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.
Analysis by Brad Lendon at CNN: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can’t train or support them.
The New York Times: Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds.
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.
Have a tremendous Thursday, Sky Dancers!!