Lazy Caturday Reads

Happy Caturday!!

d0e1b6bff14a34fed8a756186142162cIt’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

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.

Frank Sofo

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].”

2e6b8d07f606349ed245bc1eb13ded82The 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.

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, 1912-1971; Girl with a Siamese Cat

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.

Suzanne Valadon2

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

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?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

It’s pretty clear that Hurricane Ian did catastrophic damage in Florida, although there still isn’t much specific reporting on it. The images on TV are horrifying though. We’ll likely be getting more details throughout today and over the next few days. The storm is now moving toward Georgia and the Carolinas. You can read live updates at the Weather Channel: Tropical Storm Ian Live Updates: Catastrophic Damage; Destruction Hampers Rescue Efforts; Death Reported.

More on Ian:

CNN: Sanibel and Captiva islands cut off from Florida mainland after Ian’s storm surge washes away three parts of Sanibel Causeway.

At least three sections of the Sanibel Causeway were washed away by storm surge from Hurricane Ian, according to video from CNN affiliates WBBH and WPLG, severing the Sanibel and Captiva islands’ only connection to Florida’s mainland.

The videos from the causeway show two portions of the ramp to both bridges washed away, as well as a stretch of roadway that crossed an island in the middle of the causeway.

A portion of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge “was damaged/washed out,” Lieutenant Gregory S. Bueno with the Public Affairs Division of Florida Highway Patrol told CNN. All lanes of the bridge are currently closed and the severity of the closure is listed as “major,” according to Florida 511.

Law enforcement and personnel from the Lee County Department of Transportation are on scene at the causeway, officials said in an update Thursday morning, and bridge inspectors were working to asses all bridges in Lee County. Residents are advised to remain off the roads “unless absolutely necessary.

The county, which includes Fort Myers in addition to Sanibel and Captiva islands and Cape Coral, suffered “catastrophic damage” from the storm, officials said in their update, noting that 98% of the county remains without power.

Urban search and rescue crews from local agencies are “actively engaged in search and rescue efforts,” with federal search and rescue teams being deployed. In the meantime, the 15 shelters opened prior to the storm’s arrival remain open.

Also from CNN this morning: Rescuers scour Florida’s flooded disaster zone amid massive power outages as Ian continues its ruinous crawl.

Rescuers have been pulling people from roofs as they work to respond to hundreds of calls for help since Ian – now a tropical storm marching across Florida – slammed the state’s west coast as a Category 4 hurricane, its surge trapping residents and its monstrous winds and flooding rains leaving millions without power and many without drinkable water.

Many are believed to need rescuing in hard-hit southwest Florida’s Fort Myers area, FEMA chief Deanne Criswell said Thursday morning. The nearby Naples area was similarly slammed – feet of water submerged streets, nearly swallowing vehicles and rushing into the first floors of homes and businesses – after Ian’s center plowed ashore near Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall on Florida’s west coast.

The Coast Guard and National Guard were “pulling people off of roofs in Fort Myers” with aircraft Thursday morning, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson told CNN. Coast Guard crews have rescued at least 23 people since Wednesday, the service said.

Roughly five people are believed to have died in Lee County, the sheriff said, and parts of a key bridge there from Sanibel and Captiva islands to Florida’s mainland have been washed out.

Collapsed buildings, flooding, downed power lines and impassable roads were reported early Thursday by survey crews across southwest Florida. More than 2.5 million homes and businesses statewide have no power Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, and some drinking water systems have broken down completely or have boil notices in effect.

Still, much about the misery remains unknown: how many lives Ian may have ended, how many people remain trapped, how many homes were wrecked beyond repair and how long it might take to restore a semblance of ordinary life.

The death toll from Tropical Storm Ian remained unclear early Thursday after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said it brought “historic” damage to the state, hours after President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Florida amid what the National Hurricane Center described as “catastrophic flooding” over east and central parts of the state.

“We’ve never seen a flood event like this,” DeSantis said.

Two people were reported dead Thursday, though DeSantis said it was still unconfirmed whether their deaths were storm-related or if they died amid the storm from other causes. Local officials reported that a 34-year-old man died in Martin County, just north of Palm Beach, and a 72-year-old man died in Volusia County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The Lee County sheriff said Thursday he believed “hundreds” might be dead after the storm made landfall to the north, though no numbers have been confirmed as search and rescue efforts are underway.

Here’s what to know

  • The National Hurricane Center said Ian, which is heading toward Florida’s northeast with maximum sustained winds of about 65 miles per hour, is expected to further weaken Friday night and into Saturday but may re-intensify at times, and “could be near hurricane strength” on Friday when it approaches South Carolina.
  • Ian battered parts of Florida’s western coast, tearing down trees and power lines and causing dangerous storm surges in parts of the state. Authorities in Fort Myers, which was badly hit, said late Wednesday that parts of the city were under 3 to 4 feet of water. To the south in Naples, half of the streets “are not passable due to high water,” Collier County warned in a tweet.
  • Hurricane warnings that were in effect for parts of Florida’s east and west coasts were changed early Thursday to tropical storm warnings. Several airports across the state suspended commercial operations and canceled flights.

The storm will now move up the coast to do more damage. This story at NBC discusses how climate change is affecting storms like Ian: Why ‘Category 4’ doesn’t begin to explain Hurricane Ian’s dangers.

Even as Ian gathered strength and neared Category 5 status, experts warned that solely paying attention to a hurricane’s category often masks just how destructive and life-threatening these storms can be — particularly as climate change makes hurricanes both rainier and more intense.

Hurricane Ian is already proving to be a devastating storm. After knocking out power to all of Cuba on Tuesday, Ian is forecast to dump up to 24 inches of rain over parts of Florida and trigger up to 18-foot storm surges from Englewood to Bonita Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center

In the days leading up to Ian’s landfall, many drew comparisons to Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida’s southwestern coast as a Category 4 storm in 2004. But while past hurricanes can provide helpful context, Ian is sure to be a wildly different storm, said Kimberly Wood, an associate professor of meteorology at Mississippi State University.

“We’re looking at a similar category as Hurricane Charley, but the impacts will be very, very different,” they said.

Many of the most destructive and potentially deadly impacts of a hurricane — including storm surge, flooding and rainfall — are not accounted for in a storm’s category number. That’s because these categories refer to a storm’s rating on what’s known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks hurricanes from 1 to 5 based on a storm’s maximum sustained wind speed.

The categories are used to estimate potential damage to property from hurricane winds, but where it becomes problematic is if people use the rankings to gauge other impacts on land.

“It has nothing to do with the size of a storm, and it has very little to do with how much rain is produced,” Wood said. “People hyper-focus on the category when the category is a very small part of the picture of what a hurricane might do to a location.”

The effects of climate change:

Hurricane Ian’s rainfall projections across Florida are a major concern and fit within a broader trend of storms becoming rainier in recent years due to climate change. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which often means heavy rain and catastrophic flooding when these storms make landfall.

Warmer ocean waters and other changes associated with climate change could also help hurricanes like Ian intensify rapidly as they near shore, said Karthik Balaguru, a climate scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

As they approach the coast, major hurricanes can generate life-threatening storm surge, which refers to the abnormal rise in water levels because of the storm. Even lower-ranked hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson scale can generate huge storm surge.

As we saw yesterday, the storm surge in Florida was devastating.

More on climate change and hurricanes at Vox: Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification is a sign of the world to come.

On Monday morning, Hurricane Ian had wind speeds of 75 miles per hour. Just 48 hours later, those speeds had more than doubled. On Wednesday, as the storm made landfall in southwestern Florida, Ian’s wind hit 155 mph — just shy of a Category 5 storm, the most severe category for a hurricane.

Such rapid growth is known by meteorologists as “rapid intensification.” It’s defined as storms whose wind speeds increase by roughly 35 mph or more in less than 24 hours. “Ian definitely met that criteria,” said Paul Miller, a professor of oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University.

While wind speed isn’t the only force that makes storms dangerous, hurricanes that rapidly intensify are especially worrisome. They can easily catch coastal communities off guard, giving them little time to prepare, Miller said.

What caused the rapid intensification?

It’s an important question, as storms like this one are highly destructive and are likely to become more frequent in the years to come.

There are three main ingredients that, when mixed together, can result in a rapidly intensifying hurricane: moist air, low wind shear (wind coming from different directions or at different speeds), and warm ocean water….

Ian had them all. As it developed several days ago, the storm system faced some disrupting winds, but there was little shear as it grew over the last few days, Miller said. And Ian has largely avoided a region of dry air in the Gulf of Mexico. (Had Ian hit Florida farther north, it might have deteriorated faster, he said.)

Then there’s the warm ocean water. The Gulf of Mexico has been unseasonably warm this summer, according to the National Weather Service. And climate change is heating the Caribbean ocean by a little over 1 degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per century.

“Even small changes — half a degree C, or a degree — can really make a big difference,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

Another reason why the ocean is so warm is that it’s been a relatively quiet hurricane season so far. As hurricanes churn through the Caribbean, they sap heat from the water and churn it up, making it colder and less favorable for rapid intensification, Miller said.

Read more at Vox.

More news, links only:

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Giant Backfire’: Trump’s Demand for Special Master Is Looking Like a Mistake.

CNN: Trump pushing back on special master’s request for him to declare in court whether DOJ inventory is accurate.

The Daily Beast: Judge Warns of Justice Department’s Gift to Trump That Could Keep on Giving.

Just Security: Tracker: Evidence of Trump’s Knowledge and Involvement in Retaining Mar-a-Lago Documents.

The Washington Post: Pentagon will double powerful HIMARS artillery for Ukraine.

AP: Russia poised to annex occupied Ukraine after sham vote.

CNN: First on CNN: European security officials observed Russian Navy ships in vicinity of Nord Stream pipeline leaks.

Forbes: Russian Sabotage Of The Nord Stream Pipeline Marks A Point Of No Return.

NPR: EU officials and others are concerned about explosions at Nord Stream pipelines.

Raw Story: ‘Incredibly alarming’: Republican poll worker in Michigan charged with tampering with voting equipment.

The Daily Beast: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Husband of 27 Years Files for Divorce.

Unfortunately, Ian didn’t wash Mar-a-Lago away, but Trump is stuck there.

If you’re in the path of the storm, please stay safe. Take care everyone.

Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

robin-morgan-2020

Robin Morgan

Yesterday, thanks to a series of tweets by Delphyne, I read an excellent essay by Robin Morgan on religion and U.S. politics, specifically focused on the shadowy Catholic group Opus Dei. It’s long, but I highly recommend reading it, because members of the group dominate the Supreme Court and strongly influence the Republican Party. Although the post is about the Catholic Church, Morgan notes that protestant evangelicals are equally dangerous to our democracy. I’ll try to give you the gist with some excerpts:

Opus Dei is a powerful, secretive organization with members in political, economic, and church leadership throughout the world. Opus Dei reveals no details about its finances, maintains a high degree of control over its members, and censors their reading matter as “appropriate or inappropriate.” Women’s membership has been another source of criticism, due to rank misogyny in its teachings and practice: for example, women are supposedly treated as equals, but are separated from men in their personal spiritual training and in separate branches; in many male Opus Dei centers, women visit every evening to cook for the men, and then leave with no social interaction whatsoever. Sexual abuse cases in Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, and the United States have been investigated, with canonical sanctions (but not civil or criminal charges) applied to the perpetrators. These “controversies” include those above-mentioned, plus recruiting methods aimed at teenagers being separated from their families; illicit use of psychiatric drugs; misleading of the lay faithful about their status and rights under Canon Law; extreme fasting and mortification of the flesh practiced by celibate members; elitism; and support of authoritarian governments….

Founded in 1928, Opus Dei was formally approved by the Holy See in 1950 as a secular institute—a new form of religious association whose members “profess evangelical councils in secular life.” On November 28, 1982, Pope John Paul II, a staunch supporter of Opus Dei, designated it a “personal prelature,” the first and only independent and personal Prelature in the Church–under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate, and with jurisdiction over persons rater than a geographic area. Later, John Paul II also allowed an unusually swift canonization of Escrivá–faster than any saint in history–because Opus Dei had bailed out the Vatican Bank with $250 million in 1985.

Fortunately, Pope Francis recently reduced the power of Opus Dei within the Church and ordered them to report to him more frequently.

How has Opus Dei influenced the U.S. government and the courts?

Scattered lists of prominent Opus Dei members are available, if they’ve “outed” themselves first. These include the president of Spain’s largest bank in assets and the president of Spain’s third biggest bank, the chief financial officer of Ireland’s largest bank, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee. The group also targeted for conversion political and business leaders such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback; Judge Robert Bork (Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee); Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and Larry Kudlow (Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, who wrote in 2016 that plutocracy is “just what America needs”).

300px-Leo

Leonard Leo

The infamous “troika” that served Donald Trump’s regime so effectively was constituted of the arch-conservative, powerful, Federalist Society, the CIC (Catholic Information Center, an ultra right-wing think tank), and Opus Dei. Pat Cipollone, who served as Trump’s White House Counsel from December 2018 to January 2021, was listed as a member of the CIC Board until CIC stopped publishing their board list in October 2018; today, his daughter-in-law is a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. William Barr chaired the CIC board in 2014 and served there until 2017, when he joined Trump as Attorney General. Following his departure as AG in January 2021, Barr returned to the CIC as a senior fellow, and last October (2021) became the new “St. Thomas More Chair.”

Interlocking troika board members and officials are stunningly hidden in plain sight. Leonardo Leo, a self-declared Opus Dei operative, was also the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the CIC (which, by the way, is two blocks from the White House). Leo hits every base. All this is a matter of record….

The extremely powerful man who forwarded five names to the Senate for approval as supreme court justices was Leonardo Leo. It was Leo who pushed Mitch McConnell to nominate Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The troika’s role in installing Trump’s justices is also a matter of record. According to Church and State, “Of the Supreme Court members, six (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett) are current or former members.”

Others have also identified the late Justice Antonin Scalia as an Opus Dei member; his wife attended Catholic Information Center events and his son has spoken there. Church and State Magazine writes that “Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas,” and that when John Roberts was nominated for the Court, Leonard Leo “assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy” (who apparently went “squishy” and liberal).

I’ve probably quoted too much, but I think this is vitally important information for understanding the right wing attack on on the separation of church and state and the need to fight to preserve American democracy generally.

I wasn’t able to watch the NASA video feed yesterday, but I know some Sky Dancers were very excited about it. Here’s a report from The Washington Post: NASA crashes spacecraft into asteroid, passing planetary defense test.

NASA managed Monday to crash a small spacecraft directly into an asteroid, a 14,000-mile-per-hour collision designed to test whether such a technology could someday be deployed to protect Earth from a potentially catastrophic impact.

The violent end of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft thrilled scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operated the mission under a NASA contract.

The asteroid, Dimorphos, is the size of a stadium — or the Great Pyramid of Giza, as one scientist put it Monday — and is about 7 million miles from Earth at the moment. It orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos. Neither poses a threat to our planet now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

This was just a test, NASA’s first demonstration of a potential planetary defense technique, called a kinetic impactor. The idea is to give a hypothetically dangerous asteroid just enough of a blow to alter its orbital trajectory.

Launched last November from California, the spacecraft was small, roughly the size of a vending machine or golf cart. Dimorphos is rather big — roughly 500 feet or so in diameter, although its precise shape and composition were unknown before the final approach. Scientists anticipated a plume of debris from the asteroid upon impact but no significant structural change. This is more akin to a bug splattering on a windshield.

“This isn’t just bowling-ball physics,” Applied Physics Laboratory planetary scientist Nancy Chabot told reporters. “The spacecraft’s gonna lose.”

But even small effects on an asteroid’s movement could prove a planet-saver. An early collision with an asteroid, if done early enough — say, 5 to 10 years in advance of its projected encounter with Earth — could be just enough to slow it down and make it miss.

Read more at the WaPo.

Denver Riggleman

Denver Riggleman

I’m torn about how to take the revelations in the new book by former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, released today. Is it really that important for the January 6 Committee to keep all their findings secret until they reveal them in their rare public hearings? Frankly, I would have liked to see many more hearings and more information released to the public. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m no expert, but I think Riggleman has some good points. If you’re interested, I suggest watching the 60 Minutes interview (in which Riggleman says he resigned because the Committee refused to subpoena Ginni Thomas) and reading this post from Riggleman’s co-author Hunter Walter: Walking You Through ‘The Breach’

The book was written by Denver Riggleman, an ex-congressman and former senior adviser to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Helping Denver tell his story was the honor of a lifetime. As any regular reader of this site knows, I was at the Capitol on January 6 and, ever since, have dedicated myself to exposing what happened that day. Bringing Denver’s story to the world is the culmination of those efforts.

I believe this book contains some of the most dramatic revelations about the attack on the Capitol and the involvement of the Trump administration as well as Republican members of Congress in the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

 — Denver advised the committee from August 2021 through April 2022. During that time, he led and assembled a team that was focused on telephone analysis. These investigators helped the committee obtain phone records from persons of interest including high-level associates of President Trump and individuals who have been charged with participating in the Capitol attack. The team used this data to compile maps that — quite literally — show the direct links between the political and militant components of the effort to overturn the election. The largest map was dubbed “The Monster” [see graphic above] by Denver and his team. He discussed it in more detail in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. 

— Phone records obtained by Denver’s team showed there was a call to a rioter’s cell phone that was connected through the White House switchboard during the Capitol attack. Following Denver’s appearance on “60 Minutes,” CNN identified the rioter who received the call as Anton Lunyk, a Brooklyn, New York man who entered the Capitol building on January 6….

 — The committee’s link maps also show extensive coordination between militant groups that took part in the attack, namely the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Along with communicating with each other, these groups were in extensive contact with Trump associates and activists who planned rallies that occurred in Washington on January 6.

— Denver’s team also helped analyze and decipher thousands of text messages that were provided to the committee by Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He describes these messages as “irrefutable time-stamped proof of a comprehensive plot — at all levels of government — to overturn a free and fair election and leave Trump in power.”

There’s more at the link.

More interesting stories, links only:

Julia Ainsley at NBC News: Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators.

CNN: Meadows texts reveal direct White House communications with pro-Trump operative behind plans to seize voting machines.

The Washington Post: Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who exposed U.S. surveillance.

Timothy Noah at The New Republic: Hell Is a World in Which Everybody Writes Like Axios.

CNN: Historic trial for Oath Keepers leader and his top lieutenants over January 6 set to begin.

Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Sedition Trial of Oath Keepers to Get Underway.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: Ex-Staffer Says DeSantis TORCHES Trump in Private: ‘Moron Who Has No Business Running For President’

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Ron DeSantis: The Making and Remaking (an Remaking) of a MAGA Heir. 

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking. Putin is running out of time.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Two Wannabe Tyrants and A Struggling One

Happy Caturday!!

079258366aa3aa1cb71e700f59e9028dHillary Clinton dared to speak the truth about Trump in an interview yesterday. Mary Papenfuss wrote about it at HuffPo: Hillary Clinton Compares Trump To Hitler In Disturbing Interview.

In a stinging interview Friday one-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, and his political rallies to Nazi gatherings.

She zeroed in on Trump’s rally last week in Youngstown, Ohio, where members of the crowd raised a stiff-armed, one-finger QAnon salute to the former president in a gesture chillingly reminiscent of the “heil Hitler” salute.

The QAnon gesture stands for WWG1WGA, or: “Where We Go One We Go All.”

“I remember as a young student, you know, trying to figure out how people get basically brought in by Hitler. How did that happen?” Clinton asked during an onstage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

“I’d watch newsreels and I’d see this guy standing up there ranting and raving, and people shouting and raising their arms. I thought, ‘What’s happened to these people?’” she added.

“You saw the rally in Ohio the other night,” Clinton noted. “Trump is there ranting and raving for more than an hour, and you have these rows of young men with their arms raised. What is going on?”

She added: “I think it is fair to say we’re in a struggle between democracy and autocracy.”

Trump had another rally in North Carolina yesterday. He did plenty of ranting and railing, but his security people stopped audience members who raised their arms in the “heil Hitler”-like gesture. Either Trump or his advisers must have been paying attention to the negative public reaction.

From Eric Garcia, reporter at The Independent, who attended the rally: QAnon, the Big Lie and misogyny: Inside Trump’s Wilmington rally. Trump was supposedly there to support Republican candidates; but, as usual, the rally was all about him and his many grievances.

Former president Donald Trump held a rally in Wilmington on Friday, his first since New York attorney general Letitia James announced her civil lawsuit against him, his three eldest children, his business associates, and the Trump organisation this week….

Indeed, before Mr Trump took the stage, the two monitors on the sides of the stage played a segment from Fox News’ host Jesse Watters comparing Mr Trump’s storage of documents with that of the previous four former presidents.

But the former president also used the rally to air his grievances against Ms James’s lawsuit against him, his family and his business organization, which she called “The Art of the Steal” at a Wednesday press conference.

GettyImages-987491478“There’s no better example of the chilling obsession with targeting political opponents than the baseless, abusive and depraved lawsuit against me, my family, my company, by the racist attorney general of New York state,” he said, giving her the moniker “Letitia ‘Peekaboo’ James.” [….]

Mr Trump’s dislike of female public figures who challenge him – be they Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Meryl Streep or Rosie O’Donnell – is well-known. But throughout his speech, he repeatedly ridiculed Ms James, a Black woman, in incredibly personal terms, saying that she is more focused on attacking him than focusing on violent crime.

“This raging maniac campaign for office ranting and raving about her goal – her only goal is, we got to get Donald Trump,” he said about Ms James. “In fact, I was watching it and I said ‘boy, that woman is angry, I don’t think she likes me too much.’”

Garcia on the QAnon salute:

During his rally in Ohio last week, Mr Trump and rally goers confused many when he played dramatic music while attendees pointed one finger in the air. Mr Trump repeated the practice this time, albeit it looked like fewer people raised their fingers in the air during the rally.

A few people who attended the rally had QAnon memorabilia, with some attendees wearing QAnon hats and one truck having an image of Mr Trump with John F Kennedy Jr and former president John F Kennedy, prominent figures in the QAnon conspiracy theories.

Gay Gaines said she approved of the use.

“I loved it, it was very emotional, very touching, very inspirational, very uplifting, and hopeful,” she said. “Good way to end it.”

ShortStack_265125897_1_Carol_Ramsey_MLeditTrump has been “retruthing” QAnon messages regularly on his imitation Twitter website, but yesterday he really outdid himself. Insider: Donald Trump shares Truth Social photo proclaiming him as second only to Jesus.

Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social account on Friday, declaring him as “second” only to Jesus.

The post by Truth Social user @austinnegrete said: “Jesus is the Greatest. President @realDonaldTrump is the second greatest.”

It accompanied an image of a painting of Jesus by artist Dan Wilson.

Trump “ReTruthed,” or reposted, the Jesus comparison to his 4.1 million Truth Social followers.

Of course this is ridiculous, as is the QAnon craziness; but we know from past experience that Trump’s ranting and his sway over his audiences is dangers. Mark Follman writes at Mother Jones: Trump Continues to Escalate His Dangerous Incitement.

As the ex-president faces advancing federal and state investigations ranging from Mar-a-Lago to New York to Georgia, he has escalated an insidious form of political incitement, behavior that seems to signal a growing desperation over his legal predicaments. As I first reported beginning two years ago, Trump has long honed a rhetorical method that security experts call “stochastic terrorism”: By continually demonizing his “enemies,” he stirs random violence from extremist supporters as a means to exert and try to maintain political power.

Investigation of the January 6 insurrection showed the consequences of this technique on a mass scale—and further revealed Trump’s explicit willingness to resort to it after attempts to overturn the 2020 election via Congress and the courts had failed. According to sworn testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide in the White House, Trump knowingly urged armed supporters to descend on the Capitol that day and had wanted to lead them there. Ever since, Trump has successfully spread the use of incitement among GOP leaders, as I documented recently.

Repetition across various media is key to the technique and increases the likelihood of violence, according to recently published research from threat assessment experts. Trump has delivered on that in recent weeks: He has continued to target various agencies and individuals using his Truth Social platform, speeches at political rallies, and interviews on Fox News and other more fringe media outlets.

ShortStack_265618904_1_Marguerite_Young_MLeditAnd he has used particularly grim rhetoric. At a Sept. 3 rally in Pennsylvania, Trump calledthe FBI and Justice Department “vicious monsters” and President Biden an “enemy of the state.” During an interview on a right-wing radio show on Sept. 15, he predicted there would be “big problems” in the country if he were to be charged by the Justice Department. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he told host Hugh Hewitt. On Truth Social, Trump promoted a QAnon meme featuring him as a heroic icon of the lunatic conspiracy-theory movement regarded by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat. Soon thereafter, Trump gave an apocalyptic speech at an Ohio rally where he used music evoking a QAnon theme song, prompting fascistic salutes from the crowd.

Trump hammered home similar messages again on Wednesday in a lengthy sit-down at Mar-a-Lago with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Asked by Hannity to comment on a new lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over alleged financial fraud by Trump, the ex-president laid into the state’s top lawyer and her staff: “They were demeaning me constantly, these people,” he said. “There’s something wrong with them. I really believe they hate our country.”

His effort specifically to provoke feelings of contempt among his supporters is no accident and furthers the risk for violence.

Read the rest at the link.

On MSNBC this morning, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had a few choice words for his former boss. Raw Story: Cornered Trump ‘doesn’t care if he burns the country down’: former adviser.

Speaking with host Ali Velshi, Cohen said the former president has big legal troubles coming at him from different directions and painting him into a corner.

He then predicted the former president won’t go down quietly.

“What stands out to you, what’s the thing you’re most thinking about right now?” host Velshi asked.

“There are so many investigations and you wouldn’t believe — if this was a television show you would turn around and say, ‘it’s too stupid! I can’t watch this, it’s stupid, it can never happen,'” Cohen exclaimed. “But it is happening in real-time in our lives.”

“Our democracy is in peril because of one man; one man who goes ahead and weaponizes the United States Department of Justice against his critics, against the country against anybody who was not one of his supporters, he is willing to go after.”

“He doesn’t care if he burns the country down in doing it,” Cohen

0b834e1e3ab544c08f19500a8ffeccb6Enough about Trump. Let’s turn to the Trump wannabe in Florida who is also a danger to democracy could end up running for president in 2024–Ron DeSantis. Could he be facing a serious backlash from Florida voters?

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Ugly new details about Ron DeSantis’s stunt point to a deeper scam.

Who paid for the migrants to be transported from Texas to Florida?

That question emerges from new revelations about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s vile stunt, in which he transported two planeloads of migrants from Texas to Florida and on to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The Florida Republican refuses to release the state contract that funded the flights. That suggests DeSantis is seeking to bury critical facts even as reporters fill in details about the flights — and their questionable legality.

This potentially points to a deeper scam. DeSantis — whose presidential ambitions emit a stench akin to Limburger rotting in an old sock — is gushing with own-the-libs bluster, vowing to keep shoving migrants in the faces of elite liberals everywhere. But the ones truly getting “owned” by this farce are right-wing voters and Florida taxpayers. The more information that comes out, the clearer this will become.

In a useful piece NBC News’s Marc Caputo reports that the outfit contracted to ship migrants — Vertol Systems Company Inc. — has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Florida GOP candidates. One funded Matt Gaetz, a right-wing media troll who moonlights as a congressman.

That company has been paid $1.6 million so far, per NBC, and the contract totals $12 million, supposedly to cover future shipments of migrants to other states. NBC also reports:

“But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to be flown from “this state” of Florida — not any other state — and Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized aliens” because they’re allowed to be in this country.”

So a big question is whether state funding of the transport of migrants from Texas to Florida violated that budgetary language. On this basis, a Democratic state senator filed a lawsuit Thursday to block further funding for the flights.

Read more at the WaPo.

bc848f30f3057dd0b612f28a08cce1c2Could DeSantis be facing serious backlash over his treatment of asylum-seekers? Check this out:

The Hill: DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing mounting scrutiny in his home state over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants to the elite resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

While the move was lauded by conservatives as a powerful protest of the Biden administration’s approach to border security, it has sparked a wave of criticism from Democrats and members of Florida’s vast Hispanic community, a politically influential force in the Sunshine State.

“With this move, this stunt, obviously he made his base very happy,” said Adelys Ferro, the executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus. “But there are many people more toward the middle and people who are independents that are very disgusted and that reject all of this.”

“We are Venezuelan Americans and we vote, and we’re going to vote in November,” she added. “And we’re never going to vote for somebody who does this.

DeSantis has been busy attacking teachers and mistreating immigrants, but will he be ready to deal with an approaching hurricane? CBS News: Tropical Storm Ian strengthens over Caribbean and could approach Florida as major hurricane.

Tropical Storm Ian strengthened as it moved over the Caribbean Saturday and could approach Florida early next week as a major hurricane, according to forecasters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday that Tropical Storm Ian was 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, moving west at 15 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

“Early next week, Ian is forecast to move near or over western Cuba as a strengthening hurricane and then approach the Florida peninsula at or near major hurricane strength, with the potential for significant impacts from storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties which could be in the storm’s path. The order also places the Florida National Guard on standby. DeSantis also put in a request for a federal “pre-landfall emergency declaration.”

Finally, what’ happening with Trump’s idol and mentor Vladimir Putin?

The Washington Post: As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.

4306128e4d89a0be73cdb541c5e153fdBut such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion, and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. Retaking it would be a major accomplishment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Focused on victory at all costs, Mr. Putin has become a more public face of the war as the Russian military appears increasingly in turmoil, forcing him to announce a call-up this week that could sweep 300,000 Russian civilians into military service. This month, Moscow has demonstrated it has too few troops to continue its offensive, suffers from shortages of high-tech precision weaponry and has been unable to gain dominance of Ukraine’s skies.

Read more at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Putin’s Draft Draws Resistance in Russia’s Far-Flung Regions.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise draft to reinforce his invasion of Ukraine ran into growing resistance across Russia on Friday as villagers, activists and even some elected officials asked why the conscription drive appeared to be hitting minority groups and rural areas harder than the big cities.

Some of the greatest anguish played out hundreds or thousands of miles away from the front line, in the Caucasus Mountains and the northeastern region of Yakutia, a sparsely populated expanse that straddles the Arctic Circle. Community leaders described remote villages where much of the working-age male population received conscription notices in recent days, leaving families that subsist off the land without men around to work ahead of the long winter.

“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen — we have so few of them anyway,” Vyacheslav Shadrin, the chairman of the council of elders for a small Indigenous group known as the Yukaghirs, said in a phone interview. “But they are the ones being drafted most of all.”

Mr. Putin announced the call-up on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” necessary to counter Ukraine and its Western backers, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he had long delayed making, even as supporters of the war clamored for a draft in order to allow Russia to intensify its assault.

Russia will mobilize about 300,000 civilians, defense officials said, focusing on men with military experience and special skills, though some Russian media that now operate outside the country reported that the number could be much higher.

But by Friday, even some of the hawkish commentators who had been urging a draft were criticizing the sweeping and uneven way it appeared to be rolling out.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind? What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads: Trump’s Terrible Day

Good Afternoon!!

Whew! Yesterday was quite a day! It began with New York Attorney General Tish James announcing a 250 million lawsuit against Trump, three of his children, the Trump Organization and two of its top employees; it ended with the 11th Circuit appeals court thoroughly rebuking Judge Loose Cannon and restoring the DOJ’s access to the classified documents needed for their criminal investigation of Trump and for the intelligence assessment of the damage caused by Trump’s thievery. Meanwhile Trump went on Fox News and incriminated himself in an insane interview with Sean Hannity. Here’s a sample from that hour-long clusterfuck:

Since I’m not a lawyer, it’s difficult for me to write about all this legal stuff, but I’ll do my best to post stories that explain what all this means.

First up, this piece by University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck at CNN: Opinion: How Trump’s terrible day went from bad to worse.

For most people, having the Attorney General of the nation’s fourth most populous state file a sweeping new lawsuit accusing you and your family of “staggering” fraud would be a terribly ominous development.

For former President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the worst legal news he received on Wednesday. That came later in the evening, when a unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted a district court ruling that had partially blocked the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump unlawfully retained at Mar-a-Lago (and refused to return) a large tranche of government documents.

The immediate effect of the panel ruling is to clear the way for the Justice Department to continue its work. But the broader significance of Wednesday night’s ruling — significance that, at least for now, clearly transcends the possibility of what might come of the civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — is the fact that a panel that included two Trump appointees poured very cold water on the only arguments he had left to defend against the Mar-a-Lago search.

The issue before the Eleventh Circuit was whether to freeze part of the injunction that US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon had entered on September 5 — an injunction that purported to block the Justice Department from using most of the materials it recovered from its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago until and unless they could be reviewed by a court-appointed special master. (The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, expressed a fair amount of skepticism toward Trump’s claims at his first hearing on Tuesday).

What the three-judge panel–including two judges appointed by Trump–said:

Across 29 pages, the three-judge Eleventh Circuit panel made quick work of Cannon’s ruling — holding that the Justice Department was almost certain to succeed in having that ruling thrown out, and so should have the ruling frozen, at least as it applied to classified materials, while the appeals process runs its course.

Among other things, the panel, which included Judges Robin Rosenbaum (appointed by President Barack Obama) and Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher (appointed by Trump), highlighted the absence of any evidence that Trump had declassified any of the classified information discovered at Mar-a-Lago, and also the extent to which that entire issue is a “red herring” for the broader debate over whether those documents belong to Trump or the government….

But it was in a more subtle section of the opinion that the panel handed Trump his most significant defeat. Across two pages and a footnote that non-legal-readers could be forgiven for skipping past, the three judges rejected, in unequivocal terms, claims made by Trump and his supporters (including the State of Texas, which had filed a highly unusual friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 10 other red states) that the investigation into the former President and search of Mar-a-Lago were all just bad faith harassment from the Biden administration….

In other words, the three-judge panel on one of the more conservative federal appeals courts in the country looked at the Mar-a-Lago search and the broader criminal and national security investigation into the former President of the United States and could not “see any evidence in the record” to support the claim that the Biden administration was using its law enforcement authorities to harass Trump — as opposed to conducting a genuine, above-the-board investigation into serious potential violations of federal criminal statutes.

You might also check out this straight news piece by Charlie Savage, et al. at The New York Times: 

In a strongly worded 29-page decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an order by a Florida federal judge that has kept the department from using about 100 files with classification markings in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.

The appeals court also agreed with the Justice Department that Mr. Trump’s lawyers — and an independent arbiter recently appointed to review the seized materials — need not look at the classified documents that the F.B.I. carted away from Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8.

The Justice Department “argues that the district court likely erred in exercising its jurisdiction to enjoin the United States’ use of the classified records in its criminal investigation and to require the United States to submit the marked classified documents to a special master for review,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. “We agree.”

The decision by the Atlanta-based court was a repudiation of the decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to broadly intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation. The appellate ruling will permit the arbiter, known as a special master, to review most of the more than 11,000 files seized from Mar-a-Lago, but allow prosecutors unfettered access to the smaller batch of classified records.

Charlie Savage also reposted on Twitter an earlier article on how the declassification process works.

This piece at Just Security is a good explainer on the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Trump family and businesses: Has a Trump Tipping Point Been Reached? Analyzing The NY Attorney General’s Case Against Trump.

In the last month, the array of investigations involving Donald J. Trump and many of Trump’s associates and family members has reached an intense pitch. Today another bombshell detonated—one that may prove to be the most devastating.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced the filing of a monumental civil enforcement action against Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, the Trump Organization and many other Trump affiliates.

The sanctions sought by the New York Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) are sweeping and potentially devastating: disgorgement of $250 million in profits; the cancellation of business certificates for Trump’s corporate entities; appointment of an independent monitor at the Trump Organization; a 5-year ban on Trump and the Trump Organization entering into any New York commercial real estate transactions or from applying for any loans from any New York entity; permanently banning Trump and his adult children from serving as an officer or director of a New York corporation. In addition to the potential civil penalties associated with today’s complaint, AG James also announced criminal referrals to the Southern District of New York and to the IRS. Penalties resulting from those referrals could result in substantial fines, and potentially even imprisonment.

With today’s filing of this enforcement action, it is important to consider the factual and legal bases for the claims, and how it could serve as a tipping point in cases against Trump, especially in light of the many other existing federal and state investigations.

Read the rest at Just Security. Here’s John Buss’s commentary:

What about the January 6 Committee? What are they up to? Yes, more bad news for Trump–and Mark Meadows too.

From the article:

The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has come to an agreement with Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in the coming weeks, according to a source close to the committee.

Ginni Thomas’ attorney, Mark Paoletta, confirmed the voluntary interview in a statement, saying, “As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas is eager to answer the Committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election. She looks forward to that opportunity.”

Members of the panel have long said they are interested in speaking with Thomas, particularly after CNN first reported text messages she exchanged with then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows prior to January 6 about overturning the election.

But in the months since those messages emerged, there has been little indication that compelling her to testify was a top priority for the panel despite subsequent evidence that Thomas also encouraged state lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral win.

Thomas attended the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, as she said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, where she stressed that her and her husband’s professional lives are kept separate. She also said that she had left the gathering before the protesters turned violent.

She has also been publicly critical of the House January 6 investigation, calling on House GOP leaders to boot from their conference the two Republicans serving on the select committee.

It’s not yet clear what changed for Thomas and her attorney to now agree to this interview. The 64 thousand dollar question is how will this affect her husband Clarence? Will John Roberts finally decide to deal with him? Probably not, but you never can tell.

More news, links only:

Analysis by Stephen Collinson at CNN: Biden’s new mission: Heading off any possibility of a nuclear crisis with Russia.

The Washington Post: Over 1,300 arrests reported as Russians protest military mobilization.

CNN: Russia’s military divided as Putin struggles to deal with Ukraine’s counteroffensive, US sources say.

Analysis by Brad Lendon at CNN: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can’t train or support them.

AP News: At least 9 killed as Iran protests spread over woman’s death.

NBC News: Enthusiasm for upcoming midterms is at all-time high, NBC News poll shows.

The New York Times: Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds.

Miami Herald: Operatives linked to DeSantis promised to fly migrants to Delaware — but left them stranded.

NBC News: House passes bill to prevent stolen elections, despite strong GOP opposition.

Ashton Pittman at the Mississippi Free Press on the Brett Favre scandal: Ex-Mississippi Welfare Leader Pleads Guilty To Federal, State Crimes In Exchange For Cooperation.

NBC News: Hurricane Fiona intensifies to Category 4 as Puerto Rico contends with aftermath.

Have a tremendous Thursday, Sky Dancers!!