Trump Turns WSJ Reporter Detained By Russia Into Re-Election Pawn

A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version .

Russia, Russia, Russia The challenge of the present moment is to continue to relentlessly observe, report, and document each of Donald Trump’s serial transgressions of democratic norms, the rule of law, and basic human decency. Challenging because the list is endless, the mind numbs, the body tires, and because the effort is not going to change his behavior or calm the fervor of his true believers. We do it not for him but for ourselves.

But even with Trump’s non-stop transgressiveness, certain episodes stand out as especially egregious, as the kind of thing no one, including the Republican Party, would have tolerated just a few years ago, and which no one should tolerate for a moment now.

Yesterday brought one such episode, when Trump baldly tied the release of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich, illegally detained by Russian, to his own re-election:

Where to start? It’s not just how bad it is but the myriad ways in which it is bad.

As to Gershkovich himself, Trump absolutely jeopardized his release. Why would Russia now do Trump the disservice of releasing Gershkovich any time before the November election? Why would Russia release Gershkovich after the election if Trump loses? In what way do Trump’s remarks do anything but harm the ongoing efforts to secure Gershkovich’s release?

As to the larger picture, Trump remains a toady of Putin, an easily played neophyte in geopolitics who can’t distinguish his personal and political interests from the national interest. The GOP nominee for president happily places himself in the thrall of Putin, which was bad enough in 2016 and 2020 but now comes after Putin invaded and continues to occupy U.S. ally Ukraine.

It was as reckless a move as anything Trump has done since being booted from office.

Reax To Trump Dangling Gershkovich’s Release
Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried: “Since former President Trump brought it up, the question might be whether he is in contact with Russian authorities about Evan Gershkovich and, if so, whether he has pushed for Evan’s immediate release or suggested that the Russians keep holding him, perhaps to Trump’s advantage.” TPM’s Josh Marshall: “Trump seems to be saying pretty clearly that he has an understanding with Putin that Gershkovich will under no circumstances be released until after he is elected and if he’s not elected, well, sucks to be him. Could this have anything to do w Manafort again working with Trump’s campaign?” Luppe Luppen, channeling Trump: “Russia, Russia, Russia is a hoax but also I’m expressly working hand-in-glove with Putin’s regime to keep an American imprisoned in Russia until I am restored to power. Not anyone else, mind you; it has to be me.” Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed: “As a former wrongful detainee in Russia, I would just like to remind everyone that President Trump had the ability to get myself and Paul Whelan out of Russia for years and chose not to. I would be skeptical of any claims about getting Evan Gershkovich back in a day.”
Related: Trump Praises Authoritarians In Bronx Rally With Trump comparing President Biden unfavorably to Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and Viktor Orban, it might be time for you to watch extended excerpts from Trump’s rally last night in the Bronx to stay familiar with how routinely he is fascisting.

Important Read Greg Sargent on the Trump campaign’s “Unified Reich” video:

The Trump campaign’s initial story about this video may or may not prove true. But as we debate those specifics, let’s not lose sight of a larger point. Trump and his highest-profile allies have plainly embarked on a broader related project—one that seeks to acclimatize the American electorate to fascistic language and far-reaching authoritarian policy “solutions.” They are slowly edging the discourse deeper into that fraught territory, as if painstakingly testing how far they can take this without provoking too much public discomfort over it.

Unpacking Disinfo One Case At A Time
Just Security: Anatomy of MAGA Conspiracy of Assassination Attempt Against Trump Juliette Kayyem: Trump’s Assassination Fantasy Has a Darker Purpose
Buckle Up For Tuesday Closing arguments begin Tuesday after the three-day weekend in Donald Trump’s hush money case. In the meantime, TPM’s Josh Kovensky reports on the overt flattery of Trump that his lawyers and some witnesses engaged in during the trial itself.

Alito Watch
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor: How Could Alito Have Been So Foolish? Philip Bump: The flags were redundant NYT: Lawmakers Dial Up Pressure on Alito to Recuse From Elections Cases
Alito Strikes Again The top line of the Supreme Court majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito in the South Carolina redistricting case is that it’s now even harder to prove that states are discriminating against Black voters in how congressional district are drawn – but it’s how Alito got there, as explained in a withering dissent written by Justice Elena Kagan, that shows how determined the court’s conservative super-majority is to erode precedent.

RFK Jr. Watch
David Corn: RFK Jr. Is Even Crazier Than You Might Think One-time Trump supporter and ex-con Angela Stanton King leaves the RFK Jr. campaign.
The Six Million Dollar Man The Democratic operative indicted for allegedly using AI to impersonate President Biden in a robocall in New Hampshire is facing a proposed $6 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission over the incident.

2024 Ephemera
NYT: Trump’s Pattern of Sowing Election Doubt Intensifies in 2024 Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has called a special session of the legislature to put Joe Biden on the general election ballot after it wrapped up its regular session without addressing the issue: “Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States, on the ballot this fall. Failing to do so is simply not acceptable. This is a ridiculous — this is an absurd — situation,” DeWine said at a press conference. TPM’s Khaya Himmelman: Republicans’ About Face On Ballot Drop Boxes Is Particularly Cartoonish In Wisconsin
Signs Of Life From Senate Dems? Exhibit A: Senate Democrats are probing whether the oil industry offered (or acquiesced) to a quid pro quo with Donald Trump during a chopped steak dinner at Mar-a-Lago: $1 billion in contributions to his 2024 campaign in return for industry-friendly policies if he is re-elected.

Exhibit B: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put Senate Republicans on the spot Thursday by forcing a floor vote on a bipartisan border deal that they have rejected at the urging of Donald Trump.

Abortion Watch
Louisiana: Gov. Jeff Landry (R) is poised to sign a bill that would punish anyone in possession of abortion pills without a prescription with up to 10 years in prison (pregnant women in possession for their own use are exempted). TPM’s Emine Yücel: Trump May Have Back-Tracked But The GOP Has Supported Restricting Contraceptives For Years
Yikes The Daily Beast discovered a pattern of outrageous spending by the 2022 Senate primary campaign of Royce White (R-MN), whom the Minnesota GOP just endorsed for Senate in 2024:

The Daily Beast reviewed White’s 2022 primary campaign reports and found numerous items that boggled legal experts. The unusual expenses include a total of more than $100,000 in mysterious wire transfers and checks reported as paid to the campaign; hefty tabs at spicy nightspots; getaways at posh hotels in at least seven states; thousands of dollars in limousine services; unexplained cash withdrawals; eye-popping purchases from electronics, sporting goods, clothing, and musical instrument retailers; and the DribbleUp smart basketball training app that White himself admitted might be personal use.

^That doesn’t include the $1,200 payment to a strip club in Miami.

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