Lazy Caturday Reads

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Happy Caturday!!

Late last night the Department of Justice appealed Judge Loose Cannon’s ruling in the battle over the classified documents that Trump stole on his way out of the White House.

Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Justice Department asks appeals court to block Trump judge’s Mar-a-Lago ruling.

The Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling that prevents it from accessing hundreds of pages of classified records seized amid the thousands of pages of government documents taken from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.

“The district court has entered an unprecedented order enjoining the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion Friday.

The Justice Department hadpreviously argued that any delay in its investigation into Donald Trump’s handling and retention of government records, including classified records, could result in “irreparable harm” to the government and the public….

The Justice Department on Friday argued that any considerations of claims for return of property or attorney-client and executive privilege were “categorically inapplicable to the records bearing classification markings.”

“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the government and were seized in a court-authorized search,” the Justice Department wrote.

Although Trump previously suggested he had declassified or designated documents seized from his home as “personal,” the Justice Department said he “has never represented that he in fact took either of those steps — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence. The court erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”

The Justice Department also argued that its request for a limited stay wouldn’t disrupt the special master’s review of other materials and “irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel.”

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

More from Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Justice Dept. asks appeals court to restore access to Trump raid documents.

In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Friday night, prosecutors said the government is facing irreparable harm as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling putting the potentially classified records off-limits to the investigative team until an outside expert conducts a review of them and considers Trump’s objections to their seizure.

“The court’s order hamstrings that investigation and places the FBI and Department of Justice … under a Damoclean threat of contempt,” DOJ lawyers said in their 29-page filing, adding, “It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to [Trump’s] counsel.”

The Justice Department’s widely expected escalation of the legal fight came one day after the Trump-appointed judge rebuffed prosecutors’ request for a stay that would essentially carve out the national security-related records — some bearing markings such as “Top Secret/SCI” — from the outside oversight Trump’s legal team requested.

The filing was an unsparing rejection of Cannon’s handling of the entire matter, saying it has jeopardized national security, is based on flimsy or baseless interpretations of executive privilege and could enable further obstruction of efforts to recover additional missing documents.

“The government’s need to proceed apace is heightened where, as here, it has reason to believe that obstructive acts may impede its investigation,” prosecutors wrote….

The inability of federal prosecutors to advance their criminal probe has complicated separate efforts by the intelligence community to assess the harm that may have been caused by their improper storage in Trump’s unsecured storage room, prosecutors say, contending that the criminal investigation is inextricably tied to the national security review.

And prosecutors suggested that the restrictions on the FBI’s criminal work would prevent investigators from determining what may have once resided in dozens of empty folders, also bearing classification marks, found among Trump’s belongings.

“The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing,” prosecutors indicated in the filing.

This is from a column by Harry Litman at The Los Angeles Times: The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is.

The opinion’s essential flaws go well beyond straining the law and stretching facts in favor of Donald Trump. The ruling rests on the most basic dereliction of judicial responsibility, and it represents a complete departure from the bedrock principle of separation of powers.

Cannon was actually handed a graceful way back from her also broadly pilloried opinion last week, in which she had determined that a special master was required to review the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department asked for a modest stay extending to only 100 pages of classified material found at the beach resort. It is beyond controversy that such documents are off-limits to a private citizen like the former president.

e1c83a9f137b9fef45da615c829c3917Trump’s lawyers did not try to contest that principle. Rather they argued, bizarrely, that just because the government said the documents were classified, it wasn’t necessarily so.

That, of course, is spectacular gibberish. The very meaning of classified documents is that the executive branch has made a determination about their content and marked them classified.

But Cannon adopted Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach. She concluded that it would not be “appropriate” — the closest thing to legal reasoning in her opinion — “to accept the government’s conclusion on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third-party,” that is, a special master.

Cannon, in essence, is redefining the classification process to be simply a provisional executive branch judgment subject to overruling by individual judges such as herself. Apart from its legal bankruptcy, such a process would wreak bedlam in matters of national intelligence, which turn on the very designations that Cannon set aside.

More crazy from Judge Loose Cannon:

The Trump team’s next gambit, which the judge also adopted, was even more logically and legally threadbare. The former president has argued repeatedly in public that he declassified the documents. But his attorneys have studiously avoided saying that in court papers, where lies are subject to professional and criminal penalties. The Trump filings indicate only that he perhaps had declassified the documents.

The appropriate response for a judge in these circumstances is to put Trump on the stand and ask him, “Did you or didn’t you?” Failing that, “perhaps” means the matter is not established and the argument loses.

But Cannon either does not know or does not care what judges do in such a situation. It is important to emphasize that she isn’t simply leaning in Trump’s direction, she’s falling all over him.

Judges sit to resolve disputes, on the basis of evidence. Trump’s team offered none for his positions, relying instead on only the most speculative arguments. It is elementary to the adversary system of justice that evidence and the law, not speculation, determine outcomes. Nothing in the Trump team’s filings justifies freezing a criminal justice investigation and national intelligence review in their tracks.

The DOJ has appealed and now we’ll have to wait and see what the 11th Circuit judges have to say.

There were a couple of new revelations yesterday about people close to Trump and the stolen government documents.

The Washington Post: Trump team claimed boxes at Mar-a-Lago were only news clippings.

Months before National Archives officials retrieved hundreds of classified documents in 15 boxes from former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, they were told that none of the material was sensitive or classified and that Trump had only 12 boxes of “news clippings,” according to people familiar with the conversations between Trump’s team and the Archives.

playing-cats-henriette-ronner-knip

Playing Cats, by Henriette Ronner-Knip

During a September 2021 phone call with top Archives lawyer Gary Stern, former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin offered reassuring news: Philbin said he had talked to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who made the assertion about the dozen boxes of clippings, the people familiar with the call said. Trump’s team was aware of no other materials, Philbin said, relaying information he said he got from Meadows.

The characterization made in the call vastly misrepresented the scale and variety of documents, including classified records, eventually recovered by the Archives or the FBI.

Philbin said that Meadows also told him no documents had been destroyed, according to two people with knowledge of the call and a third person with knowledge of Stern’s contemporaneous account of the call. These and other people spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details.

Stern had sought the call because he believed there were still more than two dozen boxes of materials that Trump had, and he also had concerns about whether digital records had been properly retained, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Top Archives officials continued to believe there was more material than they were being told about, according to people familiar with their thinking.

So either Philbin and/or Meadows is lying or they were lied to by Donald Trump. A spokesman for Meadows suggested it was Trump who lied.

“Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar A Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them,” Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Meadows, said in a statement Friday night after the article was published online.

The New York Times confirmed the WaPo story and added more detail: Lawyer Told Archives Last Year That Trump Had No Classified Material.

The Washington Post first reported on Friday that Mr. Philbin had told the archives that there were no sensitive or classified materials in the boxes.

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Mr. Trump had told advisers a version of what Mr. Meadows is said to have told Mr. Philbin, that the boxes contained news clippings and personal effects, according to people familiar with the events. Aides to Mr. Trump had told others that there were only 12 boxes of material, which is what Mr. Meadows is also said to have relayed to Mr. Philbin.

Mr. Meadows went to Mar-a-Lago and discussed the boxes of material with Mr. Trump during the summer of 2021, as archives officials were trying to get the materials sent to them. Mr. Philbin was trying to facilitate the return while avoiding being drawn further into the dispute, according to two people familiar with the events.

In a statement, Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Mr. Meadows, said, “Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar-a-Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them.”

At The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has a column on Jeffrey Clark, the DOJ employee whom Trump wanted to appoint as acting Attorney General in the wake of the 2020 election: The curious case of the strange man who was nearly attorney general.

The threat of losing his law license might be the least of Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s problems. Clark is the environmental lawyer who came just one contentious Oval Office meeting away from being installed as attorney general in the waning days of the Trump administration.

In June of this year, his home was searched by armed agents of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and his electronic devices seized as part of a criminal investigation into false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The next month, the D.C. bar launched disciplinary proceedings against him.

Even with all that, Clark’s astonishing, over-the-top response to the D.C. bar probe, released Monday, offers jarring new evidence of how bonkers the man who almost became attorney general actually is.

Clark was assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources and who, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, was put in charge of the civil division. President Donald Trump wanted him in the top job because Clark — unlike the rest of the department’s hierarchy — was eager and willing to pursue Trump’s false claims that he had won the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr, before resigning in December 2020, asserted that there was no evidence of election fraud sufficient to affect the results. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, the acting number two, agreed with that conclusion.

horatio-henry-couldery-a-trio-of-kittens

A Trio of Kittens, by Horatio Henry Couldery

This didn’t deter Clark, although it was far outside his job description. He drafted a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials asserting that the department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states,” and urging them to call the legislature into special session.

Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign, telling Clark there was no such evidence; Clark persisted to the point of telling Rosen that Trump would name Clark as attorney general in his place so the letter could be sent. The whole scheme was derailed only after Trump was confronted with threats of mass resignations at the Justice Department.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end with some articles about the Ron DeSantis’ exploitation of asylum seekers by sending them to Martha’s Vineyard, links only:

Raw Story: Lawmakers call for federal investigation of ‘cruel’ Ron DeSantis.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: What the Martha’s Vineyard Stunt Says About the Trump Wannabes.

The Washington Post: A migrant landed on Martha’s Vineyard. A resident jumped in to help.

Miami Herald: This is how much Florida has paid an aviation company to relocate ‘unauthorized aliens.’

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


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?


Finally Friday Reads: Warrant Watch Edition

Secret Society from Peekaboo!, Tomoo Gokita,2018

Good Day Sky Dancers!

So, we’re on watch today to see exactly if the Search Warrant and property list from the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago stash are as disturbing as leaks imply.   This headline is from WAPO: “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say.  The former president said on social media that he won’t oppose a Justice Dept. request to unseal the search warrant.” It describes the Garland Presser as well.

Late Thursday night, Trump said on social media that he agreed the document should be made public. In another post early Friday, he called the nuclear weapons issue a “hoax” and accused the FBI of planting evidence, without offering information to indicate such a thing had happened. Trump said agents did not allow his lawyers to be present for the search, which is not unusual in a law enforcement operation, especially if it potentially involves classified items.

Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials, experts said. Publicizing details about U.S. weapons could provide an intelligence road map to adversaries seeking to build ways of countering those systems. And other countries might view exposing their nuclear secrets as a threat, experts said.

One former Justice Department official, who in the past oversaw investigations of leaks of classified information, said the type of top-secret information described by the people familiar with the probe would probably cause authorities to try to move as quickly as possible to recover sensitive documents that could cause grave harm to U.S. security.

“If that is true, it would suggest that material residing unlawfully at Mar-a-Lago may have been classified at the highest classification level,” said David Laufman, the former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section, which investigates leaks of classified information. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible.”

Cable News lit up last night with analysis and news.

This is from the tweet above and Steve Benen.

It’s worth emphasizing that the new motion filed by the DOJ isn’t to disclose everything, but it would bring to light the materials Team Trump already has in its possession, which would make clear key details of the search.

It’s why Marcy Wheeler noted, in response to today’s statement, “Garland is calling Trump’s bluff.”

The attorney general went on to note that he “personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant” in this case — something that was widely assumed, but not confirmed before this afternoon. He added that the Department of Justice “does not take such actions lightly” and first pursues “less intrusive” means.

But before wrapping up, Garland also took about a minute to defend federal law enforcement from “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly

Peek A Boo, 2000, Bella Larsson

The New York Times focused on the possibilities that beyond-Top Secret Material was sitting around the basement of the Club. My worst thoughts are that he already shipped it off to his buddy in North Korea, his man-crush in Russia, or Bonesaw. “Trump Search Said to Be Part of Effort to Find Highly Classified Material. The former president said he will not object to the Justice Department’s move to release the search warrant used to carry out the search of his Florida home.”

While the inventory provided to Mr. Trump’s team after the search is unlikely to reveal details about the specific documents he kept, it refers to an array of sensitive material, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Judge Bruce Reinhart, the federal magistrate in the Southern District of Florida who approved the search warrant and is handling the motion to unseal it, had issued an order requiring the Justice Department to serve a copy of its motion to Mr. Trump’s lawyers. It said the department would have to tell the judge by 3 p.m. on Friday whether Mr. Trump opposed the motion.

Mr. Garland’s statement amounted to a challenge to Mr. Trump, who has been free to release the search warrant and the list of items taken during the search on his own, but has declined to do so. Many Trump allies and Republicans have also called on Mr. Garland to explain his decision, adding political complexity — or hypocrisy — to any decision by Mr. Trump to oppose making the search warrant public.

The Justice Department did not seek to release the affidavits — which contain much more information about the behavior of Mr. Trump and evidence presented by others — that were used to obtain the warrant.

The public statement by Mr. Garland came at an extraordinary moment, as a sprawling set of investigations into the former president on multiple fronts gained momentum even as Mr. Trump continued to signal that he might soon announce another run for the White House.

Peek-A-Boo /Hide and seek (Kurragömma) , Carl Larsson, 1898

Republican Elected officials and right-wing New Sources are doing everything to stir the empty pot of Trump’s latest Big Lie. This is from The Guardian: “Republicans dust off familiar playbook to weaponise Mar-a-Lago FBI search. Analysis: GOP accusations of ‘deep state’ and politicization of justice department likely to foment an intense backlash.”

But Republicans responded furiously to the development, following Trump’s lead in claiming that the search showed the justice department waging a politically motivated witch-hunt. Their florid rhetoric will do little to assuage fears that a prosecution of Trump could lead to social unrest and even political violence.

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Countless times we have examples of Democrats flouting the law and abusing power with no recourse.

“Democrats continually weaponize the bureaucracy against Republicans. This raid is outrageous. This abuse of power must stop and the only way to do that is to elect Republicans in November.”

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader in the House, claimed in a statement that the justice department had reached “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization” and vowed that, when Republicans take back the House, they will conduct immediate oversight of the department.

He said ominously: “Attorney General Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

Lindsey Graham, a US senator for South Carolina and Trump ally, noted that midterm elections are about a hundred days away and Trump is likely to run for president again in 2024. “Time will tell regarding this most recent investigation. However, launching such an investigation of a former President this close to an election is beyond problematic.”

Bob Good, a Republican congressman, wrote on Twitter: “The continued weaponization of the federal government against its citizens and political opponents continues under the Biden/Garland march toward a police state.”

Congressman Ronny Jackson added: “Tonight the FBI officially became the enemy of the people!!!”

Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, denounced the search as “un-American”, while Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – which hosted an event in Dallas, Texas, last week with speakers including Trump and the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán – also joined the condemnation.

“The Deep State will do anything in its power to slime President Trump,” Schlapp said. “Americans need to keep growing the big Red Wave and save the country from these corrupt fascists.”

Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state under Trump, tweeted: “Executing a warrant against ex-POTUS is dangerous. The apparent political weaponization of DOJ/FBI is shameful. AG must explain why 250 yrs of practice was upended w/ this raid.”

Biden has repeatedly stressed his belief that the justice department must work independently of the White House and that he will not interfere in its investigations. Merrick Garland, the attorney general, insisted last week that no one was above the law.

The FBI is directed by Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee.

Meanwhile, a member of the Trump Cult tried to shoot up an FBI office in Cinncinatti.  He was spurred on by the Republican responses.

The gunman who fired at police and engaged in an hours-long standoff in a corn field after trying to enter the FBI’s office in Cincinnati on Thursday has been identified in multiple media reports as someone who was present at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

The man also apparently left a trail of posts on Truth Social, the social media platform created by former president Donald Trump, announcing his plans to attack the FBI office and indicating that his actions were a direct response to the FBI’s search Monday of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

The suspect is Ricky Walter Shiffer, according to NBC News and the New York Times, which reported that Shiffer was under investigation for having “ties to extremist groups,” including the Proud Boys, which he apparently mentioned on social media.

The standoff suspect was shot and killed by police on Thursday afternoon, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said, but his identity has not been confirmed.

The 42-year-old Shiffer reportedly posted on Facebook on Jan. 5, 2021, showing him attending a pro-Trump rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington the night before the Capitol was stormed, according to the Times.

The week’s events have spurred a new addition to the Dark Brandon memes.  We now have Dark Merrick.

I really want to focus on this, though, because it ties all of the shit we’ve been through since Trump started with the Obama wasn’t born here lies.  I’d love to have sat in on this discussion between the President and a group of the nation’s premier Historians.

The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

Comparisons were made to the years before the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln warned that a “house divided against itself cannot stand” and the lead-up to the 1940 election, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt battled rising domestic sympathy for European fascism and resistance to the United States joining World War II.

We’ve seen this analysis from various Historians that appear on TV News.  Here’s some additional reading material,

I somehow missed that publication in the dark years of the Trump Presidency.

No matter how and when the Trump presidency ends, the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics.

At this point, I’d just like to see Trump himself stop haunting us.

If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. Like Hitler’s conservative allies, he and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump.

Mitch has calmed down some, but the rest of the Republicans have not. This just broke.

This scoop comes from Lisa Rein.

The White House has faced mounting questions about a decision by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office to abandon attempts to recover missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 6,2021. President Biden, in response, has signaled his intention to stay out of the process as an independent watchdog investigates the inspector general.

But Joseph V. Cuffari and his staff have refused to release certain documents and tried to block interviews, effectively delaying that probe, which has now stretched for more than 15 months and evolved into a wide-ranging inquiry into more than a dozen allegations of misconduct raised by whistleblowers and other sources, according to three people familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.

Some Republican senators have also raised stiff resistance to the investigation — which is being overseen by a panel of federal watchdogs fromthe Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) — questioning the need for a full probe into the Trump administrationappointee.

Pavel Tchelitchew
Hide-and-Seek
Derby, Vermont and New York, June 1940 – June 1942

It just seems we’ve lost our way.

There is some good news.  The House is on the verge of sending the Inflation Reduction Act to the President for his signature.

There’s also this from the AP: “Kansas abortion vote shows limits of GOP’s strength.”

An increase in turnout among Democrats and independents and a notable shift in Republican-leaning counties contributed to the overwhelming support of abortion rights last week in traditionally conservative Kansas, according to a detailed Associated Press analysis of the voting results.

A proposed state constitutional amendment would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten restrictions or ban abortions outright. But Kansas voters rejected the measure by nearly 20 percentage points, almost a mirror of Republican Donald Trump’s statewide margin over Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to repeal a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the threat of new restrictions in the state galvanized Democrats and independents more than anticipated. At the same time, Republicans showed less interest in turning out to support the measure.

The findings reinforce a sense in both parties that the Supreme Court’s decision may have altered the dynamics of this year’s midterm elections.

Even Fox News polling supports the tightening of the race to maintain control of Congress,

“Between passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, killing al Qaeda’s leader, less pain at the pump, and the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices taking away abortion rights, the political landscape is less horrible for Democrats,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox surveys with Republican Daron Shaw. “There are successes Democrats can point to that didn’t exist in the spring, but the biggest single change I see in this poll is the increased disapproval of the Supreme Court and suspect that is a significant factor.”

Fifty-five percent disapprove of the Supreme Court’s job performance, up from 48% in June.

Meanwhile, the shift in vote preference mainly comes from women. They preferred the GOP candidate by 1 point in May and now go for the Democrat by 6.

Okay, we’ll keep you updated on the release of the warrant.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: The Search Aftermath

R. Kenton Nelson, 1954

R. Kenton Nelson, 1954

Good Afternoon!!

The top stories today are focused on the earthshaking FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Of course there is other news; but I’m obsessed with bringing down Trump, so those stories are what interest me.

The only really new information to come out yesterday was this story by national security reporter William Arkin at Newsweek: Exclusive: An Informer Told the FBI What Docs Trump Was Hiding, and Where.

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

The officials, who have direct knowledge of the FBI’s deliberations and were granted anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters, said the raid of Donald Trump‘s Florida residence was deliberately timed to occur when the former president was away….

Both senior government officials say the raid was scheduled with no political motive, the FBI solely intent on recovering highly classified documents that were illegally removed from the White House. Preparations to conduct such an operation began weeks ago, but in planning the date and time, the FBI Miami Field Office and Washington headquarters were focused on the former president’s scheduled return to Florida from his residences in New York and New Jersey.

“They were seeking to avoid any media circus,” says the second source, a senior intelligence official who was briefed on the investigation and the operation. “So even though everything made sense bureaucratically and the FBI feared that the documents might be destroyed, they also created the very firestorm they sought to avoid, in ignoring the fallout.”

Of course it was Trump himself who ignited the firestorm by publicly announcing the FBI search, then whining, ranting, and grifting from his followers based on his supposed victimization.

In the past week, the prosecutor in the case and local Assistant U.S. Attorney went to Florida magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart in West Palm Beach to seek approval for the search of Donald Trump’s private residence. The affidavit to obtain the search warrant, the intelligence source says, contained abundant and persuasive detail that Trump continued to possess the relevant records in violation of federal law, and that investigators had sufficient information to prove that those records were located at Mar-a-Lago—including the detail that they were contained in a specific safe in a specific room.

“In order for the investigators to convince the Florida judge to approve such an unprecedented raid, the information had to be solid, which the FBI claimed,” says the intelligence source.

There’s much more background information in the article if you want a refresher.

Onelio Marrero

By Onelio Marrero

Today, The Wall Street Journal has more on the events that led up to the FBI warrant and search of Trump’s property: FBI Quest for Trump Documents Started With Breezy Chats, Tour of a Crowded Closet. Why interactions between FBI, Trump team soured remains a mystery.

Around lunchtime on June 3, a senior Justice Department national security supervisor and three FBI agents arrived at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to discuss boxes with government records sitting in a basement storage room along with suits, sweaters and golf shoes.

A few days later, the FBI sent a note asking that a stronger lock be installed on the storage room door, signing off: “Thank you. Very truly yours, Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence and export control section.”

In the following weeks, however, someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said. And Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property, one person said. Newsweek earlier reported on the source of the FBI’s information.

Two months later, two dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were back at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant predicated on convincing a federal magistrate judge that there was evidence a crime may have been committed. After hours at the property, the agents took the boxes away in a Ryder truck.

Many elements of what happened between those events—one seemingly cordial, the other unheard of—remain unknown. But the episode points to a sharp escalation in the Justice Department’s inquiry into Mr. Trump, which also includes an investigation into the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol. And it has prompted outrage from Republicans, who have rallied around Mr. Trump as he contemplates running again for president.

The WSJ says it’s a mystery why the DOJ investigation “escalated” to the point where the FBI was directed to search Trump’s property. It doesn’t seem that mysterious to me. Right-wing “reporter” John Solomon writes that Trump received a grand jury subpoena “months before” the “raid.” Obviously, the situation escalated when Trump ignored the subpoena.

The WSJ story doesn’t seem to have a paywall (I got there from Memeorandum), so you can read much more at the link. It’s very long, but Politico has a good summary of the facts from the WSJ article:

On June 3, JAY BRATT, chief of counterintelligence and export control section at the Department of Justice, visited Mar-a-Lago to inspect a storage room that contained presidential documents. By this point in his standoff with the government, Trump had already returned 15 boxes of records to the National Archives, which subsequently found “classified national security information” among the returned items.

Trump, who stopped by the June inspection to greet Bratt, had told the government that there was no more classified material in his possession. The dispute, it appeared, when Bratt showed up, was about returning what Trump represented to be non-sensitive documents. Retaining non-classified documents is still a violation of the strict Presidential Records Act, but the available evidence suggests the two sides were working it out.

onelio-marrero being-transported

Being Transported by Onelio Marrero

But things started to escalate. Five days later, Bratt sent Trump’s lawyer, EVAN CORCORAN, an email, a copy of which was read over the phone to the Journal: “We ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.”

Then, on June 22, the government subpoenaed Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage, which the Journal says was provided.

And then on Monday, the FBI warrant was executed.

The mystery is: What changed?

The answer, according to the Journal, is that an informant told the FBI that Trump was lying.

This morning, Mick Mulvaney spoke to CNN about the FBI search, and in the midst of multiple lies and obfuscation he revealed something important. Politicus USA: Mick Mulvaney Says The FBI Informant Is Someone Very Close To Trump.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that only six or eight people would have the info given to the FBI, so the informant is someone very close to Trump.

“I didn’t know there was a safe at Mar-a-Lago and I was the chief of staff for 15 months. This would be someone handling things on day to day, who knew where documents were, so it would be somebody very close to the president, my guess is there are probably six or eight people who had that kind of information.

I don’t know the people on the inside circle these days. I can’t give any names of folks who come to mind, but your instinct is a good one if you know where the safe is and you know the documents are in ten boxes in the basement, you are pretty close to the president.”

If Mulvaney is correct, and the informant is someone very close to the former president, it makes sense that the FBI might also have knowledge of what Trump was planning on doing with the documents that he stole from the White House.

Jacob Lawrence, the Library, 1960

Jacob Lawrence, the Library, 1960

Of course the MAGA maniacs are up in arms. Kyle Cheney and Meredith McGraw at Politico: Trump world gripped with anger, fear and a host of conspiracies about the FBI search.

In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.

“There are no coincidences when it comes to the Deep State. They could have done this raid a couple of days before or tomorrow, but they chose Aug. 8 for a reason,” Monica Crowley, a former top official in the Trump Treasury Department, said on the “War Room” podcast.

Trump world is no stranger to being deeply suspicious, even conspiratorial. But the speculation sparked by the FBI search has taken on a different scope, coming amid a combination of anxiety — that the so-called Deep State is out to get the former president — and a dearth of public information about the bureau’s actions.

“I can tell you all of us agree this is corrupt,” said Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump confidante whose service in the Trump administration was marked by attacks he waged on career officials and an acrimonious exit. “Many people in Trump world agree with me that this is theater and this is designed to damage the president, this is designed to damage Republicans in the midterms and it is designed to advance the interests of the Democratic Party. And you know what, they completely failed.”

There is no evidence that the Department of Justice did anything improper, and it in fact obtained approval from a federal court to obtain its search warrant. Trump himself could answer some of the lingering questions. He is at liberty to disclose the warrant — though he has not been provided the underlying affidavit — and to describe the files that were confiscated by the FBI. But so far he has opted against doing so.

Adolph-MENZEL-A Seated Woman Reading (Portrait of Emilie Fontane)

Adolph Menzel, A Seated Woman Reading (Portrait of Emilie Fontane

More on Trump’s and MAGA world’s paranoia from Asawin Suebsaeng at Rolling Stone: With Feds Circling, Trump Asks Allies: Who’s ‘Wearing a Wire’?

Donald Trump is worried he may have a rat — or multiple rats — in his midst. He’s wondering if his phones are tapped, or even if one of his buddies could be “wearing a wire.”

As the federal and state investigations into Trump and his orbit swell, so have the former president’s suspicions, according to two sources familiar with the matter and another two people close to the twice-impeached former Oval Office occupant. 

This summer, Trump has asked close associates if they think his communications are being monitored by the feds, or — per his phrasing — “by Biden.” As a source close to Trump describes it to Rolling Stone: “He has asked me and others, ‘Do you think our phones are tapped?’ Given the sheer volume of investigations going on into the [former] president, I do not think he’s assuming anything is outside the realm of possibility.”

The source adds, “He’s talked about this seriously [in the past few months], but I know of one time when he made a joke that was something like, ‘Be careful what you say on the phone!’”

Moreover, on at least a couple of occasions since May, the former president has wondered aloud if there were any Republicans visiting his clubs who could be “wearing a wire,” according to another person close to Trump and a different source familiar with the matter. Trump and his allies are baselessly floating the idea that federal agents could be guilty of “planting” incriminating evidence at his private resort. And the ex-president and several of his longtime advisers are trying to figure out if they have, in their terminology, a “mole” or a “rat” in Trump’s inner sanctum who is slipping his secrets to the feds. 

More stories about the search to check out:

I highly recommend this piece by Brian Karam at Salon: No exit: After Mar-a-Lago raid, Trump is trapped — and his fear is palpable. It actually helped me feel somewhat hopeful.

Emptywheel: The Likely Content of a Trump Search Affidavit.

The Washington Post: Citizen Trump may have broken a law that President Trump made a felony.

The Daily Beast: Hell Week: How Trump’s Problems All Converged at Once.

Vice News: Far-Right Extremists Are Violently Threatening the Trump Search-Warrant Judge.

Law and Crime: Federal Magistrate Judge Orders DOJ to Respond to Media and Non-Profit Requests to Unseal Trump Search Warrant.

New York Magazine: ‘You Can’t Play the Cable-News Game in Court.’

Have a great Thursday Sky Dancers!!


Monday Reads: Of Droogs, Unwinable Wars, and Civil Rights Protests

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Fifty years ago, Elton John released Tiny Dancer, and Clockwork Orange was playing in theatres. We were fighting what seemed like an endless war run by a lawless President.  It was the year of the Easter Offensive when North Vietnamese forces overran South Vietnamese forces. It was probably the first true evidence of a war the US would not win.

Shirley Chisholm became the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed Congress and got 35 of the 38 votes to become a Constitutional Amendment.  In 1972, Native Americans occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  The protest came from tribal frustration with the government’s ‘Trail of Broken Treaties.’  It lasted six days.

After the Senate voted passage of a constitutional amendment giving women equal rights, Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., left, met with two supporters and one opponent, Wednesday, March 23, 1972 in the Capitol in Washington. Sen. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., second from right, one of eight senators who voted against the amendment. Others are Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Mich., and Sen. Marlow Cook, R-Ky.

Furman v. Georgia was decided in 1972.  The United States Supreme Court invalidated all death penalty schemes in the United States in a 5–4 decision.  Each member of the majority wrote a separate opinion. The Civil Rights act of 1972 passed which led to Title IX.

A recipient institution that receives Department funds must operate its education program or activity in a nondiscriminatory manner free of discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Some key issue areas in which recipients have Title IX obligations are: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment. Also, no recipient or other person may intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title IX or its implementing regulations, or because the individual has made a report or complaint, testified, assisted, or participated or refused to participate in a proceeding under Title IX.

1972 was also the year of the Gary Declaration coming from a National Black Political Convention. Reverend Jesse Jackson was just one of many to attend the convention.

What Time Is It?

We come to Gary in an hour of great crisis and tremendous promise for Black America. While the white nation hovers on the brink of chaos, while its politicians offer no hope of real change, we stand on the edge of history and are faced with an amazing and frightening choice: We may choose in 1972 to slip back into the decadent white politics of American life, or we may press forward, moving relentlessly from Gary to the creation of our own Black life. The choice is large, but the time is very short.

Let there be no mistake. We come to Gary in a time of unrelieved crisis for our people. From every rural community in Alabama to the high-rise compounds of Chicago, we bring to this Convention the agonies of the masses of our people. From the sprawling Black cities of Watts and Nairobi in the West to the decay of Harlem and Roxbury in the East, the testimony we bear is the same. We are the witnesses to social disaster.

Our cities are crime-haunted dying grounds. Huge sectors of our youth — and countless others — face permanent unemployment. Those of us who work find our paychecks able to purchase less and less. Neither the courts nor the prisons contribute to anything resembling justice or reformation. The schools are unable — or unwilling — to educate our children for the real world of our struggles. Meanwhile, the officially approved epidemic of drugs threatens to wipe out the minds and strength of our best young warriors.

Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America, and the price for survival often appears to be more than we are able to pay. On every side, in every area of our lives, the American institutions in which we have placed our trust are unable to cope with the crises they have created by their single-minded dedication to profits for some and white supremacy above all.

Me in 1973 with friends.

I was in high school feeling like we might actually get through this all and get to the dream of a more perfect Union. It was definitely a year of ups and downs. Fifty years ago seems like another lifetime. You’d think we’d see more progress on all of this.

We do have a Black Woman Vice President but no ERA and we had our first Black Man elected President who served two terms.. The Department of Interior is led by an Indigenous woman who has planned reforms that might bring more civil rights to our native peoples.  Women’s sports are taken a lot more seriously but not one woman player earns what her male peers make.

Black Americans face a new wave of voter suppression and a Supreme Court ready to tear through laws meant to improve access to American Universities not unlike what the 1972 Civil Rights law sought to do on the basis of gender.  We just got rid of a second long, unwinnable war but will we have another?

We also have Elton John on tour and Droogs. The Droogs are the white male Maga Men and hide under names like Oathkeepers, Proud Boys, and Patriot Front.

Some things don’t change and in this country, we know why. They don’t share power. They don’t want to. They’ll do anything to keep as much of it as possible.  We have a White Male problem and it’s mostly got the face of an extreme patriarchal take of Christianity.

So that’s the perspective. This is the reality in 2022.  This is from MS Magazine whose first stand-alone magazine was published in 1972. Excerpts from Elizabeth Hira’s “Americans Are Entitled to Government That Truly Reflects Them. Let’s Start With the Supreme Court” are going to show you exactly how far the rest of us still have to go.  It’s in response to the audacity the Republican Party has to hold up Joe Biden’s promise to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court as some kind of affirmative action for a less-qualified person which is total Bull Shit.

This is the premise she completely proves. “Our current system has created conditions where, statistically, mostly white men win. That is its own kind of special privilege. Something must change.”

This is her conclusion. “American government in no way reflects America—perpetuating a system where male, white power makes decisions for the rest of us.”

These are her descriptive statistics.

Data shows these claims are not hyperbolic. A Supreme Court vacancy started this inquiry: There have been 115 Supreme Court justices. 108 have been white men. One is a woman of color, appointed in 2009. (Americans have had iPhones for longer than they’ve had a woman-of-color justice.)

One might be tempted to dismiss old history, except that the Supreme Court specifically cannot be looked at as a “snapshot in time” because the Court is built on precedent stretching back to the nation’s founding. Practically speaking, that means every decision prior to 1967 (when Justice Thurgood Marshall joined the Court) reflected what a group of exclusively white men decided for everyone else in America—often to the detriment of the unrepresented.

In a nation that is 51 percent female and 40 percent people of color, are white men simply more qualified to represent the rest of us than we are of representing ourselves? That sounds ridiculous because it is. And yet that is the implication when naysayers tell us that race and gender do not matter—that the “most qualified” people can “make the best choices” for all of us, and they all just happen to be white men.

What’s worse, those white men aren’t just making broad, general decisions—each and every branch of government acts in ways that directly impact people because of their race and gender, among other identities.

  • When the Supreme Court considers affirmative action, it will be considering whether race matters for students who are already experiencing an increase in school segregation—what Jonathan Kozol once dubbed “Educational Apartheid.”
  • When Congress is inevitably asked to pass a bill to protect abortion should the Court strike down Roe v. Wade, 73 percent of the Congress making that decision will be men—not people who could even potentially experience pregnancy.
  • When recent voting rights bills failed, it was because two white Democrats and 48 Republicans (45 white and three non-white) collectively decided not to protect all American voters of color against targeted attacks on their access to the ballot.
  • When Senator Kyrsten Sinema spoke to the Senate floor about why she could not take necessary steps to protect Americans of color, she did not have to look a single sitting Black woman senator in the eye. Because there are none.

The Supreme Court is not alone in underrepresenting women, people of color, and women of color. Of 50 states, 47 governors are white, 41 are men. Nearly 70 percent of state legislators are male.

The pattern holds federally, too: Today’s Congress is the most diverse ever—a laudable achievement. Except that today’s Congress is 77 percent white, and 73 percent male. (As an example of how clear it is that Congress was simply not designed for women, Congresswomen only got their own restroomin the U.S. House in 2011.)

In the executive branch, 97.8 percent of American presidents have been white men. There has never been a woman president.

BIA Spokesperson at Trail of Broken Treaties Protest: 1972
John Crow of the Bureau of Indian Affairs answers questions from Native Americans on November 2, 1972 at 1951 Constitution Avenue NW in Washington, D.C on the first day of the Trail of Broken Treaties demonstrations.

The numbers don’t lie.  I don’t even want to go into the number of American presidents that have been worse than mediocre including the previous guy.  This is the kind of systemic discrimination perpetuated in this country’s primary decision-makers. It is no wonder 50 years later we are even losing the table scraps they’re stealing now.

I’m going to leave you with this one last analysis before telling you to go read the entire essay.

The first female major-party presidential nominee was dogged by questions of her “electability,” and recent data shows large donors gave Black women congressional candidates barely one-third of what they gave their other female counterparts. Some people don’t support women and candidates of color because they worry these candidates simply can’t win in a white male system of power—which perpetuates a white male system of power. To create equitable opportunities to run, we must change campaign finance structures. It’s a necessary precursor to getting a government that looks like everyone.

I’m trying to send money to Val Demings in her effort to take down Mark Rubio.  Mark Rubio will never consider the interests of all of his constituency because he’s funded by white males with a vested interest in their monopolies on politics and the economy.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Now Tom said, “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beating a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me, Mom, I’ll be there

Wherever somebody’s fighting for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helping hand
Wherever somebody’s struggling to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, and you’ll see me”
Yeah!

Like Tom Joad, I was born an Okie. I was born on the Cherokee strip one of those places on the Trail of Broken Treaties at the end of the Trail of Tears.  “The Grapes of Wrath” was on many a book banning and burning list back in the day. Look for it again on a list near you.