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Democrats inch to the middle as Republicans flock to Trump – CNN

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A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Kristi Noem, the South Dakota governor, is one potential Republican candidate for president and her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, with its focus on her hands-off approach to Covid, sounded like the backbone of a conservative campaign.
Drawing distinctions with other governors. It was particularly interesting since she compared her own efforts to other Republican governors. Although she didn’t name names, think of Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas when you read this from Noem: “We’ve got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states; that they didn’t close their regions; that they didn’t mandate masks.”
And this: “Now, I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct.”
Or this: “Demand honesty from your leaders and make sure that every one of them is willing to make the tough decisions.”
As well as this: “South Dakota did not do any of those (measures). We didn’t mandate. We trusted our people and it told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.”
Note on South Dakota’s Covid deaths: A larger portion of South Dakotans died from Covid than it most other states, according to CNN’s tracker and Johns Hopkins. In South Dakota, 230 people per 100,000 died from Covid. In the United States as a whole, about 185 people per 100,000 died.
CNN’s Maeve Reston, who wrote about the speech, was among reporters who talked to Noem after her speech, when she made clear that the entire field will have to wait for Trump to decide on another run.
Inspirational. “I think he’d be fantastic,” Noem told Reston and others. “He gets up every day and he fights for this country,” Noem said. “Most people when they watched what he and his family went through would be exhausted and quit, out of discouragement. And the fact that he’s still fighting is inspirational to me.”
The lesson Republicans have taken, then, is that Trump is their inspirational leader and Trumpism is the way. But they’re ready in case he doesn’t run in 2024 and in that case they’re going to draft behind him.
Democrats look to moderates. Democrats are learning a very different lesson after Eric Adams, a moderate, won the New York City mayoral primary and Terry McAuliffe, an old school Clinton-style Democrat, won the Democratic primary for governor in Virginia.
Adams appeared on CNN over the weekend and criticized Democratic lawmakers for their efforts on gun control. He argued more should be done to control the flow of handguns into US cities.
This may be too simple, but it’s certainly worth considering: Democrats are inching to the middle and Republicans are running toward Trump.
‘Electricity and fervor for Trump is very much alive.’ What Matters asked Reston, who spent the weekend among Republicans at CPAC, for her thoughts on that oversimplification and whether there’s a middle in today’s GOP.
Here’s what she sent back:
RESTON: There certainly is a sliver of the Republican Party that is exhausted by Trump and ready to move on, but those people are by far the minority.
The more that I talk to Republican voters in places like Iowa and gatherings like CPAC — where the attendees are the true foot soldiers of the party — the more I’m struck by the fact that Trump isn’t going anywhere.
What I hear over and over again from GOP voters is that they have no desire to move on. They aren’t casting about for a new candidate for 2024 or even really thinking about other people who would run.
The vast majority of GOP voters I’ve talked to want to see Trump run again. They see his presidency as unfinished business and many have accepted the alternative reality he’s created about the 2020 election.
Yes, they like other potential contenders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who was, once again, the most popular choice after Trump in CPAC’s unscientific straw poll. But they see all these people like DeSantis, Mike Pompeo and Noem as mere back-up options if Trump decides not to run.
The electricity and fervor for Trump is very much alive.
Attendees literally left the room dancing last night after his speech. So as much as Democrats would like to believe that Trump is a “has-been” or a figure of the past — they are fundamentally misunderstanding the mindset of the GOP today.”
There were leaders of fringe groups like the Oath Keepers who were involved in the January 6 riot at the Capitol in attendance as well.
Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota who is not actively running for anything and has called on his party to evolve, was asked about CPAC on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday and he tried to equate extremists on the right to extremists on the left.
“The Republican party does not want to become the party of, you know, extremist folks who have conspiracy theories and are militant and violent, and the same is true on the left,” he argued, although the point here is that Trump, who controls the energy in the party, is intentionally appealing to extremism whereas Biden is talking about the need for unity.
“I think it’s a disservice to the debate to say there’s only crazy militant people on the right, said Pawlenty. “There’s also crazy militant people on the left, and the rest of us in a democracy have to be united enough and common — have enough common sense to say we’re not embracing any of that, right or left, in who we choose as leaders and how we govern our country.”
10 seats most likely to flip in 2022. Americans get their next say in who controls the national government in about sixteen months, when control of the House and Senate are up for grabs.
CNN’s Simone Pathe published her latest in a series of periodic check-ins on the political map.
Her list is of the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip from one party to the other. But only eight of them are considered to be competitive at the moment, according to Inside Elections. Four of those are controlled by Democrats at the moment and four are controlled by Republicans. Pathe’s slightly larger list features two additional retiring Republicans in Ohio and Missouri.
Each of these races will be shaped in the coming months as primaries develop. Both parties will have important decisions to make.
Top pickup opportunity for Democrats, per Pathe:
Pennsylvania where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is not running for another term — remains the seat most likely to flip, in large part, because it’s an open seat in a state that Biden carried last fall. And while this race may come down to whatever the national environment looks like next year, Democrats regard it as their top pick up opportunity — even if they don’t yet know who their candidate is going to be.
She outlines a crowded Democratic field and notes two names: Conor Lamb, the moderate congressman, and John Fetterman, the progressive Lieutenant governor. This could be an interesting primary. Neither man has officially jumped in the race.
The top pickup opportunity for Republicans, per Pathe:
Georgia — Republicans are eager to redeem their trifecta of recent losses here. But they’re still in a waiting game when it comes to who will avenge the loss to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who’s now running for a full six-year term. That’s because Herschel Walker, encouraged by Trump to run, continues to have a freezing effect on the field. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced his candidacy in early June, becoming one of the most prominent candidates so far, while other Republicans have been reluctant to jump into the race if they know someone else will have Trump’s backing. Former Rep. Doug Collins, for example, already passed on a run. Walker, who lives in Texas, teased a campaign with a June 17 video of him revving the engine of a car with Peach State license plates (in a garage). “I’m getting ready,” the former NFL running back said. Trump said in a radio interview last week that Walker told him he’s decided to run. GOP strategists, however, are nervous about a risky candidate jeopardizing a must-win seat.
Those who want to be in Republican politics are finding a way to talk the talk.
Revisionist history. J.D. Vance, the Ohio businessman who wrote the best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy” about how he got from growing up in a poor family in Ohio to Yale law school, is a prime example.
Scrubbing his past as he mounts a run for Senate, Vance has had to explain and delete tweets that were critical of Trump.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” Vance explained. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people and I think he took a lot of flak.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains what’s happening here:
Look. This isn’t complicated. In 2016, Vance wasn’t running for Senate. Now he is. What he said then was what he believed. What he is saying now — essentially totally disowning what he said then — is born of political necessity.
That necessity? Kissing up to Trump. The political reality at the present moment, and this has been the case since at least 2017, is that you simply cannot win a contested Republican primary unless you are outspokenly pro-Trump.

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Playing politics with the Governor-General's constitutional role – The Globe and Mail

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When Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Mary Simon urging her to refuse any request from Justin Trudeau to call an election, the NDP Leader knew perfectly well she would have no choice but to grant the Prime Minister’s request.

But such grandstanding is nothing new. It seems to be an unspoken role of the Governor-General to serve as a foil for opportunistic politicians who know that many Canadians don’t really understand what the Queen’s representative can or cannot do.

Mr. Singh urged Ms. Simon, who had been on the job one whole day, not to dissolve the 43rd Parliament if Mr. Trudeau requested it, because the Liberal minority government had won every vote of confidence, and the fixed election date is still more than two years away.

Governor-General will agree to a Trudeau request to call a snap election, expert says

Mr. Singh was speaking nonsense. If Mr. Trudeau were to ask Ms. Simon to dissolve Parliament and issue writs of election, “she would have no choice but to comply,” said D. Michael Jackson, president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada. “There is no constitutional reason why she should decline the advice of the Prime Minister.”

“The Governor-General’s only option is to acquiesce and dissolve Parliament,” said Andrew Heard, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University who specializes in constitutional issues, though he said he did not think the Prime Minister should be making such a request.

Because Canada’s Westminster-style constitution is largely unwritten, not everyone agrees on everything. But generally speaking, here is how things work:

After a federal or provincial election, the party in power before the legislature dissolved may remain in power, even if that party won fewer seats than another party, provided it has the confidence of the legislature. After the 1925 federal election, Liberal prime minister Mackenzie King chose to meet Parliament, even though Arthur Meighen’s Conservatives had won more seats. Mr. King was able to govern, for a time, with the support of the Progressive Party.

If the governing party loses a vote of confidence after it meets the legislature, the governor-general or lieutenant-governor does have a choice. On April 29, 2017, Liberal premier Christy Clark visited B.C.’s then lieutenant-governor, Judith Guichon, after the Liberals were defeated in a vote of confidence following the provincial election.

Ms. Clark advised Ms. Guichon to dissolve the legislature and call another election. Ms. Guichon could have done that. Instead, she invited NDP Leader John Horgan to test the confidence of the legislature. The Greens had already announced they would support the NDP.

“If there is a viable alternative government, within a relatively short period after an election, the governor-general can consider refusing the advice for an election,” said Mr. Heard. But Mr. Trudeau has governed in this Parliament for almost two years.

In 2008, when prime minister Stephen Harper asked then governor-general Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament, even though the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois had announced they were ready to defeat his government and install Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as prime minister, Ms. Jean followed Mr. Harper’s advice, because his government had survived a vote of confidence on the throne speech, several weeks before.

In 1926, when Mackenzie King finally lost the confidence of the House, he advised governor-general Julian Byng to dissolve Parliament. Instead, Mr. Byng called on Mr. Meighen to form a government. Since Mr. King had governed at that point for several months, he should not have done that. In any case, Mr. Meighen’s government was swiftly defeated and Mr. Byng had no choice but to call for an election, which Mr. King won.

Politicians understand how the system works: Apart from the very early days of a hung Parliament, the governor-general does whatever the prime minister advises. But sometimes opposition politicians play games. After the 2004 election – when Liberal prime minister Paul Martin helmed a minority government – Mr. Harper, as opposition leader, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe sent governor-general Adrienne Clarkson a letter urging her not to dissolve Parliament if Mr. Martin failed to obtain the confidence of the House. That letter was also grandstanding: Ms. Clarkson well knew her prerogatives.

The governor-general, as the Queen does, has the right to advise, to encourage and to warn her prime minister. If Mr. Trudeau does ask for dissolution, Ms. Simon might very well advise, encourage, or warn. But she will say that in private, and then she will do her duty.

As Jagmeet Singh knows perfectly well.

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Italy’s Mr. Fix-It Tries to Fix the Country’s Troubled Justice System — and Its Politics, Too – The New York Times

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The issue has become a test for whether Prime Minister Mario Draghi can really change Italy.

LODI — If there is one person who does not have to be persuaded of the need for Italy’s urgent push for judicial reform — which Prime Minister Mario Draghi has staked his leadership on — it is the former mayor of the northern town of Lodi, Simone Uggetti.

Early one morning, Lodi’s financial police knocked on his door, hauled him off to prison, strip searched him and put him in a small cell with a convicted murderer and a drug dealer. It was the start of a five-year ordeal — over the awarding of city contracts, worth 5,000 euros, to manage two public pools — that was used by his political opponents to destroy his career, his credibility, his reputation and his family.

“Who are you? You’re the mayor who got arrested, all your life,” Mr. Uggetti said this week, still visibly shaken by the experience, which ended only in May when an appeals court absolved him, saying no crime had ever taken place. He wept in court. “It was the end of a nightmare,” Mr. Uggetti said. “Five years is a long time.”

Such cases are all too common in Italy, where the far-reaching power of sometimes ideologically driven magistrates can be used to pursue political vendettas or where businesses can easily become ensnared in cumbersome and daunting litigation that is among the slowest in Europe.

Mr. Draghi is so convinced Italy’s courts need fixing that he has said he is willing to risk his government’s survival on the issue, by putting to a confidence vote new legislation that would shorten civil and criminal proceedings. Without speedier trials, he argues, all the economic renewal and political change required in Italy will not come — and there is a lot that needs changing.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

On Thursday evening, the government announced it had reached a unanimous agreement with a broad array of interests in the government. A vote will take place in coming days.

“The objective is to guarantee a speedy justice system that respects the reasonable duration of a trial,” Marta Cartabia, Italy’s justice minister, said Thursday night after the announcement. “But also guarantees that no trial goes up in smoke.”

The issue has become the first major test, beyond vaccinations, of whether Mr. Draghi, a titan of the European Union who helped save the euro, can leverage his formidable Mr. Fix-It reputation and the grand political coalition behind him to solve a long-festering problem that has threatened the democratic process and economy in Italy, the last of Europe’s major powers to escape far-reaching overhauls of its postwar systems.

Mr. Draghi’s gambit has all the potential to change a country where, as the saying goes, “you aren’t anybody unless you are under investigation.” It is nothing less than an attempt to restore Italians’ confidence in their political leaders and institutions after decades of anti-establishment vitriol, angry headlines and social media invective.

The threat of endless litigation, Mr. Draghi has argued, scares off foreign investors, constrains growing Italian companies, and could even keep Italy from meeting the requirements imposed by the European Union to gain its share of a more than 200 billion euro post-Covid recovery fund.

“Justice is one of the keystones of the recovery,” said Claudio Cerasa, the editor of il Foglio, a newspaper that has emerged as the voice of protecting the rights of defendants, and also frustrated accusers, from slow and politicized justice. He said Mr. Draghi “depoliticizes the conflict and brings it on a different level, which is the Draghi trademark, he transforms everything into common sense.”

Still, it is no easy task. But Mr. Draghi is betting that, after many decades, the political winds around the issue have shifted in his favor.

Justice emerged as perhaps the central theme of contemporary Italian politics in 1992, when the watermark Clean Hands investigation exposed complex, vast and systemic corruption that financed the country’s political parties.

The scandal came to be known as Bribesville and brought down a ruling class, marking the end of Italy’s First Republic after World War II.

Prosecutors became public heroes and, capitalizing on the spreading impression that all politicians were guilty of something, stepped into the power vacuum.

But so did Silvio Berlusconi, the brash media mogul, who became prime minister and a constant target of prosecutors who investigated him for corruption and other crimes. He portrayed them as politically motivated Communists, or “red robes,” and almost always beat the rap by running out the clock and reaching a statute of limitations.

That infuriated magistrates and eventually fueled a “hang ’em all” populist backlash led by the anti-elite Five Star Movement, which once again depicted the political establishment as a corrupt caste.

By 2018, Luigi Di Maio, one of its leaders, made lists of all rival candidates under investigation and called them “unpresentable.” The media splashed accusations and leaked investigations on front pages, and then barely mentioned or buried dropped charges or acquittals.

Max Rossi/Reuters

Now, that anti-establishment season seems to be waning, and populists have apparently made the calculation that, electorally, “lock-em up” no longer pays.

Mr. Di Maio, who led j’accuse Five Star protests against Mr. Uggetti and once rode the popular anger to victory in national elections, is now contrite. Now Italy’s foreign minister, he wrote an apology in Il Foglio to Mr. Uggetti after his acquittal in May for the “grotesque and indecorous manner” he behaved.

But Mr. Cerasa, Il Foglio’s editor, suspected that the change may be more tactical than heartfelt. He said that parties that wielded the judicial system as a weapon also felt its scorpion sting while in power, and faced a barrage of civil and criminal cases.

But something else has changed: Mr. Draghi has now become the organizing force of Italian politics.

With hundreds of billions of euros of E.U. assistance hanging in the balance, and a pandemic still in the air, establishment chops and palpable sanity are in high demand. Mr. Draghi is seen to have both and has seized the moment to consolidate power.

Gregorio Borgia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

No political novice, Mr. Draghi appears to have the support to pass his judicial legislation — and to put Italy on more solid footing by baking lasting change into the system.

The government’s agreement on the legislation includes Five Star, which had expressed concerns about letting criminals off the hook, but which ultimately agreed to withdraw their proposed amendments. Other backing came from the nationalist League party of Matteo Salvini; Mr. Berlusconi’s party on the right; the liberal Democrats on the left; and Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, though.

Marco Travaglio, the editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano, which has deep ties to magistrates and has served as a megaphone for Five Star’s aspersions, has been lashing out and angrily resisting what increasingly feels like the end of an era in Italian politics. This month he mocked Mr. Draghi as a privileged brat and characterized his justice minister, Ms. Cartabia, a former president of Italy’s constitutional court, as a rube who “cannot distinguish between a tribunal and a hair dryer.”

But for the most part, people are on board with Mr. Draghi, and Mr. Uggetti hoped that the prime minister would bring more balance to the system that nearly ruined him.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

Mr. Uggetti now works as the chief executive of a tech firm outside Lodi developing business management software. “I’m rebuilding my life,” he said.

Still, he misses being mayor. As he walked around the pool that was the source of his judicial nightmare, and which is now an empty ruin, he ticked off all the things he would fix (bike paths and roads), and pointed out historical tidbits (a bridge where Napoleon won a major battle, a statue of a scientist) as if he still represented the town.

He considered running for mayor again a possibility. But there was another possibility too. In Italy, a higher court can overrule an appeals court, cancel an acquittal and put a person on trial again. That higher court still has time to decide to retry him.

“They have the power to say ‘No, this appeal sentence is no good,’” he said, shaking his head. “I really hope that it finishes here.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome.

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Totalenergies CEO says its decision to exit Petrocedeno not linked to politics – Reuters

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A general view of a logo on the TotalEnergies headquarters in the La Defense business district in Paris, France, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) – TotalEnergies said on Thursday that the sale of its 30.3% stake in Petrocedeno was not linked to the political situation in Venezuela, its chief executive said.

Patrick Pouyanné was speaking during an analyst call.

Reporting by Benjamin Mallet. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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