Perspective and Calm in the Storm

So here we are, an FBI raid on the ex-President’s Florida compound. (Some of you say we are following GOP messaging calling it a “raid” rather than executing a search warrant. They’re both accurate but we’ve always called these “raids” in years of covering these events. So no reason to change now.) Republicans are predictably lining up in defense of the President as the victim of political persecution, threatening payback after January 2023 and January 2025.

But not all of you are punch drunk with schadenfreude. I’ve received a few emails from TPM Readers who fear this is an unfolding catastrophe for Democrats or the country or any opponents of Trumpism. TPM Reader EA finds it hard to believe that Garland, Wray and a federal judge would authorize such a dramatic move over an essentially bureaucratic document retention issue. But he’s been disappointed in DOJ and FBI in recent years and worries. TPM Reader JB is much more concerned, calling it a “PR disaster … because our side has nothing to say … I worry this is Mueller all over again. A cautious technocrat in a China shop.” Others speculate more generally about a bureaucratic drift toward a warrant to seize documents Trump resisted turning over. One step leads to another and suddenly this is where you are but no one has stepped back and figured in the broadly political and constitutional context.

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It’s About the Classified Documents

We now have confirmation from CNN that the raid was about the 15 boxes of classified documents that Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago. This is a critical point. This is not tied to the January 6th investigation or the conspiracy that preceded. This is a separate investigation.


Initial Thoughts 

You see the big news. It speaks for itself in terms of its magnitude. We can drown in schadenfreude. But the reality is that this is a massive, massive development with no precedent or parallel in American history. I assume this is about the disposition of classified documents investigation, one of the less serious (in relative terms) of the investigations he faces. But I have no idea. Perhaps it’s tied to the events of January 6th or the conspiracy that preceded it. I don’t know and I’ll be curious to hear whether reporters closer to those investigations have some suspicions or insight.

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Watch Now: Briefing with Leading 2020 Election Lie Researcher 

Last week, TPM’s Matt Shuham spoke to a leading researcher of 2020 election lies and conspiracy theories — who works online under the alias Trapezoid of Discovery — to discuss the years-long effort to sow doubt about the democratic process. Matt and ToD talked about the relationship between election denialism and QAnon, the tech theater that conspiracy theorists use to dress up their ideas, and efforts by some to break into official election machines.

Watch the full briefing now.

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People …

Lots of things are suddenly going right for Democrats heading into the midterms. That doesn’t mean it’s enough to keep them in the control of Congress. But the trends are in their direction. But I cannot emphasize enough that the biggest thing that Democrats and particularly Democratic voters can do right now is pressure senators to get on board with a clear Roe and Reform pledge.


Gutting the SALT Deduction is Terrible Policy 

With SALT deductions again — at least momentarily today — at the center of a Senate legislation battle, I wanted to write out in one place why reducing the SALT deduction is terrible policy, even though many progressives don’t seem to realize it. The SALT deduction is the part of the federal tax code that allows you to deduct state and local taxes when calculating your federal tax bill. Critics argue that the benefits go mainly to wealthy and very wealthy people. And that is true as far as it goes. But that’s going to be true in almost any revision of graduated income taxes. The key is that in many blue states it hits a lot of middle and upper middle class families too.

Now, boohoo for them right? Well, if it’s them versus subsidizing people’s out of control insulin costs, sure. But it’s not. That’s not the trade off. Here we get to the myopia of progressive opposition to or lack of support for SALT deductions. The SALT deduction was originally gutted in the 2017 Trump tax cut bill. That was done in part to make up revenue lost by giving huge tax cuts to the extremely wealthy. But that wasn’t the main reason. The authors of the bill correctly believed that gutting the SALT tax was a direct attack on the (mostly) blue states with high-tax/high-service governance. We all know that some states put more into health care, unemployment insurance, education, social services than others — all the basic stuff mostly or partly paid for at the state level. That high-tax/high service model is what’s behind that. States that follow the low-tax/low-service model not only have fewer benefits. They also rely more on federal subsidies to provide what services and benefits they do provide. Which is to say that, in most cases, they rely on transfers from blue states to red states to cover part of the bill for their already stingy social safety nets.


Trump’s Grievance Feedback Loop 

Democrats are now in a reasonably strong position to hold the Senate and perhaps expand their majority. A major reason for that is that Donald Trump took it upon himself and was largely allowed to pick the candidates. Almost all of them are terrible candidates: Oz, Vance, Masters, Walker. These are simply terrible candidates. They could win. But it will be in spite of their terribleness not because of it. Kelly, Warnock, Fetterman, Ryan are all pretty good candidates. In some cases, in terms of their fit for the state in question, they are near-perfect candidates. Tim Ryan may be the best example of that even though he’s the least likely of the four to win. But all would be in much more challenging contests if they were opposed by even generic, non-crazy-sounding Trumpite Republicans.



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