☕️ CROSSROADS ☙ Thursday, January 25, 2024 ☙ C&C NEWS 🦠
I know I keep saying this, but today we review the two biggest stories of the year: the failed bribery of Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake; and Texas's practical declaration of war at the border.
Good morning, C&C, it’s Thursday! Yesterday, the third week of January looked back at the month’s first two weeks and said, hold my beer and watch this. In the roundup: Kari Lake drops a bombshell audio alleging dirty political work at the crossroads, and Texas Governor Abbott issues a defiant statement about the border that brings the country to another kind of crossroad.
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🔥 There’s bribery, and then there’s bribery. On Tuesday, another literally unscriptable story broke in the UK Daily Mail:
In the bizarre story, Kari Lake accused Arizona’s GOP Chairman, Jeff DeWit, of trying to bribe her to drop out of the Senate race for vague financial or professional rewards offered by powerful, unidentified people “back east.” The Daily Mail’s exclusive included ten candid minutes of their conversation appearing to back up her claims.
The story broke like a hand grenade going off in a GOP convention hall. Social media, already burning hotly, assumed Solar levels of furious conflagration. While all we had yesterday was the unverified Daily Mail story, it was already obvious that one of their political careers was over, depending on whether the story was true.
It quickly developed that Jeff DeWit’s political career was over. Yesterday The New York Times ran this headline:
The looming question of whether the audio was authentic was settled yesterday, by DeWit himself, who resigned with two single-spaced pages of public non-explanation. DeWit, you see, is the real victim here. In his letter, DeWit denied breaking any laws.
He explained that politics is a messy business, frequently requiring finesse, and claimed Kari set him up and also the audio was “selectively edited.” But he didn’t specify how it was selectively edited. DeWit admitted he’d said things he “regrets,” but not which things. Projecting, DeWit claimed Kari was blackmailing him, and had threatened to release even worse audio — DeWit claimed ignorance of its substance — unless he resigned as Arizona’s GOP party chair.
Welp. Then he resigned. So I guess it worked.
Lake’s campaign hotly disputed threatening DeWit.
To give you the gist, I drafted a concise dialog, boiling ten minutes of conversation down into one minute. This is merely meant to convey the essence of the conversation and isn’t a transcript. Listen to the whole audio for the precise details.
As you read this, imagine Kari Lake eating a bag of corn nuts and sipping on a nearly-empty Big Gulp, which is what the background noises sounded like:
Kari Lake: Jeff. So what’s going on? What is it? (rustle, crunch)
Jeff DeWit: I've got a proposition for you.
Kari Lake: Oh? What kind of proposition?
Jeff DeWit: Well, there's some very powerful people back east who want you out of politics for a couple of years. They really want someone different.
Kari Lake: And what do they want me to do?
Jeff DeWit: They want you to stay out for two years. I can tell you what I can offer you. They're willing to pay you a lot of money and put you on the payroll of a company. Whatever we need to do.
Kari Lake: Are you serious? (slurp)
Jeff DeWit: Yes. It's a good offer. You could take a break from politics and come back in a couple of years.
Kari Lake: I'm not interested in being bought off. This is about stopping Trump! I don’t think that’s good for the country.
Jeff DeWit: It's not about being bought off. It's about taking a step back and letting things cool down.
Kari Lake: I don't need to cool down. I'm fighting for what's right. This is a hill worth dying on.
Jeff DeWit: I understand that, but this could be a good opportunity for you. DC is a big back-scratching club. You’re in no position to scratch anybody’s back.
Kari Lake: I don't need any opportunities from those people. I'm going to keep fighting. The battle is right now, Jeff, not two years from now. They’re going to have to kill me to stop me.
Jeff DeWit: Alright. Just thought I'd let you know about the offer. You should be honored. I wish you’d just make me a huge counter-offer. Gimme a counter. Is there a number where you’d … just take a pause?
Kari Lake: No. No. I have to go work on my book. I’m flattered, and offended. But thanks for letting me know. Bye-bye.
Jeff DeWit: Goodbye.
Throughout the conversation, which apparently happened at Lake’s house, DeWit’s tone was subtly apologetic. He sounded for all the world like he had no control over events; he was just the messenger. He repeatedly seemed to agree with that Kari it was wrong. At one point, Kari suggested that DeWit go public about the attempted bribe. DeWit immediately rejected the idea, ominously joking, "Then I turn my key in my car and — boom! I like my car.”
DeWit is probably right he didn’t commit any crimes. Election law is complex and I’m not an elections specialist. But since Kari isn’t (yet) a ‘public official,’ none of the bribery crimes I reviewed apply. Nor did DeWit try to influence any ‘official act.’
But the question of whether it was a crime or not was the tiniest question of all.
Who are the ‘very powerful’ people ‘back east’ (presumably DC)? Did the bribe come from a single wealthy donor, or even just a small group of influential donors? How common are these kinds of “deals”? Was Kari in the wrong? Given they were friends, did Kari betray DeWit’s trust, showing she’s untrustworthy? Or was Kari brave to release the audio, knowing it would make mortal enemies? How angry should GOP voters be that these kinds of backroom deals are happening?
Regardless of where you come down on those questions, and regardless of the technical legality about what happened, it all feels gross and sneaky and un-American.
Kari was smart not to take the deal. If she had taken it, or even started negotiating, “they” would have owned her forever. Bribery time would have changed to blackmail time. Similarly, DeWit was smart to immediately resign. His position as Arizona’s GOP Chairman was completely untenable. He had to go, and I assume he got that message loud and clear from inside the party.
🔥 The next surreal story came from Texas, which appears to be following through with Governor Abbott’s vow to keep fighting after the Supreme Court vacated an injunction Tuesday that barred the Border Patrol from removing razor wire except for medical emergencies. Take a look at this equally-unbelievable headline also from yesterday’s Daily Mail:
The hot takes yesterday suggested Texas was somehow “defying” the Supreme Court, which is wrong, because the Supreme Court did not order Texas to do or not do anything. Thus, there was nothing to ‘defy.’ All the Supreme Court did on Tuesday was remove a lower-court ban against the federal government. It’s order didn’t even require Texas to let the Border Patrol into Eagle Pass, even though it took away one of Texas’s arguments for keeping the feds out.
According to the Mail article, after Texas seized Shelby Park — the public part of Eagle Pass — somehow border jumpers seemed to immediately know all about it and have started crossing on private ranch property on either side of the area now controlled by the Texas National Guard. Not surprisingly, the ranchers complained, and Texas responded by offering to install razor wire fences on their property for free.
Border Patrol needs ranchers’ permission to enter their private property, which some ranchers appear to be giving. The ranchers’ views about border crossers seems to somewhat depend on their political persuasions.
But much more significant than the razor wire giveaways were Governor Abbott’s public comments. In his recent tweets, Governor Abbott has repeatedly referred to two connected concepts: the Constitution’s Article I, Section 10, which allows States to declare war without Congress if they are “actually invaded” or are in “imminent danger.”
Abbott has repeatedly cited Section 10 adding that he has also officially declared an invasion, which seems to satisfy the Constitution’s “actual invasion” requirement. Not that it will stop Biden’s lawyers, but it seems pretty hard to argue that Texas isn’t being “actually invaded.”
Abbott, known for being cautious with his language, issued a fiery official gubernatorial letter yesterday, and its first paragraph inarguably evoked pre-Civil War rhetoric by accusing Biden’s federal government of “breaking its compact” with the States:
The final paragraph in Abbott’s letter, referring to Section 10’s Constitutional authority, seems pregnant with possibility for future conflict, since it suggested Texas intends to ignore the Border Patrol’s federal statutory authority:
There are a couple ways to read that. Saying the Constitution is the supreme law of the land which supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary is just uncontroversially reiterating black-letter law. Of course the Constitution supersedes conflicting statutes. But in context, that statement triggered a lot of democrats, some of whom are now calling for Biden to “seize control” of the Texas National Guard.
Remarkably, historically, and surreally, the dispute between one of the largest States in the Union and the federal government is playing out in real time on social media, as evidenced by the very first, inflammatory comment to Abbott’s tweet about his letter, by the owner of America’s largest social media platform:
The dispute is causing so many problems for Joe Biden that some liberal commenters are even speculating that the Supreme Court knew this would happen when they issued their decision on Tuesday revoking the razor-wire-removal injunction. So far, no one seems able to suggest any good move for Team Biden; every possible response — including inaction — would be politically unviable and would be a gigantic election-year black eye for Biden.
Let us count the ways Biden has failed lately. President Peters is about to lose his epic Proxy War in Ukraine, a prospect he himself has described in apocalyptic terms for two years now. Just this month Biden started a brand new Proxy War against Iran, via Yemen and whatever else our military is doing in the Middle East these days, with or without a conscious Defense Secretary. And now, Biden has launched an unwinnable political battle with Texas that appears to be shoving the country towards the precipice of Civil War.
Not too good!
Any of these developments would be remarkable on its own. Together they are unprecedented. Nothing like this has ever happened in our lifetimes. In saner times, cooler, wiser heads would have long since headed off this kind of conflict with Texas, de-escalated, and brokered some peaceable resolution behind the scenes, but that kind of statesmanship doesn’t seem to be happening these days.
In other words, there don’t seem to be any brakes or off-ramps on Texas’s highway to more serious conflict. Mercifully, it is still more likely to be resolved in the courts; on Tuesday the Supreme Court only kicked the queso down the road and only temporarily delayed a generation-defining decision.
It never should have reached this point at all.
🔥 And as if to underscore the stakes, a timely independent story broke this week about a hardened Middle Eastern terrorist illegally crossing the border and, in a citizen-recorded video, vowing to teach America a lesson that, whatever it is, is probably something we’d rather avoid:
Presumably the feds gave this guy a free iPhone, a pre-loaded gift card, and a free no-I.D. flight to anywhere he wanted to go. Good luck finding him now. Hey, don’t complain; you have to break a few eggs to make an immigration omelet. Melting pots, and so forth.
Currently the ominous illegal immigrant’s identity is hotly disputed. Nobody’s officially admitting it is known terrorist Samadov, and some sources claim he is still free as a jailbird in the Middle East and anyway is way too old now to make any trouble. Uh-huh. But all that is besides the point. Even if the threatening Middle-Eastern border-jumper isn’t Samadov, he easily could be, and that is the point. Regardless, the story keenly illustrated the worst implications of the border problem.
I told you 2024 would be a doozie! The good news about the developing Texas situation can be neatly summarized by the old saying: something that can’t continue, won’t. The border crisis is rapidly approaching the point where it cannot continue. Stay tuned for updates on these and other breaking stories.
Have a terrific Thursday! We’ll jump the border to Friday tomorrow morning — legally! — for even more Coffee & Covid.
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