Opinion | The Assault on American Jews Is Getting Worse (2024)


Jesse Wegman

Editorial Board Member

The Supreme Court May Side With Jan. 6 Rioters, and Their Leader

Because of a couple of ambiguous words in a federal law, a majority of the Supreme Court seems poised to throw out hundreds of convictions of Jan. 6 attackers. That was the main takeaway after oral arguments Tuesday morning in a case challenging the Justice Department’s reliance on an Enron-era law in prosecuting some of the more than 1,200 rioters who broke down barricades and stormed the Capitol in a violent effort to overturn the 2020 election.

The right-wing justices, who sound increasingly like they are dictating replies to a MAGA social media thread, expressed concern about the risk of selective prosecution. Why, they asked, hasn’t this same law been used against Black Lives Matter protesters or, say, Representative Jamaal Bowman, the Democratic lawmaker who pulled a fire alarm in Congress last year?

It’s fair to ensure that laws are applied equally, but this line of questioning, and from these particular justices, was at best disingenuous. They seemed to forget that there is no precedent for a violent mob invading Congress in an attempt to block a constitutionally mandated vote count and overthrow an election. (Bowman, in contrast, was censured by his colleagues for his stupid and reckless but not insurrectionist act.)

The bigger question looming behind Tuesday’s arguments involved the man who incited the Jan. 6 mob: Donald Trump, the former and perhaps future president. Jack Smith, the special counsel, included violations of the same law in one of his federal indictments of Trump, and if the court tosses the charge in the cases of the relatively low-level attackers, Trump will surely exploit that in his case.

Of course, Trump’s own Jan. 6 trial, which was supposed to begin in early March, has been on hold for months, thanks to his outrageous claim of absolute immunity, which the justices agreed last month to hear on an oddly relaxed schedule. Oral arguments are more than a week off, and a ruling might not come until late June.

If there’s any silver lining in all this, it’s that Smith will know by then what the court thinks of this obstruction charge, and he can adapt his Jan. 6 prosecution accordingly.

In the meantime, Congress may want to update the federal criminal code for the age of Trumpism.

April 16, 2024, 5:23 p.m. ET

April 16, 2024, 5:23 p.m. ET

Jonathan Alter

Contributing Opinion Writer

Trump’s Plan to Expose the Secret Bias of Jurors Isn’t Working


It isn’t easy being orange in Manhattan, but it helps to have a bunch of jury consultants scouring the web for anyone with a sense of humor about you. Even spouses making bad orange jokes.

Donald Trump’s legal team isn’t wrong to be concerned about bias. In the first batch of potential jurors in his hush-money trial, more than half volunteered that they could not be fair and were dismissed. And when a former Lands’ End employee was found to have posted in 2017 on Facebook to “lock him up,” Justice Juan Merchan rightly dismissed the potential juror for cause. Same for a bookseller who posted an A.I. parody video of Trump saying he is “dumb as ….”

But as the court seated seven jurors on Tuesday (out of 12, plus a half-dozen alternates), Trump and his lawyers tried the judge’s patience.

I wish there were audio footage of the angry voice from the bench when Merchan told Trump’s lawyers that the defendant “was audible, he was gesturing and he was speaking in the direction of the juror. I will not tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

A few minutes later, the still-irritated judge said he thought that Trump’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, was using the jury selection process to — wait for it — delay the proceedings. When Blanche tried to have a high school teacher from the Upper West Side dismissed for cause because she had taken a cellphone video of a street dance party on 96th Street celebrating Joe Biden’s victory, the judge summoned the potential juror. After ascertaining that she was sincere in her assurance that she could be fair, he refused to dismiss her for cause.

And Merchan rebuked Blanche for also offering a video the juror took of New Yorkers saluting health care workers by banging pots and pans each night at the start of the Covid pandemic. Blanche suggested the video was disqualifying, but the judge said there was “nothing offensive” about it, adding that making such irrelevant challenges was a waste of everyone’s time.

When the defense wanted Juror No. 3 dismissed for cause because her husband posted three joking photos (one during the transition from Barack Obama to Trump with the caption “I don’t think this is what they meant by ‘orange is the new black’”), the judge was not amused.

“If this is the worst thing you were able to find,” he said, “that her husband posted this not very good humor from eight years ago, it gives me confidence that this juror could be fair and impartial.”

Will Trump finally get the message that he’s not calling the shots? Not likely, but the judge will almost certainly keep delivering it for the duration of this trial.



April 16, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

April 16, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

Ten years ago, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual audit of antisemitic incidents in the United States. The group reported just 751 incidents targeting Jews in 2013, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.

“In the last decade we have witnessed a significant and encouraging decline in the number of antisemitic acts in America,” Abraham Foxman, the A.D.L.’s director at the time, said in a news release. “The falling number of incidents targeting Jews is another indication of just how far we have come in finding full acceptance in society.”

That was then. On Tuesday, the A.D.L. released its audit for 2023. It recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in the United States — a 140 percent increase over 2022 and a tenfold increase over a decade ago. The numbers include 161 physical assaults, 2,177 acts of vandalism and 1,009 bomb threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions, as compared to 91 bomb threats for 2022. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated 13 times last year, up from four times the year before.

Much of the increase came after Hamas’s massacre in Israel on Oct. 7, and the A.D.L. changed its methodology somewhat to take account of anti-Zionist expressions it deemed to be effectively antisemitic. But even without the methodology changes, the A.D.L. would still have recorded 7,523 antisemitic incidents last year.

What do some of these incidents look like? The report offers dozens of examples.

In February 2023, a man shot two Jewish men as they were leaving a synagogue. In May, “swastikas made of feces were smeared in a residence hall bathroom at the University of California, San Diego.” In July, a group of about 20 people assaulted three Jewish teens at New York’s Rockaway Beach after noticing that one of the teens was wearing a Star of David. In October, Jemma DeCristo, a professor in American studies at the University of California, Davis, threatened “Zionist journalists”: “they have houses w addresses, kids in school,” she wrote, before signing off with knife, hatchet and blood emojis.

Antisemitism can be difficult to define — a fact that has long offered antisemites an opportunity to hide their prejudice behind terminology. But as Justice Potter Stewart once said about p*rnography — “I know it when I see it” — so it could be said about hatred of Jews.

To see it in America today, you don’t have to look very far.

April 16, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

April 16, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

Mara Gay

Editorial Board Member

New York’s Flawed Housing Deal Still Deserves Approval

New York’s politicians have finally struck a deal to address the state’s disastrous housing crisis, the most pressing issue facing the region.

The deal, announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers Monday, is solicitous of real estate interests. But it may help accomplish some of what the state and its tenants need anyway.

Under the compromise, which would be included in the state budget, developers would receive generous tax incentives to build more housing. In exchange, developers would make 20 percent of the units affordable. A limit on building sizes would be raised, providing an incentive for more construction in New York City. Owners of rent-stabilized buildings could charge higher rents for making improvements. Hochul officials say the plan would lead to just under 190,000 units of new housing in the state over the next decade.

Tenants in New York City would win new protections against evictions, a long-sought goal. But other benefits for tenants are weak. Municipalities outside the city would have to opt in to the protections, which would prohibit owners of market-rate buildings from increasing the rent by more than 10 percent over the previous year, or 5 percentage points above the rate of inflation. There is a feast of exemptions, including properties with 10 or fewer units, and new units built wouldn’t be covered under the protections for the first 30 years. The weakness of these tenant protections, which have been fought hard by groups like the Real Estate Board of New York, is a reflection of the industry’s continued outsize sway on state politics.

But as flawed as this compromise is, walking away from it entirely would be irresponsible.

Four in 10 New York State residents are spending 30 percent of their income or more on housing. More than half of New York City residents are doing the same. Evictions are up nearly 200 percent.

Doing nothing isn’t an option. Instead, lawmakers and state officials can work quickly to make the deal better. Tenant protections can be strengthened. Allowing residents to rent accessory dwelling units, known as in-law apartments, would also be a win.

Truly facing this crisis will require bigger fights, like confronting restrictive zoning laws in Westchester and Long Island that have made it almost impossible to build multifamily housing. It’s also past time to reform New York City’s embarrassingly regressive property tax system, in which renters get stuck with most of the bill.

Residents, voters and businesses invested in New York City need to build a powerful pro-housing coalition, one that not even Albany can ignore.



April 15, 2024, 5:44 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 5:44 p.m. ET

Peter Coy

Opinion Writer

Trump Beats Biden on the Economy, Voters Say. Are They Right?

President Biden must be tearing his hair out over the latest New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters. Half of the respondents describe economic conditions as “poor.” Only 20 percent say they strongly approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, while 45 percent strongly approve of Donald Trump’s handling of the economy as president.

This would make sense if the economy were in recession, but the opposite is true. The Covid-19 recession happened while Trump was still in office, and the economy has snapped back powerfully since. On Monday, the Census Bureau released retail sales data for March that economists described as “solid,” “strong” and “booming.”

To be clear, what this means is that there are some likely voters whose opinions and actions don’t line up. They’re saying the economy is poor, but they’re behaving as if things are really good. How is Biden supposed to respond to this in his economic speech in Scranton, Pa., on Tuesday, without antagonizing voters by telling them they’re wrong?

Here’s a chart I made based on the Times/Siena poll about the two presidents’ handling of the economy:


And here’s one about economic conditions, which only 5 percent of likely voters rate as excellent:


I asked Ludovic Subran, the chief economist of Allianz Research in Germany, for his explanation of the divergence between the economy’s performance and voters’ perceptions. He put it into an international perspective. Around the world, he said, voters have turned against people who were in office when the inflation shock hit. Biden’s predicament doesn’t look unusual from that point of view.

Subran also said that inequality has increased during the recovery from the pandemic because the strong stock market has lifted the wealth of the stock-holding class. He attributed part of the stock market gains to the Biden administration’s policies, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which directed government aid to companies that are investing in the fight against climate change. (Partially offsetting that, wage gains have been strongest at the bottom end of the income scale.)

The good news for Biden in the Times/Siena poll is that the two candidates are nearly tied in terms of whom voters would pick if the election were held today. But if Biden can’t persuade voters that he’s better than Trump on the economy — or at least somewhere in that neighborhood — his re-election campaign will remain in peril.

April 15, 2024, 2:47 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 2:47 p.m. ET

Jonathan Alter

Contributing Opinion Writer

Justice Merchan Starts to Hold Trump Accountable


Beyond seeing its historical importance, those of us covering the Trump trial expected the first day to be relatively uneventful, with housekeeping details and rules of the road for jury selection. But it turned out that the morning also had the first stirrings of accountability for Donald Trump.

As part of the pretrial housekeeping, Justice Juan Merchan delivered the so-called Parker warnings on courtroom behavior directly to the defendant, reminding him that he could be jailed if he disrupted the proceedings.

Trump, who earlier seemed to be dozing, muttered, “I do,” when asked if he understood this and the other elements of the warning, which Merchan was delivering to Trump for a second time — now orally — just to make sure it sank in.

Then the former president had to sit and listen to a discussion of the admissibility of his years of witness intimidation, his arguably illegal social media posts and his efforts to use The National Enquirer to destroy his rivals. The jury didn’t hear any of this, but Trump and everyone else in the courtroom did.

All morning, Trump’s side only won once: when Merchan ruled that during the testimony of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, there could be no mention in front of the jury of Trump’s wife being pregnant and then being with a newborn (Barron Trump) at home when McDougal says they were having a long-running affair.

At one point, Todd Blanche, Trump’s lead attorney, saw that his slumped client was looking straight ahead, dejected. He reached out and patted Trump on the back.

Merchan said he would hold a hearing on April 23 on the prosecution’s motion that Trump be held in contempt of court and possibly jailed for three Truth Social posts attacking Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, which seemed to be a clear violation of Merchan’s gag order preventing Trump from trying to intimidate witnesses.

Merchan indicated that he would reject Trump’s go-to argument that he was just responding in kind.

In the meantime, Merchan was also concerned about the logistics of accommodating Trump’s desire to be heavily involved in jury selection. Part of that process can take place in conference, outside the courtroom, if a potential juror wants to talk to Merchan and the lawyers in private. The unspoken worry hanging over the courtroom: Would a potential juror feel intimidated if Trump, exercising his right, was there, too?

Merchan is working that out. He reminds me of the old deodorant ad for Ice Blue Secret. The bespectacled, snow-haired Merchan is “cool, calm and collected” and will do a terrific job in this trial.



April 15, 2024, 11:26 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 11:26 a.m. ET

Frank Bruni

Contributing Opinion Writer

Have Voters Really Forgotten Trump’s Presidency?

Memory plays tricks on us. It’s famously unreliable. That’s the bane of estranged lovers weighing the wisdom of reconciliation. Of jurors determining the credibility of a witness.

And of Americans deciding how to vote in a presidential election? The latest poll by The New York Times and Siena College makes me wonder.

The poll, published Saturday, shows Donald Trump holding on to a slight edge of 46 percent to 45 percent over President Biden. And it includes this detail: When survey respondents were asked whether they remember the years of Trump’s presidency as “mostly good,” “mostly bad” or “not really good or bad,” 42 percent said “mostly good,” while just 33 percent said “mostly bad.”

Mostly good? Which part? His first impeachment? His second? All the drama at the border (because, yes, there was drama at the border then, too)? All the drama in the West Wing? The revolving door of senior administration officials, his good-people-on-both-sides response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., his wishful musings about violent attacks on journalists and Democrats, his nutty soliloquies at news conferences early in the coronavirus pandemic, his recklessly cavalier handling of his own Covid infection, his incitement of the Jan. 6 rioting, the rioting itself?

Those were the days.

I realize that the “mostly good” camp comprises many MAGA loyalists who will simply answer any Trump-related question in a Trump-adoring way. Tribalism triumphs. I realize, too, that Americans tend to prioritize economic realities in assessments of this kind, and that much of what they’re remembering and referring to are the lower prices of housing, food and other essentials during Trump’s presidency.

But I fear that they’re forgetting too much else in a wash of voter nostalgia. A fresh presidential bid by someone who was in and then away from the White House isn’t just highly unusual. It’s a memory test — and, in the case of a politician as potentially destructive as Trump, a profoundly important one.

Americans unhappy with Biden’s presidency need no reminders about why. They’re living it every day. But their present discontent may be claiming the space on their mental hard drives where their past discontent was stored, purging all the discord and disgrace that created Biden’s opening.

Absence makes the Trump grow stronger.

April 15, 2024, 9:29 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 9:29 a.m. ET

Jonathan Alter

Contributing Opinion Writer

As History Is Made, Trump Can Only Glare in Silent Fury

It’s on.

On Monday morning, those of us fortunate enough to have a seat in the courtroom will feel the hush of history as Justice Juan Merchan opens the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump. This will be the first time since the founding of the American republic that a president of the United States has gone on trial in a criminal court.

As jury selection begins, my thoughts will inevitably turn to this striking lack of precedent. Richard Nixon was pardoned, Bill Clinton was disbarred, and Ulysses S. Grant paid a ticket for speeding in his carriage, but none faced a criminal trial.

This case is about highly credible charges that Trump falsified business records as part of a scheme to silence an adult film star and tilt the outcome of the 2016 election.

The prosecution’s argument that this is a 2016 election interference case is prompting Trump to pursue his usual I’m-rubber-you’re-glue strategy and claim that it’s really the judge and the Manhattan district attorney who are interfering — in the 2024 election. But he won’t be able to make that argument inside the courtroom.

Trump will probably have to settle for sitting silently and glaring at the judge. He is a domineering client, even when it’s not in his interest, and he’ll probably weaken his case by forcing his lawyers to back his ridiculous claim that the whole extramarital affair is made up. They’ll have a better shot arguing that the hush-money payments were not illegal and Trump did not intentionally break tax and campaign finance laws.

Among the witnesses expected to testify are Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer turned major accuser, whose credibility will be a big issue; Hope Hicks, Trump’s former press secretary, who could help corroborate Cohen’s testimony; Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels), the p*rn star who received $130,000 in payments Trump is charged with laundering through Cohen; Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate of the year who also received hush money; and David Pecker, the National Enquirer chief testifying for the prosecution, whose catch-and-kill scheme to bury dirt on Trump will open a window on how tabloid journalism, well, changed world history.

Trump claimed on Friday that he’s willing to testify, but that may be just his usual posturing. If he rejects the pleading of his attorneys and takes the stand, cross-examination about his many lies would be admissible.

I’ll be back on Monday afternoon with a report on how the day went.



April 15, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

Patrick Healy

Deputy Opinion Editor

Could These Two Twists Change the 2024 Race?


Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • Donald Trump has spent this year projecting political strength. His renomination was inevitable, and he has been ahead of Joe Biden in many battleground state polls and national polls. Keep in mind: Trump rarely led in general election polls 2016 and 2020, making his strength in the first quarter of 2024 notable. It’s one reason there’s so much talk of him winning the presidency this year.

  • But this week? It’s the start of the Trump vulnerability chapter of the campaign. I haven’t seen him looking this vulnerable since his 2022 Senate endorsem*nts blew up in his face. The reasons are two twists in the race: the Trump trial and abortion.

  • As everyone knows, Trump’s trial in the Stormy Daniels hush money trial is set to start Monday in Manhattan. Trump has never faced a criminal jury trial in his life. I don’t think he ever thought one of these criminal trials would actually happen — he’s been an escape artist his whole life. The big question: Will this trial actually change anyone’s opinion of Trump when so much about his bad behavior is already baked into our brains? I think a conviction might — there’s some polling that suggests that independents and some Trump leaners would be less likely to vote for him if he’s convicted, especially of a criminal cover-up. Based on a lot of years reporting with voters, and our Times Opinion focus groups, I think voting for a recently convicted criminal for president will be a bridge too far for some Americans otherwise inclined to back him.

  • On issues, Trump has boxed himself into a position on abortion that he thought was awfully clever when he rolled it out: Let each state decide its abortion law. Then Arizona’s Supreme Court did just that, upholding a ban from 1864. I’ve rarely seen Trump look as slippery and untrustworthy with his own base, and he’s running away from abortion as far as he can. Do swing voters really believe him when he says he wouldn’t sign a national abortion ban if he had the chance? Doubt it.

  • As you’ll keep hearing, the election is more than six months away, and so much can change: we barely know how the Iranian attack on Israel might affect things, for instance. But for all those known unknowns, one thing is clear: Trump is entering his riskiest phase yet of the race.

April 12, 2024, 2:55 p.m. ET

April 12, 2024, 2:55 p.m. ET

Jonathan Alter

Contributing Opinion Writer

Trump and O.J.: Antiheroes in a Cracked Mirror

In the mid-1990s, I spent an afternoon in the courtroom covering O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial in Los Angeles. The effect of being there — like the effect of seeing Donald Trump in court during pretrial proceedings in New York — was to shrink the whole spectacle into something more quotidian. In person, the carnival looks not just smaller than it does on TV but also a little pathetic.

I’ll be covering Trump’s hush-money trial in New York beginning Monday for Times Opinion. It won’t be televised, but the comparisons between the two cases and two men are already so common that The Los Angeles Times made a typo — or Freudian slip — on Thursday, referring to Trump when the obit writer meant Simpson.

Yes, both cases are media circuses revolving around shameless and manipulative antiheroes who have exploited race for their advantage. Both tap into the weakness Americans have for toxic celebrities who play victim as they stick it to the man. Both lead millions to despair over whether justice can ever prevail.

But the similarities can be misleading and not just because the Simpson trial was for murder and the Trump case is about falsifying business records.

While murder is obviously more serious legally and morally, the fate of a former president of the United States indicted on 88 counts across four criminal cases in four jurisdictions is more serious and important historically than the fate of a former N.F.L. star who did TV ads for Hertz.

Simpson’s epic journey — with its mix of fame, race and violence — was a quintessentially American story. The Trump saga has all of that plus immense political stakes, but the fundamental question remains: Is he un-American or in the American grain?

Trump’s shocking victory in 2016 did not settle the matter. We will learn in this trial what almost every political consultant in both parties agrees on: that Trump would have lost that year and been reduced to a footnote if Stormy Daniels had told her story on the heels of the “Access Hollywood” debacle, which sent his campaign reeling. He won only because the 2016 election ended with the focus on Hillary Clinton’s emails.

So beyond legal culpability and political maneuvering, what’s at stake in this trial and this election is whether Trump is an aberration or the embodiment of a new, darker American identity.

Both Simpson and Trump are mirrors reflecting two images of America — one Black, one white, in Simpson’s case; one Democratic, one Republican, in Trump’s. All of the mirrors are cracked and coming apart, with the shards sharp enough to puncture any remaining illusions we have about ourselves.

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