“The court’s order hamstrings that investigation and places the FBI and Department of Justice … under a Damoclean threat of contempt,” DOJ lawyers said in their 29-page filing, adding, “It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to [Trump’s] counsel.”
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: September 17, 2022 Filed under: cat art, caturday, Criminal Justice System, Donald Trump, U.S. Politics | Tags: Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark, Judge Aileen Cannon, Mark Meadows, Patrick Philbin 15 Comments
Late last night the Department of Justice appealed Judge Loose Cannon’s ruling in the battle over the classified documents that Trump stole on his way out of the White House.
Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Justice Department asks appeals court to block Trump judge’s Mar-a-Lago ruling.
The Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling that prevents it from accessing hundreds of pages of classified records seized amid the thousands of pages of government documents taken from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The district court has entered an unprecedented order enjoining the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion Friday.
The Justice Department hadpreviously argued that any delay in its investigation into Donald Trump’s handling and retention of government records, including classified records, could result in “irreparable harm” to the government and the public….
The Justice Department on Friday argued that any considerations of claims for return of property or attorney-client and executive privilege were “categorically inapplicable to the records bearing classification markings.”
“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the government and were seized in a court-authorized search,” the Justice Department wrote.
Although Trump previously suggested he had declassified or designated documents seized from his home as “personal,” the Justice Department said he “has never represented that he in fact took either of those steps — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence. The court erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”
The Justice Department also argued that its request for a limited stay wouldn’t disrupt the special master’s review of other materials and “irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel.”
More from Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Justice Dept. asks appeals court to restore access to Trump raid documents.
In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Friday night, prosecutors said the government is facing irreparable harm as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling putting the potentially classified records off-limits to the investigative team until an outside expert conducts a review of them and considers Trump’s objections to their seizure.
The Justice Department’s widely expected escalation of the legal fight came one day after the Trump-appointed judge rebuffed prosecutors’ request for a stay that would essentially carve out the national security-related records — some bearing markings such as “Top Secret/SCI” — from the outside oversight Trump’s legal team requested.
The filing was an unsparing rejection of Cannon’s handling of the entire matter, saying it has jeopardized national security, is based on flimsy or baseless interpretations of executive privilege and could enable further obstruction of efforts to recover additional missing documents.
“The government’s need to proceed apace is heightened where, as here, it has reason to believe that obstructive acts may impede its investigation,” prosecutors wrote….
The inability of federal prosecutors to advance their criminal probe has complicated separate efforts by the intelligence community to assess the harm that may have been caused by their improper storage in Trump’s unsecured storage room, prosecutors say, contending that the criminal investigation is inextricably tied to the national security review.
And prosecutors suggested that the restrictions on the FBI’s criminal work would prevent investigators from determining what may have once resided in dozens of empty folders, also bearing classification marks, found among Trump’s belongings.
“The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing,” prosecutors indicated in the filing.
This is from a column by Harry Litman at The Los Angeles Times: The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is.
The opinion’s essential flaws go well beyond straining the law and stretching facts in favor of Donald Trump. The ruling rests on the most basic dereliction of judicial responsibility, and it represents a complete departure from the bedrock principle of separation of powers.
Cannon was actually handed a graceful way back from her also broadly pilloried opinion last week, in which she had determined that a special master was required to review the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department asked for a modest stay extending to only 100 pages of classified material found at the beach resort. It is beyond controversy that such documents are off-limits to a private citizen like the former president.
Trump’s lawyers did not try to contest that principle. Rather they argued, bizarrely, that just because the government said the documents were classified, it wasn’t necessarily so.
That, of course, is spectacular gibberish. The very meaning of classified documents is that the executive branch has made a determination about their content and marked them classified.
But Cannon adopted Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach. She concluded that it would not be “appropriate” — the closest thing to legal reasoning in her opinion — “to accept the government’s conclusion on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third-party,” that is, a special master.
Cannon, in essence, is redefining the classification process to be simply a provisional executive branch judgment subject to overruling by individual judges such as herself. Apart from its legal bankruptcy, such a process would wreak bedlam in matters of national intelligence, which turn on the very designations that Cannon set aside.
More crazy from Judge Loose Cannon:
The Trump team’s next gambit, which the judge also adopted, was even more logically and legally threadbare. The former president has argued repeatedly in public that he declassified the documents. But his attorneys have studiously avoided saying that in court papers, where lies are subject to professional and criminal penalties. The Trump filings indicate only that he perhaps had declassified the documents.
The appropriate response for a judge in these circumstances is to put Trump on the stand and ask him, “Did you or didn’t you?” Failing that, “perhaps” means the matter is not established and the argument loses.
But Cannon either does not know or does not care what judges do in such a situation. It is important to emphasize that she isn’t simply leaning in Trump’s direction, she’s falling all over him.
Judges sit to resolve disputes, on the basis of evidence. Trump’s team offered none for his positions, relying instead on only the most speculative arguments. It is elementary to the adversary system of justice that evidence and the law, not speculation, determine outcomes. Nothing in the Trump team’s filings justifies freezing a criminal justice investigation and national intelligence review in their tracks.
The DOJ has appealed and now we’ll have to wait and see what the 11th Circuit judges have to say.
There were a couple of new revelations yesterday about people close to Trump and the stolen government documents.
The Washington Post: Trump team claimed boxes at Mar-a-Lago were only news clippings.
Tuesday Reads: Jan. 6 Committee Surprise HearingPosted: June 28, 2022 Filed under: 2020 Elections, 2021 Insurrection | Tags: Cassidy Hutchinson, Donald Trump, January 6 Committee hearings, Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Mark Meadows 46 Comments
Yesterday, after the January 6 Committee announced a surprise hearing for today at 1PM, I was glued to Twitter trying to get clues to what could be coming. By late last night, news had leaked that the surprise witness is Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. Dakinikat stayed up later than I did, and she texted me a more detailed account of what the committee may be planning to reveal by Hugo Lowell of The Guardian (more below).
Background info on Hutchinson from The Washington Post: Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, has become one of the most useful witnesses for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob determined to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win.
She has spoken to investigators on the committee multiple times behind closed doors. In the absence of testimony from Meadows himself — he refused to appear, and the committee held him in contempt — Hutchinson seems to be key to understanding the scope of his actions….
Hutchinson was by Meadows’s side leading up to and during the Capitol attack and has told the committee of strategy sessions held between the White House and President Donald Trump’s allies in Congress about whether they should encourage “Stop the Steal” participants to march to the Capitol, and how to set up alternative slates of electors.
The Washington Post reported that she confirmed to the committee that at one point Meadows said Trump had indicated support for protesters who were shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Videotaped testimony from Hutchinson was also central to allegations of pardon-hunting by Republican House members. The allegations were aired by the committee at Thursday’s hearing.
Hutchinson testified that she was involved with conversations about requests from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), all of whom she said had sought a promise from the White House to be cleared in advance of any crimes they might be charged with. Perry had previously denied seeking a pardon, but Hutchinson insisted in her deposition that he had spoken to her directly about it….
According to a court filing in April, Hutchinson told congressional investigators that Meadows was warned before Jan. 6 about the threat of violence that day as supporters of Trump planned to mass at the U.S. Capitol.
Hutchinson recalled that Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”
Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”
Read more about her at the WaPo. We don’t know what further information Hutchinson plans to share with the committee, but the reason they want her to testify ASAP is because she has faced threats and perhaps could be subject to witness tampering.
Dakinikat sent me this article late last night:
From the Guardian:
The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack is closely focused on phone calls and conversations among Donald Trump’s children and top aides captured by a documentary film-maker weeks before the 2020 election, say sources familiar with the matter.
The calls among Trump’s children and top aides took place at an invitation-only event at the Trump International hotel in Washington that took place the night of the first presidential debate on 29 September 2020, the sources said.
The select committee is interested in the calls, the sources said, since the footage is understood to show the former president’s children, including Donald Jr and Eric Trump, privately discussing strategies about the election at a crucial time in the presidential campaign.
House investigators first learned about the event, hosted by the Trump campaign, and the existence of the footage through British film-maker Alex Holder, who testified about what he and his crew recorded during a two-hour interview last week, the sources said….
The select committee is closely focused on the footage of the event – in addition to the content of the one-on-one interviews with Trump and Ivanka – because the discussions about strategies mirror similar conversations at that time by top Trump advisors.
On the night of the first presidential debate, Trump’s top former strategist Steve Bannon said in an interview with The Circus on Showtime that the outcome of the election would be decided at the state level and eventually at the congressional certification on January 6.
“They’re going to try and overturn this election with uncertified votes,” Bannon said. Asked how he expects the election to end, Bannon said: “Right before noon on the 20th, in a vote in the House, Trump will win the presidency.”
The select committee believes that ideas such as Bannon’s were communicated to advisers to Donald Jr and his fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle, even before the 2020 election had taken place, the sources said – leading House investigators to want to review the Trump hotel footage.
What appears to interest the panel is whether Trump and his children had planned to somehow stop the certification of the election on January 6 – a potential violation of federal law – and to force a contingent election if Trump lost as early as September.
Before the news about the surprise committee hearing broke yesterday, the big story was that John Eastman’s phone was seized by federal agents on the same day that federal agents searched Jeffrey Clark’s home last week.
John Eastman, the attorney who developed Donald Trump’s last-ditch strategy to seize a second term, said in court Monday that he had his phone seized by federal agents last week.
In a court filing in federal court in New Mexico, Eastman indicated he was confronted by agentswhen leaving a restaurant. He’s moving for a judge to order his phone returned.
“The federal agents identified themselves as FBI agents, but they appeared to be executing a warrant issued at the behest of the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General,” Eastman’s lawyer, Charles Burnham, wrote in the 13-page filing.
Eastman accompanied the filing with a copy of the search warrant, authorized by a federal magistrate judge in Albuquerque.
A legal adviser to Trump’s campaign, Eastman has been a central figure in the Capitol riot committee’s case that the former president attempted to block the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021. A federal judge in California has previously ruled that Eastman and Trump “likely” entered a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.
The search of Eastman’s phone appears to have come amid a flurry of activity by federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6 attack and efforts by Trump allies to authorize false slates of electors as part of a plan to overturn the 2020 election.
Last week, subpoenas were served on a slew of those false electors, including at least three state Republican Party chairs. Investigators also searched the Lorton, Va., home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, another critical player in Trump’s efforts.
As a number of legal experts have pointed out, in order to get a search warrant for Eastman’s phone, the government would have to convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe the device contains evidence of a crime. Since the search was initiated by the DOJ Inspector General, the information likely relates to the case against Jeffrey Clark, a former DOJ employee.
I’m going to end there for now. I will post any further news I find in the comment thread. We’ll soon know what the committee believes is so important they are holding an unscheduled meeting three days before the Fourth of July break.
Thursday ReadsPosted: June 23, 2022 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Brad Carver, David Shafer, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, fake elector slates, James DeGraffenreid, January 6 Committee hearings, Jeffrey Clark, Jeffrey Rosen, Michael McDonald, National Archives, Richard Donoghue, Thomas Lane 24 Comments
The 5th January 6 hearing will be held today at 3PM. The planned 6th hearing has now been postponed until after the July 4th break, and there will be at least 2 more hearings in July. Today the committee will focus on Trump’s attempts to get the Department of Justice to help him overturn the 2020 election results. Republican Adam Kinzinger will take the lead today.
NPR: Who you’ll hear from and what to expect in today’s Jan. 6 House committee hearing.
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue are among Thursday’s witnesses. Both refused to give in to Trump’s efforts to get the DOJ to advance his fraudulent claims of voter fraud and overturn the election.
When former Attorney General Bill Barr announced his resignation in December 2020, Trump badgered Rosen and Donoghue in at least nine calls and meetings, according to a report by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump told the two men, according to their testimony.
Also to appear in Thursday’s hearing is Steven Engel, who headed DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Engel was one of the officials who told the former president he would have no choice but to quit if Trump replaced the acting attorney general with environmental lawyer Jeffrey Bossert Clark. Clark was reportedly more willing to go along with Trump’s fraudulent claims of a stolen election.
Several other DOJ lawyers, including Donoghue, also threatened to quit if Clark was appointed.
“The President said ‘Suppose I do this. Suppose I replace him, Jeff Rosen, with him, Jeff Clark. What do you do?’ And I said ‘Sir, I would resign immediately. There is no way I’m serving one minute under this guy, Jeff Clark,'” Donoghue said in a piece of video testimony played at Tuesday’s hearing.
Clark appeared before the House committee in February for a deposition, but pled the Fifth dozens of times.
More from CNN: What to watch for in Thursday’s January 6 committee hearing.
Three top officials who led the Justice Department in the final days of the Trump administration will testify at Thursday’s hearing at 3pm ET about how the then-President and his allies sought to enlist the department to give their baseless fraud allegations credibility and how Trump considered replacing the acting attorney general with an official who bought into his claims of fraud, according to committee aides.
Aides said that the hearing would also scrutinize discussions inside the White House about the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump’s claims of voter fraud, which came up at a heated December 2020 Oval Office meeting with Sidney Powell and Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
But the main focus of the hearing will be Jeffrey Clark:
Committee aides said the hearing would focus on the role that Clark played inside the Justice Department pushing Trump’s false claims of fraud. Clark planned to “reverse the department’s investigative conclusions regarding election fraud,” according to committee aides, and wanted to send out letters to states suggesting there had been fraud.
His push was swiftly rejected by Rosen and Donoghue, which led to the Oval Office showdown where Trump considered putting Clark in charge of the department.
While serving as the acting head of civil cases at the Justice Department at the end of the Trump presidency, Clark floated plans to give Georgia’s legislature and other states backing to undermine the popular vote results. He gave credence to unfounded conspiracy theories of voter fraud, according to documents from the Justice Department, and communicated with Trump about becoming the attorney general, a Senate investigation found this month.
The extent of Clark’s talks with Trump in the days before January 6 aren’t yet publicly known.
Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Who is Jeffrey Clark? Jan. 6 panel seeks to make Trump’s man at DOJ famous.
Clark took a pretty standard path for a conservative lawyer: Harvard University, Georgetown Law, clerk for Ronald Reagan-appointed federal appeals Judge Danny Julian Boggs and a partnership at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, with a stint in the Justice Department’s environmental division during George W. Bush’s administration. His unusually long Justice Department biography even included, for some reason, details about his elementary school….
After the 2020 election, according to his fellow Republican-appointed colleagues at the Justice Department, Clark began to elicit concerns.
“What’s going on with Jeff Clark?” Trump-appointed acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen recalled in an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee. He added that Clark brought up “internet theories” about voting machines’ being hacked via smart thermostats. “This is inconsistent with how I perceived him in the past.”
Rosen started realizing something was “off-kilter,” that “something odd was going on with Jeff Clark,” when it was learned that he had, in violation of a Justice Department rule banning contact between Justice Department officials and the White House except through proper channels, met with Trump.
“It’s even more evident in hindsight, but at the time, I did think, ‘He’s meeting with the president and now he wants to be briefed by the DNI on thermostats?’ plus the title change. Just what is going on here with Jeff Clark?” [….]
Clark is still on the Trump train and is still a conspiracy theorist.
Previous testimony indicates Clark was a true believer who was convinced the election had been stolen. To his colleagues at the Justice Department, according to the testimony, he was the butt of the joke, a guy who — in spite of his education — lacked the ability to discern fact from fiction on the World Wide Web….
Clark has continued to be a presence in MAGA world. He has an account with a few hundred followers on Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, where his Trump-mimicking handle is @RealJeffClark.
He has said the Jan. 6 committee is “power drunk and unconstitutional,” and he has shared stories from the conspiracy website Gateway Pundit, including a story about the debunked propaganda movie “2000 Mules.” He has written for the conspiracy website Revolver News about what he described as efforts to “Kill All the Trump Lawyers — By Canceling Them.” He’s making appearances on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. And he’s trying to raise money, telling would-be donors that he has “been targeted for cancellation by the hyper-partisan January 6 Committee, the ‘mainstream’ media, and a collection of leftist law professors and supposed ‘Republicans’ who are conveniently never-Trumpers.”
The hearing should be interesting. According to Luke Broadwater of The New York Times,
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plans to unveil new evidence on Thursday about how President Donald J. Trump tried to manipulate the Justice Department to help him cling to power after he lost the 2020 election, aides said on Wednesday….
The story of how Mr. Trump attempted to intervene in the workings of the Justice Department to keep himself in office has been well documented by both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Jan. 6 committee, but aides to the House inquiry said Thursday’s hearing will contain new revelations.
Meanwhile, the current DOJ has stepped up its investigation of Trump’s efforts to get state legislatures to submit “alternate” slates of electors from swing states that Biden won.
The Washington Post: Jan. 6 probe expands with fresh subpoenas in multiple states.
Federal agents investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesdaydropped subpoenas on people in multiple locations, widening the probe of how political activists supporting President Donald Trump tried to use invalid electors to thwart Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
Agents conducted court-authorized law enforcement activity Wednesday morning at different locations, FBI officials confirmed to The Washington Post. One was the home of Brad Carver, a Georgia lawyer who allegedly signed a document claiming to be a Trump elector. The other was the Virginia home of Thomas Lane, who worked on the Trump campaign’s efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. The FBI officials did not identify the people associated with those addresses, but public records list each of the locations as the home addresses of the men.
Among those who received a subpoena Wednesday was David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who served as a Trump elector in that state, people familiar with the investigation said. Shafer’s lawyer declined to comment.
Separately, at least some of the would-be Trump electors in Michigan received subpoenas, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. But it was not immediately clear whether that activity was related to a federal probe or a state-level criminal inquiry.
The precise nature of the information being sought by the Justice Department at the homes of Carver and Lane was not immediately clear.
Officials have previously said that the Justice Department and the FBI were examining the issue of false electors, whom Trump and others hoped might be approved by state legislators in a last-ditch bid to keep Trump in the White House. Until now, however, those investigative efforts seemed to primarily involve talking to people in Republican circles who knew of the scheme and objected; the subpoenas issued Wednesday suggest the Justice Department is now moving to question at least some of those who allegedly agreed to pursue the effort.
Later yesterday, 8NewsNow in Las Vegas reported that the FBI searched the home of the Chairman of the Nevada GOP and took his phone: I-Team sources: FBI seizes Nevada GOP chairman’s phone as part of fake elector investigation.
FBI agents served a search warrant Wednesday on Nevada’s top GOP official, sources told the 8 News Now I-Team’s George Knapp.
Agents seized the cell phone of state Republican chairman Michael McDonald, reportedly as part of an investigation into the fake elector scheme initiated at the end of the 2020 presidential election.
A second search warrant was issued for state party secretary James DeGraffenreid, who also signed the document, but FBI agents could not locate him Wednesday, sources told Knapp.
In December 2020, the 8 News Now I-Team reported the Nevada Republican Party’s six electors signed paperwork signaling their support for former President Donald Trump in a symbolic ceremony devoid of any legal merit, which was held in Carson City and coincided with the official state-sanctioned tally on Dec. 14, 2020….
The certificate received by the National Archives looks much different than the official state-sealed one and reads, “We, the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America from the State of Nevada, do hereby certify six electoral votes for Trump.”
In a statement after the event, Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald said the party’s electors convened in Carson City due to ongoing legal battles seeking to overturn the election results. Nevada Republicans lost all court cases involving allegations of voter fraud.
CNN: DOJ subpoenas Georgia Republican Party chairman as it expands Trump fake elector probe.
Federal investigators subpoenaed the Georgia Republican Party chairman for information related to the fake elector scheme there — as the Justice Department has issued a fresh round of subpoenas to people from several states who acted as rogue electors after the 2020 presidential election, multiple sources familiar with the situation told CNN.
The subpoena for the chairman, David Shafer, represents a significant step because he played a central role in organizing the fake slate of electors from Georgia and coordinated the effort with the Trump campaign.
The focus on Shafer also comes as sources tell CNN the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump electors this week in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania — all states that former President Donald Trump lost.
The Justice Department has been scrutinizing the Trump campaign’s use of so-called alternate electors. The new round of subpoenas represents an escalation of a criminal probe that, before now, had approached lower-level Republicans. All along, however, federal investigators have pursued information about political figures higher up, including at the top of the Trump campaign.
In the weeks after the 2020 election and leading up to January 6, 2021, Trump’s allies sent fake slates of electors to the National Archives declaring that the then-President had won seven states that he actually lost. The bid failed, and then-Vice President Mike Pence certified Joe Biden’s electoral win on January 6 after rioters had been cleared from the US Capitol.
Related stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Sen. Ron Johnson under fire over fake-electors disclosure at hearing.
William Saletan at The Bulwark: John Eastman’s Phony “Plenary Authority” Theory.
CBS News: CBS News obtains images from documentary film footage given to Jan. 6 panel.
CNN: What Americans are saying about the Jan. 6 hearings.
The Washington Post: As Jan. 6 committee targets Trump, his consternation at McCarthy grows.
The New York Times: A Year Later, Some Republicans Second-Guess Boycotting the Jan. 6 Panel.
Have a nice Thursday, and if you watch the hearing this afternoon, please share your reactions with us.
Tuesday Reads: Yesterday’s Jan. 6 Committee HearingPosted: June 14, 2022 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Donald Trump, January 6 Committee hearings, Jeffrey Clark, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Russian state media, Trump delusional?, Trump's lies, Vladimir Putin 19 Comments
Much of today’s news is about yesterday’s January 6 committee hearing, but before I get to that, this morning the committee announced that tomorrow’s scheduled hearing has been postponed. NBC News: Jan. 6 committee abruptly postpones Wednesday hearing.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol announced Tuesday that it was postponing its public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
The next hearing will take place on Thursday instead.
The committee did not say why it was postponing Wednesday’s hearing.
The witnesses who were expected to testify at the hearing included former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and Steve Engel, former assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel….
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said last week that the third hearing would offer evidence about Trump’s unsuccessful plan to oust Rosen and replace him with another DOJ official who was more supportive of Trump’s fraud claims, Jeffrey Clark, according to Cheney. Clark drafted a letter to states that said the department “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.”
“In our hearings, you will hear first-hand how the senior leadership of the department threatened to resign, how the White House Counsel threatened to resign, and how they confronted Donald Trump and Jeff Clark in the Oval Office,” Cheney said Thursday.
Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren told Morning Joe that the postponement is “no big deal.”
Perhaps in anticipation of the committee’s scheduled topic for Wednesday, Michael Kranish wrote in The Washington Post: Inside the explosive Oval Office confrontation three days before Jan. 6.
Three days before Congress was slated to certify the 2020 presidential election, a little-known Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark rushed to meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office to discuss a last-ditch attempt to reverse the results.
Clark, an environmental lawyer by trade, had outlined a plan in a letter he wanted to send to the leaders of key states Joe Biden won. It said that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the vote and that the states should consider sending “a separate slate of electors supporting Donald J. Trump” for Congress to approve.
In fact, Clark’s bosses had warned there was not evidence to overturn the election and had rejected his letter days earlier. Now they learned Clark was about to meet with Trump. Acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen tracked down his deputy, Richard Donoghue, who had been walking on the Mall in muddy jeans and an Army T-shirt. There was no time to change. They raced to the Oval Office.
As Rosen and Donoghue listened, Clark told Trump that he would send the letter if the president named him attorney general.
Donoghue told Trump that Clark was “not competent” to serve as Attorney General, and if Trump appointed him there would be mass resignations at the DOJ. Kranish writes that January 6 Committee witness have revealed new information about what happened in that January 3 Oval Office meeting.
A reconstruction of the events by The Washington Post, based on the court filings, depositions, Senate and House reports, previously undisclosed emails, and interviews with knowledgeable government officials, shows how close the country came to crisis three days before the insurrection.
The evidence, which fills in crucial details about Clark’s efforts, includes an email showing he was sent a draft of a letter outlining a plan to try to overturn the election by a just-arrived Justice Department official who had once written a book claiming President Barack Obama planned to “subvert the Constitution.”
But larger mysteries could still be solved at a Jan. 6 committee hearing on Wednesday morning slated to examine Clark’s actions, including the crucial question of whether Clark and his allies were acting on their own initiative — or whether they were one piece of a larger, well-planned effort to keep Trump in power. That question gets to the heart of the committee’s professed mission: proving there was a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
It’s a long read, so you’ll have to go to the WaPo to read all the details.
Now for some reactions to yesterday’s Committee presentation.
Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg: Trump Knew Exactly What He Was Doing on Jan. 6.
“Jerry, just remember: It’s not a lie if you believe it.” — George Costanza, “Seinfeld”
Did Donald Trump believe he was telling the truth when he claimed that the 2020 election, which he lost, was rigged against him? I think not, but I’m just one person.
Fortunately, lots of other White House advisers, such as former Attorney General William Barr, told Trump in the days and weeks after the election that there was no fraud. Barr called the claims “bullshit,” “rubbish” and “idiotic.” Trump’s advisers were surprised, sometime stunned, that he plowed ahead anyway. Those were just some of the revelations from the second day of testimony of the select congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.
One reason this matters is that the hearing’s most important audience isn’t voters or historians. It’s an audience of one: Attorney General Merrick Garland. If Garland’s Justice Department decides to charge Trump with electoral fraud, it will need to demonstrate to a jury that Trump intended to commit a crime when he staged an attempted coup — and that he knew what he was doing was wrong. The Jan. 6 committee is laying lots of persuasive evidence on Garland’s desk.
In addition to Barr, other White House and campaign advisers, including Jared Kushner, Bill Stepien, Eric Herschmann, Alex Cannon and Jeffrey Rosen, told Trump that there was no election fraud. Some advisers did insist otherwise, including Rudy Giuliani. But based on testimony at the hearing, the Giuliani crowd was telling Trump what he already wanted to hear. Barr testified that Trump had no interest in the “actual facts.” Stepien testified that Trump’s “mind was made up” that mail-in voting was a scam months before the election took place.
Barr went as far as to say that if Trump really did believe there was fraud, he had “become detached from reality.” But Trump’s never been detached from reality — he has simply created the narratives he wants to get what he wants. He’s been doing that for decades. You can call this modus operandi lying, or exaggerating, or prevaricating, or dissembling, or falsely speaking. Whatever the term, he knows exactly what he’s doing when he does it.
Read more at the link. Fortunately AG Garland says he’s following the Committee’s presentations.
Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Garland says he is watching January 6 hearings amid pressure to investigate Trump.
“I am watching and I will be watching all the hearings, although I may not be able to watch all of it live,” Garland said shortly after the select committee concluded its second hearing. “I can assure you the January 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings, as well.”
The attorney general declined to address potential investigations into Trump or other individuals mentioned by the select committee at the hearings, saying that could undermine prosecutors’ work and would be unfair to people under scrutiny who might never be charged.
But Garland reiterated earlier promises that the justice department is exploring potential criminal conduct regardless of those people’s level, their positions in the government and proximity to Trump, or whether they were at the Capitol on 6 January 2021.
The justice department appears in recent weeks to have expanded its criminal investigation to examine top figures connected to Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including government officials and Republican lawyers and operatives.
One grand jury in Washington is investigating the rallies that preceded the Capitol attack and whether any executive or legislative branch officials were involved in trying to obstruct Joe Biden’s election certification, according to a subpoena seen by the Guardian.
The justice department also appears to be investigating political operatives close to Trump, according to another grand jury subpoena seen by the Guardian, as well as some Trump lawyers involved in a scheme to send fake Trump electors to Congress.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
At The Daily Beast, Julia Davis reports: Team Putin in a Panic Over Jan. 6 Hearings ‘Lynching Trump.’
The House select committee’s primetime Jan. 6. hearings are causing conniptions in Moscow.
The attempted insurrection was embraced by the Kremlin as cause célèbre, with Russian President Vladimir Putin himself calling for an investigation into the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was part of the crowd attacking the U.S. Capitol. Russia’s state-controlled media obsessively covered the notorious attack, praising the would-be insurrectionists as law-abiding protesters and criticizing the United States for prosecuting them. But now, propagandists seem to be concerned that the hearings may negatively impact the chances of re-election for their so-called “partner,” former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
Kremlin-controlled state media has been relishing the faltering popularity ratings of President Biden, describing Trump as a shoo-in for re-election and openly hoping that a Republican takeover in the midterms would spell a change in America’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. The Jan. 6 committee hearings seem to be a fly in the ointment and now Putin’s propagandists are no longer certain of what the future elections might hold.
Assuming that a criminal prosecution against Trump is all but inevitable, state TV host Vladimir Solovyov seemed perturbed during his show The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov last Friday: “Look at what’s going on in America. A criminal prosecution against Trump and his followers is an obvious step towards a dictatorship.” Solovyov failed to mention the kind of penalties one might face in Russia for attempting a violent insurrection, where people get arrested for something so innocuous as holding up a sign that says “Peace,” or even a blank sheet of paper….
Dmitry Abzalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications, was equally agitated: “The most crucial point is as follows: we need to understand what’s going to happen in the electoral sense. The internal political component is extremely significant. The most important events on our political calendar are local elections in Great Britain as well as a very difficult situation in July and August, since the midterms in the U.S. actually start during summer months. Every Thursday they’ll be lynching Trump in prime time.”
Click the link to read the rest.
William Saletan at The Bulwark: If Trump Wasn’t Lying, That’s Worse. A delusional president is far more dangerous than a mendacious one.
On Monday, the House January 6th Committee presented evidence that Donald Trump, after losing the 2020 election, promoted allegations of voter fraud that his own advisers had told him were false. According to the committee, this evidence proves he was lying.
But the evidence actually points to a different conclusion: Trump wasn’t lying in the way that other presidents have done. He was simply impervious. He refused to accept unwelcome facts. And that degree of imperviousness, in a president, is much more dangerous than dishonesty.
Testimony at Monday’s hearing showed that many people around Trump—Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and others—knew his claims were false. But the testimony about Trump himself was different. Nobody recalled the then-president privately admitting, in the style of Richard Nixon, that he was hiding the truth. Instead, everyone who had interacted with Trump described him as batting away information he didn’t want to hear.
Saletan then provides a four-part summary of the evidence, which you can read at the link above.
If Trump truly believed, despite all evidence, that the election was stolen, that might buy him some relief from criminal charges that require corrupt intent. But in terms of his fitness for office, the theory that he was deluded—not lying—is more alarming, not less.
In his testimony, Barr described a meeting with Trump on Dec. 14, 2020. Trump was still ranting about Dominion and other fantastic tales. “I was somewhat demoralized,” Barr told the committee, “because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff . . . he’s become detached from reality.” Barr speculated that Trump had “lost contact.” He recalled that each time he told Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were,” Trump brushed aside the information: “There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
“I felt that before the election it was possible to talk sense to the President,” Barr testified. This sometimes required “a big wrestling match” with Trump, he explained, but “it was possible to keep things on track.” But “after the election, he didn’t seem to be listening.”
Detached from reality. Lost contact. No interest in facts.
We can’t have a president who thinks—or doesn’t think—this way. We can’t put the world’s most powerful armed forces and nuclear arsenal back in the hands of a man who believes, no matter what, that he has the mandate of the people—and is willing to use violence to stay in power. In the Oval Office, a madman is far more dangerous than a liar.
I’m not sure what to believe. I do think that Trump has shown himself to be delusional in many situations. On the other hand, if Trump truly believed his lies, it would be much more difficult to prosecute him.
Trump himself issued a response to the evidence provided by the committee. The Hill: Trump releases 12-page response to Jan. 6 hearing.
The 12-page document underscores how Trump has yet to move on from his false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and how the committee’s work may be central to a potential 2024 campaign….
Trump repeats a handful of disproven claims to assert the 2020 election was stolen from him and rigged in favor of Democrats, including some that were brought up during testimony by former Trump campaign and administration officials.
One section of Trump’s statement focuses on ballot trafficking claims, for which he cites the Dinesh D’Souza documentary “2000 Mules.” In testimony shown earlier Monday, former Attorney General William Barr laughed at the mention of the film, saying he was “unimpressed with it” and dismissed the idea that it proved widespread fraud.
Another section asserts that President Biden could not have won the states of Pennsylvania, Arizona or Georgia because he got more Black votes and Hispanic votes than former President Obama. Each of those states has performed audits and recounts and found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Trump in one section claimed states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan took additional time after Election Day to count ballots because it was part of an elaborate scheme to ship in fraudulent votes so Biden could erase Trump’s narrow leads in those states.
But former Fox News editor Chris Stirewalt testified in person on Monday to dismiss that very theory, known as the “red mirage.” Stirewalt explained that Republicans typically do better on Election Day, while Democrats perform better in early voting. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, do not count early votes or mail-in ballots until Election Day, meaning it takes additional time to finalize the count.
From Raw Story: ‘Admissible in any future trial’: Analysts nail Trump’s 12-page Jan. 6 response rant.
Former President Donald Trump is being mocked and attacked online after issuing a 12-page statement that is partly a typical Trump rant but follows with a case his campaign has made that questions nebulous things like “ballot stuff” and alleges that because ballots were counted after midnight they’re fraudulent.
As Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias noted, Trump’s lawyers should let him know that statements like these can be used against him in any forthcoming legal proceedings. Typically, lawyers advise their clients to stay quiet and refrain from speaking out.
That’s it for me today. What stories have captured your interest?
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 13, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Georgia, January 6 Committee, Jeffrey Clark, Mark Meadows, Merrick Garland, Steve Bannon, violent threats against public officials 11 Comments
I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:
Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.
A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.
A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.
At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.
The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”
Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.
They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.
For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….
This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.
Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.
On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.
While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.
Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….
Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.
Down in Georgia, Fulton County DA may be gearing up to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn election results in the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton DA mulling rarely used special grand jury for Trump probe.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.
A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.
Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.
“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”
Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.
Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.
The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.