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?


Finally Friday Reads: The Insurrectionists’ Club House

Utagawa Hiroshige, Autumn flowers in front of full moon, 1853

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I want to spend some time today talking about Trump’s latest grifts. One is basically a Trump traveling circus where you pay the Trump Family Crime Syndicate Members for access and seats to crazy talk.  There’s also that matter of Trump’s worst droogies parked out in an institute that rivals Trump University. It is a way for Trump to funnel funds to the likes of Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller and is aptly named the Insurrectionists’ Club House.

However, the assassination of Shinzo Abe, the former Prime Minister of Japan, has shaken the world. Abe was an important ally to the United States. He was gunned down in Japan where access to guns is highly restricted and regulated.  This is from The Washington Post: “Shinzo Abe, former Japanese leader, is assassinated by gunman.”

Abe, 67, was stumping for a fellow politician from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Nara, near Osaka, on Friday morning when a gunman opened fire with what police described as an improvised weapon.

Hidetada Fukushima, head of the emergency center at the Nara Medical University Hospital, said Abe had no vital signs when he arrived there at 12:20 p.m. Friday. Despite efforts to save him, including a transfusion, Abe died of blood loss less than five hours later.

The assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, and a staunch U.S. ally, sent shock waves throughout the country ahead of elections for the upper house of parliament on Sunday.

Police arrested a suspect, a 41-year-old man from Nara named Tetsuya Yamagami, and seized a gun. Yamagami was a member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years, defense officials told Japanese media.

Footage of the event showed Abe giving a speech, then a plume of smoke forming behind him as he collapsed. Officials ran to apprehend the shooter, who appeared to be positioned behind Abe.Videos showed a chaotic scene with Abe, unmoving, lying on the ground as attendees yelled for an ambulance.

Kawarazaki Shodo, Magnolia, Period: 1970s

The shooter was actually a former member of 海自 which is basically the Japanese version of its Navy. He had a collection of handmade weapons according to the BBC.

There’s a bit more detail from the press conference on what police have found at the suspect’s home.

Officials say that in addition to the handmade weapons, they also discovered a number of explosives. As a result, nearby residents have been asked to evacuate until the area can be declared safe.

On the gun, police said it was made using a mix of materials such as metal and wood, but they are unable to say whether it was made using a 3D printer.

Investigations are ongoing into whether he acted alone, they said.

And on the unnamed organisation the suspect told police he has an issue with, police say they are still establishing whether Abe has any connection to it.

The election is expected to be held as scheduled. No other election is scheduled for at least six years.  The Japanese Upper House of Parliament is somewhat akin to the U.S. Senate.  There are major initiatives at stake in the election.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has pledged to revise the constitution in this election. This includes revision of Article 9, the pacifist clause that bans Japan from having a military and taking part in warfare. Other proposed LDP changes are ones liberals fear will violate and undermine basic human rights in this country.

All the washed-up Trumpers and Tea partiers are now part of Mark Meadows’s “Conservative Partnership Institute” which has received a substantial amount of funds from Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal efforts. Jim DeMint is the Chairman of the Board.  Steven Miller lurks there in a key position.  It’s nicknamed the Insurrectionists Clubhouse. I watched The ReidOut last night and got my first glimpse into what may be the next big thing in right-wing propaganda and election interference. It appears to be a source of malfeasance already.

This investigative piece from Grid has a lot of the details that should make your hair stand on ends. “The insurrectionists’ clubhouse: Former Trump aides find a home at a little-known MAGA hub. Nearly two dozen alleged members of the Jan. 6 plot are connected to a single Capitol Hill address.”

Last summer, while most of official Washington was still reeling from the historic assault on the Capitol, a clubhouse for Trump White House exiles hosted a bash that all but toasted the insurrectionists and plotters responsible.

“Hot Gulag Summer,” held at the nondescript Capitol Hill town house leased by the Conservative Partnership Institute, advertised Jan. 6, 2021-themed cocktails, including the “Capitol Attaquiri,” “Insurrection on the Beach” and the “Mostly Peaceful Mojito.”

“We’re all going to be sent to the gulag eventually,” the invitation read. “We might as well party and get to know each other before we are all ‘reeducated.’”

Founded in 2017, CPI is little-known outside Trump circles, yet it has quickly become among the most powerful political messaging forces in the MAGA universe.The group did not respond to questions submitted by Grid for this article.

Kawarazaki SHÔDÔ
(1869 – 1973)
Peonies

Yes, we hope they do go to the Gulag but right now they’re just getting into bad trouble. More from the Grid piece.

CPI raised $20 million last year alone, and its network of nearly a dozen affiliate groups, several headed by ex-Trump aides, likely raised more. Donald Trump himself has endorsed the group’s work, boosted its fundraising and even donated $1 million to the group from his PAC in 2021.

The network has broad reach and keeps an eye on future elections: CPI helped found and support the election monitoring nonprofit run by ex-Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell, along with roughly a dozen other dark money and advocacy groups, virtually all of which share the address of the CPI town house on official reporting. Mitchell did not respond to inquiries from Grid for this story.

These organizations employ or assist at least 20 key operatives, reportedly involved in Trump’s failed effort to subvert the 2020 election, including Mitchell, ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, and former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who was the subject of both a recent Jan. 6 hearing and an FBI raid. And they help raise millions for Trump-aligned members of Congress — more than $38 million over the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.

The House Freedom Caucus, whose members were allegedly involved in planning and executing strategies to derail the certification of 2020 election results to help Trump retain power, keeps its PAC at CPI’s headquarters and holds meetings at the brownstone. The Senate Conservatives Fund also calls the building home. The group has backed Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who, according to text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 congressional committee, was involved in a pressure campaign directed by Trump attorney John Eastman to get state legislators to change election results in key states. When the effort failed, Lee voted to certify the election. The fund also supports Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who both promoted vote fraud lies and voted against certifying the election results.

Caroline Wren, a key organizer for the “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the Capitol riot, was invited by CPI to speak at an event last year. The group made Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media guru, a CPI digital fellow and asked him to speak about “Winning Communications Strategy” at a recent conference. According to the Jan. 6 committee, Scavino wrote many of Trump’s postelection posts falsely alleging vote fraud and promoting his rally on Jan. 6. Jenna Ellis, a Trump lawyer who wrote memos attempting to justify overturning the election, records her podcast, “The Jenna Ellis podcast,” at CPI. Requests for comment to Wren, Scavino and Ellis went unanswered.


One Hundred Flower Series, Japanese Woodblock, Kono Bairei (1844-1895)

Cleta Mitchell is one to watch for future election interference.  This is from The Guardian: “Republican push to recruit election deniers as poll workers causes alarm. Training sessions in battleground states led by activists who claim the 2020 election was stolen aim to influence conduct of elections”.

Republicans and other conservative groups are undertaking a huge effort to recruit election workers, a push that could install people with unfounded doubts about the 2020 election in key positions in voting precincts where they could exert considerable power over elections.

The effort, called the Election Integrity Network, underscores how Trump and allies are capitalizing on now deeply seeded Republican doubt about Joe Biden’s victory and are targeting key election offices and jobs that play a considerable role in determining how ballots are cast and counted. The summits are a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a group with close ties to Trump’s political operation, and where Mitchell is a senior legal fellow. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, is a senior partner at CPI.

Mitchell has described the effort as a way to take control of the apparatus of local elections, according to ABC News. CPI did not return a request for comment.

At the forefront of this push is Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who was on Donald Trump’s legal team in 2020 and played a key role in his effort to overturn the election. Over the last few months, Mitchell has held “election integrity summits” in several battleground states, convening groups and citizens who continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen. The summits offer in-depth training on how to monitor election offices and how to work elections. At a mid-June summit in North Carolina, Mitchell mocked the term “election denier” and said “whether the outcome was correct, that’s all I deny”. Voter fraud is extremely rare and there was no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020.

Republicans and other conservative groups are undertaking a huge effort to recruit election workers, a push that could install people with unfounded doubts about the 2020 election in key positions in voting precincts where they could exert considerable power over elections.

I certainly hope both the January 6th Committee and the DOJ are following this closely.  Mitchell has been subpoenaed by the Fulton County, Georgia DA for her work there to find votes for Trump.

Meanwhile, The Trump family crime syndicate continues to fleece his cult.  They can’t get on the lecture circuit for corporations or Universities like normal Presidents so this is the best they can do: “Trump’s new money-maker: Political speeches to fans. The former president makes millions appearing at events that resemble his political rallies.” This is from The Washington Post.

On a Saturday morning at an arena outside Memphis, Terri Owens joined the crowd streaming in to see former president Donald Trump.

They lined up according to how much they’d paid.

At the far end of a white entrance tent, near a bus wrapped with a photo of Trump’s head on a muscular, shirtless body, were attendees who paid $55 for a pair of tickets as “citizens,” a general admittance option. At the front, closest to the doors guarded by Secret Service agents, stood a “presidential” tier who shelled out $3,995 each.

Owens, a 53-year-old nurse, bought a pair of VIP tickets for $800. She wasn’t clear on where the money was going — nor did she care.

“I really wanted to do my part in contributing to where he can keep doing what he’s doing, traveling around,” Owens said. “I know he probably doesn’t need financial help by any means, but just to do my part in supporting him because I believe in what he’s doing.”

In fact, the fees aren’t going to Trump’s political action committee, his $100 million war chest. This event was not a Trump rally, where attendance is free.

Instead, it was a for-profit show, more like a rock concert. The proceeds benefit Trump personally as part of a multimillion-dollar deal to speak at the events, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The program, the “American Freedom Tour,” is the work of a longtime motivational-speaker promoter with a trail of bankruptcy filings and business disputes across the country. A Trump adviser said very little vetting was done on the organizers.

A spokesman for the tour, Republican media consultant Larry Ward, said the 2020 election inspired the new business venture. “The tour was inspired by a nation of disappointed voters and a love for President Donald J. Trump,” he said. Ward declined to discuss Trump’s financial deal.

Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Spring Morning at the New Yoshiwara, from the Famous Places in Edo series, 1843–1853

You can also pay to get access to Trump Celebrities who also get huge fees.

The speaker series has attracted more than two dozen Republican luminaries, such as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, talk radio host Dan Bongino and right-wing influencer Candace Owens. One speaker who has participated in the program said they negotiated a deal through a speakers bureau and agreed to do the speech because it was so lucrative.

Those who pay more are granted access to backstage events, such as photos and private Q&As. Top dollar garners a “patriot” experience with a private after-party and access to Trump — though the site doesn’t list how much this costs. The group declined to specify the rate, only that it was more than $4,000.

So, let’s hope next week’s Public Hearings from the January 6 Committee out the activities of the Insurrectionist’s Club and the Trump Family Crime Syndicate Tour.  Just remember, Abe warned us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?