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When Monsters Are Cornered

The tyrant Putin declared a partial military mobilization to call up as many as 300,000 poorly trained, equipped, and motivated reservists to serve as cannon fodder in Ukraine where Russian forces are presently conducting a special military regrouping in response to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. In Wednesday's address announcing the mobilization, Putin voiced support for sham referenda in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine that will serve as a pretext for annexation. This lays the groundwork for Russia to claim that Ukrainian military operations in these areas are assaults against its sovereign territory and thus acts of war. The specter of nuclear weapons was again bandied about, as it has been since the beginning of the invasion.

In Russia the regime's mouthpieces and radical hardliners view Ukraine as the frontline in a war with the West. The population on the whole may more or less buy into the narrative parroted on the only news sources available to them but remain largely indifferent to the war, going about their own lives, as long as it does not affect them directly. With the mobilization, the war comes to them, or more of them, at any rate (Inskeep). Reaction was immediate. Direct flights to Istanbul and Yerevan, Armenia, reportedly sold out minutes after Putin's address yesterday (Kaonga). Protests erupted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere (Peter, Gozzi). Not clear is how widespread this reaction is or how effectively, and brutally, it will be suppressed by the authorities.

How much of this is about Ukraine? How much about a paranoid brand of messianic Russian nationalism? And how much about Putin's political (and perhaps existential) survival?

On our side of the pond twice-impeached, multiply investigated, multiply sued former president Trump has gone full QAnon. He posted a photo of himself with a QAnon lapel pin and the Q slogan "The Storm Is Coming." A weekend rally in Ohio featured QAnon theme music. Video from the rally where Trump raged incoherently evokes newsreel footage from Germany in the 1930s.

Two takes on Trump's embrace of QAnon. Tom Nichols sees it as a dark and dangerous turn for American politics:

Saturday night’s Ohio rally was not a typical Trump carnival, and it was not just ridiculous—it was dangerous. His embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theorists represents a new expansion not only of Trump’s cult of personality, but of his threats to sow violence.

Despite his seeming inability to remember anything from one thought to the next, Trump has a kind of lizard-brain awareness of danger—only to himself, of course—that guides him when he’s faced with threats. His reflex in such situations is to do whatever it takes to survive…He is in political and legal jeopardy now, and he has decided to escalate his war against the rule of law, the American system of government, and the American people by embracing and potentially weaponizing QAnon.

Juliette Kayyem offers a positive observation. Trump, she says, is only signing on with QAnon now because he is flailing.

Even if he manages to fire up some supporters by explicitly endorsing QAnon, he is likely to alienate many more Americans for whom the cult’s ideas seem creepy and off-putting.

I am more optimistic [then Nichols]. Trump is at or near rock bottom. His overt adoption of QAnon shows that he has few alternative political strategies left to play. He is grasping at straws, not solidifying his political base.

In the meantime, the special master Trump requested is cracking the whip. Judge Dearie reportedly instructed the parties to disclose any details about materials the Trump team claims have indeed been declassified because he cannot tell simply by the markings on the documents whether they have been declassified. Trump's attorneys balked on the grounds that they do not want to show cards that might be used if a criminal case is brought against their client. To which Dearie responded, "You can't have your cake and eat it." He wants to see the record reflecting the declassification process. He also remarked that because Trump filed the request as a civil action, the burden is on him to prove the government cannot proceed. The government does not have to prove anything at this point.

Kimberly Wehle asserts that the special master saga is not a big deal legally for the FBI and not a win for Trump. The declassification claim is a sideshow that slows things down but does not derail them. As the DOJ argues, Trump's objection regarding classification is beside the point because

the Espionage Act (one of the legal bases for the search) doesn’t care if information is classified—it only refers to "defense information." So a declassification determination would not make the documents irrelevant to DOJ’s probe, and even if it did, that wouldn’t mean that Trump gets to keep them… (Wehle)

We teeter on multiple brinks. Will anyone blink?

Breaking news. A three-judge appeals court panel overruled Judge Cannon. Two of the judges on the panel were appointed to the court by Trump, the third by Barack Obama. The ruling was unanimous.

A three-judge appeals court panel has granted the Justice Department’s request to block aspects of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that enjoined a criminal investigation into highly sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The panel ruled that Cannon erred when she prevented federal prosecutors from using the 100 documents — marked as classified — recovered from Trump’s estate as part of a criminal inquiry. (Cheney)

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