Thursday Reads: A Reckoning is Coming for Trump

Good Afternoon!!

It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.

Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.

Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.

A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.

Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.

H9-kash-patel

Kash Patel

In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.

The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.

That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.

Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.

Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.

Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.

Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.

I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.

This is from a New York Times article on this new development:

The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.

Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.

The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….

Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.

Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….

Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.

Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.

There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.

From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.

Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.

“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”

“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.

Trump lawyer Kevin Chesebro

Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro

The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….

Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.

Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.

There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:

In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.

“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.

The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.

Read more and see the emails at Politico.

There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.

https://twitter.com/NYMag/status/1588143351253159936?s=20&t=0jL5j6PFFd0McENHeAYidw

As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.

During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.

And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.

In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.

All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.

At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.

Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.

More interesting stories to check out, links only:

The Washington Post: Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path to chaos’ as democratic system faces strain.

The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.

Reuters: U.S. Capitol Police to conduct internal review over missed camera images of Pelosi attack.

Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.

Insider: Elon Musk’s Twitter has identified thousands of employees who will be laid off, representing about 50% of the company’s workforce.

The Guardian: Twitter exodus: company faces murky future as top managers flee the nest.

Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!


Wednesday Reads: Dog Lips

Morning all…I forgot it was my turn to post the thread…so this is going to be a quickie.

Cartoons from Cagle:

This is shitty news.

This is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: Trump’s Terrible Day

Good Afternoon!!

Whew! Yesterday was quite a day! It began with New York Attorney General Tish James announcing a 250 million lawsuit against Trump, three of his children, the Trump Organization and two of its top employees; it ended with the 11th Circuit appeals court thoroughly rebuking Judge Loose Cannon and restoring the DOJ’s access to the classified documents needed for their criminal investigation of Trump and for the intelligence assessment of the damage caused by Trump’s thievery. Meanwhile Trump went on Fox News and incriminated himself in an insane interview with Sean Hannity. Here’s a sample from that hour-long clusterfuck:

Since I’m not a lawyer, it’s difficult for me to write about all this legal stuff, but I’ll do my best to post stories that explain what all this means.

First up, this piece by University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck at CNN: Opinion: How Trump’s terrible day went from bad to worse.

For most people, having the Attorney General of the nation’s fourth most populous state file a sweeping new lawsuit accusing you and your family of “staggering” fraud would be a terribly ominous development.

For former President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the worst legal news he received on Wednesday. That came later in the evening, when a unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted a district court ruling that had partially blocked the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump unlawfully retained at Mar-a-Lago (and refused to return) a large tranche of government documents.

The immediate effect of the panel ruling is to clear the way for the Justice Department to continue its work. But the broader significance of Wednesday night’s ruling — significance that, at least for now, clearly transcends the possibility of what might come of the civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — is the fact that a panel that included two Trump appointees poured very cold water on the only arguments he had left to defend against the Mar-a-Lago search.

The issue before the Eleventh Circuit was whether to freeze part of the injunction that US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon had entered on September 5 — an injunction that purported to block the Justice Department from using most of the materials it recovered from its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago until and unless they could be reviewed by a court-appointed special master. (The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, expressed a fair amount of skepticism toward Trump’s claims at his first hearing on Tuesday).

What the three-judge panel–including two judges appointed by Trump–said:

Across 29 pages, the three-judge Eleventh Circuit panel made quick work of Cannon’s ruling — holding that the Justice Department was almost certain to succeed in having that ruling thrown out, and so should have the ruling frozen, at least as it applied to classified materials, while the appeals process runs its course.

Among other things, the panel, which included Judges Robin Rosenbaum (appointed by President Barack Obama) and Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher (appointed by Trump), highlighted the absence of any evidence that Trump had declassified any of the classified information discovered at Mar-a-Lago, and also the extent to which that entire issue is a “red herring” for the broader debate over whether those documents belong to Trump or the government….

But it was in a more subtle section of the opinion that the panel handed Trump his most significant defeat. Across two pages and a footnote that non-legal-readers could be forgiven for skipping past, the three judges rejected, in unequivocal terms, claims made by Trump and his supporters (including the State of Texas, which had filed a highly unusual friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 10 other red states) that the investigation into the former President and search of Mar-a-Lago were all just bad faith harassment from the Biden administration….

In other words, the three-judge panel on one of the more conservative federal appeals courts in the country looked at the Mar-a-Lago search and the broader criminal and national security investigation into the former President of the United States and could not “see any evidence in the record” to support the claim that the Biden administration was using its law enforcement authorities to harass Trump — as opposed to conducting a genuine, above-the-board investigation into serious potential violations of federal criminal statutes.

You might also check out this straight news piece by Charlie Savage, et al. at The New York Times: 

In a strongly worded 29-page decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an order by a Florida federal judge that has kept the department from using about 100 files with classification markings in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.

The appeals court also agreed with the Justice Department that Mr. Trump’s lawyers — and an independent arbiter recently appointed to review the seized materials — need not look at the classified documents that the F.B.I. carted away from Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8.

The Justice Department “argues that the district court likely erred in exercising its jurisdiction to enjoin the United States’ use of the classified records in its criminal investigation and to require the United States to submit the marked classified documents to a special master for review,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. “We agree.”

The decision by the Atlanta-based court was a repudiation of the decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to broadly intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation. The appellate ruling will permit the arbiter, known as a special master, to review most of the more than 11,000 files seized from Mar-a-Lago, but allow prosecutors unfettered access to the smaller batch of classified records.

Charlie Savage also reposted on Twitter an earlier article on how the declassification process works.

This piece at Just Security is a good explainer on the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Trump family and businesses: Has a Trump Tipping Point Been Reached? Analyzing The NY Attorney General’s Case Against Trump.

In the last month, the array of investigations involving Donald J. Trump and many of Trump’s associates and family members has reached an intense pitch. Today another bombshell detonated—one that may prove to be the most devastating.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced the filing of a monumental civil enforcement action against Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, the Trump Organization and many other Trump affiliates.

The sanctions sought by the New York Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) are sweeping and potentially devastating: disgorgement of $250 million in profits; the cancellation of business certificates for Trump’s corporate entities; appointment of an independent monitor at the Trump Organization; a 5-year ban on Trump and the Trump Organization entering into any New York commercial real estate transactions or from applying for any loans from any New York entity; permanently banning Trump and his adult children from serving as an officer or director of a New York corporation. In addition to the potential civil penalties associated with today’s complaint, AG James also announced criminal referrals to the Southern District of New York and to the IRS. Penalties resulting from those referrals could result in substantial fines, and potentially even imprisonment.

With today’s filing of this enforcement action, it is important to consider the factual and legal bases for the claims, and how it could serve as a tipping point in cases against Trump, especially in light of the many other existing federal and state investigations.

Read the rest at Just Security. Here’s John Buss’s commentary:

What about the January 6 Committee? What are they up to? Yes, more bad news for Trump–and Mark Meadows too.

From the article:

The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has come to an agreement with Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in the coming weeks, according to a source close to the committee.

Ginni Thomas’ attorney, Mark Paoletta, confirmed the voluntary interview in a statement, saying, “As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas is eager to answer the Committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election. She looks forward to that opportunity.”

Members of the panel have long said they are interested in speaking with Thomas, particularly after CNN first reported text messages she exchanged with then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows prior to January 6 about overturning the election.

But in the months since those messages emerged, there has been little indication that compelling her to testify was a top priority for the panel despite subsequent evidence that Thomas also encouraged state lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral win.

Thomas attended the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, as she said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, where she stressed that her and her husband’s professional lives are kept separate. She also said that she had left the gathering before the protesters turned violent.

She has also been publicly critical of the House January 6 investigation, calling on House GOP leaders to boot from their conference the two Republicans serving on the select committee.

It’s not yet clear what changed for Thomas and her attorney to now agree to this interview. The 64 thousand dollar question is how will this affect her husband Clarence? Will John Roberts finally decide to deal with him? Probably not, but you never can tell.

More news, links only:

Analysis by Stephen Collinson at CNN: Biden’s new mission: Heading off any possibility of a nuclear crisis with Russia.

The Washington Post: Over 1,300 arrests reported as Russians protest military mobilization.

CNN: Russia’s military divided as Putin struggles to deal with Ukraine’s counteroffensive, US sources say.

Analysis by Brad Lendon at CNN: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can’t train or support them.

AP News: At least 9 killed as Iran protests spread over woman’s death.

NBC News: Enthusiasm for upcoming midterms is at all-time high, NBC News poll shows.

The New York Times: Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds.

Miami Herald: Operatives linked to DeSantis promised to fly migrants to Delaware — but left them stranded.

NBC News: House passes bill to prevent stolen elections, despite strong GOP opposition.

Ashton Pittman at the Mississippi Free Press on the Brett Favre scandal: Ex-Mississippi Welfare Leader Pleads Guilty To Federal, State Crimes In Exchange For Cooperation.

NBC News: Hurricane Fiona intensifies to Category 4 as Puerto Rico contends with aftermath.

Have a tremendous Thursday, Sky Dancers!!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Happy Caturday!!

My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:

The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.

With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.

A coalition of groups such as Planned ParenthoodUltraVioletMoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….

The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.

Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.

Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.

f98f3f2f0a7f126cf8c3e9070096f64e“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….

Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….

Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”

The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.

“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.

The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4fe6739970b-600wiWhat is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.

Read the rest at the link.

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.

Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.

Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.

This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.

Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.

Read more at the WaPo.

Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wiThe leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.

“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.

“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”

Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.

I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.

In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4f00414970b-600wiThe surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….

“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”

The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.

Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.

The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.

The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.

The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.

Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.

“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”

88cba75816c3e74906a3af2d2eb71db4I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.

Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.

The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….

The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  — Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.

  — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”

What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.

That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Gedda Runyon Starlin “House Prince”

Gedda Runyon Starlin, “House Prince”

Good Afternoon!!

You’ve probably heard about actor Bruce Willis having stopped acting because he has aphasia. Aphasia is most commonly caused by a stroke that affects language areas–usually located on the left side of the brain. It can but it can also follow a severe head injury or other brain trauma. It can result from traumatic brain injuries suffered by athletes in contact sports like football and hockey. Willis’ family has declined to explain the cause of his aphasia, so we don’t know if he had a stroke or some other type of brain injury or if he has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. There’s an interesting story at the LA Times on other celebrities who have struggled with aphasia, including Sharon Stone, Dick Clark, Kirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal.

Apparently Willis showed signs of cognitive decline as far back as 2017, but he continued working. His performances apparently deteriorated enough that he received a “Razzie” award (now rescinded) for “worst performance in a 2021 movie.” I’m not sure what to think about this, but it made me uncomfortable when I learned about this. Abigail Weinberg writes at Mother Jones: For Years, Hollywood Suspected Bruce Willis’ Deteriorating Health. They Exploited Him Anyway This is a labor issue.

After an illustrious career that featured starring roles in movies like Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense, Willis had in recent years taken to churning out dozens of low-budget productions. A new Los Angeles Times article reveals just how bad things were on the set of those movies—and gives the impression that the actor was being taken advantage of.

Two crew members from the upcoming film White Elephant told the Times that Willis asked aloud, “Why am I here?” “Someone would give him a line and he didn’t understand what it meant,” a crew member said. “He was just being puppeted.”

The incidents ranged from relatively benign to potentially dangerous: A crew member from the 2020 movie Hard Kill said that Willis repeatedly fired a gun loaded with blanks on the wrong cue. The incident seems particularly stark in light of Alec Baldwin’s gun accidentally firing and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust last year.

So, why were the dozens of people involved in these films so set on working with someone who wasn’t cognitively fit to perform? Well, the money, of course. “His involvement in films—even if for a fleeting few minutes—helped low-budget independent filmmakers sell their films internationally,” the Times explains. “Having Willis’ face on a movie poster or a lineup of streaming service thumbnails helped draw viewers to his films.”

Seems a tad exploitative, no? I’m no Hollywood insider, but I hope these revelations will spur the industry to work toward safer on-set conditions for workers on- and off-screen.

Being rich and famous doesn’t protect you from exploitation.

Another labor story from The Daily Beast: Amazon Workers Claim Historic Union Win in Big Blow to Bezos.

An Amazon warehouse in New York City made history on Friday when workers said they had won a vote to form the retail behemoth’s first union, a breakthrough that represented another sign that support for labor unions is resurgent in America.

159f2e26b59b52e97d73dc11824ae139Over 2,000 employees at the fulfillment center known as JFK8 voted to form a union, organizers said, after facing down months of hostile messaging that workers say included daily mandatory meetings with Amazon’s anti-union consultants.

The victory was especially significant because employees not only appeared to unionize a facility controlled by one of the world’s most powerful companies—but also to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). The grassroots group is led by current and former warehouse workers who waged a hard-fought battle frequently billed as Davids battling a $1.6-trillion Goliath.

Outside the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in Brooklyn, ALU president Chris Smalls and other organizers popped champagne once the win was official.

“It’s not about me,” Smalls told reporters at a press conference. “Amazon tried to make it about me from Day 1. And I never said it was going to be Amazon versus Chris Smalls. It’s always going to be Amazon versus the people, and today the people have spoken, and the people wanted a union.”

During his remarks, the new union president took aim at Amazon’s billionaire founder, saying, “We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space because when he was up there, we was signing people up.”

The Ginni and Clarence Thomas story continues to develop. Yesterday, Dakinikat posted the Daily Beast story about Thomas’s influence on Trump’s hiring and firing decisions. Jane Mayer, who wrote a book about Clarence Thomas, added this to the story:

This situation presents serious problems for the Supreme Court and for Congress. It’s unlikely that Clarence Thomas will voluntarily recuse himself from January 6 cases and I doubt if Chief Justice Roberts will take action unless there is a massive public outcry. At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes: What can Democrats do about Clarence Thomas?

The controversy over Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, Clarence Thomas and the Jan. 6 insurrection is demonstrating one profound difference between Democrats and Republicans: how they view the value of making a stink….

Given his wife’s role in encouraging the effort to overturn the election that culminated in the awful events of that day, Clarence Thomas should obviously recuse himself from any case having to do with Jan. 6. But what can Democrats do about him?

The way Democrats are answering that question tells us a lot about their party.

This Friday, 17 progressive organizations are releasing a letter calling on Democrats to launch a congressional investigation of Justice Thomas’s “misconduct in his handling of cases regarding the January 6 insurrection, the 2020 presidential election, and other cases involving his wife’s political activities.”

As the groups note in their letter, which is spearheaded by Take Back the Court, Supreme Court justices are bound by a federal statute that says they, like other judges, should recuse themselves from any case in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Patrick Saunders, Opal in the Window

Patrick Saunders, Opal in the Window

In addition, in the past, Thomas has failed to properly disclose his wife’s income from political groups (he later amended his disclosures after the omissions were revealed), and she reportedly works with groups that have business before her husband.

What might a congressional investigation accomplish? The letter argues that it might determine “whether Justice Thomas’ conduct was consistent with basic principles of judicial ethics, whether he violated federal law and his oath to ‘impartially discharge and perform his judicial duties, and what actions must be taken in response.”

But so far, Democrats have largely been restrained in response to the Ginni Thomas revelations. While a few more liberal lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have said Clarence Thomas should resign or be impeached, Democratic leaders have not.

Read the rest at the WaPo. You can also check out this post from Emptywheel today: On Ginni Thomas’ Obstruction Exposure and Clarence’s Former Clerk Carl Nichols

There’s also more news today about the gap in the White House phone logs during the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Dakinikat also wrote yesterday about the Axios claim that it was no big deal; the Trump executive assistant who kept track of the call log was out that day. I don’t buy it. That’s just too convenient an excuse. 

Last night CNN reported: Trump’s presidential diarist tells Jan. 6 committee White House officials provided less detail about his activities days before riot.

Just days before the US Capitol riot, White House officials started providing fewer details about then-President Donald Trump‘s calls and visits, the person in charge of compiling those activities for the official record told the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, according to two sources with knowledge of the probe.

The committee interviewed Trump’s presidential diarist roughly two weeks ago. That interview has not been previously reported, nor has the testimony describing a noticeable drop-off in information provided by Oval Office staff leading up to January 6.

Daniel F. Gerhartz, 1965

By Daniel F. Gerhartz, 1965

Other witnesses also have told the panel there was significantly less information being shared with those involved in White House record-keeping during the same time period, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

One source described how White House record-keepers appeared to be “iced out” in the days leading up to January 6.

“The last day that normal information was sent was the 4th,” said another source familiar with the investigation. “So, starting the 5th, the diarist didn’t receive the annotated calls and notes. This was a dramatic departure. That is all out of the ordinary.”

The White House diarist normally receives many streams of information, including the phone logs from the switchboard, the president’s movements from the US Secret Service and, critically, the notes from Oval Office operations, which detail calls, guests and activities.

The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington doesn’t seem to buy the Axios excuse either. He writes today: What is Trump hiding? The Capitol riot-sized hole in White House call log.

At 2.26pm on 6 January last year, Donald Trump picked up a White House phone and placed a call to Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah. The communication came at a very significant moment.

Thirty-seven minutes earlier, a riot had been declared by Washington DC police. Minutes after that the then vice-president, Mike Pence, was rushed out of the Senate chamber, where he had been presiding over Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and put into hiding.

Fifteen minutes before Trump made the call his supporters, exhorted by the sitting president to “fight like hell” against what he falsely claimed was a rigged election, broke through a window in the south front of the Capitol and entered the heart of American democracy.

And we know Trump was watching it on TV.

Yet when you look for recorded details of Trump’s 2.26pm call which was made, as Hugo Lowell of the Guardian revealed, on an official White House landline, they are nowhere to be found. The Lee call was one of an unknown number that Trump made during a mysterious gap of 7 hours 37 minutes that exists in the call logs – precisely the timeframe of the Capitol attack.

Belinda Del Pasco

By Belinda Del Pasco

Those missing call logs, disclosed by the Washington Post and CBS News, raise several burning questions – how did the records disappear? who carried out the excising? – but none more urgent than this: what was Trump trying to hide?

“A gap like this doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a coincidence,” said Charlie Sykes, columnist at the Trump-resistant conservative outlet the Bulwark. “There is no innocent explanation here – somebody made the decision to rip up the record for the crucial hours of January 6 and there has to be a reason why.”

What Trump is trying to hide lies at the heart of the House committee investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The former president has consistently tried to block information flowing to the committee – pressuring his inner circle not to testify, tearing up documents before they were handed over.

The stakes in the tussle over evidence rose sharply this week when a federal judge said in a ruling that Trump “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” Congress on 6 January. That would be a criminal act.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Finally, Merrick Garland spoke publicly again yesterday. CNN’s Tierney Sneed reports: Garland says the only pressure DOJ feels on January 6 probes is to ‘do the right thing.’

After several recent developments in the January 6 investigations that put the Justice Department in the center of the political whirlwinds, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the only pressure his agency feels is to “do the right thing” by following “the facts and the law.”

“The only pressure I feel, and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel, is to do the right thing. That means we follow the facts and the law, wherever they may lead,” Garland said at a news conference Friday, where he was announcing new charges in an unrelated gun trafficking case.

Garland was asked about political pressure on the agency at the end of a momentous week for the efforts to scrutinize the 2020 election reversal plot.

dbf8dd19adee267eff34b427875d5e68On Monday, a federal judge said that it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct” Congress’ electoral certification vote. The assertion by US District Judge David Carter came in a documents disclosure case related to the House select committee investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol….

On Friday, Garland would not weigh in on the Carter opinion or on the status of the Meadows referral.

“We follow the facts and the law wherever they lead, and that’s all I can say about the investigation,” Garland said when asked about the ruling, as he referenced department policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. “The best way to undermine an investigation is to say things out of court about how they’re going.”

Asked about the status of the Meadows referral, Garland said, “We don’t comment on ongoing referrals.”

I don’t know what else he is supposed to say. He has said repeatedly that he will follow the evidence up to and including people at the top. But the Garland detractors aren’t going to stop whining.

That’s all I have for you today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?