One of the groups where he shared information had upward of 150 users, officials said, and among the members “are a number of individuals who represented that they resided in other countries” and whose accounts trace back to foreign internet addresses.
Thursday ReadsPosted: May 18, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, FBI | Tags: "weaponization of government" hearings, classified documents, Jack Smith, Jack Teixeira, Jim Jordan, Mark Zaid, National Archives, national security clearances, Trump stolen documents 13 Comments
I don’t want to get too excited about this and then be let down, but it seems significant. Last night on Alex Wagner’s MSNBC show, national security attorney Mark Zaid said that the latest revelations about the Trump stolen documents investigation suggest that an indictment could be coming in weeks, not months. You can watch the video at Raw Story.
The Raw Story article is based on a new report from CNN yesterday: Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified.
The National Archives has informed former President Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president, according to multiple sources.
In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, “The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records.”
The 16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president’s awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents.
The records may also provide insight into Trump’s intent and whether he willfully disregarded what he knew to be clearly established protocols, according to a source familiar with recent testimony provided to the grand jury by former top Trump officials.
Trump and his allies have insisted that as president, Trump did not have to follow a specific process to declassify documents. At a CNN town hall last week Trump repeated the claim that simply by removing classified documents from the White House he had declassified them. “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them,” Trump said.
According to the letter, Trump tried to block the special counsel from accessing the 16 records by asserting a claim of “constitutionally based privilege.” But in her letter, Wall rejects that claim, stating that the special counsel’s office has represented that it “is prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury’s investigation.” [….]
The letter goes on to state that the records will be handed over on May 24, 2023 “unless prohibited by an intervening court order.” [….]
Trump’s team may challenge this in court, this person said, but claimed in the past the Archives has handed over documents before the Trump team has had a chance to challenge the release in court.
Read more at the CNN link. Back to the Raw Story analysis:
According to a National Archives letter to Trump on May 16, the staff intends to provide special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that would reveal the White House advisers were taught the appropriate way to declassify documents.
“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote to Trump in a letter obtained by CNN.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has failed to scapegoat others for the documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago. Top Trump adviser Kash Patel told a far-right outlet that the General Services Administration (GSA) packed up Trump’s boxes, and they were the ones who somehow forced Trump to steal the documents. Not long after, the GSA released a letter saying that they required the staff to sign off on the contents in the boxes.
Posting the CNN report on Twitter, former Republican Ethics Czar for George W. Bush, Richard Painter, explained that it’s an example of Trump lying to the federal government, a breach of 18 U.S.C 1001. “Yet another felony,” said Painter.
National security lawyer Mark Zaid said that Trump’s “awareness” of the classification process goes to Trump’s state of mind, “which is what criminal cases are generally about.”
Mark Zaid’s remarks:
Speaking to MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, Zaid explained that the case has never been about the mishandling of national defense information or classified documents. It’s about the Espionage Act. Mishandling classified information is a fairly frequent occurrence, he said, noting that he wouldn’t be surprised if every president since Reagan (and likely before that) had done it.
….What’s at issue here is that, as you reported and CNN had reported, Trump and his inner circle were told how to properly classify and declassify information. And I will say even further, because I independently verified it, that they were instructed in the days and weeks before leaving the White House for the transition on how to pack up the documents so as not to take classified information.”
He pointed to the obstruction piece of the case as being another problem for Trump. If leaks are to be believed, Zaid said, “Trump not only mishandled the information but also sought to hide it from the U.S. government and obstruct the investigation by deliberately acting on that, as well as giving instructions to others possibly, even his lawyers, as to where to move the documents around Mar-a-Lago.”
This seems like a BFD.
There’s unsettling news about Jack Teixeira today. He’s the airman from Massachusetts who stole massive amounts classified information and leaked it online.
From the NYT article by Glenn Thrush and Robin Stein:
Air Force officials caught Airman Jack Teixeira taking notes and conducting deep-dive searches for classified material months before he was charged with leaking a vast trove of government secrets, but did not remove him from his job, according to a Justice Department filing on Wednesday.
On two occasions in September and October 2022, Airman Teixeira’s superiors in the Massachusetts Air National Guard admonished him after reports that he had taken “concerning actions” while handling classified information. Those included stuffing a note into his pocket after reviewing secret information inside his unit, according to a court filing ahead of a hearing before a federal magistrate judge in Worcester, Mass., on Friday to determine whether he should be released on bail.
Airman Teixeira — who until March shared secrets with scores of online friends from around the world on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers — “was instructed to no longer take notes in any form on classified intelligence information,” lawyers with the department’s national security division wrote in an 11-page memo arguing for his indefinite detention.
The airman’s superiors also ordered him to “cease and desist on any deep dives into classified intelligence information,” although it is not clear how, or if, they enforced that directive.
The new information was intended to drive home the government’s argument that Airman Teixeira’s relentless quest for intelligence to share with online friends — which he acknowledged to be improper — makes his release a danger to national security. But it also raised troubling new questions about whether the military missed opportunities to stop or limit one of the most damaging intelligence leaks in recent history.
The signs that something was amiss seem unmistakable in retrospect. In late January, a master sergeant who was working at the Air Force base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts observed Airman Teixeira inappropriately accessing reports on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, the Pentagon’s secure intranet system, the memo said.
“Teixeira had been previously been notified to focus on his own career duties and not to seek out intelligence products,” one of his superiors wrote in a memo on Feb. 4 that prosecutors included in their filing.
Not only was Airman Teixeira allowed to remain in his job — he seems to have retained his top-secret security clearance — but he was subsequently given the second of two certificates after completing training intended to prevent the “unauthorized disclosure” of classified information.
Two of Teixeira’s bosses have been suspended and have lost their security clearances.
More from Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post. Again, the purpose of the filing is the argument from federal prosecutors that Teixeira should not be released on bond.
The Air National Guard member accused in a high-profile classified leaks case appears to have shared sensitive secrets with foreign nationals and had raised concernamong his co-workers in the months before he was charged with mishandling and disseminating national security information, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday….
Teixeira’s “willful transmission of classified information over an extended period to more than 150 users worldwide” undermines his lawyer’s claims that he never meant for the information to be shared widely, prosecutors wrote….
The new filing also recounts online chats in which Teixeira appears to both brag about how much classified information he knows and has shared, and understand the potential legal consequences of such actions.
“Knowing what happens more than pretty much anyone is cool,” the airman allegedly wrote in a chat dated mid-November. When another user suggested he write a blog about the information, Teixeira replied, “making a blog would be the equivalent of what chelsea manning did,” referring to a major classified leak case in 2010.
The filing also shows that Teixeira was written up by colleagues for apparently not following rules for the use of classified systems. A Sept. 15 Air Force memorandum included in the newly released court materialsnotes that Teixiera “had been observed taking notes on classified intelligence information” inside a room specifically designed to handle sensitive classified material.
That is covered in the NYT article.
This morning, Jim Jordan is holding another one of his ridiculous “weaponization of government” hearings. He has finally revealed the identity of some of his secret “whistleblowers.” The New York Times published information on today’s expected witnesses. The gist: these whistleblowers either participated in or supported Trump’s January 6, 2021 coup attempt.
From the NYT story by Alan Feuer: F.B.I. Revokes Security Clearances of 3 Agents Over Jan. 6 Issues.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has revoked the security clearances of three agents who either took part in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or later expressed views about it that placed into question their “allegiance to the United States,” the bureau said on Wednesday in a letter to congressional investigators.
The letter, written by a top official at the F.B.I., came one day before at least two of the agents — Marcus Allen and Stephen Friend — were set to testify in front of a House Judiciary subcommittee investigating what Republicans contend is the “weaponization” of the federal government against conservatives.
For several months, Republican lawmakers have been courting F.B.I. agents who they believe support their contentions that the bureau and other federal agencies have been turned against former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters both before and after the Capitol attack.
Some of the agents have come forward as self-described whistle-blowers and taken steps like writing a letter to the leaders of the F.B.I. complaining about ways in which the bureau has discriminated against conservatives.
The agents who had their security clearances revoked — Mr. Allen, Mr. Friend and a third man, Brett Gloss — have all been suspended by the F.B.I. as the bureau reviews their cases, according to congressional investigators.
Why were these agents suspended?
Mr. Gloss’s top-secret clearance was revoked two weeks ago after bureau investigators determined that while moving with the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, he entered a restricted area of the Capitol grounds — a violation of federal law….
Mr. Allen’s top-secret security clearance was revoked after the bureau found that he had “expressed sympathy for persons or organizations that advocate, threaten or use force or violence,” the letter said. F.B.I. investigators determined that Mr. Allen had sent an email from his bureau account to several colleagues months after the Capitol attack, urging them to “exercise extreme caution and discretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events of” Jan. 6, the letter said….
Mr. Friend, whose security clearance was revoked on Tuesday, had refused last summer to take part in a SWAT arrest of a Jan. 6 suspect who was facing misdemeanor charges. Mr. Friend had taken the position that the raid represented an excessive use of force.
“I have an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Mr. Friend, a 12-year veteran of the bureau, told his supervisors when he declined to join the operation on Aug. 24 in Jacksonville, Fla. “I have a moral objection and want to be considered a conscientious objector.”
More interesting stories to check out:
NBC News: New House bill would block pay for members of Congress if the U.S. defaults.
The Washington Post: School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison.
The Daily Beast: PEN America And Penguin Sue Over Florida’s Book Bans.
AP News: Trust in Supreme Court fell to lowest point in 50 years after abortion decision, poll shows.
Guest essay by Randal D. Eliason at The New York Times: Why the Supreme Court Is Blind to Its Own Corruption.
The Daily Beast: GOP Congressman [Clay Higgins] Manhandles Protester During Boebert Event.
Politico: Trump 2020 lawyer indicated he may be target of Fulton County probe, court docs say.
That’s it for me. What stories have captured your interest today.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: February 11, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, Donald Trump, just because | Tags: Alaska, children with guns, classified documents, Evan Corcoran, grand jury, gun violence, Mike Pence, Turkey/Syria earthquake, unidentified high altitude object 28 Comments
I have a mixed bag of reads for you today: some stories about the terrible earthquake in Turkey and Syria, including a long read about the situation in Syria; a long read about the case of a six-year-old in Virginia who shot his teacher; a story about the still-unidentified flying object shot down over Alaska, and some new Trump investigation stories.
AP News: Survivors still being found as quake death toll tops 25,000.
ANTAKYA, Turkey (AP) — Rescue crews on Saturday pulled more survivors, including entire families, from toppled buildings despite diminishing hopes as the death toll of the enormous quake that struck a border region of Turkey and Syria five days ago surpassed 25,000.
Dramatic rescues were being broadcast on Turkish television, including the rescue of the Narli family in central Kahramanmaras 133 hours after the 7.8-magnitude temblor struck Monday. First, 12-year-old Nehir Naz Narli was saved, then both of her parents.
That followed the rescue earlier in the day of a family of five from a mound of debris in the hard-hit town of Nurdagi, in Gaziantep province, TV network HaberTurk reported. Rescuers cheered and chanted, “God is Great!” as the last family member, the father, was lifted to safety.
Turkish President Recep Tayypi Erdogan, on a tour of quake-stricken cities, raised the death toll in Turkey to 21,848, which pushed the total number of dead across the region, including government and rebel-held parts of Syria, to 25,401….
Still, the day brought one astonishing rescue after another, numbering more than a dozen.
Melisa Ulku, a woman in her 20s, was extricated from the rubble in Elbistan in the 132th hour since the quake, following the rescue of another person at the same site in the same hour. Ahead of her rescue, police announced that people shouldn’t cheer or clap in order to not interfere with other rescue efforts nearby. She was covered in a thermal blanket on a stretcher. Rescuers were hugging. Some shouted “God is great!”
Just an hour earlier, a 3-year-old girl and her father were pulled from debris in the town of Islahiye, also in Gaziantep province, and soon after a 7-year-old girl was rescued in the province of Hatay.
The rescues brought shimmers of joy amid overwhelming devastation days after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake and a powerful aftershock hours later caused thousands of buildings to collapse, killing more than 25,000, injuring another 80,000 and leaving millions homeless.
This is a long Washington Post article by Louisa Loveluck about the earthquake aftermath in Syria: In earthquake-battered Syria, a desperate wait for help that never came.
JINDERIS, Syria — It took four days and nights after the earthquake for the rubble to fall silent here. The strongest voices belonged to the women, residents said. Parted from their children, or fighting to save them, they screamed until their lungs gave out.
In this forgotten pocket of rebel-held northwest Syria, there were no international rescue workers to save them. No aid shipments brought painkillers to the survivors when stocks ran low. Just six miles away, across the border in Turkey, thousands of tons of relief poured in; support teams from as far away as Taiwan answered the Turkish government’s call for help. But Syria, divided against itself and isolated from much of the world, was left to pick up the pieces alone, as it has again and again over more than a decade of war and dislocation.
In the shattered town of Jinderis, at least 850 bodies had been recovered by Friday morning. Although hundreds are still missing, few believed there were any lives left to save. “We needed help here, we asked for help here,” said the town’s mayor, Mahmoud Hafar. “It never came.”
On Friday, the Bab Al-Salama border crossing into Syria was almost empty. A single ambulance with flashing lights was waiting to enter. The only Syrians crossing back were those being returned to their families in body bags.
On a rare visit to this Syrian enclave, controlled by Turkish-backed armed groups, The Washington Post found communities gripped by shock and bewilderment, and very much alone. In Jinderis, fathers stood watch over the remains of their homes and told of waking up to find their wives and children dead. As hulking excavators clawed the rubble, searching for a 13-year old boy, a man asked reporters to help him contact the United Nations for help. “Maybe they don’t know what happened in Jinderis,” he said. “No one could see this and not come here.”
This part of Syria has endured crisis after crisis, home to millions of people who have braved war and displacement, hunger and disease. Even before the earthquake, 4.1 million here required humanitarian assistance.
Heartbreaking. Read the rest at the WaPo. There are also many photographs the story.
USA Today has a story about how the Turkey/Syria earthquake compares to others in recent history:100 years of earthquakes: Turkey, Syria disaster could be among this century’s worst.
More than 25,000 people have been killed and the death toll is expected to rise after two earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6. The quakes have become one of this century’s worst natural disasters.
More than 75,000 people have been injured. International rescue efforts from the U.N. and other organizations continue.
The two earthquakes, near the Syrian border, had magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5. They struck about nine hours apart and were the strongest quakes recorded in Turkey in 80 years.
USA TODAY examined earthquake patterns over the past 100 years and how the unfolding tragedy in Turkey and Syria compares. Here is what we found.
See maps and charts at the USA Today link.
The Virginia Six-Year Old Who Shot His Teacher
This is a very interesting investigative piece about the case of a six-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher. I can’t do it justice with excerpts, but I’ll give you a taste, and hope you’ll go read the rest.
Hannah Natanson and Justin Jouvenal at The Washington Post: How Richneck Elementary failed to stop a 6-year-old from shooting his teacher.
Teachers’ fears about the 6-year-old date backto his kindergarten year, when he tried to strangle his teacher, according to a letter Zwerner’s attorney sent to the school system Jan. 24 announcing her intent to sue. The letter was first reported by the Daily Press.
“The shooter had been removed from the school a year prior after he chokedhis teacher until she couldn’t breathe,” says the letter, obtained by The Post through a public records request. It was not immediately clear how a boy so young could have choked an adult. The Post was not able to learn other details of the incident and authorities have not released information about the boy.
Early this fall, as Richneck teachers sought to settle their new crop of students inside the low-slung red-brick building nestled amid trees, news of the 6-year-old’s troubled history circulated swiftly among the staff, according to text messages between teachers.
Less than a week into September, officials switched the 6-year-old to a half-day schedule due to misbehavior — but administrators were already lagging in efforts to accommodate the student, according to Toscano’s letter and to text messages sent between Zwerner and a friend of hers who teaches at the school.
It was not clear what specific incident triggered the schedule change.Toscano wrote in her letter that the 6-year-old “constantly cursed at the staff and teachers and then one day took off his belt on the playground and chased kids trying to whip them.”
What was going on in this child’s home life? It certainly seems as if abuse could be a clue to his behavior. And how was he able to get his hands on his mother’s gun, which she claimed was locked in her bedroom closet?
Text messages and a photo shared between teachers show that a student in Zwerner’s class reportedly hit a teacher so hard with a chair that her legs became dotted with green and purple bruises — and that, at another point, a kindergartner was accused of pushing a pregnant teacher to the ground and kicking her in the stomach so hard that she feared for her unborn child, two weeks shy of giving birth. It was not immediately clear how administrators responded to those episodes, although one educator wrote in a text this fall that the bruised teacher had “heard nothing from admin.”
On Nov. 9, the second-grade teacher wrote in a text message to a colleague that she was applying to work in another district because of “how bad the first graders are right now put together with the fact we don’t have doors.”
Yes, you read that right. The classrooms didn’t have doors because the administration said it would cost too much to put them in.
Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s lawyer, has said teachers relayed several warnings to administrators on the morning of the shooting, including at least three reports that the boy had a gun. The Post interviewed a kindergartner who said the boy threatened to punch her at lunch that day and that she informed a staffer — but that the staffer did little more than give the boy a verbal warning.
In the direct aftermath of the shooting, two second-grade classes were left briefly wandering the hallways in search of a safe place to hide because their classroom was not equipped with doors and they had not rehearsed safety drills, according to one second-grade teacher, one fifth-grade teacher and a parent of a second-grade student, as well as text messages obtained by The Post. A second-grade teacher told The Post she had asked to have doors installed but administrators refused, saying the doors would be too expensive.
As someone who attended elementary school in the 1950s, I can’t begin to comprehend what is happening these days. Not only do we have teenagers and adults committing school shootings; there are also 6-10 year-old kid bringing guns to school and even killing other kids. I hope you’ll read this story; it’s both frightening and fascinating.
High-Altitude Flying Object Over Alaska
The New York Times: U.S. Shoots Down High-Altitude Object Over Alaska.
The Pentagon said it shot down an unidentified object over frozen waters around Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden, less than a week after a U.S. fighter jet brought down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic in an episode that increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.
U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm whether the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.
At a news conference on Friday, John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden ordered the unidentified object near Alaska downed “out of an abundance of caution.” [….]
Pentagon officials said they were able to immediately bring down the object over water, so they could easily avoid the dilemma posed by the spy balloon drifting over populated areas, which had prompted commanders to recommend to Mr. Biden to wait to shoot down the machine in order to avoid any chance of debris hitting people on the ground.
Three U.S. officials said that as of Friday evening, the government did not know who owned or sent the object seen above Alaska, which, like the Chinese balloon last week, was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet using a Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
Several officials said they believed the object shot down Friday was a balloon, but a Defense Department official said it broke into pieces when it hit the frozen sea, which added to the mystery of whether it was indeed a balloon, a drone or something else.
Mr. Kirby said that the object was “much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday” and that “the way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car, as opposed to the payload that was like two or three buses.”
So we still don’t know what this object was. Maybe we’ll find out today.
CNN: Trump team turns over additional classified records and laptop to federal prosecutors.
Former President Donald Trump’s legal team turned over more materials with classified markings and a laptop belonging to an aide to federal prosecutors in recent months, multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CNN.
The Trump attorneys also handed over an empty folder marked “Classified Evening Briefing,” sources said.
The previously undisclosed handovers – from December and January – suggest the protracted effort by the Justice Department to repossess records from Trump’s presidency may not be done.
The Trump attorneys discovered pages with classified markingsin December, while searching through boxes at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence. The lawyers subsequently handed the materials over to the Justice Department.
A Trump aide had previously copied those same pages onto a thumb drive and laptop, not realizing they were classified, sources said. The laptop, which belonged to an aide, who works for Save America PAC, and the thumb drive were also given to investigators in January.
Excuse me, how do we know that Trump didn’t order the aide to copy the documents? And how do we know there aren’t other electronic copies out there? I just can’t believe that Trump never shared any of those stolen documents.
NPR: FBI finds an additional classified document during ‘consensual’ search of Pence’s home.
The FBI confirmed it found an additional classified document during a search Friday at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.
The search for classified documents as well as materials that aren’t classified but are subject to the Presidential Records Act lasted about five hours. Agents removed one document with classified markings plus six additional pages without classification markings.
The consensual search follows a discovery, relayed by Pence’s representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration last month, that documents bearing classified markings had been, they said, “inadvertently” boxed up and found in the former vice president’s home in Indiana.
This is big news from The New York Times: Trump Lawyer in Mar-a-Lago Search Appeared Before Grand Jury.
A lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump appeared before a federal grand jury investigating his handling of sensitive government documents that he took to his Mar-a-Lago club and residence after he left office, two people briefed on the matter said on Friday.
The lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, a member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who handled his responses to the government over its repeated requests for the return of such records, could offer firsthand knowledge of the search the F.B.I. undertook in August and any insights into whether Mr. Trump knew that documents remained at the club.
Mr. Corcoran did not respond to a request for comment. And it was not immediately clear when and under what circumstances he appeared. His appearance was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Corcoran has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials assuring them that Mr. Trump had returned all classified materials in his possession.
As part of Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Corcoran was in discussions with the Justice Department in January 2022, after the National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of presidential material from Mar-a-Lago containing nearly 200 individual classified documents.
In May 2022, Mr. Corcoran was in touch with the department after a grand jury subpoena was issued for any remaining classified material that Mr. Trump retained. He was also on hand the next month when the top Justice Department counterintelligence official visited Mar-a-Lago and collected more than 30 additional classified documents.
At the time, another lawyer working for Mr. Trump, Christina Bobb, signed a statement attesting that a “diligent search” for all remaining classified documents had been conducted and that what was turned over was all that remained. The attestation was drafted by Mr. Corcoran, but Ms. Bobb added language to it to make it less ironclad before signing it, according to people familiar with what took place.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman explained to MSNBC’s Joy Reid the significance of former Vice President Mike Pence’s cooperation with the Justice Department, as it subpoenas him for information in the January 6 investigation.
Above all, Akerman said, we are approaching the unprecedented possibility that a former vice president may have to testify at the criminal trial of his former president.
“If you had [Pence], you know, as you said, for hours and hours, and hours, what would you want to ask him?” asked Reid. “Myself personally, I would also want to know what the Secret Service agents were saying, did you trust them? Because this could be about Donald Trump, but it could also be about some of them. What would you want to know?”
“Yeah, I think we want to know exactly what his suspicion was based on,” said Akerman. “I mean, why did he think they were trying to whisk him out of the Capitol so quickly? Was it one of the people that was close to Donald Trump that was in charge of doing that? Did somebody say something to him? I mean, I’m sure he knew that part of this whole plot was to stop that vote, stop the Congress from considering the electoral count. And that one way to do it was to get him off premises, get him out of the Capitol. So I think, you know, he probably did have other conversations with people.”
“I mean, don’t forget, once Mike Pence told him there’s no way no how I’m gonna do this, Donald Trump knew that the only way he was going to stop this whole count was through the violence, through the disruption in the chaos that ensued at the Capitol and that one of the ways to do it of course was to get Mike Pence out of the Capitol as a result of all this violence and used the Secret Service as a foil and an excuse to do that,” continued Akerman.
I hope you find something here that interests you. What other stories have you been following?
Monday Reads: Dystopian ParadisePosted: January 30, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: classified documents, Conservative Republican Sexual Battery and Child Rape, Election Tampering Trump Style, Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, The Jan 6 Insurrection 18 Comments
I spent Saturday night with my neighbors watching the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus for my first Carnivale parade since the one that spread Covid-19 to the city at its onset. It’s entirely based on whatever fantasy, SF movie, or book tickles your fancy. It kicks off with the Dancing Leias and the psychedelic statue of Chewbacca! The actor that played the Star Wars character– Peter Mayhew–was the king of the Parade the last time I saw this parade coming down my street. It’s huge and quite diverse now! I guess everyone wants to be in an alternative reality these days!
Once I looked at this morning’s news, I realized the Congressional Republicans are dragging us into a dystopian nightmare of political beefs and conspiracy theories. It’s hard to know where to start but let’s try this as the first read of the week.
I saw a tweet last week from Matt Schlap that the CPAC shitshow would feature Steven Bannon. I keep wondering if either of them will stay out of jail long enough to be there. Today there was this analysis from Bryan Metzger at Insider. “Republicans are mostly ignoring a $9.4 million sexual assault lawsuit against the Trump-aligned head of CPAC.” This begs the question, whose grooming who?
In just over one month, the Conservative Political Action Coalition is set to hold a large gathering of influential Republicans at its annual conference near Washington, DC.
Dozens of GOP members of Congress are likely to attend, if previous years offer any indication, and the conference’s chief organizer — American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp — has already begun to roll out scheduled speakers.
That’s despite Schlapp being the subject of a $9.4 million lawsuit: a man who worked as a mid-level staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has accused Schlapp of sexually assaulting him after a night of drinking in October, as first reported by The Daily Beast.
“I will never forget the look on Matt’s face as he did what he did,” the staffer told Insider in a recent interview, describing Schlapp’s “smug look of satisfaction” as he allegedly groped and fondled the man’s genital area at length. “That’s something that will be burned into my mind for the rest of my days.”
As with other media outlets, Insider is maintaining the anonymity of the accuser, who’s worked in Republican politics for over 10 years, in order to protect his livelihood.
The staffer’s complaint filing, a copy of which was obtained by Insider, also includes defamation and conspiracy charges that implicate Schlapp’s wife and fellow CPAC employee, Mercedes Schlapp. And it threatens to cast a shadow over what is typically a marquee event in conservative politics.
Sexual assault is a pastime of the super-religious. We’re still waiting to hear about the many complaints filed against Southern Baptists around the country, including these two from the Duck Dicks part of Louisiana.
A nearly 300-page report detailing years of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention from ministers was released in May.
The report, a result of a seven-month investigation by Guidepost Solutions, detailed a credible allegation of sexual assault against former SBC President Johnny Hunt one month after his term ended in 2010 and how high-ranking staff maintained a list with the names of ministers accused of sexual misconduct but did nothing about it.
SBC published a list of accused abusive ministers on May 26. The listed included Jason Cooper, former pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Rayville and Victor Mitchell, former pastor of Old Mount Olive Baptist Church in Oak Ridge. Both were convicted in August 2009 of indecent behavior with a juvenile and oral sexual battery.
Michael Wood, lead pastor of the First West Church, referred to the report as “heartbreaking” and “infuriating” in a prepared statement.
First West Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. The church has campuses in West Monroe, Fairbanks and Calhoun, and was not named in the report.
“Seeing former senior leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention place the protection of an institution over the protection of children and the care for survivors is maddening,” Wood said in the statement. “Our hope and expectation is with heartfelt repentance, new senior leadership, and the strong resolve of the people of the SBC who are willing to do what’s right regardless of the cost, the SBC will adopt the provided recommendations for necessary change.”
The Catholic church is still dealing with the fallout of its scandal, uncovered decades ago. Wherever there is an uneven balance of power, there is sexual battery.
Then, there are the scandals we’re still dealing with from the past few years of Trump. The state of Georgia may be the first to bring him to reckoning. Some in the Republican party are hoping that it happens. This is from The Atlantic. This analysis is from McKay Coppins. It’s about how badly many Republicans want to be rid of him. “Republicans’ 2024 Magical Thinking. Lots of Republicans want Donald Trump to disappear from politics. Their main strategy is hope.” The weird thing is, why is it that all they appear to be concerned with is the “three abysmal election cycles” and not the insurrection, the major grifting, the international embarrassment, and the Russian connections?
Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials—even the ones with MAGA hats in their closets and Mar-a-Lago selfies in their Twitter avatar—will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem. He’s presided over three abysmal election cycles since he took office, he is more unstable than ever, and yet he returned to the campaign trail this past weekend, declaring that he is “angry” and determined to win the GOP presidential nomination again in 2024. Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It’s time to move on from Trump.
But ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals. Maybe he’ll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he’ll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He’s old, after all—how many years can he have left?
This magical thinking pervaded my recent conversations with more than a dozen current and former elected GOP officials and party strategists. Faced with the prospect of another election cycle dominated by Trump and uncertain that he can actually be beaten in the primaries, many Republicans are quietly rooting for something to happen that will make him go away. And they would strongly prefer not to make it happen themselves.
“There is a desire for deus ex machina,” said one GOP consultant, who, like others I interviewed, requested anonymity to characterize private conversations taking place inside the party. “It’s like 2016 all over again, only more fatalistic.”
The scenarios Republicans find themselves fantasizing about range from the far-fetched to the morbid. In his recent book Thank You for Your Servitude, my colleague Mark Leibovich quoted a former Republican representative who bluntly summarized his party’s plan for dealing with Trump: “We’re just waiting for him to die.” As it turns out, this is not an uncommon sentiment. In my conversations with Republicans, I heard repeatedly that the least disruptive path to getting rid of Trump, grim as it sounds, might be to wait for his expiration.
Aren’t we all just waiting for him to die? The AP has an update on the possible upcoming indictments coming from Georgia.
Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been put on notice by a prosecutor, but the warning didn’t come from anyone at the Justice Department.
It was from a Georgia prosecutor who indicated she was likely to seek criminal charges soon in a two-year election subversion probe. In trying to block the release of a special grand jury’s report, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in court last week that decisions in the case were “imminent” and that the report’s publication could jeopardize the rights of “future defendants.”
Though Willis, a Democrat, didn’t mention Trump by name, her comments marked the first time a prosecutor in any of several current investigations tied to the Republican former president has hinted that charges could be forthcoming. The remarks ratcheted anticipation that an investigation focused, in part, on Trump’s call with Georgia’s secretary of state could conclude before ongoing federal probes.
“I expect to see indictments in Fulton County before I see any federal indictments,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.
I want to see a photo of Trump in an orange jumpsuit that isn’t photoshopped and wishful. The Feds are taking a long time to time dissect the Insurrection. Here’s an interesting OpEd read from the New York Times. “Donald Trump Isn’t the Only One to Blame for the Capitol Riot. I’d Know.” This is written by served as senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee and worked on drafting its final report.”
As an investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 Committee’s “Red” Team, which investigated the people who planned and attended the riot, as well as the domestic extremist groups responsible for much of the violence, I tracked more than 900 individuals charged by the Department of Justice with everything from parading in the Capitol to seditious conspiracy. We interviewed roughly 30 of those defendants about their motives. What my team and I learned, and what we did not have the capacity to detail with specificity in the report, is how distrust of the political establishment led many of the rioters to believe that only revolution could save America.
It wasn’t just that they wanted to contest a supposedly stolen election as Mr. Trump called them to do, they wanted to punish the judges, members of Congress, and law enforcement agencies — the so-called political elites — who had discredited Mr. Trump’s claims. One rioter wondered why he should trust anything the F.B.I., D.O.J., or any other federal entity said about the results. The federal government had worked against everyday Americans for years, the rioters told us, favoring entrenched elites with its policies. For many defendants — both those awash in conspiracy theories, as well as some of the more reasonable Trump supporters at the Capitol that day — a stolen election was simply the logical conclusion of years of federal malfeasance.
With the legitimacy of democracy so degraded, revolution appeared logical. As Russell James Peterson, a rioter who pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing” in the Capitol, said on Dec. 4, 2020, “the only way to restore balance and peace is through war. Too much trust has been lost in our great nation.” Guy Reffitt, who earned seven years in prison for leading the charge up the Capitol steps while carrying a firearm, made a similar case later that month: “The government has spent decades committing treason.” The following week, he drove 20 hours to “do what needs to be done” because there were “bad people,” “disgusting people,” in the Capitol. Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, like their leader Stewart Rhodes, had long believed that a corrupt group of left-wing elites were preparing to upend American freedoms and that only militias like themselves could save the Constitution. Their loss of faith in the federal government had led them to the delusion that their seditious behavior to keep Mr. Trump in power was patriotic.
Strikingly, these comments came not only from domestic violent extremists; some came from people who appeared to be ordinary Americans. Dona Sue Bissey, a grandmother and hair salon owner from Indiana, said shortly after the attack that she was “very glad” to have been a part of the insurrection; Anthony Robert Williams, a painter from Michigan, called Jan. 6 the “proudest day of my life.”
Frankly, I cross the street to avoid anyone remotely appearing to be a MAGA sort. They scare the shit out of me.
And, of course, we’re still following the Great Classified Documents heist! This is from The Daily Beast. “How the Trump Document Scandal Became a Congressional Pissing Match. “Lawmakers wanted a briefing assessing the damage of former President Donald Trump mishandling classified documents. Then politics happened.”
When classified documents were found at former President Donald Trump’s mansion in September, the chairmen of Congress’s Intelligence Committees wanted a “damage assessment” about how Trump hoarding those documents may have hindered national security. The assessment never happened. And according to two sources familiar with internal conversations, party politics is to blame.
For a variety of reasons, congressional leaders delayed what one source called a “hot potato” just long enough to turn it into a messy, partisan debacle. And in recent weeks, when improperly stored classified documents were found at the homes of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, what was supposed to be a secret and sober exercise in oversight quickly became a fountain of false equivalencies, according to former intelligence officials.
“Let’s do it individually, because there’s a difference,” said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden. “Trump was lying for more than a year… but he didn’t go and talk to the archives. Biden immediately [did], and so did the vice president.”
Hayden, who led the NSA and CIA for a decade, stressed that top legislators should have been quickly looped into any potential fallout from Trump’s decision to hoard some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets.
“It’s important to know the truth. Sooner or later, they’ve got to do that,” he told The Daily Beast.
David Dayen has this to say at American Prospect. “Presidential Document Scandals Should Take Down America’s Secrecy Industry. We classify way too many documents. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the takeaway from recent events.”
Somewhere in Plains, Georgia, an aide or 98-year-old Jimmy Carter himself is rifling through old boxes, searching for any document from the late 1970s marked “classified.” I’m not sure what threats there are to the Republic from high-level information about Rhodesia or the Warsaw Pact slowly decomposing in a filing cabinet, but the National Archives is on the case, directing former presidents and vice presidents to scour their properties for any official secrets. (Carter has found classified documents “on at least one occasion” and returned them quietly to the Archives, according to the Associated Press.)
America has a problem with classified information. But this problem isn’t the one you’ve been hearing about for the past few weeks, with the revelations of President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence turning up documents improperly stored in their homes and offices. It’s also different from the problem of Donald Trump hoarding classified information at Mar-a-Lago—though the circumstances of Trump asserting the right to take the documents and obstructing the efforts of the Archives to take them back make what he did qualitatively different, and far worse.
No, the problem with classified information is that there’s so much of it, so much useless, meritless, groundless classified information. Tens of millions of pieces of paper are so labeled, millions of people can see them, and yet the vast majority of such material would not remotely endanger the nation if it entered the wrong hands. In fact, much of it is just plain embarrassing to the government, or worse, a cover-up of illegal acts.
I’ll end with this from the Washington Post. A serious discussion of Critical Race theory is basically on the front page. Good for the country! ” Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.”
For the mother of Tyre Nichols, the fact that five Memphis police officers charged with beating her son are also Black has compounded her sorrow as she tries to cope with his violent death at age 29.
“It makes it even harder to swallow,” RowVaughn Wells said in an interview last week, “because they are Black and they know what we have to go through.”
The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has prompted a complex grappling among Black activists and advocates for police reform about the pervasiveness of institutional racism in policing. Nichols died three days after he was pulled out of his car Jan. 7, kicked, punched and struck with a baton on a quiet neighborhood street by Black officers, whose aggressive assault was captured on body-camera videos released Friday.
The widely viewed videos of the Nichols beating provided fodder for right-wing media ecosystems that routinely blame Black America’s maladies on Black America, and spawned nuanced conversations among Black activists about how systemic racism can manifest in the actions of non-White people.
The Memphis Police Department, which has nearly 2,000 officers, is 58 percent Black, the result of a decades-long effort to field a police force that resembles the city’s 64 percent Black population. Unlike in several recent high-profile police brutality cases, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who is Black, and other officials acted swiftly in firing, arresting and charging the Memphis officers in advance of the release of video footage.
Though some studies have shown that police officers of color use force less frequently against Black civilians than their White counterparts, analysts say the improvement is marginal.
“Diversifying law enforcement is certainly not going to solve this problem,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, president of Mapping Police Violence.
He pointed to many factors in the policing system that lead to a disproportionate response against people of color: directives to work in neighborhoods where more people of color live and a system that relies on the discretion of the officer to enforce things like traffic stops, opening the door for internal biases to play a role.
Watching that video was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. In some ways, watching a parade of my neighbors dressed up, playing make-believe, enjoying the entire experience with their kids, and seeing smiles everywhere seemed more real than the dystopian headlines of today’s Monday Reads. Don’t even get me started on the Republican-imposed Debt Crisis.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday Reads: Sunshine on a Cloudy DayPosted: January 16, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: Biden, classified documents, George Santos, Santos and kidnapped asylum seekers, Trump, Trump and MBS, Trump and stolen classified Documents 12 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!
There are some interesting articles and analyses today so let’s get started!
Jessica Levinson at MSNBC has this to say about the classified documents and the media’s false equivalencies between the last two presidents. ” Investigations into classified docs should leave Trump more worried than Biden. Don’t focus on the headlines in the investigations into classified documents held by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Focus on the details.”
There’s a line in an old song that goes, “Lawyers dwell on small details.” It’s true. The law is all about details. From one perspective, two cases may appear similar, but depending on the details, they can be very different.”
Classified documents were found at the offices and homes of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden from the time he was vice president. In November Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to lead the investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Thursday, after reports that classified documents from his vice presidency had been found at Biden’s home and office, Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate that matter.
So far, the stories look similar. Neither Biden nor Trump should have been in possession of classified documents after they left office. These are the people’s documents, not theirs.
But because the law concerns itself with details, not headlines, the similarities mostly stop there.
As a former president, Trump might be indicted, but perhaps the most important reason Biden is unlikely to face indictment or criminal prosecution is he’s currently president. As we know all too well from the four years of the Trump administration, the Justice Department has a policy against indicting sitting presidents. An opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel, a division of the Justice Department, provides that charging the president with a crime would “unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
The GOP now controls the House of Representatives, and we know members of that party have been raring to go to investigate and possibly impeach Biden. But impeaching Biden for possessing classified documents would be improper for two reasons. First, there is a good argument to be made that people can only be impeached for misconduct committed while in office. Biden’s retention of classified documents occurred after he left the vice presidency and before he assumed the presidency. Second, impeachment is only available when the subject of the impeachment has engaged in “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
After a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant.
For reasons discussed below, Biden’s conduct is unlikely to be characterized as criminal, even if he weren’t the sitting president. There is also plenty of reason to believe that Trump will or at least ought to be. Consider what each did after being alerted that he might be in possession of classified documents.
Trump reportedly ignored multiple requests from the National Archives for those documents, and after a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant. Prosecutors have also argued that Trump’s team tried to hide the documents found at Mar-a-Lago before and after the subpoena was issued.
Reportedly, in Biden’s case, the White House counsel alerted the National Archives as soon as classified documents were found at Biden’s former office in November. The National Archives didn’t ask; Biden’s team offered.
Then that team searched for any additional documents that belonged to the government. It found additional files at Biden’s residence in December and more last week, before the White House announced Saturday that additional documents had been found Thursday. The Biden story is one of cooperation, not obstruction.
The contrast was muddied this weekend in the Sunday Shows. There’s an outline of what various Congressional Representatives said at Politico written by Eugene Daniels. “POLITICO Playbook: Three storylines to watch in Biden’s document drama.” Evidently, some Republicans still believe that someone that obviously obstructed the return of stolen documents deserves the same treatment as one that immediately notified the Archives of their existence and fully cooperated.
GOP investigations are inevitable, and they will be ferocious. Rep. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.), the newly minted chair of the House Oversight Committee, released a statement yesterday hammering Biden and promising an investigation.
“Many questions need to be answered but one thing is certain: oversight is coming,” Comer said. “The Biden White House’s secrecy in this matter is alarming. Equally alarming is the fact that Biden aides were combing through documents knowing there would be a Special Counsel appointed.”
Comer is now requesting additional documents and communications “related to the searches of President Joe Biden’s homes and other locations by Biden aides for classified documents, as well as the visitor log of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home from January 20, 2021 to present,” per CNN’s Daniella Diaz.
The exchange of the morning came as Comer appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, which offered a preview of how Republicans will approach the issue, especially vis-a-vis Trump.
Tapper: “Do you only care about classified documents being mishandled when Democrats do the mishandling?”
Comer: “Absolutely not. … At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is there’s such a discrepancy between how President Trump was treated … versus Joe Biden.” Watch the video
The Washington Post has an exclusive today. “New details link George Santos to cousin of sanctioned Russian oligarch. The New York congressman once claimed Andrew Intrater’s company was his “client,” while another Intrater company allegedly made a deposit with a firm where Santos worked. Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rosalind S. Helderman share the byline.
George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied about his biography, has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to video footage and court documents.
Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Intrater’s cousin is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the Russian energy industry.
The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year.
Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos’ onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme. Neither Santos nor Intrater responded to requests for comment. Attorneys who have represented Intrater also did not respond.
And speaking of “business dealings,” this is from DAWN. “U.S.: Investigate New Evidence of President Trump’s Business Dealings with MBS . Multimillion-dollar payments from LIV Golf, Reportedly 93% owned by MBS-Controlled Fund, to Trump Golf Resorts Raise Serious Questions about Conflict of Interest, Threats to National Security.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and Congress should investigate the disturbing facts and circumstances surrounding payments by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), via its wholly-owned LIV Golf company, to businesses owned by former President Donald Trump, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
On January 13, 2023, Elliot Peters, a name partner at Keker, a prominent San Francisco law firm, who is lead counsel to the PGA in the players’ lawsuit, inadvertently revealed in a court proceeding that PIF owns 93% of LIV Golf, pays for all of its events, and holds all of the entity’s financial risk. PIF’s chairman is Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), who has absolute and final decision-making control over the fund. LIV Golf is a newly established golf tournament franchise that has emerged as a rival to PGA Golf. It has paid Trump-owned golf resorts unknown millions of dollars to hold its events there, and former President Trump has publicly championed the new league, made prominent appearances at its events, and urged PGA players to sign on with LIV Golf.
“The revelation that a fund controlled by Crown Prince MBS actually owns almost all of LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. “The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favors to him are as dangerous as they are shocking.”
The information about LIV Golf was otherwise kept sealed in the secret shareholder agreement between PIF and LIV Golf, although LIV Golf had previously disclosed that the PIF was its majority shareholder. There has been no independent verification of the ownership percentages reportedly revealed in court. It is not known who owns the other seven percent of LIV Golf. LIV Golf Players and LIV Golf have sued PGA for suspending PGA players who have signed contracts with LIV Golf, and PGA has sued LIV Golf and the PIF for interfering with its players’ contracts. MBS is the chairman of PIF and has absolute decision-making power over its investments.
There is little doubt that MBS controls the PIF with as much absolute power as he controls the rest of the country, with final decision-making on all of PIF’s investments. When PIF’s advisory panel objected to PIF’s $2 billion investment in Trump’s son-in-law’s newly established fund, Affinity Partners, MBS reportedly vetoed the objections to proceed with the controversial investment as the only investor in a start-up fund that had no track record. Following DAWN’s demand for Congress to investigate this investment, as well as the $1 billion PIF investment in Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin’s newly established fund, Senator Warren announced she would commence an investigation into conflict of interest breaches and ethics law violations that bar solicitation of foreign government officials while in office.
“Former President Trump made no secret of the endless favors he granted MBS and Saudi Arabia during his term in office, from his first state visit to the country, to vetoing legislation that would have banned arms sales to the country, to protecting MBS by hiding the CIA’s report concluding MBS ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” said Whitson. “It now appears that like his son-in-law and treasury secretary, Trump is cashing in his chits with MBS for all these favors.”
DAWN stands for Democracy for the Arab World Now. It’s an advocacy group founded by Jamal Khashoggi, an American Journalist brutally murdered at the request of MBS in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
Further down the Republican food chain, we have this headline by Caleb Newton writing for Bipartisan Report:. “Legal Action Against Ron DeSantis For Migrant Trafficking Upheld By Judge.”
Florida Judge John C. Cooper has upheld a lawsuit filed in his personal capacity by a Democratic state Senator from the south of the state challenging the legal framework GOP Governor Ron DeSantis used for transports last year of migrants from Texas to a community in Massachusetts.
The trip, which was evidently facilitated without any prior notice to local leaders or members of the community where the migrants arrived, although residents quickly mobilized to help those involved, mirrored high-profile efforts by other Republican governors. That list includes Greg Abbott of Texas, whose administration was responsible for a trip that saw migrants arrive in temperatures below freezing outside the D.C. residence of the vice president on Christmas Eve. With the trip for which DeSantis was responsible and other ventures, concerns have also circulated about potential deception targeting those the organizers were trying to cajole into joining the voluntary trips, including about basic facts like the eventual destination.
In Florida, the case from Democrat Jason Pizzo challenges the process by which the state set aside $12 million for the transport of migrants. Also at issue in general has been that the transports designated for support by those funds originate in Florida, but the migrants the DeSantis team ferried to Massachusetts started their trek in Texas, although the venture made a brief stop of under an hour in Florida itself. Pizzo argues a new initiative of the substance seen in something like the funds for transports for migrants requires a separate legislative effort rather than mere inclusion in routine budgeting.
The Miami Herald noted the state team argued the budgetary provisions were actually just expanding on a law imposing restrictions on state partnerships with individuals transporting certain migrants into Florida unless detaining or removing those individuals from Florida or the United States. The thing is — that other law was signed after the budget, so no argument about the two building off each other would inherently solve the fact that such isn’t how time works.
Cooper scheduled the trial in Pizzo’s case to start at the end of this month, on January 30. The DeSantis team specifically — and unsuccessfully — sought the case’s dismissal. Separately, the Florida governor has already faced a raft of other scrutiny over the endeavor, including confirmation from the oversight official known as an inspector general at the federal Treasury Department that they would be looking at DeSantis’s usage of interest derived from federal relief funds connected to COVID-19 for the flights. That official spoke to the situation after an inquiry from members of the Congressional delegation from Massachusetts.
Nothing like a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Thursday Reads: A Mixed BagPosted: January 12, 2023 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: classified documents, CPAC, Herschel Walker staffer, Hunter Biden, hypocrisy, Jeff Beck, Jim Jordan, Joe Biden, Matt Schlapp 23 Comments
There isn’t any big overarching story dominating today’s news, so I have a mixed bag of articles to share.
I’m going to begin with a story that should be a huge scandal, but the mainstream media and cable news stations have been slow to cover it–I’m not sure why. I posted the story a couple of times here after Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast broke it on January 5: Herschel Walker Staffer: Matt Schlapp ‘Groped’ My Crotch.
A staffer for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has alleged to The Daily Beast that longtime Republican activist Matt Schlapp made “sustained and unwanted and unsolicited” sexual contact with him while the staffer was driving Schlapp back from an Atlanta bar this October.
The staffer said the incident occurred the night of Oct. 19, when Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union and lead organizer for the influential Conservative Political Action Conference, “groped” and “fondled” his crotch in his car against his will after buying him drinks at two different bars.
The staffer described Schlapp, who had traveled to Georgia for a Walker campaign event, as inappropriately and repeatedly intruding into his personal space at the bars. He said he was also keenly aware of his “power dynamic” with Schlapp, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in national conservative politics.
Read more at the link. Yesterday, CNN finally picked up the story and discussed it extensively on the air; and The New York Daily News published an article about it. Maybe now it will get more attention.
From the CNN story: GOP strategist alleges powerful conservative Matt Schlapp sexually assaulted him.
A Republican strategist alleges that Matt Schlapp, the influential chairman of the American Conservative Union, groped and fondled his groin as he drove Schlapp back to an Atlanta hotel several weeks before the November midterm election.
The strategist, a male in his late thirties who was working for the Georgia GOP and Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign at the time, told CNN that Schlapp made the unwanted sexual advances on the ride back from two area bars on October 19. Schlapp allegedly invited the strategist, who was assigned to drive Schlapp, to join him in his hotel room. The staffer declined the offer, and hours later reported the incident to senior campaign staff….
The staffer says he called and texted friends in real time to tell them what happened. CNN reviewed a text exchange between the staffer and a friend in politics, where the staffer is clearly upset and wondering how to tell the campaign that one of their surrogates had allegedly assaulted him. The exchange is being made public for the first time.
“He’s pissed I didn’t follow him to his hotel room,” the staffer wrote.
“I’m so sorry man,” the acquaintance responded. “What a f**king creep.”
The staffer later texted, “I just don’t know how to say it to my superiors thst heir [sic] surrogate fondled my junk without my consent.” [….]
Schlapp runs the ACU, the organization most widely known for staging the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. Both Schlapp and the group occasionally butted heads with Donald Trump before he was elected president in 2016, but have since become fierce loyalists. Schlapp, who served in the George W. Bush White House as director of political affairs, took over the ACU in 2014. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, worked as Trump’s communications director for nearly two years, from 2017 to 2019.
More on the text messages:
According to text messages reviewed by CNN, Schlapp suggested meeting the staffer for drinks.
“I have a dinner at 7. May grab a beer after if you want to join let me know,” Schlapp texted the staffer. The staffer told CNN he joined Schlapp because of the ACU leader’s standing in conservative political circles.
Once at the bar, the staffer says Schlapp began to inappropriately invade his personal space. After leaving the bar, the staffer alleges Schlapp sexually assaulted him as he was driving Schlapp back to his hotel. The staffer said he did not respond in the moment because he was stunned into silence and was focused on getting Schlapp out of the car as quickly as possible.
Later that evening, Schlapp called the staffer, according to a call log reviewed by CNN, to confirm the staffer would be driving him to another Walker event the next morning. After receiving the call, the staffer says he broke down and memorialized what happened by recording videos of himself describing the alleged assault.
“Matt Schlapp, of the CPAC, grabbed my junk and pummeled it at length. And I’m sitting there (in the car) saying, ‘What the hell is going on that this person with a wife and kids is literally doing this to me, from Manuel’s Tavern to the Hilton Garden Inn there at the Atlanta Airport,’” the staffer says in one of the self-recorded clips, which CNN reviewed. “He literally has his hands on me. And I feel so f**king dirty. Feel so f**king dirty. So I don’t know what to do in the morning.”
The next morning, the staffer told top Walker campaign officials about the alleged incident and they immediately directed him not to drive Schlapp and to pass on a number of a car service.
Why isn’t this story getting more traction? Is it because Schlapp is so powerful within the GOP? He heads up organizations that are virulently anti-gay. I’m waiting for it to come out in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Next, Joe Biden’s lawyers found a second batch of classified documents in Delaware. There’s no comparison with what Trump did, but I’m worried that this may prevent the DOJ from prosecuting Trump for actually stealing government documents and refusing to return them.
The New York Times: Second Set of Classified Documents Were Found at Biden’s Wilmington Home, White House Says.
The second set of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president were discovered at a storage space in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Del., a top White House lawyer said on Thursday….
The White House statement, by Richard Sauber, a special counsel to Mr. Biden, did not answer fundamental questions about the contents of the documents, who packed them and whether anyone had gained access to them after he left office. It also did not say when the second batch had been found.
The statement came after the White House acknowledged this week that an earlier batch had been discovered on Nov. 2 in the closet of an office at a think tank that Mr. Biden had used after leaving the vice presidency.
The statement added that the Biden team immediately notified the Justice Department and arranged for it to take possession of the documents.
Mr. Sauber said Mr. Biden’s team had also searched a house the president owned in Rehoboth Beach, Del., but found no documents stored there.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden told reporters in Mexico City that he was “surprised” to learn in the fall that his lawyers had found classified government documents in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
He said his staff had fully cooperated with the National Archives and the Justice Department, but made no mention of the documents later found in Delaware.
Mr. Biden’s lawyers discovered “a small number” of classified documents in his former office at a Washington think tank last fall, the White House said on Monday, prompting the Justice Department to scrutinize the situation to determine how to proceed.
As you probably know, the Justice Department is investigating and will eventually decide whether a special counsel should be appointed. So far, there isn’t any comparison between what Trump and Biden did, but of course Republicans will make that claim. Here’s a good thread on the differences between the two.
Read the rest on Twitter.
Jim Jordan, who will be in charge of the Judiciary Committee and the so-called “weaponization of government” subcommittee, is probably salivating over this story. This is from Loch K. Johnson, Frederick Baron, and Dennis Aftergut at The Bulwark: Jim Jordan, Church Committee Pretender.
Members of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives are trying to stick a civil libertarian label on the subcommittee they’re creating to “investigate the investigators.” Its formal name will be the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. But when talking about it to the press, some Republicans have taken to calling it a reincarnated “Church committee.”
They are invoking the 1975-76 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho). That committee was launched after a bombshell 1974 New York Times report about Nixon-era CIA domestic surveillance on anti-war activists and other dissident American citizens.
Two of us (Johnson and Baron) served in key staff positions on the Church committee. The comparison is preposterous. The new House subcommittee is not remotely up to the Church committee standard—in origin, composition, or purpose.
To begin with, the Church committee bore serious moral authority, which arose from its truly bipartisan mission: tough-minded rethinking of intelligence agency activities under administrations of both parties stretching back almost twenty years.
Indispensable to its credibility was the energetic participation of steely moderate Republican senators like Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), Charles Mathias (R-Md.), and Richard Schweiker (R-Penn.). These were statesmen—intellectually honest and adept. In particular, Baker performed an indispensable, fair-minded role for Church committee Republicans, as he had done on the Senate Watergate Committee.
One example: Concerned about the Church committee’s probe into FBI activities against Martin Luther King Jr., Baker sought evenhandedness without obstruction. “Let’s have a balance, not just focus on King,” Baker said. “Perhaps a session on FBI infiltration of the KKK, too.”
On the Church committee, GOP senators—including the committee’s vice chairman, the conservative John Tower (R-Texas)—were willing to pursue the truth about the actions of Republican administrations. In turn, Democratic senators, including Church, Walter Mondale (D-Minn.), and Gary Hart (D-Col.), were willing to probe the actions of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. That commitment to nonpartisan inquiry catalyzed the committee’s powerful, evidence-based critique of intelligence agency misconduct, and serious proposals for agency reforms later adopted in the Ford and Carter administrations.
What the Church Committee did:
The Church committee unearthed dramatic breaches of law and American norms:
- CIA assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro in Cuba and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo.
- FBI COINTELPRO surveillance, infiltration, and disruption targeting King, his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the anti-Vietnam War movement.
- CIA and FBI mail-opening programs that snooped on broad swaths of U.S. citizens.
Those legitimate subjects of investigation are a far cry from what the new House subcommittee is setting out to do: fishing for stories about the mythical deep state and looking into “ongoing criminal investigations”—that is, going after the law enforcement officials investigating the January 6th insurrection.
Read the rest at the link.
Republicans are also salivating about the opportunity to “investigate” Hunter Biden. That could come back to bite Trump though.
The New York Times: Hunter Biden’s Tangled Tale Comes Front and Center.
The way Republicans tell it, President Biden has been complicit in a long-running scheme to profit from his position in public life through shady dealings around the world engineered by his son, Hunter Biden.
Taking a first step in their long-promised investigation, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday demanded information about the Bidens’ banking transactions from the Treasury Department. And in an earlier report on the Bidens intended to lay the groundwork for hearings they plan to hold, they said they had evidence “demonstrating deliberate, repeated deception of the American people, abuse of the executive branch for personal gain, use of government power to obstruct the investigation” and more.
The real Hunter Biden story is complex and very different in important ways from the narrative promoted by Republicans — but troubling in its own way.
After his father became vice president, Hunter Biden, a 52-year-old Yale-educated lawyer, forged business relationships with foreign interests that brought him millions of dollars, raised questions about whether he was cashing in on his family name, set off alarms among government officials about potential conflicts of interest, and provided Republicans an opening for years of attacks on his father.
And after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015, Hunter descended into a spiral of addiction and tawdry and self-destructive behavior.
He is sober now and no longer entangled in foreign business deals. He is a visible presence in his father’s life — his oldest daughter was married at the White House in November, and he attended a state dinner last month.
But the investigation into his previous dealings may be coming to a head.
David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, is closing in on a decision about whether to prosecute Hunter Biden on charges stemming from his behavior during his most troubled years.
Investigators have pored over documents related to and questioned witnesses about his overseas business dealings. They include his role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company led by an oligarch who at the time was under investigation for corruption — a position that Hunter accepted while his father, as vice president, was overseeing Obama administration policy in Ukraine.
They also include his equity stake in a Chinese business venture, and his failed joint venture with a Chinese tycoon who had courted well-connected Americans in both parties — at one point he gave Hunter Biden a large diamond as a gift — but was later detained by Chinese authorities.
Investigators have similarly sought information about interactions between Hunter Biden’s business associates and his father.
But Mr. Weiss, people familiar with the investigation say, appears to be focused on a less politically explosive set of possible charges stemming from his failure to meet filing deadlines for his 2016 and 2017 tax returns, and questions about whether he falsely claimed at least $30,000 in deductions for business expenses.
Mr. Weiss is also said to be considering charging Hunter Biden, who has openly acknowledged his years of struggle with drugs and alcohol, with lying on a U.S. government form that he filled out to purchase a handgun in 2018. On the form, he answered that he was not using drugs — an assertion that prosecutors might be able to challenge based on his erratic behavior and possible witness accounts of his drug use around that period.
One more sad story for us old fans of 1960’s rock. Yesterday, guitar legend Jeff Beck died suddenly of bacterial meningitis.
From the NYT obit: Jeff Beck, Guitarist With a Chapter in Rock History, Dies at 78.
Jeff Beck, one of the most skilled, admired and influential guitarists in rock history, died on Tuesday in a hospital near his home at Riverhall, a rural estate in southern England. He was 78.
The cause was bacterial meningitis, Melissa Dragich, his publicist, said.
During the 1960s and ’70s, as either a member of the Yardbirds or as leader of his own bands, Mr. Beck brought a sense of adventure to his playing that helped make the recordings by those groups groundbreaking.
In 1965, when he joined the Yardbirds to replace another guitar hero, Eric Clapton, the group was already one of the defining acts in Britain’s growing electric blues movement. But his stinging licks and darting leads on songs like “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down” added an expansive element to the music that helped signal the emerging psychedelic rock revolution.
Three years later, when Mr. Beck formed his own band, later known as the Jeff Beck Group — along with Rod Stewart, a little-known singer at the time, and the equally obscure Ron Wood on bass — the weight of the music created an early template for heavy metal. Specifically, the band’s 1968 debut, “Truth,” provided a blueprint that another former guitar colleague from the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page, drew on to found Led Zeppelin several months later.
In 1975, when Mr. Beck began his solo career with the “Blow by Blow” album, he reconfigured the essential formula of that era’s fusion movement, tipping the balance of its influences from jazz to rock and funk, in the process creating a sound that was both startlingly new and highly successful. “Blow by Blow” became a Billboard Top 5 and, selling a million or more copies, a platinum hit.
Along the way, Mr. Beck helped either pioneer or amplify important technical innovations on his instrument. He elaborated the use of distortion and feedback effects, earlier explored by Pete Townshend; intensified the effect of bending notes on the guitar; and widened the range of expression that could be coaxed from devices attached to the guitar like the whammy bar.
Drawing on such techniques, Mr. Beck could weaponize his strings to hit like a stun gun or caress them to express what felt like a kiss. His work had humor, too, with licks that could cackle and leads that could tease.
Click the NYT link to read the rest. I saw the Jeff Beck Group at The Boston Tea Party in 1968 or 1969. The warm-up group was Buddy Miles. Rod Stewart was impressive as the lead singer. That was before he went more mainstream. Anyway, it was a great show. The Tea Party was a great big hall–no seats or anything and it was LOUD.
Have a great Thursday everyone!!