Posted: September 9, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump | Tags: Department of Justice, DOJ, empty folders, Judge Aileen Cannon, missing documents, national security, Queen Elizabeth II |
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.
One week ago, we learned an intriguing detail about the search of Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago: Along with the roughly 100 classified documents recovered, the government also found 48 folders with banners marked “classified” but which were nonetheless empty.
What we didn’t know was how significant the government considered that finding; the empty folders were merely listed on an inventory list.
On Thursday, though, the Justice Department served notice that the empty folders are of significant interest. And it argued that tracing them to specific classified documents is among the urgent reasons that its review should be allowed to continue….
Among the handful of reasons mentioned: the empty folders. And the Justice Department implies that it might indeed be able to use the folders to determine whether there are larger issues than Trump merely having possessed classified documents. Specifically, it cites the possibility that classified documents might have been “lost” or “compromised.”
“The FBI would be chiefly responsible for investigating what materials may have once been stored in these folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised — steps that, again, may require the use of grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, and other criminal investigative tools and could lead to evidence that would also be highly relevant to advancing the criminal investigation,” the DOJ’s filing states.
Later in the filing, the Justice Department again returns to the idea that classified documents might still be missing.
“In addition, the injunction against using classified records in the criminal investigation 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,” it says.
The idea that the government hasn’t recovered all classified documents is hardly far-fetched. Trump, after all, failed to return all the documents when they were subpoenaed months ago, even as his lawyer asserted that all requested documents had been returned, federal prosecutors said last month.
Republicans on the defensive?
David Siders at Politico: ‘The environment is upside down’: Why Dems are winning the culture wars.
It’s already the consensus that abortion is going to be a good issue for Democrats in November.
What’s only now becoming clear — as Republicans scrub their campaign websites of prior positions on abortion and labor to turn the focus of the midterms back to President Joe Biden and the economy — is just how much the issue is altering the GOP’s standard playbook.
For the first time in years, Republican and Democratic political professionals are preparing for a general election campaign in which Democrats — not Republicans — may be winning the culture wars, a wholesale reversal of the traditional political landscape that is poised to reshape the midterms and the run-up to 2024.
“The environment is upside down,” said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “The intensity has been reversed.”
It isn’t just abortion. Less than 20 years after conservatives used ballot measures against same-sex marriage to boost voter turnout in 11 states, public sentiment has shifted on the issue so dramatically that Democrats are poised to force a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage to try to damage Republican candidates. Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats from Georgia and Wisconsin to Illinois and California are running ads supporting gun restrictions, once viewed as a liability for the left, while openly engaging Republicans on crime.
In an advertising campaign shared with POLITICO, the center-left group Third Way said the PAC it launched last year to defend moderate Democrats, Shield PAC, will start spending at least $7 million next week on digital and mail ads in seven competitive House districts to counter Republican attacks on crime, immigration and other culture war issues.
The advertising push follows polling in Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s Virginia district that suggested counter-messaging by Democrats on public safety could blunt the effect of “defund the police” attacks by Republicans. As a result, while Spanberger is airing ads tearing into her Republican opponent on abortion, Shield PAC will be running a digital campaign bolstering Spanberger’s credentials on police funding.
Could Louisiana Senator Foghorn Leghorn be waking up to the notion that culture wars aren’t going his way and reverting back to his former self? Raw Story: GOP senator helps confirm Black Biden judicial nominee after his colleague’s racist attack.
On Thursday, POLITICO reported that Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) broke ranks with his Republican colleagues to help confirm Andre Mathis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — the first Black man to be confirmed to that court in nearly a quarter century.
“Mathis did so by one vote, clearing the Senate 48-47 with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) breaking from his party to give the nominee the votes,” said the report. “If Mathis’ nomination failed, Democrats would’ve had to bring it up again — burning valuable floor time during a time crunch before the midterms.”
The report continued: “When asked why he voted for the Biden-appointed nominee, Kennedy told reporters: ‘He did a great job in committee, in my opinion. He’s a partner at Butler Snow, which is a major national law firm. The criminal record that they talked about, that he forgot to face some traffic tickets, when they contacted him about it through a warrant, he just said, ‘It’s true, I forgot to pay them,’ and he paid up, but I just didn’t think that was disqualifying.”
athis’ unpaid traffic tickets were a point of contention for other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) provoked controversy when she interrogated Mathis over the tickets, referring to them as a “rap sheet.”
“The conservative Kennedy rarely diverges from his party,” noted the report. “His vote only proved decisive with three Democratic senators out of office due to Covid — Sens. Jon Ossoff (Ga.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and Bob Menendez (N.J.)
I’m going to end there, and I’ll see you in the comments. Have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend!!
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Posted: September 3, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: cat art, caturday, Crime, Donald Trump | Tags: basement storage room, Bill Barr, classified documents, empty folders, FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Mark Meadows, special master |
Cat and kitten, by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, 1920
Yesterday we got new information about the highly classified documents Trump stole from the government and carelessly left lying around his office at Mar-a-Lago. In her Friday post, Dakinikat wrote about the empty folders marked classified and the boxes containing classified documents mixed with news clippings, and personal items like clothing. The inventory from the search also shows thousands of unclassified government documents, which also belong in the National Archives.
From The Los Angeles Times: Trump search inventory shows empty folders marked ‘classified,’ mixed top-secret and unclassified items.
Twenty-seven documents with classified and top-secret markings were recovered from former President Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to a detailed inventory of what the FBI removed during its court-approved search of the home last month.
The eight-page inventory detailing more than 10,000 government documents removed in the search includes the location where each item was found and whether it was classified, but not the subject matter. In many cases, highly classified materials are listed as having been stored in the same boxes as hundreds of unclassified items, including newspaper and magazine clippings and clothing.
Among the boxes were 48 empty folders marked with a classified banner. Those empty folders could be of particular concern as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assesses the risks to national security that could result from disclosure of the contents, because it could be difficult to determine what information might have been inside and where it is now….
FBI agents removed more than 100 documents containing classified information — including some marked top secret and meant to be available only in special government facilities — from the Trump estate during their Aug. 8 search, along with over 30 boxes of materials including thousands of government records.
What was in those empty folders?
Identifying what was in the empty folders marked classified and where the information is now should be a priority, said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
“Why are there folders that contained classified information that are now empty? Where are the documents?” Maloney said. “Those questions need to be answered.”
Still LIfe with Flowers and cats, Paul Gauguin, 1899
Without knowing more about the folders, it is difficult to say how alarmed intelligence officials might be, Maloney said.
They could be the type of generic folders in which confidential information is transported within the White House, or they could be folders from intelligence agencies that provide details about the sources of the information, the date it was collected and broad descriptions of what it is about, said Larry Pfeiffer, a high-ranking CIA officer in the George W. Bush administration and senior director of the White House Situation Room in the Obama administration.
“If there were any meticulous records that were kept by the staff secretary, executive secretary or the [director of national intelligence’s] presidential daily briefing staff, they may be able forensically to figure out if there are any missing documents,” Pfeiffer said.
That 48 classified documents could be missing is the “worst-case scenario,” he said.
“That’s terrifying, because then what happened to them? Where are they? Are they still hidden somewhere? Are they hidden in another Trump location? Did he give them away to some people as souvenirs? God knows,” Pfeiffer said.
Raw Story reported on what experts are saying about the empty folders: ‘Unfathomably dangerous’: Former federal prosecutor on Trump’s empty folders warns ‘things just went from bad to worse’
Immediately after a federal judge released the Dept. of Justice’s detailed list of items the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago experts agreed among the most concerning details was that there were a large number of empty folders marked “Classified.”
Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor of 30 years, tweeted out his surprise and concern.
“OMG!” exclaimed Kirschner, who is also an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst. “Court just released an inventory of evidence of crime seized at Mar-a-Lago.”
“Dozens of EMPTY folders labeled ‘Classified’ or ‘Return to Military Aide.’ Trump didn’t pack up EMPTY folders to take with him to FLA. Things just went from bad to worse to unfathomably dangerous.” [….]
Andrew Weissmann, a former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has also worked as chief of the criminal fraud section of DOJ observed: “It’s the empty classified folders that are of most concern.”
“Where are the contents? Trump has not addressed that at all in all his bluster and obfuscation. What were you doing with these?” asked Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller….
National security attorney Brad Moss wrote, “Very first question the FBI would ask the person who had in their home office 43 empty folders with classified banners is ‘where did the documents from those folders go????'”
And later he added: “Why. Are. There. Empty. Folders?”
Young Girl with a Cat 1892, Berthe Morissot
Analysis from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: What we know about Trump and the empty folders.
We know very little about what this [the empty folders] means right now, though, and experts say it doesn’t necessarily mean the documents are missing, as some Trump critics theorized. What it does seem to reinforce is how sloppily classified information was handled.
In both the search warrant affidavit released last week and a Justice Department filing in a court case this week, the government has pointed to a February referral from the National Archives. The referral raised concerns about Trump’s potential mishandling of sensitive documents and urged an investigation.
“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified,” the National Archives said.
The biggest question is obviously: Why were those folders empty? Since classified documents were previously returned “unfoldered” — and others were recovered in the search last month — and now we have classified-marked folders without documents in them, it’s possible they match up.
Whether they actually do match is another matter, as is whether the documents can even be traced to a given folder.
From a national security expert:
David Priess, a former CIA officer whose work there included delivering the President’s Daily Brief, said Friday that the presence of empty folders doesn’t mean documents are missing, but also that it’s possible we won’t know for sure. He said the folders could contain markings allowing them to be traced to specific documents (but that’s not certain), or that they could be connected using forensic techniques.
“We cannot rule out that those empty folders contained classified documents that were not discovered in the search and seizure,” he said. “We just don’t know. That’s much harder to determine.”
He also noted it was possible that the folders were separated from the documents when they were still in the White House, before they were taken to Mar-a-Lago.
But mostly, he said, it’s further evidence of something we already knew: The documents were haphazardly stored.
There’s more analysis at the WaPo link.
Family Portrait, Carl Kahler
It’s not just the documents that were found in Trump’s office that were mishandled. The Washington Post published a long read yesterday on the storage room where boxes of documents were stored and why Mar-a-Lago was such a dangerous place for government documents to be kept: Deep inside busy Mar-a-Lago, a storage room where secrets were stashed. The storage room is below the estate’s giant living room.
It was dug into the foundations of the early 20th-century building not long after Trump bought the place, a former employee said, carved out to create more space to store tables, chairs, umbrellas — the stuff necessary to complete Trump’s conversion of what had once been a grand residence for a single family into a private club for 500 members.
At the southeast corner of this area, behind a simple door, is a large closet-type space that workers once called “the mold room” in honor of leftover stonework molds deposited in the corner, the former employee said. Today, staffers think of the room more like the former president’s personal closet, one said. It is here, in this windowless nook, where some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets allegedly were stashed….
Court filings say a top Justice Department official and a gaggle of FBI agents were allowed to tour the storage room when they visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up classified documents collected by Trump’s lawyers in response to a grand jury subpoena. A lawyer for Trump saidthe room was where they would find all of documents that had been carted from the White House to Florida after Trump left office.
Two months later, agents returned with a court-approved search warrant and carted off more than two dozen boxes of documents and assorted other items gathered from the storage room and the former president’s office. The raid exposed anew the potential risks of keeping highly sensitive material at a club that hosts weddings, galas and other large events, where outsiders are common and many employees — as well as some visitors — are foreign nationals.
Not yet clear is why Trump chose the basement storage room to keep highly sensitive documents nor who exactly had access to the documents kept there — or who could have gotten access had they tried….
People close to Trump said a variety of Mar-a-Lago and Trump staffers had access to that area beneath the public living room. Access to the closet where the documents were kept was more restricted, they said.
John White Alexander, The Green Dress, 1890-99
More on security concerns at Mar-a-Lago:
Experts said security at the Spanish-style club has long been a headache. The facility has served a frequent residence for Trump and his family during the winter months, including while he was president. But it also boasts tennis courts, a dining room, two pools, a spa and beachfront facilities, all open to its members and their guests. Its giant ballroom and other larger areas are frequently booked for large parties and political and charitable fundraisers, all open to even more visitors, some of them foreign nationals.
Since Trump left office, Republican candidates also have flocked to the club for official events, to genuflect to Trump and attempt to secure his endorsement. Political donors have flocked, too. People who have visited the club since Trump left office said they were allowed in without so much as an identification check.
“I think Mar-a-Lago is a counterintelligence nightmare,” said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence and former inspector general for the National Security Agency, citing the flow of hundreds of people, the presence of foreign nationals and Trump’s long-established carelessness with national secrets.
A person who is familiar with the club’s workings and spoke on the condition of anonymity described regular movement from club facilities to the basement and back. “This is an operating property,” this person said. “There’s a kitchen and a guy who does pastries and a liquor cabinet. There’s a restaurant here. You see activity. A guy getting vodka to bring to the bar. A person going to get cupcakes to bring upstairs.”
As I said, this is a very long, but interesting article.
Two more developments on the purloined documents story:
Bill Barr spoke out on the stolen documents investigation. The New York Times: Barr Dismisses Trump’s Request for a Special Master.
Former Attorney General William P. Barr dismissed former President Donald J. Trump’s call for an independent review of materials seized from his Florida home on Friday — and said an inventory of items recovered in the search last month seemed to support the Justice Department’s claim that it was needed to safeguard national security.
“As more information comes out, the actions of the department look more understandable,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times in a phone interview, speaking of the decision by the current attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, to seek a search warrant of the complex at Mar-a-Lago.
“It seems to me they were driven by concern about highly sensitive information being strewn all over a country club, and it was taking them almost two years to get it back,” said Mr. Barr, who resigned in December 2020, as Mr. Trump pushed him to support false claims that the election had been stolen.
“It appears that there’s been a lot of jerking around of the government,” he added. “I’m not sure the department could have gotten it back without taking action.”
Asked what he thought of the argument for the appointment of a special master, an independent arbiter to review the material that could delay the investigation, Mr. Barr laughed.
Pierre Bonnard, Children and a Cat, 1909
“I think it’s a crock of shit,” he said, adding, “I don’t think a special master is called for.” [….]
Mr. Barr’s comments, which echo the assessment of many Democrats and a few Republicans, including the former Bush adviser Karl Rove, came as Mr. Trump’s supporters tried to downplay the importance of the inventory unsealed by a federal judge in Florida.
The eight-page document, which was made public with the tacit assent of the former president’s lawyers, revealed that the F.B.I. recovered 11,179 documents or photographs without classification markings belonging to the government, and more than 100 others marked top secret, secret or confidential.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around him taking so much sensitive materials,” Mr. Barr said. “I was, let’s just say, surprised.”
Mark Meadows coughed up some records in the wake of the events at Mar-a-Lago. CNN: After Mar-a-Lago search, Meadows turns over more texts and emails to Archives.
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