Putin & Republicans In Lock Step While Trump Pushes For Immunity

Last night, Special Counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to decide Trump’s claim that he is immune from any and all criminal prosecution for anything he did while in office. That claim is central to Trump’s defense; he has requested the charges against him be dismissed because of that immunity. 

When Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case in which Trump is charged with trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, dismissed this claim, Trump’s lawyers appealed and asked for the case to be frozen while the appeal worked its way up through the courts. By going straight to the Supreme Court, Smith appears to be trying to stop Trump from delaying the trial until after the 2024 election.  

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it will hear the case. So far, Justice Clarence Thomas refuses to recuse himself, even though his wife Ginni was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. His refusal suggests that the Supreme Court’s new ethics rules are as toothless as their opponents charged.

In another filing last night, Smith revealed that the government expects to introduce the testimony of three experts who will speak to the use of cell phones by Trump and one other person after the 2020 election, including on January 6, a revelation that Los Angeles Times legal analyst Harry Litman suggested must “have the Trump camp totally freaked out.”

Inflation slowed again in November, dropping to 0.1% as gasoline prices fell, so that the annual inflation over the past year has dropped to 3.1%. 

Fallout continues from the Texas Supreme Court’s decision that a woman carrying a fetus with a fatal condition cannot abort that fetus even though it threatens her own health and future fertility. President Joe Biden promised today to continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care, saying: “No woman should be forced to go to court or flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs. But that is exactly what happened in Texas thanks to Republican elected officials, and it is simply outrageous. This should never happen in America, period.”

But for all the importance of these major stories, the outstanding story of the day is that the Republican Party appears to have decided to undermine financial support for Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion. 

This is simply an astonishing decision. Majorities in both the House and the Senate want to pass supplemental aid to Ukraine, which both protects North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and provides jobs in the United States, but an extremist minority in Congress is stopping passage of a measure that would provide more weapons to Ukraine.

There is no doubt previous funding has been effective. A newly declassified intelligence memo shows that Russia had an army of 360,000 before the war and that thanks to the Ukraine resistance it has lost 315,000 troops—87% of its army—forcing it to squeeze more recruits out of its civilian population. It has also lost 2,200 out of 3,500 tanks, forcing it to turn to Soviet-era equipment. 

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who was in Washington, D.C., today to try to convince Republicans to pass such a measure, noted that Ukraine has regained half the land Russia seized in the February 2022 invasion, forced Russian warships out of Ukrainian territorial waters, and opened export corridors to get Ukrainian grain to countries that desperately need it. At the same time, he said, Ukraine’s economy is growing at a 5% rate, suggesting it will be less dependent on foreign aid going forward. 

In The Atlantic, David Frum, who has criticized Democrats on immigration policy, pointed out that Biden and the Democrats have made a real effort to negotiate with extremist Republicans but the Republicans are simply refusing to engage. Frum concluded that Republicans do not want to make a deal. Either they want to perform a ritual in which Republicans demand and Democrats comply, or they want to keep the border as a campaign issue, or they actually oppose aid to Ukraine. And yet, Frum reiterates, majorities in both the House and the Senate want the supplemental aid package to pass.  

Republicans appear to want to keep the issue of immigration front and center in 2024, hoping that people will focus on it rather than on abortion, especially in states like Texas.

Poland’s newly elected prime minister Donald Tusk today vowed that he would “loudly and decisively demand the full mobilization of the free world, the Western world, to help Ukraine in this war,” but Russia expert Fiona Hill told Politico’s Maura Reynolds that U.S. funding will be key to determining whether Ukraine wins back control of its territory. That decision, she says, is really about our own future.

Permitting Putin to win in Ukraine, she says, would create a world in which the standing of the U.S. in the world would be diminished, Iran and North Korea would be strengthened, China would dominate the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East would be more unstable, and nuclear weapons would proliferate. 

“Ukraine has become a battlefield now for America and America’s own future—whether we see it or not—for our own defensive posture and preparedness, for our reputation and our leadership,” Hill told Reynolds. “For Putin, Ukraine is a proxy war against the United States, to remove the United States from the world stage.”

“The problem is that many members of Congress don’t want to see President Biden win on any front,” Hill said. “People are incapable now of separating off ‘giving Biden a win’ from actually allowing Ukraine to win. They are thinking less about U.S. national security, European security, international security and foreign policy, and much more about how they can humiliate Biden. In that regard,” she said, “whether they like it or not, members of Congress are doing exactly the same thing as Vladimir Putin. They hate that. They want to refute that. But Vladimir Putin wants Biden to lose, and they want Biden to be seen to lose as well.”

Today, Biden noted that Russian media outlets have been cheering on the Republicans. “If you’re being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you’re doing,” he said. “History will judge harshly those who turned their back on freedom’s cause.”

Congress is set to leave for the holiday break on Thursday, returning in the second week of January. Biden urged Congress “to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess—before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

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