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TL(PM) DIGEST: The Trump circus moves on to Miami
Plus Trump's indictment hurts him with independent voters, China's failed attempt to keep South Korea and Japan apart, and inflation continues to slowly slow
1. Trump pleads not guilty to federal charges
What happened? Former president Donald Trump was arraigned in a Miami federal court today and pled not guilty to 37 felony counts that he willfully retained national defense documents, obstructed federal government efforts to retrieve them, and lied about his actions.
Why does it matter? Trump became the first current or former U.S. president to plead to federal criminal charges today. Though it did not materialize today, the threat of violence by Trump supporters remains very real given the former president’s chronic loose talk and the precedent of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol.
TLP’s take: Trump faces serious criminal charges that ought to disqualify him from any high office, ones he could have easily avoided had he simply returned the classified documents in his possession to the government when asked. The threat of violence or the prospect that these charges will fail to dissuade his die-hard supporters should not deter the federal government from prosecuting Trump in this matter.
2. Federal indictment helps Trump with GOP primary voters, hurts him with independents
What happened? New polling from various sources conducted after the unsealing of the federal indictment counts against former president Donald Trump show him consolidating support in the GOP primary but losing ground with critical independent voters.
Why does it matter? Ipsos/Reuters polling finds Trump’s lead in the Republican contest down only slightly from early May with Trump leading his nearest rival Gov. Ron DeSantis by 21 points with the overwhelming majority of Republicans—more than eight in 10—saying the charges against Trump are politically motivated.
By contrast, another Ipsos poll with ABC News finds that a majority of independents—63 percent—find the charges against Trump to be very or somewhat serious. Likewise, the New York Times reports on a new CBS News/YouGov poll that finds “69 percent of independent voters said they would consider Mr. Trump’s possession of documents about nuclear systems or military plans a national security risk (46 percent of Republicans said the same, suggesting a potential fracture in the party over that point).”
TLP’s take: Like every other American, Donald Trump deserves his day in court and a fair trial with the legal presumption of innocence. But he only has himself to blame for these federal charges; if he didn’t want to get indicted and potentially face years in jail, he shouldn’t have committed serious crimes like obstructing a federal subpoena.
Meanwhile, Trump surely loves the attention and chance to force his GOP opponents to bend the knee to him while the rest of the country grows further disenchanted and disgusted by his antics.
3. China’s failed attempt to browbeat South Korea
What happened? The Financial Times reports on Beijing’s failed campaign to prevent South Korea from forging security closer ties with Japan and theUnited States. Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington recently concluded a trilateral agreement to share real-time data on North Korean missile launches, a deal that comes on the heels of an attempt to achieve a more general rapprochement between Japan and South Korea.
Why does it matter? While South Korea previously took a more conciliatory approach to China, this approach only encouraged greater demands from Beijing. Now South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol looks intent on deepening relations with both America and Japan, floating the possibility that Tokyo could be brought into the U.S.-South Korea nuclear planning initiative agreed to during a state visit to Washington earlier this year.
TLP’s take: Closer cooperation between America’s two closest allies in the Pacific—both fellow democracies as well as critical economic partners for the United States—is certainly welcome. It’s also important to recognize that Beijing’s browbeating form of diplomacy has its own inherent limits, even (or perhaps especially) with its own neighbors.
4. Overall inflation down from last year’s peak, but still above Fed target
What happened? The Labor Department’s consumer price index rose 4 percent in May compared to one year earlier. So-called core inflation, excluding food and energy costs, rose 5.3 percent in May compared to the previous year.
Why does it matter? Overall inflation shows clear improvement from the 9.1 percent peak recorded last June. It remains stubbornly elevated and below the Federal Reserve’s two percent target, however, potentially leading to further interest rate hikes in the weeks and months ahead.
TLP’s take: America’s fight against inflation has made slow and steady progress without inducing a recession or causing widespread unemployment. Job growth and investment remain high, but high costs for many goods and services, including travel-related expenses ahead of summer break, mean inflation remains a top priority for many voters—and popular sentiments toward political leaders and government will not improve until inflation is further tamed.
Just one more thing…
A dinosaur fossil rush has broken out in the Australian outback, with farmers and paleontologists alike discovering dinosaur teeth and bones across a continent previously believed to lack them.