‘Democrats Worry’ Is The New ‘Democrats In Disarray’

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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Do Better!

“Democrats in disarray” became such a staple of political journalism for a while that it eventually became a meme and enough of a source of ridicule that reporters began to become self-conscious about trotting out the stale plot device.

But “Democrats worry …” remains unfazed by the ridicule. The angsty, always fretting, pearl-clutching Democrats are a staple of vague political reporting that tries to capture a political dynamic but usually falls short of any real insights.

These Democrats, featured prominently but rarely named, may or may not actually exist, but they form the narrative glue for everything from too-early campaign stories that lack much substance to Hill stories that lack any scoops on legislative wrangling to White House stories where actual access was limited.

This weekend’s gem was from Bloomberg (emphasis mine): “But the prospect of facing upstart Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is prompting whispers of angst within Democratic circles.”

Just this year (it’s early February, yall), Democrats have worried A LOT:

WaPo: Some Democrats are worried about Harris’s political prospects

The Hill: Democrats worry Biden controversy will be Clinton emails repeat

The Hill, again: Democrats worry over potential of retirements in Senate

Politico: Dems fret policing talks will be tangled with Tim Scott’s presidential hopes

If you go farther back, into the fall, the crutch is used with even more hilarious/alarming frequency, peaking around the election.

Enough!

Sorry, I Have No Opinion On The Balloon

If you came here for balloon coverage, I’m sorry to disappoint.

Did Republicans go bonkers over the weekend trying to use it to damage Biden politically? Of course, they did. Was it comical watching them trying to outdo one another in their denunciations? 100%.

That’s all I have for now.

Trump To Pay $450,000 To Settle Campaign NDA Case

The former president wanted to keep secret the size of the financial settlement in a case that sought to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement Trump made his 2016 campaign workers sign. But the judge in the case refused to keep the settlement amount secret: It was $450,000.

Trump Defamation Cases Against WaPo Tossed Out

A federal judge has dismissed the former president’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post for a piece on the Mueller probe and for one on his 2020 campaign strategy. The claim against the first piece (by TPM alum Greg Sargent) was dismissed for failure to allege actual malice, the second because the piece was unactionable opinion.

Such A Weird Situation

As Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg seems to be reversing course and reinvigorating his office’s investigations of Donald Trump (for the Stormy Daniels hush money payments, among other things), a prosecutor who resigned over Braggs’ putting the probes on ice is a coming out next week with a new book.

Mark Pomerantz’s “People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account” gets a sharp review by former Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann in the WaPo. Weissmann, who himself tends to run hot, seems taken aback by Pomerantz’s own hot-headedness.

Must Read

TPM’s Kate Riga: “The Years Of Vitriolic Misogyny At The Heart Of The Paul Pelosi Attack“

TPM On TV

TPM’s Josh Kovensky joined Chris Hayes to talk about the bizarro secret recording we obtained from inside the congressional office of Rep. George Santos (R-NY):

Deep Dive On Santos’ Purported Pet Charity

NYT: George Santos Raised Money for Dogs. It’s Unclear Where It All Went.

Make A Note Of This

CNN has a new report out this morning on the FBI’s reaction to the arrest of one of its own: Charles McGonigal. But for our purposes, the shock of his former colleagues is less interesting than what CNN reports is the investigators’ emerging sense of his motivation for the alleged crimes:

  • “Sources briefed on the matter tell CNN that, at least for now, FBI officials view McGonigal not as a spy, but more as a corrupt former official looking to make a buck on his way out the door.”
  • “After conducting assessments of the possible damage done to intelligence information, as well as sources and methods that McGonigal possessed, the FBI came to view him as a case of simple corruption, according to people briefed on the matter.”
  • “There is no suggestion in the public indictment, either, that McGonigal committed espionage. Current and former FBI officials familiar with McGonigal and his work say they believe McGonigal – a former accountant – simply got ‘greedy.’”

This puts down a marker for the early coverage. More as it becomes available.

The Week Ahead

Morning Memo is no fan of the State of the Union address. It’s only one day of the year, but it generates a week’s worth of blather. Alas, it is upon us again.

Speaking of blather, the House GOP cranks up its bogus investigation Wurlitzer this week. Because of the way these messaging hearings get covered as if they’re legitimate, they’ll form a steady background noise all week. So even if you’re not a permanently enraged Fox News viewer, they’re going to seep into your news diet.

Tuesday, 10 a.m. ET: A House GOP messaging hearing – “On The Front Lines of the Border Crisis: A Hearing with Chief Patrol Agents” – kicks off in front of the House oversight committee.

Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET: President Biden gives the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

Wednesday, 10 a.m. ET: A top-tier House GOP nonsense hearing – “Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story” – gets underway in front of the House oversight committee.

Thursday, noon ET: Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan’s deeply corrupting “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” holds its first public hearing.

Trump Launches New War Against Transgender Adults

Dave Weigel digs in on Trump’s new attack on transgender adults, which takes things to a level beyond “protecting” kids and women’s sports:

But to both LGBT advocates and social conservatives, Trump’s policy rollout was a watershed moment, one that signaled a hard right turn from debates focused on transitioning youth to a broader attack on the very concept of transgender identity itself.

Seeking Accommodation On Classified Docs

Administration officials are trying to head off a confrontation with Congress while protecting their investigations into the mishandling of classified documents by Presidents Trump and Biden. Look for bids to find a compromise like this one.

Hundreds Dead Across The Region After Turkish Quake

The middle-of-the-night 7.8 magnitude earthquake in southern Turkey was felt across the Middle East, but particularly devastated parts of Turkey and Syria. The latest death toll is more than 1,600 with thousands more injured, trapped, and missing.

A powerful aftershock with a magnitude of 7.5 struck the same area later in the day Monday.

The images from the disaster zone are deeply distressing:

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