Fill-In Friday Reads
Posted: September 9, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump | Tags: Department of Justice, DOJ, empty folders, Judge Aileen Cannon, missing documents, national security, Queen Elizabeth II
Dakinikat is a little under the weather, so I’m filling in today. Before I get to the news of the day, I wanted to share some images of the late Queen Elizabeth II from Twitter.
Marilyn Monroe meets the Queen, 1956
One more, a double rainbow appeared over Buckingham Palace after Elizabeth’s death.
DOJ Replies to Trump Judge Aileen Cannon
As far as I’m concerned, the top story is the DOJ’s latest effort to reason with MAGA Judge Aileen Cannon, while at the same time perhaps saving her from the further public humiliation of having her decision overturned by an appeals court.
Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: DOJ appeals special master ruling in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe.
The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that blocked investigators from reviewing a range of highly-sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Prosecutors said in a new court filing that U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to temporarily halt the FBI’s ability to probe the ex-president’s handling and storage of classified materials would cause “irreparable harm” to efforts by the intelligence community to protect national security interests.
“[I]n order to assess the full scope of potential harms to national security resulting from the improper retention of the classified records, the government must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised,” Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt argued in the filing. “But that inquiry is a core aspect of the FBI’s criminal investigation.”
The Justice Department delivered an unsparing assessment of Cannon’s contention that Trump might have a legitimate executive privilege claim over some of the seized documents, contending that a former president had no plausible right to assert ownership of classified records.
“That authority falls upon the incumbent President, not on any former President, because it is the incumbent President who bears the responsibility to protect and defend the national security of the United States,” Bratt wrote.
The DOJ filing amounts to a full-throated rebuke of the ruling by Cannon, a Trump appointee who was confirmed to a seat in the Southern District of Florida a week after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Prosecutors used the filing to describe her ruling as a danger to national security, one ignorant of the FBI’s integral role in modern counterintelligence work, and lacking in an understanding of the complexities of executive privilege.
More from The New York Times’s Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer, and Charlie Savage: Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Lift Block on Trump Documents Investigation.
The department, in forceful and foreboding language, argued that determining the national security implications of Mr. Trump’s retention of the documents was so intertwined with its criminal investigation that carrying out a separate risk assessment was impossible under the conditions imposed by the court.
Justice Department lawyers complained that the judge’s order was impeding efforts to determine whether there may yet be “additional classified records that are not being properly stored” and noted that the search had recovered empty folders marked as classified whose contents “may have been lost or compromised.”
In an order on Thursday evening, Judge Cannon directed Mr. Trump’s lawyers to respond to the government’s filing by Monday.
In an affidavit accompanying the filing, Alan E. Kohler Jr., the assistant director of the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division, wrote that the intelligence community’s assessment of the classified material was “inextricably linked with the criminal investigation.”
Department lawyers wrote that “uncertainty regarding the bounds of the court’s order and its implications for the activities of the F.B.I. has caused the intelligence community, in consultation with D.O.J., to pause temporarily this critically important work.”
The government and the public, the department added, “are irreparably injured when a criminal investigation of matters involving risks to national security” is frozen or delayed.
More explanation from The Washington Post’s Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett: Justice Dept. seeks to regain access to classified Mar-a-Lago documents.
Ultimately, the Justice Department said that a special master could be appointed to review personal documents and some other items seized by FBI agents on Aug. 8 in a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, setting aside materials as necessary.
But prosecutors argued that Cannon should prohibit the special master from reviewing classified documents — and should restore investigators’ access to those documents right away.
Barring the FBI from using the classified material in the investigation, even temporarily, “could impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored — which itself presents the potential for ongoing risk to national security,” prosecutors wrote.
It was the first time they have suggested in court filings that there could be more unsecured classified material the government has yet to locate.
Allowing a special master to review the classified material would “cause the most immediate and serious harms to the government and the public,” prosecutorswrote in their Thursday filing, noting that those seized documents have already been moved to a secure facility, separate from the rest of the seized Trump papers.
Remember the empty folders marked classified that turned up during the search? The FBI needs to learn what those folders originally contained.
FBI Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler submitted a declaration saying that Cannon’s prohibition of investigators’ use of the seized classified material could prevent them from understanding what may have happened to the significant number of empty folders found with classified markings.
The existence of those empty folders was made public last week, when a more detailed list of what the FBI took in the search was unsealed.
The FBI’s investigation, Kohler wrote, “could be instrumental in determining what materials may once have been stored in those folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised.”
Judge Cannon is on notice that she will have to choose between protecting Trump and protecting the national security of the United States of America.
Some analysis of the empty folders issue from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Justice Department leans in on Trump and the empty folders.
One week ago, we learned an intriguing detail about the search of Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago: Along with the roughly 100 classified documents recovered, the government also found 48 folders with banners marked “classified” but which were nonetheless empty.
What we didn’t know was how significant the government considered that finding; the empty folders were merely listed on an inventory list.
On Thursday, though, the Justice Department served notice that the empty folders are of significant interest. And it argued that tracing them to specific classified documents is among the urgent reasons that its review should be allowed to continue….
Among the handful of reasons mentioned: the empty folders. And the Justice Department implies that it might indeed be able to use the folders to determine whether there are larger issues than Trump merely having possessed classified documents. Specifically, it cites the possibility that classified documents might have been “lost” or “compromised.”
“The FBI would be chiefly responsible for investigating what materials may have once been stored in these folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised — steps that, again, may require the use of grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, and other criminal investigative tools and could lead to evidence that would also be highly relevant to advancing the criminal investigation,” the DOJ’s filing states.
Later in the filing, the Justice Department again returns to the idea that classified documents might still be missing.
“In addition, the injunction against using classified records in the criminal investigation could impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored — which itself presents the potential for ongoing risk to national security,” it says.
The idea that the government hasn’t recovered all classified documents is hardly far-fetched. Trump, after all, failed to return all the documents when they were subpoenaed months ago, even as his lawyer asserted that all requested documents had been returned, federal prosecutors said last month.
Republicans on the defensive?
David Siders at Politico: ‘The environment is upside down’: Why Dems are winning the culture wars.
It’s already the consensus that abortion is going to be a good issue for Democrats in November.
What’s only now becoming clear — as Republicans scrub their campaign websites of prior positions on abortion and labor to turn the focus of the midterms back to President Joe Biden and the economy — is just how much the issue is altering the GOP’s standard playbook.
For the first time in years, Republican and Democratic political professionals are preparing for a general election campaign in which Democrats — not Republicans — may be winning the culture wars, a wholesale reversal of the traditional political landscape that is poised to reshape the midterms and the run-up to 2024.
“The environment is upside down,” said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “The intensity has been reversed.”
It isn’t just abortion. Less than 20 years after conservatives used ballot measures against same-sex marriage to boost voter turnout in 11 states, public sentiment has shifted on the issue so dramatically that Democrats are poised to force a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage to try to damage Republican candidates. Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats from Georgia and Wisconsin to Illinois and California are running ads supporting gun restrictions, once viewed as a liability for the left, while openly engaging Republicans on crime.
In an advertising campaign shared with POLITICO, the center-left group Third Way said the PAC it launched last year to defend moderate Democrats, Shield PAC, will start spending at least $7 million next week on digital and mail ads in seven competitive House districts to counter Republican attacks on crime, immigration and other culture war issues.
The advertising push follows polling in Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s Virginia district that suggested counter-messaging by Democrats on public safety could blunt the effect of “defund the police” attacks by Republicans. As a result, while Spanberger is airing ads tearing into her Republican opponent on abortion, Shield PAC will be running a digital campaign bolstering Spanberger’s credentials on police funding.
Could Louisiana Senator Foghorn Leghorn be waking up to the notion that culture wars aren’t going his way and reverting back to his former self? Raw Story: GOP senator helps confirm Black Biden judicial nominee after his colleague’s racist attack.
On Thursday, POLITICO reported that Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) broke ranks with his Republican colleagues to help confirm Andre Mathis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — the first Black man to be confirmed to that court in nearly a quarter century.
“Mathis did so by one vote, clearing the Senate 48-47 with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) breaking from his party to give the nominee the votes,” said the report. “If Mathis’ nomination failed, Democrats would’ve had to bring it up again — burning valuable floor time during a time crunch before the midterms.”
The report continued: “When asked why he voted for the Biden-appointed nominee, Kennedy told reporters: ‘He did a great job in committee, in my opinion. He’s a partner at Butler Snow, which is a major national law firm. The criminal record that they talked about, that he forgot to face some traffic tickets, when they contacted him about it through a warrant, he just said, ‘It’s true, I forgot to pay them,’ and he paid up, but I just didn’t think that was disqualifying.”
athis’ unpaid traffic tickets were a point of contention for other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) provoked controversy when she interrogated Mathis over the tickets, referring to them as a “rap sheet.”
“The conservative Kennedy rarely diverges from his party,” noted the report. “His vote only proved decisive with three Democratic senators out of office due to Covid — Sens. Jon Ossoff (Ga.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and Bob Menendez (N.J.)
I’m going to end there, and I’ll see you in the comments. Have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend!!