U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton sentenced Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, two former top associates of Governor Chris Christie, to prison time for their role in the “Bridgegate” scandal. Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, received 24 months, along with a year of probation, 500 hours of community service, fines and restitution. Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. A jury in Newark, New Jersey, found them guilty last November of all charges. As I wrote at the time:
Baroni … and Kelly were indicted [in 2015] on nine counts of conspiracy and fraud in connection with the scheme in 2013 to close lanes on a section of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, over the refusal of its Democratic mayor to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election. …
Federal prosecutors’ main witness in the six-week trial was David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who admitted to masterminding the plan. The jury also heard testimony from more than 30 other witnesses, including Baroni and Kelly. Federal prosecutors alleged Christie was aware of the actions of his aides.
Christie, a close associate of President Trump, consistently denied any knowledge or involvement in the lane closures, and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Kelly and Baroni will remain free while they appeal their convictions.
Iraqi Forces Battle ISIS in Mosul as Concerns Over Civilian Casualties Persist
Iraqi forces are battling ISIS militants in western Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that was captured by the Islamic State in 2014. Here’s more from Reuters today on the state of the fighting: “The close-quarters fighting is focused on the Old City surrounding the [ al-Nuri] mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate nearly three years ago across territory controlled by the group in both Iraq and Syria.” Thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, and as the fighting rages, their position is fraught. Indeed, as we reported yesterday, the Pentagon is investigating the March 17 coalition airstrike in Mosul that may have led to the collapse of buildings with at least 160 people inside. “It is very possible that Daesh blew up that building to blame it on the coalition in order to cause a delay in the offensive into Mosul and cause a delay in the use of coalition airstrikes,” General Mark A. Milley, the U.S. army chief of staff, told reporters Monday in Baghdad. “And it is possible the coalition airstrike did it.” But Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the senior coalition commander in Iraq, said: “My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties.”
Bob Dylan to Accept Nobel Prize This Weekend, Swedish Academy Says
Bob Dylan will accept his Nobel Prize for Literature this weekend, a member of the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the prize, has said in a blog entry. The academy announced last October that Dylan had won the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” But the famously reclusive singer did not acknowledge the award or indicate whether he would accept it until two weeks after the announcement, telling a British newspaper he would attend the ceremony “if it’s all possible.” Ultimately, he did not—but he did send a speech in which he said the prize “is something I never could have imagined or seen coming.” Which brings us to today’s blog post by Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. She said:
The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature. The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes.
The U.K.’s envoy to the European Union has hand-delivered a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the office of European Council president in Brussels, invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally beginning the process of talks over the U.K.’s separation from the European Union. The move comes nine months after Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU, a decision that shocked the political establishment, and sparked a rancorous debate in the U.K. on what a future U.K.-EU relationship should look like. It’s the nature of that relationship that talks between the U.K. and the EU will focus on. The process will take two years, during which time the U.K. remains a full member of the bloc. Those who campaigned to keep the U.K. in the EU want a future relationship to be similar to the one the country enjoyed with full EU membership, but the main sticking point, access to the EU single market, depends on the free movement of the EU’s citizens across the bloc—an aspect of membership deeply unpopular in the U.K. Linda Kintsler wrote yesterday about what happens next. Read it here.
The CDC’s latest COVID guidelines are the closest the nation’s leaders have come to saying the coronavirus crisis is done.
A quick skim of the CDC’s latest COVID guidelines might give the impression that this fall could feel a lot like the ones we had in the Before Times. Millions of Americans will be working in person at offices, and schools and universities will be back in full swing. There will be few or no masking, testing, or vaccination mandates in place. Sniffles or viral exposures won’t be reason enough to keep employees or students at home. And requirements for “six feet” will be mostly relegated to the Tinder profiles of those seeking trysts with the tall.
Americans have been given the all clear to dispense with most of the pandemic-centric behaviors that have defined the past two-plus years—part and parcel of the narrative the Biden administration is building around the “triumphant return to normalcy,” says Joshua Salomon, a health-policy researcher at Stanford. Where mitigation measures once moved in near lockstep with case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths, they’re now on separate tracks; the focus with COVID is, more explicitly than ever before, on avoiding only severe illness and death. The country seems close to declaring the national public-health emergency done—and short of that proclamation, officials are already “effectively acting as though it’s over,” says Lakshmi Ganapathi, a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. If there’s such a thing as a “soft closing” of the COVID crisis, this latest juncture might be it.
The first is the surge of Republican support for Donald Trump since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence.
The second is this summer’s flow of good news for the Democrats as the 2022 midterms approach. Democratic candidates are leading in Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As Politicoobserves, all-party primaries in Washington State show Democratic candidates running well ahead of their performance in 2010 and 2014, the last big Republican years. Democratic standing is rising in generic polling. Across the nation, indications are gathering that Republicans could pay an immediate political price for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Above all, the August economic news has turned good: gasoline prices declining, general inflation abating, job growth surging.
He has little option but to show loyalty to Trump even if it thwarts his own ambitions.
That the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida home has become a rallying point for Republicans—ever eager to demonstrate fealty to the former president and rage at government overreach—is not exactly a shock. What is noteworthy is how the news might shift political considerations in MAGA world.
In another universe, last week’s FBI search could have provided a perfect opportunity for a wannabe party leader like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to set himself apart. A reckless has-been running off with nuclear secrets? Not my president! But in this universe—and given this particular cult of personality—DeSantis has parked his wagon next to all the others encircling Trump.
“These agencies have now been weaponized to be used against people that the government doesn’t like,”DeSantis told a crowd on Sunday at an Arizona political rally alongside the GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and the Senate candidate Blake Masters. If the Florida governor had been gearing up to launch his own presidential bid, the FBI search—and what could come after—might be forcing him to rethink his plans. “Now that Trump is beleaguered and in legal trouble and the current narrative is Rally to the king!, he will rally to the king,” Mac Stipanovich, a Florida Republican strategist, told me.
The title of Paul Manafort’s memoir, Political Prisoner,is ridiculous, but at least he’s writing what he knows. For much of his professional life, Manafort served as a lobbyist and an image consultant for the world’s most prolific torturers. One of his clients, the Angolan revolutionary Jonas Savimbi, led an army that incinerated its enemies alive. Another of his clients, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, dumped hundreds of mutilated corpses in the streets to show the price of opposing him.
After spending 23 months in prison on charges of bank fraud, witness tampering, conspiracy, and tax evasion—the longest stretch in a low-security facility in Pennsylvania—Manafort now places himself in the same category as the victims of rape and beatings whose suffering he was once handsomely paid to minimize. This grotesque conflation feels like the fitting capstone to his career.
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New York in the summer is a noisy place, especially if you don’t have money. The rich run off to the Hamptons or Maine. The bourgeoisie are safely shielded by the hum of their central air, their petite cousins by the roar of their window units. But for the broke—the have-littles and have-nots—summer means an open window, through which the clatter of the city becomes the soundtrack to life: motorcycles revving, buses braking, couples squabbling, children summoning one another out to play, and music. Ceaseless music.
I remember, the summer before I left for college, lying close to my bedroom box fan, taking it all in. Thanks to a partial scholarship (and a ton of loans), I was on my way to an Ivy League college. I was counting down the days, eager to ditch the concrete sidewalks and my family’s cramped railroad apartment and to start living life on my own terms, against a backdrop of lush, manicured lawns and stately architecture.
Why are sacramental beads suddenly showing up next to AR-15s online?
Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.
Their social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (“God wills it”) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.Influencers on platforms such as Instagram share posts referencing “everyday carry” and “gat check” (gat is slang for “firearm”) that include soldiers’ “battle beads,” handguns, and assault rifles. One artist posts illustrations of his favorite Catholic saints, clergy, and influencers toting AR-15-style rifles labeled SANCTUM ROSARIUM alongside violently homophobic screeds that are celebrated by social-media accounts with thousands of followers.
The danger is not organized civil war but individual Americans with deep resentments and delusions.
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I’ve been thinking about the threats against law enforcement and Trump’s barely veiled warning to Attorney General Merrick Garland about a “country on fire.” We should no longer wonder if we can avert a new era of political violence in the United States. It’s already here.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
Civil war is among the many terms we now use too easily. The American Civil War was a bloodbath driven by the inevitable confrontation between the Union and the organized forces of sedition and slavery. But at least the Civil War, as I said Friday on Morning Joe during a panel on political violence in America, was about something. Compared with the bizarre ideas and half-baked wackiness that now infest American political life, the arguments between the North and the South look like a deep treatise on government.
For years, HBO has treated power struggles as delicious entertainment, wringing gasps and jitters from fantasy kingdoms, crime clans, and media families riven by ambition. Now the alpha of prestige TV is undergoing its own drama. Last week, news broke that Warner Bros. Discovery would cut staff and rethink the programming strategy for HBO Max as it planned to merge that service with Discovery+. A presentation for investors asserted that the two streaming platforms are “unique and complementary” because, among other things, HBO Max is the “Home of ‘Fandoms,’” while Discovery+, an ecosystem teeming with reality shows and nature docs, is the “Home of ‘Genredoms.’”
The shake-up looks likely to most affect HBO Max’s original content, which is largely separate from the slate of critical-darling shows that HBO is most famous for. But the presentation nevertheless played into one of the key myths surrounding the tag prestige TV: the notion that high-quality shows transcend the confines of genre. Really, in many cases, they are a genre—a fact that HBO’s emergent masterpiece Industry embraces to glorious effect.
The Romans enslaved people, enforced a rigid patriarchy, and delighted in the spectacle of prisoners being tortured at the Colosseum. Top minds of the ancient Western world—luminaries such as Aristotle, whose works are still taught in undergraduate lectures today—defended slavery as an entirely natural and proper practice. Indeed, from the dawn of the agricultural era to the 19th century, slavery was ubiquitous across the world. It’s hard to understand how our predecessors could have been so horrifically wrong.
We have made real progress since then. Though still very far from perfect, society is in many respects considerably more humane and just than it once was. But why should anyone think this journey of moral progress is close to complete? Given humanity’s track record, we almost certainly are, like our forebears, committing grave moral mistakes at this very moment. When future generations look back on us, they might see us like we see the Romans. Contemplating our potential moral wrongdoing is a challenging exercise: It requires us to perceive and scrutinize everything that humanity does.
Last spring, my boyfriend sublet a spare room in his apartment to an aspiring model. The roommate was young and made us feel old, but he was always game for a bottle of wine in the living room, and he seemed to like us, even though he sometimes suggested that we were boring or not that hot.
One night, he and my boyfriend started bickering about which Lorde album is better, the first one or the second one. This kind of argument can be entertaining if the participants are making funny or interesting points, but they weren’t, and they wouldn’t drop it. The roommate was getting louder and louder; my boyfriend was repeating himself. It was Friday; I was tired. I snapped and said, loudly, “This conversation is dumb, and I don’t want to keep having it.” I knew it was rude, but I thought it was expedient, eldest-sibling rude. So I was sort of shocked when the roommate got up without a word, went into his room, slammed the door, and never spoke to me again.