Former president Donald Trump asked one of his lawyers to tell the National Archives and Records Administration in early 2022 that Trump had returned all materials requested by the agency, but the lawyer declined because he was not sure the statement was true, according to people familiar with the matter.
As it turned out, thousands more government documents — including some highly classified secrets — remained at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club….
Alex Cannon, an attorney for Trump, had facilitated the January transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives, after archives officials agitated for more than a year to get “all original presidential records” back, which they are required by law to do. Following months of stonewalling by Trump’s representatives, archives officials threatened to get the Justice Department or Congress involved.
Trump himself eventually packed the boxes that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president seemed determined in February to declare that all material sought by the archives had been handed over, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.
Around the same time The Washington Post reported that the archives had retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago, the people said, Trump asked his team to release a statement he had dictated. The statement said Trump had returned “everything” the archives had requested. Trump asked Cannon to send a similar message to archives officials, the people said. In addition, the former president told his aides that the documents in the boxes were “newspaper clippings” and not relevant to the archives, two of these people said, and complained that the agency charged with tracking government records was being persnickety about securing the materials from his Florida club.
But Cannon, a former Trump Organization lawyer who worked for the campaign and for Trump after the presidency, told Trump he could not tell the archives all the requested material had been returned. He told others he was not sure if other documents were still at the club and would be uncomfortable making such a claim, the people familiar with the matter said. Other Trump advisers also encouraged Cannon not to make such a definitive statement, people familiar with the matter said.
The Feb. 7 statement Trump dictated was never released over concerns by some of his team that it was not accurate, people familiar with the matter said. A different statement issued three days later said Trump had given boxes of materials to the archives in a “friendly” manner. It did not say that all of the materials were handed over.
Thursday Reads: Latest on the Stolen Government Docs and Other NewsPosted: October 6, 2022 Filed under: Donald Trump, morning reads | Tags: 11th Circuit appeals court, animal cruelty, DOJ, Dr. Oz, Judge Aileen Cannon, SCOTUS, stolen documents 20 Comments
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.
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.
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.
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?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: October 4, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, just because | Tags: "independent state legislature theory", DOJ, FBI, Mar-a-Lago, National Archives, nuclear weapons, Oath Keepers, Russia, SCOTUS, seditious conspiracy, stolen government documents, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 18 Comments
My posts are getting later and later. I look around at what’s happening in the world on my blogging days and somehow it takes me a long time to get going. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, or maybe it’s because I’m traumatized by seven years of reading about Trump and the horrors he has inflicted on our country–or maybe both. I don’t know why I ever thought he would go away once he was out of office. Back when he was ranting on Twitter all the time, I used to wish he would go away and leave us alone. Now I realize he will never go away until he dies, and even then we’ll be reading about the damage he has done–if we survive as a country with freedom of speech and press, that is.
The latest on Trump’s legal problems and crimes
The Washington Post: Trump’s lawyer refused his request in February to say all documents returned.
So Cannon will be another witness against Trump if he’s ever brought to trial. There’s much more at the WaPo link.
From J. Michael Luttig at The Atlantic on the upcoming SCOTUS case based on Trump’s efforts to get Republican state legislators to create fake sets of electors in order to overturn his 2020 election loss: There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory.
The Supreme Court will decide before next summer the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding.
In Moore v. Harper, the Court will finally resolve whether there is a doctrine of constitutional interpretation known as the “independent state legislature.” If the Court concludes that there is such a doctrine, it would confer on state legislatures plenary, exclusive, and judicially unreviewable power both to redraw congressional districts for federal elections and to appoint state electors who quadrennially cast the votes for president and vice president on behalf of the voters of the states. It would mean that the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts by state legislatures would not be reviewable by the state courts—including the states’ highest court—under their state constitutions.
The independent-state-legislature theory gained traction as the centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In the Supreme Court, allies of the former president argued that the theory, as applied to the electors clause, enabled the state legislatures to appoint electors who would cast their votes for the former president, even though the lawfully certified electors were bound by state law to cast their votes for Joe Biden because he won the popular vote in those states. The Supreme Court declined to decide the question in December 2020. The former president and his allies continued thereafter to urge the state legislatures, and even self-appointed Trump supporters, to transmit to Congress alternative, uncertified electoral slates to be counted by Congress on January 6.
That as many as six justices on the Supreme Court have flirted with the independent-state-legislature theory over the past 20 years is baffling. There is literally no support in the Constitution, the pre-ratification debates, or the history from the time of our nation’s founding or the Constitution’s framing for a theory of an independent state legislature that would foreclose state judicial review of state legislatures’ redistricting decisions. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that the Constitution contemplates and provides for such judicial review.
To the extent that advocates of the independent-state-legislature theory have any evidence at all to support the theory, it is exceedingly thin. Their textual argument is that the total disempowerment of state courts necessarily follows from the fact that the elections clause empowers the state legislatures to prescribe the “manner” of holding congressional elections.
But there is neither more nor less significance to the fact that the Constitution assigns this quintessential legislative power to the state legislatures than that the Constitution assigns federal lawmaking to Congress, rather than to the executive or the judiciary. And yet, the Constitution provides for judicial review of the actions of both.
It’s long, of course, so read the rest at The Atlantic if you’re so inclined.
And then there’s Trump’s mentor, Putin. Will he ever go away?
This is by Walter Russell Mead at The Wall Street Journal–I didn’t encounter a paywall: Putin’s Nuclear Threat Is Real. The conflict isn’t only about Ukraine. He’s waging a global war on the U.S.-led order.
Even as poorly trained, poorly led and poorly supplied Russian forces retreat on the battlefield, the danger that the war in Ukraine will erupt into a wider conflict continues to grow. Vladimir Putin has responded to the weakening of his military position by “annexing” four contested regions inside Ukraine, declaring that the conflict in Ukraine is a war for the survival of Russia, and raising the specter of a nuclear strike. The West is taking note of these moves and the sabotage of Baltic pipelines connecting European consumers to Russian gas. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned Russia that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences for Russian forces, and Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, repeated that message Sunday morning.
As the Biden administration scrambles to manage the most dangerous international confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it must see the world through Mr. Putin’s eyes. Only then can officials know how seriously to take the nuclear saber-rattling and develop an appropriate response.
While American presidents going back to George W. Bush have failed to appreciate the depth and passion of Mr. Putin’s hostility to the U.S., the Russian president isn’t that hard to read. Like a movie supervillain who can’t resist sharing the details of his plans for world conquest with the captured hero, Mr. Putin makes no secret of his agenda. At Friday’s ceremony marking Russia’s illegal and invalid “annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, he laid out his worldview and ambitions in a chilling and extraordinary speech that every American policy maker should read.
Mr. Putin sees global politics today as a struggle between a rapacious and domineering West and the rest of the world bent on resisting our arrogance and exploitation. The West is cynical and hypocritical, and its professed devotion to “liberal values” is a sham. The West is not a coalition of equals; it represents the domination of the “evil Anglo-Saxons” over the Europeans and Japan. Mr. Putin sees this American-led world system as the successor to the British Empire, and he blames the Anglo-Saxon or English-speaking powers for a host of evils, from the Atlantic slave trade to European imperialism to the use of nuclear weapons in World War II.
This attack on “Anglo-Saxon” greed, brutality and hypocrisy is not original to Mr. Putin. He is reading from a script developed by opponents of British and American liberal capitalism and geopolitical power over hundreds of years. Napoleon could have delivered large swathes of this speech. Very different figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler as well as Joseph Stalin, Imperial Japanese leaders like Hideki Tojo, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden shared much of Mr. Putin’s critique. One can hear versions of it on many college campuses, and it plays a significant role in the intellectual and cultural life of many postcolonial countries and movements around the world.
Again, this is a long read, so I hope you will also be able to do so without hitting a paywall. If it helps, I clicked on a link from Memeorandum.
The latest Ukraine news from The Washington Post: Ukraine hammers Russian forces into retreat on east and south fronts.
Ukrainian troops on Tuesday accelerated their military advances on two fronts, pushing Russian forces into retreat in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the east and Kherson region to the south.
The gains showed Kyiv continuing to recapture occupied territory on the same day that President Vladimir Putin and his rubber-stamp parliament sought to formalize their increasingly far-fetched annexation claims of four Ukrainian regions.
“The Ukrainian armed forces commanders in the south and east are throwing problems at the Russian chain of command faster than the Russians can effectively respond,” said a Western official who requested anonymity to brief reporters about sensitive security information. “And this is compounding the existing dysfunction within the Russian invasion force.”
Ukraine has been pushing to take back as much of its occupied territory as it can before Russia potentially sends hundreds of thousands of reinforcements to the battlefield, following a recent mobilization effort.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had moved far more slowly in the south compared to the lightning push through the northeast Kharkiv region in September, has suddenly picked up speed, with Russian units retreating in recent days from a large swath of territory along the west bank of the Dnieper River.
Ukrainian forces pushed ahead dozens of miles into the southern Kherson region, liberating towns and villages and recreating scenes from mid-September when they swept into Kharkiv and were greeted by joyful residents who had spent many months under Russian occupation.
On Monday, the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that “superior tank units” of Ukraine had “wedged in the depth of our defense line” near the villages of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka in the Kherson region.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Yesterday was day one of the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial:
CNN: Takeaways from the dramatic first day and opening statements of the Oath Keepers trial.
With the historic case that they had brought against Oath Keepers accused of plotting to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, prosecutors framed up how the jury should think about the allegations with an hour-plus opening statement that kicked off the trial in earnest.
Five alleged members of the far-right militia, including its leader Stewart Rhodes, are on trial in Washington DC’s federal courthouse. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy, a charge rarely brought by the Justice Department, and other charges.
The Justice Department’s opening statement featured messages and other communications among the defendants that prosecutors say show the Oath Keepers’ unlawful plotting to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win. As the prosecutors sought to use the words of the defendants against them, they also played video capturing the Oath Keepers’ actions in the Capitol and displayed maps and charts to help the jury follow along. Each juror has their own screen to see evidence.
“They said out loud and in writing what they planned to do,” Jeffrey Nestler, an assistant US Attorney, told the jury. “When the opportunity finally presented itself … they sprang into action.”
A lawyer for Rhodes, the first defense attorney to deliver an opening statement told the jurors that they will see evidence that will show that the defendants “had no part in the bulk” of the violence that occurred on January 6.
“You may not like what you see and hear our defendants did,” attorney Phillip Linder said, “but the evidence will show that they didn’t do anything illegal that day.”
That’s the introduction to the story. Read the takeaways at CNN. Again, it’s a long read.
The Washington Post: U.S.: Oath Keepers, Rhodes attacked ‘bedrock of democracy’ on Jan. 6.
Fill-In Friday ReadsPosted: September 9, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump | Tags: Department of Justice, DOJ, empty folders, Judge Aileen Cannon, missing documents, national security, Queen Elizabeth II 13 Comments
Dakinikat is a little under the weather, so I’m filling in today. Before I get to the news of the day, I wanted to share some images of the late Queen Elizabeth II from Twitter.
Marilyn Monroe meets the Queen, 1956
One more, a double rainbow appeared over Buckingham Palace after Elizabeth’s death.
DOJ Replies to Trump Judge Aileen Cannon
As far as I’m concerned, the top story is the DOJ’s latest effort to reason with MAGA Judge Aileen Cannon, while at the same time perhaps saving her from the further public humiliation of having her decision overturned by an appeals court.
Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: DOJ appeals special master ruling in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe.
The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that blocked investigators from reviewing a range of highly-sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Prosecutors said in a new court filing that U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to temporarily halt the FBI’s ability to probe the ex-president’s handling and storage of classified materials would cause “irreparable harm” to efforts by the intelligence community to protect national security interests.
“[I]n order to assess the full scope of potential harms to national security resulting from the improper retention of the classified records, the government must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised,” Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt argued in the filing. “But that inquiry is a core aspect of the FBI’s criminal investigation.”
The Justice Department delivered an unsparing assessment of Cannon’s contention that Trump might have a legitimate executive privilege claim over some of the seized documents, contending that a former president had no plausible right to assert ownership of classified records.
“That authority falls upon the incumbent President, not on any former President, because it is the incumbent President who bears the responsibility to protect and defend the national security of the United States,” Bratt wrote.
The DOJ filing amounts to a full-throated rebuke of the ruling by Cannon, a Trump appointee who was confirmed to a seat in the Southern District of Florida a week after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Prosecutors used the filing to describe her ruling as a danger to national security, one ignorant of the FBI’s integral role in modern counterintelligence work, and lacking in an understanding of the complexities of executive privilege.
More from The New York Times’s Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer, and Charlie Savage: Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Lift Block on Trump Documents Investigation.
The department, in forceful and foreboding language, argued that determining the national security implications of Mr. Trump’s retention of the documents was so intertwined with its criminal investigation that carrying out a separate risk assessment was impossible under the conditions imposed by the court.
Justice Department lawyers complained that the judge’s order was impeding efforts to determine whether there may yet be “additional classified records that are not being properly stored” and noted that the search had recovered empty folders marked as classified whose contents “may have been lost or compromised.”
In an order on Thursday evening, Judge Cannon directed Mr. Trump’s lawyers to respond to the government’s filing by Monday.
In an affidavit accompanying the filing, Alan E. Kohler Jr., the assistant director of the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division, wrote that the intelligence community’s assessment of the classified material was “inextricably linked with the criminal investigation.”
Department lawyers wrote that “uncertainty regarding the bounds of the court’s order and its implications for the activities of the F.B.I. has caused the intelligence community, in consultation with D.O.J., to pause temporarily this critically important work.”
The government and the public, the department added, “are irreparably injured when a criminal investigation of matters involving risks to national security” is frozen or delayed.
More explanation from The Washington Post’s Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett: Justice Dept. seeks to regain access to classified Mar-a-Lago documents.
Ultimately, the Justice Department said that a special master could be appointed to review personal documents and some other items seized by FBI agents on Aug. 8 in a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, setting aside materials as necessary.
But prosecutors argued that Cannon should prohibit the special master from reviewing classified documents — and should restore investigators’ access to those documents right away.
Barring the FBI from using the classified material in the investigation, even temporarily, “could impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored — which itself presents the potential for ongoing risk to national security,” prosecutors wrote.
It was the first time they have suggested in court filings that there could be more unsecured classified material the government has yet to locate.
Allowing a special master to review the classified material would “cause the most immediate and serious harms to the government and the public,” prosecutorswrote in their Thursday filing, noting that those seized documents have already been moved to a secure facility, separate from the rest of the seized Trump papers.
Remember the empty folders marked classified that turned up during the search? The FBI needs to learn what those folders originally contained.
FBI Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler submitted a declaration saying that Cannon’s prohibition of investigators’ use of the seized classified material could prevent them from understanding what may have happened to the significant number of empty folders found with classified markings.
The existence of those empty folders was made public last week, when a more detailed list of what the FBI took in the search was unsealed.
The FBI’s investigation, Kohler wrote, “could be instrumental in determining what materials may once have been stored in those folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised.”
Judge Cannon is on notice that she will have to choose between protecting Trump and protecting the national security of the United States of America.
Some analysis of the empty folders issue from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Justice Department leans in on Trump and the empty folders.
Thursday ReadsPosted: September 8, 2022 Filed under: campaign financing, corruption, Crime, Donald Trump, U.S. Politics | Tags: Anne Garrels, Bernard Shaw, deaths, DOJ, Fraud, money laundering, Queen Elizabeth II, Russiagate documents, Save America PAC, Steve Bannon, William Russell 23 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!!
I’m not a fan of royalty, but it does seem significant that Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain may be dying. She took the throne on February 6, 1952 and is the “longest reigning monarch in world history.” She is 96 years old. The queen is in Scotland and she did not return to London for the appointment of the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Her family members are either with her at Balmoral Castle or on their way there.
UPDATE: Queen Elizabeth II has died.
The Washington Post: Queen Elizabeth II under medical supervision as family gathers at Balmoral.
Queen Elizabeth II is under medical care at Balmoral Castle after doctors became concerned about her health, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Her family is traveling to Scotland to be by her side.
Prince Harry and Meghan are en route to Balmoral, a spokesperson for the couple said. Prince William was also on his way to Balmoral. His wife, Catherine, remained in Windsor as their children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, are on their first full day at their new school, Kensington Palace said.
The statement comes a day after Buckingham Palace said Wednesday that the queen, who is 96, had canceled a virtual meeting with the Privy Council on doctor’s advice to rest.
The statements may have been vague on details, but the fact that they were issued at all speaks volumes. The palace typically provides minimal information about the queen’s health.
Also notable: The BBC has suspended programming for today in order to provide updates on the queen’s health.
This morning the deaths of two renowned journalists were announced.
CNN announced: CNN anchor Bernard Shaw dead at 82.
Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw died Wednesday of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19, Shaw’s family announced in a statement Thursday. Shaw was 82.
Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor and was with the network when it launched on June 1, 1980. He retired from CNN after more than 20 years on February 28, 2001.
During his storied career, Shaw reported on some of the biggest stories of that time — including the student revolt in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, the First Gulf war live from Baghdad in 1991, and the 2000 presidential election.
“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN.
Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Thursday. “He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”
And from NPR: Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, dies at 71.
Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, died on Wednesday of lung cancer. She was 71 years old.
At NPR, Garrels was known as a passionate reporter willing to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice if the story required it. She was also a warm and generous friend to many.
When she arrived at NPR in 1988, she already had a lot of experience under her belt — including 10 years in television news at ABC, where she was bureau chief in both Moscow and Central America.
Garrels made a strong impression on NPR’s Deborah Amos. “She was this glamorous television reporter who came here,” she said. “She didn’t dress like the rest of us in the beginning. And she’d has this long and remarkable career before she landed here … She was always braver than me, and I always understood that she was braver than me.”
That bravery led Garrels into many war zones. And when it came to covering a war, she was there at the beginning, in the middle of the battle, and at the peace table. She was the kind of reporter who would drive alone across a war zone if that’s what it took to get the story.
Read more at NPR.
This morning Steve Bannon surrendered to prosecutors in New York on state charges similar to the federal ones for which Trump pardoned him.
The Washington Post: Bannon charged with fraud, money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall.’
Stephen K. Bannon has been charged with money laundering, fraud and conspiracy in connection with the “We Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, for which he received a federal pardon during Donald Trump’s final days in the White House.
I was hoping for news from the DOJ on whether they will appeal the insane decision by Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to examine the government documents that Trump stole. But the only news I’ve seen is that they are proposing to unseal more of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, perhaps to use in their response to Judge Cannon.
There is plenty more Trump legal news though:
A federal grand jury investigating the activities leading up the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the push by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 election has expanded its probe to include seeking information about Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.
The interest in the fundraising arm came to light as part of grand jury subpoenas seeking documents, records and testimony from potential witnesses, the sources said.
The subpoenas, sent to several individuals in recent weeks, are specifically seeking to understand the timeline of Save America’s formation, the organization’s fundraising activities, and how money is both received and spent by the Trump-aligned PAC….
Trump and his allies have consistently pushed supporters to donate to the PAC, often using false claims about the 2020 election and soliciting donations to rebuke the multiple investigations into the former president, his business dealings, and his actions on Jan. 6.
After the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, Save America PAC sent out a fundraising email in which Trump urged supporters to “rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”
More from The New York Times: Trump’s Post-Election Fund-Raising Comes Under Scrutiny by Justice Dept.
A federal grand jury in Washington is examining the formation of — and spending by — a PAC created by Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election as he was raising millions of dollars by baselessly asserting that the results had been marred by widespread voting fraud.
According to subpoenas issued by the grand jury, the contents of which were described to The New York Times, the Justice Department is interested in the inner workings of Save America PAC, Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising vehicle after the election. Several similar subpoenas were sent on Wednesday to junior and midlevel aides who worked in the White House and for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
Among the roughly half-dozen current and former Trump aides in the White House and the 2020 presidential campaign who are said to have received subpoenas this week were Beau Harrison, an aide to Mr. Trump in the White House and in his post-presidency, and William S. Russell, who similarly worked in the West Wing and now for Mr. Trump’s personal office, according to several people familiar with the events….
The fact that federal prosecutors are seeking information about Save America PAC is a significant new turn in an already sprawling investigation of the roles that Mr. Trump and some of his allies played in trying to overturn the election, an array of efforts that culminated with the violent mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Another Trump aide was subpoenaed in connection with planning for the January 6 coup attempt.
From the article:
Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to a personal aide to former President Donald J. Trump as part of the investigation into the events leading up to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, people familiar with the matter said.
The move suggests that investigators have expanded the pool of people from whom they are seeking information in the wide-ranging criminal investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and that agents are reaching into the former president’s direct orbit.
This week, F.B.I. agents in Florida tried to approach William S. Russell, a 31-year-old aide to Mr. Trump who served as a special assistant and the deputy director of presidential advance operations in the White House. He continued to work for Mr. Trump as a personal aide after he left office, one of a small group of officials who did so.
It was not immediately clear what the F.B.I. agents wanted from Mr. Russell; people familiar with the Justice Department’s inquiry said he has not yet been interviewed. But a person with knowledge of the F.B.I.’s interest said that it related to the grand jury investigation into events that led to the Capitol attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters.
That investigation is said to have focused extensively on the attempts by some of Mr. Trump’s advisers and lawyers to create slates of fake electors from swing states. Mr. Trump and his allies wanted Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay certification of the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 to allow consideration of Trump electors whose votes could have changed the outcome.
At Rolling Stone, Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng offer a possible motive for at least some of Trump’s document pilfering: Trump Told White House Team He Needed to Protect ‘Russiagate’ Documents.
IN HIS FINAL days in the White House, Donald Trump told top advisers he needed to preserve certain Russia-related documents to keep his enemies from destroying them.
The documents related to the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with Trump’s campaign. At the end of his presidency, Trump and his team pushed to declassify these so-called “Russiagate” documents, believing they would expose a “Deep State” plot against him.
According to a person with direct knowledge of the situation and another source briefed on the matter, Trump told several people working in and outside the White House that he was concerned Joe Biden’s incoming administration — or the “Deep State” — would supposedly “shred,” bury, or destroy “the evidence” that Trump was somehow wronged.
Trump’s concern about preserving the Russia-related material is newly relevant after an FBI search turned up a trove of government documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Since the search, Trump has refused to say which classified government papers and top-secret documents he had at Mar-a-Lago and what was the FBI had seized. (Trump considers the documents “mine” and has directed his lawyers to make that widely-panned argument in court.) The feds have publicly released little about the search and its results.It’s unclear if any of the materials in Trump’s document trove are related to Russia or the election interference investigation. A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
I have a few more articles to share, but I’ll do it in the comment thread. Sorry this post is so late; my internet keeps going in and out.
Tuesday ReadsPosted: September 6, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, U.S. Politics | Tags: Department of Justice, DOJ, Dominion lawsuit, election interference, Fox News, Georgia, Hillary Clinton, Jeanine Pirro, Judge Aileen Cannon, Judge Shopping 12 Comments
I was hoping we might hear something from the DOJ this morning, but so far they haven’t responded publicly to Trump judge Aileen Cannon’s ridiculous decision yesterday. According to The Guardian,
Lawyers for Donald Trump are conferring with justice department counterparts to come up by Friday with a list of possible candidates to be the “special master” approved by a district court judge over the former president’s hoarding of classified documents.
So far, I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else.
However, Hillary Clinton did make a public statement today in a Twitter thread.
The Daily Beast has a piece on Trump’s judge shopping. It turns out this isn’t the first time he tried to get Judge Cannon on a case: Trump Went Judge Shopping and It Paid Off in Mar-a-Lago Case.
When former President Donald Trump summoned up years of bubbling resentment and sued Hillary Clinton and everyone else involved in Russiagate earlier this year, he naturally filed his lawsuit in South Florida—home to his oceanside estate.
And yet, when his attorneys formally filed the paperwork, they selected a tiny courthouse in the sprawling federal court district’s furthest northeast corner—a satellite location that’s 70 miles from Mar-a-Lago. They ignored the West Palm Beach federal courthouse that’s a 12-minute drive away.
The tactic failed, and Trump instead got a Clinton-era judge whom he promptly tried to disqualify for alleged bias. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks called him out in a snarky footnote.
“I note that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Fort Pierce division of this District, where only one federal judge sits: Judge Aileen Cannon, who Plaintiff appointed in 2020. Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead. And when Plaintiff is a litigant before a judge that he himself appointed, he does not tend to advance these same sorts of bias concerns,” Middlebrooks wrote in April.
This time Trump hit the jackpot.
Months later, Trump is once again suing in the Southern District of Florida, this time seeking to hamper the FBI investigation into the way he kept hundreds of classified records at Mar-a-Lago. Except this time, he got Cannon.
The strategy is already paying off.
On Monday afternoon, Cannon single-handedly hit the brakes on the most politically sensitive and consequential FBI investigation ever undertaken. Convinced by Team Trump’s legal arguments that the routine Justice Department methods for carefully handling seized documents aren’t good enough when investigating this particular former president, she ordered that a “special master” be tasked with playing referee to dictate what happens with classified documents that are evidence of a crime.
“The investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness,” she wrote in her order.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Deeply Problematic’: Experts Question Judge’s Intervention in Trump Inquiry.
A federal judge’s extraordinary decision on Monday to interject in the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents at his Florida residence showed unusual solicitude to him, legal specialists said….
Siding with Mr. Trump, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, ordered the appointment of an independent arbiter to review the more than 11,000 government records the F.B.I. seized in its search of Mar-a-Lago last month. She granted the arbiter, known as a special master, broad powers that extended beyond filtering materials that were potentially subject to attorney-client privilege to also include executive privilege.
Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also blocked federal prosecutors from further examining the seized materials for the investigation until the special master had completed a review.
In reaching that result, Judge Cannon took several steps that specialists said were vulnerable to being overturned if the government files an appeal, as most agreed was likely. Any appeal would be heard by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, where Mr. Trump appointed six of its 11 active judges.
Some of the expert reactions:
This was “an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas….
Paul Rosenzweig, a former homeland security official in the George W. Bush administration and prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, said it was egregious to block the Justice Department from steps like asking witnesses about government files, many marked as classified, that agents had already reviewed.
“This would seem to me to be a genuinely unprecedented decision by a judge,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “Enjoining the ongoing criminal investigation is simply untenable.” [….]
“Judge Cannon had a reasonable path she could have taken — to appoint a special master to review documents for attorney-client privilege and allow the criminal investigation to continue otherwise,” said Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor. “Instead, she chose a radical path.”
A specialist in separation of powers, Peter M. Shane, who is a legal scholar in residence at N.Y.U., said there was no basis for Judge Cannon to expand a special master’s authority to screen materials that were also potentially subject to executive privilege. That tool is normally thought of as protecting internal executive branch deliberations from disclosure to outsiders like Congress.
“The opinion seems oblivious to the nature of executive privilege,” he said.
The Justice Department is itself part of the executive branch, and a court has never held that a former president can invoke the privilege to keep records from his time in office away from the executive branch itself.
Read the whole thing at the NYT.
In other news . . .
From CNN this morning:
From the CNN article:
A Republican county official in Georgia escorted two operatives working with an attorney for former President Donald Trump into the county’s election offices on the same day a voting system there was breached, newly obtained video shows.
The breach is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is of interest to the Fulton County District Attorney, who is conducting a wider criminal probe of interference in the 2020 election.
The video sheds more light on how an effort spearheaded by lawyers and others around Trump to seek evidence of voter fraud was executed on the ground from Georgia to Michigan to Colorado, often with the assistance of sympathetic local officials.
In the surveillance video, which was obtained by CNN, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020, escorts a team of pro-Trump operatives to the county’s elections office on January 7, 2021, the same day a voting system there is known to have been breached.
The two men seen in the video with Latham, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, have acknowledged that they successfully gained access to a voting machine in Coffee County at the behest of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Text messages, emails and witness testimony filed as part of a long-running civil suit into the security of Georgia’s voting systems show Latham communicated directly with the then-Coffee County elections supervisor about getting access to the office, both before and after the breach. One text message, according to the court document, shows Latham coordinating the arrival and whereabouts of a team “led by Paul Maggio” that traveled to Coffee County at the direction of Powell.
Three days after the breach, Latham texted the Coffee County elections supervisor, “Did you all finish with the scanner?” According to court documents, Latham testified she did not know what Hall was doing in Coffee County. But when confronted with her texts about the scanner, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights.
More from The Washington Post:
The new video adds to the picture of the alleged breach in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, and reveals for the first time the later visits by Logan and Lenberg. It also provides further indications of links between various efforts to overturn the election, including what once appeared to be disparate attempts to access and copy election system data in the wake of Trump’s loss.
Experts have expressed concern that such efforts could expose details of voting systems’ hardware and software that are intended to be tightly controlled, potentially aiding hackers who might seek to alter the results of a future election. Data copied from elections systems in other states has been published online. Georgia state officials and voting-machine makers have downplayed the risk, pointing to safeguards that they say protect the systems from tampering.
The Post reported last month that a data forensics firm hired by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell copied software and data from the Dominion Voting Systems machines used by Coffee County. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating the matter.
Details of the Coffee County incident have come to light largely because of a flurry of subpoenas and depositions by plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit against Georgia authorities over the security of the state’s elections. Emails and other records they obtained from the data forensics firm, Atlanta-based Sullivan Strickler, showed that the Coffee episode was part of a coordinated multistate effort to access voting equipment in a hunt for evidence that the election was rigged….
The security footage shows only the exterior of the office’s entrance area, and it is not clear what the consultants Logan and Lenberg did inside….
David Cross, a lawyer who represents some of the plaintiffs in the civil case, said the additional visits raise questions about why the two men returned. “The biggest concern that we have is future elections,” said Cross, whose clients are pressing Georgia authorities to replace the state’s ballot-marking machines with hand-marked paper ballots.
Logan and Lenberg have played roles inthe multistate pursuit of voting machines by Trump supporters. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) has asked for a special prosecutor to decide whether to pursue charges against them and others for allegedly conspiring to unlawfully access elections equipment in three counties there last year. Logan and Lenberg also provided affidavits as expert witnesses in a post-election lawsuit in Antrim County, Mich., after a judge granted SullivanStrickler access to Dominion Voting Systems machines there.
Another election interference story from David Folkenflick at NPR:
NPR: Fox producer’s warning against Jeanine Pirro surfaces in Dominion defamation suit.
The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims.
The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him. The existence of the email, confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it, is first publicly disclosed by NPR in this story. Fox News declined comment.
Pirro was far from alone in broadcasting such false claims. In the weeks that followed Election Day 2020, other prominent Fox stars, commentators and their guests heavily promoted them.
A repeat target was Dominion Voting Systems, the election machine and technology company. Trump and his allies alleged on Fox that Dominion was engaged in a conscious effort to throw the 2020 race to Joe Biden. They implied and falsely asserted on Fox programs that Dominion’s machines and software either discarded Trump’s votes or transferred them to Biden. Dominion argues their false claims were frequently egged on by Fox’s own stars.
The producer’s email is among the voluminous correspondence acquired by Dominion’s attorneys as part of its discovery of evidence in a $1.6 billion defamation suit it filed against Fox News and its parent company. Dominion alleges it has been “irreparably harmed” by the lies, conspiracy theories and wild claims of election fraud that aired on Fox.
Pirro’s role remains under sharp scrutiny. She attended Trump’s belligerent address from the White House late on election night 2020 and advanced his arguments on the air.
Read more at NPR.
That’s it for me. I hope we’ll learn more about the DOJ’s response to Judge “Loose Cannon’s” decision during the course of the day. What other stories are you following?