Sunday Reads: The Fuckening

the fuckening

When your day is going too well and you don’t trust it and some shit finally goes down

Ah, there it is, the fuckening.

Hello, yes…The Fuckening has begun, and from what has been said on the real verified Twit accounts (not those that paid for there blue check) it seems that it is just a matter of time now before Twitter finally bites the dust.

Veep predicted everything!

And now, the cartoons via Cagle website:

I know I posted this information about Shanquella Robinson before, but it’s important.

That is all…this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

1-the-first-animals-franz-marc

The First Animals, by Franz Marc

Good Afternoon!!

We have gone through about 7 years of insanity with Donald Trump, first as a candidate, then as “president,” and now former “president.” At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’ll never be rid of him until he “shuffles off this mortal coil.”

During those years, I always turned to Twitter for the latest news and commentary from journalists and just plain folks. Trump made Twitter occasionally irritating, but now we face what could be an even great threat to the social media platform–a takeover by Elon Musk. And what’s coming could be even worse than I expected.

Musk plans to bring Trump back, and then there this even worse news from Vice: Elon Musk Spoke to Putin Before Tweeting Ukraine Peace Plan: Report.

Elon Musk spoke directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin before tweeting a proposal to end the war in Ukraine that would have seen territory permanently ceded to Russia, it has been claimed.

In a mailout sent to Eurasia Group subscribers, Ian Bremmer wrote that Tesla CEO Musk told him that Putin was “prepared to negotiate,” but only if Crimea remained Russian, if Ukraine accepted a form of permanent neutrality, and Ukraine recognised Russia’s annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

According to Bremmer, Musk said Putin told him these goals would be accomplished “no matter what,” including the potential of a nuclear strike if Ukraine invaded Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Bremmer wrote that Musk told him that “everything needed to be done to avoid that outcome.”

Last week, Musk posted essentially the same points on Twitter, although he suggested that the referendums in the annexed territories slammed as sham votes by Ukraine and the West be redone under supervision by the United Nations….

The Ukrainian response to Musk’s Twitter peace proposal was succinct – one diplomat told him to “fuck off,” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted his own Twitter poll.

Meanwhile the Kremlin welcomed Musk’s “positive” proposal to end the war, while his tweets were also cited by Russian state media.

Not only will we never be rid of Trump; The new owner of Twitter apparently be channeling Putin. Terrific.

Yesterday, Russia escalated its attacks on civilians following Ukraine’s damage to a bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. The Kyiv Independent: What’s behind Russia’s unusually big missile attack on Ukraine?

Russia lashed out on Oct. 10, striking many Ukrainian cities with 84 missiles and 24 exploding drones.

The places they hit were all civilian — multiple power plants but also a children’s playground in the center of Kyiv. Most strikes seemed to be timed to the Monday morning rush hour, as if trying to kill as many commuters as possible. 

From a human rights point of view, the attacks were inexcusable and will likely be ruled as war crimes. From the battlefield perspective, the Russian armed forces just dropped hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve basically nothing….

Why has Russia chosen to do this? What was it trying to accomplish? And how long can it keep it up?

Edward Landseer's Monarch of the Glen

Edward Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen

The facile answer is that Russia was retaliating for the partial destruction of the Kerch Strait bridge on Oct. 8. But that’s just not true. It’s been hitting civilian targets since Feb. 24. Ukraine’s intelligence said that the missile strikes had been planned since the start of October.

“Strategic and long-range aviation units received orders to prepare for massive missile attacks,” the General Intelligence Directorate said in a statement. “The targets were objects of critical civilian infrastructure and the central regions of densely populated Ukrainian cities.”

The goal was to sow panic among Ukrainians. But that wasn’t the only reason. Putin also needed to appease the angry hardliners who want Russia to win the war. The war hawks demanded a massive strike just like this, in response to Russia’s humiliating losses over the past two months, to which the bridge was the exclamation point. Some of these hardliners are driven more by emotion than sense. And they will want a repeat performance.

Read the rest at the link.

Karen De Young at The Washington Post: Ukraine war at a turning point with rapid escalation of conflict.

In little more than a month, the war in Ukraine has turned abruptly from a grueling, largely static artillery battle expected to last into the winter, to a rapidly escalating, multilevel conflict that has challenged the strategies of the United States, Ukraine and Russia.

Russia’s launch of massive strikes on civilian infrastructure Monday in about a dozen Ukrainian cities far from the front lines brought shock and outrage. The strikes, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken described as “wave after wave of missiles” struck “children’s playgrounds and public parks,” left at least 14 killed and nearly 100 wounded, and cut electricity and water in much of the country….

The attacks were the latest of many head-spinning events — from Ukrainian victories on the ground to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat of nuclear weapons use — that have changed the nature and tempo of the war in recent weeks, and raised questions about whether the United States and its partners may have to move beyond the concept of helping Ukraine defend itself, and instead more forcefully facilitate a Ukrainian victory.

So far, the U.S. supply effort has been deliberative and process-oriented in the kinds of weapons it provides, and the speed at which it provides them, so as not to undercut its highest priority of avoiding a direct clash between Russia and the West. That strategy is likely to be part of the agenda at Tuesday’s emergency meeting of G7 leaders, and a gathering of NATO defense ministers later in the week.

U.S. officials continue to express caution about precipitous moves. “Turning points in war are usually points of danger,” said a senior Biden administration official, one of several U.S. and Ukrainian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy deliberations. “You can’t predict what’s around the corner.”

Russian leaders have cited their own turning point. Viktor Bondarev, head of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament wrote in a Telegram post on Monday that the strikes were the beginning of “a new phase” of what the Kremlin calls its“special military operation” in Ukraine, with more “resolute” action to come.

Two Owls by Gustave Doré (1870)

Two Owls by Gustave Doré (1870)

Max Fisher at The New York Times: Bombing Kyiv Into Submission? History Says It Won’t Work.

Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, follows a long line of wartime leaders who have sought to cow their adversaries by bombing enemy capitals.

Ever since Nazi Germany’s bombardment of London in World War II, enabled by the first long-range missiles and warplanes, nearly every major war has featured similar attacks.

The goal is almost always the same: to coerce the targeted country’s leaders into scaling back their war effort or suing for peace.

It typically aims to achieve this by forcing those leaders to ask whether the capital’s cultural landmarks and economic functioning are worth putting on the line — and also, especially, by terrorizing the country’s population into moderating their support for the war.

But for as long as leaders have pursued this tactic, they have watched it repeatedly fail.

More than that, such strikes tend to backfire, deepening the political and public resolve for war that they are meant to erode — even galvanizing the attacked country into stepping up its war aims.

The victorious allies in World War II did emphasize a strategy of heavily bombing cities, which is part of why countries have come to repeat this so many times since. Cities including Dresden and Tokyo were devastated, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and forcing millions into homelessness.

Still, historians generally now argue that, even if that did play some role in exhausting those countries, it was largely because of damage to German and Japanese industrial output rather than the terror it caused. Axis countries were also aggressive in bombing enemy cities, casting further doubt on notions that the strategy could be a decisive factor on its own.

Read the rest at the NYT if you’re interested.

With the January 6 Committee hearing coming up on Thursday, this story on the Secret Service phones by NBC’s Julia Ainsley is interesting: Secret Service agents were denied when they tried to learn what Jan. 6 info was seized from their personal cellphones.

Secret Service agents asked the agency for a record of all of the communications seized from their personal cellphones as part of investigations into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, but were rebuffed, according to a document reviewed by NBC News.

The Secret Service’s office that handles such requests, the Freedom of Information Act Program, denied the request, in which agents invoked the Privacy Act to demand more information about what had been shared from their personal devices.

The request was made in early August, just after news came to light that both Congress and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were interested in obtaining text messages of Secret Service agents that had been erased as part of what the agency said was a planned upgrade.

“This letter is the final response to your Privacy Act inquiry submitted on Aug. 4, 2022, for information pertaining to the release of personal cell phone information and/or other personal identifiable information (PII) by the U.S. Secret Service,” said the letter, dated last Wednesday.

“The agency has determined that regulation does not require a records disclosure accounting to be made in connection with your request,” the letter continued.

The agents’ effort to find out through an FOIA request what records were seized and the subsequent denial of the request underscore a tension between rank-and-file Secret Service agents and the agency’s leadership over what communications should be shared with investigators.

Whistlejacket, by George Stubbs

Whistlejacket, by George Stubbs

At The Washington Post, Mariana Sotomayor writes about a another new book on the Trump impeachments: New book details how McCarthy came to support Trump after Jan. 6.

In the weeks after the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of a charge related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was seething.

Frustrated that Trump would not talk to him, stressed that his chance to become House speaker could be in jeopardy and furiousthat a trusted confidante had publicly disclosed a tense call between him and Trump, McCarthy snapped.

“I alone am taking all the heat to protect people from Trump! I alone am holding the party together!” he yelled at Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) during a previously undisclosed meeting in McCarthy’s office on Feb. 25, 2021. “I have been working with Trump to keep him from going after Republicans like you and blowing up the party and destroying all our work!”

Stunned by McCarthy’s anger, Herrera Beutler began to cry. Through tears, she apologized for not telling him ahead of time that she had confirmed to the media details of a call McCarthy made to Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, urging him to tell his supporters to leave the U.S. Capitol.

“You should have come to me!” McCarthy said. “Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!”

“What did you want me to do? Lie?” Herrera Beutler shot back. “I did what I thought was right.”

The tense meeting between Republican lawmakers is detailed in the new book “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump,” by Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian and Politico reporter Rachael Bade, a copy of which The Post obtained ahead of its release next week. Several excerpts detail McCarthy’s state of mind from Election Day 2020 to the origination of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“McCarthy’s tirade against Herrera Beutler was just the start of what would become a GOP-wide campaign to whitewash the details of what happened on January 6 in the aftermath of the second impeachment,” the authors write.

There are more revelations about McCarthy in the WaPo story. Basically, McCarthy’s dream is to to become Speaker of the House and in pursuit of that goal he will suck up to Trump as much has he has to.

Lastly, at The Atlantic, Franklin Foer writes about why Merrick Garland will indict Trump: The Inevitable Indictment of Donald Trump.

Foer writes that, although Garland is a cautious, methodical person, he (Foer) is convinced that Trump will be indicted. Here’s why he thinks that. You’ll need to read the whole thing, but here’s an introduction to the arguments.

I have been observing Garland closely for months. I’ve talked with his closest friends and most loyal former clerks and deputies. I’ve carefully studied his record. I’ve interviewed Garland himself. And I’ve reached the conclusion that his devotion to procedure, his belief in the rule of law, and in particular his reverence for the duties, responsibilities, and traditions of the U.S. Department of Justice will cause him to make the most monumental decision an attorney general can make….

The_Kongouro_from_New_Holland_(Kangaroo) George Stubbs

The Kongouro from New Holland, by _(Kangaroo) George Stubbs

Before I lay out the reasons I believe I am correct in this assessment, I want to discuss why it is entirely possible I am not. The main reason to disbelieve the argument that Garland is preparing to indict is simple: To bring criminal charges against a former president from an opposing political party would be the ultimate test of a system that aspires to impartiality, and Garland, by disposition, is repelled by drama, and doesn’t believe the department should be subjected to unnecessary stress tests. This unprecedented act would inevitably be used to justify a cycle of reprisals, and risks turning the Justice Department into an instrument of never-ending political warfare.

And an indictment, of course, would merely be the first step—a prelude to a trial unlike any this country has ever seen. The defendant wouldn’t just be an ex-president; in all likelihood, he’d be a candidate actively campaigning to return to the White House. Fairness dictates that the system regard Trump as it does every other defendant. But doing so would lead to the impression that he’s being deliberately hamstrung—and humiliated—by his political rivals.

Garland is surely aware that this essential problem would be evident at the first hearing. If the Justice Department is intent on proving that nobody is above the law, it could impose the same constraints on Trump that it would on any criminal defendant accused of serious crimes, including limiting his travel. Such a restriction would deprive Trump of one of his most important political advantages: his ability to whip up his followers at far-flung rallies.

In any event, once the trial began, Trump would be stuck in court, likely in Florida (if he’s charged in connection with the Mar-a-Lago documents matter) or in Washington, D.C. (if he’s charged for his involvement in the events of January 6). The site of a Washington trial would be the Prettyman Courthouse, on Constitution Avenue, just a short walk from the Capitol. This fact terrified the former prosecutors and other experts I talked with about how the trial might play out. Right-wing politicians, including Trump himself, have intimated violence if he is indicted.

Trump would of course attempt to make the proceedings a carnival of grievance, a venue for broadcasting conspiracy theories about his enemies. The trial could thus supply a climactic flash point for an era of political violence. Like the Capitol on January 6, the courthouse could become a magnet for paramilitaries. With protesters and counterprotesters descending on the same locale, the occasion would tempt street warfare.

Head over the Atlantic to read the rest.

What are your thoughts on these stories? What other news are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Day, Sky Dancers!!

I’m not a fan of royalty, but it does seem significant that Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain may be dying. She took the throne on February 6, 1952 and is the “longest reigning monarch in world history.”  She is 96 years old. The queen is in Scotland and she did not return to London for the appointment of the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Her family members are either with her at Balmoral Castle or on their way there.

UPDATE: Queen Elizabeth II has died.

The Washington Post: Queen Elizabeth II under medical supervision as family gathers at Balmoral.

Queen Elizabeth II is under medical care at Balmoral Castle after doctors became concerned about her health, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Her family is traveling to Scotland to be by her side.

“Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral,” the palace statement said.

All of the queen’s children, including her heir, Prince Charles, were either at her bedside or en route. The others are Edward, Andrew and Anne, who was already in Scotland for some events there this week.

Prince Harry and Meghan are en route to Balmoral, a spokesperson for the couple said. Prince William was also on his way to Balmoral. His wife, Catherine, remained in Windsor as their children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, are on their first full day at their new school, Kensington Palace said.

The statement comes a day after Buckingham Palace said Wednesday that the queen, who is 96, had canceled a virtual meeting with the Privy Council on doctor’s advice to rest.

The statements may have been vague on details, but the fact that they were issued at all speaks volumes. The palace typically provides minimal information about the queen’s health.

Also notable: The BBC has suspended programming for today in order to provide updates on the queen’s health.

This morning the deaths of two renowned journalists were announced.

CNN announced: CNN anchor Bernard Shaw dead at 82.

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw died Wednesday of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19, Shaw’s family announced in a statement Thursday. Shaw was 82.

Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor and was with the network when it launched on June 1, 1980. He retired from CNN after more than 20 years on February 28, 2001.

During his storied career, Shaw reported on some of the biggest stories of that time — including the student revolt in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, the First Gulf war live from Baghdad in 1991, and the 2000 presidential election.

“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN.

Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Thursday. “He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”

And from NPR: Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, dies at 71.

Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, died on Wednesday of lung cancer. She was 71 years old.

At NPR, Garrels was known as a passionate reporter willing to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice if the story required it. She was also a warm and generous friend to many.

When she arrived at NPR in 1988, she already had a lot of experience under her belt — including 10 years in television news at ABC, where she was bureau chief in both Moscow and Central America.

Garrels made a strong impression on NPR’s Deborah Amos. “She was this glamorous television reporter who came here,” she said. “She didn’t dress like the rest of us in the beginning. And she’d has this long and remarkable career before she landed here … She was always braver than me, and I always understood that she was braver than me.”

That bravery led Garrels into many war zones. And when it came to covering a war, she was there at the beginning, in the middle of the battle, and at the peace table. She was the kind of reporter who would drive alone across a war zone if that’s what it took to get the story.

Read more at NPR.

This morning Steve Bannon surrendered to prosecutors in New York on state charges similar to the federal ones for which Trump pardoned him.

The Washington Post: Bannon charged with fraud, money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall.’

Stephen K. Bannon has been charged with money laundering, fraud and conspiracy in connection with the “We Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, for which he received a federal pardon during Donald Trump’s final days in the White House.

Bannon, 68, was convicted this summer of contempt of Congress and is awaiting sentencing in that matter. He surrendered to prosecutors in Manhattan Thursday morning on the charges outlined in a newly unsealed state indictment and is expected to appear in court in the afternoon.

Arriving at the Manhattan district attorney’s office in a black SUV shortly after 9 a.m., Bannon stopped to shake hands with his attorneys before speaking briefly to a horde of journalists. In his remarks, he echoed past declarations that he was being prosecuted for political reasons, including in an effort to influence November’s upcoming midterm congressional elections.

“This is all about 60 days until the day!” he said, before being escorted into the building.

Bannon’s case will be handled in New York Supreme Court by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In a statement issued after the indictment was unsealed, Bragg said Bannon “acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country – including hundreds of Manhattan residents.”

Bannon “took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated,” James said in her own prepared remarks. “Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.”

In August 2020, Bannon was yanked off a yacht by law enforcement agents to face his indictment in the federal “We Build the Wall” case. In that indictment, he was accused of personally pocketing $1 million from “We Build the Wall,” a Trump-aligned cash collection drive that Bannon helped to orchestrate starting in December 2018.

I was hoping for news from the DOJ on whether they will appeal the insane decision by Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to examine the government documents that Trump stole. But the only news I’ve seen is that they are proposing to unseal more of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, perhaps to use in their response to Judge Cannon.

There is plenty more Trump legal news though:

From ABC News:

A federal grand jury investigating the activities leading up the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the push by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 election has expanded its probe to include seeking information about Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.

The interest in the fundraising arm came to light as part of grand jury subpoenas seeking documents, records and testimony from potential witnesses, the sources said.

The subpoenas, sent to several individuals in recent weeks, are specifically seeking to understand the timeline of Save America’s formation, the organization’s fundraising activities, and how money is both received and spent by the Trump-aligned PAC….

Trump and his allies have consistently pushed supporters to donate to the PAC, often using false claims about the 2020 election and soliciting donations to rebuke the multiple investigations into the former president, his business dealings, and his actions on Jan. 6.

After the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, Save America PAC sent out a fundraising email in which Trump urged supporters to “rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”

More from The New York Times: Trump’s Post-Election Fund-Raising Comes Under Scrutiny by Justice Dept.

A federal grand jury in Washington is examining the formation of — and spending by — a PAC created by Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election as he was raising millions of dollars by baselessly asserting that the results had been marred by widespread voting fraud.

According to subpoenas issued by the grand jury, the contents of which were described to The New York Times, the Justice Department is interested in the inner workings of Save America PAC, Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising vehicle after the election. Several similar subpoenas were sent on Wednesday to junior and midlevel aides who worked in the White House and for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Among the roughly half-dozen current and former Trump aides in the White House and the 2020 presidential campaign who are said to have received subpoenas this week were Beau Harrison, an aide to Mr. Trump in the White House and in his post-presidency, and William S. Russell, who similarly worked in the West Wing and now for Mr. Trump’s personal office, according to several people familiar with the events….

The fact that federal prosecutors are seeking information about Save America PAC is a significant new turn in an already sprawling investigation of the roles that Mr. Trump and some of his allies played in trying to overturn the election, an array of efforts that culminated with the violent mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Another Trump aide was subpoenaed in connection with planning for the January 6 coup attempt.

From the article:

Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to a personal aide to former President Donald J. Trump as part of the investigation into the events leading up to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, people familiar with the matter said.

The move suggests that investigators have expanded the pool of people from whom they are seeking information in the wide-ranging criminal investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and that agents are reaching into the former president’s direct orbit.

This week, F.B.I. agents in Florida tried to approach William S. Russell, a 31-year-old aide to Mr. Trump who served as a special assistant and the deputy director of presidential advance operations in the White House. He continued to work for Mr. Trump as a personal aide after he left office, one of a small group of officials who did so.

It was not immediately clear what the F.B.I. agents wanted from Mr. Russell; people familiar with the Justice Department’s inquiry said he has not yet been interviewed. But a person with knowledge of the F.B.I.’s interest said that it related to the grand jury investigation into events that led to the Capitol attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters.

That investigation is said to have focused extensively on the attempts by some of Mr. Trump’s advisers and lawyers to create slates of fake electors from swing states. Mr. Trump and his allies wanted Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay certification of the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 to allow consideration of Trump electors whose votes could have changed the outcome.

At Rolling Stone, Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng offer a possible motive for at least some of Trump’s document pilfering: Trump Told White House Team He Needed to Protect ‘Russiagate’ Documents.

IN HIS FINAL days in the White House, Donald Trump told top advisers he needed to preserve certain Russia-related documents to keep his enemies from destroying them.

The documents related to the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with Trump’s campaign. At the end of his presidency, Trump and his team pushed to declassify these so-called “Russiagate” documents, believing they would expose a “Deep State” plot against him.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the situation and another source briefed on the matter, Trump told several people working in and outside the White House that he was concerned Joe Biden’s incoming administration — or the “Deep State” — would supposedly “shred,” bury, or destroy “the evidence” that Trump was somehow wronged.

Trump’s concern about preserving the Russia-related material is newly relevant after an FBI search turned up a trove of government documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Since the search, Trump has refused to say which classified government papers and top-secret documents he had at Mar-a-Lago and what was the FBI had seized. (Trump considers the documents “mine” and has directed his lawyers to make that widely-panned argument in court.) The feds have publicly released little about the search and its results.It’s unclear if any of the materials in Trump’s document trove are related to Russia or the election interference investigation. A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

I have a few more articles to share, but I’ll do it in the comment thread. Sorry this post is so late; my internet keeps going in and out.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Empty Folders Marked Classified, WTF?!

1920 Théophile Alexandre Steinlen Cat and Her Kitten charcoal and pastel on paper 46 x 61 cm

Cat and kitten, by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, 1920

Happy Caturday!!

Yesterday we got new information about the highly classified documents Trump stole from the government and carelessly left lying around his office at Mar-a-Lago. In her Friday post, Dakinikat wrote about the empty folders marked classified and the boxes containing classified documents mixed with news clippings, and personal items like clothing. The inventory from the search also shows thousands of unclassified government documents, which also belong in the National Archives.

From The Los Angeles Times: Trump search inventory shows empty folders marked ‘classified,’ mixed top-secret and unclassified items.

Twenty-seven documents with classified and top-secret markings were recovered from former President Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to a detailed inventory of what the FBI removed during its court-approved search of the home last month.

The eight-page inventory detailing more than 10,000 government documents removed in the search includes the location where each item was found and whether it was classified, but not the subject matter. In many cases, highly classified materials are listed as having been stored in the same boxes as hundreds of unclassified items, including newspaper and magazine clippings and clothing.

Among the boxes were 48 empty folders marked with a classified banner. Those empty folders could be of particular concern as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assesses the risks to national security that could result from disclosure of the contents, because it could be difficult to determine what information might have been inside and where it is now….

FBI agents removed more than 100 documents containing classified information — including some marked top secret and meant to be available only in special government facilities — from the Trump estate during their Aug. 8 search, along with over 30 boxes of materials including thousands of government records.

What was in those empty folders?

Identifying what was in the empty folders marked classified and where the information is now should be a priority, said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Why are there folders that contained classified information that are now empty? Where are the documents?” Maloney said. “Those questions need to be answered.”

1899 Paul Gauguin Still LIfe with Flowers and Cats oil on canvas

Still LIfe with Flowers and cats, Paul Gauguin, 1899

Without knowing more about the folders, it is difficult to say how alarmed intelligence officials might be, Maloney said.

They could be the type of generic folders in which confidential information is transported within the White House, or they could be folders from intelligence agencies that provide details about the sources of the information, the date it was collected and broad descriptions of what it is about, said Larry Pfeiffer, a high-ranking CIA officer in the George W. Bush administration and senior director of the White House Situation Room in the Obama administration.

“If there were any meticulous records that were kept by the staff secretary, executive secretary or the [director of national intelligence’s] presidential daily briefing staff, they may be able forensically to figure out if there are any missing documents,” Pfeiffer said.

That 48 classified documents could be missing is the “worst-case scenario,” he said.

“That’s terrifying, because then what happened to them? Where are they? Are they still hidden somewhere? Are they hidden in another Trump location? Did he give them away to some people as souvenirs? God knows,” Pfeiffer said.

Raw Story reported on what experts are saying about the empty folders: ‘Unfathomably dangerous’: Former federal prosecutor on Trump’s empty folders warns ‘things just went from bad to worse’

Immediately after a federal judge released the Dept. of Justice’s detailed list of items the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago experts agreed among the most concerning details was that there were a large number of empty folders marked “Classified.”

Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor of 30 years, tweeted out his surprise and concern.

“OMG!” exclaimed Kirschner, who is also an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst. “Court just released an inventory of evidence of crime seized at Mar-a-Lago.”

“Dozens of EMPTY folders labeled ‘Classified’ or ‘Return to Military Aide.’ Trump didn’t pack up EMPTY folders to take with him to FLA. Things just went from bad to worse to unfathomably dangerous.” [….]

Andrew Weissmann, a former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has also worked as chief of the criminal fraud section of DOJ observed: “It’s the empty classified folders that are of most concern.”

“Where are the contents? Trump has not addressed that at all in all his bluster and obfuscation. What were you doing with these?” asked Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller….

National security attorney Brad Moss wrote, “Very first question the FBI would ask the person who had in their home office 43 empty folders with classified banners is ‘where did the documents from those folders go????'”

And later he added: “Why. Are. There. Empty. Folders?”

Young Girl with a Cat 1892, Berthe Morissot

Young Girl with a Cat 1892, Berthe Morissot

Analysis from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: What we know about Trump and the empty folders.

We know very little about what this [the empty folders] means right now, though, and experts say it doesn’t necessarily mean the documents are missing, as some Trump critics theorized. What it does seem to reinforce is how sloppily classified information was handled.

In both the search warrant affidavit released last week and a Justice Department filing in a court case this week, the government has pointed to a February referral from the National Archives. The referral raised concerns about Trump’s potential mishandling of sensitive documents and urged an investigation.

“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified,” the National Archives said.

The biggest question is obviously: Why were those folders empty? Since classified documents were previously returned “unfoldered” — and others were recovered in the search last month — and now we have classified-marked folders without documents in them, it’s possible they match up.

Whether they actually do match is another matter, as is whether the documents can even be traced to a given folder.

From a national security expert:

David Priess, a former CIA officer whose work there included delivering the President’s Daily Brief, said Friday that the presence of empty folders doesn’t mean documents are missing, but also that it’s possible we won’t know for sure. He said the folders could contain markings allowing them to be traced to specific documents (but that’s not certain), or that they could be connected using forensic techniques.

“We cannot rule out that those empty folders contained classified documents that were not discovered in the search and seizure,” he said. “We just don’t know. That’s much harder to determine.”

He also noted it was possible that the folders were separated from the documents when they were still in the White House, before they were taken to Mar-a-Lago.

But mostly, he said, it’s further evidence of something we already knew: The documents were haphazardly stored.

There’s more analysis at the WaPo link.

Carl Kahler Family Portrait

Family Portrait, Carl Kahler

It’s not just the documents that were found in Trump’s office that were mishandled. The Washington Post published a long read yesterday on the storage room where boxes of documents were stored and why Mar-a-Lago was such a dangerous place for government documents to be kept: Deep inside busy Mar-a-Lago, a storage room where secrets were stashed. The storage room is below the estate’s giant living room.

It was dug into the foundations of the early 20th-century building not long after Trump bought the place, a former employee said, carved out to create more space to store tables, chairs, umbrellas — the stuff necessary to complete Trump’s conversion of what had once been a grand residence for a single family into a private club for 500 members.

At the southeast corner of this area, behind a simple door, is a large closet-type space that workers once called “the mold room” in honor of leftover stonework molds deposited in the corner, the former employee said. Today, staffers think of the room more like the former president’s personal closet, one said. It is here, in this windowless nook, where some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets allegedly were stashed….

Court filings say a top Justice Department official and a gaggle of FBI agents were allowed to tour the storage room when they visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up classified documents collected by Trump’s lawyers in response to a grand jury subpoena. A lawyer for Trump saidthe room was where they would find all of documents that had been carted from the White House to Florida after Trump left office.

Two months later, agents returned with a court-approved search warrant and carted off more than two dozen boxes of documents and assorted other items gathered from the storage room and the former president’s office. The raid exposed anew the potential risks of keeping highly sensitive material at a club that hosts weddings, galas and other large events, where outsiders are common and many employees — as well as some visitors — are foreign nationals.

Not yet clear is why Trump chose the basement storage room to keep highly sensitive documents nor who exactly had access to the documents kept there — or who could have gotten access had they tried….

People close to Trump said a variety of Mar-a-Lago and Trump staffers had access to that area beneath the public living room. Access to the closet where the documents were kept was more restricted, they said.

1890-99c John White Alexander The Green Dress oil on canvas 99.1 x 53.3 cm Private Collection

John White Alexander, The Green Dress, 1890-99

More on security concerns at Mar-a-Lago:

Experts said security at the Spanish-style club has long been a headache. The facility has served a frequent residence for Trump and his family during the winter months, including while he was president. But it also boasts tennis courts, a dining room, two pools, a spa and beachfront facilities, all open to its members and their guests. Its giant ballroom and other larger areas are frequently booked for large parties and political and charitable fundraisers, all open to even more visitors, some of them foreign nationals.

Since Trump left office, Republican candidates also have flocked to the club for official events, to genuflect to Trump and attempt to secure his endorsement. Political donors have flocked, too. People who have visited the club since Trump left office said they were allowed in without so much as an identification check.

“I think Mar-a-Lago is a counterintelligence nightmare,” said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence and former inspector general for the National Security Agency, citing the flow of hundreds of people, the presence of foreign nationals and Trump’s long-established carelessness with national secrets.

A person who is familiar with the club’s workings and spoke on the condition of anonymity described regular movement from club facilities to the basement and back. “This is an operating property,” this person said. “There’s a kitchen and a guy who does pastries and a liquor cabinet. There’s a restaurant here. You see activity. A guy getting vodka to bring to the bar. A person going to get cupcakes to bring upstairs.”

As I said, this is a very long, but interesting article.

Two more developments on the purloined documents story:

Bill Barr spoke out on the stolen documents investigation. The New York Times: Barr Dismisses Trump’s Request for a Special Master.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr dismissed former President Donald J. Trump’s call for an independent review of materials seized from his Florida home on Friday — and said an inventory of items recovered in the search last month seemed to support the Justice Department’s claim that it was needed to safeguard national security.

“As more information comes out, the actions of the department look more understandable,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times in a phone interview, speaking of the decision by the current attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, to seek a search warrant of the complex at Mar-a-Lago.

“It seems to me they were driven by concern about highly sensitive information being strewn all over a country club, and it was taking them almost two years to get it back,” said Mr. Barr, who resigned in December 2020, as Mr. Trump pushed him to support false claims that the election had been stolen.

“It appears that there’s been a lot of jerking around of the government,” he added. “I’m not sure the department could have gotten it back without taking action.”

Asked what he thought of the argument for the appointment of a special master, an independent arbiter to review the material that could delay the investigation, Mr. Barr laughed.

1909 Pierre Bonnard Children and a Cat oil on canvas 54.6 x 69.5 cm The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Pierre Bonnard, Children and a Cat, 1909

“I think it’s a crock of shit,” he said, adding, “I don’t think a special master is called for.” [….]

Mr. Barr’s comments, which echo the assessment of many Democrats and a few Republicans, including the former Bush adviser Karl Rove, came as Mr. Trump’s supporters tried to downplay the importance of the inventory unsealed by a federal judge in Florida.

The eight-page document, which was made public with the tacit assent of the former president’s lawyers, revealed that the F.B.I. recovered 11,179 documents or photographs without classification markings belonging to the government, and more than 100 others marked top secret, secret or confidential.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around him taking so much sensitive materials,” Mr. Barr said. “I was, let’s just say, surprised.”

Mark Meadows coughed up some records in the wake of the events at Mar-a-Lago. CNN: After Mar-a-Lago search, Meadows turns over more texts and emails to Archives.

Within a week of the FBI search of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over texts and emails to the National Archives that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Meadows’ submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered under the Presidential Records Act. The Archives had become aware earlier this year it did not have everything from Meadows after seeing what he had turned over to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021. Details of Meadows’ submissions to the Archives and the engagement between the two sides have not been previously reported….

The records Meadows turned over to the Archives were not classified, and the situation is markedly different from the Archives’ efforts to retrieve federal records from Trump and its referral to the Justice Department earlier this year when classified materials were discovered among documents the agency retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

The source familiar with the discussions said that the Archives considered Meadows to be cooperating, even though the process started slowly.

“This is how it’s supposed to work,” the source added, saying it was not the kind of situation that needed to be referred to the Justice Department.

As you can see, I’m still totally obsessed with the stolen documents story. There are actually other things happening, and I’ll post some more items in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Revelations from the Mar-a-Lago Affidavit

Théophile Steinlen, Pierriot et le chat

Théophile Steinlen, Pierriot et le chat

Happy Caturday!!

Once again, it has been quite a week. I’ve been checking the latest headlines and looking around Twitter to see what’s happening. Of course, most of the political talk is about the redacted affidavit the DOJ used to get a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago for classified documents that Trump refused to return to the government.

After yesterday, legal experts are arguing that it is inevitable that Trump will be indicted and charged with obstruction and possibly with violations of the espionage act. Today, I see more experts speculating that Trump may have already shared top secret information with foreign parties. A number of people are sharing this timeline from The Intellectualist. Laufer is a well-known civil rights attorney.

Here are the latest stories on the search, the affidavit and what may happen next.

First up, this is from Andrew Weissman, a leading prosecutor in the Mueller investigation. The New York Times: We Knew the Justice Department Case Was Righteous. This Affidavit Confirms It.

Mr. Trump knows the answers to the most important unanswered questions: What material did he take from the White House, why did he take it, what had he done with it, and what was he planning to do with it? There is nothing that prevented him for over a year from publicly answering those questions; he surely has not remained silent because the answers are exculpatory.

Above all, the redacted affidavit (and an accompanying brief explaining the redactions), which was released on Friday, reveals more evidence of a righteous criminal case related to protecting information vital to our nation’s security.

girl-and-a-cat-anastasiya-malakhova

Girl and a cat, by Anastasiya Malakhova

I can assure you, based on my experience as the general counsel of the F.B.I., that although there may be too much information deemed sensitive at the lowest level of classification, that was never the case with top-secret material.

Indeed, the redacted affidavit details some of what was found in a preliminary review of material earlier returned by Mr. Trump at the repeated requests of National Archives officials, including “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as confidential, 92 documents marked as secret and 25 documents marked as top secret.” An agent who reviewed that earlier material saw documents marked with “the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN and SI.”

The markings for top-secret and sensitive compartmented information indicate the highest level of security we have. Those levels protect what is rightly described as the crown jewel of the national security community.

Especially with information classified at that level, the government doesn’t get to pick and choose to defend the nation’s top secrets based on politics — it doesn’t matter if the person in question is a Democrat or Republican, a former president, a secretary of state or Edward Snowden. These documents belong to the government, and their having been taken away poseda clear risk to our national security.

Read the rest at the NYT link.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: The Trump affidavit shows the Mar-a-Lago search was hardly capricious.

Trump defenders have slammed the FBI’s search as aggressive and unwarranted. What has come out since, including on Friday, suggests the search was hardly capricious. Instead, all available evidence suggests it was a thoughtful choice made after other options had been exhausted. Along the way, the affidavit showed that the Justice Department considered the dubious defense from Mr. Trump’s allies that all the documents were declassified and that keeping them at Mar-a-Lago was therefore legal.

The catalogue of markings on the 184 classified documents agents reviewed before asking to search Mar-a-Lago also explains the DOJ’s determination to learn more. Acronyms such as SI, HCS, FISA and NOFORN might seem like collections of random letters to the layman, but they signify extraordinarily sensitive information: intelligence derived from clandestine human sources, for example, or from surveillance of foreign spies. That material in these categories was allegedly mixed in with other random papers as well as a mishmash of items reportedly including golf balls, a raincoat and a razor, is alarming — even absent intent to use them maliciously.

Read together, these facts should help assuage concerns that Attorney General Merrick Garland embarked on an ill-considered prosecutorial frolic when he sought to search Mar-a-Lago — though this reality is unlikely to stop the flow of reckless rhetoric from Trump acolytes. Meanwhile, those taking a more levelheaded approach should continue to do what they’ve done so far: wait. There was much we didn’t know before this affidavit was unsealed. There’s much we still don’t know now.

Milda Šležaitė, Boy with a cat

Milda Šležaitė, Boy with a cat

National security attorney Bradley Moss writes at The Daily Beast: It’s Over: Trump Will Be Indicted.

I have finally seen enough. Donald Trump will be indicted by a federal grand jury.

You heard me right: I believe Trump will actually be indicted for a criminal offense. Even with all its redactions, the probable cause affidavit published today by the magistrate judge in Florida makes clear to me three essential points:

(1) Trump was in unauthorized possession of national defense information, namely properly marked classified documents.

(2) He was put on notice by the U.S. Government that he was not permitted to retain those documents at Mar-a-Lago.

(3) He continued to maintain possession of the documents (and allegedly undertook efforts to conceal them in different places throughout the property) up until the FBI finally executed a search warrant earlier this month.

That is the ball game, folks. Absent some unforeseen change in factual or legal circumstances, I believe there is little left for the Justice Department to do but decide whether to wait until after the midterms to formally seek the indictment from the grand jury.

Moss says that if only Trump had cooperated after he was pressed by the National Archives last year instead of turning over some of the documents and holding on to the rest, he probably would have gotten away with taking them from the White House.

But Trump just could not bring himself to play by the rules. He turned over 15 boxes last January but did not turn over all the records. Political operatives from conservative organizations started whispering into his ear that he had legal precedent on his side to refuse to turn over the classified records to NARA (he did not). His lawyers surprisingly wrote a rather condescending letter to DOJ in May 2022, effectively arguing that even if there were still classified records at Mar-a-Lago the FBI lacked the authority to take any criminal action against Trump given his former status as president. Then, in June 2022 after the FBI executed a subpoena to recover more records at Mar-a-Lago, two Trump lawyers wrote (and one signed) a sworn affidavit reassuring the government there were no more classified records at the property.

Read more at the link.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Possibility of Obstruction Looms Over Trump After Thwarted Efforts to Recover Documents.

When the Justice Department proposed redactions to the affidavit underlying the warrant used to search former President Donald J. Trump’s residence, prosecutors made clear that they feared the former president and his allies might take any opportunity to intimidate witnesses or otherwise illegally obstruct their investigation.

Child with cat, Julie Manet, Pierre August Renoir

Child with cat, Julie Manet, Pierre August Renoir

“The government has well-founded concerns that steps may be taken to frustrate or otherwise interfere with this investigation if facts in the affidavit were prematurely disclosed,” prosecutors said in the brief.

The 38-page affidavit, released on Friday, asserted that there was “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at” Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound, indicating that prosecutors had evidence suggesting efforts to impede the recovery of government documents.

Since the release of the search warrant, which listed three criminal laws as the foundation of the investigation, one — the Espionage Act — has received the most attention. Discussion has largely focused on the spectacle of the F.B.I. finding documents marked as highly classified and Mr. Trump’s questionable claims that he had declassified everything held at his residence.

But by some measures, the crime of obstruction is as, or even more, serious a threat to Mr. Trump or his close associates. The version investigators are using, known as Section 1519, is part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a broad set of reforms enacted in 2002 after financial scandals at companies like Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom.

The heavily redacted affidavit provides new details of the government’s efforts to retrieve and secure the material in Mr. Trump’s possession, highlighting how prosecutors may be pursuing a theory that the former president, his aides or both might have illegally obstructed an effort of well over a year to recover sensitive documents that do not belong to him.

To convict someone of obstruction, prosecutors need to prove two things: that a defendant knowingly concealed or destroyed documents, and that he did so to impede the official work of any federal agency or department. Section 1519’s maximum penalty is 20 years in prison, which is twice as long as the penalty under the Espionage Act.

There’s much more at the NYT link.

Julian Barnes and Mark Mazzetti at The New York Times: Classified Material on Human Intelligence Sources Helped Trigger Alarm.

They risk imprisonment or death stealing the secrets of their own governments. Their identities are among the most closely protected information inside American intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Losing even one of them can set back American foreign intelligence operations for years.

Clandestine human sources are the lifeblood of any espionage service. This helps explain the grave concern within American agencies that information from undercover sources was included in some of the classified documents recently removed from Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald J. Trump — raising the prospect that the sources could be identified if the documents got into the wrong hands.

child-and-cat-linda-bryant

Child and cat, by Linda Bryant

Mr. Trump has a long history of treating classified information with a sloppiness few other presidents have exhibited. And the former president’s cavalier treatment of the nation’s secrets was on display in the affidavit underlying the warrant for the Mar-a-Lago search. The affidavit, released in redacted form on Friday, described classified documents being found in multiple locations around the Florida residence, a private club where both members and their guests mingle with the former president and his coterie of aides.

Nothing in the documents released on Friday described the precise content of the classified documents or what risk their disclosure might carry for national security, but the court papers did outline the kinds of intelligence found in the secret material, including foreign surveillance collected under court orders, electronic eavesdropping on communications and information from human sources — spies….

Could Trump have already revealed secret sources of intelligence, as implied in the Tweet at the top of this post? I’m asking, not the NYT reporters. They note that Trump claimed he declassified all the documents at his resort, but . . .

“HCS information is tightly controlled because disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source,” said John B. Bellinger III, a former legal adviser to the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. “It would be reckless to declassify an HCS document without checking with the agency that collected the information to ensure that there would be no damage if the information were disclosed.”

C.I.A. espionage operations inside numerous hostile countries have been compromised in recent years when the governments of those countries have arrested, jailed and even killed the agency’s sources.

Last year, a top-secret memo sent to every C.I.A. station around the world warned about troubling numbers of informants being captured or killed, a stark reminder of how important human source networks are to the basic functions of the spy agency. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past Trump to have handed secret information over to Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Could Republicans be getting a little nervous about how serious the case against Trump is? Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: Republicans, Once Outraged by Mar-a-Lago Search, Become Quieter as Details Emerge.

In the minutes and hours after the F.B.I.’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s residence in Florida this month, his supporters did not hesitate to denounce what they saw as a blatant abuse of power and outrageous politicization of the Justice Department.

maud-humphrey-girl-with-cat-1894_u-l-q1i5fog0

Maud Humphrey, Girl with cat, 1894

But with the release of a redacted affidavit detailing the justification for the search, the former president’s allies were largely silent, a potentially telling reaction with ramifications for his political future.

“I would just caution folks not to draw too many conclusions,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, a Republican, said on Fox News. It was a starkly different admonition from his earlier condemnations of what he said were “politically motivated actions.”

Some Republicans will no doubt rally around Mr. Trump and his claim that he is once again being targeted by a rogue F.B.I. that is still out to get him. His former acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said on Twitter that “this raid was, in fact, just about documents,” which he called “simply outrageous.” Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona and an ardent Trump ally, was on the right-wing broadcaster Newsmax denouncing the F.B.I. as politically biased, though he notably did not defend the former president’s possession of highly classified documents.

But generally, even the most bombastic Republicans — Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Jim Jordan of Ohio — were at least initially focused elsewhere. Ms. Greene was posting on Friday about border “invasions.” Ms. Boebert noted on Twitter the anniversary of the suicide bombing of U.S. service members at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mr. Jordan was focused on an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. None tweeted about the affidavit.

Read the rest at the NYT.

A few more stories on the search and affidavit to check out:

Lloyd Green at The Guardian: The FBI’s Mar-a-Lago affidavit paints an unsettling portrait of Trump.

Mary Papenfuss at HuffPost: William Barr Rips Trump For ‘Pandering To Outrage’ Over Mar-A-Lago Search.

The New York Times: Inside the 20-Month Fight to Get Trump to Return Presidential Material.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: The Affidavit for the Search of Trump’s Home, Annotated.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: 3 big things we learned from the Mar-a-Lago affidavit.

That’s quite a bit of reading material, I know. Pick and choose what interests you. What else is on your mind today?