Election 2024: Odds and Ends

Once again I find myself coming back from a vacation during which I didn’t update the blog, which means there are a myriad of different things to discuss, in brief:

New York v. Trump. Earlier this week the newly-convicted felon was required to make an appearance with a probation officer, as part of the standard process through which a pre-sentencing report is compiled. Alas, Trump was permitted to take the appointment virtually, which he reportedly did from his Florida residence.

Georgia v. Trump, et al. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently announced that it would hear the defendants’ interlocutory appeal of Judge McAfee’s March ruling that Fulton County D.A. Willis should not be removed from the case, and moreover indefinitely delayed all activity in the case pending that appeal. Assuming that the prosecutors are unsuccessful in their effort to get the appeal belatedly dismissed, this would seemingly make it impossible for a trial to commence in 2024.

U.S. v. Trump (Florida). Judge Cannon continues to move the case along very slowly, and in a manner that has attracted significant criticism from pundits. Next week she is scheduled to hold a hearing on Trump’s motion that the indictment should be dismissed on the grounds that Special Counsel Smith’s appointment was unlawful, an issue that has been repeatedly raised in recent months in various contexts by Northwestern law professor and Federalist Society co-chair Steven Calabresi.

SCOTUS. No news yet from SCOTUS on Trump v. U.S., which in turn means no new developments out of Judge Chutkan’s courtroom in the D.C. flavor of U.S. v. Trump.

We are, however, into the season where contentious SCOTUS opinions will be coming at us fast and furious for the next couple of weeks. Today’s headline was a 9-0 Kavanaugh decision in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine where the Court overturned lower court rulings that, while stayed pending SCOTUS action, would have unwound recent regulatory actions that eased access to a medication used to induce abortion. The SCOTUS ruling was based entirely on the notion that these plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit, leaving open the possibility that other plaintiffs could advance similar claims against the FDA. As such, the immediate political impact of today’s decision seems minimal.

Menendez. The federal corruption trial of Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) continues, with recent testimony from one of his alleged co-conspirators. During the trial Menendez submitted paperwork to run for re-election as an independent, although he has until early August to withdraw his name from the ballot.

Hunter Biden. Since my last post, President Biden’s second son Hunter has been tried and convicted on federal gun charges, namely that he purchased a gun during a period of time when he was regularly using crack cocaine but yet stated on a federal firearms acquisition form that he was not a drug user. He is scheduled to face trial later this fall on tax evasion charges. Both sets of charges came from an investigation led by U.S. Special Counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee who remained in office under the current administration and then was made a Special Counsel last year.

I haven’t talked about Hunter Biden before in these posts, and it would take more words than I care to write to provide ample context. Suffice it to say that, in certain circles, Hunter Biden is considered an exceptionally important figure in U.S. politics — the key to unlocking President Biden’s purportedly vast corruption with Chinese and Russian interests. In reality, Hunter is more likely just a man who made a number of bad choices as he neared middle age, first in attempting to cash in on his family name, and later in his personal conduct.

Hunter Biden’s conviction this week has interesting parallels to last month’s conviction of Trump. In both cases the decision to prosecute on these charges is somewhat unusual and has attracted criticism. However Hunter’s conviction helps to refute the allegations that Trump’s prosecution represents some form of weaponization of the rule of law. Instead, both convictions illustrate a principle that prosecutors will charge cases that they believe they can prove to a jury, without regard to the identity of the accused. It is also noteworthy to contrast Trump’s post-verdict behavior with President Biden’s reaction to Hunter’s conviction — respecting the verdict and indicating he would not pardon his son.

Additionally, this is a difficult case for Trump and the Republicans to rally behind. For one thing, it’s hard for Trump to argue on the one hand that Special Counsel Smith’s appointment was illegitimate, and then crow about convictions achieved by Special Counsel Weiss. But more fundamentally, it’s hard for the 2nd Amendment crowd to accept the notion that lying about one’s drug use on a form used to purchase a gun ought to be a federal crime. Given all of this, it is not clear that Hunter Biden’s legal woes are that much of a net negative to his father’s re-election chances.

By-Elections. This week there was a surprise of sorts in a by-election for an open House seat in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District, which spans a number of rural counties on the state’s eastern border. This district went 72-26 for Trump in 2020, and in the 2022 House election the long-time Republican incumbent won 68-32. However, this week the Republican candidate only won 55-45.

By contrast, several weeks ago there was a similar by-election in New York’s 26th District, a Buffalo-centric riding which had gone 62-35 for Biden in 2020 and 64-36 for the long-time Democratic incumbent in the 2022 House election. In that by-election, the Democratic candidate won 68-32.

Both by-elections continue a recent trend of swings towards the Democrats when people actually assemble to vote, even if polling has not been kind to Biden.

DJT. TMTG did manage to swiftly find a new audit firm and released its first quarter financial statements only a couple of weeks late. The company’s GAAP losses for first quarter 2024 were an eyepopping $327.6 million, but in fairness most of that appears to be non-recurring, non-cash losses related to the execution of the SPAC transaction. The company’s non-GAAP “adjusted EBITDA” metric showed losses of $12.1 million for the quarter, on revenue of $0.8 million.

In recent days DJT stock has been trading around $40, implying a market capitalization of about $7 billion.

Jumping the Shark. Finally, while it is a fool’s errand to try and keep up with the amount of crazy stuff that comes out of candidate Trump’s mouth, his recent diatribe about sharks at a rally in Las Vegas has attracted considerable attention. At the same rally he also articulated an apparent new policy position that cash tips would no longer constitute taxable income; leave it to a real estate magnate to think up new ways of avoiding recognition of taxable income, amirite?