Tuesday Reads: Trump in Trouble
Posted: August 9, 2022 Filed under: just because
I have two causes for celebration this morning. 1) Today is the last day of the current heatwave here in Massachusetts, and 2) The FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago yesterday and spent the entire day searching for documents that Trump stole when he left the White House.
A cold front is coming in this afternoon and Merrick Garland is coming for Trump.
What more could a person ask for? Well, some rain would be nice, since half of Massachusetts is now in a drought.
Here’s the latest:
David Epstein at Boston.com: The past three weeks have been the warmest ever recorded in Boston.
Monday marked the seventh day of a major heat wave, the second of the summer across southern New England. The unrelenting heat and humidity have taken their toll on our collective mood as this is not normal summer weather in our part of the country.
The past three weeks have seen the warmest 21 days ever recorded in 151 years of records in Boston, similar to temperatures in Missouri or North Carolina where this type of heat and humidity is expected. Coupled with growing drought, damage to plants has spread from wilting flower boxes to struggling trees and shrubs. Drought is actually not increasing in New England but in a warmer climate, the impact of even semi-regular droughts can be greater when accompanied by hotter air.
These types of hot and dry weather events are ripe for all sorts of hyperbole. On one end of the spectrum, you’ll find people saying we’ve had hot and dry weather before and this is more of the same. Other people will claim the past three weeks is yet more evidence of climate change in action….
When summer is over, we will have another opportunity to fully analyze the statistics, but already a few things are true. In addition to the extreme temperatures, we are experiencing the longest stretch of 80 degree or above weather on record —Tuesday will be the 26th day in a row of temperatures that are 80 degrees or higher….
The heat will abate later this week, but these past three weeks of unprecedented warmth should be a wakeup call to what lies ahead. The number of hot days will continue to go up, and everything that goes along with this type of heat will continue to be amplified.
Now for the Trump news.
The Washington Post: FBI searches Trump safe at Mar-a-Lago for possible classified documents.
Former president Donald Trump said Monday that the FBI had raided his Mar-a-Lago Club and searched his safe — activity related to an investigation into the potential mishandling of classified documents, according to two people familiar with the probe.
One of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its details, said agents were conducting a court-authorized search as part of a long-running investigation of whether documents — some of them top-secret — were taken to the former president’s private golf club and residence instead of sent to the National Archives when Trump left office. That could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.
Searching a former president’s property to look for possible evidence of a crime is highly unusual and would require approval at the top levels of the Justice Department. It represents a historic moment in Trump’s tortured relationship with the Justice Department, both in and out of the White House.
Much of the article is a discussion of Trump’s and his followers’ complaints and false claims about the search.
The authors then quote a defense from a person who actually knows about FBI searches.
The president of the FBI Agents Association, Brian O’Hare, issued a broad defense of the investigators who carry out court-approved searches, without commenting specifically on the Trump case.
O’Hare said search warrants are issued by federal judges, “must satisfy detailed and clear procedural rules, and are the product of collaboration and consultation with relevant Department of Justice attorneys.”
FBI agents, he added, “perform their investigative duties with integrity and professionalism, and remain focused on complying with the law and the Constitution.”
Trump nominated the current head of the FBI, Christopher A. Wray, to the position in 2017, after firing the previous FBI director, James B. Comey, amid a probe into whether any Trump campaign advisers had conspired with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election.
Wray is a conservative Republican who belonged to the Federalist Society and worked in the GW Bush administration.
A number of people have pointed out that Trump has a copy of the search warrant and could release the contents if he wanted to. But then we would know what crimes he is suspected of committing.
Business Insider via Yahoo News: Feds likely obtained ‘pulverizing’ amount of evidence ahead of searching Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, legal experts say.
Trump confirmed Monday that federal agents had executed a search warrant at his South Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, in a search that several news outlets later reported was related to whether he mishandled classified government documents.
Regardless of the raid’s focus, legal experts quickly reached a consensus about it: A pile of evidence must have backed up the warrant authorizing the search.
“There’s every reason to think that there’s a plus factor in the quantum and quantity of evidence that the government already had to support probable cause in this case, knowing that they would be besieged with criticism in some quarters that this is politically motivated,” said David Laufman, a former top official in the Justice Department’s national security division who prosecuted cases involving allegations of mishandling classified documents.
“If I were a senior department official who reviewed this prior to pulling the trigger on presenting an affidavit to a magistrate judge, I would’ve wanted a sufficient quality and quantity of evidence that was so pulverizing in its effect to simply neutralize any arguments to the contrary,” said Laufman, now a partner at the law firm Wiggin and Dana LLP.
Indeed, for a deliberate Justice Department keen to turn the page from the politicization of the Trump era, the raid of Mar-a-Lago most likely required reviews at the highest levels and convincing evidence supporting a finding of probable cause, legal experts said.
“I cannot imagine the amount of probable cause set forth in a search warrant’s supporting FBI affidavit of Trump’s Florida home,” said Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor from Northern Virginia. He added in an email to Insider that the number of “review levels” for the search warrant “must have been enormous, including by Trump’s FBI appointee Christopher Wray.”
From Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg: Trump Search Should Just Be Garland’s Opening Act.
It’s not entirely clear why the FBI targeted Mar-a-Lago. Trump, who was not there, predictably characterized the search as a Democratic hit job. But the feds were apparently searching for classified records Trump stashed in Palm Beach after leaving the White House. He has already returned some files that the National Archives said belonged to the government, but Bloomberg News and the New York Times reported that the search was focused on records he might have kept.
Theft of government records is the least of Trump’s legal worries, however. Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be finally bringing the full weight of federal law enforcement to bear on the former president. Depending on how aggressively Garland pursues Trump for the attempted coup that he and his co-conspirators tried to engineer after he lost the 2020 presidential election, the list of criminal charges could include seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of official proceedings.
Garland’s choices in the months ahead will have momentous consequences. His correct course of action would be to demonstrate that no president is above the law and indict Trump. As the Jan. 6 committee hearings have already demonstrated, Trump and his team were awash in crimes — including creating slates of false electors to be used in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential vote and pressuring former Vice President Mike Pence to withhold certification of the 2020 election. The Justice Department has convened a grand jury to investigate both of those efforts.
Trump also incited the violent insurrection that took place on Jan. 6, and he did nothing to stop a mob he knew to be armed until after it stormed the Capitol, endangering federal legislators and the police protecting them. He has shown little remorse for the damage he set in motion before, during and after Jan. 6, and his statement about the Mar-a-Lago search was littered with unhinged distractions his political base will lap up.
Historian Michael Bechloss is having fun with Trump’s whining.
A number of legal experts have suggested that if Trump mishandled classified documents, he could be blocked from ever running for political office again; but Michael Savage throws some cold water on that idea at The New York Times: If Trump broke a law on the removal of official records, would he be barred from future office?
Early reports that the F.B.I. search of former President Donald J. Trump’s residence in Florida related to an investigation into whether he had unlawfully taken government files when he left the White House focused attention on an obscure criminal law barring removal of official records. The penalties for breaking that law include disqualification from holding any federal office.
Because Mr. Trump is widely believed to be preparing to run for president again in 2024, that unusual penalty raised the prospect that he might be legally barred from returning to the White House.
Specifically, the law in question — Section 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code — makes it a crime if someone who has custody of government documents or records “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies or destroys” them.
If convicted, defendants can be fined or sentenced to prison for up to three years. In addition, the statute says, if they are currently in a federal office, they “shall forfeit” that office, and they shall “be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”
There’s a problem though.
The law briefly received a close look in 2015, after it came to light that Hillary Clinton, then widely anticipated to be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, had used a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.
But in considering that situation, several legal scholars — including Seth B. Tillman of Maynooth University in Ireland and Eugene Volokh of the University of California, Los Angeles — noted that the Constitution sets eligibility criteria for who can be president, and argued that Supreme Court rulings suggest Congress cannot alter them. The Constitution allows Congress to disqualify people from holding office in impeachment proceedings, but grants no such power for ordinary criminal law….
On Monday, one of the most prominent voices pointing to Section 2071, the Democratic lawyer Marc Elias — who served as general counsel for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — initially cited the law’s disqualification provision in a Twitter post as “the really, really big reason why the raid today is a potential blockbuster in American politics.”
He followed up with another Twitter post acknowledging that any conviction under Section 2071 might not ultimately bar Mr. Trump from seeking the presidency again — but arguing that a legal fight over it would still be important.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, MAGA crazies are threatening violence and civil war.
Alan Feuer at The New York Times: The F.B.I. search ignited the language of violence and civil war on the far right.
For the past six years, Donald J. Trump’s most loyal backers have, as though by reflex, attacked federal law-enforcement officials whenever they have sought to investigate the former president or his allies.
But the reaction to the F.B.I.’s court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s beachfront residence in Palm Beach, Fla., went far beyond the usual ire and indignation. Pro-Trump influencers and figures in the media employed the language of violence to rally opposition.
“Tomorrow is war,” Steven Crowder, a conservative commentator with nearly two million Twitter followers, wrote on the site within hours of the F.B.I.’s search. “Sleep well.”
This aggressive language was pervasive on the right as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning.
“This. Means. War,” The Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump outlet, wrote in an online post that was quickly amplified by a Telegram account connected to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s onetime political adviser.
“Country on the verge of CIVIL WAR???” Nicholas J. Fuentes, a prominent white nationalist, asked in his own post advertising a livestream of the F.B.I. search.
Read more at the NYT.
David Gilbert at Vice: Trump Supporters Are Calling for Civil War After FBI Search of Mar-a-Lago.
After news broke that the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday, his supporters openly called for an armed violent response, and ultimately, civil war.
“Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,” one user wrote on Twitter, with another adding, “One step closer to a kinetic civil war.” Others said they were ready to take part: “I already bought my ammo.”
MAGA, QAnon, and far-right message boards and Telegram channels lit up Monday night with calls for a violent response to what some extremists see as a political attack directed by the Biden administration.
“This is how you light the match to a civil war,” one user on Twitter wrote in response to the news.
Similar rhetoric was shared in far-right channels on Telegram. “Civil war coming to America, there won’t be any more elections,” one member said.
“A total war on dissidents is about to unfold. Not behind closed doors but blatantly, in public,” another member wrote in a different far-right channel. “Attacks on Alex Jones, Trump, and Patriot Day defendants are only setting the precedent for the future of us as the only opposition to the Deep State.”
I’ll end there. What are you hearing? Please share in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!