all, I mean, judge McAfee threw out six out of forty one counts. I don’t think it’s quite as big a deal as, some of the coverages suggested because the case remains intact in the most serious charges. Are the racketeering conspiracy Charlie Sykes they all remain intact. And in fact, the specifics of the specific counts, which were individual counts that that the judge dismissed, are all incorporated as part of the racketeering conspiracy So the phone call, the fake elector scheme, the false testimony by Rudy Giuliani and others to the Georgia legislature about Ruby Freeman and her daughter.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:31

    They’re all still in the case in the evidence will be assuming the case goes to trial would be presented in trial. So I’m not as worried about that. Obviously, the big decision is coming you know, is the one on on on disqualification, which we can discuss. But as far as, you know, trump’s resiliency in coming back. I mean, It is, you know, pretty remarkable.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:55

    Here we are in March of twenty four. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago. What? November twenty two? When, you know, Republican, the great wave The great red wave didn’t materialize.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:10

    The people Trump endorsed and failed across the country in spectacular fashion. Including in Georgia, by the way, his his animosity to Brian Kemp was so strong. It caused him to back David Purdue who got clobbered by camp in the Republican primary. So, yes, it is amazing that Trump has been able to come back and is now you know, for all intents and purposes, the Republican nominee for president and is even leading in the polls. There’s a lot of reasons for that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:42

    You know, obviously, Biden’s weakness and, is is a big part of it. And here’s one that, you know, might be a little controversial, but I think that, you know, the first Trump come back in the polls started when Alvin Bragg indicted him in New York. On what I think most people correctly view as the weakest possible case you can bring against Donald Trump. The least serious, the most trivial, and has all sorts of problems. And I think people saw that and said, wait, This is how you’re going after him when there’s so much more serious stuff that should be.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:27

    And, unfortunately, it now looks like that New York case is going to be the first case that goes to trial. Maybe the only. We’re still waiting on the Supreme Court, of course. And if that’s the case, I’m not sure a conviction in that case, which is likely is gonna make much of an impact. And I think it’s it it’s like the wrong foot forward, when there’s so much more serious conduct by Donald Trump that needs to be presented in the courtroom, then, you know, hush money payment to a porn star.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:06

    And so, you know, he may end up benefiting from from that. If only the, evidence, the the the much more important evidence in the other three cases could be presented. I think that could make the difference. And it is still Look boggles the mind that one of our two major parties may end up nominating a convicted felon for president of the United States. It’s something I don’t think any of us could have imagined, in years past.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:39

    There are there are many felons that I would prefer to this one, honestly. Okay. Bill Galston.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:47

    Well, it seems to me that at this point, the main question is not what the book says about Trump, but what the book implies about us, because Here we are. And although, you know, Michael’s amazing findings certainly haven’t penetrated the body politic, The general story has been out there for a very long time. One might have thought that people who were inclined to take that line of argument or that train of evidence seriously would already have reacted by indicating their opposition to the return of Donald Trump to the White House. That has not happened. And, you know, trump, trump is now leading, in not only the national polls, which are pretty much irrelevant at this point, but in six of the seven key swing states, if the election were held tomorrow, he would win.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:54

    And it’s no accident that Biden stated union address insisted on the word come back. For the country and by the way for himself. Right? Because he’s behind and I think he publicly acknowledged that he is. Given well warranted concerns about the maintenance of democracy and constitutional institutions in the United States, This is extraordinary, and the only conclusion that I can draw from that is that for a plurality of not majority of Americans, This is background noise.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:29

    And what matters more to them and what will drive their vote is their own condition, the condition of their family, the sense of whether the things in the country are under control or not, whether things in the world are under control. Or not. And right now, they are returning negative judgments on all of those questions, whether they be economic or international. And certainly immigration. Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:56

    So, I wish, you know, I wish everybody in country cared about the maintenance of democracy and constitutional institutions as much as the people on this show do But it’s manifestly not the case.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:10

    And and there is something ugly about all this. And I think we tried to address that in the book. I mean, the threat level, the, you know, the the sort of the conspiracy mongering and the threat level. I mean, this had real consequences. For people.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:27

    I mean, you know, Ruby Freeman was driven from her home for two months at the recommendation of the FBI because she was being surrounded and assaulted by Trump supporters. And as Mona correctly pointed out, we report in the book. You know, people who had direct ties to Donald Trump’s campaign. There there was a time that in and of itself would have been a serious controversy that, you know, Trump would have had to have addressed. I mean, but and also the the the extraordinary threats that Fannie Willis herself came under, which were real.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:06

    I mean, you know, we start out the book with this incredible scene of the night of the indictment. When she’s about to announce this indictment, they you know, her people pick up threats on a MAGA website. The best time to to to kill her is when she’s leaving the building. It was an assassination threat. And that was what she was dealing with when she was announcing these historic Charlie Sykes she goes back to the office and they have to They have this whole decoy operation with a, you know, with a body double who puts on her suit Well, she puts on civilian clothes, sweats in a baseball cap, and she smuggled out of her office in the back door.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:49

    You know, while the body double wearing a bullet vest drives out, you know, through the garage where the Magga people were presumably expecting her. I mean, this is a incredible stuff in, you know, in a in American democracy that, you know, a prosecutor doing her job has to be smuggled out of her office because of an assassination threat by supporters of the ex president who she’s indicting. And, you know, on and on it goes and, you know, all I can say is it probably is background noise for most people and most of the electorate right now. I would agree with that. But I do think there is a value in doing what we did here, which is, you know, assembling it all, putting it into a coherent narrative and putting the conduct each and every step of the way under a microscope.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:46

    And I think when you do that, you see just what a really dangerous threat this was, and and the enormity of what they were trying to do.
  • Speaker 4
    0:24:57

    Michael, nothing I said was intended to diminish your accomplishment in any way. It’s just a it’s a confession
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:05

    I I didn’t take it, though.
  • Speaker 4
    0:25:05

    It’s a confession. It’s a of despair and not a criticism. Yeah. Because if if only we were faced with a problem of information. But I don’t think we are.
  • Speaker 4
    0:25:19

    And let me just put one fact on the table to illustrate my skepticism on this point. According to a recent survey, one in five Americans who believe that Donald Trump, in fact, committed serious crimes. Are nonetheless prepared to support him for president. That’s not an information gap. That’s something else.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:44

    Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:44

    Damon, it’s it’s a kind of decadence arguably where, you know, Americans who take that view, you know, they they soothe themselves by saying, oh, come on. They’re all corrupt. Everybody does it. And because I’m not naive enough to think that every single major American political figure is a criminal, Therefore, I should vote for the criminal who I like. I mean, that is so antithetical to the America that I grew up loving, you know, that that had some ideals that had that understood it was imperfect, but still strove to to be special and to be better and to, uphold certain principles.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:31

    And this kind of cynical, dark, you know, nihilism is just I cannot wrap my brain around it even though we’ve been discussing it and living it now for all these years. It’s still very hard to, very hard to assimilate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:48

    Yeah. Well, the platonic dialogues are filled with characters like thrasymachus and calocles who, are sophists, who define truth as whatever advantages me. And if you go back and read Trump’s art of the deal, you see that here’s a man who’s lived pretty much his entire career. Looking at the world exactly like that. Truth is whatever advantages myself.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:21

    And falsehood is what gets in the way of me achieving my goals. The thing that I mean, and I can totally see, you know, if I try to put my my mind in the shoes of a man like that, in the weeks and couple of months after the loss. In twenty twenty, I can see how Trump would basically listen to anything anyone said to me, that made it sound like, you know, somehow we’re gonna make this work out that I actually win Georgia. And Wisconsin and Arizona, and I’m gonna actually be the president continuing. That I, you know, even though I could never imagine actually looking at the world that way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:05

    I can imagine myself into the way Trump would view the world that way. And there were people very happy to feed him that. The thing that really kind of bothers me and really deeply worries me about the American people is Lynn Wood and Sydney Powell and my former boss Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn, who had very senior. I’m very senior jobs in in the military and government under president Obama for Michael Flynn. My question is they’re not Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:41

    They’re not going to remain president if this is all true. Do they, did they actually believe any of this? Like because, you know, you see surveys about QAnon. I thought I invoked some of them, like, I think six weeks ago on the podcast showing rises across demographic groups of the number of Americans who believe QAnon. And I look out of the country and I think, you know, to take Bill’s point about this isn’t an information problem, even a step further.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:13

    Like, is there any reason to hope that even if all of the stuff in your what sounds like an excellent book, Michael. We’re like broadcast day and night on the television infomercials specials and prime time explaining in detail all of what Trump did and the people around him did. It’s not not just that people would cynically say, yeah, yeah, everyone’s corrupt, but they actually are so deeply enmeshed in a completely psychotic conspiratorial view of the world that it can’t even penetrate rate. It’s just it’s like another language. How widespread is that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:56

    And what is it? What is the case?
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:58

    Okay. I I I have a I have a bunch of thoughts on that, but but but it is a reminder. Everybody, I hope. If they read nothing else in our book chapter six, the QAnan Commission, the the the craziness at Tomotley is, I think, maybe the most important takeaway Did they believe it? Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:17

    They convince themselves, to believe it because, you know, I mean, our politics is binary or willis or against us. You know, And this was they were with Trump, and they were gonna do whatever Trump, whatever was needed to put Trump over the top. But there’s couple of points I wanna make. About this. You know, I’m I’m glad you brought up the art of the deal past of Donald Trump because in our after, on the perfect phone call from hell, where we go through how that phone call came about, who taped it and why and what actually was said.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:54

    And, you know, it when you dissect it, and step by step. It is so revealing, into Trump’s mentality because he’s, you know, he starts off trying to cajole Raffensberger. Come on, Brad, you know. We’re all buddies here. Then he starts ridicule.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:14

    They’re laughing at you, Brad. You know, they’re laughing at you because you won’t change the votes. Then he gets, you know, ratchets up the pressure more and starts talking about, you know, it’s very dangerous for you. You could be criminally prosecuted, if you don’t do this and, you know, that’s probably the moment where legally he may have crossed the line. He almost certainly crossed the line.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:37

    But then what does he fall back on. And I think this is, you know, I think we say the the most revealing line in the whole thing. You know, he’s not getting anywhere. He’s told Rafinsburg. You gotta recalculate and wrap Spersburgers, like, what is there to recalculate?
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:50

    We’ve run the numbers. There’s nothing there. And he said, so what are we gonna do here folks? I only need eleven thousand votes fellas. I need eleven thousand votes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:00

    Give me a break. He thinks it’s a real estate deal. He just just throwing. Come on, guys. Throw in eleven thousand votes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:07

    You can all shake hands. It’s the art of the deal that he was bringing you know, the real estate negotiating tactics CEOs use to come on. Just throw in eleven again, what’s eleven thousand volts? Come you know, then we can get beyond this. But I wanna give one little slender optimistic note that’s that’s worth remembering here, you know, Mona mentioned the young aide to Rafinsberger, Republican consultant, Jordan Fukes who on her own knowing the danger that her boss is about to get himself into, by talking with Donald Trump, somebody who is inevitably going to reinvent the conversation for his benefit.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:52

    At a time, by the way, Trump is suing Rafinsburgers So they were opposing litigants. Another reason, you know, to memorialize what got said in that phone call, she on her own without telling Raffensberger, without telling Trump, you know, without telling Mark Meadows who set up the call on her own puts herself on mute tapes the whole thing. And as a result, we have the most compelling evidence. Of Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on state officials, and it’s central to Jack Smith’s case as it’s central to funny Willis’s case. But She’s an example of something which is you know, remember all those Republicans who Donald Trump thought he had in his pocket when he asked them to cross the line.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:39

    They all said no. Chris Carr, the Republican attorney general, said he will resign if he was asked to defend a special session of the legislature. Brian Kemp, the Republican governor. When asked about the crazy Texas lawsuit to the Supreme Court, to overturn Georgia’s election and, you know, a car tells him there’s no way we could be on board with that. And, you know, he says, well, in Afhem, He doesn’t care.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:12

    He actually says to somebody at the time. I don’t give a shit what Donald Trump has to say. He stood the line. Raffensberger himself, stood the line. So, you know, it the we call it a Republican stone wall.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:28

    That blocked what Donald Trump was trying to do in Georgia. And as much as we all should be acute to the dangers of another Trump presidency. It is somewhat heartening to remember that when Donald Trump asks people to break the law, he didn’t just do it in Georgia. He did another state so well. State by state, official by official Republicans weren’t gonna go there.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:53

    And I suspect if we got another Trump presidency, I think, you know, there’s some reason to think when he pushes and wants and demands people cross the line. There’s gonna be, the same kind of resistance.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:07

    Alright. We will, we’ll leave it there for now. Let’s let’s just say from your lips to god’s ears, I hope that’s true. We’ll see. We’ll see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:17

    But, the yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:19

    But we’re all waiting obviously for the decision of, judge McAfee on, whether disqualify Donald Trump, excuse it, Bonnie Will Saletan see. I think if he does disqualify, I don’t think he will, but we’re gonna find out soon enough If he does not disqualify, the case goes forward and we’re back to talking about the substance of what the case is all about and not the sort of irrelevant salacious details. But if he does disqualify her, that pretty much kills the entire case. There’s no prospect that another DA’s office is gonna be found. Because her whole office will have to be disqualified.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:56

    There’s no prospect that another DA’s office would be found. And while that might not make a difference to Donald Trump because presumably if he gets elected president, the justice department policy based in part on constitutional grounds, that you can’t prosecute a sitting president will remain in effect But this is the georgia is the only case in which all of Trump’s confederates are also charged. Giuliani, Eastman Meadows David Schaeffer down the line and even if Trump gets elected, that won’t go away. The case the there will be some accountability, for Trump’s Ron DeSantis. And that’s another reason to hope that the Georgia case goes forward because if the Jack Smith case, all these other people are not charged.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:48

    The Confederate are charged in this case, and that’s another reason. It’s pretty important.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:52

    Alright. Before moving on to our next topic, let’s have a word about Babble. So what is the best way to learn another language? Well, it’s total immersion. You know, you get dropped in another country, and you just have to sink or swim, and you will learn a language very quickly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:10

    But most of us, even if we wanna learn another language, and a lot of us say we do, we don’t have that option. So what’s the next best thing? Well, Babble, because with just fifteen minutes a day of doing online lessons with Babble that employs native language speakers and has an interactive app where you start quickly engaging in conversation in a bunch of different languages. With just fifteen minutes a day, you can be pretty conversant very quickly. Millions of, language learners have enjoyed it, across all age groups.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:48

    Their conversation based technique teaches you useful words and phrases to get you speaking quickly about things that you would actually talk about in the real world. So if you are because of your business needs, would like to pick up another language, or if you are planning vacation to a country where you’d like to be able to converse on a basic level It’s a great, great app. So for our listeners, go to Babble dot com. That’s b a b b e l dot com slash beg Beg to Differ, and get fifty five percent off your Babble subscription. That’s fifty five percent off at babble dot com slash beg to differ.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:33

    And we thank them for sponsoring this podcast. Alright. Well, we were gonna talk about TikTok. We went a little long in the first segment, so I think we’ll will leave that to the side. The Congress may or may not, the Senate, rather, may or may not follow the house on banning TikTok.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:51

    But, I’d like to talk about Biden’s reset if it is one. Since it follows very naturally from the conversation we were just having, We haven’t spoken since the state of the union, which, most supporters of Biden found very encouraging. The president, sort of belied the notion that he was senile and too feeble to run a campaign or to serve On the other hand, the polls have not budged. He is still trailing trump And, that is Linda, despite the fact that not only all of the things that we know from Michael’s book, but, you know, just In the last few days, Trump was seen mocking Biden’s stutter. Now remember in twenty sixteen when he mocked that handy reporter.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:42

    And all of these trump people and, you know, anti anti trump types, the people said, oh, well, I wouldn’t they said, oh, you know, that wasn’t true. He wasn’t mock him, and of course he was. Well, now there’s just absolutely no doubt. And I was talking to a an old friend who, like me, had been a Republican for decades, And we were talking about that clip, and he just said, you know, if that’s what the people want, there isn’t a damn thing we can do.
  • Speaker 5
    0:40:10

    Well, I I think it goes to Bill’s point. The problem really is not Donald Trump. The problem is the American people. And how degraded, we’ve become. And, you know, I say this as somebody who has always considered myself very patriotic, enormous love for this country, always believed it was the best and place in the world to have been fortunate enough to be born.
  • Speaker 5
    0:40:38

    But I’ve also been concerned for many years about the quality of our citizens and the way in which schools no longer teach some of the basics about American history, about American civics, we have people, you know, there’s, we’ve talked about this on the show while I think most of us want to see that franchise, exercised and enlarged. Some of us also want to see that the people who go to the polls are informed and are not driven by their gut and that seems to be what’s happening with Trump. I mean, he has not just the cult, the base of his, followers who I think will never budge. There was nothing that we could learn about Donald Trump that will move about thirty percent of the voting population who is just in his corner forever. But the number people who support him based on a dislike for the other side, a distrust a kind of tribal animosity that they have, to people of the other party.
  • Speaker 5
    0:41:51

    That’s what’s ultimately going to determine the selection. And the fact that, you know, there are a lot of people who feel that at least for the first couple of years of the Trump administration, the economy was doing well. People felt like they had more of their IRAs, they had more in their bank account. Prices were pretty good. They felt that their lives were better.
  • Speaker 5
    0:42:15

    And despite all of the data that we know shows that there have been enormous improvements in the US economy and that the US economy when judged on the world stage, we’re doing better than other countries, even in the inflation, area. It doesn’t seem to really be what’s driving people. It’s really their their tribal affiliation, their dislike, of what they consider the woke Democratic Party, and their belief that, you know, somehow the other guy is gonna, you know, bring back the America that they look back fondly on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:57

    Damon, something else happened this week. I wonder if you can comment on it. It was a few weeks ago that, right at the end of our podcast, you were you delivered the news about the her report and, you know, the the Robert Hur’s report where he, you know, cast all these aspersions on Biden’s mental acuity Since then, we’ve had his testimony before Congress where he was batted around by both sides, but we’ve also seen the transcript and Tell me if I’m being too partisan here, but I do think you can make a pretty good case that hers characterization of Biden was very much open to doubt. I mean, I yeah. There were certain things where Biden screwed up and definitely was you know, mixing updates and whatever, but there were also moments where he’s very clear.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:47

    And and I just felt that the, in context, These things are always I’m not accusing her of bad faith necessarily. I’m just saying it’s a matter of interpretation and spin and I think he made it sound worse than it is. What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:02

    Well, maybe you should have gone to someone else on the panel. I I don’t know if I’m fully back you on that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:07

    That’s why you you can beg to differ.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:09

    I I’m not even gonna beg to differ. I’ll sort of, like, go like, I mean, Did he need to announce his finding in this investigation by including What what the the most tendentious thing in there was the insinuation that, well, maybe we would bring a case but we know that a jury would never convict him because he sounds like a doddering old man who could never complete a criminal conspiracy. They wouldn’t believe he’s capable of it. That’s tendentious. So on that, yeah, that was gratuitous and unnecessary.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:48

    The general portrayal of specific things in the transcript, I think we’re broadly accurate. A lot of Democrats who are really picking a par at all. He He didn’t forget when his son Bo died because he knew the date. Well, yeah, but he got the year wrong by a few years. As far as I’m concerned.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:10

    No. No. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:12

    I got interrupted. He didn’t get the date wrong. He said, what was the year? He remembered the month. And the day of the month, like, May thirtieth, whatever it was.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:19

    And then but he said, what was the year? So so that was how it went?
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:23

    Yeah. But it was in the context of the back and forth, it was clear that he was placing it. Like, he couldn’t get straight. Wait. Was it after I was vice president?
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:33

    Was it why I really He he seemed I thought genuinely confused. One can also make the case on the other side, on the third hand, that of all the things he was talking about, a traumatic experience of this terrible grief is exactly the kind of thing that anyone would like maybe screw up the year on. Like, I lived through my father’s death a couple of years ago, and it was Alzheimer’s, it was very traumatic. And if in ten years or five years, even you ask me, what year did your father die in an interview? I might be like, when was that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:07

    I don’t know. So it I mean, in general, I think both sides are very very quick. To kind of jump at anything and say bad faith. You’re you’re being partisan. This is inappropriate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:23

    We’re all on edge. And I I sort of I sort of am left sort of as I often am in the middle ground sort of like just both of you calm down and just sort of I mean, I I just can’t muster up any great anger or peek at her, but I also don’t. You know, I also don’t think it was some great smoking gun proving the Biden’s too old to be president I think most people’s opinions about that are a function of, a million sound bites and images of hearing him in different settings, and that, that’s probably the more important thing. But, yeah, again, not not a great contribution to the, you know, one side or the other of this this issue. I apologize.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:08

    No. No. No. No. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:09

    That’s fine. So, Bill, few weeks back, Biden gave a really good speech. And I said, so, Will Saletan. Biden gave a great speech. What do you think?
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:18

    And you said, well, he’s gonna have to do that every single week. From now until November of twenty twenty four. And you were very dubious that he could. Same question, new speech, you know, state of the union. He rose to the I think you agree.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:35

    He rose to the occasion. Maybe you don’t. And since then, he’s out on the campaign trail, seems like they’re getting their feet under them a little bit in this campaign. They’re starting to react swiftly to things that Trump says, etcetera. What do you think?
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:50

    Still, very dubious or not?
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:53

    Well, they’re finally in campaign mode much too late in my opinion. Inexcusably late. Remember when Michael Ducox took the month of August off?
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:03

    Oh, yeah. Well, you know, All of us oldsters remember that.
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:07

    You know, the Biden folks took at least two months off before starting the campaign. But more more to the point, I think, not to my surprise, the state of the union address didn’t move the needle. In public opinion. It rarely if ever does. Sometimes you get a spike that then subsides to the status quo anti And sometimes as in this case, you don’t get a spike at all.
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:36

    Among other things, the viewership for the state of the union address has been declining steadily. Most people are finding out about it in a mediated rather than direct way. What struck me about the speech was it is a speech by a president who knows that job one is rallying his base. Before reaching out. And, well, might he think that as we found out from the New York Times survey you know, not even one percent of Trump’s supporters in twenty twenty gonna do anything except vote for Trump.
  • Speaker 4
    0:49:12

    But that figure for Biden is ten percent. I mean, if the ten percent of his twenty twenty voters whom he’s lost come back. You know, it’s gonna be a fair fight. If they don’t, I don’t see how he makes it up, with inroads from undecided voters. The math just doesn’t work out.
  • Speaker 4
    0:49:33

    So yeah. I have not changed my opinion. That he has to be a high energy campaigner, week in, and week out from now until election day to have a chance of getting back in the game. Whether he can do that on a sustained basis, remains to be seen. One other point before I yield the floor, I think the her story that you and Damon exchanged you know, Frank views on, is a classic Washington story.
  • Speaker 4
    0:50:04

    People had made up their minds about Biden’s mental capacity to be president before the Her report. There is no evidence that the Her report convinced anyone to the contrary. Their views remained what they were. And by the way, there’s no evidence that the state at the union address net changed anybody’s mind on that question. So public opinion, may be from here on out somewhat less malleable than we imagine it is.
  • Speaker 4
    0:50:38

    And if so, that magnifies president Biden’s challenge.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:42

    So, Michael, Bill mentioned that Biden rallied his own troops to a degree, with the state of the union, That is very important. I think he gave a little bit of heart, to Democrats who were really really frightened, and they felt a little bit better after that speech. So that’s something that’s one outcome of the speech, even if it didn’t move the needle on the on the polling. Also, he got a huge fundraising boost out of it, which, you know, can’t hurt. The fact is A lot of the RNC’s money is now gonna be spent on Trump’s legal bills.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:22

    So, so there’s, there’s that. Do you have any other takeaways from from this? I
  • Speaker 3
    0:51:29

    yeah. Look. I mean, Biden did what he had to do. And, you know, rally the base. I think what he did was you know, calm the nerves of Democrats’ supporters who were really getting concerned.
  • Speaker 3
    0:51:46

    About the age question and he showed he could do it, you know, and still be a fighter. And, I think that, was something he had to do. My problem with the speech is sort of of a different nature, which is look. I mean, the state of the union, you know, is sort of vaguely referred to in the constitution. The the state of the union address has been the solemn occasion where presidents for decades have taken the matter seriously and tried to give, you know, with their own spin, you know, something resembling a state of the country, a state of the world, and all that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:26

    I mean, Biden turned it into a political stump speech a convention speech. And I think, you know, once you do that, the tradition is gone. And, you know, this is going to be states of the union speeches, you know, for the foreseeable future. And I think that’s unfortunate. And, you know, we already have cable networks that won’t air, you know, what Donald Trump says.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:55

    Because it’s just a political speech and, you know, and, I mean, I and I think we’ll get to the point where the state of the union, why even air it? It’s just to convince It’s just a political speech. It’s just let them pay for it if if that’s what the purpose of it is. So that’s my thought about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:10

    Okay. The state
  • Speaker 3
    0:53:11

    of the union.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:12

    So as somebody who’s been against, the state of the union address forever, I mean, you know, the it it’s I’ve always been with Jefferson, you know, mail it in. There’s absolutely no need to be there in person.
  • Speaker 3
    0:53:23

    Might be a good new tradition to start.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:25

    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But, And by the way, let’s not forget that Trump, took the occasion of one of his state of the union addresses to give the, medal of freedom to rush limbaugh. So, you know, come on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:38

    I mean, it’s not, nothing new here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:53:41

    But Biden didn’t start it, but he took it further. Yeah. It got before.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:45

    Alright. Let’s leave that there and have a word from Better Help. So let’s take a moment to talk about mental health. We all have struggles, but they don’t have to control us. And therapy can be so helpful.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:59

    It is not just for people with serious trauma or major illness. We all need a sympathetic, dispassionate listener, someone with experience and perspective who can reassure us that others have the same insecurities, doubts, and fears and have found ways to overcome them. Therapy helps us to figure out how our own minds may be holding us back. Ruminating about our worries and conflicts or the many balls we’re trying to keep in the air doesn’t help. It just contributes to the stress.
  • Speaker 1
    0:54:26

    And self medicating with booze or drugs is a dead end. Therapy can help unwind your worries and let you be a calmer, happier version of yourself. If you’re thinking of starting therapy, betterhelp is a great option. It’s incredibly convenient because it’s entirely online, flexible, and suited to your schedule. You just fill out a questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist and get started.
  • Speaker 1
    0:54:52

    If that therapist isn’t a good fit, you can switch therapists any time for no additional charge. It’s the gift you give yourself. Make your brain your friend with better help. Visit betterhelp dot com slash beg to differ today and get ten percent off your first month. That’s betterhelp h e l p dot com slash beg to differ.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:15

    We thank them for sponsoring this podcast. Alright. Come to our final segment. Highlight or low light of the week. Damon Lincoln.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:25

    Well, in the spirit of trying to drill down a little bit into, president Biden’s struggles and why so so many of us on the show are a little worried. There was a very good, piece in, the Financial Times this week, by a journalist called John Burn Murdoch. Titled American politics is undergoing a racial realignment. He draws on a lot of survey evidence. There are many charts and graphs in this piece.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:57

    Looking at this question showing Bulwark voters, Latino voters drifting away from the Democratic Party. Where they have found a home for quite a long time and that this is ceasing to be the case. I know Bill brings this up or aspects of it. Lots of times on the podcast, but this is a really good, distillation of, the latest data on it. So I highly recommend it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:23

    Listeners can check the show notes. I will put a link to the FT version of it, but, that’s notoriously, a publication where you need a paying subscription to read. But thankfully, Bern Murdoch, the author did a long, very exhaustive, Twitter X thread, distilling a lot of his, charts and arguments in it, and I’ve put it in a thread reader, form for you to read. So listeners should be able to see that as well. And that’ll be in the show notes also.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:53

    Thank you. Michael is cuff.
  • Speaker 3
    0:56:55

    Lowights count.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:58

    That’s the year we’re living in, Michael.
  • Speaker 3
    0:57:00

    Yeah. I’ll I’ll go with it was already mentioned, but Trump trying to imitate and ridicule Biden’s stutter. Just another reminder that he’s the neighborhood bully kid who you tell your own children to stay away from and be anything and be the opposite of who they are. It was just like an appalling, example of, a guy who, you know, lack the kind of basic decency we all should admire. Amen, Linda.
  • Speaker 5
    0:57:36

    Well, I have a low light and it’s actually been a low light on the theme that we’ve discussed a lot on on the program. And that is the way in which Israel is being targeted now as a kind of pariah state and the most recent example, there are so many. It’s hard to pick one. But this was from the literary world, and it was from a magazine called Aquernica, which is named after the famous Picasso painting, having to do with the Spanish civil war in the town that was bombed, by the Germans, nazis, during that civil war. Was the town filled mostly with women and children.
  • Speaker 5
    0:58:14

    Well, this magazine is, you know, it’s on the left. I mean, mostly during scenes are on the left. Well, this week, they did a really, I think, horrible thing, and it’s the kind of thing we see a lot coming out of the World Left there was an article that was printed in the magazine, by, a young woman, Joanna Chen, was entitled from the edges of a broken world, and she is a woman who translates Hebrewru and Arabic poetry. She lives in, in Israel. Was born in London, but but lives in Israel.
  • Speaker 5
    0:58:49

    And she was talking about what had happened in the aftermath of October seventh and then, the campaign in Gaza and her efforts to reach out to people in her world that she had worked with and how difficult it was, because of what is taking place in Gaza. It was if anything critical of Israel, but there was such a hue and cry from the staff of the magazine Quernica. That they actually withdrew the essay, because ten members of the mostly volunteer staff quit This is the kind of trying to quiet, voices and trying to make Israel somehow the absolute pariah state in all of the world that I think is is very scary. And is unfortunately we’re seeing some support for this in the most, pro Palestinian elements of the Democratic Party, and it concerns me. So the article very good article about this appeared in the New York Times, by Mark Tracy, and we’ll post a link to that.
  • Speaker 5
    1:00:00

    But I think this just exemplifies what’s happening in terms of the way in which the aftermath of October seventh. We’ve totally forgotten, the twelve hundred Israelis who were slaughtered in that terrible day. And now the focus is all on making Israel the Priiah.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:20

    Thank you. Will Saletan.
  • Speaker 4
    1:00:23

    Well, it will not surprise you to learn that I have a low light, to add to the conversation. Highlights being hard to come by these days. Commentary on our days, I fear. The state of Michigan is arguably going to be the most important state in the twenty twenty four presidential elections. Why do I say that?
  • Speaker 4
    1:00:49

    Trump is running way ahead of Biden in the southern tier swing states, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Biden, I think, has fair chances of carrying Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But in Michigan, which he carried by almost three points in twenty twenty, he’s now trailing on average by three and a half points. While we were on the air, the Quinnipiac University poll, on Michigan, the latest version was released. And he spells trouble for Biden.
  • Speaker 4
    1:01:30

    He’s behind Trump by three points in the two way race and more to the point. He’s trailing Trump by five points in the five way race. In the five way race, he gets only fifty three percent of the Michigan Bulwark vote. Fifty three percent. But even more startling, you know, poll after poll, national polls have been coming out showing Trump getting roughly one in five black votes, if not more.
  • Speaker 4
    1:02:04

    And we’ve all been shaking our heads and saying no saying no. That’s not possible. Well, In Michigan, it is possible. Because in this survey, in the head to head results, Donald Trump was getting nineteen percent of the black vote. Which means for all practical purposes, nineteen percent of the vote of people who live in Detroit.
  • Speaker 4
    1:02:28

    This will be an earthquake if it’s act actually borne out by election day results. You know, a group that’s been ninety five five for Democrats for quite some time now, is trending in the other direction. And I think it’s a sign that after a very long time in which race trumped class, We’re now entering a world where class may well trump race. That is certainly true with the Hispanic vote But if it comes true of the African American vote as well, we are in an entirely new political era.
  • Speaker 1
    1:03:07

    Okay. Thank you. Well, folks, believe it or not. I do have a highlight. It’s sort of a backhanded highlight, but, I noticed a story this week that, the federal government, the FBI rated a federal prison, a ray, a women’s prison in the north of California, town called Dublin, California about forty miles east of San Francisco.
  • Speaker 1
    1:03:35

    The reason for the raid is that this prison is notorious for abusing its inmates. Somebody called it the rape club. The, Warden has been replaced. But why is this a highlight? Look, nobody likes to stick up for inmates, for prisoners.
  • Speaker 1
    1:03:55

    These are all criminals. They all did bad things. It’s why they’re there, and it’s for, you know, people don’t like to, be advocates for people who are who who are criminals. But the fact is they criminals are people too, and they are sentenced to be punished for their crimes. They are not sentenced to be raped.
  • Speaker 1
    1:04:18

    They are not sentenced to be sodomized. They are not sentenced to be sex slaves for the wardens who then lie about it and use their power, to silence those or punish those who, attempt to to be whistleblowers. And so this was a story about the system working to some extent because There were complaints. The AP did a deep dive and reported on this. This got to the attention of congress senators of both parties.
  • Speaker 1
    1:04:46

    Put pressure on the Department of Justice, the Department of Justice in time, acted. It’s one small slice of what it means to live under the rule of law, where at least there’s some hope that, you know, even if it’s very slow and even if it’s very imperfect that you can reform something like this. If we lose that, if the press isn’t free to report and if the you know, members of the justice department are all corrupt political officials. There’s no hope of anything like this ever happening. So I just wanna say congratulations to the FBI and the Department of Justice for Acting on behalf of people who cannot speak up for themselves most of the time, and, for correcting a terrible, grievous miscarriage of justice.
  • Speaker 1
    1:05:37

    You know, that’s the way things are supposed to happen. And, hopefully, we won’t destroy it. With that, I want to thank our guest, Michael Iscock, and our regular panel. Also, our producer, Jim Swift, and our sound engineer, John in Siri. Also, our wonderful listeners and viewers, and we will return next week as every week.
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