Lazy Caturday Reads

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Happy Caturday!!

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.”

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

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 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.”

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.

e1c83a9f137b9fef45da615c829c3917Trump’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.

Months before National Archives officials retrieved hundreds of classified documents in 15 boxes from former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, they were told that none of the material was sensitive or classified and that Trump had only 12 boxes of “news clippings,” according to people familiar with the conversations between Trump’s team and the Archives.

playing-cats-henriette-ronner-knip

Playing Cats, by Henriette Ronner-Knip

During a September 2021 phone call with top Archives lawyer Gary Stern, former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin offered reassuring news: Philbin said he had talked to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who made the assertion about the dozen boxes of clippings, the people familiar with the call said. Trump’s team was aware of no other materials, Philbin said, relaying information he said he got from Meadows.

The characterization made in the call vastly misrepresented the scale and variety of documents, including classified records, eventually recovered by the Archives or the FBI.

Philbin said that Meadows also told him no documents had been destroyed, according to two people with knowledge of the call and a third person with knowledge of Stern’s contemporaneous account of the call. These and other people spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details.

Stern had sought the call because he believed there were still more than two dozen boxes of materials that Trump had, and he also had concerns about whether digital records had been properly retained, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Top Archives officials continued to believe there was more material than they were being told about, according to people familiar with their thinking.

So either Philbin and/or Meadows is lying or they were lied to by Donald Trump. A spokesman for Meadows suggested it was Trump who lied.

“Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar A Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them,” Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Meadows, said in a statement Friday night after the article was published online.

The New York Times confirmed the WaPo story and added more detail: Lawyer Told Archives Last Year That Trump Had No Classified Material.

The Washington Post first reported on Friday that Mr. Philbin had told the archives that there were no sensitive or classified materials in the boxes.

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Mr. Trump had told advisers a version of what Mr. Meadows is said to have told Mr. Philbin, that the boxes contained news clippings and personal effects, according to people familiar with the events. Aides to Mr. Trump had told others that there were only 12 boxes of material, which is what Mr. Meadows is also said to have relayed to Mr. Philbin.

Mr. Meadows went to Mar-a-Lago and discussed the boxes of material with Mr. Trump during the summer of 2021, as archives officials were trying to get the materials sent to them. Mr. Philbin was trying to facilitate the return while avoiding being drawn further into the dispute, according to two people familiar with the events.

In a statement, Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Mr. Meadows, said, “Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar-a-Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them.”

At The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has a column on Jeffrey Clark, the DOJ employee whom Trump wanted to appoint as acting Attorney General in the wake of the 2020 election: The curious case of the strange man who was nearly attorney general.

The threat of losing his law license might be the least of Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s problems. Clark is the environmental lawyer who came just one contentious Oval Office meeting away from being installed as attorney general in the waning days of the Trump administration.

In June of this year, his home was searched by armed agents of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and his electronic devices seized as part of a criminal investigation into false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The next month, the D.C. bar launched disciplinary proceedings against him.

Even with all that, Clark’s astonishing, over-the-top response to the D.C. bar probe, released Monday, offers jarring new evidence of how bonkers the man who almost became attorney general actually is.

Clark was assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources and who, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, was put in charge of the civil division. President Donald Trump wanted him in the top job because Clark — unlike the rest of the department’s hierarchy — was eager and willing to pursue Trump’s false claims that he had won the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr, before resigning in December 2020, asserted that there was no evidence of election fraud sufficient to affect the results. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, the acting number two, agreed with that conclusion.

horatio-henry-couldery-a-trio-of-kittens

A Trio of Kittens, by Horatio Henry Couldery

This didn’t deter Clark, although it was far outside his job description. He drafted a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials asserting that the department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states,” and urging them to call the legislature into special session.

Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign, telling Clark there was no such evidence; Clark persisted to the point of telling Rosen that Trump would name Clark as attorney general in his place so the letter could be sent. The whole scheme was derailed only after Trump was confronted with threats of mass resignations at the Justice Department.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end with some articles about the Ron DeSantis’ exploitation of asylum seekers by sending them to Martha’s Vineyard, links only:

Raw Story: Lawmakers call for federal investigation of ‘cruel’ Ron DeSantis.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: What the Martha’s Vineyard Stunt Says About the Trump Wannabes.

The Washington Post: A migrant landed on Martha’s Vineyard. A resident jumped in to help.

Miami Herald: This is how much Florida has paid an aviation company to relocate ‘unauthorized aliens.’

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

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.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

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

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

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.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

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.

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Letitia James

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.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

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.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

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. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

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.

JudgeCannon0910

Judge Aileen Cannon

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

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

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:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Empty Folders Marked Classified, WTF?!

1920 Théophile Alexandre Steinlen Cat and Her Kitten charcoal and pastel on paper 46 x 61 cm

Cat and kitten, by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, 1920

Happy Caturday!!

Yesterday we got new information about the highly classified documents Trump stole from the government and carelessly left lying around his office at Mar-a-Lago. In her Friday post, Dakinikat wrote about the empty folders marked classified and the boxes containing classified documents mixed with news clippings, and personal items like clothing. The inventory from the search also shows thousands of unclassified government documents, which also belong in the National Archives.

From The Los Angeles Times: Trump search inventory shows empty folders marked ‘classified,’ mixed top-secret and unclassified items.

Twenty-seven documents with classified and top-secret markings were recovered from former President Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to a detailed inventory of what the FBI removed during its court-approved search of the home last month.

The eight-page inventory detailing more than 10,000 government documents removed in the search includes the location where each item was found and whether it was classified, but not the subject matter. In many cases, highly classified materials are listed as having been stored in the same boxes as hundreds of unclassified items, including newspaper and magazine clippings and clothing.

Among the boxes were 48 empty folders marked with a classified banner. Those empty folders could be of particular concern as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assesses the risks to national security that could result from disclosure of the contents, because it could be difficult to determine what information might have been inside and where it is now….

FBI agents removed more than 100 documents containing classified information — including some marked top secret and meant to be available only in special government facilities — from the Trump estate during their Aug. 8 search, along with over 30 boxes of materials including thousands of government records.

What was in those empty folders?

Identifying what was in the empty folders marked classified and where the information is now should be a priority, said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Why are there folders that contained classified information that are now empty? Where are the documents?” Maloney said. “Those questions need to be answered.”

1899 Paul Gauguin Still LIfe with Flowers and Cats oil on canvas

Still LIfe with Flowers and cats, Paul Gauguin, 1899

Without knowing more about the folders, it is difficult to say how alarmed intelligence officials might be, Maloney said.

They could be the type of generic folders in which confidential information is transported within the White House, or they could be folders from intelligence agencies that provide details about the sources of the information, the date it was collected and broad descriptions of what it is about, said Larry Pfeiffer, a high-ranking CIA officer in the George W. Bush administration and senior director of the White House Situation Room in the Obama administration.

“If there were any meticulous records that were kept by the staff secretary, executive secretary or the [director of national intelligence’s] presidential daily briefing staff, they may be able forensically to figure out if there are any missing documents,” Pfeiffer said.

That 48 classified documents could be missing is the “worst-case scenario,” he said.

“That’s terrifying, because then what happened to them? Where are they? Are they still hidden somewhere? Are they hidden in another Trump location? Did he give them away to some people as souvenirs? God knows,” Pfeiffer said.

Raw Story reported on what experts are saying about the empty folders: ‘Unfathomably dangerous’: Former federal prosecutor on Trump’s empty folders warns ‘things just went from bad to worse’

Immediately after a federal judge released the Dept. of Justice’s detailed list of items the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago experts agreed among the most concerning details was that there were a large number of empty folders marked “Classified.”

Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor of 30 years, tweeted out his surprise and concern.

“OMG!” exclaimed Kirschner, who is also an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst. “Court just released an inventory of evidence of crime seized at Mar-a-Lago.”

“Dozens of EMPTY folders labeled ‘Classified’ or ‘Return to Military Aide.’ Trump didn’t pack up EMPTY folders to take with him to FLA. Things just went from bad to worse to unfathomably dangerous.” [….]

Andrew Weissmann, a former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has also worked as chief of the criminal fraud section of DOJ observed: “It’s the empty classified folders that are of most concern.”

“Where are the contents? Trump has not addressed that at all in all his bluster and obfuscation. What were you doing with these?” asked Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller….

National security attorney Brad Moss wrote, “Very first question the FBI would ask the person who had in their home office 43 empty folders with classified banners is ‘where did the documents from those folders go????'”

And later he added: “Why. Are. There. Empty. Folders?”

Young Girl with a Cat 1892, Berthe Morissot

Young Girl with a Cat 1892, Berthe Morissot

Analysis from Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: What we know about Trump and the empty folders.

We know very little about what this [the empty folders] means right now, though, and experts say it doesn’t necessarily mean the documents are missing, as some Trump critics theorized. What it does seem to reinforce is how sloppily classified information was handled.

In both the search warrant affidavit released last week and a Justice Department filing in a court case this week, the government has pointed to a February referral from the National Archives. The referral raised concerns about Trump’s potential mishandling of sensitive documents and urged an investigation.

“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified,” the National Archives said.

The biggest question is obviously: Why were those folders empty? Since classified documents were previously returned “unfoldered” — and others were recovered in the search last month — and now we have classified-marked folders without documents in them, it’s possible they match up.

Whether they actually do match is another matter, as is whether the documents can even be traced to a given folder.

From a national security expert:

David Priess, a former CIA officer whose work there included delivering the President’s Daily Brief, said Friday that the presence of empty folders doesn’t mean documents are missing, but also that it’s possible we won’t know for sure. He said the folders could contain markings allowing them to be traced to specific documents (but that’s not certain), or that they could be connected using forensic techniques.

“We cannot rule out that those empty folders contained classified documents that were not discovered in the search and seizure,” he said. “We just don’t know. That’s much harder to determine.”

He also noted it was possible that the folders were separated from the documents when they were still in the White House, before they were taken to Mar-a-Lago.

But mostly, he said, it’s further evidence of something we already knew: The documents were haphazardly stored.

There’s more analysis at the WaPo link.

Carl Kahler Family Portrait

Family Portrait, Carl Kahler

It’s not just the documents that were found in Trump’s office that were mishandled. The Washington Post published a long read yesterday on the storage room where boxes of documents were stored and why Mar-a-Lago was such a dangerous place for government documents to be kept: Deep inside busy Mar-a-Lago, a storage room where secrets were stashed. The storage room is below the estate’s giant living room.

It was dug into the foundations of the early 20th-century building not long after Trump bought the place, a former employee said, carved out to create more space to store tables, chairs, umbrellas — the stuff necessary to complete Trump’s conversion of what had once been a grand residence for a single family into a private club for 500 members.

At the southeast corner of this area, behind a simple door, is a large closet-type space that workers once called “the mold room” in honor of leftover stonework molds deposited in the corner, the former employee said. Today, staffers think of the room more like the former president’s personal closet, one said. It is here, in this windowless nook, where some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets allegedly were stashed….

Court filings say a top Justice Department official and a gaggle of FBI agents were allowed to tour the storage room when they visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up classified documents collected by Trump’s lawyers in response to a grand jury subpoena. A lawyer for Trump saidthe room was where they would find all of documents that had been carted from the White House to Florida after Trump left office.

Two months later, agents returned with a court-approved search warrant and carted off more than two dozen boxes of documents and assorted other items gathered from the storage room and the former president’s office. The raid exposed anew the potential risks of keeping highly sensitive material at a club that hosts weddings, galas and other large events, where outsiders are common and many employees — as well as some visitors — are foreign nationals.

Not yet clear is why Trump chose the basement storage room to keep highly sensitive documents nor who exactly had access to the documents kept there — or who could have gotten access had they tried….

People close to Trump said a variety of Mar-a-Lago and Trump staffers had access to that area beneath the public living room. Access to the closet where the documents were kept was more restricted, they said.

1890-99c John White Alexander The Green Dress oil on canvas 99.1 x 53.3 cm Private Collection

John White Alexander, The Green Dress, 1890-99

More on security concerns at Mar-a-Lago:

Experts said security at the Spanish-style club has long been a headache. The facility has served a frequent residence for Trump and his family during the winter months, including while he was president. But it also boasts tennis courts, a dining room, two pools, a spa and beachfront facilities, all open to its members and their guests. Its giant ballroom and other larger areas are frequently booked for large parties and political and charitable fundraisers, all open to even more visitors, some of them foreign nationals.

Since Trump left office, Republican candidates also have flocked to the club for official events, to genuflect to Trump and attempt to secure his endorsement. Political donors have flocked, too. People who have visited the club since Trump left office said they were allowed in without so much as an identification check.

“I think Mar-a-Lago is a counterintelligence nightmare,” said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence and former inspector general for the National Security Agency, citing the flow of hundreds of people, the presence of foreign nationals and Trump’s long-established carelessness with national secrets.

A person who is familiar with the club’s workings and spoke on the condition of anonymity described regular movement from club facilities to the basement and back. “This is an operating property,” this person said. “There’s a kitchen and a guy who does pastries and a liquor cabinet. There’s a restaurant here. You see activity. A guy getting vodka to bring to the bar. A person going to get cupcakes to bring upstairs.”

As I said, this is a very long, but interesting article.

Two more developments on the purloined documents story:

Bill Barr spoke out on the stolen documents investigation. The New York Times: Barr Dismisses Trump’s Request for a Special Master.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr dismissed former President Donald J. Trump’s call for an independent review of materials seized from his Florida home on Friday — and said an inventory of items recovered in the search last month seemed to support the Justice Department’s claim that it was needed to safeguard national security.

“As more information comes out, the actions of the department look more understandable,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times in a phone interview, speaking of the decision by the current attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, to seek a search warrant of the complex at Mar-a-Lago.

“It seems to me they were driven by concern about highly sensitive information being strewn all over a country club, and it was taking them almost two years to get it back,” said Mr. Barr, who resigned in December 2020, as Mr. Trump pushed him to support false claims that the election had been stolen.

“It appears that there’s been a lot of jerking around of the government,” he added. “I’m not sure the department could have gotten it back without taking action.”

Asked what he thought of the argument for the appointment of a special master, an independent arbiter to review the material that could delay the investigation, Mr. Barr laughed.

1909 Pierre Bonnard Children and a Cat oil on canvas 54.6 x 69.5 cm The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Pierre Bonnard, Children and a Cat, 1909

“I think it’s a crock of shit,” he said, adding, “I don’t think a special master is called for.” [….]

Mr. Barr’s comments, which echo the assessment of many Democrats and a few Republicans, including the former Bush adviser Karl Rove, came as Mr. Trump’s supporters tried to downplay the importance of the inventory unsealed by a federal judge in Florida.

The eight-page document, which was made public with the tacit assent of the former president’s lawyers, revealed that the F.B.I. recovered 11,179 documents or photographs without classification markings belonging to the government, and more than 100 others marked top secret, secret or confidential.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around him taking so much sensitive materials,” Mr. Barr said. “I was, let’s just say, surprised.”

Mark Meadows coughed up some records in the wake of the events at Mar-a-Lago. CNN: After Mar-a-Lago search, Meadows turns over more texts and emails to Archives.

Within a week of the FBI search of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over texts and emails to the National Archives that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Meadows’ submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered under the Presidential Records Act. The Archives had become aware earlier this year it did not have everything from Meadows after seeing what he had turned over to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021. Details of Meadows’ submissions to the Archives and the engagement between the two sides have not been previously reported….

The records Meadows turned over to the Archives were not classified, and the situation is markedly different from the Archives’ efforts to retrieve federal records from Trump and its referral to the Justice Department earlier this year when classified materials were discovered among documents the agency retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

The source familiar with the discussions said that the Archives considered Meadows to be cooperating, even though the process started slowly.

“This is how it’s supposed to work,” the source added, saying it was not the kind of situation that needed to be referred to the Justice Department.

As you can see, I’m still totally obsessed with the stolen documents story. There are actually other things happening, and I’ll post some more items in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same.


Lazy Caturday Reads

1969.181.3_1.tif

Jacques Hnizdovsky, born Pylypcze, Ukraine 1915-died New York City 1985

Good Afternoon!!

There’s quite a bit of January 6 investigation news today, but before I get to that I want to call your attention to two long reads on abortion. Some of us here are old enough to remember the days before Roe v. Wade declared that women had a right to make decisions about our own bodies. Now that right has been taken away.

This is a very good essay by short story author and poet Grace Paley about the days when abortion was a crime and getting access to birth control was extremely difficult, republished in 2017 at The Literary Hub: Women Died All the Time: Grace Paley on Illegal Abortions.

It was the late 30s, and we all knew that birth control existed, but we also knew it was impossible to get. You had to be older and married. You couldn’t get anything in drugstores, unless you were terribly sick and had to buy a diaphragm because your womb was falling out. The general embarrassment and misery around getting birth control were real.

There was Margaret Sanger at that time, and she had a clinic right here in Manhattan in a beautiful house on Sixteenth Street; I still walk past and look at it. As brave as the Margaret Sanger people were, they were under very tough strictures. It was scary to go there. I was 18, and it was 1940 when I tiptoed in to get a diaphragm. I said I was married….

Most of my friends married early. I married when I was 19; then my husband went overseas during the Second World War. I would have loved it if I had had a child when he went overseas, but we had decided against it.

When he came back, I was in my late 20s, and in the next couple of years, I had two children. When the children were one and a half and three, I got pregnant again. I don’t remember if my birth control failed . . . I wasn’t the most careful person in the world. Something in me did want to have more children, but since I had never gotten pregnant until I really wanted to—I was 26 and a half when I had my first child—I had assumed that the general mode would continue.

I knew I couldn’t have another child. I was exhausted with these two tiny little kids; it was just about all I could do to take care of them. As a child, I had been sick a lot, and people were always thinking I was anemic . . . I was having bouts of that kind. I was just very tired, all the time. I knew something was wrong because my whole idea in my heart had always been to have five, six children—I loved the idea of having children—but I knew I couldn’t have this kid.

Please go read the rest. It’s well worth your time. I also recommend this series of reactions to the loss of abortion rights at the London Review of Books: Prejudice Rules LRB contributors on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I haven’t read them all yet, but I plan to.

More abortion stories:

The Guardian: Daughter of doctor who gave 10-year-old an abortion faced kidnapping threat. Caitlin Bernard of Indiana is named on an extreme anti-abortion website linked to Amy Coney Barrett.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified last year, in a case involving abortion restrictions in Indiana, that she was forced to stop providing first-trimester abortions at a clinic in South Bend. She stopped the procedures after she was alerted by Planned Parenthood – who in turn had been alerted by the FBI – that a kidnapping threat had been made against her daughter.

the_black_cat__stretch_by_chocolatefrizz89_deviant art

The Black Cat Stretch, by chocolatefrizz89 at deviant art

The Guardian reported in January that the names of six abortion providers, as well as their educational backgrounds and places of work, were listed on the website of an extreme anti-abortion group called Right to Life Michiana, in a section of the website titled “Local Abortion Threat”. Bernard was among the list of doctors named on the extremist website.

Barrett, who voted to overturn Roe v Wade last month, signed a two-page advertisement published by the group in 2006, while she was working as a professor at Notre Dame. It stated that those who signed “oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death”. The second page of the ad called Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion, “barbaric”. The advertisement was published in the South Bend Tribune by St Joseph County Right to Life, which merged with Right to Life Michiana in 2020.

Bernard said in sworn testimony that she had started to travel to South Bend once a month – beginning in 2020 – in order to perform first trimester abortions, but stopped making the 2.5-hour trip once she learned of the threat against her daughter.

It’s time for Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from cases involving abortion.

The Washington Post: Confusion post-Roe spurs delays, denials for some lifesaving pregnancy care.

A woman with a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy sought emergency care at the University of Michigan Hospital after a doctor in her home state worried that the presence of a fetal heartbeat meant treatingher might run afoul of new restrictions on abortion.

At one Kansas City, Mo., hospital,administrators temporarily required “pharmacist approval” before dispensing medications used to stop postpartum hemorrhages, because they can also be also used for abortions.

And in Wisconsin, a woman bled formore than 10 days from an incomplete miscarriage after emergency room staffwould not remove the fetal tissueamid a confusing legal landscape that has roiled obstetric care.

Robert Smithson, American, b. Passaic, New Jersey, 1938–1973

Robert Smithson, American, b. Passaic, New Jersey, 1938–1973

In the three weeks of turmoil since the Supreme Court overturnedthe constitutional right to abortion, many physicians and patients have been navigating a new reality in which the standard of care for incomplete miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and other common complications is being scrutinized, delayed — even denied — jeopardizing maternal health, according to the accounts of doctors in multiple states where new laws have gone into effect.

While state abortion bans typically carve out exceptions when a woman’s life is endangered, the laws can be murky, prompting some obstetricians to consult lawyers and hospital ethics committees on decisions around routine care. 

And it’s going to get a lot worse. We’re going back to the dark ages. See also this piece at The Texas Tribune: Texas hospitals are putting pregnant patients at risk by denying care out of fear of abortion laws, medical group says.

Now for some January 6 investigation news:

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department Steps Up Jan. 6 Probe of Those in Trump’s Orbit.

The Justice Department is adding prosecutors and resources to its investigation into the actions of former President Donald Trump’s allies to overturn the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the matter, as the related congressional hearings have turbocharged interest in Mr. Trump’s own role in that effort.

A Justice Department team focusing on elements of the investigation beyond the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has in recent weeks been given more personnel, office space and an expanded mandate, the people said….

As the Justice Department began in late 2021 to develop cases alleging complex conspiracies and investigate sources of funding, it assigned an experienced prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to focus on those efforts.

Mr. Windom previously met with some skepticism within the department when he pushed to explore the activities of several members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, the people said, with some officials believing prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to pursue those paths. But the hearings have revealed new details of Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, that legal experts have said could put the former president in greater legal jeopardy for charges such as fraud, inciting a riot or obstructing the election’s certification.

the-cat-pablo-picasso

The Cat, by Pablo Picasso

The testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in particular—including her allegation that Mr. Trump knew some of the protesters were armed but wanted them at his rally and at the Capitol anyway—has broadened some Justice Department officials’ view of the potential scope of the probe, the people said, though officials said the testimony didn’t prompt any change in investigative strategy.

Ms. Hutchinson told the committee on June 28 that Mr. Trump was concerned that magnetometers were keeping supporters from attending his speech at the Ellipse earlier in the day on Jan. 6. She said she overheard him saying something to the effect of, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags away. Let the people in, they can march to the Capitol from here.”

Former prosecutors have identified that testimony as the first to speak to Mr. Trump’s intent as tension escalated that day, and said it suggests he knew some of the protesters were armed and urged them toward the Capitol anyway as lawmakers were certifying President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Prosecutors would need to prove that Mr. Trump knew his actions would result in violence to pursue a related criminal case against the former president.

Read more at the WSJ. I didn’t encounter a paywall when I click on the link at Memeorandum.

Politico: Trump campaign operative who delivered Jan. 6 false elector lists is identified.

A little-known Donald Trump campaign operative delivered lists of false electors to Capitol Hill in a bid to get them to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, according to two people familiar with the episode.

Mike Roman, then Trump’s 2020 director of Election Day operations, delivered those false elector certificates — signed by pro-Trump activists in Michigan and Wisconsin — to Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Pa.) chief of staff at the time, both people told POLITICO. Kelly was a Trump ally in the effort to overturn the 2020 election, and his then-top aide received the documents from Roman before deputizing a colleague to disseminate copies on Capitol Hill, according to both people.

Cat Gathering (Night) by Inagaki Tomoo, 1957, color woodcut

Cat Gathering (Night) by Inagaki Tomoo, 1957, color woodcut

Roman’s role in the effort to deliver those slates of electors directly to Pence has not previously been reported. The onetime Trump White House researcher and former aide to the conservative Koch network, who was subpoenaed in February by the Jan. 6 select committee, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

The origin of the false elector lists, which never got to Pence before he presided over certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, has become an enduring subplot in the select panel’s investigation of the Capitol attack designed to disrupt that day. After the committee revealed the role of a top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in the episode during a hearing last month, Johnson said the false elector lists came from Kelly — who has repeatedly denied any involvement by his office in their distribution.

More at the link.

Politico: Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Secret Service amid text message controversy.

The Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service following a string of conflicts with the agency and revelations that a large swath of text messages sent by agents on the day of the Capitol attack have been erased.

The move marks the first time the select committee has publicly announced the subpoena of an Executive Branch agency and comes the same day the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general privately briefed committee members on the discovery of the missing text messages.

The subpoena, directed at agency director James Murray — who is retiring later this month — demands the production of records by July 19.

“The Select Committee seeks the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports that have been issued in any and all divisions of the USSS pertaining or relating in any way to the events of January 6, 2021,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a letter accompanying the subpoena.

Committee members emerging from the DHS briefing said they were awaiting details about whether the inspector general will be able to obtain any of the missing messages.

“We’re interested in getting the texts from the Secret Service that happened on the fifth and sixth and we want to get the IG’s perspective on what he thought was going on,” Thompson told reporters Friday.

One more from Politico: Justice Dept. backs House over Jan. 6 subpoena to Meadows.

The Justice Department declared Friday that the Jan. 6 select committee has adequately justified its subpoena for testimony and documents from Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff in Donald Trump’s White House.

Cat Named Sam, Andy Warhol

A Cat Named Sam, Andy Warhol

That conclusion came as part of a landmark filing taking a position for the first time that former advisers to presidents who have left office are not “absolutely immune” from congressional subpoenas.

DOJ filed the brief Friday evening in a civil suit Meadows filed in December against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee’s members in a bid to quash subpoenas the former Trump aide received from the House panel.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols asked the Justice Department to weigh in on what immunity, if any, Meadows is entitled to in the dispute.

“When a congressional committee demands testimony from an immediate presidential adviser after the President’s term of office has ended, the relevant constitutional concerns are lessened. Accordingly, the Department does not believe that the absolute testimonial immunity applicable to such an adviser continues after the President leaves office. But the constitutional concerns continue to have force,” the department argues in the new brief, signed by DOJ Civil Division attorney Elizabeth Shapiro and endorsed by other top officials.

Finally, a preview of Thursday’s prime-time January 6 Committee hearing by Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Jan. 6 Panel to Dissect Trump’s 187 Minutes of Inaction During Riot.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is planning to return to prime time on Thursday for what could be the finale of its summer hearing schedule: a session focused on former President Donald J. Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as a mob of his supporters assaulted Congress.

The hearing, scheduled for 8 p.m. on July 21, is expected to give a detailed account of how Mr. Trump resisted multiple entreaties from staffers, lawyers and even his own family to call off the attack, which raged for hours in the early afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021.

Representatives Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia, and Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, are expected to play leading roles in the hearing.

One witness the panel could hear from is Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide who resigned in the aftermath of Jan. 6. She has told the committee that a tweet Mr. Trump sent attacking Vice President Mike Pence while the riot was underway was like “pouring gasoline on the fire.” [….]

The committee is also likely to play clips of the testimony of other witnesses who attempted to intervene with Mr. Trump during those more than three hours, including Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. The committee has also said it received testimony from Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who was Mr. Pence’s national security adviser, about Mr. Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence as the mob engulfed the Capitol.

Mr. Kellogg said Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter, urged her father at least twice to call off the violence, as did Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: Jan. 6 Committee Surprise Hearing

Good Morning!!

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.

cassidy-hutchinson_hpMain_20220628-012908_16x9_1600

Cassidy Hutchinson

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.

jeffrey-clark-january-6-donald-trump-fbi

Jeffrey Clark

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.