Thursday ReadsPosted: August 18, 2022
Today at 1PM, Judge Bruce Reinhart will hold a hearing about whether he should release the FBI affidavit he consulted in his decision to approve the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. A number of media organization are arguing for the release, while the DOJ opposes it because it could discourage witnesses from coming forward to help in their investigation.
In addition, ABC News has a scoop about Kash Patel’s plans for White House documents before the FBI Search and Maggie Haberman attempted to Whitewash Trump’s motives for stealing highly classified documents.
There is also news in the case against Trump’s companies in New York. Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has agreed to a plea deal that requires him to testify against The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation when they go to trial in October. He will not have to implicate Trump or his family directly.
Finally, news from the January 6 grand jury and some Secret Service news.
The hearing on release of the FBI affidavit
CNN, joined by The Washington Post, NBC News and Scripps, asked a court last week to unseal documents connected to the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence — including documents not covered by the Justice Department’s own bid to unseal a selection of the warrant materials.
Specifically, CNN and the other outlets are asking for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to unseal the entire record filed with the court, including all probable cause affidavits filed in support of the search warrant. These lay out why investigators believe that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and the evidence of that crime existed in recent days at the site where the search was sought.
The request was filed after the Justice Department submitted its own request with the federal court to unseal certain warrant materials. In remarks announcing the request, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is seeking the release of the “search warrant and property receipt” from the FBI’s search.
In the unsealing filing by CNN and the other outlets with the court, they pointed to “the historic importance of these events.”
“Before the events of this week, not since the Nixon Administration had the federal government wielded its power to seize records from a former President in such a public fashion,” the outlets said in the filing.
The filing said that “tremendous public interest in these records in particular outweighs any purported interest in keeping them secret.”
The affidavit for the FBI’s August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago would shine more light on what brought federal agents to the Florida property, and the justice department has already said it’s not comfortable with it being made public.
“The affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course,” prosecutors argued earlier this week, adding, “Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations.”
Trump meanwhile asked for it to be made public, writing on his Truth Social platform, “There is no way to justify the unannounced RAID of Mar-a-Lago”.
“I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” he said.
But making the document public may not be the best move for him. A former senior justice department official told the Washington Post these types of affidavits usually reflect poorly on whomever’s property is being searched. “There’s no exculpatory information. It’s never a good story for the defendant,” the person said.
Kash Patel’s plans for documents from the National Archives
In June of this year, seven weeks before the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in search of classified materials, former Defense Department appointee and outspoken Trump loyalist Kash Patel vowed to retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and publish them on his website.
Trump had just issued a letter instructing the National Archives to grant Patel and conservative journalist John Solomon access to nonpublic administration records, according to reporting at the time.
Patel, who under Trump had been the chief of staff for the acting defense secretary, claimed in a string of interviews that Trump had declassified a trove of “Russiagate documents” in the final days of his administration. But Patel claimed Trump’s White House counsel had blocked the release of those documents, and instead had them delivered to the National Archives.
“I’ve never told anyone this because it just happened,” Patel said in an interview on a pro-Trump podcast on June 22. “I’m going to identify every single document that they blocked from being declassified at the National Archives, and we’re going to start putting that information out next week.”
Patel did not provide a clear explanation of how he would legally or practically obtain the documents.
Maggie Haberman soft pedals Trump’s document thefts
Haberman writes at The New York Times: Another Trump Mystery: Why Did He Resist Returning the Government’s Documents?
For four years, former President Donald J. Trump treated the federal government and the political apparatus operating in his name as an extension of his private real estate company.
It all belonged to him, he felt, melded together into a Trump brand that he had been nurturing for decades.
“My generals,” he repeatedly said of the active-duty and retired military leaders who filled his government. “My money,” he often called the cash he raised through his campaign or for the Republican National Committee. “My Kevin,” he said of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader.
And White House documents?
“They’re mine,” three of Mr. Trump’s advisers said that he stated repeatedly when he was urged to return boxes of documents, some of them highly classified, that the National Archives sought after Mr. Trump took them with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., in January 2021. A nearly 18-month back-and-forth between the government and Mr. Trump ended in an extraordinary F.B.I. search for the documents at Mar-a-Lago last week.
The question, as with so much else around Mr. Trump, is why? Why did he insist on refusing to turn over government papers that by law did not belong to him, igniting another legal conflagration? As with so much else related to Mr. Trump, there is not one easy answer.
These are the possible reasons Haberman suggests:
- Exciting documents: The documents were exciting to Trump, who has always been a “pack rat.”
- Ripping up paper: Trump couldn’t have cared less about carefully handling documents. He did whatever he wanted and ignored norms and rules.
- Personal information: Trump may have wanted to keep documents “because they contained details about people he knew,” like the ones that referred to French president Emmanuel Macron.
Missing from the list? The possibility that Trump wanted to sell documents to foreign leaders or use them as blackmail.
Allen Weisselberg to testify against Trump’s companies
ALLEN WEISSELBERG, THE Trump Organization’s finance chief, will say in Manhattan court Thursday that he conspired with several of the ex-president’s companies when he pleads guilty to state tax crimes, two sources familiar with the case tell Rolling Stone.
As part of Weisselberg’s plea deal, he has agreed to testify against The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation at trial, which is scheduled for October.
If called to the witness stand during trial, Weisselberg will provide testimony that is the same as what he admits to in court this week, the source said. One of the sources said that while Weisselberg is agreeing to testify, that does not mean he necessarily will; it depends on whether prosecutors decide to call him. The New York Times first reported that Weisselberg was expected to plead guilty, and CNN reported he would testify if called.
Weisselberg will not go beyond his testimony to help the criminal probe, one of the sources said. Still, his potential testimony could pose a severe threat to Trump’s companies. This possible testimony, which allegedly implicates Trump’s businesses, could be key to prosecutors’ securing a guilty verdict against these companies. When a company is found to have engaged in criminal conduct, significant fines can pile up quickly — potentially leading to its demise.
Weisselberg’s expected guilty plea stems from an indictment last year from the Manhattan district attorney’s office accusing him and several of Trump’s companies of tax crimes in a “sweeping and audacious illegal payment scheme.” These financial offenses related to the lavish perks that came with being CFO of Donald Trump’s real estate empire. (The Trump Organization has maintained its not guilty plea, so his namesake business, and several related entities, remain under indictment.)
The New York Times: Plea Deal Requires Weisselberg to Testify at Trump Organization Trial.
Allen H. Weisselberg, for decades one of Donald J. Trump’s most trusted executives, has reached a deal to plead guilty on Thursday and admit to participating in a long-running tax scheme at the former president’s family business — a serious blow to the company that could heighten its risk in an upcoming trial on related charges.
Mr. Weisselberg will have to admit to all 15 felonies that prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office accused him of, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And if he is called as a witness at the company’s trial in October, he will have to testify about his role in the scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish corporate perks, the people said.
But Mr. Weisselberg will not implicate Mr. Trump or his family if he takes the stand in that trial, the people said, and he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors in their broader investigation into Mr. Trump, who has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Even so, his potential testimony will put the Trump Organization at a disadvantage and is likely to make Mr. Weisselberg a central witness at the October trial, where the company will face many of the same charges.
On cross-examination, the Trump Organization’s lawyers could accuse Mr. Weisselberg of pleading guilty only to spare himself a harsher sentence; under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, will spend as little as 100 days behind bars. They might also argue that it would be unfair to hold the Trump Organization accountable for a crime that was not committed by the Trump family, who control the company.
January 6 investigation
The New York Times: Jan. 6 Grand Jury Has Subpoenaed White House Documents.
Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times.
The subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for “all materials, in whatever form” that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.
It was signed by Thomas P. Windom, the federal prosecutor who has been leading the Justice Department’s wide-ranging inquiry into what part Mr. Trump and his allies may have played in various schemes to maintain power after the former president’s defeat in the 2020 election — chief among them a plan to submit fake slates of pro-Trump electors in states actually won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The subpoena was not related to a separate investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention and handling of classified documents that were removed from the White House at the end of his tenure and taken to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla. That inquiry led this month to a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago during which federal agents carted off several boxes of sensitive materials.
Asking the National Archives for any White House documents pertaining to the events surrounding Jan. 6 was one of the first major steps the House panel took in its investigation. And the grand jury subpoena suggests that the Justice Department has not only been following the committee’s lead in pursuing its inquiry, but also that prosecutors believe evidence of a crime may exist in the White House documents the archives turned over to the House panel.
Secret Service News
The U.S. Secret Service learned of a threat to House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) days before the Jan. 6 insurrection but failed to pass that information along until hours after the Capitol was breached, according to newly revealed emails.
Emails obtained by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington showed that Secret Service agents discovered a Parler account on Jan. 4, 2021, that posted a series of violent threats against the House speaker and Joe Biden, but the agency did not share them with law enforcement until more than five hours after Donald Trump supporters broke into the Capitol.
“Good afternoon, The US Secret Service is passing notification to the US Capitol Police regarding discovery of a social media threat directed toward Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the agency said in a message sent at 5:55 p.m. that day.
On Dec. 31, 2020, the account referred to the day Congress certified Biden’s win as “#1776 all over again” and listed a series of enemies, including Pelosi, and encouraged fellow Trump supporters to keep their “MAGA gear hidden” until they had checked into hotels and be wary of both police and locals….
The threats became more specific closer to Jan. 6, when the account targeted the president-elect.
“Biden will die shortly after being elected,” the account posted Jan. 6. “Patriots are gonna tear his head off. Prison is his best case scenario.”
“We’re all on a mission to save America. Lone wolf attacks are the way to go,” read another post from the following day. “Stay anonymous. Stay alive. Guns up Patriots!!”
Other emails obtained by CREW show the Secret Service learned of threats against vice president Mike Pence but failed to act.
That’s it for me today. What other stories are you following?