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.
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.
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:
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?
I hope you’ll forgive a little childhood nostalgia from me this morning. Yesterday I came down with a cold and sought a little comfort by recalling the Beatrix Potter stories my parents read to me as a child. I googled Potter and came across this wonderful story about her life at The Guardian: The strange life of Beatrix Potter — how rabbits (and mushrooms) set her free, by Matthew Dennison. Dennison wrote a brief biography of Potter, Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter. Here’s the Amazon blurb of the book:
Inspired by the twenty-three “tales,” Matthew Dennison takes a selection of quotations from Potter’s stories and uses them to explore her multi-faceted life and character: repressed Victorian daughter; thwarted lover; artistic genius; formidable countrywoman. They chart her transformation from a young girl with a love of animals and fairy tales into a bestselling author and canny businesswoman, so deeply unusual for the Victorian era in which she grew up. Embellished with photographs of Potter’s life and her own illustrations, this biography will delight anyone who has been touched by Beatrix Potter’s work.
At The Guardian, Dennison writes that at 25, Potter was:
Unmarried, cripplingly shy, plagued by poor health, she passed empty days in the nursery of her childhood home in South Kensington, at the beck and call of her irritable parents. She would remain there until her unexpected marriage at the age of 45.
In place of friends, she had a “noisy cheerful” pet rabbit called Benjamin H Bouncer. On good days, she noted, he was “amiably sentimental to the point of silliness”; on bad days, he ate the insides of her paintbox. Beatrix even dreamt about him: “Bunny came to my bedside in a white cotton nightcap and tickled me with his whiskers.” Inspired by Pepys, she wrote her diary in a complicated code of her own invention, sometimes framing her entries as letters to an imaginary friend called Esther. In these diaries, she vented frustration at her comfortable, pointless existence. As young as 10, she recorded an intention to “do something”.
It took quite awhile, but Potter eventually broke away from her restrictive parents by studying nature and painting. Of course she was best known for her illustrations of rabbits, but she also wrote illustrated stories about cats. I’ve used some of those illustrations in this post.
Now to the latest news.
We’re moving rapidly toward impeachment and maybe we’ll actually be able to rid ourselves of the monster in the White House. The revelations about Trump administration corruption are coming out at warp speed. You’ve probably been following every twist and turn, just as I have.
The latest: Last night we learned that Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office was even worse than previously reported. The Washington Post: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election.
President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.
The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.
A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
A bit more:
White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said.
The previous day, Trump had fired Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia. White House aides worried about the political ramifications if Trump’s comments to the Russian officials became public.
Trump had publicly ridiculed the Russia investigation as politically motivated and said he doubted Moscow had intervened in the election. By the time he met with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump had been briefed by the most senior U.S. intelligence officials about the Russian operation, which was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and included the theft and publication of Democratic emails and the seeding of propaganda in social media, according to the findings of the U.S. intelligence community.
Apparently, no one told Robert Mueller about these remarks–unless they were redacted by Cover-Up General Bill Barr.
Another scoop from The New York Times: White House Classified Computer System Is Used to Hold Transcripts of Sensitive Calls.
The White House concealed some reconstructed transcripts of delicate calls between President Trump and foreign officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin and the Saudi royal family, in a highly classified computer system after embarrassing leaks of his conversations, according to current and former officials.
The handling of Mr. Trump’s calls with world leaders has come under scrutiny after questions over whether a transcript of a July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was improperly placed into this computer system.
The latest revelations show the focus that White House officials put o safeguarding not only classified information but also delicate calls with Mr. Trump, the details of which the administration did not want leaked.
In the case of the calls with the Saudi royal family, the restrictions were set beforehand, and the number of people allowed to listen was sharply restricted. The Saudi calls placed in the restricted system were with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Khalid bin Salman, who at the time was the Saudi ambassador to the United States….
The practice began after details of Mr. Trump’s Oval Office discussion with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, leaked to the news media, leading to questions of whether the president had released classified information, according to multiple current and former officials. The White House was particularly upset when the news media reported that Mr. Trump had called James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, a “nut job” during that same meeting, according to current and former officials.
The White House had begun restricting access to information after initial leaks of Mr. Trump’s calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. But the conversation with Mr. Lavrov and Sergey I. Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, prompted tighter restrictions.
From The Guardian this morning: Trump’s Ukraine call sparks new questions over intelligence chief’s firing.
Three days after his now infamous phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Donald Trump abruptly fired his director of national intelligence in favour of an inexperienced political loyalist.
According to a New York Times report, the White House learned within days that the unorthodox call on 25 July with Zelenskiy had raised red flags among intelligence professionals and was likely to trigger an official complaint.
That timeline has raised new questions over the timing of the Trump’s dismissal by tweet of the director of national intelligence (DNI), Dan Coats, on 28 July and his insistence that the deputy DNI, Sue Gordon, a career intelligence professional, did not step into the role, even in an acting capacity.
Instead, Trump tried to install a Republican congressman, John Ratcliffe, who had minimal national security credentials but had been a fierce defender of the president in Congress. Trump had to drop the nomination after it emerged that Ratcliffe had exaggerated his national security credentials in his biography, wrongly claiming he had conducted prosecutions in terrorist financing cases.
Despite the collapse of the Ratcliffe nomination, Gordon was forced out. She was reported to have been holding a meeting on election security on 8 August when Coats interrupted to convinceher that she would have to resign.
According to The New York Times, Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint “Soon After Trump’s Call” with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, so it appears that Trump fired Coats and Gordon to keep them from getting involved in the situation.
The Washington Post reports that Trump may have been trying to get China to investigate Hunter Biden’s activities there: Trump says he raised Hunter Biden allegations with his China go-between.
President Trump, who has alleged that Hunter Biden got the Chinese to put $1.5 billion into an investment fund, said during private remarks this week that he raised the matter with a U.S. executive who has served as his intermediary on trade talks with Beijing….
In remarks to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on Thursday morning, Trump said he discussed Biden’s China work with Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of the investment company Blackstone.
“I was with the head of Blackstone . . . Steve Schwarzman,” Trump said, according to a video of the remarks obtained by The Washington Post. After alleging that Hunter Biden got $1.5 billion from the Chinese, Trump said he asked Schwarzman, “Steve, is that possible?” Trump said Schwarzman asked, “Who got that?” and Trump responded, “Biden’s son.”
Trump said he asked Schwarzman how that could happen, and the executive responded: “Maybe I shouldn’t get involved, you know it’s very political.”
I wonder how many other countries Trump has tried to solicit for help with the 2020 election?
More stories to check out, links only:
Gary Kasparov at The New York Daily News: The dam is breaking: Trump’s true character is revealed, more fully than ever.
Michael Cohen at The Boston Globe: Forget impeachment. Donald Trump needs to resign.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Ukraine Scandal Is a Fitting Symbol of Trump’s Presidency. It May Finally Be His Downfall.
Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post: Americans spent decades discussing rule of law. Why would anyone believe us now?
The Washington Post: Deep Throat’s identity was a mystery for decades because no one believed this woman.
The Daily Beast: Pompeo Grapples for Ways to Outlast Hurricane Rudy.
Have a great Caturday, Sky Dancers!!