One of the groups where he shared information had upward of 150 users, officials said, and among the members “are a number of individuals who represented that they resided in other countries” and whose accounts trace back to foreign internet addresses.
Thursday ReadsPosted: May 18, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, FBI | Tags: "weaponization of government" hearings, classified documents, Jack Smith, Jack Teixeira, Jim Jordan, Mark Zaid, National Archives, national security clearances, Trump stolen documents 13 Comments
I don’t want to get too excited about this and then be let down, but it seems significant. Last night on Alex Wagner’s MSNBC show, national security attorney Mark Zaid said that the latest revelations about the Trump stolen documents investigation suggest that an indictment could be coming in weeks, not months. You can watch the video at Raw Story.
The Raw Story article is based on a new report from CNN yesterday: Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified.
The National Archives has informed former President Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president, according to multiple sources.
In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, “The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records.”
The 16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president’s awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents.
The records may also provide insight into Trump’s intent and whether he willfully disregarded what he knew to be clearly established protocols, according to a source familiar with recent testimony provided to the grand jury by former top Trump officials.
Trump and his allies have insisted that as president, Trump did not have to follow a specific process to declassify documents. At a CNN town hall last week Trump repeated the claim that simply by removing classified documents from the White House he had declassified them. “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them,” Trump said.
According to the letter, Trump tried to block the special counsel from accessing the 16 records by asserting a claim of “constitutionally based privilege.” But in her letter, Wall rejects that claim, stating that the special counsel’s office has represented that it “is prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury’s investigation.” [….]
The letter goes on to state that the records will be handed over on May 24, 2023 “unless prohibited by an intervening court order.” [….]
Trump’s team may challenge this in court, this person said, but claimed in the past the Archives has handed over documents before the Trump team has had a chance to challenge the release in court.
Read more at the CNN link. Back to the Raw Story analysis:
According to a National Archives letter to Trump on May 16, the staff intends to provide special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that would reveal the White House advisers were taught the appropriate way to declassify documents.
“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote to Trump in a letter obtained by CNN.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has failed to scapegoat others for the documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago. Top Trump adviser Kash Patel told a far-right outlet that the General Services Administration (GSA) packed up Trump’s boxes, and they were the ones who somehow forced Trump to steal the documents. Not long after, the GSA released a letter saying that they required the staff to sign off on the contents in the boxes.
Posting the CNN report on Twitter, former Republican Ethics Czar for George W. Bush, Richard Painter, explained that it’s an example of Trump lying to the federal government, a breach of 18 U.S.C 1001. “Yet another felony,” said Painter.
National security lawyer Mark Zaid said that Trump’s “awareness” of the classification process goes to Trump’s state of mind, “which is what criminal cases are generally about.”
Mark Zaid’s remarks:
Speaking to MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, Zaid explained that the case has never been about the mishandling of national defense information or classified documents. It’s about the Espionage Act. Mishandling classified information is a fairly frequent occurrence, he said, noting that he wouldn’t be surprised if every president since Reagan (and likely before that) had done it.
….What’s at issue here is that, as you reported and CNN had reported, Trump and his inner circle were told how to properly classify and declassify information. And I will say even further, because I independently verified it, that they were instructed in the days and weeks before leaving the White House for the transition on how to pack up the documents so as not to take classified information.”
He pointed to the obstruction piece of the case as being another problem for Trump. If leaks are to be believed, Zaid said, “Trump not only mishandled the information but also sought to hide it from the U.S. government and obstruct the investigation by deliberately acting on that, as well as giving instructions to others possibly, even his lawyers, as to where to move the documents around Mar-a-Lago.”
This seems like a BFD.
There’s unsettling news about Jack Teixeira today. He’s the airman from Massachusetts who stole massive amounts classified information and leaked it online.
From the NYT article by Glenn Thrush and Robin Stein:
Air Force officials caught Airman Jack Teixeira taking notes and conducting deep-dive searches for classified material months before he was charged with leaking a vast trove of government secrets, but did not remove him from his job, according to a Justice Department filing on Wednesday.
On two occasions in September and October 2022, Airman Teixeira’s superiors in the Massachusetts Air National Guard admonished him after reports that he had taken “concerning actions” while handling classified information. Those included stuffing a note into his pocket after reviewing secret information inside his unit, according to a court filing ahead of a hearing before a federal magistrate judge in Worcester, Mass., on Friday to determine whether he should be released on bail.
Airman Teixeira — who until March shared secrets with scores of online friends from around the world on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers — “was instructed to no longer take notes in any form on classified intelligence information,” lawyers with the department’s national security division wrote in an 11-page memo arguing for his indefinite detention.
The airman’s superiors also ordered him to “cease and desist on any deep dives into classified intelligence information,” although it is not clear how, or if, they enforced that directive.
The new information was intended to drive home the government’s argument that Airman Teixeira’s relentless quest for intelligence to share with online friends — which he acknowledged to be improper — makes his release a danger to national security. But it also raised troubling new questions about whether the military missed opportunities to stop or limit one of the most damaging intelligence leaks in recent history.
The signs that something was amiss seem unmistakable in retrospect. In late January, a master sergeant who was working at the Air Force base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts observed Airman Teixeira inappropriately accessing reports on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, the Pentagon’s secure intranet system, the memo said.
“Teixeira had been previously been notified to focus on his own career duties and not to seek out intelligence products,” one of his superiors wrote in a memo on Feb. 4 that prosecutors included in their filing.
Not only was Airman Teixeira allowed to remain in his job — he seems to have retained his top-secret security clearance — but he was subsequently given the second of two certificates after completing training intended to prevent the “unauthorized disclosure” of classified information.
Two of Teixeira’s bosses have been suspended and have lost their security clearances.
More from Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post. Again, the purpose of the filing is the argument from federal prosecutors that Teixeira should not be released on bond.
The Air National Guard member accused in a high-profile classified leaks case appears to have shared sensitive secrets with foreign nationals and had raised concernamong his co-workers in the months before he was charged with mishandling and disseminating national security information, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday….
Teixeira’s “willful transmission of classified information over an extended period to more than 150 users worldwide” undermines his lawyer’s claims that he never meant for the information to be shared widely, prosecutors wrote….
The new filing also recounts online chats in which Teixeira appears to both brag about how much classified information he knows and has shared, and understand the potential legal consequences of such actions.
“Knowing what happens more than pretty much anyone is cool,” the airman allegedly wrote in a chat dated mid-November. When another user suggested he write a blog about the information, Teixeira replied, “making a blog would be the equivalent of what chelsea manning did,” referring to a major classified leak case in 2010.
The filing also shows that Teixeira was written up by colleagues for apparently not following rules for the use of classified systems. A Sept. 15 Air Force memorandum included in the newly released court materialsnotes that Teixiera “had been observed taking notes on classified intelligence information” inside a room specifically designed to handle sensitive classified material.
That is covered in the NYT article.
This morning, Jim Jordan is holding another one of his ridiculous “weaponization of government” hearings. He has finally revealed the identity of some of his secret “whistleblowers.” The New York Times published information on today’s expected witnesses. The gist: these whistleblowers either participated in or supported Trump’s January 6, 2021 coup attempt.
From the NYT story by Alan Feuer: F.B.I. Revokes Security Clearances of 3 Agents Over Jan. 6 Issues.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has revoked the security clearances of three agents who either took part in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or later expressed views about it that placed into question their “allegiance to the United States,” the bureau said on Wednesday in a letter to congressional investigators.
The letter, written by a top official at the F.B.I., came one day before at least two of the agents — Marcus Allen and Stephen Friend — were set to testify in front of a House Judiciary subcommittee investigating what Republicans contend is the “weaponization” of the federal government against conservatives.
For several months, Republican lawmakers have been courting F.B.I. agents who they believe support their contentions that the bureau and other federal agencies have been turned against former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters both before and after the Capitol attack.
Some of the agents have come forward as self-described whistle-blowers and taken steps like writing a letter to the leaders of the F.B.I. complaining about ways in which the bureau has discriminated against conservatives.
The agents who had their security clearances revoked — Mr. Allen, Mr. Friend and a third man, Brett Gloss — have all been suspended by the F.B.I. as the bureau reviews their cases, according to congressional investigators.
Why were these agents suspended?
Mr. Gloss’s top-secret clearance was revoked two weeks ago after bureau investigators determined that while moving with the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, he entered a restricted area of the Capitol grounds — a violation of federal law….
Mr. Allen’s top-secret security clearance was revoked after the bureau found that he had “expressed sympathy for persons or organizations that advocate, threaten or use force or violence,” the letter said. F.B.I. investigators determined that Mr. Allen had sent an email from his bureau account to several colleagues months after the Capitol attack, urging them to “exercise extreme caution and discretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events of” Jan. 6, the letter said….
Mr. Friend, whose security clearance was revoked on Tuesday, had refused last summer to take part in a SWAT arrest of a Jan. 6 suspect who was facing misdemeanor charges. Mr. Friend had taken the position that the raid represented an excessive use of force.
“I have an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Mr. Friend, a 12-year veteran of the bureau, told his supervisors when he declined to join the operation on Aug. 24 in Jacksonville, Fla. “I have a moral objection and want to be considered a conscientious objector.”
More interesting stories to check out:
NBC News: New House bill would block pay for members of Congress if the U.S. defaults.
The Washington Post: School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison.
The Daily Beast: PEN America And Penguin Sue Over Florida’s Book Bans.
AP News: Trust in Supreme Court fell to lowest point in 50 years after abortion decision, poll shows.
Guest essay by Randal D. Eliason at The New York Times: Why the Supreme Court Is Blind to Its Own Corruption.
The Daily Beast: GOP Congressman [Clay Higgins] Manhandles Protester During Boebert Event.
Politico: Trump 2020 lawyer indicated he may be target of Fulton County probe, court docs say.
That’s it for me. What stories have captured your interest today.
Thursday Reads: The Wheels of JusticePosted: April 13, 2023 Filed under: abortion rights, Blind Justice, Criminal Justice System, Donald Trump | Tags: Aric Toler, Jack Smith, Jack Teixeira, Letitia James, Michael Cohen, mifepristone, Peter Navarro, Special Counsel, Thug Shaker Central 25 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!!
“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.” No one knows the source for this quote–one candidates is Sun Tzu and another is Sextus Empricus. But it looks like that is what is happening now in the many legal investigations of Donald Trump. Frankly, I’ve let go of frustration over how slowly the wheels are turning, because I believe there is progress being made. I’m not convinced Trump will ever go to prison, but I think he will finally pay a price for his crimes against our country. Here’s the latest:
The New York Times: Trump to Face Questioning Thursday in N.Y. Attorney General’s Lawsuit.
Donald J. Trump is set to be questioned under oath on Thursday in a civil fraud lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the latest in a series of legal predicaments entangling the former president, who also faces a separate 34-count criminal indictment unsealed last week.
Ms. James’s civil case, which was filed in September and is expected to go to trial later this year, accuses Mr. Trump, his family business and three of his children of a “staggering” fraud for overvaluing the former president’s assets by billions of dollars. The lawsuit seeks $250 million that it contends they reaped through those deceptions, made in Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements — and asks a judge to essentially run him out of business in the state if he is found liable at trial.
Ms. James’s office plans to question Mr. Trump as part of the discovery phase of the case, in preparation for the trial.
The former president, who spent the night at his Manhattan residence in Trump Tower, arrived at the attorney general’s office shortly before 10 a.m. As a crowd chanted “New York hates you,” Mr. Trump’s motorcade drove into the parking garage underneath the office building at 28 Liberty Street….
This is the second time that lawyers for Ms. James, a Democrat, are questioning Mr. Trump under oath: He also sat for a deposition in the summer of 2022, shortly before the attorney general filed her lawsuit. During that deposition, Mr. Trump lashed out at Ms. James, accusing her of being motivated by politics and then invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination hundreds of times over the course of four hours.
Depositions are held in private, so the specifics of his testimony will not be immediately known. But as of Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump was not expected to assert his Fifth Amendment right, people familiar with his thinking said.
Because he was in the White House or on the campaign trail for several years — and no longer running his company — Mr. Trump might try to avoid providing direct answers to Ms. James’s questions, instead giving insubstantial responses. He might say, for example, that he does not recall a particular incident or was not present for it. He could also claim that he delegated the valuation of his assets to employees.
Trump vented his anger and frustration in ugly, deranged posts on his Twitter clone, Truth Social. Examples:
This man belongs in a rubber room!
Special Counsel Jack Smith is moving rapidly in his January 6 and stolen documents investigations. The Washington Post reports that Smith is looking into Trump’s fundraising using lies about election fraud: Special counsel focuses on Trump fundraising off false election claims.
Federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, looking to determine if former president Donald Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money, eight people familiar with the new inquiries said.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s office has sentsubpoenas in recent weeks to Trump advisers and former campaign aides, Republican operatives and other consultants involved in the 2020 presidential campaign, the people said. They have also heard testimony from some of these figures in front of a Washington grand jury, some of the people said.
The eight people with knowledge of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation.
The fundraising prong of the investigation is focused on money raised during the period between Nov. 3, 2020, and the end of Trump’s time in office on Jan. 20, 2o21, and prosecutors are said to be interested in whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws, which make it illegal to make false representations over email to swindle people out of money.
The new subpoenas received since the beginning of March, which have not been previously reported, show the breadth of Smith’s investigation, as Trump embarks on a campaign for reelection while assailing the special counsel investigation and facing charges of falsifying business records in New York and a separate criminal investigation in Georgia.
The subpoenas seek more specific types of communications so that prosecutors can compare what Trump allies and advisers were telling one another privately about the voter-fraud claims with what they were saying publicly in appeals that generated more than $200 million in donations from conservatives, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.
Read more at the WaPo.
Trump is hilariously suing Michael Cohen for $500 million for violating a nondisclosure agreement. Raw Story:
Former President Donald Trump is launching a $500 million lawsuit against his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, alleging that he violated attorney-client privilege when he issued a tell-all book about the hush payment he helped Trump faciliate to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
But that claim doesn’t make any sense for Trump, said former Manhattan prosecutor Karen Friedman Agnifilo on CNN’s “OutFront” on Wednesday — because it implicitly requires Trump to admit that everything Cohen said, which he is now denying by pleading not guilty to criminal charges against him in New York, is actually true.
“When you look at this, Trump is alleging that Michael Cohen broke attorney-client privilege, he’s talking about all these falsehoods that he put out there,” said anchor Erica Hill. “Is there a legal merit here? I mean, does he have a case?
“It’s an interesting case here because, on the one hand, he’s saying everything is false, right?” said Agnifilo. “So if he was breaching attorney-client privilege, you’re doing that by telling things that were said to you in confidence. But so, is he saying things that Michael Cohen is saying are true because I told him in confidence, and now he’s breached that privilege? Or is he saying that the things are false? Because if they’re false, why didn’t he bring a defamation claim? So it kind of makes no sense.
“It really reads to me like he’s just trying to put his defense in the criminal case out and try and get his statements out there in the court of public opinion.”
She added: “I also think it’s worth noting that there is a little bit of witness intimidation going on here as well. And he’s just using the court system like he seems to want to do, by going after his foes and adversaries.”
Politico: Appeals court rejects Peter Navarro’s bid to retain hundreds of presidential records.
A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday rejected a bid by former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro to retain hundreds of government records despite a judge’s order to return them promptly to the National Archives.
“There is no public interest in Navarro’s retention of the records, and Congress has recognized that the public has an interest in the Nation’s possession and retention of Presidential records,” the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in a unanimous two-page order.
The Justice Department sued Navarro last year, seeking to reclaim hundreds of records — contained in Navarro’s personal ProtonMail account — that the government said should have been returned to the National Archives after the Trump administration came to an end in January 2021.
Navarro acknowledged that at least 200 to 250 records in his possession belong to the government, but he contended that no mechanism exists to enforce that requirement — and that doing so might violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected that claim, ordering Navarro to promptly return the records he had identified as belonging to the government.
But Navarro appealed the decision, rejecting the notion that the Justice Department had any legitimate mechanism to force him to return the records. And he urged the court to stay Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling while his appeal was pending. But the appeals court panel — which included Judges Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins, both appointees of President Barack Obama, and Judge Neomi Rao, an appointee of President Donald Trump — rejected Navarro’s stay request.
Within minutes, Kollar-Kotelly put the squeeze on Navarro, ordering him to turn over the 200 to 250 records “on or before” Friday. She also ordered him to perform additional searches or presidential records that might be in his possession by May 8, with further proceedings scheduled for later in the month.
I’m not sure if these records are related to the January 6 investigation, but Navarro has claimed that giving them up will violate his Fifth Amendment rights.
The flurry of filings is the latest twist in a saga that began when the National Archives discovered that Navarro had relied on a ProtonMail account to do official government business — the result of a congressional investigation into the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Navarro is also trying to fend off criminal charges for defying a different congressional investigation — the probe by the Jan. 6 select committee — into his role in strategizing to help Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election. He faces charges for contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena issued by the select committee, a case that has been repeatedly delayed amid battles over executive privilege and immunity for presidential advisers.
In its brief order rejecting Navarro’s stay, the appeals court panel concluded that returning the documents would not violate Navarro’s protection against self-incrimination.
The wheels of justice are grinding slowly in the Trump investigations, but it looks like they are moving more quickly than the fight for women’s rights their own bodily autonomy. This decision makes no sense to me.
AP: Court preserves access to abortion pill but tightens rules.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled that the abortion pill mifepristone can still be used for now but reduced the period of pregnancy when the drug can be taken and said it could not be dispensed by mail.
The decision late Wednesday temporarily narrowed a ruling by a lower court judge in Texas that had completely blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the nation’s most commonly used method of abortion. Still, preventing the pill from being sent by mail amounts to another significant curtailing of abortion access — less than a year after the reversal of Roe v. Wade resulted in more than a dozen states effectively banning abortion outright.
The case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are going to continue to fight in the courts, we believe the law is on our side, and we will prevail,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday, speaking to reporters from Dublin during a visit by President Joe Biden.
Opponents that brought the Texas lawsuit against the drug last year cast the decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as a victory.
Abortion rights groups expressed relief that the FDA approval would remain in place for now but criticized the court for reinstating restrictions on the drug. Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider that operates six clinics in five states, said in a tweet they were continuing to offer mifepristone in clinics and through virtual services while reviewing the decision that came down shortly before midnight Wednesday.
For goddess sake! Just leave women alone to decide on their medical care in consultation with their doctors!! It’s time to ban Viagra, which is far more dangerous than Mifepristone.
In other news, the case of the leaked classified documents is moving rapidly. The New York Times has now named the leaker: Leader of Online Group Where Secret Documents Leaked Is Air National Guardsman.
The leader of a small online gaming chat group where a trove of classified U.S. intelligence documents leaked over the last few months is a 21-year-old member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The national guardsman, whose name is Jack Teixeira, oversaw a private online group named Thug Shaker Central, where about 20 to 30 people, mostly young men and teenagers, came together over a shared love of guns, racist online memes and video games.
Two U.S. officials confirmed that investigators want to talk to Airman Teixeira about the leak of the government documents to the private online group. One official said Airman Teixeira might have information relevant to the investigation.
Federal investigators have been searching for days for the person who leaked the top secret documents online but have not identified Airman Teixeira or anyone else as a suspect. The F.B.I. declined to comment.
Starting months ago, one of the users uploaded hundreds of pages of intelligence briefings into the small chat group, lecturing its members, who had bonded during the isolation of the pandemic, on the importance of staying abreast of world events.
The New York Times spoke with four members of the Thug Shaker Central chat group, one of whom said he has known the person who leaked for at least three years, had met him in person, and referred to him as the O.G. The friends described him as older than most of the group members, who were in their teens, and the undisputed leader. One of the friends said the O.G. had access to intelligence documents through his job.
While the gaming friends would not identify the group’s leader by name, a trail of digital evidence compiled by The Times leads to Airman Teixeira.
The Times has been able to link Airman Teixeira to other members of the Thug Shaker Central group through his online gaming profile and other records. Details of the interior of Airman Teixeira’s childhood home — posted on social media in family photographs — also match details on the margins of some of the photographs of the leaked secret documents.
The Times also has established, through social media posts and military records, that Airman Teixeira is enlisted in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Posts on the unit’s official Facebook page congratulated Airman Teixeira and colleagues for being promoted to Airman First Class in July 2022.
This is kind of funny, because The Washington Post claimed an exclusive in a story this morning that did not name the leaker: Leaker of U.S. secret documents worked on military base, friend says. But it really wasn’t an exclusive, because Aric Tolder reported the story at bellingcat first.
Now, he has the byline in the NYT story. Hahaha. Hooray for the underdog. He also plans to stay at bellingcat for now.
I imagine there will be more news breaking on this story today. I’ll be watching. Have a great Thursday everyone!!
Friday ReadsPosted: February 24, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, morning reads | Tags: Jack Smith, January 6 grand jury, Mar-a-Lago, Mike Pence, Speech and Debate clause, stolen government documents, Ukraine 17 Comments
I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she takes her cat Keely to the vet. Keely hasn’t had any problems since the seizure a few days ago, but she needs to be checked out and also get some shots. I’m curious to know what the vet thinks–I hope Dakinikat will update us later on.
The one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is getting lot of coverage today.
This is from The New York Times’ live updates: Here’s what to know on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With messages of support and new pledges of weapons, allies rallied around Ukraine on Friday as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion prompted shows of solidarity around the world and a mix of anxiety and resolve in Ukraine.
“We will be victorious,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference, saying that Ukraine could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons.
Even as leaders in Ukraine and around the world marked the anniversary with ceremonies and speeches, the fighting continued much as it has for the past year. The war has already done untold damage: Tens of thousands have been killed on both sides, millions of Ukrainians have been made homeless, and Ukraine has sustained tens of billions of dollars worth of damage that has left cities flattened and people around the country grappling with dark and cold.
But Ukrainians have also found strength in shared sacrifice, and hope in the setbacks their country’s forces have dealt Russia on the battlefield. Ukraine has largely stopped the offensives of its much larger and better-armed neighbor and has regained swathes of captured land, aided by the United States and its European allies, which have remained united, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to Kyiv.
The war has reverberated around the globe, reshaping and strengthening alliances, and affecting everything from grain prices to energy policy. But even as Russia found itself more isolated from the West, sanctions have failed to bring the country to its knees, and much of the rest of the world has continued to provide economic or diplomatic support to Moscow.
Read more details and updates at the NYT link.
From the AP: US commits $2 billion in drones, ammunition, aid to Ukraine.
The Pentagon announced a new package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with a $2 billion commitment to send more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones into the fight.
The announcement comes just days after President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv and pledged America’s continuing commitment to Ukraine. Biden told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people that “Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
In a statement Friday, the Pentagon said the aid includes weapons to counter Russia’s unmanned systems and several types of drones, including the upgraded Switchblade 600 Kamikaze drone, as well as electronic warfare detection equipment.
It also includes money for additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, artillery rounds and munitions for laser-guided rocket systems. But, in an unusual move, the Pentagon provided no details on how many rounds of any kind will be bought. Including this latest package, the U.S. has now committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion is a chance for all who believe in freedom “to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine.”
Biden was scheduled to meet virtually Friday with other Group of Seven leaders and Zelenskyy “to continue coordinating our efforts to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its war,” the White House said.
Those efforts include what the White House called “sweeping” sanctions on over 200 people and entities “to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine.” The Biden administration will also further restrict exports to Russia and raise tariffs on some Russian products imported to the U.S.
CNN has a story on the new sanctions: US Treasury takes ‘one of its most significant sanctions actions to date’ on anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The US Treasury Department on Friday took what it called “one of its most significant sanctions actions to date” to crack down on those aiding Moscow’s war against Ukraine, targeting Russia’s metals and mining sector, its financial institutions, its military supply chain and individuals and companies worldwide that are helping Moscow avoid existing sanctions.
These latest actions by the Treasury Department are among a series of new measures announced by the Biden administration Friday that are meant to strengthen Kyiv and deter those providing support to Moscow as the war enters its second year without signs of abating.
Friday’s sweeping actions are meant to fill in gaps in existing sanctions that have been imposed over the past year of the war and are intended to impair “key revenue generating sectors in order to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The administration on Friday imposed sanctions against a total of “over 200 individuals and entities, including both Russian and third-country actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that are supporting Russia’s war effort,” according to the White House fact sheet.
The latest tranche of Treasury Department sanctions target a total of 22 individuals and 83 entities, according to a Treasury Department news release, and were taken in coordination with the Group of 7 nations.
The US State Department also imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian officials and entities involved in the war and will take “steps to impose visa restrictions on 1,219 members of the Russian military, including officers, for actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Three Russian military officials – Artyom Igorevich Gorodilov, Aleksey Sergeyevich Bulgakov, and Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vasilyev – will be blocked from entering the US due to their involvement “in gross violations of human rights perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of wars,” Blinken said.
You can also check these two longer reads about Ukraine:
Defense One: EXCLUSIVE: Seven Former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders Say U.S. ‘Must Do Everything We Can’ for a Ukrainian Victory.
Politico has an oral history of the Russian invasion, compiled from hours of interviews by Politico reporters: ‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine.
There is some breaking news about the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents case. Both The Guardian and CNN are claiming exclusives.
The Guardian: Classified Trump schedules were moved to Mar-a-Lago after FBI search – sources.
Donald Trump’s lawyers found a box of White House schedules, including some that were marked classified, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in December because a junior aide to the former president had transported it from another office in Florida after the FBI completed its search of the property.
The former president does not appear to have played a direct role in the mishandling of the box, though he remains under investigation for the possible improper retention of national security documents and obstruction of justice. This previously unreported account of the retrieval was informed by two sources familiar with the matter.
Known internally as ROTUS, short for Receptionist of the United States, the junior aide initially kept the box at a converted guest bungalow at Mar-a-Lago called the “tennis cottage” after Trump left office, and she soon took it with her to a government-leased office in the Palm Beach area.
The box remained at the government-leased office from where the junior aide worked through most of 2022, explaining why neither Trump’s lawyer who searched Mar-a-Lago in June for any classified-marked papers nor the FBI agents who searched the property in August found the documents.
Around the time that Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago from his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey at the end of the summer, the junior aide was told that she was being relocated to a desk in the anteroom of Trump’s own office at Mar-a-Lago that previously belonged to top aide Molly Michael.
The junior aide retrieved her work belongings – including the box – from the government-leased office and took them to her new Mar-a-Lago workspace around September. At that time, the justice department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s retention of national security documents was intensifying.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
CNN: Exclusive: How a box with classified documents ended up in Trump’s office months after FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department wants to know how a box containing a handful of classified records scattered among copies of presidential schedules turned up at Mar-a-Lago late last year, well after several rounds of searches of the property by federal agents and aides to former President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith in recent weeks have interviewed a Trump aide who copied classified materials found in the box using her phone to put them onto a laptop. After a voluntary interview with the aide, prosecutors subpoenaed the password to the laptop, which she provided, according to one of the sources.
The classified documents contained in the box were discovered in December, after the Justice Department told Trump’s legal team to conduct yet another search for documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
People familiar with the Trump legal team’s efforts to locate documents describe a confusing chain of events that delayed discovery of the box, including having its contents uploaded to the cloud, emailed to a Trump employee, and moved to an offsite location before finally ending up back at a Mar-a-Lago bridal suite that is now Trump’s office – the very place that the FBI had searched just weeks earlier….
The odyssey of the box has been a recent focus of Smith’s investigation into the mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with the line of questioning from federal prosecutors. The haphazard handling of documents that ended up online, on computers and moved around to multiple locations could further complicate Trump’s case in an investigation with criminal implications.
One person who described the box’s movements and the special counsel’s inquiry into it described federal investigators as suspecting a “shell game with classified documents.” The person said Trump’s daily movements and instructions to staff are a core part of prosecutors’ questions as well.
More details at CNN.
Mike Pence is getting quite a bit of attention in the news today, and it’s not positive attention.
CBS News: Special counsel asks judge to compel Mike Pence to testify in Jan. 6 probe.
Federal prosecutors have asked the chief judge in Washington, D.C.’s federal court to compel former Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a grand jury subpoena and testify as a witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, three people familiar with the investigation told CBS News.
The motion to compel Pence’s testimony — filed in secret to Chief Judge Beryl Howell in recent days — came after lawyers for former President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege in response to Pence’s subpoena, the people said.
That assertion of executive privilege on Pence’s subpoena, the people added, is in line with how Trump’s team has responded to related subpoenas over the past year, with Trump’s attorneys often arguing that private conversations or interactions with a president should remain confidential….
Pence and his lawyers have also been preparing to invoke the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause as a means of protecting him from the investigation. That clause protects members of Congress from being questioned about their legislative actions by other branches of the federal government.
Pence contends his unique role as both a member of the executive branch and president of the Senate — who presided over Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021 — would be covered under the clause….
The motion to compel testimony filed by the special counsel’s office is the logical next step in a criminal probe, with prosecutors seeking to force a witness or third party to comply with a grand jury subpoena. Filed less than two weeks after news broke that Pence had received the subpoena, the legal document asks the court to uphold the subpoena’s legal authority and indicates Justice Department prosecutors are moving quickly in their attempt to get Pence before a grand jury.
Former federal judge Michael Luttig, who advised Pence when he was dealing with Trump’s pressure campaign to get Pence to try to overturn the 2020 election, has an op-ed in The New York Times today: Mike Pence’s Dangerous Gambit.
Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.
The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.
Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do. But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Another take on this issue from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Pence has no right to dodge a subpoena.
Former vice president Mike Pence is bent on demonstrating to the MAGA base that he is not about to help prosecute would-be coup instigator Donald Trump, the very person who seemed to delight in egging on the mob that called for Pence’s head. To that end, Pence has threatened to refuse to appear in response to the grand jury subpoena special counsel Jack Smith has issued.
Rather than deploy the executive-privilege defense (almost certainly a loser since President Biden has waived it; in any case, United States v. Nixon stands for the proposition that executive privilege generally gives way in a criminal prosecution), Pence has cited the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause. This passage from Article I protects lawmakers from arrest on the floor of Congress for things said there.
A close examination of Pence’s claim shows that the defense, even if valid in some respects, does not protect him from testifying about issues relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt.
The argument that the vice president is an officer of Congress, and hence covered by the clause, is reasonable. Andy Wright and Ryan Goodman writing at Just Security explain: “The Speech or Debate Clause is designed as a safeguard against politically motivated civil litigation or criminal prosecutions that can chill congressional debate or intimidate legislators.” Therefore, they conclude, “It makes sense that the protections should extend to a Vice President when acting as President of the Senate or in other legislative branch capacity.” The Justice Department already conceded as much in multiple civil suits brought against the vice president (both Pence and then-vice president Joe Biden).
Yet, there is a compelling argument that Pence’s use of the speech and debate clause is inconsistent with the clause’s purpose, which is to insulate members of Congress from pressure from the executive. It might also be argued (as retired judge Michael Luttig has) that Pence’s role on Jan. 6 was purely ceremonial, not legislative, and thus the speech and debate clause does not apply. After all, Pence himself argued that day that he had no legislative authority to nullify the electoral votes.
These points might be subjects of novel litigation. But the government need not dispute the clause’s relevance because a good deal of what Smith wants to investigate is beyond any legislative function, and hence outside the scope of the clause.
Read more at the WaPo.
That’s all I have for you today. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: December 20, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, Twitter | Tags: DOJ, Elon Musk, Final report on January 6 insurrection, House Select Committee on January 6, House Ways and Means Committee, Jack Smith, Richard Neal, Trump tax returns 9 Comments
I woke up this morning hoping to find that Elon Musk had kept his word and stepped down as CEO of Twitter after a clear majority of Twitter users voted him out in a poll he posted. It hasn’t happened yet. From CNN:
A Twitter poll created by Elon Musk asking whether he should “step down as head of Twitter” ended early Monday morning with most respondents voting in the affirmative.
Musk had said he would abide by the results of the unscientific poll, which began Sunday evening and concluded with 57.5% voting yes, 42.5% voting no.
More than 17 million votes were cast in the informal referendum on his chaotic leadership of Twitter, which has been marked by mass layoffs, the replatforming of suspended accounts that had violated Twitter’s rules, the suspension of journalists who cover him and whiplash policy changes made and reversed in real time.
Now he says only Twitter users paying $8 per month for a blue check will be able to vote in his stupid polls. BBC News:
Elon Musk has said Twitter will only allow accounts with a blue tick to vote on changes to policy after a majority of users voted for him to quit.
Mr Musk launched a Twitter poll asking if he should step down as chief executive – 57.5% of users voted “yes”.
Since then, he has not commented directly on the result of the poll.
But he has said that Twitter will alter its rules so that only people who pay for a subscription can vote on company policy.
One user claimed that so-called bots appeared to have voted heavily in the poll about Mr Musk’s role at the firm. Mr Musk said he found the claim “interesting”….
In response to a tweet saying Twitter Blue subscribers “should be the only ones that can vote in policy related polls. We actually have skin in the game”, Mr Musk said: “Good point, Twitter will make that change”.
Twitter’s paid-for verification feature was rolled out for a second time last week after its launch was paused. The service costs $8 per month, or $11 for people using the Twitter app on Apple devices, and gives subscribers a “blue tick”.
Previously a blue tick was used as verification tool for high-profile accounts as a badge of authenticity and was free.
I honestly doubt if he’ll do that, because then he would reveal how few people are willing to pay him.
Nevertheless, according to Dan Laden-Hall at The Daily Beast, he is trying to find a replacement: Elon Musk Looking for a New Twitter CEO After Users Told Him to Go: Report.
Elon Musk is actively looking for someone to replace him as CEO of Twitter, CNBC reports.
The news comes after Musk posted a Twitter poll Sunday asking if he should step down as the head of the company. On Monday, when the poll closed, the majority of the 17.5 million votes cast said he should go. The tech boss had promised to “abide by the results” at the time he posted the yes-or-no poll, but he has yet to formally declare his intention to leave.
After buying the social media site for $44 billion in October, Musk said in court last month that he would only be Twitter’s CEO on a temporary basis. “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” he said.
According to the unnamed sources cited in CNBC’s story about his search for a successor, Musk was allegedly looking for a new Twitter CEO before posting his poll over the weekend. The search is said to be ongoing.
But by his own account, the search to find someone to run the social media giant is challenging. “The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive,” Musk tweeted on Sunday. “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” he wrote a day later.
The final meeting of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 didn’t offer any big surprises, but they did announce four criminal referrals on Trump to the DOJ. Of course the referrals are essentially meaningless, but the Committee also will transmit the evidence they have gathered in support of the referrals.
Josh Gerstein at Politico: DOJ cares about the evidence, not the criminal referrals.
The historic criminal referral the House Jan. 6 committee issued urging the Justice Department to pursue charges against President Donald Trump is unlikely to sway many minds among prosecutors already pursuing multiple investigations, former DOJ officials said.
Prosecutors are more interested in the thousands of pages of witness statements and other records gathered by the House panel over the past 15 months, current and former officials said.
“I’m sure the Attorney General will welcome any new evidence the committee sends over, but the authority to indict rests with the executive branch, not Congress,” said University of Baltimore Law School Dean Ronald Weich, a former DOJ liaison to Congress. “The decision of whether to bring criminal charges is solely within the purview of the Justice Department. I expect DOJ to respond courteously to the committee, but the referral will not change the outcome.”
“I think a referral will have zero practical effect on what DOJ does,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal public corruption prosecutor in Washington. “They are already investigating, and they’re not going to decide whether or not to charge based on whether they got a referral from Congress.”
Just last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized prosecutors wanted to see the House’s evidence, but he notably omitted any desire to see what conclusions lawmakers reached about what that evidence proved.
“We would like to have all the transcripts and all of the other evidence collected … by the committee, so that we can use it in the ordinary course of our investigations,” Garland told reporters gathered in his conference room at DOJ headquarters.
In some ways, the House’s new criminal referral could have less impact than others Congress has sent to the Justice Department in the past. That’s because while some referrals spur DOJ into action, prosecutors already have investigations open into the main areas where the Jan. 6 committee sees potential crimes: Trump’s alleged incitement of the attack on the Capitol and his prolonged effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election results.
However, the public will soon be able to see the evidence for themselves, and that will probably lead to more pressure on DOJ to indict Trump. Kyle Cheney: The Jan. 6 committee’s big reveal hasn’t happened yet.
The committee is sitting on a stockpile of nearly 1,200 witness interview transcripts and reams of hard-won documents about Donald Trump’s attempt to derail the peaceful transfer of power. While the select panel’s nine members gathered on Monday to refer evidence of Trump’s potential crimes to the Justice Department, that raw information — not the showmanship of a final in-person public meeting — will tell the story the committee has labored to piece together.
The 160-page executive summary, which precedes a final panel report set for release as soon as Wednesday, hints at the extraordinary range of documents the committee collected. It references at least 30 “productions” of documents from various witnesses and agencies, including White House visitor logs, Secret Service radio frequencies and the Department of Labor, where then-Secretary Eugene Scalia produced a Jan. 8, 2021, memo seeking to call a Cabinet meeting to discuss the transfer of power.
“The select committee intends to make public the bulk of its nonsensitive records before the end of the year,” the panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said Monday. Thompson has stressed that the taxpayer-funded investigation’s materials should be made available to the public: “These transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see the evidence we have gathered and continue to explore the information that has led us to our conclusions.” [….]
Yet crucial questions remain about which evidence the panel will treat as off-limits to the public — including whether it will post hundreds of hours of video interviews alongside its transcripts. Thompson has also emphasized that transcripts will be redacted to exclude private information and law enforcement or national security-related details. And some witnesses who requested anonymity would receive it, Thompson has said.
Call records, with the exception of ones that the committee has found relevant to the probe, would likely remain secret as well, according to the chair.
The report should still be a BFD:
Even so, the panel’s introductory materials gave tantalizing clues about what’s to come. The committee’s executive summary referenced just over 80 of the panel’s interviews and documents collected from 34 agencies or witnesses; among them, Christoffer Guldbrandsen, a documentarian who captured footage of Trump ally Roger Stone, and Bernard Kerik, who advised Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in his bid to collect evidence to challenge the 2020 results.
The summary also reflects voluminous contacts among key players in Trump’s alleged plot that were not previously known but could be of interest to federal prosecutors. For example, the document describes numerous contacts that then-DOJ officials Jeffrey Clark and Ken Klukowski had with Trump campaign attorney John Eastman in the closing days of 2020 and into early 2021.
In addition, the summary casts doubt on the testimony of some select panel witnesses — like former Secret Service and Trump White House aide Tony Ornato and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who the committee said were not as forthcoming as others who spoke to it.
During her testimony, McEnany had disputed the allegation that Trump was resistant to calling off the mob, but the summary noted that her former deputy Sarah Matthews had told the panel otherwise. Ornato, who played a potentially key role as a witness to an alleged altercation between Trump and his security detail on Jan. 6, drew similar scrutiny after telling the committee he could not recall relaying the account of the altercation despite others’ testimony to the contrary.
“The Committee is skeptical of Ornato’s account,” the panel added in a footnote.
Read the rest at Politico.
Whether or not to indict Trump will be up to Special Prosecutor Jack Smith.
Jose Pagliery at The Daily Beast: Trump Special Prosecutor Has a History of Indicting Presidents.
Witnesses had lost hope and disappeared. Criminal suspect No. 1 had become president. And the long-awaited indictment now seemed unreachable.
Then, American prosecutor Jack Smith came along and took charge, sending his investigators on an aggressive mission to win back reluctant witnesses—by targeting the tight-lipped politicians and militant nationalists who had kept them silent.
The story may sound familiar, if not a bit like resistance fan-fiction. But this story is actually about Smith’s efforts in Kosovo, a small country in southeastern Europe that was historically an Albanian enclave in Serbia. It was difficult every step of the way. Smith had to defend his work from widespread accusations that he was conducting an unfair political prosecution to remove the nation’s favorite leader. And the narrative was that cooperators are traitors—and that these lawyers like Smith were trying to destroy the country.
It may prove to be an invaluable experience.
Since the U.S. Department of Justice appointed Smith as the trusted special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump last month, there have been dozens of news profiles focusing on his time as a domestic prosecutor investigating public corruption. Several have even incorrectly identified the international court he served on. But this is the first sweeping look at what exactly he accomplished while on a special assignment abroad in Europe, where he took down Kosovo’s sitting president—and gained the credentials to target an American one.
Kosovo investigation until Smith took over. “It has huge political consequences. It takes bravery. Jack’s got to decide whether he’s going to indict a former president of the United States. But he did the same thing when it came to Hashim Thaçi.”
Kosovo’s now ex-president remains trapped inside a jail in the Dutch city of The Hague. Understanding how he got there helps contextualize Smith’s legacy at the controversial international prosecutor’s office he led until last month—and his ability to face Trump now.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Today, the House Ways and Means Committee will consider whether to release Trump’s tax returns to the public.
CNN: House Ways and Means Committee to meet on future of Trump’s tax returns.
The House Ways and Means Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and weigh whether to release the information to the public, the end to a years-long effort from Democrats to learn more about Trump’s financial background.
The highly anticipated meeting is years in the making but comes as Democrats have just days to act on whether to release the former president’s tax returns. While there is historic precedent for Ways and Means to release confidential tax information, a decision to put it out to the public would come with intense political fallout as Trump has already declared he is running for president in 2024.
The committee has had access to Trump’s taxes for weeks after winning a lengthy legal battle that began in the spring of 2019. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested the first six years of Trump’s taxes as well as tax returns for eight of his businesses back in April of 2019.
Neal and his ranking member Kevin Brady have had access to the information, and rank-and-file members on the committee will have begun to have access and review at least some of Trump’s tax information, according to a source familiar.
It’s not clear if members would have access to all of the information.
Republicans on the committee are preparing to push back hard if Democrats vote to release any of Trump’s tax information, committee sources tell CNN. The argument Republicans will wage, however, won’t center on defending Trump explicitly but rather what the release means for politicians and ordinary people in the future.
Democrats on the committee would rely on section 6103 of the tax code to lawfully release information about Trump’s taxes, but Republicans are prepared to argue that Democrats are abusing the provision, attacking a political enemy and potentially unleashing a system where even individuals could have their personal information exposed if they become targets of the committee.
More stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Another headache for Trump as House panel weighs release of tax returns.
Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: A Diminished Trump Meets a Damning Narrative.
The Washington Post: Congress unveils $1.7 trillion deal to fund government, avert shutdown.
The Washington Post: Lawmakers put Electoral Count Act, crafted as response to Jan. 6, in omnibus bill.
Adam Liptak at The New York Times: An ‘Imperial Supreme Court’ Asserts Its Power, Alarming Scholars.
CNN: 6.4 magnitude earthquake shakes Northern California.
Have a nice Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 19, 2022 Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: Dobbs decision, DOJ, Elon Musk, Hobby Lobby decision, Jack Smith, January 6 investigation of Trump, Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, Merrick Garland, obstruction of justice, Special Counsel, Supreme Court, Twitter 15 Comments
I wish I had kept a record of my sleep patterns and accompanying political events over the past 7 years. I know I rarely slept through the night during the first couple of years of Trump’s “presidency.” I would stay up late, sleep a couple of hours and wake up at 3AM to obsessively check twitter for news, and still get up early the next day. Now I’m going through a period of time when I can’t get to sleep until very late–around 1:00-2:00AM–and then sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00AM. I’m also getting old–I’ll be 75 soon–and it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. Anyway, I slept until 10:00 today, so I’m once again very late in posting. If only we knew what is going to happen with the Trump investigations, maybe I would be able to go back to sleeping like a normal person.
As everyone knows by now, yesterday Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether to indict Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection cases–including whether Trump has obstructed justice.
CNN: DOJ announces special counsel for Trump-related Mar-a-Lago and January 6 criminal investigations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.
Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations….
The prosecutions of those who physically breached the US Capitol have been the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and those will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses close to the former president for documents and testimony in the probe.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.” [….]
According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.
Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.
Most of the TV/Twitter legal experts are saying this was a good decision by Garland. One dissenter is Neal Kaytal, who says it is a big mistake.
From Raw Story: Legal experts: Special counsel investigating Trump will move very quickly.
Former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann believes that newly-appointed special counsel Jack Smith will move with haste in his investigations of former President Donald Trump.
Speaking with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, after the host said Smith may become the “most important prosecutor in human history,” Weissmann discussed his history with the new special prosecutor.
“So I’ve known Jack for decades,” Weissman said.
“I was the chief of the criminal division when he started in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he explained.
“And Jack, as you noted, has had all sorts of positions that make him really perfect for this job in the sense of his experience, he’s a career prosecutor, he’s completely apolitical — in public integrity, they prosecuted Democrats and Republicans,” Weissmann said. “They don’t care, if you committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you’re in no party.”
He noted he learned from Robert Mueller that “you can’t slow things down to use as an excuse not to move forward.”
“For people who are worried about this slowing down, I have the exact opposite reaction.”
Marcy Wheeler suggested another reason why Garland might have taken the step of appointing a special counsel:
I think that makes sense. Of course Trump and Republicans will still claim the investigations are political, and I’m pretty sure Garland knows that. This morning at Politico Playbook, Rachel Bade summarized the political reactions so far: A new special counsel sets Washington ablaze.
Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND’s decision to name a special counsel to helm DONALD TRUMP-related probes at the Justice Department roiled the political world on Friday.
In an afternoon statement delivered before cameras at Main Justice, Garland argued the appointment of veteran DOJ hand JACK SMITH was necessary given that Trump and JOE BIDEN could be facing off for the presidency in 2024. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said.
Some good it did him. On cue, Republicans called foul — and rushed forward to defend an ex-president who had appeared to be losing his grip on the GOP following the party’s disappointing election performance.
AT MAR-A-LAGO … After 10 days of midterm recriminations, the announcement put Trump back in his most comfortable posture: portraying himself as the victim of his corrupt enemies. During a fancy black-tie affair at his Florida resort, Trump told Fox News’ Brooke Singman that he won’t participate in the probe and blasted the DOJ for the “worst politicization” of the department ever.
— “I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel ROBERT] MUELLER who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?” Trump told them. “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”
ON CAPITOL HILL … Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) tweeted that Republicans should “IMPEACH MERRICK GARLAND!” and insisted her party “refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee.”
— The latter is particularly noteworthy: It sets up a new and explosive spending clash that could easily prompt a government shutdown in the next Congress. Why? MTG and likeminded Trump loyalists will press KEVIN McCARTHY (or whoever else manages to become speaker) to toe a hard line while Democrats will absolutely refuse to defund the investigations. Watch this space.
IN LAS VEGAS … Even former Vice President MIKE PENCE blasted the special counsel appointment as “very troubling” during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, according to another good-get interview by Fox’s Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser.
— “No one is above the law, but I am not sure it’s against the law to take bad advice from your lawyers,” he said. Pence went on to suggest that the DOJ has been politicized by Democrats and and to knock the FBI for conducting a raid on Mar-a-Lago to fish out classified information Trump had taken to his post-presidency residence. (Note that Smith won’t only be managing the documents probe, but Jan. 6-related matters as well.).
Bade notes that Republicans were all in on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents while she was running for president. You can also read a bit of background on Jack Smith at The New York Times.
One more on the Smith appointment from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Merrick Garland was right to appoint a special counsel.
Advocates of swift action against Trump no doubt will be alarmed by the announcement, but there is less here than meets the eye. For starters, Smith needs no introduction to the Justice Department. He was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in February 2015. Before that, he worked as head of the department’s Public Integrity Section and as investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He also worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.
Most important, the attorney general announced that the career staff who have been working on these cases will continue in their roles. That, Garland suggested, will mean the query will “not slow down.” Smith will make a recommendation to Garland on whether to prosecute Trump. Until then, Garland will have no direct supervision over Smith.
Did Garland need to wait until Trump’s campaign launch to make the appointment? Perhaps not, but so long as Trump was not an active candidate, there was little reason for Garland to step aside. Now that Trump is a potential opponent to Biden, Garland believes it is essential to add a layer of separation between himself and the line prosecutors.
Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “Looking over Jack Smith’s decades of prosecutorial experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to hit the ground running and to sew together whatever loose ends remain as he puts together a comprehensive prosecution of the leaders of the attempted coup, with the former president at its center, as well as a powerful prosecution of the former president for his theft of top secret documents as he absconded to Mar-a-Lago.” He adds that, while he previously “publicly urged that there was no need to appoint a special counsel, my principal concern was the need to avoid delay, and it appears that this appointment will solve that problem.”
Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel to the House impeachment managers during Trump’s first impeachment, agrees. “I have no concern that a special counsel will shy away from charging, and Jack Smith has outstanding experience,” he tells me. Eisen also thinks the move will not cause much of a delay. He observes: “Mr. Smith should move with alacrity. Here, where any other American who had removed the even one classified document would be subject to likely prosecution, and where the former president took dozens, the rule of law demands fast action.”
In other news, The New York Times has an important story about a Supreme Court leak that–like the recent leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade–involves Justice Sam Alito: Former Anti-Abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach.
As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.
In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.
Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates….
The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.
Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”
The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.
Read the rest at the New York Times.
From Georgia–NBC News reports that: In win for Democrats, Georgia judge allows early voting in Senate runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving.
A Fulton County judge ruled Friday that the Georgia Secretary of State cannot prohibit counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a victory for the state Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.
The order comes after a brief legal battle between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and the Democratic Party of Georgia over the Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
Raffensperger, a Republican, had maintained that changes to Georgia voting laws meant that there could be no early voting on Nov. 26, the only Saturday when it would have been possible for Georgians to cast an early vote in the hotly contested race.
Democrats and Warnock’s campaign filed suit challenging Raffensperger’s determination, and Judge Thomas A. Cox agreed with their arguments in a ruling late Friday afternoon. “The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” the judge wrote.
Raffensberger’s office will appeal the decision.
The dispute centers on a provision of Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, which stipulates early in-person voting must end the Friday before the runoff. This year, that would be Friday, Dec. 2.
The law also stipulates early in-person voting not be held on any Saturday that follows a “public or legal holiday” on the preceding Thursday or Friday. Raffensperger contended that meant there would be no early in-person voting on Nov. 26, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. (It could not be held this weekend because the general election vote is not being certified until Nov. 21.)
Attorneys for the Democrats and Warnock argued the section of the law Raffensperger cited applies to primaries and general elections, but not to runoffs. Cox agreed.
Of course there is tons of news about Twitter and Musk. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:
Yoel Roth at the New York Times: I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.
The Guardian: How Elon Musk’s Twitter reign magnified his brutal management style.
The Washington Post: Musk summons engineers to Twitter HQ as millions await platform’s collapse.
The New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave.
What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?