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Republicans Say They Can Win in the Delaware Valley

President Joe Biden, aka “Scranton Joe,” has the lowest approval rating of any modern president at this point in his term. Americans are unhappy about their economic circumstances, they’re angry about chaos at the border, and they hold Biden and his party responsible.

And yet, in Pennsylvania, Republicans are struggling to win elections. That struggle is particularly difficult here in the Delaware Valley. As the 2024 presidential race approaches, Pennsylvania Republicans are asking: What can we do to win?

At the center of this conversation is a familiar name: Donald Trump.

Despite his legal problems, Trump is generally expected to be the Republican nominee. A recent Morning Consult poll found 80 percent of GOP primary voters want Trump to be at the top of the ticket.

State Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) said Biden’s falling approval ratings are the result of Democrats ignoring issues that matter to the American people. She went on to say the GOP can win in the Delaware Valley by focusing on what people care about.

“People are tired of Democratic politicians focusing on issues that don’t matter,” White said. “The GOP can win because we are focused on what people care about: giving families real choices when it comes to an education that is best for their kids. Next, combatting inflation and protecting their money, keeping neighborhoods safe from violent criminals and drugs, and fighting illegal immigration and all the problems it’s causing.”

To put another perspective on White’s remarks about Democrats not focusing on the issues voters care most about, a recently published report shows Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick outraised incumbent Sen. Bob Casey in the fourth quarter of 2023, a reported $6.4 million, more than Casey has raised in a single quarter.

“Dave McCormick has earned the support of Pennsylvanians from all walks of life because they believe he is the kind of leader who can address the burden of inflation on working families, push for a secure border, and protect the security of Americans at home and abroad,” McCormick’s campaign manager Matt Gruda said in the published report.

An NBC News poll shows Biden’s job rating has hit an “all-time low” of just 37 percent. He gets especially low marks when it comes to his handling of inflation and immigration.

David Dix, CEO and chairman of Luminous Strategies, said that even with his legal problems, it’s clear many Republican voters are pushing for Trump to challenge Biden again. He said if the GOP wants high numbers of voters in the Delaware Valley, it must separate Donald Trump and other local Republicans.

“I don’t see the border problems as one of the top three issues of concern for voters in the Delaware Valley,” Dix said. “For the GOP to do well in our section of the state, they have to …not be attached to the Trump brand, and that’s a delicate dance. In the Delaware Valley, voters are most concerned about paycheck issues, meaning inflation and being heavily taxed. Another top issue for Delaware Valley voters is who is serving on school boards. One of the key national issues is the economy. Clearly, Bidenomics has fallen flat.”

Dix, who has more than 25 years of political and electoral experience, is a regular commentator on Inside Story, a weekly public affairs program on 6ABC WPVI. He went on to say that while border security might not be one of the top three issues of concern to Delaware Valley voters, it is definitely on the list.

“Border protection is important and can’t be minimized,” Dix said. “If the GOP wants to sway more voters to its camp, it needs to develop a comprehensive strategy. Biden must do that. If Trump wins the nomination, he has to position beyond just building more border walls as it pertains to immigration. An overall strategy is needed if the problem is to be finally addressed.”

Two cases show how serious the open border policies by the current administration are. A report released on Jan. 26 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated its officers working at the Paso Del Norte border crossing encountered individuals in four different incidents trying to smuggle fentanyl and methamphetamine concealed internally within their bodies.

Montgomery County law enforcement officials also announced on Jan. 26 the arrests of two individuals charged with multiple felony offenses related to running a major drug trafficking organization supplying Southeastern Pennsylvania with heroin, fentanyl, and Xylazine. The defendants in the case are Richard Nunez and Javier Cornelio Fabian, both of Philadelphia. Investigators seized almost 400,000 doses of the narcotics worth $3.6 million.

Calvin R. Tucker, deputy chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, also remarked that runaway inflation is a major issue for most Americans and one that the president and other Democratic candidates don’t appear to be focused on. He also said the Republican Party must include minority voters in its decision-making on all of the nation’s problems.

“During the Trump presidency, the nation saw its lowest unemployment, and there was no runaway inflation,” Tucker said. Tucker is the managing director of Eagles Capital Advisors, LLC, and has been a Republican for more than 50 years.

“The GOP needs to show leadership and has to include minority leaders in decision-making to move us forward on the very important issues of concern to us. We have to be part of the discussions to find solutions to wealth disparity, poverty, and health. Immigration is important, and citizens in the commonwealth want to welcome legal immigrants. But also, the government has to demonstrate that we are the priority and be forceful in showing illegal immigrants aren’t.

“Biden is struggling to win back Black voters because the administration favors illegal immigrants. America needs a president that is going to put its citizens first and that is Donald Trump. Trump was president for four years, and the problems we have now – not being able to fill our cars with gas and high food prices – didn’t exist. As for his legal problems, they’re based in political theory, not legal theory.”

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‘Moms for Liberty’ Rocks Cradle of Democracy

In a display of the political power of the parents’ rights issue,  five Republican presidential candidates—including former President Donald Trump — appeared at this weekend’s Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors National Summit in Philadelphia.

The crowd of more than 650 at the Philadelphia Marriott cheered Gov. Ron DeSantis, who noted, “I think moms are the key political force for this 2024 cycle.”

Tia Bess, outreach director for Moms for Liberty, introduced DeSantis, describing how she fought to reopen Florida schools for her autistic son, who needed in-person learning.

“I made a decision to fight for my kid,” she said. “It was my governor who put the power back in the hands of the parents with a parental bill of rights…Gov. DeSantis reopened schools in the fall of 2020.”

DeSantis said Florida enacted a parents’ bill of rights because he understands schools should “support students and parents” not “supersede the rights of parents.”

“Parents have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children…Every parent in this country should have the wherewithal to send their child to the school of their choice.”

He said his state has universal education savings accounts where the money follows the students in Florida. There are also 363,000 students in charter schools. He said Florida ranked third and fourth in the country in fourth-grade reading and math. Florida parents also have the right to know what curriculum is being taught.

DeSantis also refuted claims that keeping sexually explicit content out of school libraries is a “ban” and touted Florida’s efforts to force textbook companies to change “woke” textbooks “that were totally off their rocker.”

“We don’t subcontract our leadership out to woke corporations,” DeSantis said about Disney’s opposition to the ban on teaching young children about gender ideology. “We oppose the sexualization of children,” said DeSantis. “We will fight any institution seeking to rob our children of their innocence. On those principles, we will never compromise.”

Trump gave a wide-ranging speech, touching on parental rights and foreign policy and criticizing Biden’s “corruption” for taking “millions and millions of dollars from China.”

Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice talks to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“He recently ordered his top political opponent arrested. That’s me,” said Trump.

“They’ve even targeted you, patriotic parents, at school board meetings,” he said while ignoring bad actors. “Antifa. BLM. Corrupt thugs, they don’t go after at all.”

“We have proven beyond all doubt there is no earthy force beyond the love of a mother for her children,” Trump said. Mothers across the country have “taught the radical left Marxists a lesson they’ll never forget: Don’t mess with America’s moms.”

And the “radical left slandered Moms for Liberty as a hate group,” he said. “These people are sick.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a progressive activist organization, included Moms For Liberty on their “Hate Map,” along with groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Trump mentioned the border crisis, the Ukraine-Russia war, and Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump predicted he would win suburban women, a key demographic because those women oppose endless wars.

“I will stop World War III,” Trump said.

Warrington Supervisor Vanessa Maurer and pro-life activist Kathy Barnette

“We will put parents first,” said Trump. “We will put children first. We will put America first again.”

Trump added, “We want our children to love America as much as we love America.”

If re-elected, he would send the responsibility for education back to the states and do away with diversity, equity, and inclusion mandates.

He also promised to ban “sexual mutilation in all 50 states,” a reference to performing permanent sex-change medical procedures on children.

“Instead of taking children to church, they’re taking them to drag shows,” he said. “We must take school boards back.”

He reminded the group that he appointed 300 federal judges and three U.S. Supreme Court justices. He praised the high court’s ruling Thursday overturning affirmative action and the landmark ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade.

Former South Carolina governor and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said moms care about everything from crime to national security. She mentioned the country’s $32 trillion debt and blamed Republicans and Democrats for wasting money.

On education, she said, the country had problems with poor test scores before COVID.

Ambassador Nikki Haley

“You’ve got biological boys playing in girls’ sports,” she said. “This is one of the biggest women’s issues of our time…We have to fight for our girls.”

While massive protests predicted by opponents of parental rights failed to materialize, about 100 or so protesters gathered outside the venue during Trump’s speech. And vandals defaced the Museum of the American Revolution, where the Moms held their welcome dinner Thursday evening.

Warrington Township Supervisor Vanessa Maurer came to support Moms for Liberty when she heard about protests, even though she’s not a member.

“I like their message,” she said. “When I saw all the protests saying they wanted to shut down a ‘group of domestic terrorists,’ I thought, ‘I know a lot of these moms. This is ridiculous.’ If we don’t stand up and support these groups that are supporting our liberties and our freedoms, then it’s really going to be lost. We have to have people start speaking up and support people who are supporting our freedom of speech, our liberties, and our faith.”

Kathy Barnette, a pro-life activist who ran for Congress and the U.S. Senate, gave the invocation Friday morning.

“I’m a mom,” she said to DVJournal. “There is no more powerful group of people than moms from conception to whatever the natural end may be. There is no more powerful role for our nation than a mom who cares about her family, her children, and the kids the country they’re going to inherit. This is amazing to see moms take their role.”

“I homeschooled my kids,” she said. “Ten years ago, I saw what parents are seeing now…Today all these moms being involved is encouraging.”

Upset over school COVID lockdowns, Whitpain resident Maureen Bogat started the Montgomery County chapter of Moms for Liberty with Vicki Flannery.

Then parents saw what was being taught.

“My child was online one day, and she was told…because she was White, she was privileged. There was no such thing as reverse racism. I’m like, ‘What is this? Shut that off now. What is that garbage they’re teaching you? What does it have to do with school?’ It opened parents’ eyes.”

Tina Descovich, who founded Moms for Liberty with Tiffany Justice, said they both were school board members in Melbourne, Fla. and decided to launch the organization to help all moms advocate for their children because of what they’d learned “behind the education curtain.”

“We saw the authority and power that school boards have to impact student learning,” she said. “With the education crisis we have in America right now, with two-thirds of fourth graders not being able to read on grade level, with the lowest reading scores since the 1980s and the lowest math scores that have just come that are the lowest we’ve had recorded, we feel we need to get quality people serving on school boards so that we can improve educations.”

Asked about the recent brouhaha over one chapter’s inclusion of a quote from Hitler in their newsletter, she said, “It was a mom in a small local chapter. She put the quote in the newsletter as a warning about who controls education controls the country. She put it as a warning.”

Moms for Liberty has nearly 100,00 members with 195 chapters in 43 states, with Pennsylvania the second highest after Florida. There are chapters in 27 Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties.

FLOWERS: Ramaswamy Keeps it Real in Philly Town Hall

I have not yet decided on my candidate for president in 2024, but I know the two people I will not be voting for: Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Trump got my vote twice, and I don’t regret that even though I was never a full-throated supporter of the real estate-magnate-turned-media personality-turned politician-turned-indicted Floridian. He did some great things, and every time I look at the Supreme Court, I say a little prayer of thanks to the man who cemented a conservative majority for decades to come.

That said, he’s just not the man for the job in the next round. As far as Biden is concerned, and let’s put this in Catholic terms since both of us belong to the faith — in his case nominally in my own imperfectly: I would not cast a vote for him even if I were Joan of Arc and Biden was the guy holding a fire hose.

So that leaves me shopping for a candidate who appeals to my needs, preferences, and patriotism. So far, I’ve met one that comes very close to checking off every box.

I had the pleasure of participating in a recent town hall at the Union League, where tech billionaire and New York Times best-selling author Vivek Ramaswamy was the keynote speaker.

At 37, Ramaswamy is young enough to be my son, and as he stated quite proudly at the event, “I am the only Millennial running for president as a Republican.” Interestingly, though, he considers himself a GOP candidate more out of convenience than conviction, in the sense that while he is very conservative on most social and economic issues, he nonetheless rejects the constraints that party labels place on him. If he had to choose a party, the GOP is a better fit than the Democrats, but he refuses to be bound by party dictates.

In that, he reminds me very much of Donald Trump in 2016, an outsider who chose to run as an insider.

Ramaswamy’s main focus at the town hall was the fentanyl crisis destroying a generation of people, mostly young but also older people, who began their tragic downward spiral decades ago. Before arriving at the Union League, Ramaswamy was on the ground in Kensington, doing something more of our would-be leaders should do — seeing the lived experience of struggling Americans with his own eyes.

He walked the degraded streets of Kensington with former U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnett and media personality Benny Johnson, who emceed the program later in the evening. Ramaswamy said what he saw shocked him. But as he noted at the town hall, it also confirmed for him that this cultural carnage is a result — not the root cause — of the addiction problem.

Speaking to the town hall audience, Ramaswamy weaved in topics like immigration reform, our dependence on China, and the need for more rehabilitative tools. Ramaswamy was also an extremely eloquent advocate for “pro-life” social reforms. In fact, he made sure to point out that while he is pro-life, he believed that every life has value, including those lost souls wandering about like zombies in Kensington. The late Cardinal Bernardin promoted the “seamless garment” argument: every life must be treasured, from conception to natural death.

Underlining his point and proving that behind every addict is a grieving mother, two women who had lost three sons between them to fentanyl overdoses gave powerful testimony and witness to the crisis. They urged Ramaswmany to remember their sons’ names as he continued his campaign: Tyler, Joshua, and Austin.

Another important point made at the town hall by panelist and local attorney George Bochetto was the laxity of prosecution by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. That was also an underlying theme for Ramaswamy, the need to support law enforcement and work with it as partners, not view police and other first responders as an impediment to social reform.

Listening to Ramaswamy speak was a revelation. Here was someone who honed his skills at Harvard and Yale, who had been extremely successful in the biotech world, and who was pouring millions of his own money into a campaign for change. A campaign, as the banner behind him read, for “Truth.” I was not the only person impressed by his spirit and his ideas.

As I said, I still haven’t made my final choice. But being part of that town hall put me a lot closer to a decision than I expected to be over a year out from the election.

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Counterpoint: Not a 2016 Rerun — Trump Is a One-Trick Pony

For an alternative viewpoint see, “Point: Republicans Falling into the Same 2016 Trump Trap.”

Those afraid that the 2024 GOP presidential contest will become a repeat of 2016 need not worry. The race is radically different this year; it will not play out the same.

First, former president Donald Trump is greatly diminished compared to 2015, when he first glided down his escalator in front of all those paid “volunteers.”

Second, the rest of next year’s budding GOP candidates are well-acquainted with the former president’s playbook and will know how to fight him.

Third, the “unstoppable” sheen that Trump once had has vanished after losses in every major election from 2018 onward. He must now labor under the worst label any politician can have: Loser.

Instead of a repeat of 2016, 2024 looks more like a continuation of what we saw in 2020: Trump cannot compete anywhere new,  and he cannot put any new voters or states in play. In short, he’s playing a losing game of being able to attract only voters who had previously supported him.

While he can still persuade many GOP donors to send their hard-earned dollars to his campaign, his political message now falters more than it inspires. Plus, the party has produced a few non-Trump grievance candidates, so voters still attracted to that style of messaging now have options they didn’t have in 2016.

More GOP primary voters will cast strategic votes in the 2024 primary because they know we need a stronger general election candidate than Trump. And now the balance of the Republican field can’t be snuck up on, as so many of them were back in 2016.

Trump is a one-trick pony. His trick is a good one, but, simply put, his opponents know what’s coming.

(A word of advice to them: Don’t go easy on Trump out of fear that his voters won’t return to you in the fall. None of them will ultimately vote for Biden.)

Finally, Trump’s opponents know the American people have rejected him, not once but three times: In 2018, when the GOP lost the House; in 2020, when it lost the presidency and the Senate twice (on election night and again on runoff day in Georgia); and once again last year. Trump’s invincibility cloak is tattered, torn and useless.

This is driving the entry of so many new candidates and so much new funding.

And don’t forget the myriad legal issues Trump faces in multiple jurisdictions from local, state and federal prosecutors. Unlike the civil trial he legally skipped recently in New York, he would need to actually attend any criminal trial, say in Fulton County, Georgia, or in federal court. Besides sapping his time, this would forcefully reiterate to the country in general, and to Republican primary voters in particular, that Trump is damaged goods, on the decline and — most important — the only GOP nominee who could lose to President Biden.

In 2016, Trump barely beat Hillary Clinton, the most compromised Democratic nominee in modern history. In 2020 he lost decisively to the second most compromised Democrat nominee. Let’s hope the other candidates in the Republican field act accordingly and that GOP voters realize our 2024 nomination needs to be stronger and more decisive.

EBERHART: It’s Time Republicans Got Serious About Winning

In 10 short months, presidential caucus-goers in Iowa will fire the official starting pistol on the 2024 race for the White House. For Republicans hoping to challenge the party’s standard-bearer for the nomination, though, it may already be too late.

The indictment of former president Donald Trump by a Manhattan grand jury has catapulted him to the top of the polls, rallying his supporters and swamping him in campaign donations. Trump raked in more than $4 million in donations within 24 hours of the indictment. He couldn’t have scripted a better recharge for his flagging third attempt at a second term.

Trump’s appeal to voters has always relied on portraying himself as a victim of a progressive left determined to silence him. As such, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, played right into Trump’s hands by delivering what, by most assessments, is a weak case that the former president violated campaign finance law during the 2016 campaign.

Winning the sympathy vote isn’t the same as winning the White House. That requires earning a majority of the vote in the general election, something Republicans haven’t done in the last four presidential contests.

Trump’s superpower has always been his ability to endure circumstances that would make others cringe. It’s one of the reasons his base adores him. Yet, even under the favorable conditions presented by the Electoral College, a Trump win in 2024 is, at best, a roll of the dice.

This week revealed that few Republican hopefuls can rival the former president’s popularity with the party’s base.

Polling after the indictment showed Trump leading the pack of Republican nomination hopefuls with 47 percent of support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with 33 percent support, was the only Republican who presented a serious challenge. Everyone else was in single digits.

DeSantis hasn’t officially entered the race, but few doubt his intention once the Florida legislative session wraps in May. Far from being scared off by his second-place finish, DeSantis’ showing only bolsters the case for his candidacy.

Any candidate under indictment undoubtedly faces longer odds of winning the general election. There are also the investigations into Trump’s handling of classified documents and the grand jury inquiry into election tampering accusations in Georgia that have yet to play out.

At some point, Republicans must choose the candidate with the best chance of taking back the White House, which means expanding the party’s current coalition. If the GOP base isn’t interested in winning the election that counts, what’s the point of being a party?

DeSantis offers Republicans an alternative with similar appeal among Trump’s populist base but without the legal minefield. He’s also a winner, sweeping into power in 2020 with a majority and long coattails that gave Florida Republicans a trifecta over the levers of power in the state.

Trump and DeSantis share a few similarities in policy, and they have a pugilist’s willingness to throw a punch, but they differ significantly in style. While Trump was playing the victim on social media this week, DeSantis was busy governing the third-most-populous state in the nation.

DeSantis has drawn criticism for appearing aloof and detached from the baby-kissing and glad-handing required on the national campaign trail. Still, he is free of the gaffs and grievance politics that define Trump.

DeSantis has established a solid following among GOP donors, too. The DeSantis-aligned Never Back Down super PAC raised $30 million last month. DeSantis also has $82 million in his state political committee, which could be transferred to Never Back Down or another entity supporting him when DeSantis announces.

Trump caught lightning in a bottle in 2016. His surprise victory over Hillary Clinton redefined presidential politics and shook up a staid GOP. Since then, though, his record has been defined by one disappointment after another. From losing the White House to Joe Biden in 2020 to not one but two Senate races in Georgia to the political fallout from January 6 to this week’s indictment in New York, the Republican Party under Trump has struggled to regain its mojo. Republican primary voters must decide which of the two candidates can go the distance and accomplish their conservative policy priorities.

Do Republicans want to cut the deficit, strengthen the border, and win the global competition with China or settle old scores and “own the libs”? There may not be a consensus on the answer to that question today, but Republicans need to decide soon. One thing is sure; the GOP can’t afford to spend another cycle looking backward and arguing over the outcome of the 2020 election.

I’m a lifelong conservative likely to support the candidate who wins the GOP nomination regardless. That said, voting for a winner this time would be nice.

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Is the Manhattan DA’s Case Against Trump Well-Founded or a Political Sham?

Is the 34-count indictment against former President Donald Trump as weak as some are saying? Or is it a formidable legal morass that Trump, even as he campaigns for president, needs to beat?

The indictment returned by a grand jury at the behest of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg claims Trump did not properly document business transactions regarding a hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said he believes the case should not have been brought.

Dershowitz wrote, “But this indictment speaks to how laughable and blatantly political this prosecution really is. It’s a tragedy. Bragg labored mightily – ultimately, he produced a mouse.

“In essence, this is a case about book-keeping,” Dershowitz continued.

He added, “Trump is accused of not accurately recording hush money payments on public financial documents. Consider how ridiculous that is. As I’ve written before, while immoral, such payments are legal and, in fact, common among high-profile people. It is also not uncommon to withhold why the actual hush money is paid.”

A key witness against Trump is his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who gave Daniels the $130,000 hush money check claiming Trump told him to do it. Cohen had previously pleaded guilty to nine charges in federal court and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Earlier, the U.S. Justice Department and Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance, also investigated the matter and declined to charge Trump.

Tom Hogan, a former Chester County district attorney who is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank, told DVJournal, “The case against former President Trump is an untested and highly technical legal theory based on deeply flawed witnesses. But in front of a Manhattan judge and jury, it is not an unwinnable case.”

In a City Journal article, Hogan said the indictment, whether he succeeds in convicting Trump or not, is a political win for Bragg, a Democrat.

Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former Montgomery County district attorney now in private practice, said, “We are supposed to be a nation of laws and not men. When prosecutors base decisions on political self-interest or to advance a political agenda, we become a nation of men and not laws. Who in their right mind thinks that is the way the law ought to be enforced?”

Joe McGettigan, a former assistant attorney general now in private practice, said, “As for the Trump indictment, well, this action reminds me of the statement attributed to Lavrentiy Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police. He is supposed to have said, ‘Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.’

“When I was responsible for making decisions about whether to charge persons with crimes, one of the bases for declining to charge was ‘lacks prosecutorial merit.’  DA Alvin Bragg had his man even before he was elected. Bragg then found his crime, regardless of the lack of prosecutorial merit. One need not be a particular fan of Trump’s, as I am not, to regret a politically motivated prosecutor bringing charges that lack prosecutorial merit, because he must ‘get Trump.’

“As a longtime prosecutor, this is an embarrassment,” said McGettigan. “As an American, it is repugnant. Obviously, many Americans look forward to the day when Trump is no longer powerful, or even relevant. An equal or greater number may come to hope for the day when those pursuing Trump are no longer in power either. Prosecuting crimes is to protect the public, not to attack political enemies.”

But other lawyers believe Bragg has the goods.

“This is your basic run-of-the-mill ‘the coverup is what gets you’ sort of crime.  Just ask (Richard) Nixon or Al Capone,” said Villanova Law School Vice Dean Michael Risch. “Is this case weak? Probably no weaker than those, depending on how you feel about the underlying crime that was covered up. People get a little more exercised about mob crime and campaign spying than they do about campaign donation violations. I suspect that people are regularly convicted under this statute for covering up run-of-the-mill wire fraud, etc.

“The prosecutor has to decide whether to go after someone and to that extent, it is political. But I don’t see this as a particularly weak case,” Risch continued. “You have a crime for which someone served jail time already. Whether you think it should be a crime is sort of irrelevant at this point, it is. You have falsification of business records to hide that crime. You have evidence that Trump directed the falsification. The toughest part of the case, I think, will be proving intent. Trump will argue that the coverup was to hide embarrassing facts, not to hide the crime, and that’s not actionable.”

Bill Mathesius, a former Mercer County prosecutor who went on to serve as a Superior Court judge, said the case is “not a slam dunk.”

“There are many consequential judgment calls made as to how to deal with any case. In the end, there are always variations of human judgment, which play a part, good or bad — it is not an algorithmic or immutable deduction,” said Mathesius.

“As a general proposition, all indictments and investigations have a political facet which is part of the human mechanism. For the most part, we, at least in the Northeast, do it ‘right.’ I think that while there is a droplet of politics in the Trump indictment, it is a worthwhile endeavor given the very real threat (Trump) presents to the notion of democracy. The simplest reflection upon Trump’s post-arraignment comments proves the point. Letting Trump just ‘walk’ is the antithesis of equal justice under the law.”

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DelVal Reacts to Former President Trump Indictment

Tuesday marked a first in American politics and criminal justice: Donald Trump is now the first former U.S. president to be indicted on criminal charges.

He pleaded not guilty to a 34-count felony indictment of falsifying records for a $130,000 hush money payment to former pron actress Stormy Daniels. Shortly after the 45-minute hearing, Trump flew back to Florida and was expected to give a speech from his Mar-a-Lago home Tuesday evening.

As he has since he first ran for president in 2015, Trump drew praise from admirers and scorn from critics. But the larger implications for the country also weighed on people’s minds.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications, believes people will rally to Trump’s cause.

“In the short term, it’s certainly going to boost President Trump’s ratings,” said Gerow. “Not only in Pennsylvania but across the country, particularly among Republicans. People that weren’t necessarily big Donald Trump fans will become big Donald Trump defenders because they realize how outrageous this is.”

Gerow added, “Look, every Republican in the state is going to be asked what they think about this, and virtually to a person, they’re going to say it’s outrageous. President Trump is being treated unfairly. And that benefits him. He’s the subject of all the conversation, and among Republicans, it’s going to be virtually unanimously positive.”

Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns said, “Note the symmetry of Trump’s quick return to the free state of Florida with the growing number of Americans who are leaving Northeastern cities, like Philadelphia and New York, to escape the disastrous policies of progressives. Rather than prosecuting violent career criminals, District Attorney (Alvin) Bragg routinely sets them free to terrorize New Yorkers. Now he used the grand jury as his pawn to fulfill a campaign promise to attempt to delegitimize President Trump.

“Today proves the Democratic Party has no interest in the safety of Americans and remains tactically terrified that, given the state of our nation, it cannot prevail in a presidential election without using political theatrics to undermine the opposition,” Kerns said.

Ryan Hyde, a Republican candidate for Chester County DA, said, “I’m very disappointed in the Manhattan DA. I don’t believe in prosecuting people who have left the office for political stuff. And the reason I say that is that’s what happens in Third World countries to keep dictators in power.”

With this prosecution, the country has embarked on “a slippery slope” that could lead to the prosecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Bidens, Obama, and others, he said.

“You see that in Latin America. When somebody gets out of office, the other party gets in, and they prosecute him. Everything they’re accusing Trump of their side has done as well. It’s a dangerous precedent,” said Hyde.

Gerow said, “This New York DA is out of his mind. He really is. This is just a brazen political move on his part, and I believe and hope it will backfire.”

“It’s horrible, and frankly, every American, regardless of your political persuasion or your opinion of Donald Trump, out to be frightened by this. It’s a scary proposition that they can just go after anybody, cobbling together these flimsy legal arguments to make a presumed misdemeanor into a felony charge,” said Gerow.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) tweeted, “No one should be above the law. Today proved that Mr. Trump was a president of many firsts — none of which were good for our country. His arraignment is another first—all of his own making. An immoral man. Corrupt citizen. Twice-impeached former president.”

Conservative pundit, lawyer, and frequent DVJournal contributor Christine Flowers tweeted, “To those who say ‘no one is above the law,’ I agree. I am a staunch supporter of applying the law equally to kings and commoners. However, I don’t believe this prosecution is anything more than a campaign promise fulfilled by a man who abused prosecutorial discretion.

“Far from being ‘above the law,’ Trump is, in this case, being subjected to prosecution not because of what he allegedly did, but because of who he is perceived to be by a large portion of this electorate. Any attorney, or voter, who claims the opposite is not being honest.”

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) said, “There is nothing unprecedented about a grand jury handing down charges in an indictment of a public official when presented with evidence of criminal conduct. That is how our criminal justice system works. What is unprecedented is a former president of the United States engaging in conduct that invites an indictment on 34 criminal counts. 

“We must swiftly reject any attempt to excuse such conduct and denounce all acts of violence, incitements to violence, and attacks on our justice system. Like all Americans, former President Trump is entitled to all protections guaranteed by our Constitution. We must allow our justice system to proceed free from political interference and unite as a community behind the fundamental American principle that no one is above the law,” she said. 

Delaware County GOP Chairman Frank Agovino said, “The Democrats will disingenuously affiliate President Trump’s troubles with local candidates. Just as they will falsely accuse our candidates of being extreme on abortion when nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is our locally elected Democrats and their current candidates share a radicalized view of abortion desiring to make full term abortions legal for any reason. Simply put, they are the extremist.

“I would caution voters from both parties to see through the political fog, and hold Democrats accountable to local issues that matter, fiscal instability, rising crime, record property taxes increases, and misguided priorities. National chaos, while distracting, has very little to do with a brighter future for Delaware County,” he said.

Asked if Republican district attorneys will now go after Democrats, including former presidents, who may have committed crimes, Gerow believes that will now happen.

“They’ve opened Pandora’s box,” said Gerow. “And I fear for the repercussions and ramifications of this…Some Republican district attorney somewhere is going to say, ‘Hunter Biden, and Biden’s brother and Biden himself and Hillary and everyone else, we’re going to figure out a way to go after them.’ It’s the weaponization of the criminal justice system, and it’s terrible and has incredibly bad potentialities.”

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Reaction to the Indictment of Former President Trump: Shock, Sadness, Anger

Donald Trump was indicted Thursday by a New York grand jury, becoming the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.

Is it a dark day in history, or is justice being served?

The Delaware Valley Journal noticed the following reactions on Twitter:

Radio talk show host Rich Zeoli: “N.Y. has no jurisdiction in this case, and it’s a joke prosecution anyway.”

“Somebody should be indicted, but it sure as hell isn’t Trump.”—Sean Parnell, former Senate candidate, veteran, and author.

Political consultant Dave La Torre said, “This is the ultimate #Trump Derangement Syndrome move. This may be the most spectacular backfire in American political history.”

Radio talk show host Dawn Stensland Mendte: “Breaking: First time in American History: Former President Indicted By Manhattan Grand Jury. Trump faces criminal charges. Unbelievable.”

Scott Presler, Republican voting drive organizer: “President Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury. If they can come for him, they can come for every single one of us…and they will.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel:  “When our justice system is weaponized as a political tool, it endangers all of us. This is a blatant abuse of power from a DA focused on political vengeance instead of keeping people safe.”

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks): “No person is above the law and all people are innocent until proven guilty as guaranteed by the Constitution. President Trump is no exception. Any protest regarding any indictment should be conducted peacefully and respectful of all state and federal laws.”

DVJournal asked others for their thoughts.

“Everyone in the MAGA community and moderate Republicans alike know this is a politically motivated charge. It will come back to haunt the Democrats as Trump’s supporters are now pissed and stronger than ever.”– Mike Domanico, owner of  The Trump Store.

“We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop in Washington at the Department of Agriculture where they must be set to announce massive subsidies for the U.S. banana industry to assure truth in labeling: America is now officially a banana republic.”—Michael Caputo, former Trump administration assistant secretary of public affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), the Republican candidate for governor in 2022 who had Trump’s endorsement, called it, “A dangerous politicization of our justice system.”

Mastriano added, “The weaponizing of  your justice system against the leading Republican candidate for president is unprecedented, disconcerting and dangerous.  This is a dark time for America.”

Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee said, “President Trump’s indictment is a sad day for the nation. While no one is above the law, likewise the American justice system should never be utilized to advance any political agenda. Hopefully, the facts will become clear and American people will be the final judge. That said, it my sincere hope that Delco voters remain focused on the local issues, and refute Democrat leadership that has given so many communities fiscal instability, a lack of integrity in government, streets that are less safe, and misguided priorities.”

And Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said, “I think it is safe to say that his supporters will be galvanized and rally around him right now, but the longer-term political consequences will be determined by the evidence and the course of the trial, particularly by how independent and moderate voters see it.”

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As 2024 Approaches, Is the Trump Base Still On Board?

Daria Novak described herself as a strong Donald Trump supporter in 2016, so much so that as the Republican nominee for Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District that year, she put Trump’s name above her own on campaign signs.

While she admires the accomplishments of Trump’s four years in office, she’s uncertain about another four years.

“In recent months, conservatives are split approaching the presidential election,” Novak said. “It’s not about a single man but it’s about a movement. The conservative movement is bigger than one individual.”

Trump is the only declared 2024 presidential candidate, seeking a non-consecutive second term in office. That’s a stark contrast to 2015 when Trump waited for a large field of declared Republican candidates before entering the 2016 sweepstakes.

What’s not different is that, like in 2015 and 2016, Trump has made some missteps since announcing his candidacy last November that might be politically fatal to other politicians. Despite that, he cruised to the nomination and won a shocking general election victory. The question is, “Will he have the capacity to do so again in 2024?”

Novak is not certain Trump will have the same level of Republican support for his third presidential run. “There were great results from the Trump presidency, but there were also negatives to his presidency,” she said. “Some are tired of Trump’s high level of tension.”

Mike Domanico, owner of the Trump Store in Bensalem said, “The Trump base is more supportive than ever. The country has been going in the wrong direction since day one of the Biden administration. People are saying they have had enough and are looking forward to 2024 if we make it that long.”

Bruce Breton, the co-chairman of Trump’s campaigns in New Hampshire, doesn’t see waning support for the 45th president. “Trump will be the top vote-getter and prevail in the primaries if he doesn’t clear the Republican field first,” Breton predicted.

Just as Trump defied naysayers in 2016, Breton said he would win another general election. “Under the Trump administration, we had low inflation, low gas prices, 401(k)s were up, and people were prosperous,” Breton said. “People will remember the policies and procedures of the Trump administration and that will impact both the primary polls and the national election.”

A recent Morning Consult poll has both good and bad news for the Trump campaign. The good news is Trump’s margin among potential primary voters, 48 percent to 31 percent, over his closest competitor, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The bad news is Trump is below 50 percent as a former president and two-time nominee for his party, even before the campaigning begins.

Meanwhile, since declaring his candidacy, Trump has given his critics fodder.

In November, entertainer Kanye West came to dinner at Mar-a-Lago and brought uninvited guests — provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and White nationalist Nick Fuentes. Trump, expecting West, was reportedly furious about the other two.

This is not likely to have any long-term consequences, Breton said. “Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t personally screen everyone that comes to Mar-a-Lago. I blame Kanye West for that.”

In December, Trump brought up the 2020 election and declared, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Not a popular stance among pro-Constitution conservatives.

In a January social media post, Trump also launched a full-throated attack on pro-life voters, a key part of the Trump coalition in his 2016 victory. “It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” Trump wrote. “It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters.”

Breton doesn’t anticipate Trump will lose the pro-life base after being the president most responsible for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision. “That was just Trump being Trump,” Breton said.

Pro-life activists disagree. “Trump is way out of line here on life. He does not have a pulse on where his potential base is — as many believed he has in the past,” tweeted Lila Rose, leader of the pro-life group Live Action. “This kind of nonsense will be a losing political strategy for him.”

On another front, Trump endorsed House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy for speaker. Then after the third round of voting, Trump issued another endorsement for McCarthy, trying to convince Republicans to “TAKE THE VICTORY” in another social media post. Yet, the House still went through 14 rounds of voting before McCarthy was elected.

“We needed reforms that the Freedom Caucus pushed,” Novak said. “Whether this shows the level Trump has over Republicans is questionable.”

It’s worth remembering that since 2015, Trump’s critics have labeled every unconventional move by Trump as the end of his political career, Breton said.

Richard Booker, former Radnor commissioner and school board member, believes the Republican base still supports Trump.

“While there are some who are now off of the ‘Trump Train’ due to the performance in the mid-terms, I don’t think that group is a significant percentage of the Republican base,” said Booker.  “Moreover, the mid-terms were not as bad as the legacy media makes out.  Most Trump backed candidates did well.  The poor results in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia Senate races were unfortunate. However, the GOP had significantly more seats to defend this cycle than the Democrats.  (The Democrats will have to defend many more than Republicans in the next cycle, and I believe that there will be significantly better results for the GOP then).

“I will support whomever comes out of the Republican primary,” Booker added.  “My prediction is that Trump will win the Republican primary if he stays in the race until the end.   In addition, most Republican voters recognize, that Trump is the only candidate who will aggressively enforce the border.  There are other great candidates in the GOP vying for the Presidency, however, Trump is uniquely experienced (and would be limited to only four years).

“In the end, the GOP will coalesce around Trump if he is able to beat down the many lawsuits and investigations that he faces, and make it to the end of the primary.  My opinion is that he has a very good chance to win again if he gets to the general election.  Media collusion, vote harvesting and other dubious election practices (see for example, the 2020 Time election article and Mollie Hemingway’s book “Rigged”) will be his biggest obstacles.”

 

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PA Treasurer Garrity Bans TikTok from Treasury-Issued Devices

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced Thursday that the social media app TikTok, which the head of the FBI recently called a national security concern, has been banned from all of her department-issued devices. TikTok is owned by ByteDance and is based in Beijing.

“Treasury’s computer network is targeted by scammers and criminals every day,” Garrity said. “TikTok presents a clear danger due to its collection of personal data and its close connection to the communist Chinese government. Banning TikTok from Treasury devices and systems is an important step in our never-ending work to ensure the safety of Pennsylvanians’ hard-earned tax dollars and other important, sensitive information entrusted to Treasury.”

This month, Treasury conducted an internal security review and determined that TikTok had not been used on any Treasury-issued devices. In addition to Garrity’s ban, which covers phones, laptops, and desktop computers, Treasury’s firewall has been updated to block access to both the TikTok app and its corresponding website from the Treasury network.

Also, Congress is poised to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government devices, and many states – including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia – have banned the app. It has been prohibited by Florida’s Department of Financial Services, Louisiana’s Department of State, and the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office. The Indiana Attorney General has filed two lawsuits against TikTok.

TikTok spokesman Jamal Brown said, “We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok. TikTok is loved by millions of Americans, and it is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, universities, student groups, and sports teams in those states will no longer be able to use TikTok to build communities and share information.

“We are continuing to work with the federal government to finalize a solution that will meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at the federal and state level. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies—plans that we are well underway in implementing—to further secure our platform in the United States, and we will continue to brief lawmakers on them,” Brown said.

Before joining TikTok in November, Brown formerly worked for President Joe Biden’s campaign and then the Pentagon.

Former President Donald Trump had similar concerns about TikTok security and banned the video app by executive order in 2020. However, Biden, who reversed most of Trump’s executive orders when he took office, revoked the TikTok ban, too.

Mike Caputo, who served as a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department in the Trump administration said, “Chinese TikTok is clearly a national security threat when it’s downloaded on government devices. Even more dangerous is the kind of federal bureaucrat who is stupid enough to download any Chinese app at all – imagine all the other foolish decisions they’re making.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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