“The court’s order hamstrings that investigation and places the FBI and Department of Justice … under a Damoclean threat of contempt,” DOJ lawyers said in their 29-page filing, adding, “It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to [Trump’s] counsel.”
Late last night the Department of Justice appealed Judge Loose Cannon’s ruling in the battle over the classified documents that Trump stole on his way out of the White House.
Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Justice Department asks appeals court to block Trump judge’s Mar-a-Lago ruling.
The Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling that prevents it from accessing hundreds of pages of classified records seized amid the thousands of pages of government documents taken from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The district court has entered an unprecedented order enjoining the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion Friday.
The Justice Department hadpreviously argued that any delay in its investigation into Donald Trump’s handling and retention of government records, including classified records, could result in “irreparable harm” to the government and the public….
The Justice Department on Friday argued that any considerations of claims for return of property or attorney-client and executive privilege were “categorically inapplicable to the records bearing classification markings.”
“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the government and were seized in a court-authorized search,” the Justice Department wrote.
Although Trump previously suggested he had declassified or designated documents seized from his home as “personal,” the Justice Department said he “has never represented that he in fact took either of those steps — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence. The court erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”
The Justice Department also argued that its request for a limited stay wouldn’t disrupt the special master’s review of other materials and “irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel.”
More from Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Justice Dept. asks appeals court to restore access to Trump raid documents.
In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Friday night, prosecutors said the government is facing irreparable harm as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling putting the potentially classified records off-limits to the investigative team until an outside expert conducts a review of them and considers Trump’s objections to their seizure.
The Justice Department’s widely expected escalation of the legal fight came one day after the Trump-appointed judge rebuffed prosecutors’ request for a stay that would essentially carve out the national security-related records — some bearing markings such as “Top Secret/SCI” — from the outside oversight Trump’s legal team requested.
The filing was an unsparing rejection of Cannon’s handling of the entire matter, saying it has jeopardized national security, is based on flimsy or baseless interpretations of executive privilege and could enable further obstruction of efforts to recover additional missing documents.
“The government’s need to proceed apace is heightened where, as here, it has reason to believe that obstructive acts may impede its investigation,” prosecutors wrote….
The inability of federal prosecutors to advance their criminal probe has complicated separate efforts by the intelligence community to assess the harm that may have been caused by their improper storage in Trump’s unsecured storage room, prosecutors say, contending that the criminal investigation is inextricably tied to the national security review.
And prosecutors suggested that the restrictions on the FBI’s criminal work would prevent investigators from determining what may have once resided in dozens of empty folders, also bearing classification marks, found among Trump’s belongings.
“The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing,” prosecutors indicated in the filing.
This is from a column by Harry Litman at The Los Angeles Times: The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is.
The opinion’s essential flaws go well beyond straining the law and stretching facts in favor of Donald Trump. The ruling rests on the most basic dereliction of judicial responsibility, and it represents a complete departure from the bedrock principle of separation of powers.
Cannon was actually handed a graceful way back from her also broadly pilloried opinion last week, in which she had determined that a special master was required to review the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department asked for a modest stay extending to only 100 pages of classified material found at the beach resort. It is beyond controversy that such documents are off-limits to a private citizen like the former president.
Trump’s lawyers did not try to contest that principle. Rather they argued, bizarrely, that just because the government said the documents were classified, it wasn’t necessarily so.
That, of course, is spectacular gibberish. The very meaning of classified documents is that the executive branch has made a determination about their content and marked them classified.
But Cannon adopted Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach. She concluded that it would not be “appropriate” — the closest thing to legal reasoning in her opinion — “to accept the government’s conclusion on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third-party,” that is, a special master.
Cannon, in essence, is redefining the classification process to be simply a provisional executive branch judgment subject to overruling by individual judges such as herself. Apart from its legal bankruptcy, such a process would wreak bedlam in matters of national intelligence, which turn on the very designations that Cannon set aside.
More crazy from Judge Loose Cannon:
The Trump team’s next gambit, which the judge also adopted, was even more logically and legally threadbare. The former president has argued repeatedly in public that he declassified the documents. But his attorneys have studiously avoided saying that in court papers, where lies are subject to professional and criminal penalties. The Trump filings indicate only that he perhaps had declassified the documents.
The appropriate response for a judge in these circumstances is to put Trump on the stand and ask him, “Did you or didn’t you?” Failing that, “perhaps” means the matter is not established and the argument loses.
But Cannon either does not know or does not care what judges do in such a situation. It is important to emphasize that she isn’t simply leaning in Trump’s direction, she’s falling all over him.
Judges sit to resolve disputes, on the basis of evidence. Trump’s team offered none for his positions, relying instead on only the most speculative arguments. It is elementary to the adversary system of justice that evidence and the law, not speculation, determine outcomes. Nothing in the Trump team’s filings justifies freezing a criminal justice investigation and national intelligence review in their tracks.
The DOJ has appealed and now we’ll have to wait and see what the 11th Circuit judges have to say.
There were a couple of new revelations yesterday about people close to Trump and the stolen government documents.
The Washington Post: Trump team claimed boxes at Mar-a-Lago were only news clippings.
There’s a lot happening in the news today that isn’t about the British royal family; but you probably won’t see much about it on the cable channels–at least until the nighttime shows come on. Among other things, Ukraine is still winning the battle to get Russia to stop destroying their country; the Department of Justice is running multiple investigations of Trump and the January 6 conspiracies; the House January 6 Committee is getting up to speed for more hearings; and other Congressional investigations are cropping up.
The Washington Post: ‘The Russians are in trouble,’ U.S. official says of latest war analysis.
A Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian forces into a hasty retreat could mark a turning point in the war and raise pressure on Moscow to call up additional forces if it hopes to prevent further Ukrainian advances, U.S. and Western officials said Monday.
Whether the gains are permanent depends on Russia’s next moves, especially whether President Vladimir Putin implements a military draft or orders reinforcements from elsewhere to offset heavy losses in Ukraine, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share recent intelligence analyses.
In mere days, Ukrainian military forces have retaken nearly all of the Kharkiv region that Russian forces occupied since the opening of the war. The rapidity of the pullback appears to have stunned Russian military troops and commanders, officials said.
“The Russians are in trouble,” one U.S. official said bluntly. “The question will be how the Russians will react, but their weaknesses have been exposed and they don’t have great manpower reserves or equipment reserves.”
Ukrainian forces appeared to be moving ahead carefully and consolidating their gains, another official said, noting that Russian forces seem to have recognized that they lacked the weapons and manpower to hold newly liberated towns and villages in the northeast of the country. Some Russian forces abandoned tanks, armored vehicles and ammunition as they fled.
Read more at the WaPo.
The New York Times: The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance.
The strategy behind Ukraine’s rapid military gains in recent days began to take shape months ago during a series of intense conversations between Ukrainian and U.S. officials about the way forward in the war against Russia, according to American officials.
The counteroffensive — revised this summer from its original form after urgent discussions between senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials — has succeeded beyond most predictions. Ukrainian forces have devastated Russian command and control, and appear poised to capitalize on their advances in the northeast of the country and in another campaign in the south.
The work began soon after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told his generals he wanted to make a dramatic move to demonstrate that his country could push back on the Russian invasion. Under his orders, the Ukrainian military devised a plan to launch a broad assault across the south to reclaim Kherson and cut off Mariupol from the Russian force in the east.
The Ukrainian generals and American officials believed that such a large-scale attack would incur immense casualties and fail to quickly retake large amounts of territory. The Ukrainians were already suffering hundreds of casualties a day in what had become a grinding conflict. The Russian forces were experiencing similar losses but were still inching forward, laying waste to Ukrainian towns in the eastern region of Donbas.
Long reluctant to share details of their plans, the Ukrainian commanders started opening up more to American and British intelligence officials and seeking advice.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, spoke multiple times about the planning for the counteroffensive, according to a senior administration official. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior Ukrainian military leaders regularly discussed intelligence and military support.
The gist is that Americans helped the Ukrainians plan a strategy, and the Ukrainian army succeeded in carrying it out–beyond all expectations. Read more details at the NYT.
David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: What Happens to Russia After It Loses?
With reports of Russian troops fleeing like “Olympic sprinters,” leaving behind weapons, crashing their tanks into trees, and turning over more than 3,000 square kilometers of previously held territory to Ukraine, it is only natural to ask: How bad can it get for Russia?
Experts with whom I spoke all agreed that the war will have long-lasting implications for Russia and, as a consequence, for geopolitics. At the very least it puts to rest for the foreseeable future Putin’s notion that he will oversee the rebirth of Russian greatness, of a new Russian empire. At worst, it means that Russia’s decades-long slide that led to its Cold War collapse (and its struggles ever since) will be accelerated, and the country will be consigned by its floundering dictator to a period of greatly diminished global influence.
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder described the stakes trenchantly: “Russia ceased being a great power a long time ago. It never really recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union, itself the product of a decaying ideology and system.” Daalder said Putin came to power when “Russia was in a state of deep dysfunction” and that he subsequently “set out to build a deeply kleptocratic system that benefited him and his cronies at the expense of the entire society.” This, according to Daalder, has manifested itself with “a military that is unable to engage in modern warfare of maneuver, which after six months still hasn’t established air superiority.” [….]
Stephen Sestanovich, who served during the Clinton administration as ambassador at large for the newly independent states of the former USSR and is currently a professor at Columbia University, offered a different analogy to a second-tier European state, “Russia’s claim to be a great power has long been tenuous, resting on nukes, land mass, and a UN veto. The revival of economic growth in Putin’s first decade helped restore a little luster to the claim. But he’s been largely on the ropes since 2014, and this absurd campaign to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine has put his entire effort at risk. He wanted to make himself an equal of Catherine and Peter. Now it’s going to take quite a comeback to be more than [former Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević with missiles.”
Angela Stent, a Putin biographer and senior adviser at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, echoed that analysis, “After the war is over, Russia will still be the largest country in the world (assuming it does not disintegrate) and it will still have nukes, oil, and gas. But it is deglobalizing and returning to greater autarky.” Stent says that despite maintaining strong ties with many countries in the global south, “its relations with the collective West, which represents the lion’s share of global GDP, have largely collapsed.” Stent adds: “Putin came to power wanting to restore Russia’s role as a great power and have a seat on the global board of directors. He has now lost that. Russia will emerge from this demodernized and diminished in global stature.”
There’s still more expert opinion reported at the Daily Beast link.
Department of Justice Investigations
The New York Times: Justice Dept. Issues 40 Subpoenas in a Week, Expanding Its Jan. 6 Inquiry.
Justice Department officials have seized the phones of two top advisers to former President Donald J. Trump and blanketed his aides with about 40 subpoenas in a substantial escalation of the investigation into his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, people familiar with the inquiry said on Monday.
The seizure of the phones, coupled with a widening effort to obtain information from those around Mr. Trump after the 2020 election, represent some of the most aggressive steps the department has taken thus far in its criminal investigation into the actions that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
The extent of the investigation has come into focus in recent days, even though it has often been overshadowed by the government’s legal clash with Mr. Trump and his lawyers over a separate inquiry into the handling of presidential records, including highly classified materials, the former president kept at his residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago.
Federal agents with court-authorized search warrants took phones last week from at least two people: Boris Epshteyn, an in-house counsel who helps coordinate Mr. Trump’s legal efforts, and Mike Roman, a campaign strategist who was the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign in 2020, people familiar with the investigation said.
Mr. Epshteyn and Mr. Roman have been linked to a critical element of Mr. Trump’s bid to hold onto power: the effort to name slates of electors pledged to Mr. Trump from swing states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020 as part of a plan to block or delay congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory.
On others who got subpoenas:
The names of those receiving the latest round of subpoenas in the investigation related to Jan. 6 have dribbled out gradually, with investigators casting a wide net on a range of issues, including Mr. Trump’s postelection fund-raising and the so-called fake electors scheme.
One of the recipients, people familiar with the case said, was Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s former social media director who rose from working at a Trump-owned golf course to become one of his most loyal West Wing aides, and has remained an adviser since Mr. Trump left office. Stanley Woodward, one of Mr. Scavino’s lawyers, declined to comment.
Another was Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. Mr. Kerik, who promoted claims of voter fraud alongside his friend Rudolph W. Giuliani, was issued a subpoena by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, his lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said on Monday. Mr. Parlatore said his client had initially offered to grant an interview voluntarily.
The subpoenas seek information in connection with the fake electors plan.
For months, associates of Mr. Trump have received subpoenas related to other aspects of the investigations into his efforts to cling to power. But in a new line of inquiry, some of the latest subpoenas focus on the activities of the Save America political action committee, the main political fund-raising conduit for Mr. Trump since he left office.
The fact that the Justice Department is now seeking information related to fund-raising comes as the House committee examining the Jan. 6 attack has raised questions about money Mr. Trump solicited under the premise of fighting election fraud.
The January 6 Committee Investigation
As the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack nears its final chapter, members plan to meet in person on Tuesday and one of the most pressing questions they’ll address is whether the committee should formally request that former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence appear before them.
Such appearances are exceedingly rare in US history. According to multiple sources, the committee does not expect either man to testify, but some members and staff believe the invitations should be extended for the record.
“How do you create a historic record without including formal requests for the two top witnesses,” said one source familiar to the committee’s work.
Members of the committee, including Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, have consistently said they’d like to hear from Pence and would welcome Trump’s testimony should he offer it on their terms but internal discussions about formally reaching out to both men has intensified in recent weeks now that the panel’s investigation will soon come to an end, the sources said….
A source close to Pence’s team told CNN that there have been intermittent conversations between the committee and legal counsel for Pence, but nothing has changed, meaning it’s unlikely he would testify.
Whether the panel decides to call Trump or Pence could prove to be an important data point should the committee ultimately opt to submit a criminal referral for Trump – something members of the panel say they expect to seriously consider, while such a move would be largely symbolic in nature.
Members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot believe former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato was personally involved in efforts to discredit former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, according to a report from CNN.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republican members of Congress on the committee, told the outlet this week that representatives on the panel think Ornato led the charge in contradicting parts of Hutchinson’s public testimony earlier this year while he was still at the agency and additional, unnamed agents then backed his claims.
The longtime Secret Service agent who ran former President Donald Trump’s security detail left the agency last month, saying in a statement that he retired in order to pursue a career in the private sector.
Ornato emerged as a key figure in Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony before the committee in June.
Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her Trump had tried to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle he was traveling in and lunged at a Secret Service agent while demanding to be taken to the Capitol during the chaos of January 6, 2021, as he said, “I’m the effing president!”
In the aftermath of Hutchinson’s testimony, anonymous sources began to reject her version of events in the press. Several media outlets reported that Secret Service agents were willing to testify that Trump did not try to lunge at them or take control of the vehicle on January 6 — though none have done so publicly.
Now, Kinzinger is accusing Ornato of being one of the anonymous culprits behind the backlash.
Other Congressional Investigations
The New York Times: Archives Is Unsure Whether Trump Surrendered All Records, Panel Says.
The National Archives has informed congressional aides that it is still unsure whether former President Donald J. Trump has surrendered all the presidential records he removed from the White House, even after months of negotiations, a subpoena and a search of his Florida property, according to the House Oversight Committee.
The archives staff “recently informed the committee that the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the committee, wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Debra Steidel Wall, the acting national archivist.
Ms. Maloney said the archives staff had informed the committee staff during a call in late August of its uncertainty about the status of the material, which Mr. Trump was required by law to return.
In her letter, Ms. Maloney requested a formal assessment from the archives of what presidential records, if any, removed from the White House by Mr. Trump remained unaccounted for and whether the archives believed they were potentially still in his possession.
The committee is requesting that the agency “conduct an urgent review of presidential records from the Trump administration to identify any presidential records or categories of presidential records, whether textual or electronic, that NARA has reason to believe may still be outside of the agency’s custody and control,” Ms. Maloney wrote, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration. “Please also assess any other limitations on the completeness, accuracy and accessibility of presidential records provided to NARA by the Trump administration.”
The letter asked the archives to complete an initial assessment and provide its findings to the committee by Sept. 27.
Ms. Maloney also requested that the archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”
The New York Times: Senate to Investigate Charge That Trump Meddled in Prosecutor’s Office.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate allegations that the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump sought to use the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to support Mr. Trump politically and pursue his critics, the committee’s chairman said on Monday.
The allegations are in a new book by Geoffrey S. Berman, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2018 through June 2020, when he was fired by Mr. Trump.
The chairman, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, made the announcement in a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland, which cited a New York Times report on Thursday detailing the book’s allegations.
Mr. Berman’s book portrays Trump Justice Department officials as motivated by partisan concerns as they tried to initiate criminal investigations or block them, The Times reported.
The book, “Holding the Line,” was obtained by The Times in advance of its scheduled publication on Tuesday.
Mr. Durbin said in his letter, “These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviations from the department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decisions be free from political influence.”
He added that the allegations “also compound the already serious concerns” raised by then-Attorney General William P. Barr’s efforts in 2020 “to replace Mr. Berman with a Trump loyalist.”
Wow! This post got really long, so take what you want and leave the rest. I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday!!
Good Day, Sky Dancers!!
I’m not a fan of royalty, but it does seem significant that Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain may be dying. She took the throne on February 6, 1952 and is the “longest reigning monarch in world history.” She is 96 years old. The queen is in Scotland and she did not return to London for the appointment of the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Her family members are either with her at Balmoral Castle or on their way there.
UPDATE: Queen Elizabeth II has died.
The Washington Post: Queen Elizabeth II under medical supervision as family gathers at Balmoral.
Queen Elizabeth II is under medical care at Balmoral Castle after doctors became concerned about her health, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Her family is traveling to Scotland to be by her side.
Prince Harry and Meghan are en route to Balmoral, a spokesperson for the couple said. Prince William was also on his way to Balmoral. His wife, Catherine, remained in Windsor as their children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, are on their first full day at their new school, Kensington Palace said.
The statement comes a day after Buckingham Palace said Wednesday that the queen, who is 96, had canceled a virtual meeting with the Privy Council on doctor’s advice to rest.
The statements may have been vague on details, but the fact that they were issued at all speaks volumes. The palace typically provides minimal information about the queen’s health.
Also notable: The BBC has suspended programming for today in order to provide updates on the queen’s health.
This morning the deaths of two renowned journalists were announced.
CNN announced: CNN anchor Bernard Shaw dead at 82.
Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw died Wednesday of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19, Shaw’s family announced in a statement Thursday. Shaw was 82.
Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor and was with the network when it launched on June 1, 1980. He retired from CNN after more than 20 years on February 28, 2001.
During his storied career, Shaw reported on some of the biggest stories of that time — including the student revolt in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, the First Gulf war live from Baghdad in 1991, and the 2000 presidential election.
“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN.
Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Thursday. “He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”
Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, died on Wednesday of lung cancer. She was 71 years old.
At NPR, Garrels was known as a passionate reporter willing to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice if the story required it. She was also a warm and generous friend to many.
When she arrived at NPR in 1988, she already had a lot of experience under her belt — including 10 years in television news at ABC, where she was bureau chief in both Moscow and Central America.
Garrels made a strong impression on NPR’s Deborah Amos. “She was this glamorous television reporter who came here,” she said. “She didn’t dress like the rest of us in the beginning. And she’d has this long and remarkable career before she landed here … She was always braver than me, and I always understood that she was braver than me.”
That bravery led Garrels into many war zones. And when it came to covering a war, she was there at the beginning, in the middle of the battle, and at the peace table. She was the kind of reporter who would drive alone across a war zone if that’s what it took to get the story.
Read more at NPR.
This morning Steve Bannon surrendered to prosecutors in New York on state charges similar to the federal ones for which Trump pardoned him.
The Washington Post: Bannon charged with fraud, money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall.’
Stephen K. Bannon has been charged with money laundering, fraud and conspiracy in connection with the “We Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, for which he received a federal pardon during Donald Trump’s final days in the White House.
I was hoping for news from the DOJ on whether they will appeal the insane decision by Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to examine the government documents that Trump stole. But the only news I’ve seen is that they are proposing to unseal more of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, perhaps to use in their response to Judge Cannon.
There is plenty more Trump legal news though:
A federal grand jury investigating the activities leading up the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the push by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 election has expanded its probe to include seeking information about Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.
The interest in the fundraising arm came to light as part of grand jury subpoenas seeking documents, records and testimony from potential witnesses, the sources said.
The subpoenas, sent to several individuals in recent weeks, are specifically seeking to understand the timeline of Save America’s formation, the organization’s fundraising activities, and how money is both received and spent by the Trump-aligned PAC….
Trump and his allies have consistently pushed supporters to donate to the PAC, often using false claims about the 2020 election and soliciting donations to rebuke the multiple investigations into the former president, his business dealings, and his actions on Jan. 6.
After the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, Save America PAC sent out a fundraising email in which Trump urged supporters to “rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”
More from The New York Times: Trump’s Post-Election Fund-Raising Comes Under Scrutiny by Justice Dept.
A federal grand jury in Washington is examining the formation of — and spending by — a PAC created by Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election as he was raising millions of dollars by baselessly asserting that the results had been marred by widespread voting fraud.
According to subpoenas issued by the grand jury, the contents of which were described to The New York Times, the Justice Department is interested in the inner workings of Save America PAC, Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising vehicle after the election. Several similar subpoenas were sent on Wednesday to junior and midlevel aides who worked in the White House and for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
Among the roughly half-dozen current and former Trump aides in the White House and the 2020 presidential campaign who are said to have received subpoenas this week were Beau Harrison, an aide to Mr. Trump in the White House and in his post-presidency, and William S. Russell, who similarly worked in the West Wing and now for Mr. Trump’s personal office, according to several people familiar with the events….
The fact that federal prosecutors are seeking information about Save America PAC is a significant new turn in an already sprawling investigation of the roles that Mr. Trump and some of his allies played in trying to overturn the election, an array of efforts that culminated with the violent mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Another Trump aide was subpoenaed in connection with planning for the January 6 coup attempt.
From the article:
Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to a personal aide to former President Donald J. Trump as part of the investigation into the events leading up to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, people familiar with the matter said.
The move suggests that investigators have expanded the pool of people from whom they are seeking information in the wide-ranging criminal investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and that agents are reaching into the former president’s direct orbit.
This week, F.B.I. agents in Florida tried to approach William S. Russell, a 31-year-old aide to Mr. Trump who served as a special assistant and the deputy director of presidential advance operations in the White House. He continued to work for Mr. Trump as a personal aide after he left office, one of a small group of officials who did so.
It was not immediately clear what the F.B.I. agents wanted from Mr. Russell; people familiar with the Justice Department’s inquiry said he has not yet been interviewed. But a person with knowledge of the F.B.I.’s interest said that it related to the grand jury investigation into events that led to the Capitol attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters.
That investigation is said to have focused extensively on the attempts by some of Mr. Trump’s advisers and lawyers to create slates of fake electors from swing states. Mr. Trump and his allies wanted Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay certification of the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 to allow consideration of Trump electors whose votes could have changed the outcome.
At Rolling Stone, Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng offer a possible motive for at least some of Trump’s document pilfering: Trump Told White House Team He Needed to Protect ‘Russiagate’ Documents.
IN HIS FINAL days in the White House, Donald Trump told top advisers he needed to preserve certain Russia-related documents to keep his enemies from destroying them.
The documents related to the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with Trump’s campaign. At the end of his presidency, Trump and his team pushed to declassify these so-called “Russiagate” documents, believing they would expose a “Deep State” plot against him.
According to a person with direct knowledge of the situation and another source briefed on the matter, Trump told several people working in and outside the White House that he was concerned Joe Biden’s incoming administration — or the “Deep State” — would supposedly “shred,” bury, or destroy “the evidence” that Trump was somehow wronged.
Trump’s concern about preserving the Russia-related material is newly relevant after an FBI search turned up a trove of government documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Since the search, Trump has refused to say which classified government papers and top-secret documents he had at Mar-a-Lago and what was the FBI had seized. (Trump considers the documents “mine” and has directed his lawyers to make that widely-panned argument in court.) The feds have publicly released little about the search and its results.It’s unclear if any of the materials in Trump’s document trove are related to Russia or the election interference investigation. A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
I have a few more articles to share, but I’ll do it in the comment thread. Sorry this post is so late; my internet keeps going in and out.
I was hoping we might hear something from the DOJ this morning, but so far they haven’t responded publicly to Trump judge Aileen Cannon’s ridiculous decision yesterday. According to The Guardian,
Lawyers for Donald Trump are conferring with justice department counterparts to come up by Friday with a list of possible candidates to be the “special master” approved by a district court judge over the former president’s hoarding of classified documents.
So far, I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else.
However, Hillary Clinton did make a public statement today in a Twitter thread.
The Daily Beast has a piece on Trump’s judge shopping. It turns out this isn’t the first time he tried to get Judge Cannon on a case: Trump Went Judge Shopping and It Paid Off in Mar-a-Lago Case.
When former President Donald Trump summoned up years of bubbling resentment and sued Hillary Clinton and everyone else involved in Russiagate earlier this year, he naturally filed his lawsuit in South Florida—home to his oceanside estate.
And yet, when his attorneys formally filed the paperwork, they selected a tiny courthouse in the sprawling federal court district’s furthest northeast corner—a satellite location that’s 70 miles from Mar-a-Lago. They ignored the West Palm Beach federal courthouse that’s a 12-minute drive away.
The tactic failed, and Trump instead got a Clinton-era judge whom he promptly tried to disqualify for alleged bias. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks called him out in a snarky footnote.
“I note that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Fort Pierce division of this District, where only one federal judge sits: Judge Aileen Cannon, who Plaintiff appointed in 2020. Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead. And when Plaintiff is a litigant before a judge that he himself appointed, he does not tend to advance these same sorts of bias concerns,” Middlebrooks wrote in April.
This time Trump hit the jackpot.
Months later, Trump is once again suing in the Southern District of Florida, this time seeking to hamper the FBI investigation into the way he kept hundreds of classified records at Mar-a-Lago. Except this time, he got Cannon.
The strategy is already paying off.
On Monday afternoon, Cannon single-handedly hit the brakes on the most politically sensitive and consequential FBI investigation ever undertaken. Convinced by Team Trump’s legal arguments that the routine Justice Department methods for carefully handling seized documents aren’t good enough when investigating this particular former president, she ordered that a “special master” be tasked with playing referee to dictate what happens with classified documents that are evidence of a crime.
“The investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness,” she wrote in her order.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Deeply Problematic’: Experts Question Judge’s Intervention in Trump Inquiry.
A federal judge’s extraordinary decision on Monday to interject in the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents at his Florida residence showed unusual solicitude to him, legal specialists said….
Siding with Mr. Trump, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, ordered the appointment of an independent arbiter to review the more than 11,000 government records the F.B.I. seized in its search of Mar-a-Lago last month. She granted the arbiter, known as a special master, broad powers that extended beyond filtering materials that were potentially subject to attorney-client privilege to also include executive privilege.
Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also blocked federal prosecutors from further examining the seized materials for the investigation until the special master had completed a review.
In reaching that result, Judge Cannon took several steps that specialists said were vulnerable to being overturned if the government files an appeal, as most agreed was likely. Any appeal would be heard by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, where Mr. Trump appointed six of its 11 active judges.
Some of the expert reactions:
This was “an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas….
Paul Rosenzweig, a former homeland security official in the George W. Bush administration and prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, said it was egregious to block the Justice Department from steps like asking witnesses about government files, many marked as classified, that agents had already reviewed.
“This would seem to me to be a genuinely unprecedented decision by a judge,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “Enjoining the ongoing criminal investigation is simply untenable.” [….]
“Judge Cannon had a reasonable path she could have taken — to appoint a special master to review documents for attorney-client privilege and allow the criminal investigation to continue otherwise,” said Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor. “Instead, she chose a radical path.”
A specialist in separation of powers, Peter M. Shane, who is a legal scholar in residence at N.Y.U., said there was no basis for Judge Cannon to expand a special master’s authority to screen materials that were also potentially subject to executive privilege. That tool is normally thought of as protecting internal executive branch deliberations from disclosure to outsiders like Congress.
“The opinion seems oblivious to the nature of executive privilege,” he said.
The Justice Department is itself part of the executive branch, and a court has never held that a former president can invoke the privilege to keep records from his time in office away from the executive branch itself.
Read the whole thing at the NYT.
In other news . . .
From CNN this morning:
From the CNN article:
A Republican county official in Georgia escorted two operatives working with an attorney for former President Donald Trump into the county’s election offices on the same day a voting system there was breached, newly obtained video shows.
The breach is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is of interest to the Fulton County District Attorney, who is conducting a wider criminal probe of interference in the 2020 election.
The video sheds more light on how an effort spearheaded by lawyers and others around Trump to seek evidence of voter fraud was executed on the ground from Georgia to Michigan to Colorado, often with the assistance of sympathetic local officials.
In the surveillance video, which was obtained by CNN, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020, escorts a team of pro-Trump operatives to the county’s elections office on January 7, 2021, the same day a voting system there is known to have been breached.
The two men seen in the video with Latham, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, have acknowledged that they successfully gained access to a voting machine in Coffee County at the behest of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Text messages, emails and witness testimony filed as part of a long-running civil suit into the security of Georgia’s voting systems show Latham communicated directly with the then-Coffee County elections supervisor about getting access to the office, both before and after the breach. One text message, according to the court document, shows Latham coordinating the arrival and whereabouts of a team “led by Paul Maggio” that traveled to Coffee County at the direction of Powell.
Three days after the breach, Latham texted the Coffee County elections supervisor, “Did you all finish with the scanner?” According to court documents, Latham testified she did not know what Hall was doing in Coffee County. But when confronted with her texts about the scanner, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights.
More from The Washington Post:
The new video adds to the picture of the alleged breach in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, and reveals for the first time the later visits by Logan and Lenberg. It also provides further indications of links between various efforts to overturn the election, including what once appeared to be disparate attempts to access and copy election system data in the wake of Trump’s loss.
Experts have expressed concern that such efforts could expose details of voting systems’ hardware and software that are intended to be tightly controlled, potentially aiding hackers who might seek to alter the results of a future election. Data copied from elections systems in other states has been published online. Georgia state officials and voting-machine makers have downplayed the risk, pointing to safeguards that they say protect the systems from tampering.
The Post reported last month that a data forensics firm hired by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell copied software and data from the Dominion Voting Systems machines used by Coffee County. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating the matter.
Details of the Coffee County incident have come to light largely because of a flurry of subpoenas and depositions by plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit against Georgia authorities over the security of the state’s elections. Emails and other records they obtained from the data forensics firm, Atlanta-based Sullivan Strickler, showed that the Coffee episode was part of a coordinated multistate effort to access voting equipment in a hunt for evidence that the election was rigged….
The security footage shows only the exterior of the office’s entrance area, and it is not clear what the consultants Logan and Lenberg did inside….
David Cross, a lawyer who represents some of the plaintiffs in the civil case, said the additional visits raise questions about why the two men returned. “The biggest concern that we have is future elections,” said Cross, whose clients are pressing Georgia authorities to replace the state’s ballot-marking machines with hand-marked paper ballots.
Logan and Lenberg have played roles inthe multistate pursuit of voting machines by Trump supporters. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) has asked for a special prosecutor to decide whether to pursue charges against them and others for allegedly conspiring to unlawfully access elections equipment in three counties there last year. Logan and Lenberg also provided affidavits as expert witnesses in a post-election lawsuit in Antrim County, Mich., after a judge granted SullivanStrickler access to Dominion Voting Systems machines there.
Another election interference story from David Folkenflick at NPR:
The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims.
The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him. The existence of the email, confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it, is first publicly disclosed by NPR in this story. Fox News declined comment.
Pirro was far from alone in broadcasting such false claims. In the weeks that followed Election Day 2020, other prominent Fox stars, commentators and their guests heavily promoted them.
A repeat target was Dominion Voting Systems, the election machine and technology company. Trump and his allies alleged on Fox that Dominion was engaged in a conscious effort to throw the 2020 race to Joe Biden. They implied and falsely asserted on Fox programs that Dominion’s machines and software either discarded Trump’s votes or transferred them to Biden. Dominion argues their false claims were frequently egged on by Fox’s own stars.
The producer’s email is among the voluminous correspondence acquired by Dominion’s attorneys as part of its discovery of evidence in a $1.6 billion defamation suit it filed against Fox News and its parent company. Dominion alleges it has been “irreparably harmed” by the lies, conspiracy theories and wild claims of election fraud that aired on Fox.
Pirro’s role remains under sharp scrutiny. She attended Trump’s belligerent address from the White House late on election night 2020 and advanced his arguments on the air.
Read more at NPR.
That’s it for me. I hope we’ll learn more about the DOJ’s response to Judge “Loose Cannon’s” decision during the course of the day. What other stories are you following?