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This is the new political normal of 2024, six months after the elections

CNN

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) — Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee who just falsely accused his opponents of running a “Gestapo” government, will be back in a New York courtroom on Monday for his criminal trial – the first of an ex-president in history.

The White House, meanwhile, is trying to defuse the impact of campus protests over Israel’s attack on Gaza, as some Democrats warn that images of unrest could boost Trump and fear the issue could derail President Joe Biden’s coalition .

This all comes as Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson faces a likely impeachment vote this week, a new sign of disarray in the Republican Party fueled by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. He will need Democrats to save him.

It’s just another normal week in American politics, with unpredictable forces shaking both parties to their core and portending a tense run-up to an election — now six months away — that could fundamentally change the nation.

The Trump trial is entering a crucial phase

Trump will wait another week in a Manhattan courtroom, where he will stand trial for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up an affair with adult film actress Story Daniels. Prosecutors allege he attempted to deceive voters in 2016, in an early act of election interference. Trump denies the affair and has pleaded not guilty – to this and three other criminal charges.

Given the former president’s frequent attacks on witnesses, which cost him $9,000 last week for violations of silence orders, prosecutors are keeping the witness lists secret. But last week, former White House communications director Hope Hicks took the stand under a subpoena in dramatic testimony. In possibly the most important moment of the trial so far, a nervous Hicks, who at one point shed tears, appeared to engage Trump in a way that played a role in the prosecutor’s argument when she said the ex-president admitted to her that he knew his then-fixer Michael Cohen had paid Daniels. She also said Trump felt it was better to address the story after the election than before. But Trump’s attorney, Emil Bove, cited a statement during cross-examination that could be helpful in strengthening the defense’s core argument when Hicks said her boss was concerned about the Daniels story because it would expose members of his family could hurt or embarrass you.

Another critical twist in the trial will come with the expected testimony of Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer who served time in prison for tax fraud, made false statements to Congress and violated campaign finance laws.

As the trial progresses, Trump’s mood becomes irritable. He offers new insights into the extremism that could fuel his second term and is already posing a new challenge to American democracy, following his ignominious departure from office in 2021 after trying to steal the last election based on false claims from fraud.

At a private lunch at his Mar-a-Lago club on Saturday, he accused Democrats of “running a Gestapo government,” according to three attendees, equating the Biden team with Nazi secret police who hunted Jews in the region and committed genocide. Holocaust.

Trump continually repeats his accusation that his indictments are the result of a Democratic plot. But there is no evidence to support this. His comments about the Gestapo not only betray historical ignorance, but also underline that there are no limits to the ex-president’s use of inflammatory rhetoric in his attempt to win the elections. Last week, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Trump refused to guarantee that he would accept the outcome of the next election. And in an interview with Time magazine published last week, he said violence is possible depending on the “fairness” of the election.

James Singer, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Trump’s comments at the fundraiser showed the danger of a possible second term that the ex-president said would focus on retaliation. “Trump is once again making despicable and offensive comments about the Holocaust while in the same breath attacking law enforcement, celebrating political violence and threatening our democracy,” Singer said.

Democrats register increasing concern about the consequences of protests

Democrats face another week of the political fallout from campus protests over Israel’s war in Gaza.

A wave of protests on campuses over the civilian massacre in the enclave has proved a tough test of Biden’s appeal among progressive and young voters he needs to help him defeat Trump in November.

After days of building political pressure, the president addressed the situation on camera for the first time last Thursday, saying that the right to protest is an essential American freedom, but that it is not acceptable when demonstrations turn violent. He condemned anti-Semitic incidents reported against some Jewish students and said he was not reconsidering his staunch support for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks — despite his oft-ignored calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to do so. more to protect civilians in Gaza.

Trump and Republicans have used the protests — and police operations to clear them at some schools — to underscore their narrative that the country under Biden is spiraling out of control and that Trump could restore law and order.

But during his speech on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Biden campaign national co-chair Mitch Landrieu returned to an analogy from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who compared the current protests to anti-Vietnam war sentiment in 1968 that then caused: President Lyndon Johnson has decided to abandon his re-election bid. Landrieu said the independent senator’s view from Vermont was “overexaggerated.” He added: “This is a completely different circumstance. I think people who actually went through that very difficult time; they would say this is not comparable. However, that does not mean that this is not a very serious matter.”

Some Democrats have downplayed the impact of the protests, citing polls that suggest the war in Gaza is far down the list of concerns for most young voters, despite dramatic scenes at many universities. But Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, a staunch supporter of Israel during the conflict, warned that pro-Palestinian protesters could help Trump in November. “Like they want to throw Michigan to Trump like that — well, if you’re going to play with that fire … you better own that fire,” Fetterman said, referring to a swing state in which Arab Americans are a major part of the Democratic electorate. . He also warned that liberal voters would abandon Biden over his position on the war. “If you’re willing to walk away or actually vote for someone else, you’re throwing your vote away and you’re on the Trump train and you better watch out for the wreckage,” he said.

But another leading Democrat, California Rep. Ro Khanna, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that many of the protests across the country have seen constructive dialogue. “We must understand that this is a defining moment for this generation, on par with protests against Vietnam, protests against apartheid and protests against the war in Iraq,” he said. ‘They tell us that more than 30,000 people have died. It’s time for this war to end. It is time to release the hostages that Hamas has, and they want to see leadership in America and around the world.”

Johnson fights for survival again

In another major political drama looming this week, Johnson is expected to survive a vote called by Greene to impeach him and plunge the Republican Party into further chaos. After Johnson pushed through Biden’s request for billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine last month, Democrats are likely to vote to save the speaker. But even if he survives, no Republican speaker wants to give the impression that he is in power solely because of the opposition party, and the Louisiana lawmaker’s long-term future remains cloudy.

Many Republicans, even those cool to the rookie speaker, don’t want to see another government farce unfold, like the plurality vote to elect Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, and the vote to impeach the Californian last year — and then replace.

Right-wing extremists, taking advantage of the slim Republican majority, have made the House virtually ungovernable since the party took over after the 2022 midterm elections. But despite signs that Greene’s patron, Trump, has praised Johnson and is unenthusiastic about more chaos in the party that could complicate his and the Republican Party’s chances in the fall, she vows to press on after accusing Johnson of betraying core Republican voters.

The CNN Wire
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