“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.”
Whew! Yesterday was quite a day! It began with New York Attorney General Tish James announcing a 250 million lawsuit against Trump, three of his children, the Trump Organization and two of its top employees; it ended with the 11th Circuit appeals court thoroughly rebuking Judge Loose Cannon and restoring the DOJ’s access to the classified documents needed for their criminal investigation of Trump and for the intelligence assessment of the damage caused by Trump’s thievery. Meanwhile Trump went on Fox News and incriminated himself in an insane interview with Sean Hannity. Here’s a sample from that hour-long clusterfuck:
Since I’m not a lawyer, it’s difficult for me to write about all this legal stuff, but I’ll do my best to post stories that explain what all this means.
First up, this piece by University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck at CNN: Opinion: How Trump’s terrible day went from bad to worse.
For most people, having the Attorney General of the nation’s fourth most populous state file a sweeping new lawsuit accusing you and your family of “staggering” fraud would be a terribly ominous development.
For former President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the worst legal news he received on Wednesday. That came later in the evening, when a unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted a district court ruling that had partially blocked the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump unlawfully retained at Mar-a-Lago (and refused to return) a large tranche of government documents.
The immediate effect of the panel ruling is to clear the way for the Justice Department to continue its work. But the broader significance of Wednesday night’s ruling — significance that, at least for now, clearly transcends the possibility of what might come of the civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — is the fact that a panel that included two Trump appointees poured very cold water on the only arguments he had left to defend against the Mar-a-Lago search.
The issue before the Eleventh Circuit was whether to freeze part of the injunction that US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon had entered on September 5 — an injunction that purported to block the Justice Department from using most of the materials it recovered from its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago until and unless they could be reviewed by a court-appointed special master. (The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, expressed a fair amount of skepticism toward Trump’s claims at his first hearing on Tuesday).
What the three-judge panel–including two judges appointed by Trump–said:
Across 29 pages, the three-judge Eleventh Circuit panel made quick work of Cannon’s ruling — holding that the Justice Department was almost certain to succeed in having that ruling thrown out, and so should have the ruling frozen, at least as it applied to classified materials, while the appeals process runs its course.
Among other things, the panel, which included Judges Robin Rosenbaum (appointed by President Barack Obama) and Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher (appointed by Trump), highlighted the absence of any evidence that Trump had declassified any of the classified information discovered at Mar-a-Lago, and also the extent to which that entire issue is a “red herring” for the broader debate over whether those documents belong to Trump or the government….
But it was in a more subtle section of the opinion that the panel handed Trump his most significant defeat. Across two pages and a footnote that non-legal-readers could be forgiven for skipping past, the three judges rejected, in unequivocal terms, claims made by Trump and his supporters (including the State of Texas, which had filed a highly unusual friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 10 other red states) that the investigation into the former President and search of Mar-a-Lago were all just bad faith harassment from the Biden administration….
In other words, the three-judge panel on one of the more conservative federal appeals courts in the country looked at the Mar-a-Lago search and the broader criminal and national security investigation into the former President of the United States and could not “see any evidence in the record” to support the claim that the Biden administration was using its law enforcement authorities to harass Trump — as opposed to conducting a genuine, above-the-board investigation into serious potential violations of federal criminal statutes.
You might also check out this straight news piece by Charlie Savage, et al. at The New York Times:
In a strongly worded 29-page decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an order by a Florida federal judge that has kept the department from using about 100 files with classification markings in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.
The appeals court also agreed with the Justice Department that Mr. Trump’s lawyers — and an independent arbiter recently appointed to review the seized materials — need not look at the classified documents that the F.B.I. carted away from Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8.
The Justice Department “argues that the district court likely erred in exercising its jurisdiction to enjoin the United States’ use of the classified records in its criminal investigation and to require the United States to submit the marked classified documents to a special master for review,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. “We agree.”
The decision by the Atlanta-based court was a repudiation of the decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to broadly intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation. The appellate ruling will permit the arbiter, known as a special master, to review most of the more than 11,000 files seized from Mar-a-Lago, but allow prosecutors unfettered access to the smaller batch of classified records.
Charlie Savage also reposted on Twitter an earlier article on how the declassification process works.
This piece at Just Security is a good explainer on the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Trump family and businesses: Has a Trump Tipping Point Been Reached? Analyzing The NY Attorney General’s Case Against Trump.
In the last month, the array of investigations involving Donald J. Trump and many of Trump’s associates and family members has reached an intense pitch. Today another bombshell detonated—one that may prove to be the most devastating.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced the filing of a monumental civil enforcement action against Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, the Trump Organization and many other Trump affiliates.
The sanctions sought by the New York Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) are sweeping and potentially devastating: disgorgement of $250 million in profits; the cancellation of business certificates for Trump’s corporate entities; appointment of an independent monitor at the Trump Organization; a 5-year ban on Trump and the Trump Organization entering into any New York commercial real estate transactions or from applying for any loans from any New York entity; permanently banning Trump and his adult children from serving as an officer or director of a New York corporation. In addition to the potential civil penalties associated with today’s complaint, AG James also announced criminal referrals to the Southern District of New York and to the IRS. Penalties resulting from those referrals could result in substantial fines, and potentially even imprisonment.
With today’s filing of this enforcement action, it is important to consider the factual and legal bases for the claims, and how it could serve as a tipping point in cases against Trump, especially in light of the many other existing federal and state investigations.
Read the rest at Just Security. Here’s John Buss’s commentary:
What about the January 6 Committee? What are they up to? Yes, more bad news for Trump–and Mark Meadows too.
From the article:
The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has come to an agreement with Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in the coming weeks, according to a source close to the committee.
Ginni Thomas’ attorney, Mark Paoletta, confirmed the voluntary interview in a statement, saying, “As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas is eager to answer the Committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election. She looks forward to that opportunity.”
Members of the panel have long said they are interested in speaking with Thomas, particularly after CNN first reported text messages she exchanged with then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows prior to January 6 about overturning the election.
But in the months since those messages emerged, there has been little indication that compelling her to testify was a top priority for the panel despite subsequent evidence that Thomas also encouraged state lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral win.
Thomas attended the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, as she said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, where she stressed that her and her husband’s professional lives are kept separate. She also said that she had left the gathering before the protesters turned violent.
She has also been publicly critical of the House January 6 investigation, calling on House GOP leaders to boot from their conference the two Republicans serving on the select committee.
It’s not yet clear what changed for Thomas and her attorney to now agree to this interview. The 64 thousand dollar question is how will this affect her husband Clarence? Will John Roberts finally decide to deal with him? Probably not, but you never can tell.
More news, links only:
Analysis by Stephen Collinson at CNN: Biden’s new mission: Heading off any possibility of a nuclear crisis with Russia.
The Washington Post: Over 1,300 arrests reported as Russians protest military mobilization.
Analysis by Brad Lendon at CNN: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can’t train or support them.
The New York Times: Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds.
Ashton Pittman at the Mississippi Free Press on the Brett Favre scandal: Ex-Mississippi Welfare Leader Pleads Guilty To Federal, State Crimes In Exchange For Cooperation.
Have a tremendous Thursday, Sky Dancers!!
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.
Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.
Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.
DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts
The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.
“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”
State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.
“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.
In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.
DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida.
More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.
The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.
“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”
NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.
The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.
Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.
“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”
Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.
About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.
This story is still developing.
Multiple Trump Investigations
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.
Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.
Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.
In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.
Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.
The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.
The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.
Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.
A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”
The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.
Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.
Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”
— Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.
— “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
— Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.
The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.
In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.
“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.
Judge Loose Cannon
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.
The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.
The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.
“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”
As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.
Justice Elena Kagan Speaks
Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.
“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.
Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.
However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.
In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….
Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”
Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser
Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.
“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.
Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).
To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.
Read more at the NYT.
Links to revelations from the book:
That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?
Dakinikat is a little under the weather, so I’m filling in today. Before I get to the news of the day, I wanted to share some images of the late Queen Elizabeth II from Twitter.
Marilyn Monroe meets the Queen, 1956
One more, a double rainbow appeared over Buckingham Palace after Elizabeth’s death.
DOJ Replies to Trump Judge Aileen Cannon
As far as I’m concerned, the top story is the DOJ’s latest effort to reason with MAGA Judge Aileen Cannon, while at the same time perhaps saving her from the further public humiliation of having her decision overturned by an appeals court.
Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: DOJ appeals special master ruling in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe.
The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that blocked investigators from reviewing a range of highly-sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Prosecutors said in a new court filing that U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to temporarily halt the FBI’s ability to probe the ex-president’s handling and storage of classified materials would cause “irreparable harm” to efforts by the intelligence community to protect national security interests.
“[I]n order to assess the full scope of potential harms to national security resulting from the improper retention of the classified records, the government must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised,” Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt argued in the filing. “But that inquiry is a core aspect of the FBI’s criminal investigation.”
The Justice Department delivered an unsparing assessment of Cannon’s contention that Trump might have a legitimate executive privilege claim over some of the seized documents, contending that a former president had no plausible right to assert ownership of classified records.
“That authority falls upon the incumbent President, not on any former President, because it is the incumbent President who bears the responsibility to protect and defend the national security of the United States,” Bratt wrote.
The DOJ filing amounts to a full-throated rebuke of the ruling by Cannon, a Trump appointee who was confirmed to a seat in the Southern District of Florida a week after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Prosecutors used the filing to describe her ruling as a danger to national security, one ignorant of the FBI’s integral role in modern counterintelligence work, and lacking in an understanding of the complexities of executive privilege.
More from The New York Times’s Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer, and Charlie Savage: Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Lift Block on Trump Documents Investigation.
The department, in forceful and foreboding language, argued that determining the national security implications of Mr. Trump’s retention of the documents was so intertwined with its criminal investigation that carrying out a separate risk assessment was impossible under the conditions imposed by the court.
Justice Department lawyers complained that the judge’s order was impeding efforts to determine whether there may yet be “additional classified records that are not being properly stored” and noted that the search had recovered empty folders marked as classified whose contents “may have been lost or compromised.”
In an order on Thursday evening, Judge Cannon directed Mr. Trump’s lawyers to respond to the government’s filing by Monday.
In an affidavit accompanying the filing, Alan E. Kohler Jr., the assistant director of the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division, wrote that the intelligence community’s assessment of the classified material was “inextricably linked with the criminal investigation.”
Department lawyers wrote that “uncertainty regarding the bounds of the court’s order and its implications for the activities of the F.B.I. has caused the intelligence community, in consultation with D.O.J., to pause temporarily this critically important work.”
The government and the public, the department added, “are irreparably injured when a criminal investigation of matters involving risks to national security” is frozen or delayed.
More explanation from The Washington Post’s Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett: Justice Dept. seeks to regain access to classified Mar-a-Lago documents.
Ultimately, the Justice Department said that a special master could be appointed to review personal documents and some other items seized by FBI agents on Aug. 8 in a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, setting aside materials as necessary.
But prosecutors argued that Cannon should prohibit the special master from reviewing classified documents — and should restore investigators’ access to those documents right away.
Barring the FBI from using the classified material in the investigation, even temporarily, “could impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored — which itself presents the potential for ongoing risk to national security,” prosecutors wrote.
It was the first time they have suggested in court filings that there could be more unsecured classified material the government has yet to locate.
Allowing a special master to review the classified material would “cause the most immediate and serious harms to the government and the public,” prosecutorswrote in their Thursday filing, noting that those seized documents have already been moved to a secure facility, separate from the rest of the seized Trump papers.
Remember the empty folders marked classified that turned up during the search? The FBI needs to learn what those folders originally contained.
FBI Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler submitted a declaration saying that Cannon’s prohibition of investigators’ use of the seized classified material could prevent them from understanding what may have happened to the significant number of empty folders found with classified markings.
The existence of those empty folders was made public last week, when a more detailed list of what the FBI took in the search was unsealed.
The FBI’s investigation, Kohler wrote, “could be instrumental in determining what materials may once have been stored in those folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised.”
Judge Cannon is on notice that she will have to choose between protecting Trump and protecting the national security of the United States of America.
Some analysis of the empty folders issue from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Justice Department leans in on Trump and the empty folders.
I was hoping we might hear something from the DOJ this morning, but so far they haven’t responded publicly to Trump judge Aileen Cannon’s ridiculous decision yesterday. According to The Guardian,
Lawyers for Donald Trump are conferring with justice department counterparts to come up by Friday with a list of possible candidates to be the “special master” approved by a district court judge over the former president’s hoarding of classified documents.
So far, I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else.
However, Hillary Clinton did make a public statement today in a Twitter thread.
The Daily Beast has a piece on Trump’s judge shopping. It turns out this isn’t the first time he tried to get Judge Cannon on a case: Trump Went Judge Shopping and It Paid Off in Mar-a-Lago Case.
When former President Donald Trump summoned up years of bubbling resentment and sued Hillary Clinton and everyone else involved in Russiagate earlier this year, he naturally filed his lawsuit in South Florida—home to his oceanside estate.
And yet, when his attorneys formally filed the paperwork, they selected a tiny courthouse in the sprawling federal court district’s furthest northeast corner—a satellite location that’s 70 miles from Mar-a-Lago. They ignored the West Palm Beach federal courthouse that’s a 12-minute drive away.
The tactic failed, and Trump instead got a Clinton-era judge whom he promptly tried to disqualify for alleged bias. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks called him out in a snarky footnote.
“I note that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Fort Pierce division of this District, where only one federal judge sits: Judge Aileen Cannon, who Plaintiff appointed in 2020. Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead. And when Plaintiff is a litigant before a judge that he himself appointed, he does not tend to advance these same sorts of bias concerns,” Middlebrooks wrote in April.
This time Trump hit the jackpot.
Months later, Trump is once again suing in the Southern District of Florida, this time seeking to hamper the FBI investigation into the way he kept hundreds of classified records at Mar-a-Lago. Except this time, he got Cannon.
The strategy is already paying off.
On Monday afternoon, Cannon single-handedly hit the brakes on the most politically sensitive and consequential FBI investigation ever undertaken. Convinced by Team Trump’s legal arguments that the routine Justice Department methods for carefully handling seized documents aren’t good enough when investigating this particular former president, she ordered that a “special master” be tasked with playing referee to dictate what happens with classified documents that are evidence of a crime.
“The investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness,” she wrote in her order.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Deeply Problematic’: Experts Question Judge’s Intervention in Trump Inquiry.
A federal judge’s extraordinary decision on Monday to interject in the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents at his Florida residence showed unusual solicitude to him, legal specialists said….
Siding with Mr. Trump, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, ordered the appointment of an independent arbiter to review the more than 11,000 government records the F.B.I. seized in its search of Mar-a-Lago last month. She granted the arbiter, known as a special master, broad powers that extended beyond filtering materials that were potentially subject to attorney-client privilege to also include executive privilege.
Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also blocked federal prosecutors from further examining the seized materials for the investigation until the special master had completed a review.
In reaching that result, Judge Cannon took several steps that specialists said were vulnerable to being overturned if the government files an appeal, as most agreed was likely. Any appeal would be heard by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, where Mr. Trump appointed six of its 11 active judges.
Some of the expert reactions:
This was “an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas….
Paul Rosenzweig, a former homeland security official in the George W. Bush administration and prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, said it was egregious to block the Justice Department from steps like asking witnesses about government files, many marked as classified, that agents had already reviewed.
“This would seem to me to be a genuinely unprecedented decision by a judge,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “Enjoining the ongoing criminal investigation is simply untenable.” [….]
“Judge Cannon had a reasonable path she could have taken — to appoint a special master to review documents for attorney-client privilege and allow the criminal investigation to continue otherwise,” said Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor. “Instead, she chose a radical path.”
A specialist in separation of powers, Peter M. Shane, who is a legal scholar in residence at N.Y.U., said there was no basis for Judge Cannon to expand a special master’s authority to screen materials that were also potentially subject to executive privilege. That tool is normally thought of as protecting internal executive branch deliberations from disclosure to outsiders like Congress.
“The opinion seems oblivious to the nature of executive privilege,” he said.
The Justice Department is itself part of the executive branch, and a court has never held that a former president can invoke the privilege to keep records from his time in office away from the executive branch itself.
Read the whole thing at the NYT.
In other news . . .
From CNN this morning:
From the CNN article:
A Republican county official in Georgia escorted two operatives working with an attorney for former President Donald Trump into the county’s election offices on the same day a voting system there was breached, newly obtained video shows.
The breach is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is of interest to the Fulton County District Attorney, who is conducting a wider criminal probe of interference in the 2020 election.
The video sheds more light on how an effort spearheaded by lawyers and others around Trump to seek evidence of voter fraud was executed on the ground from Georgia to Michigan to Colorado, often with the assistance of sympathetic local officials.
In the surveillance video, which was obtained by CNN, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020, escorts a team of pro-Trump operatives to the county’s elections office on January 7, 2021, the same day a voting system there is known to have been breached.
The two men seen in the video with Latham, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, have acknowledged that they successfully gained access to a voting machine in Coffee County at the behest of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Text messages, emails and witness testimony filed as part of a long-running civil suit into the security of Georgia’s voting systems show Latham communicated directly with the then-Coffee County elections supervisor about getting access to the office, both before and after the breach. One text message, according to the court document, shows Latham coordinating the arrival and whereabouts of a team “led by Paul Maggio” that traveled to Coffee County at the direction of Powell.
Three days after the breach, Latham texted the Coffee County elections supervisor, “Did you all finish with the scanner?” According to court documents, Latham testified she did not know what Hall was doing in Coffee County. But when confronted with her texts about the scanner, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights.
More from The Washington Post:
The new video adds to the picture of the alleged breach in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, and reveals for the first time the later visits by Logan and Lenberg. It also provides further indications of links between various efforts to overturn the election, including what once appeared to be disparate attempts to access and copy election system data in the wake of Trump’s loss.
Experts have expressed concern that such efforts could expose details of voting systems’ hardware and software that are intended to be tightly controlled, potentially aiding hackers who might seek to alter the results of a future election. Data copied from elections systems in other states has been published online. Georgia state officials and voting-machine makers have downplayed the risk, pointing to safeguards that they say protect the systems from tampering.
The Post reported last month that a data forensics firm hired by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell copied software and data from the Dominion Voting Systems machines used by Coffee County. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating the matter.
Details of the Coffee County incident have come to light largely because of a flurry of subpoenas and depositions by plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit against Georgia authorities over the security of the state’s elections. Emails and other records they obtained from the data forensics firm, Atlanta-based Sullivan Strickler, showed that the Coffee episode was part of a coordinated multistate effort to access voting equipment in a hunt for evidence that the election was rigged….
The security footage shows only the exterior of the office’s entrance area, and it is not clear what the consultants Logan and Lenberg did inside….
David Cross, a lawyer who represents some of the plaintiffs in the civil case, said the additional visits raise questions about why the two men returned. “The biggest concern that we have is future elections,” said Cross, whose clients are pressing Georgia authorities to replace the state’s ballot-marking machines with hand-marked paper ballots.
Logan and Lenberg have played roles inthe multistate pursuit of voting machines by Trump supporters. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) has asked for a special prosecutor to decide whether to pursue charges against them and others for allegedly conspiring to unlawfully access elections equipment in three counties there last year. Logan and Lenberg also provided affidavits as expert witnesses in a post-election lawsuit in Antrim County, Mich., after a judge granted SullivanStrickler access to Dominion Voting Systems machines there.
Another election interference story from David Folkenflick at NPR:
The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims.
The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him. The existence of the email, confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it, is first publicly disclosed by NPR in this story. Fox News declined comment.
Pirro was far from alone in broadcasting such false claims. In the weeks that followed Election Day 2020, other prominent Fox stars, commentators and their guests heavily promoted them.
A repeat target was Dominion Voting Systems, the election machine and technology company. Trump and his allies alleged on Fox that Dominion was engaged in a conscious effort to throw the 2020 race to Joe Biden. They implied and falsely asserted on Fox programs that Dominion’s machines and software either discarded Trump’s votes or transferred them to Biden. Dominion argues their false claims were frequently egged on by Fox’s own stars.
The producer’s email is among the voluminous correspondence acquired by Dominion’s attorneys as part of its discovery of evidence in a $1.6 billion defamation suit it filed against Fox News and its parent company. Dominion alleges it has been “irreparably harmed” by the lies, conspiracy theories and wild claims of election fraud that aired on Fox.
Pirro’s role remains under sharp scrutiny. She attended Trump’s belligerent address from the White House late on election night 2020 and advanced his arguments on the air.
Read more at NPR.
That’s it for me. I hope we’ll learn more about the DOJ’s response to Judge “Loose Cannon’s” decision during the course of the day. What other stories are you following?