Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

The-Laugh-Mark-Bryan-30-x-24

The Laugh, by Mark Bryan

I woke up this morning hoping to find that Elon Musk had kept his word and stepped down as CEO of Twitter after a clear majority of Twitter users voted him out in a poll he posted. It hasn’t happened yet. From CNN:

A Twitter poll created by Elon Musk asking whether he should “step down as head of Twitter” ended early Monday morning with most respondents voting in the affirmative.

Musk had said he would abide by the results of the unscientific poll, which began Sunday evening and concluded with 57.5% voting yes, 42.5% voting no.

More than 17 million votes were cast in the informal referendum on his chaotic leadership of Twitter, which has been marked by mass layoffs, the replatforming of suspended accounts that had violated Twitter’s rules, the suspension of journalists who cover him and whiplash policy changes made and reversed in real time.

Now he says only Twitter users paying $8 per month for a blue check will be able to vote in his stupid polls. BBC News:

Elon Musk has said Twitter will only allow accounts with a blue tick to vote on changes to policy after a majority of users voted for him to quit.

Mr Musk launched a Twitter poll asking if he should step down as chief executive – 57.5% of users voted “yes”.

Since then, he has not commented directly on the result of the poll.

But he has said that Twitter will alter its rules so that only people who pay for a subscription can vote on company policy.

One user claimed that so-called bots appeared to have voted heavily in the poll about Mr Musk’s role at the firm. Mr Musk said he found the claim “interesting”….

In response to a tweet saying Twitter Blue subscribers “should be the only ones that can vote in policy related polls. We actually have skin in the game”, Mr Musk said: “Good point, Twitter will make that change”.

Twitter’s paid-for verification feature was rolled out for a second time last week after its launch was paused. The service costs $8 per month, or $11 for people using the Twitter app on Apple devices, and gives subscribers a “blue tick”.

Previously a blue tick was used as verification tool for high-profile accounts as a badge of authenticity and was free.

I honestly doubt if he’ll do that, because then he would reveal how few people are willing to pay him.

Nevertheless, according to Dan Laden-Hall at The Daily Beast, he is trying to find a replacement: Elon Musk Looking for a New Twitter CEO After Users Told Him to Go: Report.

Elon Musk is actively looking for someone to replace him as CEO of Twitter, CNBC reports.

Detail from Garden of Emoji Delights, by Carla Gannis

Detail from Garden of Emoji Delights, by Carla Gannis

The news comes after Musk posted a Twitter poll Sunday asking if he should step down as the head of the company. On Monday, when the poll closed, the majority of the 17.5 million votes cast said he should go. The tech boss had promised to “abide by the results” at the time he posted the yes-or-no poll, but he has yet to formally declare his intention to leave.

After buying the social media site for $44 billion in October, Musk said in court last month that he would only be Twitter’s CEO on a temporary basis. “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” he said.

According to the unnamed sources cited in CNBC’s story about his search for a successor, Musk was allegedly looking for a new Twitter CEO before posting his poll over the weekend. The search is said to be ongoing.

But by his own account, the search to find someone to run the social media giant is challenging. “The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive,” Musk tweeted on Sunday. “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” he wrote a day later.

The final meeting of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 didn’t offer any big surprises, but they did announce four criminal referrals on Trump to the DOJ. Of course the referrals are essentially meaningless, but the Committee also will transmit the evidence they have gathered in support of the referrals. 

Josh Gerstein at Politico: DOJ cares about the evidence, not the criminal referrals.

The historic criminal referral the House Jan. 6 committee issued urging the Justice Department to pursue charges against President Donald Trump is unlikely to sway many minds among prosecutors already pursuing multiple investigations, former DOJ officials said.

Prosecutors are more interested in the thousands of pages of witness statements and other records gathered by the House panel over the past 15 months, current and former officials said.

“I’m sure the Attorney General will welcome any new evidence the committee sends over, but the authority to indict rests with the executive branch, not Congress,” said University of Baltimore Law School Dean Ronald Weich, a former DOJ liaison to Congress. “The decision of whether to bring criminal charges is solely within the purview of the Justice Department. I expect DOJ to respond courteously to the committee, but the referral will not change the outcome.”

Mark Bryan

By Mark Bryan

“I think a referral will have zero practical effect on what DOJ does,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal public corruption prosecutor in Washington. “They are already investigating, and they’re not going to decide whether or not to charge based on whether they got a referral from Congress.”

Just last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized prosecutors wanted to see the House’s evidence, but he notably omitted any desire to see what conclusions lawmakers reached about what that evidence proved.

“We would like to have all the transcripts and all of the other evidence collected … by the committee, so that we can use it in the ordinary course of our investigations,” Garland told reporters gathered in his conference room at DOJ headquarters.

In some ways, the House’s new criminal referral could have less impact than others Congress has sent to the Justice Department in the past. That’s because while some referrals spur DOJ into action, prosecutors already have investigations open into the main areas where the Jan. 6 committee sees potential crimes: Trump’s alleged incitement of the attack on the Capitol and his prolonged effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election results.

However, the public will soon be able to see the evidence for themselves, and that will probably lead to more pressure on DOJ to indict Trump. Kyle Cheney: The Jan. 6 committee’s big reveal hasn’t happened yet.

The committee is sitting on a stockpile of nearly 1,200 witness interview transcripts and reams of hard-won documents about Donald Trump’s attempt to derail the peaceful transfer of power. While the select panel’s nine members gathered on Monday to refer evidence of Trump’s potential crimes to the Justice Department, that raw information — not the showmanship of a final in-person public meeting — will tell the story the committee has labored to piece together.

The 160-page executive summary, which precedes a final panel report set for release as soon as Wednesday, hints at the extraordinary range of documents the committee collected. It references at least 30 “productions” of documents from various witnesses and agencies, including White House visitor logs, Secret Service radio frequencies and the Department of Labor, where then-Secretary Eugene Scalia produced a Jan. 8, 2021, memo seeking to call a Cabinet meeting to discuss the transfer of power.

“The select committee intends to make public the bulk of its nonsensitive records before the end of the year,” the panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said Monday. Thompson has stressed that the taxpayer-funded investigation’s materials should be made available to the public: “These transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see the evidence we have gathered and continue to explore the information that has led us to our conclusions.” [….]

Yet crucial questions remain about which evidence the panel will treat as off-limits to the public — including whether it will post hundreds of hours of video interviews alongside its transcripts. Thompson has also emphasized that transcripts will be redacted to exclude private information and law enforcement or national security-related details. And some witnesses who requested anonymity would receive it, Thompson has said.

Call records, with the exception of ones that the committee has found relevant to the probe, would likely remain secret as well, according to the chair.

hellscape-2020-walter-simon

Hellscape 2020, Walter Simon

The report should still be a BFD:

Even so, the panel’s introductory materials gave tantalizing clues about what’s to come. The committee’s executive summary referenced just over 80 of the panel’s interviews and documents collected from 34 agencies or witnesses; among them, Christoffer Guldbrandsen, a documentarian who captured footage of Trump ally Roger Stone, and Bernard Kerik, who advised Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in his bid to collect evidence to challenge the 2020 results.

The summary also reflects voluminous contacts among key players in Trump’s alleged plot that were not previously known but could be of interest to federal prosecutors. For example, the document describes numerous contacts that then-DOJ officials Jeffrey Clark and Ken Klukowski had with Trump campaign attorney John Eastman in the closing days of 2020 and into early 2021.

In addition, the summary casts doubt on the testimony of some select panel witnesses — like former Secret Service and Trump White House aide Tony Ornato and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who the committee said were not as forthcoming as others who spoke to it.

During her testimony, McEnany had disputed the allegation that Trump was resistant to calling off the mob, but the summary noted that her former deputy Sarah Matthews had told the panel otherwise. Ornato, who played a potentially key role as a witness to an alleged altercation between Trump and his security detail on Jan. 6, drew similar scrutiny after telling the committee he could not recall relaying the account of the altercation despite others’ testimony to the contrary.

“The Committee is skeptical of Ornato’s account,” the panel added in a footnote.

Read the rest at Politico.

Whether or not to indict Trump will be up to Special Prosecutor Jack Smith.

Jose Pagliery at The Daily Beast: Trump Special Prosecutor Has a History of Indicting Presidents.

Witnesses had lost hope and disappeared. Criminal suspect No. 1 had become president. And the long-awaited indictment now seemed unreachable.

Then, American prosecutor Jack Smith came along and took charge, sending his investigators on an aggressive mission to win back reluctant witnesses—by targeting the tight-lipped politicians and militant nationalists who had kept them silent.

The story may sound familiar, if not a bit like resistance fan-fiction. But this story is actually about Smith’s efforts in Kosovo, a small country in southeastern Europe that was historically an Albanian enclave in Serbia. It was difficult every step of the way. Smith had to defend his work from widespread accusations that he was conducting an unfair political prosecution to remove the nation’s favorite leader. And the narrative was that cooperators are traitors—and that these lawyers like Smith were trying to destroy the country.

It may prove to be an invaluable experience.

The Nightmare, Mark Bryan

The Nightmare, Mark Bryan

Since the U.S. Department of Justice appointed Smith as the trusted special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump last month, there have been dozens of news profiles focusing on his time as a domestic prosecutor investigating public corruption. Several have even incorrectly identified the international court he served on. But this is the first sweeping look at what exactly he accomplished while on a special assignment abroad in Europe, where he took down Kosovo’s sitting president—and gained the credentials to target an American one.

Kosovo investigation until Smith took over. “It has huge political consequences. It takes bravery. Jack’s got to decide whether he’s going to indict a former president of the United States. But he did the same thing when it came to Hashim Thaçi.”

Kosovo’s now ex-president remains trapped inside a jail in the Dutch city of The Hague. Understanding how he got there helps contextualize Smith’s legacy at the controversial international prosecutor’s office he led until last month—and his ability to face Trump now.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Today, the House Ways and Means Committee will consider whether to release Trump’s tax returns to the public.

CNN: House Ways and Means Committee to meet on future of Trump’s tax returns.

The House Ways and Means Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and weigh whether to release the information to the public, the end to a years-long effort from Democrats to learn more about Trump’s financial background.

The highly anticipated meeting is years in the making but comes as Democrats have just days to act on whether to release the former president’s tax returns. While there is historic precedent for Ways and Means to release confidential tax information, a decision to put it out to the public would come with intense political fallout as Trump has already declared he is running for president in 2024.

The committee has had access to Trump’s taxes for weeks after winning a lengthy legal battle that began in the spring of 2019. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested the first six years of Trump’s taxes as well as tax returns for eight of his businesses back in April of 2019.

Lena Rushing, Mayday

Mayday, Lena Rushing

Neal and his ranking member Kevin Brady have had access to the information, and rank-and-file members on the committee will have begun to have access and review at least some of Trump’s tax information, according to a source familiar.

It’s not clear if members would have access to all of the information.

Republicans on the committee are preparing to push back hard if Democrats vote to release any of Trump’s tax information, committee sources tell CNN. The argument Republicans will wage, however, won’t center on defending Trump explicitly but rather what the release means for politicians and ordinary people in the future.

Democrats on the committee would rely on section 6103 of the tax code to lawfully release information about Trump’s taxes, but Republicans are prepared to argue that Democrats are abusing the provision, attacking a political enemy and potentially unleashing a system where even individuals could have their personal information exposed if they become targets of the committee.

More stories to check out, links only:

The Washington Post: Another headache for Trump as House panel weighs release of tax returns.

Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: A Diminished Trump Meets a Damning Narrative.

The Washington Post: Congress unveils $1.7 trillion deal to fund government, avert shutdown.

The Washington Post: Lawmakers put Electoral Count Act, crafted as response to Jan. 6, in omnibus bill.

Adam Liptak at The New York Times: An ‘Imperial Supreme Court’ Asserts Its Power, Alarming Scholars.

CNN: 6.4 magnitude earthquake shakes Northern California.

Have a nice Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By surrealist artist Ophelia Redpath, 1965

Happy Caturday!!

I wish I had kept a record of my sleep patterns and accompanying political events over the past 7 years. I know I rarely slept through the night during the first couple of years of Trump’s “presidency.” I would stay up late, sleep a couple of hours and wake up at 3AM to obsessively check twitter for news, and still get up early the next day. Now I’m going through a period of time when I can’t get to sleep until very late–around 1:00-2:00AM–and then sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00AM. I’m also getting old–I’ll be 75 soon–and it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. Anyway, I slept until 10:00 today, so I’m once again very late in posting. If only we knew what is going to happen with the Trump investigations, maybe I would be able to go back to sleeping like a normal person.

As everyone knows by now, yesterday Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether to indict Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection cases–including whether Trump has obstructed justice.

CNN: DOJ announces special counsel for Trump-related Mar-a-Lago and January 6 criminal investigations.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.

Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations….

The prosecutions of those who physically breached the US Capitol have been the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and those will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses close to the former president for documents and testimony in the probe.

White Cat by Igor Galanin

White Cat by Igor Galanin

“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.” [….]

According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.

Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.

Most of the TV/Twitter legal experts are saying this was a good decision by Garland. One dissenter is Neal Kaytal, who says it is a big mistake.

From Raw Story: Legal experts: Special counsel investigating Trump will move very quickly.

Former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann believes that newly-appointed special counsel Jack Smith will move with haste in his investigations of former President Donald Trump.

Speaking with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, after the host said Smith may become the “most important prosecutor in human history,” Weissmann discussed his history with the new special prosecutor.

“So I’ve known Jack for decades,” Weissman said.

“I was the chief of the criminal division when he started in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he explained.

“And Jack, as you noted, has had all sorts of positions that make him really perfect for this job in the sense of his experience, he’s a career prosecutor, he’s completely apolitical — in public integrity, they prosecuted Democrats and Republicans,” Weissmann said. “They don’t care, if you committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you’re in no party.”

He noted he learned from Robert Mueller that “you can’t slow things down to use as an excuse not to move forward.”

“For people who are worried about this slowing down, I have the exact opposite reaction.”

Marcy Wheeler suggested another reason why Garland might have taken the step of appointing a special counsel:

I think that makes sense. Of course Trump and Republicans will still claim the investigations are political, and I’m pretty sure Garland knows that. This morning at Politico Playbook, Rachel Bade summarized the political reactions so far: A new special counsel sets Washington ablaze.

Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND’s decision to name a special counsel to helm DONALD TRUMP-related probes at the Justice Department roiled the political world on Friday.

In an afternoon statement delivered before cameras at Main Justice, Garland argued the appointment of veteran DOJ hand JACK SMITH was necessary given that Trump and JOE BIDEN could be facing off for the presidency in 2024. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said.

Some good it did him. On cue, Republicans called foul — and rushed forward to defend an ex-president who had appeared to be losing his grip on the GOP following the party’s disappointing election performance.

François Batet

By François Batet

AT MAR-A-LAGO … After 10 days of midterm recriminations, the announcement put Trump back in his most comfortable posture: portraying himself as the victim of his corrupt enemies. During a fancy black-tie affair at his Florida resort, Trump told Fox News’ Brooke Singman that he won’t participate in the probe and blasted the DOJ for the “worst politicization” of the department ever.

— “I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel ROBERT] MUELLER who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?” Trump told them. “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”

ON CAPITOL HILL … Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) tweeted that Republicans should “IMPEACH MERRICK GARLAND!” and insisted her party “refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee.”

— The latter is particularly noteworthy: It sets up a new and explosive spending clash that could easily prompt a government shutdown in the next Congress. Why? MTG and likeminded Trump loyalists will press KEVIN McCARTHY (or whoever else manages to become speaker) to toe a hard line while Democrats will absolutely refuse to defund the investigations. Watch this space.

IN LAS VEGAS … Even former Vice President MIKE PENCE blasted the special counsel appointment as “very troubling” during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, according to another good-get interview by Fox’s Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser.

— “No one is above the law, but I am not sure it’s against the law to take bad advice from your lawyers,” he said. Pence went on to suggest that the DOJ has been politicized by Democrats and and to knock the FBI for conducting a raid on Mar-a-Lago to fish out classified information Trump had taken to his post-presidency residence. (Note that Smith won’t only be managing the documents probe, but Jan. 6-related matters as well.).

Bade notes that Republicans were all in on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents while she was running for president. You can also read a bit of background on Jack Smith at The New York Times.

One more on the Smith appointment from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Merrick Garland was right to appoint a special counsel.

Advocates of swift action against Trump no doubt will be alarmed by the announcement, but there is less here than meets the eye. For starters, Smith needs no introduction to the Justice Department. He was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in February 2015. Before that, he worked as head of the department’s Public Integrity Section and as investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He also worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.

Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen

Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen

Most important, the attorney general announced that the career staff who have been working on these cases will continue in their roles. That, Garland suggested, will mean the query will “not slow down.” Smith will make a recommendation to Garland on whether to prosecute Trump. Until then, Garland will have no direct supervision over Smith.

Did Garland need to wait until Trump’s campaign launch to make the appointment? Perhaps not, but so long as Trump was not an active candidate, there was little reason for Garland to step aside. Now that Trump is a potential opponent to Biden, Garland believes it is essential to add a layer of separation between himself and the line prosecutors.

Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “Looking over Jack Smith’s decades of prosecutorial experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to hit the ground running and to sew together whatever loose ends remain as he puts together a comprehensive prosecution of the leaders of the attempted coup, with the former president at its center, as well as a powerful prosecution of the former president for his theft of top secret documents as he absconded to Mar-a-Lago.” He adds that, while he previously “publicly urged that there was no need to appoint a special counsel, my principal concern was the need to avoid delay, and it appears that this appointment will solve that problem.”

Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel to the House impeachment managers during Trump’s first impeachment, agrees. “I have no concern that a special counsel will shy away from charging, and Jack Smith has outstanding experience,” he tells me. Eisen also thinks the move will not cause much of a delay. He observes: “Mr. Smith should move with alacrity. Here, where any other American who had removed the even one classified document would be subject to likely prosecution, and where the former president took dozens, the rule of law demands fast action.”

In other news, The New York Times has an important story about a Supreme Court leak that–like the recent leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade–involves Justice Sam Alito: Former Anti-Abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach.

As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.

Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates….

Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat

Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat

The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.

Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”

The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

From Georgia–NBC News reports that: In win for Democrats, Georgia judge allows early voting in Senate runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving.

A Fulton County judge ruled Friday that the Georgia Secretary of State cannot prohibit counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a victory for the state Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.

The order comes after a brief legal battle between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and the Democratic Party of Georgia over the Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

Raffensperger, a Republican, had maintained that changes to Georgia voting laws meant that there could be no early voting on Nov. 26, the only Saturday when it would have been possible for Georgians to cast an early vote in the hotly contested race.

Democrats and Warnock’s campaign filed suit challenging Raffensperger’s determination, and Judge Thomas A. Cox agreed with their arguments in a ruling late Friday afternoon. “The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” the judge wrote.

Glenn Harrington

By Glenn Harrington

Raffensberger’s office will appeal the decision.

The dispute centers on a provision of Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, which stipulates early in-person voting must end the Friday before the runoff. This year, that would be Friday, Dec. 2.

The law also stipulates early in-person voting not be held on any Saturday that follows a “public or legal holiday” on the preceding Thursday or Friday. Raffensperger contended that meant there would be no early in-person voting on Nov. 26, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. (It could not be held this weekend because the general election vote is not being certified until Nov. 21.)

Attorneys for the Democrats and Warnock argued the section of the law Raffensperger cited applies to primaries and general elections, but not to runoffs. Cox agreed.

Of course there is tons of news about Twitter and Musk. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:

Yoel Roth at the New York Times: I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.

The Guardian: How Elon Musk’s Twitter reign magnified his brutal management style.

The Washington Post: Musk summons engineers to Twitter HQ as millions await platform’s collapse.

The New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave.

What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Johann Benjamin Ehrenreich (1733 or 1739–1806

Portrait of his pet cat by Johann Benjamin Ehrenreich (1733 or 1739–1806

Happy Caturday!!

We are living in perilous times. Thanks to Trump’s enabling of U.S. Neo-Nazis, we’re learning that these toxic groups are everywhere–even here in ultra-blue Massachusetts. Back in July, about 100 members of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston in matching outfits, their faces concealed by masks. It was quite a shock to local law enforcement and city leaders.

From The Boston Globe, July 23, 2022: The white-nationalist Patriot Front is getting bigger, and more visible, in New England.

Internal videos released this year by a nonprofit media groupshowed Patriot Front members in action—boxing in the woods in Sutton, spray-painting graffiti in Quincy, draping their banner from a Storrow Drive overpass in Boston, slapping on stickers in Providence’s Waterplace Park.

Despite New England’s reputation as a deeply blue region, those who’ve studied Patriot Front say that its local faction is among the group’s most active nationally, along with Virginia and Texas, where several of its leaders are based. The group, rooted in a notorious far-right rally in Virginia in 2017, is finding a receptive audience for its white supremacist ideology among certain young men — and has targeted colleges for recruitment.

In fact, there have been hundreds of incidents involving Patriot Front members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island this year alone, according to statistics compiled by the Anti-Defamation League. In addition, at least ninePatriot Front members or associates from across the region have faced charges stemming from their work for the group.

“These extremists perceive New England to have favorable racial demographics, which supposedly presents more opportunities to find like-minded people,”said Jeff Tischauser, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an e-mail. “Extremists around the U.S. also take inspiration from New England history before, during, and immediately after the American Revolution.”

The July 2 march in Boston, which caught law enforcement and much of the public by surprise, represented something of a coming out party for the organization in New England, drawing members from all over the country to the city’s streets on a bustling holiday weekend. The noisy march of young white men banging drums and hoisting Patriot Front flags along the city’s storied Freedom Trail made national headlines and drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Michelle Wu.

So I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising to learn that a police officer in Woburn, Massachusetts is a Neo-Nazi with ties to white supremacist leader Richard Spencer. Somehow John Donnelly was able to keep it a secret until he was smoked out by an anti-fascist group called Ignite the Right. Here’s the beginning of Twitter thread they posted. You can see the rest on Twitter.

Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: He Marched At The Nazi Rally In Charlottesville. Then He Went Back To Being A Cop.

A Massachusetts police officer attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, five years ago and acted in key security and planning roles, HuffPost has confirmed. He also used an alias to post racist and antisemitic comments online. The officer, John Donnelly, was still an active-duty member of the police force until Thursday, shortly after HuffPost inquired about his status with the department and role in the deadly white supremacist rally.

Donnelly, 33, was a patrolman for the Woburn Police Department near Boston, where he has been employed since 2015.

But on the morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Donnelly could be seen on video arriving at the Charlottesville rally with Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist for whom Donnelly was apparently acting as a security guard. Spencer, Donnelly and a coterie of other suit-and-tie fascists worked their way into a city park where they held court beneath a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, posing for photos and talking into livestreams.

Donnelly was among hundreds of white supremacists who invaded the university town. His fellow attendees violently attacked counterprotesters, with one neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of anti-fascists, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others. That evening, Donnelly went to a party at a house near Charlottesville, where he joined in a celebration of the day’s events.

Donnelly then returned to Massachusetts and resumed his job as a cop.

His white supremacist activism and involvement in the Charlottesville rally has gone unknown for five years, during which time Donnelly — while still working as a police officer — became the president of a “back the blue” nonprofit raising money for law enforcement, as well as an award-winning real estate agent whose face is featured on a massive billboard in Woburn, a Boston suburb.

But last month, an anti-fascist collective called Ignite the Right provided HuffPost with evidence showing Donnelly attended the Charlottesville rally and connecting him to a series of deeply alarming messages posted online in which he advocated violence against leftists and minority groups.

HuffPo contacted the Chief of Police in Woburn, and Donnelly is now out of a job. Read about how Ignite the Right identified this secret Nazi at the link above.

Still Life with Cat, Mary Fedden, R.A.

Still Life with Cat, Mary Fedden, R.A.

Here’s a follow-up story, also from Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: District Attorney To Review All Cases Handled By Cop Who Planned Charlottesville Nazi Rally.

A Massachusetts prosecutor has promised to review all cases handled by police Officer John Donnelly after a HuffPost report exposed Donnelly’s role in planning the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marina Ryan announced Friday that her office is now “thoroughly reviewing any pending or closed cases” in which Donnelly, a patrolman in Woburn, Massachusetts, was involved.

“We will be issuing a discovering notice disclosing this matter to defense counsel on those cases,” Ryan said in a statement. “That notice has already been added to our publicly available list of officers subject to exculpatory evidence disclosure.” [….]

On Thursday, HuffPost published a report detailing how Donnelly, 33, was among hundreds of white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville in August 2017 for a “Unite the Right” rally, terrorizing the town while chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” and violently attacking counterprotesters….

Donnelly attended the rally as a bodyguard for Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist. Leaked chat logs from a neo-Nazi Discord server show Donnelly played an integral part in planning the weekend’s events.

The messages Donnelly posted on Discord show he may have belonged to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. His messages were also full of racist and antisemitic slurs, and at times they advocated violence against leftists and minorities.

I usually don’t share local stories, but this is likely the tip of the iceberg. There are very likely many more police officers like Donnelly everywhere in the U.S. I suppose they were always there, but Trump has enabled them and given them permission to act out.

In other news, Trump is facing multiple investigations and prosecutors are getting closer to the FPOTUS. Here’s the latest.

The Washington Post: Judge bucks Trump, orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury.

former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence returned before agrand jury Thursday to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled President Donald Trump’s objections to the testimony, according to people familiar with the matter.

In a sealed decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that was not available from other sources, one of those people said.

Calico Cat, by Agnes Bodor

Calico Cat, by Agnes Bodor

Trump appealed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to postpone Short’s appearance while the litigation continues, the people said, signaling that attempts by Trump to invoke executive privilege to preserve the confidentiality of presidential decision-making were not likely to prevail….

Grand jury matters are typically secret, but The Washington Post has reported that prosecutors are working with grand jurors and looking extensively at the actions of Trump and his advisers in the period between the November 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021. Short’s case came to light on Sept. 22 after Trump attorneys M. Evan Corcoran, Timothy C. Parlatore and Rowley were seen at federal court in Washington when there were no publicly scheduled matters, along with a lead Jan. 6 federal prosecutor, Thomas Windom.

According to people familiar with the matter, Short had appeared before a grand jury in downtown Washington in July, but declined to answer certain questions after Flood argued the communications of top White House advisers are protected — and presented written documentation from Trump’s lawyers that they were asserting executive privilege.

The Justice Department asked the court to intervene, urging Howell to override Trump’s claim and to compel Short to answer questions about his communications with Trump, one person said. After arguments Sept. 22, Howell granted the government’s motion, the people said, but because the investigation and an appeal are ongoing, it is unclear if or when a redacted opinion will become public.

How long before Pence himself has to testify?

Julia Ainsley and Ali Vitali at NBC News: Congress asks Secret Service for an account of all contacts between agency, Oath Keepers up to and on Jan. 6, 2021.

The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection has asked the Secret Service for records of all communications between the far-right Oath Keepers group and Secret Service agents prior to and on the day of the attack, after a preliminary accounting by the agency indicated multiple contacts in 2020, according to a Secret Service spokesman.

The spokesman said the Congressional request follows a short telephonic briefing from the Secret Service to committee staff, in which the agency said an agent from its protective intelligence division had “numerous” contacts with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other group members prior to Trump rallies in fall 2020, but that they were all part of common practice to inform the group of security protocols to follow.

That initial briefing was prompted by federal trial testimony in which the ex-leader of the North Carolina Oath Keepers said Rhodes was in contact with a member of the Secret Service around the time of a September 2020 rally….

cat-on-fence-1956, Alex Colville

Cat on a fence, 1956, by Alex Colville

The Secret Service found that multiple members of the organization, not just Rhodes, spoke to an agent in the protective intelligence division ahead of Trump rallies, the most recent conversation coming before a Dec. 12, 2020, rally, Guglielmi said.

Guglielmi also said the initial search showed the communications were part of common practices that allow agents to tell protesters where they can and cannot be during an event and what items they are prohibited from bringing.

“They reached out concerning logistics about demonstration areas and rules for attending presidential events. This is common activity between organized groups and advance agents,” said Guglielmi.

Two Secret Service officials told NBC News once the Oath Keepers had the phone number of the member of the agency’s protective intelligence detail, they made numerous calls directly to that agent.

Maybe it was routine, maybe not. I’m taking everything the Secret Service says with a grain of salt.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: U.S. Asks Court to End Special Master Review of Files Seized From Trump.

In a 53-page brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, the Justice Department broadly challenged the legal legitimacy of orders last month by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who blocked investigators from using the materials and appointed an independent arbiter to sift them for any that are potentially privileged or Mr. Trump’s personal property.

The Justice Department already succeeded in persuading a panel of the Atlanta-based court to exempt about 100 documents marked classified from Judge Cannon’s move — a decision the Supreme Court declined to overturn this week. In its new filing, the Justice Department asked the appeals court to reverse her order for the remaining 11,000 or so records.

“This court has already granted the government’s motion to stay that unprecedented order insofar as it relates to the documents bearing classification markings,” the filing said. “The court should now reverse the order in its entirety for multiple independent reasons.” [….]

The Trump legal team is due to file a brief in November. The date of any oral arguments has not yet been announced, but the appeals court has granted a Justice Department request that it expedite consideration of the case. It may rule on the appeal before Judge Cannon receives the special master’s report and rules on any contested documents.

The dispute is the opening round in the main part of the Justice Department’s appeal of the orders by Judge Cannon as part of a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed after the F.B.I. carried out a court-ordered search of his Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, in August.

The Wall Street Journal: FBI Seeks Additional Information From Two Trump Aides About Mar-a-Lago Records.

Federal investigators contacted at least two aides to former President Donald Trump months before the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort and have sought to talk to them again in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said, as the Justice Department examines possible obstruction of its efforts to retrieve hundreds of government and classified documents.

Dream of a Cat - Norbertine Bresslern-Roth,1977

Dream of a Cat, by Norbertine Bresslern-Roth,1977

The aides, Walt Nauta and Will Russell, are witnesses in the Justice Department’s investigation into the handling of presidential and classified records taken from the White House but aren’t formally cooperating with the probe, the people said. Mr. Russell hasn’t personally spoken to investigators, who are communicating directly with his counsel.

Mr. Nauta, a former military valet who went to work at Mar-a-Lago after Mr. Trump left the White House, was seen on surveillance footage moving boxes from a storage room before and after investigators issued a subpoena in May seeking the documents’ return, the people said. Mr. Nauta told investigators that he did so at Mr. Trump’s request, one of the people said.

The federal interest in Mr. Russell hasn’t been previously reported. He served in the Trump White House, including as a coordinator of presidential travel, and went on to work for the former president in Florida after he left office. Mr. Russell had previously been subpoenaed in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The FBI’s questioning of Mr. Nauta was earlier reported by the New York Times….

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the extraordinary Aug. 8 search came after at least one person familiar with the stored papers told investigators there were more sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago beyond what they had received in June through a grand jury subpoena.

Those two had better watch their backs. Now that their names are out there they’ll likely be dealing with death threats from the Trump cult.

More stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Jan. 6 video undermines Trump’s repeated efforts to blame Pelosi for Capitol security.

Op-Ed by Norman Eisen, Danielle Brian and The Jan. 6 Hearings Are Over. These 3 Things Must Happen Now.

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: Donald Trump Tried to Destroy the Constitution. What will it take for millions of Americans to care?

The Daily Beast: Creepy Message Shows Oath Keepers’ Bloodlust for Mike Pence.

Raw Story: Former US attorney singles out the ‘criminal act’ that will lead Merrick Garland to indict Trump.

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


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

Happy Caturday!!

Even though we are heading into a 3-day weekend, there is a surprising amount of news today. I’m going to focus on the following stories: Ukraine’s destruction of a bridge that is vital to Russian supply routes;  New developments in the Trump stolen documents saga; and someshocking news on that Russian-speaking Ukrainian woman who infiltrated Mar-a-Lago awhile back.

Ukraine War News

CNN: Massive blast cripples parts of Crimea-Russia bridge, in blow to Putin’s war effort.

In a major blow for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a huge explosion has severely damaged the only bridge connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland, paralyzing a key supply route for Moscow’s faltering war in Ukraine.

The blast early Saturday caused parts of the Kerch Strait road and rail bridge – opened by Putin himself in 2018 – to collapse, images and video from the scene showed. At least three people were killed in the explosion, Russian officials said, citing preliminary information.

The exact cause of the blast at Europe’s longest bridge is yet to be confirmed. Russian officials said a truck exploded, causing Crimea-bound sections ofthe bridge’s road portion to collapse. A subsequent fire engulfed a train of fuel tanks on a separate, adjacent rail portion of the bridge.

Putin ordered a “government commission” to examine the Kerch bridge “emergency” in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported.

An official in Crimea blamed “Ukrainian vandals” for the explosion. Some Ukrainian officials gloated over the incident without directly claiming responsibility – even announcing commemorative stamps will be made. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “the reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure testifies to its terrorist nature.”

On the strategic importance of the bridge:

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

The damage to the road bridge appears to be severe, with the part of the bridge that carries westbound road traffic crippled in at least two places. The damage to the rail link where fuel tanks caught fire is unclear.

The bridge is strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 in a move condemned by the international community.

It is a critical artery for supplying Crimea with both its daily needs and supplies for the military. Over the last few months, dozens of Russian military convoys have used the bridge, carrying vehicles, armor and fuel.

If the Russian military can’t use the bridge, its supply lines to forces in southern Ukraine would become more tenuous, especially when combined with Ukrainian advances southwards into Kherson region, north of Crimea.

Trump Stolen Documents News

Rolling Stone: Justice Department Asking if Trump Stashed Documents in Trump Tower.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE asked multiple witnesses if they knew whether Donald Trump had stashed any highly sensitive government documents at Trump Tower in Manhattan or at his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a person familiar with the matter and another source briefed on the situation tell Rolling Stone.

The FBI, according to these sources, had also asked in recent months whether the ex-president had a habit of transporting classified documents from his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago to the other Trump properties. The feds specifically discussed both the New York City and Bedminster locations with certain witnesses.

“It was obvious they wanted to know if this went beyond just Mar-a-Lago,” the first source says….

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department informed Trump’s legal team it believes the former president may have taken more documents than the ones the FBI returned to the National Archives after its August Mar-a-Lago search. Trump attorney Christopher Kise reportedly suggested that the former president voluntarily conduct a search for any further missing documents at another unnamed Trump property, according to the Times.

The FBI has been quietly interviewing a number of former Trump associates as part of its inquiry into his retention of classified documents….

The increased law enforcement scrutiny since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago has prompted Trump to wonder aloud who in his circle could be helping the Justice Department’s investigation. In exchange with associates, Trump has asked whether anyone in MAGA world could be “wearing a wire” or if his phones are “tapped.” In private, associates of the former president told Rolling Stone that Trump remains focused on getting back “all” of the documents — even classified ones — taken by the FBI back, referring to them as “mine.”

Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt at The New York Times: How Trump Deflected Demands for Documents, Enmeshing Aides.

Late last year, as the National Archives ratcheted up the pressure on former President Donald J. Trump to return boxes of records he had taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago club, he came up with an idea to resolve the looming showdown: cut a deal.

By Li Gui Jun

By Li Gui Jun

Mr. Trump, still determined to show he had been wronged by the F.B.I. investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, was angry with the National Archives and Records Administration for its unwillingness to hand over a batch of sensitive documents that he thought proved his claims.

In exchange for those documents, Mr. Trump told advisers, he would return to the National Archives the boxes of material he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump’s aides never pursued the idea. But the episode is one in a series that demonstrates how Mr. Trump spent a year and a half deflecting, delaying and sometimes leading aides to dissemble when it came to demands from the National Archives and ultimately the Justice Department to return the material he had taken, interviews and documents show.

That pattern was strikingly similar to how Mr. Trump confronted inquiries into his conduct while in office: entertain or promote outlandish ideas, eschew the advice of lawyers and mislead them, then push lawyers and aides to impede investigators.

In the process, some of his lawyers have increased their own legal exposure and had to hire lawyers themselves. And Mr. Trump has ended up in the middle of an investigation into his handling of the documents that has led the Justice Department to seek evidence of obstruction.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Levine and Kathrine Faulders at ABC News: On Trump’s last day in office, why were sensitive documents allegedly in such disarray?

At the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, his team returned a large batch of classified FBI documents and other government records to the Justice Department in such disarray that a year later — in a letter to lawmakers — the department said it still couldn’t tell which of the documents were the classified ones.

The documents came from the FBI’s controversial probe in 2016 looking at alleged links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump tried to make the documents public the night before he left office, issuing a “declassification” memo and secretly meeting with conservative writer John Solomon, who was allowed to review the documents, Solomon told ABC News this past week.

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

But for reasons that are still not clear – and to the great frustration of Trump and his political allies – none of the documents were ever officially released, and the Justice Department said Thursday it’s still working to determine which documents can be disclosed….

Much of what happened with the documents in those last days of the Trump administration — and ever since — remains shrouded in mystery because current and former government officials involved have refused to speak about it, especially now that the FBI is pursuing its investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of a separate cache of classified documents.

The story that still emerges, though, from pieces of public statements and Solomon’s own accounts is one that sheds further light on how Trump’s White House treated certain government secrets. And it helps explain how – in the midst of the FBI probe – Solomon became one of Trump’s official “representatives” to the National Archives.

There’s much more at the ABC link.

Yahoo News: A rift has opened in Trump’s legal team, with a lawyer frozen out for wanting to cooperate with the DOJ: NYT.

A rift has opened in Donald Trump’s legal team over how to respond to Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the rift was prompted by the Department of Justice telling Trump’s team it believes he still possesses government records, even after the FBI raid in August which seized hundreds of files from his home.

Two sources told The Times that attorney Christopher Kise put himself at odds wth Trump by advocating creating a “forensics team” of independent investigators to meticulously inspect whether Trump has any further records.

Per The Times, Trump was initially open to the idea, the report said, but was later persuaded by other attorneys to take a more aggressive approach, leading to Kise being sidelined.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Donald Trump seeks to withhold two folders seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump is seeking to withhold from the justice department two folders marked as containing correspondence with the National Archives and signing sheets that the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to court filings in the special master review of the confiscated documents.

The former US president’s privilege assertions over the folders, which appear to have direct relevance to the criminal investigation into whether he retained national defense information and obstructed justice, are significant as they represent an effort to exclude the items from the inquiry and keep them confidential.

Barbara Perrine Chu Woman with Two Cats

Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Two Cats

Most notably, Trump asserted privilege over the contents of one red folder marked as containing “NARA letters and other copies” and a second, manilla folder marked as containing “NARA letters one top sheet + 3 signing sheets”, a review of the court filings indicated.

The former president also asserted privilege over 35 pages of documents titled “The President’s Calls” that included the presidential seal in the upper left corner and contained handwritten names, numbers, notes about messages and four blank pages of miscellaneous notes, the filings showed.

Trump additionally also did the same over an unsigned 2017 letter concerning former special counsel Robert Mueller, pages of an email about election fraud lawsuits in Fulton County, Georgia, and deliberations about clemency to a certain “MB”, Ted Suhl and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The documents the former president is attempting to withhold from the criminal investigation by asserting some sort of privilege – it was not clear whether he asserted executive or attorney-client privilege over the two folders, for instance – became clear after a Friday ruling by the special master.

Lowell figured out which documents Trump was claiming privilege on by comparing the document numbers in the latest filing with another filing that was briefly unsealed and obtained by Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg News.

News Related to Mysterious Woman Who Infiltrated Mar-a-Lago

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Valeriy Tarasenko, associate of fake heiress who wandered Mar-a-Lago and posed with Donald Trump, shot outside Canadian resort.

A close associate of a woman who posed as a member of a famous banking family and spent days at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was shot Friday in a brazen attack outside a lakeside resort northwest of Montreal, the Canadian paper LaPresse reported.

Quebec provincial police have launched a search for the shooter and other accomplices behind the midday shooting of Valeriy Tarasenko, 44, in the upscale community of Esterel, according to LaPresse. Police said he suffered “significant injuries” but was expected to survive.

Mr. Tarasenko was a former business partner of Inna Yashchyshyn, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant who gained recent notoriety after an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in August revealed that she masqueraded as a member of the Rothschild family and went to Mar-a-Lago, where she made inroads in the former president’s inner circle.

In prior interviews with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Tarasenko said that he met with the FBI and turned over a host of documents and photos tied to an investigation into Ms. Yashchyshyn, her trips to the former president’s estate, and businesses she formed – two with Mr. Tarasenko – over the past seven years.

A bit more:

Holly Warburton

By Holly Warburton

Quebec police said they were trying to “shed some light on the circumstances that led to the injuries of the victim.” But for now, “to protect the investigation, no other detail can be shared.”

Mr. Tarasenko, who was born in Ukraine and raised in Moscow, told the Post-Gazette and OCCRP that he had hired Ms. Yaschyshyn in 2014 to live in his Midtown Miami condo and watch his two daughters while he traveled on business.

But over the past year, the pair had a falling out, with Mr. Tarasenko accusing Ms. Yashchyshyn of abusing his children — allegations that she has vehemently denied.

The shooting is expected to widen the ongoing FBI investigation that includes several interviews with witnesses about a highly suspicious Miami charity, United Hearts of Mercy.

This seems like a significant story that isn’t getting that much attention in the U.S. media yet. Here are a two Canadian articles–rendered in English by Google Translate–and another at The New York Post.

Le Devoir: A man with a troubled past targeted by an armed attack in Estérel.

Radio Canada: One person injured in shooting at Estérel

The New York Post: Fake Ukrainian heiress: ‘My ex-lover forced me to become Anna de Rothschild’

Could this have anything to do with the stolen documents?

What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Latest on the Stolen Government Docs and Other News

Georgia O'Keeffe, Autumn Trees

Georgia O’Keeffe, Autumn Trees

Good Morning!!

I got the Omicron booster and a flu shot this morning. I was fortunate that the local Council on Aging came to my apartment building to give the vaccines. My town is really nice to us old folks.

Both of my arms hurt already, especially the left, where I got the Covid shot. I hope I won’t have a too many side effects. It hurts to type, so this won’t be a fancy post.

Before I get going on the latest news, I want to share this shocking story about Dr. Oz that Jezebel published on Monday: Dr. Oz’s Scientific Experiments Killed Over 300 Dogs, Entire Litter of Puppies.

…[A] review of 75 studies published by Mehmet Oz between 1989 and 2010 reveals the Republican Senate candidate’s research killed over 300 dogs and inflicted significant suffering on them and the other animals used in experiments.

Oz, the New Jersey resident who’s currently running for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, was a “principal investigator” at the Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine labs for years and assumed “full scientific, administrative, and fiscal responsibility for the conduct” of his studies. Over the course of 75 studies published in academic journals reviewed by Jezebel, Oz’s team conducted experiments on at least 1,027 live animal subjects that included dogs, pigs, calves, rabbits, and small rodents. Thirty-four of these experiments resulted in the deaths of at least 329 dogs, while two of his experiments killed 31 pigs, and 38 experiments killed 661 rabbits and rodents.

In the early 2000s, testimony from a whistleblower and veterinarian named Catherine Dell’Orto about Oz’s research detailed extensive suffering inflicted on his team’s canine test subjects, including multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimum standards of care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, and other animals in the possession of animal dealers and laboratories. The law specifically requires researchers and breeders to use pain-relieving drugs or euthanasia on the animals, and not use paralytics without anesthesia, or experiment multiple times on the same animal.

Dell’Orto testified that a dog experimented on by Oz’s team experienced lethargy, vomiting, paralysis, and kidney failure, but wasn’t euthanized for a full two days. She alleged other truly horrifying examples of gratuitously cruel treatment of dogs, including at least one dog who was kept alive for a month for continued experimentation despite her unstable, painful condition, despite how data from her continued experimentation was deemed unusable. According to Dell’Orto, one Oz-led study resulted in a litter of puppies being killed by intracardiac injection with syringes of expired drugs inserted in their hearts without any sedation. Upon being killed, the puppies were allegedly left in a garbage bag with living puppies who were their littermates. Dell’Orto’s allegations, made in 2003 and 2004, are detailed in letters from PETA to the university and USDA. In an interview with Billy Penn last month, she acknowledged PETA “is not a reliable source of information,” but said the organization’s letters honestly reflected what she told the organization and provided documentation for.

In May 2004, Columbia University was ordered by the USDA to pay a $2,000 penalty for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The fine paid by Columbia was the result of a settlement between the university and the USDA, based on the findings of Columbia’s internal investigation of Oz’s research. The USDA accepted these findings, but according to Dell’Orto, the review was faulty, and “had investigators on the committee that were also complicit in this type of poorly designed, cruel animal experimentation.” Dell’Orto also noted that while Oz wasn’t the one who euthanized the dogs and puppies himself, “When your name is on the experiment, and the way the experiment is designed inflicts such cruelty to these animals, by design, there’s a problem.”

Oz also opposes abortion, so he doesn’t have a problem with women dying either.

There’s quite a bit of news on the stolen government documents investigation, so I’m going to focus on that. I’ll add more news links at the end of the post.

Pierre Bonnard, Autumn View, 1912

Pierre Bonnard, Autumn View, 1912

Yesterday afternoon, the 11th Circuit appeals court undercut Trump’s SCOTUS appeal by granting the DOJ’s request for expedited consideration of their appeal of Judge Loose Cannon’s special master decision. Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Appeals court expedites DOJ challenge to Mar-a-Lago special master.

A federal appeals court agreed on Wednesday to expedite consideration of a Justice Department’s bid to shut down the external review process for the 11,000 documents seized by the FBI during its August raid of former President Donald Trump’s residence.

The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Wednesday morning setting tighter deadlines in the government’s appeal to remove what prosecutors contend is an unnecessary obstacle to their investigation into potentially illegal retention of classified information, theft of government records and obstruction of justice.

The schedule set by the appeals court for legal briefing on the issue is not quite as rapid as the Justice Department proposed, but is faster than Trump’s legal team urged. Under the new schedule, Trump’s lawyers would have to stake out their position in the dispute by Nov. 10 and briefing would be complete by Nov. 17.

“No extensions allowed,” Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote, indicating that he had consulted with Chief Judge William Pryor on the plan.

No date was set Wednesday for oral argument, but Adalberto’s order said a “special merits panel” would be assigned to the case.

The legal fight over the documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida has now proliferated into four arenas: the Florida courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who first approved the former president’s request for a special master; the Brooklyn courtroom of the special master she appointed, senior Judge Raymond Dearie; the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Read more at the link.

A couple of days ago Bloomberg’s Zoe Tillman was able to download a court filing that was accidentally unsealed for a short time. The filing listed the documents that had been segregated from the FBI search results because they contained personal or potentially privileged material.

I can’t access her story, but here is an analysis from Philip Bump at The Washington Post: What the FBI took from Trump, according to an accidentally unsealed list.

The list includes two batches of documents, about five dozen in total. What’s included are about 520 pages of documents that the government believed should be screened for privilege by the special master assigned to the case. The government broke the documents into two groups. The first was material that related to Trump’s tenure as president, labeled Exhibit A. The second was material that appeared to be subject to attorney-client privilege. It’s marked Exhibit B.

Reviewing the list itself, though, we get a good sense of the breadth of information that was present at Mar-a-Lago. There are documents related to grants of clemency, to endorsements, to legal fights, to policy proposals. At times, the documents are cryptic. We’ve done our best to clarify where we can, but we might not have explained everything.

Read the document descriptions at the WaPo.

Edvard Munch, Elm Forest in Autumn

Edvard Munch, Elm Forest in Autumn

This is from Emptywheel yesterday: Judge Aileen Cannon Treated a Public Letter About Trump’s Health As More Sensitive Than America’s National Security.

As I have shown, had Judge Aileen Cannon left well enough alone, the government would have handed all Category B documents identified by the filter team back to Trump on September 1. Instead, she deliberately inflicted what she herself deemed to be further harm on Trump to justify intervening in the search of Trump’s beach resort.

And now she may have caused even more harm. That’s because, by means that are not yet clear (but are likely due to a fuck-up by one of Cannon’s own staffers), the inventories from both Category A (government documents that deal with a legal issue) and Category B (more personal documents) were briefly posted on the docket. (h/t Zoe Tillman, who snagged a copy)

Those inventories not only show Cannon’s claims of injury to Trump were even more hackish than I imagined. But it creates the possibility that DOJ’s filter team will attempt to retain some of the documents included in Category B, notably records pertaining to the Georgia fraud attempts and January 6, they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Start with the hackishness. The harm that Cannon sustained to justify intervening consisted of preventing DOJ from returning, “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information” to Trump, “depriv[ing Trump]of potentially significant personal documents.” Cannon made DOJ withhold such documents from Trump for a least two additional weeks and then used it to argue that Trump had a personal interest in what DOJ claims are mostly government documents and press clippings.

The single solitary medical document pertaining to Trump (there’s a Blue Cross explanation of benefits that appears to pertain to someone else) is this letter from Trump’s then-personal physician released during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Not only was it publicly released over six years ago, but details of medicines left off the report and Trump’s role in dictating an earlier version of the letter were widely reported in 2017.

Aileen Cannon held up a national security investigation into highly sensitive documents stored insecurely at a beach resort targeted by foreign intelligence services, in part, because the FBI seized a public letter than had been released as part of a political campaign six years ago.

She personally halted efforts to keep the United States safe, in part, to prevent leaks of a document that Trump released himself six years ago.

Read more at the link.

Jason Leopold and Jack Gillum at Bloomberg on who packed the boxes Trump sent to Mar-a-Lago: Trump Says US Agency Packed Top-Secret Documents. These Emails Suggest Otherwise.

Former President Donald Trump publicly said that one reason that the FBI found boxes of classified documents improperly stored at his Florida estate was that federal workers had packed up the White House after his 2020 defeat.

Autumn in Bavaria, Wassily Kandinsky, 1908

Autumn in Bavaria, Wassily Kandinsky, 1908

But documents obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest a different story. More than 100 pages of emails and shipping lists between White House and transition staff and the US General Services Administration describe the minutiae of moving the Trump White House from Washington, DC, to Florida, down to how many rolls of bubble wrap and tape, all within a plan signed by then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

One thing is clear: The boxes were packed when the movers got there.

While the records don’t specify what the boxes contained, they provide the most detailed account to date of how the GSA assisted the outgoing administration between January and September 2021.

After the FBI’s unprecedented Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the former president and his allies, including Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart News and former Trump defense official Kash Patel, have claimed that Trump can’t be held legally responsible for the dozens of boxes of highly classified documents found around Mar-a-Lago because the GSA — essentially the federal government’s office and property manager — was in charge of filling boxes and shipping them.

Apparently, those were all lies. Read the rest of the details at Bloomberg. A few days ago, The Washington Post reported that Trump himself packed the 15 boxes that he turned over the the National Archives in January. At the time, Alex Cannon, a Trump lawyer, refused to certify that all the documents had been returned, because he didn’t believe that was true. IMO, Trump probably packed the boxes that he took from the White House too.

More News, Links Only:

NBC News: FBI arrests pastor who wore his company jacket on Jan. 6 and pushed into police line.

David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report: House Rating Changes: Ten Races Shift, Mostly Towards Democrats.

NBC News: Cheney warns Arizona voters that the GOP nominees for governor and secretary of state are threats to democracy.

Politico: Abortion ‘has given Democrats a second look’ from GOP-leaning women.

The Washington Post: 14-year-old’s arthritis meds denied after Ariz. abortion ban, doctor says.

Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast: She Had an Abortion With Herschel Walker. She Also Had a Child With Him.

Secret Service news from Carol Leonnig at The Washington Post: VP was in car accident; Secret Service first called it ‘mechanical failure’

Timothy Snyder: How does the Russo-Ukrainian War end?

Financial Times: Vladimir Putin’s botched mobilisation triggers blame game in Russia.

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