“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.
It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.
Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.
Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.
A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.
Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.
The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.
That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.
Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.
Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.
Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.
Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.
I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.
This is from a New York Times article on this new development:
The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.
Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.
The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….
Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.
Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….
Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.
Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.
There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.
From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.
Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.
“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”
The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….
Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.
Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.
There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:
In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.
“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.
The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.
Read more and see the emails at Politico.
There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.
As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.
During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.
And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.
In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.
All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.
At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.
Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.
More interesting stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.
Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.
Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!
Some big Trump criminality news broke yesterday, and today there’s more news on stories we’ve been following over the past week. Here’s the latest:
This one was posted late last night at The New York Times: Trump Officials Failed to Provide Accounting of Foreign Gifts.
The Trump administration left office without providing the State Department with an accounting of the gifts former President Donald J. Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials received from foreign governments in 2020, the department disclosed late Friday.
The department said that as a result, it could not fully account for the gifts officials received, the latest example to emerge in recent months of how the Trump administration’s flouting of laws and norms about the day-to-day operations of government now makes it harder to determine whether anything improper took place.
“It’s flagrant and it looks terrible,” said Richard W. Painter, the former top ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s administration. “Either it was really stupid or really corrupt.”
Under federal law, each government department and agency is legally required to submit a list to the State Department of gifts over $415 its officials received from foreign governments. The measure is intended to ensure that foreign governments do not gain undue influence over American officials.
LOL We already know that the Trumps were under “undue influence” from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely more countries.
The department said it had tried to collect the information about the gifts Trump White House officials had received but had failed to come up with an accounting.
“As a result, the data required to fully compile a complete listing for 2020 is unavailable,” the State Department said in a footnote to its list of gifts government officials received that year….
In February, it was revealed that classified documents and gifts from the White House had been improperly taken to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, a matter federal authorities are now in the preliminary stages of investigating. Around that time, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol learned that significant chunks of time were missing from White House call records from the day of the attack….
The State Department’s inspector general reported in November that tens of thousands of dollars in gifts given to Trump administration officials were missing. They included a 30-year-old Suntory Hibiki bottle of Japanese whiskey given to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, worth $5,800, and a 22-karat-gold commemorative coin valued at $560 given to another State Department official.
Many more items are missing–read about the rest at the NYT link.
Three interesting follow-up stories on the fake DHS guys who were busted for bribing Secret Service agents.
Prosecutors told a judge Friday that they still don’t know a motive for two men charged with impersonating federal agents, whether they are connected to any foreign government or whether they received anything from the federal agents they allegedly duped.
“This investigation is less than two weeks old, and every day it gets worse and worse as more and more evidence comes forward, and more and more witnesses come forward,” prosecutor Josh Rothstein told a federal judge on Friday.
The Justice Department is arguing that Haider Ali and Arian Taherzadeh should stay behind bars while the investigation continues. Judge Michael Harvey peppered prosecutors with questions, many of which they couldn’t answer.
The hearing will continue Monday, and the two men will remain behind bars over the weekend. Neither Taherzadeh nor Ali has entered a formal plea.
The two men spent more than two years impersonating Homeland Security agents, currying favor with federal law enforcement officers, some of whom lived in a swanky DC complex where they had apartments, and amassing a small arsenal of weapons and surveillance equipment, according to court documents.
Federal investigators are trying to unravel how the men paid for five apartments in a high-rent Washington neighborhood, as well as weapons and other equipment, a US law enforcement official said.
Among the questions for investigators is whether the money could have come from a foreign government, though they have noted that the effort didn’t appear to have the sophistication expected of trained foreign intelligence services.
Rothstein noted that one of the men, Ali, has citizenship status in Pakistan while also being a naturalized US citizen. Ali had traveled to Iran in the months before the scheme began, Rothstein said, and took five other trips abroad, including to Iraq and Pakistan.
(Highlighting added by me)
The Daily Mail: Stash of assault rifles, body armor, passports with multiple visas, and sham uniforms found in penthouse of ‘fake’ Homeland agents – including one with ‘links to Pakistani intelligence.’
A motion for detention of the two men who were arrested Wednesday for impersonating federal agents includes a slew of damning evidence, including images showing several different passports, visas and IDs.
The prosecutors are requesting Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Sher-Ali, 35, be detained due to a slew of evidence found in a raid of their units in a luxury apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C….
Taherzadeh told law enforcement in an interview after being taken into custody on Wednesday that Ali was the one funding their lavish lifestyle and seemingly endless stream of gifts, but claimed he wasn’t aware where the money was coming from.
The question remains, however, on what Ali and Taherzadeh’s motives were in getting close to people with White House access by impersonating government agents.
Secret Service agents assigned to details for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence are among those being investigated for accepting lavish gifts and partying with Taherzadeh and Ali, who alleged they were agents with the Department of Homeland Security.
At least one of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) agents receiving free rent from Taherzadehand Ali was assigned to the detail protecting Harris’ residence at Number One Observatory Circle at the Naval Observatory, sources at the building told DailyMail.com.
Another, sources claim, was on the presidential protective detail and regularly traveled with President Biden on Air Force One.
The new information comes after an affidavit released Wednesday revealed that one of the witnesses in the case is a secret service agent that worked on First Lady Jill Biden’s protective detail.
Again, the added highlighting is mine. There’s much more at the link, including photos of the defendants and the evidence.
Justin Rohrlich of The Daily Beast interviewed a “former friend” of one of the imposters: Homeland Security Conman’s Arrest Is ‘Karma,’ Says Former Friend.
A man arrested this week for allegedly posing as a phony Homeland Security agent in a years-long ruse that fooled at least four members of the Secret Service—one of them on first lady Jill Biden’s security detail—has been busted for passing bad checks, allegedly created a fake company to win a city contract, and stiffed a close friend and business partner before skipping town, according to state court records and interviews with two former associates.
Arian Taherzadeh, 40, was arrested by the feds at his Washington, D.C., apartment complex on Wednesday….
In an interview with investigators following his arrest, prosecutors say Taherzadeh admitted to posing as a DHS agent and said he also falsely told others that he was an ex-Army Ranger. However, he put much of the onus on Ali, telling the feds that “Ali was the individual that funded most of their day-to-day operation but Taherzadeh did not know the source of the funds.”
“You could call it karma,” a former friend and business partner in Kansas City who started a now-defunct IT consultancy with Taherzadeh told The Daily Beast. “I got burned a couple of different times and I finally walked away.”
The friend said he’s extremely curious to know what Taherzadeh’s end-game was.
“Part of me just wants to tell you, it’s because he could,” he said.
The tale of the con is a long story. You can read it at the Daily Beast link.
January 6 investigation news
I know you’ve probably heard about this bombshell story from CNN yesterday: CNN Exclusive: ‘We control them all’: Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows ideas for overturning 2020 election before it was called.
Two days after the 2020 presidential election, as votes were still being tallied, Donald Trump’s eldest son texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that “we have operational control” to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the US Senate and swing state legislatures, CNN has learned.
In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by subverting the Electoral College process, according to the message reviewed by CNN. The text is among records obtained by the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021.
“It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. texted to Meadows on November 5, adding later in the same missive: “We have multiple paths We control them all.” [….]
Immediately before his text to Meadows describing multiple paths for challenging the election, Trump Jr. texted Meadows the following: “This is what we need to do please read it and please get it to everyone that needs to see it because I’m not sure we’re doing it.”
The November 5 text message outlines a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the former President attempted to carry out in the months that followed. Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake “Trump electors.”
If all that failed, according to the Trump Jr. text, GOP lawmakers in Congress could simply vote to reinstall Trump as President on January 6.
“We have operational control Total leverage,” the message reads. “Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.”
Lock him up. Please.
The New York Times: Pro-Trump Rally Planner Is Cooperating in Justice Dept.’s Jan. 6 Inquiry.
Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of pro-Trump events after the 2020 election, has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation of the attack on the Capitol last year, the first high-profile political figure known to have offered assistance to the government’s newly expanded criminal inquiry.
Speaking through a lawyer, Mr. Alexander said on Friday that he had recently received a subpoena from a federal grand jury that is seeking information on several broad categories of people connected to pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington after the election.
In a statement from the lawyer, Mr. Alexander said he was taking “a cooperative posture” with the Justice Department’s investigation but did not know what useful information he could give. He also disavowed anyone who took part in or planned violence on Jan. 6.
While it remains unclear what Mr. Alexander might tell the grand jury, he was intimately involved in the sprawling effort to mount political protests challenging the results of the election, and had contacts with other organizers, extremist groups, members of Congress and, according to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, White House officials during the period after Election Day.
I actually think the NYT is underplaying the important of this development, but here’s a bit more from the article:
The grand jury subpoena Mr. Alexander received suggests that prosecutors have greatly widened the scope of their inquiry to include not only people who were at the Capitol, but also those who organized and spoke at pro-Trump events in November and December 2020 and on Jan. 6, 2021.
In an indication that the inquiry could reach into the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, the subpoena also seeks information about members of the executive and legislative branches who were involved in the events or who may have helped to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election….
Mr. Alexander took part in two so-called Stop the Steal rallies in Washington that preceded the former president’s event at the Ellipse, near the White House, on Jan. 6 — one on Nov. 14, 2020, and the other a few weeks later on Dec. 12 — as well as events in the key swing state of Georgia in December.
In the run-up to those gatherings, Mr. Alexander came into contact with a host of rally organizers and with right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers militia and the 1st Amendment Praetorian that provided both public and personal security at the events.
The Washington Post on the plea deal with Proud Boy Charles Donohoe: Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol, will testify against others.
There was so much breaking news yesterday, and the flood of information continues this morning. I’ve been focused on the crisis in Ukraine lately, but yesterday the January 6 investigation came back into prominence.
Before I get to the latest news from Ukraine, I want to share an article from Vice about Maria Prymachenko, a Ukrainian folk artist whose work Dakinikat and I have been using for our recent posts: Russian Forces Destroyed the Wild and Beautiful Art of Maria Prymachenko.
Amid the intense battles that broke out approximately 50 miles northwest of Kyiv on February 25 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum was burned, according toThe Kyiv Independent. “Another one of the irreparable losses of the historical-cultural authority of Ukraine is the destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum by the aggressor in these hellish days for our country,” wrote the museum’s director in a message on Facebook. As a result, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Olexandr Tkachenko, requested that Russia lose its UNESCO membership.
It is not yet confirmed how many pieces in the museum’s holdings survive, but the destroyed artifacts reportedly include roughly 25 works by the celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko, who died in 1997 at the age of 88. Beloved for her saturated gouaches and watercolors on paper, Prymachenko was known to transform cultural motifs (yellow suns and graphic, stencil-like flowers) into vivid and wildly imagined narratives, in which elephants longed to be sailors, horses traveled to outer space, and villagers hijacked giant serpents.Today, nearly 650 of her works, dating from 1936 to 1987, are also held by the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art, in nearby Kyiv. Whether or not the Ivankiv museum was targeted intentionally, its loss is pointedly a blow to Ukraine’s cultural history, its collective spirit, its artistic soul.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1908 close to Ivaniv, in the village of Bolotyna. Her father was a craftsman and carpenter; from her mother and grandmother, she learned Ukrainian arts of embroidery and hand-painting Easter eggs. From an early age, with no formal fine art training, Prymachenko began to create a way of working that stemmed from her encounters in forests and wildflower fields, surrounded by animals….
Around 1936, Tetiana Floru, an artist from Kyiv, saw Prymachenko’s embroideries for sale in the Ivankiv market and invited her to join the Central Experimental Workshop of the Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art, an assembly of folk artists from all over the country. It was life-changing for Prymachenko, who in Kyiv underwent surgeries for complications from childhood polio that finally allowed her to walk. In 1936, her works were included in the First Republican Folk Art Exhibition in Kyiv, which later traveled to Moscow and Leningrad, and the following year some of her drawings were presented in the International Exhibition in Paris, where she received a gold medal and the blurb of a lifetime from Pablo Picasso….
“I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian,” Picasso reportedly said, visiting her exhibit in the same year he painted Guernica. Another admirer, Marc Chagall, also fell under the spell of her paintings: When he began to paint animals into his own magic realist scenes in his native Belarus, he called his creatures “the cousins of the strange beasts of Maria Prymachenko.” Other relatives in this imaginary zoo: the animal renderings of Henri Rousseau, Niki de Saint Phalle.
If you’re interested, read the rest at Vice.com.
Here’s the latest on what’s happening in Ukraine:
A top Russian military figure has been killed in the war in Ukraine according to local news outlets citing a social media post by his colleague.
Ukrainian news outlets were reporting that Andrei Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, had been killed on Wednesday.
Media outlets cited a post on VKontakte announcing the death, written by Sergei Chipilev, a deputy of the Russian veterans group, Combat Brotherhood.
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the tragic news about the death of our friend, Major General Andrei Aleksandrovich Sukhovetsky, on the territory of Ukraine during a special operation,” his post said, without specifying the circumstances.
Christo Grozev, executive director of fact-checking website Bellingcat, tweeted news of the death, adding that if confirmed it would be a “major demotivator” for Russian forces….
News of the death was also reported by Russian media outlets. Lenta.ru carried the story, while Alexander Kots, a correspondent for the mass circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, described the death in a post on social network Telegram.
A 40-mile column of Russian invaders has stalled on the way to Kyiv, opening itself to attack by Ukrainians, a senior defense official told reporters Wednesday.
“We believe that the convoy is stalled,” the official said. “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe that they’ve solved their problems,” which still include a lack of food, fuel, and spare parts.
Some Ukrainian troops have also targeted the convoy, although in limited fashion, the official said.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service posted a video of a captured Russian soldier who says he and his unit were sent across the border with only three days’ food.
“Putin expected to capture Ukraine in three days,” Ukraine’s security service wrote above the video, which could not be independently verified. “By the order of the top Russian leadership, the phones and documents were taken from the fire brigades, removed food and water for three days and sent to war with Ukraine,” the agency said, according to the English translation of the post.
Insufficient food is among the missteps that have slowed the Russian advance, and perhaps edged Russia into more ferocious and indiscriminate use of missiles and airstrikes. As of Wednesday, Pentagon officials had counted roughly 450 such strikes on Ukrainian targets.
The senior defense official said Pentagon leaders expect the invasion to accelerate as Russia adjusts and gets provisions to its forces inside Ukraine.
As soon as the curfew was lifted in Kyiv, I drove around to understand what had happened to our capital overnight. For two full days residents had not been allowed to go out, even during the daytime. Russian saboteur groups were identified, and random street fights took place.
I did not recognise my city, with checkpoints in the old town, with people digging trenches, bridges being fortified and the subway turned into a bomb shelter.
“Do you enrol everybody who shows up?” we asked a young guy in charge. “Almost all, but I do not accept those under 18,” he said. “And there are a lot of them. I wouldn’t be able to look their mothers in the eyes. I fought in 2014-2015 in Donbas, so I know what the war is.”
It’s a predominantly male group but there are three women. The youngest is a lawyer. “What Russia has already done to the civilians has made us act,” she said. She had not told her family of her decision to fight. They live in a small town on the Ukrainian-Russian border, which has been partially destroyed. Another woman, in her 60s, said she was a nurse. Her husband had joined the defence units and she felt she needed to be with him. The last was a retired officer. She enrolled because her son had already joined the Ukrainian army. “When our grandparents, who remember the second world war, were wishing for peace, we didn’t understand why,” she said. “But now I know.”
The figures say one thing, experience another. The official toll of civilian deaths is 350, but after seven days’ fighting, there cannot be a single Ukrainian who doesn’t know somebody who has been touched by tragedy. There are more than 1,600 wounded….
“Those of you who have come to ‘rescue us’, just go away,” cries a woman holding a baby at Kyiv’s main station. “We were all right before you came. Just leave. All I have is some cash and a backpack.” Like thousands of people here, her mission is to go somewhere else, anywhere. The Ukrainian railway allows everybody to ride without tickets, including foreign citizens, and is running extra trains to the west.
We count the hours: seven, 20, 70, 100, 144: hours of the Ukrainian army on its own, its citizens holding off one of the mightiest armies in the world, which is now being bolstered by support from Belarus. The count becomes symbolic. For those under bombardment, each hour seems like a year.
Read more at the Guardian link.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, as the two sides met for another round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting that has set off an exodus of over 1 million refugees.
Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, with a huge armored column north of Kyiv at a standstill, but the military has made significant gains in the south as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
The Russian military said it had control of Kherson, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago.
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Azov Sea, plunging it into darkness, isolation and fear. Electricity and phone service were largely down, and homes and shops faced food and water shortages.
Without phone connections, medics did not know where to take the wounded.
More Ukraine reads:
The New York Times: A War the Kremlin Tried to Disguise Becomes a Hard Reality for Russians.
The New York Times: Anxiety Grows in Odessa as Russians Advance in Southern Ukraine.
January 6 prosecutions
This is huge: yesterday a January 6 defendant w ho worked closely with Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Law and Crime: Oath Keepers Member Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy and Obstruction in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack, Will ‘Fully Cooperate’ with Feds.
A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group charged in the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. He vowed to “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation into the attack.
Joshua James, 34, is the first member of the militia group charged with seditious conspiracy to plead guilty to that charge. At a hearing Wednesday, he confirmed that under the plea agreement, he will “fully cooperate” with the government’s prosecution and testify before a grand jury and at trial.
The seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges, both felonies, carry potential jail sentences of 20 years each. The seditious conspiracy charge is the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s sprawling prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
James was named in a 17-count indictment that also charged Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. According to prosecutors, James and the other Oath Keepers made plans to bring a variety of weapons to support the mob of Donald Trump supporters who violently overran police to swarm the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At Wednesday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, James confirmed the Statement of Offense submitted in connection with his plea, which outlines the actions James took in support of the plan to overturn the election and keep Trump in office…
Here are a couple of things James admitted to:
In advance of and on January 6, 2021, James and others agreed to take part in the plan developed by Rhodes to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power….
In the weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, Rhodes instructed James and other coconspirators to be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election.
Read the rest at Law and Crime.
James is also close to Roger Stone and was communicating with him the morning of January 6, 2021.
House January 6 Committee investigation:
The New York Times: Jan. 6 Committee Lays Out Potential Criminal Charges Against Trump.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to conclude that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.
In a court filing in a civil case in California, the committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president. They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.
The filing also said there was evidence that Mr. Trump’s repeated lies that the election had been stolen amounted to common law fraud.
The filing disclosed only limited new evidence, and the committee asked the judge in the civil case to review the relevant material behind closed doors. In asserting the potential for criminality, the committee largely relied on the extensive and detailed accounts already made public of the actions Mr. Trump and his allies took to keep him in office after his defeat.
The committee added information from its more than 550 interviews with state officials, Justice Department officials and top aides to Mr. Trump, among others.
It said, for example, that Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior campaign adviser, had told the committee in a deposition that Mr. Trump had been told soon after Election Day by a campaign data expert “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose, suggesting that Mr. Trump was well aware that his months of assertions about a stolen election were false. (Mr. Trump subsequently said he disagreed with the data expert’s analysis, Mr. Miller said, because he thought he could win in court.)
The evidence gathered by the committee “provides, at minimum, a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated” the obstruction count, the filing, written by Douglas N. Letter, the general counsel of the House, said, adding: “The select committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The filing said that a “review of the materials may reveal that the president and members of his campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.”
This post is way too long, but so much is happening! Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers, and please share your thoughts a recommended reads with us.
Yesterday we lost bell hooks (born Gloria Watkins), feminist theorist, poet, and activist.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read her work, but I was impressed by what I read about hooks this morning. Dakinikat was inspired by her, so perhaps she will share her thoughts today and/or tomorrow.
Lucy Knight at The Guardian: bell hooks, author and activist, dies aged 69.
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, has died aged 69.
Her niece Ebony Motley tweeted: “The family of @bellhooks is sad to announce the passing of our sister, aunt, great aunt and great great aunt.”
She also attached a statement, which said that “the family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened at the passing of our beloved sister on December 15, 2021. The family honored her request to transition at home with family and friends by her side.”
The author, professor and activist was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, and published more than 30 books in her lifetime, covering topics including race, feminism, capitalism and intersectionality.
She adopted her maternal great-grandmother’s name as a pen name, since she so admired her, but used lowercase letters to distinguish herself from her family member. hooks’ first major work, Ain’t I a Woman?, was published in 1981, and became widely recognised as an important feminist text. It was named one of the 20 most influential women’s books in the last 20 years by Publishers Weekly in 1992.
She went on to write Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center in 1984, All About Love: New Visions in 2000 and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity in 2004, continuing to draw on themes of feminism, race, love and gender.
Since 2004, she taught at Berea College in Kentucky, a liberal arts college that offers free tuition.
In 2016 hooks wrote in the Guardian that Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was “capitalist money-making at its best”, but criticised the notion of “freedom” depicted in the lyrics. “To truly be free,” wrote hooks, “we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal wellbeing and joy.”
“I want my work to be about healing,” she said in 2018 when she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame. “I am a fortunate writer because every day of my life practically I get a letter, a phone call from someone who tells me how my work has transformed their life.”
From The Literary Hub:
hooks’s first published work of theory, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, was published when she was 29 but written when she was an undergraduate, launching a four-decade-long career of writing and teaching, with a focus on classroom accessibility. hooks’s extensive body of scholarship and poetry—that remains and will continue to remain relevant—was consistent in its generosity, emphasizing the importance of loving communities to challenging systemic inequalities. Hooks believed a “militant commitment to feminism” was not at all at odds with joy and humor; in fact, that love “is the necessary foundation enabling us to survive the wars, the hardships, the sickness, and the dying with our spirits intact.” As she told The New York Times in 2015,
“We cannot have a meaningful revolution without humor. Every time we see the left or any group trying to move forward politically in a radical way, when they’re humorless, they fail. Humor is essential to the integrative balance that we need to deal with diversity and difference and the building of community. For example, I love to be in conversation with Cornel West. We always go high and we go low, and we always bring the joyful humor in. The last talk he and I gave together, many people were upset because we were silly together. But I consider it a high holy calling that we can be humorous together. How many times do we see an African-American man and an African-American woman talking together, critiquing one another, and yet having delicious, humorous delight? It’s a miracle.”
hooks’s family said contributions and memorials can be made to the Christian County Literacy Council, which promotes reading for children, or the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County, where a biographical exhibit is on display.
From the New Yorker piece:
I came to her work in the mid-nineties, during a fertile era of Black cultural studies, when it felt like your typical alternative weekly or independent magazine was as rigorous as an academic monograph. For hooks, writing in the public sphere was just an application of her mind to a more immediate concern, whether her subject was Madonna, Spike Lee, or, in one memorably withering piece, Larry Clark’s “Kids.” She was writing at a time when the serious study of culture—mining for subtexts, sifting for clues—was still a scrappy undertaking. As an Asian American reader, I was enamored with how critics like hooks drew on their own backgrounds and friendships, not to flatten their lives into something relatably universal but to remind us how we all index a vast, often contradictory array of tastes and experiences. Her criticism suggested a pulsing, tireless brain trying to make sense of how a work of art made her feel. She modelled an intellect: following the distant echoes of white supremacy and Black resistance over time and pinpointing their legacies in the works of Quentin Tarantino or Forest Whitaker’s “Waiting to Exhale.”
Yet her work—books such as “Reel to Real” or “Art on My Mind,” which have survived decades of rereadings and underlinings—also modelled how to simply live and breathe in the world. She was zealous in her praise—especially when it came to Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” a film referenced countless times in her work—and she never lost grasp of how it feels to be awestruck while standing before a stirring work of art. She couldn’t deny the excitement as the lights dim and we prepare to surrender to the performance. But she made demands on the world. She believed criticism came from a place of love, a desire for things worthy of losing ourselves to….
This has been a particularly trying time for critics who came of age in the eighties and nineties, as giants like hooks, Greg Tate, and Dave Hickey have passed. hooks was a brilliant, tough critic—no doubt her death will inspire many revisitations of works like “Ain’t I a Woman,” “Black Looks,” or “Outlaw Culture.” Yet she was also a dazzling memoirist and poet. In 1982, she published a poem titled “in the matter of the egyptians” in Hambone, a journal she worked on with her then partner, Nathaniel Mackey. It reads:
I enjoyed reading this piece from 2019 by Min Jin Lee in The New York Times: In Praise of bell hooks.
In 1987, I was a sophomore at Yale. I’d been in the United States for 11 years, and although I was a history major, I wanted to read novels again. I signed up for “Introduction to African-American Literature,” which was taught by Gloria Watkins, an assistant professor in the English department, and she was such a wonderful teacher that I signed up for her other class, “Black Women and Their Fiction.”
Gloria — as we were allowed to address her in the classroom — had a slight figure with elegant wrists that peeked out of her tunic sweater sleeves. She was soft-spoken with a faint Southern accent, which I attributed to her birthplace, Hopkinsville, Ky. She was in her mid-30s then but looked much younger. Large, horn-rimmed glasses framed the open gaze of her genuinely curious mind. You knew her classes were special. The temperature in the room seemed to change in her presence because everything felt so intense and crackling like the way the air can feel heavy before a long-awaited rain. It wasn’t just school then. No, I think, we were falling in love with thinking and imagining again….
I was 19 when I took hooks’s classes, and I was just becoming a young feminist myself. I had begun my study of feminism with Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, among other white women, and perhaps, because I was foreign-born — rightly or wrongly — I had not expected that people like me would be included in their vision of feminist liberation. Women and men of Asian ethnicities are so often neglected, excluded and marginalized in the Western academy, so as a college student I’d no doubt internalized my alleged insignificance. bell hooks changed my limited perception.
Her book of theory taught me to ask for more from art, literature, media, politics and history — and for me, a Korean girl who had been born in a divided nation once led by kings, colonizers, then a succession of presidents who were more or less dictators, and for millenniums, that had enforced rigid class systems with slaves and serfs until the early 20th century, and where women of all classes were deeply oppressed and brutalized, I needed to see that the movement had a space for me.
What else is in the news? January 6 and the never ending pandemic.
January 6: Could it be that the investigation is really heating up?
David Rohde at The New Yorker: Is There a Smoking Gun in the January 6th Investigation?
William Saletan at Slate: The Chilling Lesson of Mark Meadows’ Text Messages.
The New York Times: Meadows and the Band of Loyalists: How They Fought to Keep Trump in Power.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/us/politics/trump-meadows-republicans-congress-jan-6.html
Kyle Cheney at Politico: The Jan. 6 puzzle piece that’s going largely ignored.
Kyle Cheney at Politico: Jan. 6 investigators mull whether Trump violated obstruction law.
The Washington Post: Role as Trump’s gatekeeper puts Meadows in legal jeopardy — and at odds with Trump.
Georgia Public Radio: Exclusive: More Georgia Secretary of State’s office officials interviewed by Jan. 6 committee.
The never ending pandemic
Ian Bogost at The Atlantic: I’m Starting to Give Up on Post-pandemic Life.
Yasmin Tayag at The Atlantic: Don’t Be Surprised When You Get Omicron.
Ed Yong at The Atlantic: America Is Not Ready for Omicron. The new variant poses a far graver threat at the collective level than the individual one—the kind of test that the U.S. has repeatedly failed.
Have courage and enjoy the present moment. There’s no telling what will happen next.
Yesterday Joe Biden got another big win when his infrastructure bill got more than 60 votes to begin consideration in the Senate.
The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.
Trump Crimes Breaking News
Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post: As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily.
January 6 Investigation News
Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. Minutesbefore the panel’s first hearing on Tuesday, however, its members scored a key win thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden’s Justice Department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials.
“That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee’s work from former [Trump] employees or current employees is not an impediment,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Jan. 6 probe, said in an interview. The Biden DOJ’s decision “expedites” the panel’s work digging into the insurrection, he added….
The panel only recently hired its senior staff and launched its website — and it has more work to do before it can seek out potential Trump-adjacent witnesses such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I think the true scope of the investigation is still under development,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select panel, said in a brief interview. “I know that we will build on work that’s already been done by other committees.” [….]
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another select committee member, echoed Luria and Thompson about the still-undefined scope of the investigation. But he said it was critical that the panel examine coordination efforts by the extremist groups that marched on the Capitol that day — a process that includes studying the hundreds of criminal prosecutions helmed by the Justice Department.
“[We] want to know who was the ultimate organizer and who paid for all of this action and how did it come about and are they still out there,” Raskin said.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who on January 6 told the insurrectionists to “start taking names and kicking ass,” has been busy destroying his own defenses for his actions on the day of the attempted coup.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Mo Brooks Accidentally Gave Up His Immunity From Eric Swalwell’s Insurrection Lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not shield Rep. Mo Brooks from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit against the fomenters of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The DOJ’s decision may seem surprising: After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland has continued to protect Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, signaling a broad view of elected officials’ immunity from civil suits. In Swalwell’s case, however, the Justice Department seized upon comments demonstrating that, at the Jan. 6 rally, Brooks was acting not as an elected official, but as a politician seeking to influence future elections. Ironically, it was Brooks himself who made these statements, under oath, in an effort to evade this very lawsuit. The congressman’s legal defense has turned into a legal liability.
Swalwell’s lawsuit marks a serious effort to hold Brooks, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani accountable for their conduct at the rally that preceded—and incited—the Jan. 6 insurrection. He sued all three defendants for civil rights violations, as well as more garden variety misdeeds known as torts. In this case, Brooks’ alleged torts included negligence, aiding and abetting common law assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bias-related crimes. Brooks sought to dismiss these tort claims by invoking the Westfall Act. Under this statute, a federal official facing a civil suit can ask the Department of Justice to certify that they were acting within the scope of their employment when the alleged tort occurred. If the DOJ agrees, the United States is substituted as the defendant. And because the U.S. cannot be sued for a wide range of torts, that substitution usually ends the case.
Predictably, Brooks asked the Justice Department to certify that he was acting as an employee of the federal government carrying out his official duties at the Jan. 6 rally. This argument is hard to swallow. Then again, so was Trump’s assertion that defaming E. Jean Carroll was a presidential act, yet Garland’s Justice Department still endorsed his theory. What appears to have made the difference in this case is Brooks’ own inadvertent admission that he was acting as a campaigner, not a congressman, on the morning of Jan. 6.
This admission was prompted by a claim at the heart of Swalwell’s lawsuit: that Brooks urged the crowd to commit violence at the Capitol. Central to Swalwell’s theory was a segment of Brooks’ speech in which he declared: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Brooks continued:
“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
In a long, rambling affidavit, Brooks tried to counter this allegation by reframing his call to begin “kicking ass.” He testified that, in this passage, “I am talking about ‘kicking ass’ in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONS!” [….]
This narrative provides perhaps the most self-defeating explanation Brooks could possibly muster at this stage in litigation. As the Justice Department pointed out in its Tuesday filing, “activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context” are “not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives.” That’s because it is not the “business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Representatives thus cannot invoke the Westfall Act’s protections when they are engaged in “campaign efforts.”
Jim Newell at Slate: Turns Out Mo Brooks Was Wearing Body Armor to Trump’s Very Peaceful Jan. 6 Rally.
Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.
Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”
Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.
“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”
Who was this source? The Committee is probably going to want to hear from Brooks about all this.
Could it have been this guy?
I have a few more links to add in the comments. What’s on your mind today? This is an open thread.