Saturday, May 18, 2024

Nikki Haley’s Surprising Staying Power: A Warning Sign for Trump?

Nikki Haley drops out
Brian Snyder/Reuters

In a stunning rebuke of Donald Trump's stranglehold on the Republican Party, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley continues to pull in significant support from disgruntled GOP voters months after suspending her presidential campaign. Haley's enduring appeal represents a growing dissatisfaction with Trump's divisive brand of politics and his alleged criminality. It also highlights the deep fissures within the party that could spell doom for the former president's chances in the upcoming general election.

Donald Trump Nikki Haley Indiana

The latest evidence of this anti-Trump sentiment came on Tuesday, when Haley garnered an astonishing 128,170 votes—or 21.7% of the total—in the Indiana Republican primary, despite having dropped out of the race back in early March. This follows similar showings in other state primaries, including Pennsylvania, where she nabbed over 158,000 votes (16.6%), and Washington, where she won 19.3% of the Republican vote.

The GOP's Anti-Trump Movement

nikki haley primary results

These numbers have to be extremely concerning to the Trump campaign, with a sizable chunk of the Republican base effectively rejecting Trump, even in the absence of an active opposing campaign. It's a resounding repudiation of the MAGA movement and a clear sign that many traditional conservatives are sick and tired of the chaos, scandals, and norms violations that have come to define the Trump era.

For Trump, these defections could prove fatal. In battleground states like Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia, Biden's margins of victory in 2020 were razor-thin—ranging from just 10,457 votes in Arizona to 154,188 in Michigan. If he can't win back these Republican voters—and his recent dismissive comments suggest he has no intention of doing so—those narrow losses could easily be repeated or even amplified. And the Biden campaign has been making serious efforts to reach out to disaffected Haley supporters through advertising ever since Haley dropped out of the race. 

So, what's driving this Republican resistance against Trump? According to recent polling, one key issue appears to be abortion rights. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly 40% of suburban women in swing states cited abortion as their most important issue, with a majority believing Trump's policies are too restrictive. And those voters might find it hard to believe Trump when he says that he’ll leave the abortion issue up to the states. After all, he is the reason that Roe v. Wade was overturned in the first place. 

But abortion rights are far from the only factor at play. For many Republicans, the constant drama, distractions, and legal entanglements have simply become too much to bear. From the Stormy Daniels hush money payments to the recent $83.3 million defamation verdict against him, Trump's personal and legal woes have become a constant source of embarrassment and distraction for the party.

Then there are the MAGA acolytes in Congress, like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, whose unhinged antics and embrace of white nationalism have tarnished the Republican brand. For more traditional conservatives like Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, and Ken Buck—all of whom have voiced concerns about the MAGA movement's hold on the party—their extremism bridge too far.

Haley, for her part, has taken a strategic approach in capitalizing on this discontent. In her farewell speech, she refused to endorse Trump outright, instead challenging him to “earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him.” 

Biden Targeting Nikki Haley Voters

Trump has dismissed Haley's voters as irrelevant, actively pushing them away with comments like “We don't want them, and will not accept them,” which is a risky gambit that could come back to haunt him. As President Biden’s campaign has wisely recognized, courting these voters represents a prime opportunity, leading his campaign to run ads explicitly appealing to Haley supporters.

In many ways, Haley's unexpected staying power is a microcosm of the broader identity crisis gripping the Republican Party. On one side stand the MAGA faithful, unwavering in their cult-like devotion to Trump and his brand of populist nationalism. On the other are the traditionalists—the Mitt Romneys and Liz Cheneys of the world—who are increasingly disillusioned with the direction their party has taken under Trump's leadership.

It's a rift that shows no signs of healing, and one that could have profound implications for the GOP's future. If Trump cannot bring these factions together, the party could find itself hopelessly fractured, unable to mount a united front against Biden and the Democrats.

Whether Haley's supporters ultimately stay home, cross over to Biden, or rally behind a third-party candidate remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Trump's path to the White House grows increasingly narrow with every vote cast for the former ambassador—a silent but powerful rebuke from within his own party, and a harbinger of the uphill battle he faces in uniting a fractured Republican base.

Trump’s Potential VP Pick Noem Admits She Murdered Her Dog

kristi noem wirehaired pointer
Wirehaired pointers, the breed of the 14 month old dog Noem killed

As the Republican Party searches for a running mate to join Donald Trump's 2024 presidential campaign, one name that has surfaced is Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota. However, a disturbing revelation from her upcoming book has cast serious doubts on her suitability for national office.

In her memoir “No Going Back: The Truth on What's Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward,” Noem proudly recounts the gruesome killing of her 14-month-old puppy, Cricket, a wirehaired pointer she had hoped to train for pheasant hunting. In a shocking display of callousness, Noem writes, “I hated that dog,” labeling the young canine “untrainable,” “dangerous,” and “less than worthless” as a hunting companion.

The incident that sealed Cricket's fate occurred after a hunting trip, when the untrained puppy escaped Noem's truck and attacked a family's chickens, killing several. Noem admits she wrote the distraught owners “a check for the price they asked” and helped dispose of the chicken carcasses.

But it was her next action that has rightfully sparked outrage across the nation from both sides of the aisle. Noem reveals that she led the young Cricket to a gravel pit and, in cold blood, shot and killed her own dog. “At that moment, I realized I had to put her down,” she writes, framing the heartless execution as a difficult but necessary task (even though she easily could’ve put the dog up for adoption).

As if this act of cruelty against a defenseless animal wasn't enough, Noem then turned her sights on a male goat owned by her family. Describing the creature as “nasty and mean,” she shot it once, only for it to survive. Noem callously “fetched another shell” and fired a second lethal shot to finish the job.

Noem's Daughter Asks Where Dog Is

Noem carried out this gruesome double execution in plain view of a nearby construction crew. As the workers returned to their jobs after witnessing the governor's cruelty, a school bus arrived to drop off her children. Her young daughter Kennedy, unaware of the bloody scene that had just occurred, innocently looked around and asked “Hey, where's Cricket?”, highlighting the profound lack of empathy and ethical judgment that allowed Noem to so cavalierly kill her beloved family pet because of her inability to train the dog properly.

Her defenders, including the governor herself, have attempted to justify these actions as simply part of life on a farm, where “tough decisions” must sometimes be made. However, this explanation rings hollow and fails to acknowledge the fundamental lack of compassion and ethical judgment displayed by her actions.

As Dan Lussen, a professional hunting dog trainer, pointed out, Cricket's behavior was entirely normal for a puppy of her age, and her perceived failings were likely due to Noem's incompetence. “To me, it's a lack of guidance by the owner, or training by the owner, or discipline by the owner,” Lussen explained, noting the lengthy process required to properly train a young hunting dog.

Noem's disturbing actions are made even more concerning by her well-documented history of controversial and often inhumane policies. As governor, she has repeatedly clashed with Native American tribes in her state, making racist assertions about their involvement in drug cartels and child neglect. Her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was widely criticized, with South Dakota suffering high case rates, while Noem attempted to prevent tribes from implementing their own safety measures.

Kristi Noem
Kristi Noem at Turning Point USA event in 2020, photo: Gage Skidmore

Furthermore, her embrace of this shocking tale as a testament to her “grit” and willingness to take on “difficult, messy and ugly” tasks is deeply troubling. Is this the kind of leadership the American people can expect from her—a willingness to pursue cruel and, frankly, stupid actions under the guise of pragmatism?

Trump's Disdain for Dogs

It's worth noting that her potential running mate, Donald Trump, has a well-documented history of disdain for dogs, once stating that owning a pet as president would feel “a little phony” to him. In fact, he has frequently referred to his political opponents as “dogs,” revealing a concerning lack of empathy and respect for these loyal companions.

As the backlash against her revelations continues to grow, with President Biden's re-election campaign and groups like The Lincoln Project drawing attention to her actions, it becomes increasingly clear that her suitability for higher office is in serious doubt.

“It's never a good look when people think you're mistreating animals,” Republican strategist Alice Stewart aptly stated, adding, “I have a dog I love like a child and I can't imagine thinking about doing that, I can't imagine doing that, and I can't imagine writing about it in a book and telling all the world.”

In a nation that loves dogs and prides itself on values like compassion and ethical leadership, Kristi Noem's disturbing actions and her proud recounting of them represent a stark departure from these ideals. As the 2024 election season ramps up, voters would be wise to scrutinize candidates like Noem, whose disturbing choices and lack of empathy raise serious red flags about their fitness for public office.

Disturbing Trump Presidential Immunity Theory Gets Surprising Supreme Court Traction

US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court, photo: Thomas Hawk

The Supreme Court's conservative majority appeared open on Thursday to approve a legal theory that could effectively place current and future presidents above the law. The case before them, arising from former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his alleged orchestration of the attempted Jan. 6 insurrection, has taken on existential importance for American democracy.

The Supreme Court signaled that any trial for former President Donald Trump over his efforts to subvert the 2020 election result is unlikely to occur soon, which practically amounts to immunity as the trial would be pushed past the election. Multiple justices voiced worrying reservations about whether certain presidential actions should be legally shielded from prosecution, even in cases of alleged criminality.

While the court seems poised to reject Trump's extreme claim of complete immunity, it may opt to punt the case back to lower courts for further review. Such an action would make it highly unlikely a trial concludes before voters go to the polls this November, handing Trump's campaign a major win.

At its core, Trump's legal team is advancing the radical argument that presidents should be immune from prosecution for any acts they deem to fall within their official duties while in office—no matter how corrupt or criminal those acts might be. It's a fundamentally anti-American notion completely at odds with the founding vision of leaders like Thomas Jefferson, who firmly believed no one should be above the law.

Alito and Kavanaugh Make Arguments for Presidential Immunity

Yet instead of reflexively rejecting such an unsound and dangerous proposition, several conservative Supreme Court justices seemed disturbingly receptive. Justice Samuel Alito, in particular, expressed concerns that allowing prosecutions of former presidents could create a destabilizing “cycle” where incumbents fearing legal accountability would be incentivized to unlawfully cling to power.

The breathtaking projection and flawed logic behind that fretting is hard to overstate. After all, it was Trump himself who plunged the nation into a constitutional crisis by refusing to accept his clear electoral defeat and spawning the horrific January 6th insurrection which resulted in the deaths of multiple capitol police officers. To then suggest that prosecuting such egregious misconduct could somehow make future presidents more likely to subvert democracy is an insane leap of logic.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh added his own contorted arguments for insulating former presidents, invoking Richard Nixon's post-Watergate pardon by Gerald Ford as supposedly bolstering the case for immunity. Kavanaugh argued that while Ford’s pardon was criticized at the time, it is “now looked upon as one of the better decisions in presidential history, I think, by most people.” Not only is that completely false, but also that pardon's mere existence is itself clear evidence that former presidents can in fact face prosecution, directly undermining Trump's claims.

Amy Coney Barrett Grills Sauer

To her credit, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, grilled the former president's lawyer, John Sauer, on the flawed distinction he tried to make between private acts that could be prosecuted and “official acts” that he claimed were immune from prosecution. Barrett highlighted specific portions of the federal indictment detailing Trump's efforts to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's 2020 election victory. Sauer conceded those examples involving outside private actors amounted to prosecutable private conduct.

However, Sauer's stance on what egregious acts a president could theoretically get away with as “official” duties raised alarming red flags. When Justice Elena Kagan posed a hypothetical scenario of a president ordering a military coup, Sauer's response suggested such an anti-democratic abuse of power could potentially fall under immune “official acts” depending on the circumstances. 

He even argued Congress would need to first impeach and convict before criminally charging a president for such acts—an assertion with no constitutional basis that would make coups unpunishable.

Trump’s Lawyer: Assassinating a Political Rival Could Constitute Official Presidential Act

Perhaps most chillingly, Trump's own lawyer John Sauer argued that even a president ordering the military to stage a coup or assassinate a political rival could potentially constitute immune “official acts.” Imagining such a hypothetical was unnecessary; the charges Trump already faces involve very real allegations that he corruptly tried to steal the 2020 election and unleashed political violence against Congress, which essentially amounts to an attempted coup.

Yet as outlandish as such scenarios sound, they ultimately stem from the same authoritarian underpinnings as Trump's legal defense. If presidents can unilaterally define what acts fall under their purview and deem them off-limits from outside scrutiny, then the path is cleared for a president to consolidate autocratic powers and operate as a dictator.

This would represent a drastic deviation from the Framers' vision of the presidency as being constrained by co-equal branches, checks and balances, and the rule of law. If the Supreme Court were to accept Trump's arguments, it would make the president essentially a monarch.

Liberal Supreme Court Justices Reject Immunity Claim

While the Supreme Court's liberal wing pushed back forcefully on Trump's most extreme claims, the ideological balance tilted heavily against full accountability for his efforts to subvert the 2020 election outcome. Chief Justice John Roberts and others seemed keen on remanding the case back to lower courts for further proceedings that could significantly delay any trial until after the 2024 election cycle.

Given Trump's still-active campaign to regain power by spreading lies about electoral fraud, that would suit his interests perfectly. Indeed, the very premise underlying Trump's legal strategy—that politically-motivated prosecutions threaten democracy—can itself be seen as a self-fulfilling pretext for delaying justice indefinitely in the name of politics.

The rich irony is that Trump's actual coup attempt against the 2020 results represented the true threat to democratic norms and the peaceful transfer of power. The Supreme Court shielding him from legal consequences for those actions would only encourage future authoritarians to double down on such antidemocratic efforts.

Yet based on their concerning lines of questioning, Justices Alito and Kavanaugh appear disturbingly unable to distinguish between theoretical risks and the real-world damage Trump inflicted through his lies and incitements to violence. They've lost sight of the Founders' ideals and the nation’s founding principles.

As Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeben argued, the Supreme Court must reject Trump's claims as it is essential to reaffirm a foundational principle that no one is above the law in this country. Failure to do so would enshrine the doctrine that criminality can become permissible for presidents whenever they decree their motives involve official business.

Such legal precedent would deal a catastrophic blow to America's democratic credentials, both at home and internationally. It would leave the nation at the mercy of any president audacious enough to trample ethical and legal guardrails in service of raw power.

Supreme Court Appears to be Willing to Set Dangerous Precedent

In an alarming display, the Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared bent on crafting a dangerous precedent that would place future presidents above the law under the misguided rationale of preserving stability. But their willingness to shield even criminal misconduct in the name of executive power threatens to corrode democratic accountability itself—the very bedrock norm they purport to uphold. 

As the people of the United States anxiously awaits their ruling, the Supreme Court's decision risks either reaffirming the nation's founding principles of checks and balances or charting a perilous backslide towards a de facto elected monarchy untethered from constitutional constraints. The stakes for the future of our republic could not be higher.

Trump Campaign Eclipsed by Biden’s Staggering $192M Warchest

Joe Biden
Photo: Prachatai

As the 2024 presidential election race heats up, the financial disparities between the campaigns of incumbent President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump have become glaringly apparent. Recent filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have made it clear—Trump's campaign is drowning in legal fees as a result of his various alleged crimes, while Biden's campaign is amassing a formidable war chest for the grueling battle ahead.

The numbers paint a sobering picture for the Trump camp. At the end of March, the former president's campaign committee had a war chest of $45 million, a far cry from Biden's formidable $85.5 million. This financial gap is further compounded by the staggering disparity in spending between the two campaigns. In March alone, Biden's team unleashed a torrent of advertising, spending a whopping $29.2 million.

campaign spending
Source: New York Times

Despite the staggering expenditures unleashed by President Biden's campaign, it has still managed to amass a formidable war chest. The latest filings reveal that across his fundraising apparatus, including the deep pockets of the Democratic National Committee, Biden commands a staggering $192.9 million in cash reserves as of March 30th.

Trump Campaign Dragged Down by Legal Bills

On the other hand, Donald Trump's campaign is grappling with a meager $93.1 million in available funds. This disparity underscores the uphill battle Trump faces in attempting to match Biden's well-funded machine, which is poised to out gun and outmaneuver the former president's cash-strapped operation.

The root cause of Trump's financial struggles lies in the legal quagmires that have engulfed his political machinery. Save America, the leadership PAC controlled by Trump, has been forced to divert a staggering $59.5 million from its coffers to pay for legal fees since the start of 2023. In March alone, the PAC spent nearly $3.7 million on legal consulting, almost matching the entire spending of Trump's campaign for the month.

At the epicenter of this spending spree lies Trump's high-stakes New York criminal hush money trial, where a staggering $1.1 million from his leadership PAC, Save America, was funneled to the firms representing him in March alone.

Exacerbating the crisis is the grim reality that Save America's primary lifeline, the pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc., is rapidly running dry. With only $2.75 million left to transfer, the sustainability of funding Trump's mounting legal battles through this channel is in jeopardy.

While a $5 million refund from MAGA Inc. has temporarily buoyed Save America's finances, this reprieve is fleeting. The impending depletion of this revenue stream raises urgent alarms about the long-term viability of Trump's legal defense strategy, which is bleeding his campaign coffers at an alarming rate.

While the pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. raised an impressive $14.4 million in March, buoyed by massive donations from wealthy allies like Linda McMahon and Nevada real estate mogul Robert T. Bigelow, this influx of cash cannot mask the underlying financial vulnerabilities plaguing Trump's campaign.

The $5 million transfer from MAGA Inc. to Save America, part of a larger refund to the committee over the past year, underscores the extent to which Trump's legal battles are cannibalizing his campaign's financial reserves. 

Biden Continues Prolific Fundraising

In stark contrast, Biden's well-funded campaign is firing on all cylinders. His campaign's March expenditure of $29.2 million dwarfed Trump's paltry $3.7 million, with a significant portion dedicated to an aggressive advertising blitz across key swing states. 

Moreover, Biden's financial dominance extends beyond his own campaign, with the Democratic National Committee boasting $45 million in cash reserves, more than double the $21 million held by the Republican National Committee. This imbalance could have far-reaching implications for the presidential race and down ballet candidates as well.

The disparity in financial might is further compounded by the presence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Kennedy's campaign, bolstered by a $2 million contribution from his running mate Nicole Shanahan, raised $5.4 million in March alone. While his overall fundraising efforts have yet to match those of the two major parties, Kennedy's presence could be pulling away money that would have gone to Trump.

As the campaign trail intensifies, the financial realities facing the candidates are becoming increasingly apparent. Biden's well-funded operation is poised to out muscle Trump's cash-strapped campaign, which is being weighed down by the legal fees of a candidate who has been indicted in four separate jurisdictions. The once-formidable Trump fundraising machine appears to be sputtering, with his leadership PAC rapidly depleting its resources to keep his legal defense afloat.