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What Would The McLaughlin Group Say About Trump Versus DeSantis?
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ANNOUNCER: From the Nation’s Capital, the McLaughlin Group….an unrehearsed program presenting inside opinions and forecasts on major issues of the day….sponsored in part by Edison Electric Institute…the association of electric companies…and by Northrup Corporation…Northrup, making advanced technology work….
Here’s the moderator, John McLaughlin, Washington executive editor of the National Review.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One – prosecutorial IN-discretion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN ON TAPE: Washington, the nation, and the world…effectively paralyzed as everyone waits for a trio of prosecutors to make the first, second, and third moves regarding the legal and political fates of one Donald John Trump.
Item: Gotham City DA Alvin Bragg didn’t indict Trump this week…but he did have his grand jury hear again from former National Enquirer honcho David Pecker….reportedly testifying for a second time…
Item: Down South in the Peach State, Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, continues her probe into alleged 2020 election interference by Mr. Trump.
Item: And in Washington, independent counsel Jack Smith pursues his twin probes into Trump’s actions around the January 6th, 2021 occupation of the Capitol building and the curious case of those Mar-a-Lago documents. This week, he won a ruling securing testimony from Trump’s former number two, Mike Pence, who is also a potential 2024 candidate against his old boss.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So….. I ask you, Pat Buchanan – where does all this investigating of the Republicans’ 2024 presidential frontrunner stand now?
PAT BUCHANAN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: John – or should I call you Judge Wapner?? You’ve done turned this into “The People’s Court”!
MR. BUCHANAN: Lookie here, John, you’ve got three out-of-control prosecutors going hammer and tong. This is real Deep State stuff. It doesn’t really matter who indicts Trump for anything. There will be no trials before November 2024. Trump’s lawyers will see to that. Any legal case will ensure another four-year term. At which point, as a sitting president, there will be no trials, ever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor???!!!
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK: This is now a triptych of black boxes, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very erudite of you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I learned a thing or two at Hunter College, even if I wasn’t taught by Jesuits. No one knows what Bragg is doing. The presumption in New York, DC, and Florida legal circles is still that he will be the first out of the gate, as early as next week, with an indictment over those Stormy Daniels hush money payments. But that David Pecker appearance has just confused us all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Novak, what say you?
ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: This Bragg fellow is a political hack. John, if I had a dollar for every column I squelched over the years about politicians paying hush money to save their marriages, I would be richer than even you. I’m told the Union Leader is going to have a very rough editorial about all this next week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, quickly, I ask you, Freddie “The Beadle” Barnes.
FRED BARNES, THE NEW REPUBLIC: New York and Georgia are sideshows, John. With all due respect to those local prosecutors – and I mean that both ironically and literally – Jack Smith’s case is the one to watch. I’m told he is going to do a detailed report on the January 6th matter, eviscerating Trump through a chronology, but not actually indicting him in court for that stuff. But my sources say he has already built an airtight obstruction of justice case over the Mar-a-Lago documents, which Attorney General Garland is ready to approve.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting. Exit question, on a scale of 0 to 10…with 0 meaning zero probability and 10 meaning metaphysical certitude…. How likely is it that Bragg goes first and indicts Trump before April 15?
MR. BUCHANAN: A gentleman’s eight, John.
MS. CLIFT: It was a ten a week ago, John. Now it is a six and falling faster than Ron DeSantis’ poll numbers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don’t jump the gun, missy. Quickly, the Prince of Darkness…
MR. NOVAK (SMILING BUT NOT HAPPY): This one goes to eleven, John, and, no, I don’t know what that means. My researcher wrote it down for me.
MR. BARNES: A nine but it doesn’t matter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: WRONG!!! The answer is….a two… at best….Pecker was brought in to bolster the prosecution but this grand jury is a runaway and the ham sandwich walks free! We’ll be right back, with King Kong versus Godzilla…versus Big Boy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two – DeSantis trumped?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN ON TAPE: With candidate Trump dominating the news and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis putting off a formal candidacy for at least a couple of months, the frontrunner’s poll numbers are surging, while DeSantis is flatlining, worrying donors and establishment types who are counting on the Sunshine State topper to stop Trump from being the nominee.
Item: Team Trump is on a quiet hiring spree, signing up top talent in New Hampshire, Iowa, and other key states, while the main pro-DeSantis Super PAC is staffing up bigly.
Item: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a big splash taking on both Trump and DeSantis on a trip to the Granite State, telling Axios he won’t back Trump if his longtime friend ends up the nominee.
Item: Other prospects are MIA, AWOL, or DOA. Where art thou, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and the rest?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So….. I ask you, Pat Buchanan – is this a wide-open field, a two-person contest, or simply Trump, Trump, Trump?
MR. BUCHANAN: John – DeSantis is making a classic mistake. You can’t stop a frontrunner who is moving 800 miles per hour while you stand on the side of the road. DeSantis wants to be all things to all people. He’s already shown that. As the Gipper would say, it is a time for choosing, and this young man in Tallahassee seems to think he can choose when to answer the bell. I think it might have already tolled for him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift, is DeSantis DeFunct?
MS. CLIFT: To paraphrase the great political analyst Mark Twain, reports of Ron DeSantis’ demise are way premature. Trump has real structural problems, even with the Republican electorate. DeSantis is smart, his Super PAC is already staffed with folks who know Trump’s weaknesses, and the party establishment is going to have no choice but to back him, since he is the only one who can stop Trump, who is their worst nightmare.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Novak, where does all this stand?
MR. NOVAK: The ghosts of both Jude Wanniski and Jack Kemp are telling folks behind the scenes that DeSantis is going to do very well with his fellow governors, who bring field operations, fundraising, and political heft. DeSantis has hardly been a gladhander at RGA meetings, but watch Kemp of Georgia, Sununu of New Hampshire, and – this one will sting at Mar-a-Lago – Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas. They could all be part of Team DeSantis before too long after he gets in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fred Barnes?
MR. BARNES: Watch Chris Christie. His chances of being the nominee are negligible, but he’s the only one besides Trump and DeSantis with an actual theory of the case. However, I haven’t quite figured this out yet: His main argument is he can take it to Trump in the debates, but, under the likely RNC rules, he won’t even be on the stage because he won’t pledge to back Trump if he prevails.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fred, you have lurched inexplicably into the truth. Watch Christie. Exit question, who will be the Republican nominee?
MR. BUCHANAN: Trump.
MS. CLIFT: DeSantis.
MR. NOVAK: DeSantis.
MR. BARNES: Someone besides Trump or DeSantis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: WRONG!!! It’s a Trump-Haley ticket. Back with predictions!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it pains me to say it, but after this week’s back and forth with President Biden and Speaker McCarthy and some eyebrow raising comments from Congressman Patrick McHenry, it’s pretty clear that the Republicans have already lost the debt ceiling fight. All that’s left for them to do is waive the white flag of surrender and negotiate the terms.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: The White House has spent two years engaged in an unprecedented effort to raise the international profile and practical experience of Vice President Harris. She makes major announcements, meets with heads of government and state, and travels widely, all orchestrated by a president and a West Wing team that knows they need to get her ready for anything. Her domestic apprenticeship has been equally robust. As we head for 2024, watch for all of this to ramp up even more. This is going to be a triple down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting. Bob, can you top that??
MR. NOVAK: The NRA might be past its prime, but Democrats are still scared of their own shadows when it comes to gun control. This week, when President Biden admitted he was powerless to pass or sign any new measures after that horrible school shooting in Tennessee, even the radical left wing of the party was silent. Mike Bloomberg would have been better off spending all those millions on another Upper East Side townhouse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Barnes?
MR. BARNES: There might not be four funerals, but there will be a wedding. Ted Lasso and Rebecca Welton will tie the knot in the season and series finale.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that is a show stopper! In a July surprise, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both will announce they will not run in ’24, giving the Democratic Party a ticket of Pennsylvania Governor Joshua David Shapiro and Commerce Secretary Gina Marie Raimondo. Put that one in your bong and smoke it, Novak.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye!!!
* The Associated Press scoops, with the dateline of the month:
ON A TRAIN FROM SUMY TO KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Tuesday that unless his nation wins a drawn-out battle in a key eastern city, Russia could begin building international support for a deal that could require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises. He also invited the leader of China, long aligned with Russia, to visit.
If Bakhmut fell to Russian forces, their president, Vladimir Putin, would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” Zelenskyy said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
“If he will feel some blood — smell that we are weak — he will push, push, push,” Zelenskyy said in English, which he used for virtually all of the interview.
The Ukrainian leader spoke to the AP aboard a train shuttling him across Ukraine, to cities near some of the fiercest fighting and others where his country’s forces have successfully repelled Russia’s invasion. The AP is the first news organization to travel extensively with Zelenskyy since the war began just over a year ago.
* If you want to indulge in the fantasy that Glenn Youngkin will run for president in 2024 without Jeff Roe as The Architect or a fire in his belly, by all means read both of Politico’s stories cheerleading for the Old Dominioner to enter the fray.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “walk away” from his current judicial overhaul legislation, saying he was “very concerned” about the health of Israeli democracy, and warning that Israel “cannot continue down this road.”
“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. And I’m concerned that they get this straight,” Biden told reporters who asked him about the well-being of Israeli democracy and Netanyahu’s bid to shackle the judiciary.
“They cannot continue down this road. And I’ve sort of made that clear,” he added, speaking before he boarded Air Force One at the Raleigh-Durham airport, in remarks plunging US-Israel ties into open crisis.
“Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen,” Biden said, emphasizing the word “genuine.”
Biden also gave an emphatic “no” when asked whether he would be inviting Netanyahu to the White House, adding: “Not in the near term.”