Lazy Caturday Reads

Happy Caturday!!

Since it’s Caturday, I decided to share this funny video I found on Twitter before I get started with today’s news. It shows how intelligent cats really are.

Cats prove that there are good things in this world, even though the news people make can be so depressing.

Here’s what’s happening today.

There’s been a terrible train crash in India. The New York Times reports: More Than 260 Dead and 900 Injured in Train Crash in India.

More than 260 people were killed and hundreds more injured when a passenger train derailed and struck two other trains in eastern India on Friday, officials said, a rail disaster whose toll was exceptionally large even by the standards of a nation with a long history of deadly crashes.

The crash, in the state of Odisha, shocked India, now the world’s most populous country, and renewed longstanding questions about safety problems in a system that transports more than eight billion passengers a year. The country has invested heavily in the system in recent years, but that has not been enough to overcome decades of neglect.

The crash killed 261 people, according to Indian railway officials. Odisha’s chief secretary, Pradeep Jena, said that an additional 900 had been injured. Officials said they expected the toll to rise.

As daylight broke, teams of rescue workers with dogs and cutting equipment were laboring to free injured people trapped in the wreckage of twisted train carriages. Officials said that 115 ambulances had been mobilized and that all nearby hospitals were on standby.

The government in the state, home to about 45 million people, declared a day of mourning after India’s worst rail disaster in two decades. Dozens of trains were canceled. Teams from the Army, Air Force and National Disaster Response Force were mobilized to help. And people near the site of the crash were lining up to donate blood.

Of course the death toll is rising. The Washington Post: India train crash toll passes 280; rescue operation ends.

About 1,000 people were injured in the collision Friday night in the state of Odisha, the government said in a preliminary incident report obtained by The Washington Post. Rescue operations were “completed” Saturday afternoon local time, India’s Railways Ministry said on Twitter, adding that “restoration work” was underway.

Pagan Cats, by Cécile Berrubé

Pagan Cats, by Cécile Berrubé

The crash involved high-speed trains that collided “head-on,” Odisha’s director of fire and emergency services, Sudhanshu Sarangi, said, calling it “a major, major tragedy.”

“Psychologically, we were not prepared to see so many dead bodies,” said Sarangi, who was supervising the rescue operation. More than 300 rescue workers were involved in the search, “but then as our evening progressed … we were not really hopeful of finding survivors,” he said.

The disaster unfolded around 7 p.m. local time Friday, when the Coromandel Express, which was ferrying passengers from Howrah to Chennai on India’s eastern coast, derailed and hit a freight train near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, a district in Odisha. Soon after the initial crash, the Superfast Express running from Bangalore to Howrah with roughly 1,000 passengers crashed into the other two trains, according to Aditya Kumar Chaudhary, a spokesman for the South Eastern Railway zone.

By Saturday evening local time, the death toll had reached 288, Chaudhary said, adding that 17 passenger compartments had derailed and were severely damaged.

Photographs and video from the wreckage site showed overturned train cars. Witnesses said people converged at the scene and tried to pull survivors from the mounds of mangled steel as emergency alarms sounded and the injured cried out for help.

A medical officer at Balasore District Hospital said Saturday afternoon that 1,053 people had been brought to the facility, 183 of them already dead. Fifty-five died at the hospital, he said.

“I have never seen something like this in my life. This is the first time we have received so many patients,” D. Jagatdeo said by phone from his office, where he had been stationed since the previous night.

Martin Coppens

By Martine Coppens

Chris Licht has been demoted at CNN. He’s the moron who decided to give a platform to Donald Trump at a so-called “town hall” with an audience of MAGA fanatics. It was a disaster. CNN got great ratings for the “town hall,” but after that the MAGA folks went back to Fox News, and normal people turned off CNN.

There’s a very long article at The Atlantic by Tim Alberta about this: Inside the Meltdown at CNN: CEO Chris Licht felt he was on a mission to restore the network’s reputation for serious journalism. How did it all go wrong?

I stopped reading after awhile, because I felt I didn’t need to know all the details. You can read it at the Atlantic, or you can just read this summary of the situation at Mediaite: CNN’s Licht Faces Wave of Tough Reporting in Wake of Executive Shakeup.

A series of tough headlines are hitting CNN CEO Chris Licht. First, Mediaite reported Thursday on the appointment of a new executive to take over business operations at CNN in a move seen as a rescue operation for the network leader. Then, The Atlantic dropped a tough cover story on the network chief, and Dylan Byers of Puck News reported Licht faces serious headwinds.

Byers, who used to work for CNN, said in the Puck newsletter on Friday that confidence in Licht has “wavered considerably” following the appointing of David Leavy – chief corporate affairs officer at Warner Bros. Discovery – to now handle the business side.

The revelation of Leavy’s appointment as COO was first reported by Mediaite’s Colby Hall, who followed up with a piece spelling out what this means for Licht and CNN.

“There’s no way they would put David Leavy down into CNN to work for Chris Licht,” one industry insider told Mediaite. “He’s too important to Zaslav to take what on paper sounds like a demotion. It sure sounds like he’s taking one for the team.”

The Puck reporting came hours after The Atlantic also published a lengthy and not exactly flattering profile of Licht’s tenure at CNN, which has seen precipitous ratings declines since Licht replaced former chief Jeff Zucker.

I hope CNN will get back on track, but they’ve lost a lot of viewers. The simple truth is that CNN is never going to be able to compete with Fox News for the Republican audience.

Cats Dancing, Headstand

Cats Dancing, Headstand, by Louis Wain

Daknikat sent me this creepy story from The Guardian: Amazon and Google fund anti-abortion lawmakers through complex shell game.

As North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban is due to come into effect on 1 July, an analysis from the non-profit Center for Political Accountability (CPA) shows several major corporations donated large sums to a Republican political organization which in turn funded groups working to elect anti-abortion state legislators.

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) received donations of tens of thousands of dollars each from corporations including Comcast, Intuit, Wells Fargo, Amazon, Bank of America and Google last year, the CPA’s analysis of IRS filings shows. The contributions were made in the months after Politico published a leaked supreme court decision indicating that the court would end the right to nationwide abortion access.

Google contributed $45,000 to the RSLC after the leak of the draft decision, according to the CPA’s review of the tax filings. Others contributed even more in the months after the leak, including Amazon ($50,000), Intuit ($100,000) and Comcast ($147,000).

Google, Amazon, Comcast, Wells Fargo and Bank of America did not respond to requests for comment. An Intuit spokesperson pointed out that the company also donates to Democratic political organizations, and that “our financial support does not indicate a full endorsement of every position taken by an individual policymaker or organization.

That is sickening. I guess this all goes back to the SCOTUS’ Citizens United decision.

Martine Coppens

By Martine Coppens

Here’s an interesting development in the book banning craze. Now they are banning the Bible in Utah. Associated Press: Utah district bans Bible in elementary and middle schools ‘due to vulgarity or violence.’

The Good Book is being treated like a bad book in Utah after a parent frustrated by efforts to ban materials from schools convinced a suburban district that some Bible verses were too vulgar or violent for younger children.

And the Book of Mormon could be next.

The 72,000-student Davis School District north of Salt Lake City removed the Bible from its elementary and middle schools while keeping it in high schools after a committee reviewed the scripture in response to a parental complaint. The district has removed other titles, including Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” following a 2022 state law requiring districts to include parents in decisions over what constitutes “sensitive material.”

On Friday, a complaint was submitted about the signature scripture of the predominant faith in Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. District spokesperson Chris Williams confirmed that someone filed a review request for the Book of Mormon but would not say what reasons were listed. Citing a school board privacy policy, he also would not say whether it was from the same person who complained about the Bible….

Williams said the district doesn’t differentiate between requests to review books and doesn’t consider whether complaints may be submitted as satire. The reviews are handled by a committee made up of teachers, parents and administrators in the largely conservative community.

The committee published its decision about the Bible in an online database of review requests and did not elaborate on its reasoning or which passages it found overly violent or vulgar.

The decision comes as conservative parent activists, including state-based chapters of the group Parents United, descend on school boards and statehouses throughout the United States, sowing alarm about how sex and violence are talked about in schools.

Cat dance

Cat Dance, artist unknown

Finally, The New York Times has a new story on the Trump stolen documents investigation: Trump Lawyer’s Notes Could Be a Key in the Classified Documents Inquiry.

Turning on his iPhone one day last year, the lawyer M. Evan Corcoran recorded his reflections about a high-profile new job: representing former President Donald J. Trump inst an investigation into his handling of classified documents.

In complete sentences and a narrative tone that sounded as if it had been ripped from a novel, Mr. Corcoran recounted in detail a nearly monthlong period of the documents investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Corcoran’s narration of his recollections covered his initial meeting with Mr. Trump in May last year to discuss a subpoena from the Justice Department seeking the return of all classified materials in the former president’s possession, the people said.

It also encompassed a search that Mr. Corcoran undertook last June in response to the subpoena for any relevant records being kept at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. He carried out the search in preparation for a visit by prosecutors, who were on their way to enforce the subpoena and collect any sensitive material found remaining there.

Government investigators almost never obtain a clear lens into a lawyer’s private dealings with their clients, let alone with such a prominent one as Mr. Trump. A recording like the voice memo Mr. Corcoran made last year — during a long drive to a family event, according to two people briefed on the recording — is typically shielded by attorney-client or work-product privilege.

But in March, a federal judge ordered Mr. Corcoran’s recorded recollections — now transcribed onto dozens of pages — to be given to the office of the special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the documents investigation.

The decision by the judge, Beryl A. Howell, pierced the privilege that would have normally protected Mr. Corcoran’s musings about his interactions with Mr. Trump. Those protections were set aside under what is known as the crime-fraud exception, a provision that allows prosecutors to work around attorney-client privilege if they have reason to believe that legal advice or legal services were used in furthering a crime.

Read more details at the link.

That’s it for me today. I hope you have a peaceful Caturday.

Thursday Reads: Drip, Drip, Drip

The Balcony in Vernonnet, 1920, Pierre Bonnard

The Balcony in Vernonnet, 1920, Pierre Bonnard

Good Morning!!

The evidence against Trump keeps coming out bit by bit. Yesterday was a big day for news about the stolen documents case. CNN first broke the news that Trump was caught on tape discussing a classified document that he retained after leaving the White House. Then The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post added more information to the story.

CNN: EXCLUSIVE: Trump captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House.

Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything.

The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the sources said….

Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the Justice Department investigation into Trump, has focused on the meeting as part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of national security secrets. Sources describe the recording as an “important” piece of evidence in a possible case against Trump, who has repeatedly asserted he could retain presidential records and “automatically” declassify documents.

Prosecutors have asked witnesses about the recording and the document before a federal grand jury. The episode has generated enough interest for investigators to have questioned Gen. Mark Milley, one of the highest-ranking Trump-era national security officials, about the incident.

Ramo de gladiolos, lirios y margaritas (1878), Claude Monet

Ramo de gladiolos, lirios y margaritas (1878), Claude Monet

It’s interesting and significant that the meeting at which Trump talked about the document was at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. The incident took place at a meeting with two ghost writers who were working on Mark Meadows’ autobiography. Other attendees were “communications specialist” Margo Martin, and other Trump aides. It appears that Martin may be the source of the recording.

Back to the CNN story:

Meadows’ autobiography includes an account of what appears to be the same meeting, during which Trump “recalls a four-page report typed up by (Trump’s former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Mark Milley himself. It contained the general’s own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency.”

The document Trump references was not produced by Milley, CNN was told….

The meeting in which Trump discussed the Iran document with others happened shortly after The New Yorker published a story by Susan Glasser detailing how, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, Milley instructed the Joint Chiefs to ensure Trump issued no illegal orders and that he be informed if there was any concern. The story infuriated Trump.

Glasser reported that in the months following the election, Milley repeatedly argued against striking Iran and was concerned Trump “might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified.” Milley and others talked Trump out of taking such a drastic action, according to the New Yorker story.

Glasser reported that in the months following the election, Milley repeatedly argued against striking Iran and was concerned Trump “might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified.” Milley and others talked Trump out of taking such a drastic action, according to the New Yorker story.

Trump appeared to be holding the secret document he was describing because the recording picked up the “sound of paper rustling.” Even if he didn’t show it to the others, he never should have had the document in an unsecured meeting room with people without security clearances.

Some observers were wondering if Trump could be charged with espionage if this recording is “top secret,” because then it might not be able to be used in court. But Hugh Lowell reports at The Guardian that it is only classified as  “secret”: Trump regretted not declassifying retained military document in recording.

The document at issue is understood to be classified as “secret” – significant as the justice department typically prefers to charge espionage cases involving retention of materials at that level, rather than “top secret” papers that might be too sensitive or “confidential” papers that are too low.

The recording was made at Trump’s Bedminster golf club in July 2021, when the former president met with people helping his former chief of staff Mark Meadows write a book, by his aide Margo Martin who regularly taped conversations with authors to ensure they accurately recounted his remarks.

Apple Tree In Blossom, 1898c, Carl Larsson (Swedish 1853-1919

Apple Tree In Blossom, 1898c, Carl Larsson (Swedish 1853-1919

For several minutes of the audio recording, the sources said, Trump talks about how he cannot discuss the document because he no longer possesses the sweeping presidential power to declassify now out of office, but suggests that he should have done so when he was still in the White House.

But the previously unreported suggestion that he should have declassified the document presents a potentially perilous moment, as it indicates Trump knew that he had retained material which remained sensitive to national security – as well as the limitations on discussing it with unauthorized people. CNN earlier reported that prosecutors had the recording.

Prosecutors in the office of special counsel Jack Smith appear to have obtained the recording around March, as the criminal investigation targeting Trump intensified and numerous Trump aides were subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Washington.

The tape was played to multiple witnesses, including Martin, when she testified in mid-March after having her laptop and phones imaged by prosecutors, the sources said. The first time the Trump lawyers learned about the tape was after Martin testified, one of the sources said.

As I suggested earlier, it appears that Martin’s laptop was the source of the recording. The New York Times also reported that Martin attended the meeting and doesn’t quite claim she is the source, but it seems pretty likely, since prosecutors had her laptop. A bit more from The New York Times story:

Bouquet de Mimosa sur la Table 1938, Édouard Vuillard

Bouquet de Mimosa sur la Table 1938, Édouard Vuillard

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday night, James Trusty, a lawyer representing Mr. Trump in the case, indicated that the former president was taking the position that he had declassified the material he took with him upon leaving office.

“When he left for Mar-a-Lago with boxes of documents that other people packed for him that he brought, he was the commander in chief,” Mr. Trusty said. “There is no doubt that he has the constitutional authority as commander in chief to declassify.”

Mr. Trusty said officials could prove that Mr. Trump had declassified material. But when pressed on whether Mr. Trump had declassified the document in question at the Bedminster meeting, Mr. Trusty declined to say.

That’s pretty weak.

Here’s The Washington Post story, which you can read if you’re interested. It’s mostly a recap of the other reports and background on the investigation: Prosecutors have recording of Trump discussing sensitive Iran document.

One more Trump stolen document investigation story from The New York Times: Prosecutors Scrutinize Handling of Security Footage by Trump Aides in Documents Case.

For the past six months, prosecutors working for the special counsel Jack Smith have sought to determine whether former President Donald J. Trump obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve a trove of classified documents he took from the White House.

More recently, investigators also appear to be pursuing a related question: whether Mr. Trump and some of his aides sought to interfere with the government’s attempt to obtain security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago that could shed light on how those documents were stored and who had access to them.

The search for answers on this second issue has taken investigators deep into the bowels of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, as they pose questions to an expanding cast of low-level workers at the compound, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the workers played a role in either securing boxes of material in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago or maintaining video footage from a security camera that was mounted outside the room.

Two weeks ago, the latest of these employees, an information technology worker named Yuscil Taveras, appeared before a grand jury in Washington, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Girl in a Garden, Henri LebasqueSo now we know the name of the aide who helped Walt Nauta move the boxes around.

Mr. Taveras was asked questions about his dealings with two other Trump employees: Walt Nauta, a longtime aide to Mr. Trump who served as one of his valets in the White House, and Carlos Deoliveira, described by one person familiar with the events as the head of maintenance at Mar-a-Lago.

Phone records show that Mr. Deoliveira called Mr. Taveras last summer, and prosecutors wanted to know why. The call caught the government’s attention because it was placed shortly after prosecutors issued a subpoena to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, demanding the footage from the surveillance camera near the storage room.

The call also occurred just weeks after Mr. Deoliveira helped Mr. Nauta move boxes of documents into the storage room — the same room that Mr. Deoliveira at one point fitted with a lock. The movement of the boxes into the room took place at another key moment: on the day before prosecutors descended on Mar-a-Lago for a meeting with Mr. Trump’s lawyers intended to get him to comply with a demand to return all classified documents.

The Trump Organization ultimately turned over the surveillance tapes, but Mr. Smith’s prosecutors appear to be scrutinizing whether someone in Mr. Trump’s orbit tried to limit the amount of footage produced to the government.

They asked Mr. Taveras an open-ended question about if anyone had queried him about whether footage from the surveillance system could be deleted.

The Times doesn’t know what Taveras told the grand jury. Read more at the link.

Today, Hugo Lowell has another story at The Guardian on the turmoil among Trump’s many lawyers: Months of distrust inside Trump legal team led to top lawyer’s departure. And get this: Lowell learned all this because he was sitting at the next table in a restaurant.

Donald Trump’s legal team for months has weathered deep distrust and interpersonal conflict that could undermine its defense of the former president as the criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents and obstruction of justice at Mar-a-Lago nears its conclusion.

The turmoil inside the legal team only exploded into public view when one of the top lawyers, Tim Parlatore, abruptly resigned two weeks’ ago from the representation citing irreconcilable differences with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel Boris Epshteyn.

But the departure of Parlatore was the culmination of months of simmering tensions that continue to threaten the effectiveness of the legal team at a crucial time – as federal prosecutors weigh criminal charges – in part because the interpersonal conflicts remain largely unresolved.

It also comes as multiple Trump lawyers are embroiled in numerous criminal investigations targeting the former president: Epshteyn was recently interviewed by the special counsel, while Parlatore and Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran testified to the grand jury in the classified documents inquiry.

The turmoil has revolved around hostility among the lawyers on the legal team who have come to distrust each other as well as their hostility directed at Epshteyn, over what they regard as his oversight of the legal work and gatekeeping direct access to the former president.

In one instance, the clashes became so acute that some of the lawyers agreed to a so-called “murder-suicide” pact where if Parlatore got fired, others would resign in solidarity. And as some of the lawyers tried to exclude Epshteyn, they withheld information from co-counsel who they suspected might brief him.

Read all the details at The Guardian link.

So . . . that’s the latest on just one of the Trump investigations. Will we learn more today? Drip, drip, drip.

Tuesday Long Reads

Good Day, Sky Dancers!!

I have three excellent long reads for you today. They are each very long, but well worth perusing.

First up, a story about a family breaking away from a long tradition of Christian home schooling.

Peter Jamison at The Washington Post: The revolt of the Christian home-schoolers.

ROUND HILL, Va. — They said goodbye to Aimee outside her elementary school, watching nervously as she joined the other children streaming into a low brick building framed by the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Christina and Aaron Beall stood among many families resuming an emotional but familiar routine: the first day of full-time,in-person classes since public schools closed at the beginning of the pandemic.

incomprehensible to the parents around them. Their 6-year-old daughter, wearing a sequined blue dress and a pink backpack that almost obscured her small body, hesitated as she reached the doors. Although Aaron had told her again and again how brave she was, he knewit would be years before she understood how much he meant it — understood that for her mother and father, the decision to send her to school was nothing less than a revolt.

Aaron and Christina had never attended school when they were children. Until a few days earlier, when Round Hill Elementary held a back-to-school open house, they had rarely set foot inside a school building. Both had been raised to believe that public schools were tools of a demonic social order, government “indoctrination camps” devoted to the propagation of lies and the subversion of Christian families.

At a time when home education was still a fringe phenomenon, the Bealls had grown up in the most powerful and ideologically committed faction of the modern home-schooling movement. That movement, led by deeply conservative Christians, saw home schooling as a way of life — a conscious rejection of contemporary ideas about biology, history, gender equality and the role of religion in American government.

Christina and Aaron were supposed to advance the banner of that movement, instilling its codes in their children through the same forms of corporal punishment once inflicted upon them. Yet instead, along with many others of their age and upbringing, they had walked away.

The Bealls2Jamison describes how right wing Christians have used home schooling to indoctrinate their children and tie them to their religious beliefs.

Among conservative Christians, home schooling became a tool for binding children to fundamentalist beliefs they felt were threatened by exposure to other points of view. Rightly educated, those children would grow into what HSLDA founder Michael Farris called a “Joshua Generation” that would seek the political power and cultural influence to reshape America according to biblical principles.

Home schooling today is more diverse, demographically and ideologically, than it was in the heyday of conservative Christian activism. Yet those activists remain extraordinarily influential.

Over decades, they have eroded state regulations, ensuring that parents who home-school face little oversight in much of the country.More recently, they have inflamed the nation’s culture wars, fueling attacks on public-school lessonsabout race and gender with the politically potent language of “parental rights.”

But now younger generations are rebelling.

Former home-schoolers have been at the forefront of those arguing for greater oversight of home schooling, forming the nonprofit Coalition for Responsible Home Education to make their case.

“As an adult I can say, ‘No. What happened to me as a child was wrong,’” said Samantha Field, the coalition’s government relations director.

More about Christina and Aaron Beall:

Christina, 34, and Aaron, 37, had joined no coalitions.They had published no memoirs. Their rebellion played out in angry text messages and emails with their parents, in tense conversations conducted at the edges of birthday parties and Easter gatherings. Their own children — four of them, including Aimee — knew little of their reasons for abandoning home schooling: the physical and emotional trauma of the “biblical discipline” to which they had been subjected, the regrets over what Aaron called “a life robbed” by strictures on what and how they learned.

Aaron had grown up believing Christians could out-populate atheists and Muslims by scorning birth control; Christina had been taught the Bible-based arithmetic necessary to calculate the age of a universe less than 8,000 years old. Their education was one in which dinosaurs were herdedaboard Noah’s ark — and in which the penalty for doubt or disobedience was swift. Sometimes they still flinched when they remembered their parents’ literal adherence to the words of the Old Testament: “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.”

The Bealls knew that many home-schooling families didn’t share the religious doctrines that had so warped their own lives. But they also knew that the same laws that had failed to protect them would continue to fail other children.

“It’s specifically a system that is set up to hide the abuse, to make them invisible, to strip them of any capability of getting help. And not just in a physical way,” Christina said. “At some point, you become so mentally imprisoned you don’t even realize you need help.”

I’ve quoted a lot, but there is much more to this fascinating story. Much of it was new to me, although I was not completely surprised. I hope you will check it out.

Next up a story about infighting among Trump’s many lawyers. 

Jose Pagliary at The Daily Beast: Trump’s Lawyers Start to Wonder if One Could Be a Snitch.

With three anticipated indictments, two ongoing court cases, and an ever-expanding cadre of lawyers, former President Donald Trump is at a critical juncture—and yet his legal advisers are starting to turn on each other.

According to five sources with direct knowledge of the situation, clashing personalities and the increasing outside threat of law enforcement has sown deep divisions that have only worsened in recent months. The internal bickering has already sparked one departure in recent weeks—and that could be just the beginning.

As Trump’s legal troubles keep growing—with criminal and civil investigations in New York City, Washington, and Atlanta—so too does the unwieldy band of attorneys who simply can’t get along.

The cast of characters includes an accused meddler who has Trump’s ear, a young attorney who lawyers on the team suggested is only there because the former president likes the way she looks, and a celebrity lawyer who’s increasingly viewed with disdain. Worst of all, now that federal investigators have turned the interrogation spotlight on some of Trump’s lawyers themselves, defense attorneys on the team seem to be questioning whether their colleagues may actually turn into snitches.

“There’s a lot of lawyers and a lot of jealousy,” said one person on Trump’s legal team, explaining that the sheer number of lawyers protecting a single man accused of so many crimes is without parallel.

At the center of the controversy is Boris Epshteyn, who has been in Trump’s orbit since 2016 and now is so close to Trump that he’s been compared to a presidential chief of staff.

Part of the concern over lawyers turning on each other is due to the fact that the Department of Justice already has one Trump attorney’s professional notes, which could position him as a future witness against his own client, and the DOJ has another lawyer who said too much in an unrelated case and has positioned herself as yet another potential witness against her client.

But much of the anger from Trump’s lawyers is directed at the former president’s right-hand man, Boris Epshteyn, who’s accused of running interference on certain legal advice from more experienced courtroom gladiators.


Boris Epshteyn

Epshteyn, who’s a lawyer himself, has risen through the ranks in Trumpworld over the years, first as an adviser for Trump’s 2016 campaign, then as a more senior adviser for 2020, and now part of Trump’s innermost circle for 2024.

Ephsteyn seems to have the former president’s supreme confidence, with what’s described as a final say on all matters related to public relations and legal issues. But there’s snickering in the shadows. Several sources ridiculed the way Ephsteyn refers to himself as “in-house counsel”—normally a term for a company’s corporate attorney—noting how it echoes the way John Gotti’s mafia lawyer used to describe his services for the infamous Gambino crime family.

Epshteyn’s meddling has particularly affected the lawyers working to defend Trump from Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith and his investigation into whether the former president broke the law when he took top secret documents on his way out of the White House in January 2021 and hoarded them at Mar-a-Lago.

Another complication is there are separate groups of lawyers working on different cases in Georgia, New York, and Washington DC.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which indicted Trump in March for faking business records, is about to dump thousands of documents of evidence on defense lawyers Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, and Joe Tacopina—who aren’t allowed to freely share those documents with the former president. They may even have to fight Trump to prevent him from stupidly posting sensitive details on social media.

The DA’s prosecutors are already trying to fracture Trump’s legal team by attempting to disqualify Tacopina and make him seem like a weak link, because he has a tenuous connection to a key witness in the case, the porn star Stormy Daniels whose hush money payment Trump tried to hide while running for president back in 2016.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys Alina Habba and Christopher Kise are gearing up for a civil trial in October against the New York Attorney General, who seeks to bleed the Trump Organization dry and destroy Trump’s ability to do conduct business in the financial capital of the world by holding him personally liable for bank and insurance fraud.

In Georgia, the defense lawyers Drew Findling, Melissa Goldberg, and Jennifer L. Little are preparing for the Fulton County District Attorney to indict Trump in July or August over the way he intimidated the state’s top elections official in 2021 while trying to overturn his loss there—a recorded phone call where he was advised by yet other lawyers he trusted.

And an entirely different team of lawyers split up between the nation’s capital and his oceanside Florida estate—former federal prosecutors M. Evan Corcoran, John P. Rowley, and Jim Trusty up north and Halligan down south—are gearing up for two different fights with the Department of Justice.

Again, I’ve quote quite a bit, but there is much much more to this story.

The third long read is from Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel. It’s about the media’s failure to include Trump’s many legal problems in their analysis of his chances at winning the nomination in 2024.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: All GOP Horserace Analysis is Useless without Consideration of Possible Indictments. 

Wheeler specifically responds to a NYT story that completely ignores the possibly effects of likely Trump indictments.

The NYT did a 3-byline 1,700-word story describing how the number of minor Republican candidates joining the race serves Trump’s purpose.

Its analysis of the numbers and Ron DeSantis’ early failures isn’t bad. But because it is silent about how the expanding field might play in the likelihood of Trump indictments, it is entirely worthless.

For example, the content and timing of indictments may have an utterly central impact on the two dynamics described in the piece: Trump’s diehard base and the unwillingness of others in the party to criticize Trump directly.

The rapidly ballooning field, combined with Mr. Trump’s seemingly unbreakable core of support, represents a grave threat to Mr. DeSantis, imperiling his ability to consolidate the non-Trump vote, and could mirror the dynamics that powered Mr. Trump’s takeover of the party in 2016.

It’s a matter of math: Each new entrant threatens to steal a small piece of Mr. DeSantis’s potential coalition — whether it be Mr. Pence with Iowa evangelicals or Mr. Scott with college-educated suburbanites. And these new candidates are unlikely to eat into Mr. Trump’s votes. The former president’s base — more than 30 percent of Republicans — remains strongly devoted to him.


The reluctance to go after Mr. Trump, for many Republicans, feels eerily like a repeat of 2016. Then, Mr. Trump’s rivals left him mostly alone for months, assuming that he would implode or that they were destined to beat him the moment they could narrow the field to a one-on-one matchup, a situation that never transpired.

Consider how each of three legal risks (and these are only the most obvious) might affect these issues. This post builds on this series I did last month:

Wheeler then considers each of these investigations and how they could effect the GOP race and likely increase the number of competitors.

The rest is too difficult for me to excerpt, so I recommend reading it at Emptywheel. If only we had a better media!

More interesting stories to check out:

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Trump lawyer said to have been waved off searching office for secret records.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Biden’s underrated deal-making prowess strikes again.

Stacy Mitchell at The New York Times: The Real Reason Your Groceries Are Getting So Expensive.

NBC News: Drones strike Moscow in first attack on Russian capital’s residential areas since Ukraine war began.

BBC News: Moscow drone attack: Putin says Ukraine trying to frighten Russians.

Geraldo Cordava at The New Yorker: The Rise of Latino White Supremacy.

Politico: Student loan payment pause nixed in debt limit agreement.

I hope you find something here to interest you. Have a great Tuesday everyone!!

Lazy Caturday Reads

SLEEPING CAT (2021), by Guzel Min

Sleeping Cat, by Guzel Min, 2021

Happy Caturday!!

The folks in DC are still arguing about whether the U.S. government should pay its bills or not. Republicans think it’s much more important to make poor, disabled, and elderly Americans, as well as federal employees–including the military–suffer than to simply write those checks and then sit down and work on the next budget. If Congress doesn’t get its act together, millions of people in those categories will be unable to pay their rent and bills and buy food. I suppose this will go down to the wire and then be worked out, but I think the whole mess is getting dangerous.

Here’s what’s happening as of this morning.

NBC News: The U.S. now has until June 5 to act on the debt ceiling, Yellen says.

The United States has a few more days than expected before it runs out of money, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a letter Friday afternoon.

The new deadline to act or risk breaching the debt ceiling is June 5, Yellen said, setting a hard deadline for the first time. She had previously been less specific, saying the breach could occur “potentially as early as June 1.”

The Treasury Department hit the statutory borrowing limit in January and has since been using “extraordinary measures” to pay the country’s bills.

“Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government’s obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5,” Yellen wrote to congressional leaders.

This is just about paying the bills that we’ve already run up, but Republicans want hold the funds hostage so they can punish people who need help from the government.

The two parties have been sorting through their differences on spending levels. But a major hangup is the Republican demand to impose tougher work requirements for Americans to receive federal benefits like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, two sources familiar with the talks said.

Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, who is leading negotiations for House Republicans, said it’s “totally appropriate” for an older group of able-bodied Americans without dependents to be subject to work requirements in order to get federal aid….

Democrats say work requirements already exist for federal programs and argue that stricter policies would create more red tape and throw eligible Americans who don’t complete the paperwork correctly off the rolls, and that work requirements have little impact on unemployment.

Quint Buchholz

Painting by Quint Bucholz

Republicans know they’d never win this argument without holding the full faith and credit of our country hostage, so that is what they are doing. If only Democrats had listened to Yellen when they still held a majority in both houses for a brief time after the midterms, this wouldn’t be happening now.

The New York Times: Yellen’s Debt Limit Warnings Went Unheeded, Leaving Her to Face Fallout.

In the days after November’s midterm elections, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen was feeling upbeat about the fact that Democrats had performed better than expected and maintained control of the Senate.

But as she traveled to the Group of 20 leaders summit in Indonesia that month, she said Republicans taking control of the House posed a new threat to the U.S. economy.

“I always worry about the debt ceiling,” Ms. Yellen told The New York Times in an interview on her flight from New Delhi to Bali, Indonesia, in which she urged Democrats to use their remaining time in control of Washington to lift the debt limit beyond the 2024 elections. “Any way that Congress can find to get it done, I’m all for.”

Democrats did not heed Ms. Yellen’s advice. Instead, the United States has spent most of this year inching toward the brink of default as Republicans refused to raise or suspend the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit without capping spending and rolling back parts of President Biden’s agenda.

So what will Yellen do in the worst case scenario?

Ms. Yellen has held her contingency plans close to the vest but signaled this week that she had been thinking about how to prepare for the worst. Speaking at a WSJ CEO Council event, the Treasury secretary laid out the difficult decisions she would face if the Treasury was forced to choose which bills to prioritize.

Most market watchers expect that the Treasury Department would opt to make interest and principal payments to bondholders before paying other bills, yet Ms. Yellen would say only that she would face “very tough choices.”

White House officials have refused to say if any contingency planning is underway. Early this year, Biden administration officials said they were not planning for how to prioritize payments. As the U.S. edges closer to default, the Treasury Department declined to say whether that has changed.

Yet former Treasury and Federal Reserve officials said it was nearly certain that emergency plans were being devised.

Read more at the NYT.

Cat in window outside

Cat on a windowsill, artist unknown

My eyes bugged out when I read this one at Axios: Scoop: Sinema enters debt ceiling negotiations. Just what we don’t need.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) has inserted herself into the debt ceiling negotiations, working with both sides to try to bridge differences on permitting reform, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Her late entrance is a sign that negotiators are willing to explore new avenues to resolve thorny issues before June 5, the new deadline from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for when the U.S. government will run out of money.

 — Permitting reform — a catch-all category that includes both Republican and Democratic plans to improve energy production and transmission — is emerging as a tough-to-resolve disagreement between the White House and congressional negotiators.

 — Republicans want to change the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with the goal of cutting red tape for oil and gas companies when they develop new projects. Democrats want to make it easier for solar and wind farms to access transmission lines.

Negotiators also are at an impasse on a demand from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to add new work requirements to welfare benefits, according to Biden administration officials.

 — But the two sides are making progress on overall spending levels, with the goal of capping spending for two years at lower levels. In exchange, the debt ceiling would be raised past the 2024 elections.


Here’s a bit of dark humor on the debt ceiling crisis by Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Save the world economy or his own job? McCarthy can’t decide.

After a debt limit negotiating session at the White House this week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy returned to the Capitol and offered reporters an update.

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “From the first day I sat with the president, there’s two criterias I told him,” McCarthy said, raising two fingers. “We’re not going to raise taxes because we bring in more money than we ever have. And we’re not going to pass a clean debt ceiling. And we’ve got to spend less than we spent this year.”

Let me be very clear, Mr. Speaker. Those are three, er, “criterias.”

Filippo Corelli_-_Cat_in_a_Doorway, early 20th century

Filippo Corelli, Cat in a Doorway, early 20th century

This might be the most worrying aspect of the default standoff: The full faith and credit of the United States hangs in the balance, and the man sitting across the negotiating table from the president seems to be genuinely off-kilter.

Whipsawed by public pressure from the far-right House Freedom Caucus and from former president Donald Trump, McCarthy has at one moment praised the “honesty” and “professionalism” of White House negotiators and the next moment attacked the other side as “socialist.” He gives daily (sometimes hourly) updates packed with fake statistics, nonsense anecdotes and malapropisms. His negotiators have walked out of talks only to resume them hours later. This week, at a meeting of the House Republican Conference during the height of negotiations, he decided it was the right moment to auction off a stick of his used lip balm as a fundraiser for House Republicans’ political campaigns. (Rep. Marjorie Taylor “Jewish Space Lasers” Greene won the bidding at $100,000.)

The speaker’s erraticism has an obvious origin. As usual, he isn’t leading. He’s being buffeted by crosscurrents. If he bends too much in talks, he’ll lose his GOP hardliners and could therefore lose his job. If he pleases the hardliners, he keeps his job but throws the country and perhaps the world into economic calamity. His job security or the world economy? McCarthy just can’t decide.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Moving on to other topics….

CBS has a tidbit about the criminal case against Trump in Manhattan: Prosecutors in Trump’s criminal case say they have recording of Trump and a witness.

Prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal case have released to his attorneys a recording of Trump and a witness, whose identity was not disclosed, according to a document the office made public Friday.

The document, called an automatic discovery form, describes the nature of the charges against a defendant and a broad overview of the evidence that prosecutors will present at Trump’s preliminary hearing or at trial. Trump’s attorneys and media organizations, including CBS News, had repeatedly requested that such a form be made public in the weeks since Trump’s arrest on April 4….

The document lists the dates of 34 instances between Feb. 14, 2017 and Dec. 5, 2017 when he allegedly falsified records.

In a section devoted to electronic evidence that will be turned over, a prosecutor for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office indicated they have disclosed to the defense a “recording of a conversation between defendant and a witness.”

The section also indicates prosecutors intend to disclose recordings of calls between witnesses and others.

That could be interesting.

Three Cats, by Ann Hewson

Three Cats, by Ann Hewson

“National experts” are responding to the treatment of Indiana doctor Caitlin Bernard who treated a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been impregnated through rape. Indy Star: ‘Chilling effect’: National experts decry decision against abortion doctor Caitlin Bernard.

Dressed in white coats, Drs. Tracey Wilkinson and Caroline Rouse were among the first to arrive at Caitlin Bernard’s Thursday hearing in front of the Indiana medical licensing board. When the hearing ended nearly 15 hours later, they were among the last to leave.

Six months after Indiana’s Republican attorney general filed a complaint against the Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, the board voted to reprimand and fine Bernard on Thursday, finding that she violated privacy laws in giving a reporter information about a 10-year-old rape victim.

But representatives of the medical community nationwide – from individual doctors to the American Medical Association to an author of HIPAA – don’t think Bernard did anything wrong. Further, they say, the decision will have a chilling effect on those involved with patient care.

“This sends a message to all doctors everywhere that political persecution can be happening to you next for providing health care to your patients,” Wilkinson said.

“It’s terrible,” Rouse said. They’d just spent hours “listening to our friend and our colleague be put on trial for taking care of her patient and providing evidence-based health care, and that is incredibly demoralizing as a physician.”

Guess what? Republicans don’t care.

Ron DeSantis has been announcing some of the things he would do if he were elected president in 2024.

The Hill: DeSantis says he’ll consider pardoning Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday that if elected president, he will consider pardoning all the Jan. 6 defendants — including former President Trump — on his first day in office.

“On day one, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who people are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive in issuing pardons,” DeSantis said on “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” podcast when asked about whether he will consider pardoning Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump, who is currently facing a federal investigation over his role on Jan. 6.

Nineteenth Century cat in doorway, Boston School, artist unknown

Nineteenth Century cat in doorway, Boston School, artist unknown

“I would say any example of disfavored treatment based on politics, or weaponization would be included in that review, no matter how small or how big,” he added.

DeSantis also accused the Justice Department and the FBI of weaponizing its authority by pursuing ongoing investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The Justice Department said earlier this month that 1,033 arrests have been made in connection to the Capitol attacks and about 485 people have been sentenced due to criminal activity conducted that day.

DeSantis also claimed that the FBI is targeting anti-abortion groups, as well as parents who want to attend school board meetings. He said that if elected, his administration would determine on a “case-by-case” basis if the government was weaponized against certain groups.

“We’re going to find examples where the government’s been weaponized against disfavored groups, and we will apply relief as appropriate, but it will be done on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Also from The Hill: DeSantis says he would push to repeal Trump criminal justice reform if elected.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday that if elected president, he would call on Congress to repeal the criminal justice reform bill signed into law by then-President Trump, his latest attack on Trump from the right.

DeSantis, appearing on “The Ben Shapiro Show,” criticized the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill passed in 2018 that reduced mandatory minimum sentences, expanded credits for well-behaved prisoners looking for shorter sentences and aimed to reduce recidivism.

The Florida governor, who officially entered the 2024 White House race on Wednesday, called the legislation “basically a jailbreak bill.”

“So one of the things I would want to do as president is go to Congress and seek the repeal of the First Step Act,” he said. “If you are in jail, you should serve your time. And the idea that they’re releasing people who have not been rehabilitated early, so that they can prey on people in our society is a huge, huge mistake.”

DeSantis voted for the initial House version of the bill while serving as a congressman in 2018, something Trump’s team has highlighted.

If you didn’t already know that DeSantis is corrupt, there’s this from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: GOP officials: Top aides in governor’s office asked lawmakers to endorse DeSantis.

Top aides to Gov. Ron DeSantis were involved in rounding up endorsements for his presidential campaign from members of the Florida Legislature during a time when lawmaker’s bills and budget priorities were at the mercy of the governor’s office, according to three GOP sources with knowledge of the conversations.

A Republican lawmaker says DeSantis’ top budget official called earlier this month to discuss the lawmaker endorsing DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

The lawmaker and a GOP consultant who was told about the endorsement conversation with DeSantis’ budget chief Chris Spencer immediately after it happened said the call was inappropriate and raised ethical questions.

Blinking in the Sun, by Ralph Hedley, 1881

Blinking in the Sun, by Ralph Hedley, 1881

Having state employees in the governor’s office, instead of staff on the governor’s political team, asking for endorsements raises concerns about whether the governor’s staff was improperly leveraging state resources to help his campaign.

That includes using taxpayer-funded employees for political purposes, which is allowed if it’s not during work hours but still inappropriate in this circumstance in the mind of the lawmaker contacted by Spencer. It also relates to what some saw as an implied threat that lawmakers’ bills and state budget items could be vetoed if they didn’t back DeSantis.

The lawmaker who spoke to Spencer said budget priorities didn’t come up during the call, but the fact that DeSantis’ budget director was calling about an endorsement implicitly tied the budget items to the political ask….

Another top DeSantis aide — legislative affairs director Stephanie Kopelousos — did discuss budget items during calls with multiple lawmakers that included Kopelousos asking them to endorse DeSantis, according to the GOP lawmaker who spoke with Spencer.

That lawmaker later spoke with at least five legislators who were asked by Kopelousos to endorse DeSantis. Another prominent GOP leader in Florida said he spoke to a lawmaker who relayed that he repeatedly was contacted by Kopelousos about endorsing DeSantis.

This guy should never get anywhere near the presidency.

That’s it for me today. What stories have captured your interest lately?

Fabulous Friday Reads

Good Day, Sky Dancers!!

I am addicted to books. In my adult years, I have bought so many books that I could never read them all; but I can’t stop myself–or maybe I don’t want to. When I moved into the apartment I live in now, I had to leave hundreds of books behind, because I simply didn’t have room for them. I tell myself an addiction to buying books is at least better than addictions to alcohol and drugs. I do much of my reading on my Kindle now, and at least those books don’t take up space. But I still love physical books and I still buy more than I can read. I’m 75 years old now, and I don’t have that much time left; but I still want to read as many books as I can before I “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Could this be a solution?

Okay, probably not; but it’s an interesting fantasy. And now for some news.

Yesterday The Washington Post broke a story on the investigation into Trump’s theft of, and refusal to return, government documents. A short time later, The New York Times followed up with more details.

Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, and Perry Stein at The Washington Post: Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for

Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before an early June visit byFBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena — timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.

Taken together, the new details of the classified-documents investigation suggest a greater breadth and specificity to the instances of possible obstruction found by the FBI and Justice Department than have been previously reported. It also broadens the timeline of possible obstruction episodes that investigators are examining — a period stretching from events at Mar-a-Lago before the subpoena to the period after the FBI search there on Aug. 8.

That timeline may prove crucial as prosecutors seek to determine Trump’s intent in keeping hundreds of classified documents after he left the White House, a key factor in deciding whether to file charges, possibly for obstruction, mishandling national security secrets or both. The Washington Post has previously reported that the boxes were moved out of the storage area after Trump’s office received a subpoena. But the precise timing of that activity is a significant element in the investigation, the people familiar with the matter said.

The WaPo writers focus on obstruction, but if Trump showed documents to other people, that could be espionage. Remember, espionage was one of the crimes listed on the warrant for the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.

More details from the WaPo story:

Of particular importance to investigators in the classified-documents case, according to people familiar with the probe, is evidence showing that boxes of documents were moved into a storage area on June 2, just before senior Justice Department lawyer Jay Bratt arrived at Mar-a-Lago with agents. The June 3 visit by law enforcement officialswas to collect material in response to the May 2022grand jury subpoena demanding the return of all documents with classified markings.

John Irving, a lawyer representing one of the two employees who moved the boxes, said the worker did not know what was in them and was only trying to help Trump valet Walt Nauta, who was using a dolly or hand truck to move a number of boxes.

“He was seen on Mar-a-Lago security video helping Walt Nauta move boxes into a storage area on June 2, 2022. My client saw Mr. Nauta moving the boxes and volunteered to help him,” Irving said. The next day, he added, the employee helped Nauta pack an SUV “when former president Trump left for Bedminster for the summer.”

The lawyer said his client, a longtime Mar-a-Lago employee whom he declined to identify, has cooperated with the government and did not have “any reason to think that helping to move boxes was at all significant.” Other people familiar with the investigation confirmed the employee’s role and said he has been questioned multiple times by authorities.

Awhile back there was a video circulating on Twitter of people moving boxes out of Mar-a-Lago and loading them onto a truck to be taken to Bedminster. This happened the day before Trump left to spend the summer at his New Jersey golf club. Now it’s being posted again.

This is from Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: Mar-a-Lago Worker Provided Prosecutors New Details in Trump Documents Case.

The day before a key meeting last year between a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and officials seeking the return of classified documents in Mr. Trump’s possession, a maintenance worker at the former president’s private club saw an aide moving boxes into a storage room, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The maintenance worker offered to help the aide — Walt Nauta, who was Mr. Trump’s valet in the White House — move the boxes and ended up lending him a hand. But the worker had no idea what was inside the boxes, the person familiar with the matter said. The maintenance worker has shared that account with federal prosecutors, the person said….

Mr. Trump was found to have been keeping some of the documents in the storage room where Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker were moving boxes on the day before the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, traveled to Mar-a-Lago last June to seek the return of any government materials being held by the former president.

Mr. Nauta and the worker moved the boxes into the room before a search of the storage room that same day by M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for Mr. Trump who was in discussions with Mr. Bratt. Mr. Corcoran called Justice Department officials that night to set up a meeting for the next day. He believed that he did not have a security clearance to transport documents with classified markings, a person briefed on his decision said.

Weeks earlier, the Justice Department had issued a subpoena demanding the return of the documents. Prosecutors have been trying to determine whether Mr. Trump had documents moved around Mar-a-Lago or sought to conceal some of them after the subpoena.

Part of their interest is in trying to determine whether documents were moved before Mr. Corcoran went through the boxes himself ahead of a meeting with Justice Department officials looking to retrieve them. Prosecutors have been asking witnesses about the roles of Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker, whose name has not been publicly disclosed, in moving documents around that time.

During his trip to Mar-a-Lago on June 3, Mr. Bratt was given a packet of roughly three dozen documents with classified markings by a lawyer for Mr. Trump. Mr. Bratt was also given a letter, drafted by Mr. Corcoran but signed by another lawyer for the former president, attesting that a diligent search had been carried out for any additional material in response to the subpoena and that none had been found. Mr. Bratt was not given access to search the storage room at that point.

The obvious inference is that Trump may have gone through the boxes and removed items that he wanted to keep, concealing them in his private quarters. Remember that classified documents were later found in his office desk and in his bedroom.

Like the WaPo writers, Feuer and Haberman focus their discussion on possible obstruction charges, and ignore the obvious possibility of espionage charges based on the fact that Trump showed documents to people at his private club and left them lying around in plain sight.

The penalties for violating the espionage act are 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In other news, the Supreme Court yesterday announced another horrific decision. This time they’ve gutted the Clean Water Act.

Timothy Puko and Robert Barnes at The Washington Post: How Supreme Court’s EPA ruling will affect U.S. wetlands, clean water.

Bogs. Marshes. Swamps. Fens. All are examples of wetlands.

But the type of wetland that gets protection under federal law is a matter of wide dispute, one reset by a sweeping ruling Thursday from the U.S. Supreme Court.

At issue is the reach of the 51-year-old Clean Water Act and how courts should determine what count as “waters of the United States” under that law. Nearly two decades ago, the court ruled that wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act if they have a “significant nexus” to regulated waters.

The Supreme Court decided that rule no longer applies and said the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of its powers went too far, giving it regulatory power beyond what Congress had authorized….

Writing for five justices of the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito ruled that the Clean Water Act extends only to “those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right, so that they are ‘indistinguishable’ from those waters.” He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett….

Some environmental groups and legal experts estimate that the decision will remove federal protection from half of all wetlands in the continental United States. According to estimates from Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, the decision will prevent the EPA from placing federal protections on as many as 118 million acres of wetlands, an area larger than the landmass of California. Those estimates could not be immediately confirmed, but the ruling is expected to give farmers, home builders and other developers far more latitude to disturb lands previously regulated under the Clean Water Act….

The ruling affects one of the EPA’s most fundamental authorities — its ability to protect upstream waters in order to protect downstream water quality for drinking supplies and wildlife. Experts say greater development upstream could result in silt and pollutants damaging downstream waters and habitat, and reduce the flood control and groundwater-recharge benefits of protected wetlands.

Read all the gory details at the WaPo link.

Commentary by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Samuel Alito’s Assault on Wetlands Is So Indefensible That He Lost Brett Kavanaugh.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the nation’s wetlands by rewriting a statute the court does not like to mean something it does not mean. The court’s decision in Sackett v. EPAis one of the its most egregious betrayals of textualism in memory. Put simply: The Clean Water Act protects wetlands that are “adjacent” to larger bodies of water. Five justices, however, do not think the federal government should be able to stop landowners from destroying wetlands on their property. To close this gap between what the majority wants and what the statute says, the majority crossed through the word “adjacent” and replaced it with a new test that’s designed to give landowners maximum latitude to fill in, build upon, or otherwise obliterate some of the most valuable ecosystems on earth.

Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the court is remarkably brazen about this approach—so brazen that Justice Brett Kavanaugh (of all people!) authored a sharp opinion accusing him of failing to “stick to the text.” Alito began with a long history of the Supreme Court’s struggles to identify the “outer boundaries” of the Clean Water Act, as if to explain why the time had come for the court to give up wrestling with the text and just impose whatever standard it prefers. The law expressly protects “waters of the United States” (like rivers and lakes) as well as “wetlands adjacent” to these waters. Congress added the wetlands provision in 1977 to codify the EPA’s definition of “adjacent,” which also happens to be the actual definition: “bordering, contiguous, or neighboring.” Under that interpretation—the one Congress adopted—wetlands that neighbor a larger body of water remain protected, even if they aren’t directly connected.

Why did Congress make that choice? Because wetlands provide immense environmental benefits: They filter and purify water draining into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. They slow down runoff into these larger bodies. And they serve as vital flood control. In other words, the Clean Water Act has to protect “adjacent” wetlands to serve its overarching goal of safeguarding the broader “waters of the United States” from pollution.

Too bad, Alito wrote: We don’t like the definition that Congress used. It could lead to “crushing” fines for landowners and interfere with “mundane” activities like “moving dirt.” It interferes with “traditional state authority.” And it could give the EPA “truly staggering” regulatory authority. Five justices on the Supreme Court think all of that is very bad. So they declared that, instead of applying the statute’s words, the court would impose a different standard: Only wetlands with “a continuous surface connection” to larger bodies of water merit protection under the Clean Water Act.

This definition—which, it just can’t be stressed enough, appears nowhere in the law—is a crushing defeat for wetlands and their protectors. These ecosystems, as Kavanaugh pointed out, are frequently separated from larger bodies of water by “man-made dikes or barriers” as well as “natural river berms, beach dunes, or the like.” Such wetlands “play an important role in protecting neighboring and downstream waters,” which is why Congress included them in the statute. But under the majority’s new test, they are stripped of federal protection.

Sam Alito: the same asshole who overturned Roe v. Wade while citing a 17th century judge who presided over a witch trial.

I’ll wrap up this post with an abortion horror story at The Washington Post: Indiana board fines doctor for discussing rape victim’s abortion.

Indiana’s medical licensing board decided late Thursday to discipline a doctor who made headlines last year for performing an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim. The board gave the doctor a letter of reprimand and ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine for violating ethical standards and state laws by discussing the case with a reporter.

For nearly a year, Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) pursued punishment for Caitlin Bernard, an OB/GYN and an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine who carried out the abortion in June 2022, less than a week after Roe v. Wade was struck down, enacting trigger laws.

Bernard broke patient privacy laws by telling an Indianapolis Star reporter about the patient’s care, the board decided Thursday night after a roughly 14-hour hearing that ended shortly after 11:30 p.m. Bernard’s lawyers argued she properly reported the incident to an Indiana University Health social worker and did not run afoul of privacy laws when she discussed the patient’s case in a general and “deidentified” manner that is typical for doctors.

Records obtained by The Washington Post last year show that Bernard reported the girl’s abortion to the relevant state agencies ahead of the legally mandated deadline, which the board agreed with Thursday night, clearing her of a charge related to that issue.

These assholes are supposedly doing this in order to “protect” the patient–a 10-year-old child who was impregnated by a rapist in Ohio and had to travel to Indiana because her Ohio politicians determined that she should be forced to bear her rapist’s child even though that could be life-threatening for her.

Bernard’s lawyers rejected Rokita’s allegations as baseless and politically motivated. The seven-member board of governor appointees could, by a majority vote, have either taken no action against Bernard or imposed a range of disciplinary measures up to and including the immediate termination of Bernard’s medical license.

Throughout the lengthy hearing, Bernard faced at times pointed questions about her decisions.

She explained how, as a doctor, she felt she had “an obligation” to ensure Hoosiers understood how abortion bans were affecting people across the country — and could eventually affect them.

Bernard was also asked whether she thought she would have “gotten as much attention” if she had not mentioned the 10-year-old patient’s case to a reporter.

“I don’t think that anybody would have been looking into this story as any different than any other interview that I’ve ever given if it was not politicized the way that it was by public figures in our state and in Ohio,” Bernard said.

That’s my contribution for today. What stories have you been following lately?