Morning Glory: Can Donald Trump restore deterrence?

First, some reminders. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine twice: When former President Obama was president and again when Joe Biden was president. 

President Obama precipitously withdrew American forces from Iraq in late 2011. ISIS announced itself in 2013 and by 2014 had seized a vast territory in Iraq and Syria.

Donald Trump took office in January of 2017. By December 2017, the ISIS caliphate had lost 95 percent of its territory, including the Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa in northern Syria, which ISIS had named its capital. 

The battle to re-take Mosul began in February 2017 and was complete in July of that year. U.S. forces killed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in late October, 2019, two weeks after Raqqa was liberated. 

Former President Obama entered into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) with Iran in July of 2015. Trump withdrew from that deeply flawed agreement in May of 2018 and began the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran which brought Iran to the brink of bankruptcy by the end of 2020. Following attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iranian proxy forces in Iraq, Trump ordered the assassination of Qasem Soleimani on January 3, 2020. 


The Taliban entered into the Doha Agreement with former President Trump and abided by its terms while Trump remained in office. The Taliban discarded the Doha Agreement soon after President Biden was sworn in. The United States took no actions to enforce its terms. The chaotic American retreat from Afghanistan ended in August of 2021 and was a catastrophe that everyone remembers. 


Former President Obama told Syrian dictator Bashir Assad that using chemical weapons was a “red line” that Assad should not cross.  Assad crossed it and the U.S. did… nothing. 

When Assad twice used chemical weapons against his own people again, President Trump ordered two waves of missile strikes on Syrian facilities and personnel, one in 2017 and one in 2018. 

When Syrian and Russian troops attacked American Special Forces in Syria in 2018, the attacking force was demolished in a fierce battle. The United States forces did not retreat. Deterrence was established. No further attacks by Russian troops on American forces followed. 

Iran and its proxies have been emboldened by the Biden Administration’s desperate attempts to revive the JCPOA. Sanctions on Iran were first waived by Biden on June 10, 2021. Additional waivers followed and Iran refilled its coffers. 

Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7, 2023. Iran directly attacked Israel on April 13, 2024. In between those dates Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has repeatedly launched barrages of missiles, rockets and RPGs at Israel from southern Lebanon, and the Houthis —another proxy of Iran— have kept up their missile attacks on Red Sea shipping from their bases in Yemen. Iran’s proxies in Iraq and Syria have repeatedly attacked U.S. forces and Israel, with three American soldiers killed and 40 wounded in Jordan in January. “In terms of attribution for the attack, we know this is an [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ]-backed militia,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said at the time. “It has the footprints of Kataib Hezbollah.” Iran is clearly not deterred by Team Biden. 

Putin’s forces are again advancing in Ukraine. China continues to rapidly expand its navy even as ours shrinks. The People’s Liberation Army and Navy continue to threaten Taiwan and the Philippines. 

So that’s a quick review of the record of events on President Trump’s watch and on President Biden’s watch. Clearly, Trump deterred the worst actors in the world and Biden does not. National security does not register high on the list of voters’ concerns in this era of inflation. It will be up to Trump’s campaign to remind voters whether they—and the world—were safer under Trump or Biden.

Hugh Hewitt is host of “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Brett Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.


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Michael Cohen, DA Bragg’s star witness, offers surprise that could sink prosecution’s plans

You can now add shameless thief to the many odious descriptions of Michael Cohen , the star witness in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s grotesquely farcical prosecution of former President Donald Trump.  

Cohen was already shredded on cross-examination last week as a prodigious liar who is bereft of conscience and devoid of decency. His depravity knows no bounds. Append embezzlement to his menagerie of crimes that already include fraud, perjury, and tax evasion. He belongs back in prison, not in a court of law peddling more falsehoods.  

Without batting an eye of remorse, Cohen on Monday coolly admitted that he stole $30,000 from the Trump Organization by pretending that he reimbursed a tech company called Red Finch when, in fact, he pocketed the cash. It was literally a brown bag operation.


But Cohen didn’t stop there. He then pilfered an additional $30,000 by inflating the remuneration that he charged Trump. The D.A. knew all about the larceny. Instead of charging him criminally, they made him their central witness in the case against Trump. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Bragg and his coterie of partisan prosecutors never hesitated to hang their crooked case on a notorious shyster who is incapable of telling the truth. They expected Cohen to lie to the jury, which he happily did.  They enabled and encouraged his deceptions.  The district attorney should indict himself for suborning perjury. 

More of Cohen’s unabashed greed was exposed by the defense on Monday. When Trump departed for the White House in 2017, his personal attorney was left behind but not neutered as his boss intended.  Cohen devised a plan to monetize his connection to the new president by snookering corporations and other entities into paying him millions of dollars for imaginary influence. It was a remarkable grift by an inveterate con artist. 


So, there you have it. Cohen lied about his client, secretly recorded his client, stole from his client, and scammed other clients. Is there anyone who wasn’t victimized or swindled by this scoundrel? Now, he’s trying to dupe the jury.   

In court, there’s no resurrecting the dead.  But that didn’t stop prosecutors. On redirect examination, they tried in vain to rehabilitate Cohen’s credibility that had been torn to pieces. It was like try to stitching a dismembered Cabbage Patch doll back together.  There was no fixing the self-proclaimed “fixer.” As a witness, Cohen’s testimony belongs in the trash along with the rest of this garbage case.

Incredibly, Cohen tried to rationalize his $60,000 rip-off of his own boss by absurdly claiming that he was exercising “self-help,” because Trump did not give him the annual bonus that he expected. Seriously, he said that. It was comical. What if every disgruntled employee decided to swindle the company when their Christmas bonus is missing a digit? Last time I checked, illegal enrichment for personal betterment is not a legal defense to theft. 

When Cohen finally slithered off the stand, the prosecution rested its case. In a risky move, the defense then called his former attorney, Robert Costello , who was no longer bound by the attorney-client privilege.  It was a moment of high drama, as the veteran lawyer who was once a top federal prosecutor pummeled his one-time client as a habitual liar.  


Costello informed the jury that Cohen lied to them while on the witness stand.  In 2018, his ex-client confessed to Costello that Trump did nothing wrong and committed no crimes.  It was all Cohen’s idea to surrender to Stormy Daniels’s demands. He handled everything, and Trump was kept in the dark. “I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump,” testified Costello as he recounted numerous conversations with his then-client.

To prevail, the D.A. must show that Trump understood campaign laws, knew he was violating them, and intended to deceive voters in 2016 when the payments were booked as “legal expenses” in 2017. During five weeks of trial testimony, no one has offered such evidence.  Moreover, it’s factually impossible to influence an election after it is over.    

If a fair, objective or neutral judge was presiding, this shabby case would have been tossed long before the trial ever began. Still, on Monday, the defense moved to dismiss the charges against Trump. Judge Juan Merchan deferred his decision, but it is a futile gesture. There’s not a snowball’s chance.

A competent judge would grant a directed verdict in favor of the accused because there is no legally sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion. The case is wholly dependent on a proven liar and nothing else. But Merchan is all in on convicting Trump.       

There are sound reasons why federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York , as well as Bragg’s predecessor, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., chose not to charge Trump. They abided by ethical standards and refused to exploit or manipulate a lying witness like Cohen. They also understood that the law did not support an indictment. Not even close.   


It should be patently obvious to all that the leading Republican candidate for president is on trial not for what he has done, but for who he is.  

Trump is the political nemesis of Democrats.  He’s their boogeyman. Biden despises him. Bragg loathes him. And so does Merchan, who has taken it upon himself to serve as a co-prosecutor in the case. Collectively, they are all counting on a liberal New York jury to also hate Trump enough to ignore the law and convict based on animus.  

That, in a nutshell, is their case.  The deck is stacked, and the fix is in.

It’s a persecution, not a prosecution of any legitimacy.  Bragg has abused his position of power and spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to denigrate an electoral enemy to benefit his opponent: President Joe Biden . The D.A. falsely asserts that Trump unlawfully tried to influence the 2016 election.  But it is Bragg who is guilty of interfering in the 2024 election.

Merchan is actively aiding and abetting this contemptible assault on our legal system. He has done everything conceivable to engineer a guilty verdict. Late Monday, he took offense when Costello looked at him the wrong way. The judge became irate, demanded that the courtroom be cleared, and excoriated the witness, “Are you staring me down?”     

This trial is now officially a sad and pathetic joke. It’s a circus. Merchan and Bragg are the head clowns.  

Only the jurors can halt to this miscarriage of justice.  But will they?  


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