Lazy Caturday Reads
Posted: October 1, 2022 Filed under: just because
It’s a busy news day for a Saturday. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin gave an unhinged speech yesterday in which he announced Russia’s supposed annexation of parts of Ukraine. It’s not working out well for him on the ground.
Late last night, the DOJ asked the 11th Circuit appeals court to speed up consideration of their appeal of Judge Loose Cannon’s order of a special master to sort through the 11,000 unclassified files seized from Mar-a-Lago. Also last night, The Washington Post published a long article on conflicts in Trump’s legal team, including the fact that one of them, Christina Bobb, is willing to cooperate with the DOJ.
Jason Leopold, the FOIA expert who used to work for Buzzfeed, has moved to Bloomberg and published a scoop last night on Obama’s opinions about Trump. Plus, Politico published gossip about the “transition from hell” from Maggie Haberman’s upcoming book.
Putin and Ukraine
Michael Weiss and James Rushton at Yahoo News: Putin’s ‘annexation’ announcement changes little on the ground in Ukraine.
Even by his own fire-and-brimstone standards, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed angry on Friday as he addressed hundreds of Russian parliamentarians and governors in St. George Hall in the Kremlin.
The event had been called so that Putin could triumphantly announce his latest gambit in Ukraine, the annexation of four regions of that country into the Russian Federation. But as he rattled off a litany of reasons as to why this land grab was necessary, the mood was more apocalyptic than jubilant.
The rules-based international order was a sinister Western design, he told his audience, one that was rooted in Russophobia. The West itself has “embraced Satanism,” forced drug addiction, gender ambiguity and “the organized hunts of people as if they’re animals” — the latter either a strange reference to American mass shootings or the popularity of Netflix’s “Squid Game.” Nevertheless, such a fallen civilization still had the wherewithal to try and colonize Russia and steal its precious natural resources, he continued before comparing the United States to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, accusing it of setting a “precedent” in being the only nation to use nuclear weapons. Then he quoted from his favorite Russian fascist philosopher, Ivan Ilyin: “I believe in the spiritual forces of the Russian people, their spirit — my spirit, its fate is my fate, its suffering is my grief, its flowering is my joy.”
He sounds as crazy as Trump.
Following Putin’s theatrics, Ukraine announced it was applying for fast-track membership to NATO — exactly the contingency the Russian government has for years claimed it sought to avoid. However symbolic this declaration is (Ukraine’s accession is still a distant prospect), it deftly stole the international spotlight away from Putin….
Girl with Cat – Johs Rian 1932, Norwegian
Putin’s attempts to consolidate minimal Russian gains stand in marked contrast to the fact that his war of conquest is faltering, something even he subtly recognizes. Following his decree to gobble up four of Ukraine’s oblasts, he immediately suggested a “ceasefire” with Kyiv, which for weeks has been pressing the fight to the invaders.
Ukraine has continued its incredibly successful Kharkiv offensive by pushing across the Oskil River in an attempt to liberate the entirety of the oblast. Social media accounts have been overflowing with videos and pictures showing jubilant Ukrainian soldiers hoisting their flag’s blue-and-gold colors over recently liberated settlements. On Thursday, Ukrainian forces were said to have encircled the strategic city of Lyman in Donetsk, one of the oblasts Putin thinks is now going to be part of Russia. A few thousand Russian forces there have been cut off from the north, west and south, with only a narrow means of escaping eastward from advancing Ukrainian columns, according to pro-Russian military bloggers, whose pessimistic assessments are always more fact-based than anything emanating from the Russian Ministry of Defense. There are further indications that Lyman may be completely surrounded by Ukrainian forces.
And this morning Russian troops were forced to retreat. AP: Russia withdraws troops after Ukraine encircles key city.
After being encircled by Ukrainian forces, Russia pulled troops out Saturday from an eastern Ukrainian city that it had been using as a front-line hub. It was the latest victory for the Ukrainian counteroffensive that has humiliated and angered the Kremlin.
Russia’s withdrawal from Lyman complicates its internationally vilified move to annex four regions of Ukraine and paves the way for Ukrainian troops to potentially push further into land that Moscow now illegally claims as its own.
The fighting comes at a pivotal moment in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. Facing Ukrainian gains on the battlefield — which he frames as a U.S.-orchestrated effort to destroy Russia — Putin this week heightened his threats of nuclear force and used his most aggressive, anti-Western rhetoric to date.
Painting by FrankSofo
Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed to have inflicted damage on Ukrainian forces in battling to hold onto Lyman, but said outnumbered Russian troops were withdrawn to more favorable positions. The Russian announcement came soon after Ukraine’s air force said it had moved into Lyman and the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff posted photos of a Ukrainian flag being hoisted on the town’s outskirts.
Lyman, a key transport hub, had been an important node in the Russian front line for both ground communications and logistics. Located 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Lyman is in the Donetsk region near the border with Luhansk region, both of which Russia annexed Friday after an “referendum vote” was held at gunpoint.
Ukrainian forces have retaken vast swathes of territory in a counteroffensive that started in September which saw them push Russian forces out of the Kharkiv area and move east across the Oskil River toward Lyman and other strategic points.
New DOJ 11th Circuit Filing, and Trump’s Legal Team Troubles
Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein at Politico: Feds seek to fast-track appeal in Trump Mar-a-Lago documents fight.
The Justice Department moved to quickly dismantle the independent review of documents seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, contending that the review — ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon — is impeding its criminal investigation.
In a 15-page filing asking a federal appeals court to speed its consideration of the issue, prosecutors complained the “special master” review prevents DOJ from accessing thousands of non-classified records recovered from the former president’s estate.
While those documents don’t present the same urgent national security concerns as the smaller volume of classified materials DOJ successfully fought to regain access to earlier this month, Justice Department officials said the continued blockade on non-classified materials had slowed investigators’ efforts to determine how some of the classified records were transferred to Mar-a-Lago and whether any of them were improperly accessed.
“The government is … unable to examine records that were commingled with materials bearing classification markings, including records that may shed light on, for example, how the materials bearing classification markings were transferred to Plaintiff’s residence, how they were stored, and who may have accessed them,” DOJ officials, including counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt, wrote in the filing with the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. “The records not marked as classified may also constitute evidence of potential [obstruction] and [concealment or removal of government records].”
The Justice Department is seeking an expedited review of its appeal of Cannon’s order establishing the special master review. Though legal briefing in the appeal was slated to carry through mid-December or longer, DOJ’s proposed expedited schedule would conclude that process by mid-November and have oral arguments set soon thereafter.
The filing also hints at prosecutors’ irritation with Cannon, a Trump appointee confirmed days after his defeat in the 2020 election. The Justice Department noted that she has repeatedly overruled decisions made by the special master she appointed at Trump’s suggestion, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie. Those rulings could significantly delay Dearie’s review, prosecutors indicated.
Click the link to read the rest.
The Washington Post: Trump’s legal team divided over how to handle Mar-a-Lago case.
After attorney Christopher Kise accepted $3 million to represent Donald Trump in the FBI’s investigation of government documents stored at Mar-a-Lago, the veteran litigatorargued that Trump should adopt a new strategy.
Turn down the temperature with the Department of Justice, Kise — a former Florida solicitor general — counseled his famously combative client, people familiar with the deliberations said.
Federal authorities had searched Trump’s Florida residence and club because they badly wanted to retrieve the classified documents that remained there even after a federal subpoena, Kise argued, according to these people. With that material back in government hands, maybe prosecutors could be persuaded to resolve the whole issue quietly.
But quiet has never been Trump’s style — nor has harmony within his orbit.
Instead, just a few weeks after Kise was brought aboard, he finds himself in a battle, trying to persuade Trump to go along with his legal strategy and fighting with some other advisers who have counseled a more aggressive posture. The dispute has raged for at least a week, Trump advisers say, with the former president listening asvarious lawyers make their best arguments.
A Wednesday night court filing from Trump’s team was combative, with defense lawyers questioning the Justice Department’s truthfulness and motives. Kise, whose name was listed alongside other lawyers’ in previous filings over the past four weeks, did not sign that one— an absence that underscored the division among the lawyers.
This is a very long and detailed article, so check out the whole thing if you’re interested. I’ll just share one more interesting section on Christina Bobb, the lawyer who signed the document that falsely claimed all classified documents had been returned in response to a DOJ subpoena. Bobb was also involved in activities and meetings leading up to the January 6 insurrection.
Bobb has told others close to Trump that she believes the certification she signed was accurate. She has hired her own lawyer, Tampa-based former prosecutor John Lauro, and has made it known to Trump allies that she is willing to cooperate and be interviewed by the Justice Department, people familiar with the situation said.
Asked last week whether she was negotiating to sit for an interview with prosecutors, Bobb declined to comment, saying: “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to talk about it.” [….]
Chamberlain, Brenda; Girl with a Siamese Cat; Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
Following the 2020 election, she volunteered her services to Trump’s legal team challenging the election results. Documents released through public records requests show that she exchanged emails with the president of the Arizona Senate regarding documents the Republican leader had requested of Rudy Giuliani, who was spearheading Trump’s election challenges.
An email obtained by The Post shows that Bobb also served as the note taker during a Dec. 12 callthat focused on planning detailed logistics for fake electors to gather in states won by Biden and declare Trump the winner in those states. The email has been turned over to federal investigators exploring the fake-elector scheme.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Bobb huddled with Giuliani at the campaign’s informal headquarters at the Willard hotel in Washington as a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, The Post previously reported.
Despite giving numerous interviews in the days immediately after the FBI search in which she was identified as a lawyer for Trump, Bobb told a fellow RSBN anchor during a Sept. 23 broadcast that she was not acting as a Trump attorney while serving as custodian of the records in responding to the subpoena. The difference is important: The Justice Department team investigating the handling of the documents would face few hurdles to compel her to testify if she had not been serving as Trump’s lawyer at the time.
“I think people were a little bit confused,” Bobb told her fellow anchor. “I am on President Trump’s legal team. I do work for him on election issues. I was never on the legal team handling this case, just to be clear on that. Which is why I came in as the custodian of records — because I wasn’t on that team.”
That’s certainly interesting. Apparently her activities related to the stolen documents wouldn’t be covered by attorney-client privilege.
The Obama to Trump Transition
Jason Leopold at Bloomberg: For Obama, One Trump Term Wasn’t a Big Worry, but ‘Eight Years Would Be a Problem.’
Barack Obama told reporters in his last days as president that he wasn’t worried about a single Donald Trump term, but was concerned about a “sustained period” of political norms being undermined if he served two terms, according to newly released documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
By Suzanne Valadon
Obama met with reporters three days before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 17, 2017, for an off-the-record conversation. A White House transcript of the meeting — which was never reported under the ground rules agreed upon by the journalists — was included in a cache of documents released by the Justice Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
“I think that four years is okay,” Obama said. “Take on some water, but we can kind of bail fast enough to be okay. Eight years would be a problem. I would be concerned about a sustained period in which some of these norms have broken down and started to corrode.”
I fear Obama was wrong. Four years was much too long.
Obama’s nearly 90-minute conversation with reporters covered topics such as his commutation of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence for leaking classified documents, saying she didn’t deserve a 35-year sentence. He also noted that Edward Snowden’s leaks about US surveillance of private citizens “identified some problems that had to do with technology.”
But it was Obama’s comments about the Republican Party and Trump that seem almost prescient….
As for the GOP, Obama said he thought “the Republican Party now is ideologically completely incoherent.”
“You don’t know what they stand for,” he said.
“So what’s bound them together is opposition to me, opposition to a fantastical creature called the liberal who looks down on them and just feeds all that regional resentment,” Obama said. “And there are a handful of issues, like guns, that trigger that sense of ‘these folks aren’t like us and they don’t like us and act like us.’ And there’s obviously some racial elements that get put out into that stew.”
Obama said his No. 1 concern about the incoming Trump administration was the potential politicization of law enforcement. He advised reporters at the time to pay close attention to the Justice Department.
Finally, here’s the latest excerpt from Haberman’s book. Politico: Transition from hell.
While DONALD TRUMP was attempting to prevent then President-elect JOE BIDEN from ascending to office in the months after the election, his staff was determined to create headaches small and large for their eventual replacements….excerpts of the new book shared with West Wing Playbook show how in the final days of his presidency, Trump’s team took steps to sabotage their successors.
Will Barnet, Martha and two cats, 1984, American
Haberman reported that an employee of JOHN MCENTEE, who served as Trump’s director of the Presidential Personnel Office, stuffed copies of photos of HUNTER BIDEN into an air conditioning unit at the White House, breaking it.
The moment was a particularly petty representation of the disregard even rank-and-file staff had for the people who would soon be taking their jobs. The direct interactions between Trump and Biden’s senior staff weren’t much better.
Haberman noted that top members of Biden’s team were baffled by the behavior of their counterparts in the Trump White House. Even White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS, who paid lip service to easing the transition, simultaneously seemed to encourage the cohort of Trump world figures pushing to keep the president in office….
He refused to grant them access to a computer system needed to begin working on the president’s budget, telling the team that they “just can’t expect us to endorse your spending plans.” And when Klain said the president-elect needed to start receiving the intelligence briefing, Meadows asked how many days a week Biden wanted to get it. Haberman reported that Klain was “dumbstruck” by the question, and replied that Biden wanted it every day, just like he had as vice president. Meadows responded that “no president ever does that. That’s never happened.”
“It seemed so beyond Meadows’ own experience that he could not comprehend it,” Haberman wrote.
A few more details at the link.
What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?