Lazy Caturday Reads

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By surrealist artist Ophelia Redpath, 1965

Happy Caturday!!

I wish I had kept a record of my sleep patterns and accompanying political events over the past 7 years. I know I rarely slept through the night during the first couple of years of Trump’s “presidency.” I would stay up late, sleep a couple of hours and wake up at 3AM to obsessively check twitter for news, and still get up early the next day. Now I’m going through a period of time when I can’t get to sleep until very late–around 1:00-2:00AM–and then sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00AM. I’m also getting old–I’ll be 75 soon–and it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. Anyway, I slept until 10:00 today, so I’m once again very late in posting. If only we knew what is going to happen with the Trump investigations, maybe I would be able to go back to sleeping like a normal person.

As everyone knows by now, yesterday Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether to indict Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection cases–including whether Trump has obstructed justice.

CNN: DOJ announces special counsel for Trump-related Mar-a-Lago and January 6 criminal investigations.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.

Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations….

The prosecutions of those who physically breached the US Capitol have been the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and those will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses close to the former president for documents and testimony in the probe.

White Cat by Igor Galanin

White Cat by Igor Galanin

“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.” [….]

According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.

Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.

Most of the TV/Twitter legal experts are saying this was a good decision by Garland. One dissenter is Neal Kaytal, who says it is a big mistake.

From Raw Story: Legal experts: Special counsel investigating Trump will move very quickly.

Former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann believes that newly-appointed special counsel Jack Smith will move with haste in his investigations of former President Donald Trump.

Speaking with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, after the host said Smith may become the “most important prosecutor in human history,” Weissmann discussed his history with the new special prosecutor.

“So I’ve known Jack for decades,” Weissman said.

“I was the chief of the criminal division when he started in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he explained.

“And Jack, as you noted, has had all sorts of positions that make him really perfect for this job in the sense of his experience, he’s a career prosecutor, he’s completely apolitical — in public integrity, they prosecuted Democrats and Republicans,” Weissmann said. “They don’t care, if you committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you’re in no party.”

He noted he learned from Robert Mueller that “you can’t slow things down to use as an excuse not to move forward.”

“For people who are worried about this slowing down, I have the exact opposite reaction.”

Marcy Wheeler suggested another reason why Garland might have taken the step of appointing a special counsel:

I think that makes sense. Of course Trump and Republicans will still claim the investigations are political, and I’m pretty sure Garland knows that. This morning at Politico Playbook, Rachel Bade summarized the political reactions so far: A new special counsel sets Washington ablaze.

Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND’s decision to name a special counsel to helm DONALD TRUMP-related probes at the Justice Department roiled the political world on Friday.

In an afternoon statement delivered before cameras at Main Justice, Garland argued the appointment of veteran DOJ hand JACK SMITH was necessary given that Trump and JOE BIDEN could be facing off for the presidency in 2024. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said.

Some good it did him. On cue, Republicans called foul — and rushed forward to defend an ex-president who had appeared to be losing his grip on the GOP following the party’s disappointing election performance.

François Batet

By François Batet

AT MAR-A-LAGO … After 10 days of midterm recriminations, the announcement put Trump back in his most comfortable posture: portraying himself as the victim of his corrupt enemies. During a fancy black-tie affair at his Florida resort, Trump told Fox News’ Brooke Singman that he won’t participate in the probe and blasted the DOJ for the “worst politicization” of the department ever.

— “I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel ROBERT] MUELLER who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?” Trump told them. “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”

ON CAPITOL HILL … Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) tweeted that Republicans should “IMPEACH MERRICK GARLAND!” and insisted her party “refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee.”

— The latter is particularly noteworthy: It sets up a new and explosive spending clash that could easily prompt a government shutdown in the next Congress. Why? MTG and likeminded Trump loyalists will press KEVIN McCARTHY (or whoever else manages to become speaker) to toe a hard line while Democrats will absolutely refuse to defund the investigations. Watch this space.

IN LAS VEGAS … Even former Vice President MIKE PENCE blasted the special counsel appointment as “very troubling” during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, according to another good-get interview by Fox’s Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser.

— “No one is above the law, but I am not sure it’s against the law to take bad advice from your lawyers,” he said. Pence went on to suggest that the DOJ has been politicized by Democrats and and to knock the FBI for conducting a raid on Mar-a-Lago to fish out classified information Trump had taken to his post-presidency residence. (Note that Smith won’t only be managing the documents probe, but Jan. 6-related matters as well.).

Bade notes that Republicans were all in on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents while she was running for president. You can also read a bit of background on Jack Smith at The New York Times.

One more on the Smith appointment from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Merrick Garland was right to appoint a special counsel.

Advocates of swift action against Trump no doubt will be alarmed by the announcement, but there is less here than meets the eye. For starters, Smith needs no introduction to the Justice Department. He was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in February 2015. Before that, he worked as head of the department’s Public Integrity Section and as investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He also worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.

Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen

Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen

Most important, the attorney general announced that the career staff who have been working on these cases will continue in their roles. That, Garland suggested, will mean the query will “not slow down.” Smith will make a recommendation to Garland on whether to prosecute Trump. Until then, Garland will have no direct supervision over Smith.

Did Garland need to wait until Trump’s campaign launch to make the appointment? Perhaps not, but so long as Trump was not an active candidate, there was little reason for Garland to step aside. Now that Trump is a potential opponent to Biden, Garland believes it is essential to add a layer of separation between himself and the line prosecutors.

Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “Looking over Jack Smith’s decades of prosecutorial experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to hit the ground running and to sew together whatever loose ends remain as he puts together a comprehensive prosecution of the leaders of the attempted coup, with the former president at its center, as well as a powerful prosecution of the former president for his theft of top secret documents as he absconded to Mar-a-Lago.” He adds that, while he previously “publicly urged that there was no need to appoint a special counsel, my principal concern was the need to avoid delay, and it appears that this appointment will solve that problem.”

Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel to the House impeachment managers during Trump’s first impeachment, agrees. “I have no concern that a special counsel will shy away from charging, and Jack Smith has outstanding experience,” he tells me. Eisen also thinks the move will not cause much of a delay. He observes: “Mr. Smith should move with alacrity. Here, where any other American who had removed the even one classified document would be subject to likely prosecution, and where the former president took dozens, the rule of law demands fast action.”

In other news, The New York Times has an important story about a Supreme Court leak that–like the recent leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade–involves Justice Sam Alito: Former Anti-Abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach.

As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.

Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates….

Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat

Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat

The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.

Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”

The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

From Georgia–NBC News reports that: In win for Democrats, Georgia judge allows early voting in Senate runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving.

A Fulton County judge ruled Friday that the Georgia Secretary of State cannot prohibit counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a victory for the state Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.

The order comes after a brief legal battle between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and the Democratic Party of Georgia over the Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

Raffensperger, a Republican, had maintained that changes to Georgia voting laws meant that there could be no early voting on Nov. 26, the only Saturday when it would have been possible for Georgians to cast an early vote in the hotly contested race.

Democrats and Warnock’s campaign filed suit challenging Raffensperger’s determination, and Judge Thomas A. Cox agreed with their arguments in a ruling late Friday afternoon. “The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” the judge wrote.

Glenn Harrington

By Glenn Harrington

Raffensberger’s office will appeal the decision.

The dispute centers on a provision of Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, which stipulates early in-person voting must end the Friday before the runoff. This year, that would be Friday, Dec. 2.

The law also stipulates early in-person voting not be held on any Saturday that follows a “public or legal holiday” on the preceding Thursday or Friday. Raffensperger contended that meant there would be no early in-person voting on Nov. 26, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. (It could not be held this weekend because the general election vote is not being certified until Nov. 21.)

Attorneys for the Democrats and Warnock argued the section of the law Raffensperger cited applies to primaries and general elections, but not to runoffs. Cox agreed.

Of course there is tons of news about Twitter and Musk. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:

Yoel Roth at the New York Times: I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.

The Guardian: How Elon Musk’s Twitter reign magnified his brutal management style.

The Washington Post: Musk summons engineers to Twitter HQ as millions await platform’s collapse.

The New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave.

What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

robin-morgan-2020

Robin Morgan

Yesterday, thanks to a series of tweets by Delphyne, I read an excellent essay by Robin Morgan on religion and U.S. politics, specifically focused on the shadowy Catholic group Opus Dei. It’s long, but I highly recommend reading it, because members of the group dominate the Supreme Court and strongly influence the Republican Party. Although the post is about the Catholic Church, Morgan notes that protestant evangelicals are equally dangerous to our democracy. I’ll try to give you the gist with some excerpts:

Opus Dei is a powerful, secretive organization with members in political, economic, and church leadership throughout the world. Opus Dei reveals no details about its finances, maintains a high degree of control over its members, and censors their reading matter as “appropriate or inappropriate.” Women’s membership has been another source of criticism, due to rank misogyny in its teachings and practice: for example, women are supposedly treated as equals, but are separated from men in their personal spiritual training and in separate branches; in many male Opus Dei centers, women visit every evening to cook for the men, and then leave with no social interaction whatsoever. Sexual abuse cases in Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, and the United States have been investigated, with canonical sanctions (but not civil or criminal charges) applied to the perpetrators. These “controversies” include those above-mentioned, plus recruiting methods aimed at teenagers being separated from their families; illicit use of psychiatric drugs; misleading of the lay faithful about their status and rights under Canon Law; extreme fasting and mortification of the flesh practiced by celibate members; elitism; and support of authoritarian governments….

Founded in 1928, Opus Dei was formally approved by the Holy See in 1950 as a secular institute—a new form of religious association whose members “profess evangelical councils in secular life.” On November 28, 1982, Pope John Paul II, a staunch supporter of Opus Dei, designated it a “personal prelature,” the first and only independent and personal Prelature in the Church–under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate, and with jurisdiction over persons rater than a geographic area. Later, John Paul II also allowed an unusually swift canonization of Escrivá–faster than any saint in history–because Opus Dei had bailed out the Vatican Bank with $250 million in 1985.

Fortunately, Pope Francis recently reduced the power of Opus Dei within the Church and ordered them to report to him more frequently.

How has Opus Dei influenced the U.S. government and the courts?

Scattered lists of prominent Opus Dei members are available, if they’ve “outed” themselves first. These include the president of Spain’s largest bank in assets and the president of Spain’s third biggest bank, the chief financial officer of Ireland’s largest bank, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee. The group also targeted for conversion political and business leaders such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback; Judge Robert Bork (Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee); Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and Larry Kudlow (Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, who wrote in 2016 that plutocracy is “just what America needs”).

300px-Leo

Leonard Leo

The infamous “troika” that served Donald Trump’s regime so effectively was constituted of the arch-conservative, powerful, Federalist Society, the CIC (Catholic Information Center, an ultra right-wing think tank), and Opus Dei. Pat Cipollone, who served as Trump’s White House Counsel from December 2018 to January 2021, was listed as a member of the CIC Board until CIC stopped publishing their board list in October 2018; today, his daughter-in-law is a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. William Barr chaired the CIC board in 2014 and served there until 2017, when he joined Trump as Attorney General. Following his departure as AG in January 2021, Barr returned to the CIC as a senior fellow, and last October (2021) became the new “St. Thomas More Chair.”

Interlocking troika board members and officials are stunningly hidden in plain sight. Leonardo Leo, a self-declared Opus Dei operative, was also the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the CIC (which, by the way, is two blocks from the White House). Leo hits every base. All this is a matter of record….

The extremely powerful man who forwarded five names to the Senate for approval as supreme court justices was Leonardo Leo. It was Leo who pushed Mitch McConnell to nominate Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The troika’s role in installing Trump’s justices is also a matter of record. According to Church and State, “Of the Supreme Court members, six (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett) are current or former members.”

Others have also identified the late Justice Antonin Scalia as an Opus Dei member; his wife attended Catholic Information Center events and his son has spoken there. Church and State Magazine writes that “Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas,” and that when John Roberts was nominated for the Court, Leonard Leo “assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy” (who apparently went “squishy” and liberal).

I’ve probably quoted too much, but I think this is vitally important information for understanding the right wing attack on on the separation of church and state and the need to fight to preserve American democracy generally.

I wasn’t able to watch the NASA video feed yesterday, but I know some Sky Dancers were very excited about it. Here’s a report from The Washington Post: NASA crashes spacecraft into asteroid, passing planetary defense test.

NASA managed Monday to crash a small spacecraft directly into an asteroid, a 14,000-mile-per-hour collision designed to test whether such a technology could someday be deployed to protect Earth from a potentially catastrophic impact.

The violent end of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft thrilled scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operated the mission under a NASA contract.

The asteroid, Dimorphos, is the size of a stadium — or the Great Pyramid of Giza, as one scientist put it Monday — and is about 7 million miles from Earth at the moment. It orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos. Neither poses a threat to our planet now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

This was just a test, NASA’s first demonstration of a potential planetary defense technique, called a kinetic impactor. The idea is to give a hypothetically dangerous asteroid just enough of a blow to alter its orbital trajectory.

Launched last November from California, the spacecraft was small, roughly the size of a vending machine or golf cart. Dimorphos is rather big — roughly 500 feet or so in diameter, although its precise shape and composition were unknown before the final approach. Scientists anticipated a plume of debris from the asteroid upon impact but no significant structural change. This is more akin to a bug splattering on a windshield.

“This isn’t just bowling-ball physics,” Applied Physics Laboratory planetary scientist Nancy Chabot told reporters. “The spacecraft’s gonna lose.”

But even small effects on an asteroid’s movement could prove a planet-saver. An early collision with an asteroid, if done early enough — say, 5 to 10 years in advance of its projected encounter with Earth — could be just enough to slow it down and make it miss.

Read more at the WaPo.

Denver Riggleman

Denver Riggleman

I’m torn about how to take the revelations in the new book by former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, released today. Is it really that important for the January 6 Committee to keep all their findings secret until they reveal them in their rare public hearings? Frankly, I would have liked to see many more hearings and more information released to the public. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m no expert, but I think Riggleman has some good points. If you’re interested, I suggest watching the 60 Minutes interview (in which Riggleman says he resigned because the Committee refused to subpoena Ginni Thomas) and reading this post from Riggleman’s co-author Hunter Walter: Walking You Through ‘The Breach’

The book was written by Denver Riggleman, an ex-congressman and former senior adviser to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Helping Denver tell his story was the honor of a lifetime. As any regular reader of this site knows, I was at the Capitol on January 6 and, ever since, have dedicated myself to exposing what happened that day. Bringing Denver’s story to the world is the culmination of those efforts.

I believe this book contains some of the most dramatic revelations about the attack on the Capitol and the involvement of the Trump administration as well as Republican members of Congress in the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

 — Denver advised the committee from August 2021 through April 2022. During that time, he led and assembled a team that was focused on telephone analysis. These investigators helped the committee obtain phone records from persons of interest including high-level associates of President Trump and individuals who have been charged with participating in the Capitol attack. The team used this data to compile maps that — quite literally — show the direct links between the political and militant components of the effort to overturn the election. The largest map was dubbed “The Monster” [see graphic above] by Denver and his team. He discussed it in more detail in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. 

— Phone records obtained by Denver’s team showed there was a call to a rioter’s cell phone that was connected through the White House switchboard during the Capitol attack. Following Denver’s appearance on “60 Minutes,” CNN identified the rioter who received the call as Anton Lunyk, a Brooklyn, New York man who entered the Capitol building on January 6….

 — The committee’s link maps also show extensive coordination between militant groups that took part in the attack, namely the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Along with communicating with each other, these groups were in extensive contact with Trump associates and activists who planned rallies that occurred in Washington on January 6.

— Denver’s team also helped analyze and decipher thousands of text messages that were provided to the committee by Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He describes these messages as “irrefutable time-stamped proof of a comprehensive plot — at all levels of government — to overturn a free and fair election and leave Trump in power.”

There’s more at the link.

More interesting stories, links only:

Julia Ainsley at NBC News: Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators.

CNN: Meadows texts reveal direct White House communications with pro-Trump operative behind plans to seize voting machines.

The Washington Post: Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who exposed U.S. surveillance.

Timothy Noah at The New Republic: Hell Is a World in Which Everybody Writes Like Axios.

CNN: Historic trial for Oath Keepers leader and his top lieutenants over January 6 set to begin.

Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Sedition Trial of Oath Keepers to Get Underway.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: Ex-Staffer Says DeSantis TORCHES Trump in Private: ‘Moron Who Has No Business Running For President’

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Ron DeSantis: The Making and Remaking (an Remaking) of a MAGA Heir. 

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking. Putin is running out of time.

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


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?

 


Thursday Reads

summer-porch-by-childe-hassam-1904-m-g-whittingham

Summer Porch, by Childe Hassam

Good Afternoon!!

I’m feeling kind of blue today. Partly it’s just the inevitable losses that come with my advanced age, and of course I’m sad about what’s happening to our country. In the past 7 years, we were forced to deal with an evil and incompetent man as presidential candidate and then president, and a still-ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans. No wonder so many of us are exhausted. I got this in an e-mail from political writer Jared Yates Sexton this morning. He describes our situation better than I ever could.

There are nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It might be presumptuous, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this you are not counted among them.

The last time I checked, there was one President, one hundred members of the Senate and 435 representatives in the House. Though there are individuals in the White House and Congress who read this newsletter, their ability to effectively pass legislation or break up the intentional logjam at the federal level is somewhat negligible.

Meanwhile, our political and economic systems have been largely corrupted and co-opted by an increasingly wealthy group of power brokers hellbent on growing their wealth and power at any cost, including the destruction of the Earth and total dismantling of liberal democracy. Chances are, considering the math, you are probably not a member of this historically wealthy class of individuals, but if you are, feel free to get a hold of me. I’ve got some ideas should you want to make a difference.

All of it is overwhelming. To watch detestable actions like the overthrow of Roe V. Wade, followed by a yawning lack of response by those charged with protecting us, leaves a person feeling desperate and, over time, isolated and demoralized. The system, after all, is designed with this in mind. The founding of the United States was predicated on neutralizing the power of the masses in favor of rule by a tiny group of wealthy white men. Almost everything that has happened since then has been to either shore up that rule or battle attempts to trouble it.

To be clear, it feels as if the deck is stacked against you because it is. The flow of history is the story of how the powerful have continually protected themselves from situations where the fate of the masses is weighed more heavily than their own self-interest.

This newsletter appears to be a promo for Sexton’s upcoming book, and it doesn’t offer solutions; but it sure does paint a picture of where we are as a country right now. Sexton says, “we are not alone and we are not powerless.” I guess he’ll explain that in the book.

There isn’t that much I can do at my age, but I keep posting on this blog; somehow that gives me a sense of being a small part of the resistance to authoritarianism. At least I’m paying close attention to daily events and what is being written about them. We’ve been posting to this blog for many years now, and we’ve seen people come and go. If you’re still coming here, I’m very grateful for your presence. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts with us.

A Ten-Year-Old Pregnant Rape Victim and Clueless Male Journalists

Last week a story broke about a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated. The Guardian:

The case of a 10-year-old child rape victim in Ohio who was six weeks pregnant, ineligible for an abortion in her own state, and forced to travel to Indiana for the procedure has spotlighted the shocking impact of the US supreme court ruling on abortion.

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

The story of the girl came to light three days after the court overturned a nationwide right to terminate pregnancy, and Ohio’s six-week “trigger ban” came into effect.

Dr Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, said she had received a call from a colleague doctor in Ohio who treats child abuse victims and asked for help….

Abortion providers like Bernard say they are receiving a sharp increase in the number of patients coming to their clinics for abortion from the neighboring states where such procedures are now restricted or banned.

“It’s hard to imagine that in just a few short weeks we will have no ability to provide that care,” Bernard told the Columbus Dispatch.

You’d think since the story mentioned a doctor by name, people would accept that the story was legitimate. Bernard even appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word to talk about the case. But Republicans in Ohio claimed the story was fabricated, and that triggered claims that the story was fake on Fox News and social media. Even the Washington Post fact checker got involved.

But yesterday we learned that the perpetrator of the rape has been arrested. CNN: A man was charged in the rape of a 10-year-old who traveled to Indiana for an abortion.

A Columbus man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old Ohio girl who then had to travel to Indiana seeking an abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to court proceedings CNN obtained through affiliate WBNS.

Rumors of the case garnered national and international attention, with some US political leaders referencing it in conversations about abortion bans.

Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested Tuesday, according to Columbus police and court documents. He has been charged with felony rape of a minor under age 13, according to the Franklin County Municipal Court. His first court appearance was Wednesday.

Fuentes is being held on $2 million bond, according to the court. CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment.

Fuentes admitted to authorities he raped the young girl on at least two occasions, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday at Fuentes’ arraignment.

Police first were alerted to the child’s pregnancy in late June through a referral by a local children services department that was made by the 10-year-old’s mother, Huhn testified.

The girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, the detective testified. DNA from the Indianapolis clinic was being tested against samples from Fuentes and the child’s siblings, Huhn said.

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was still pretending the story was false last night.

At Neiman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen writes: Unimaginable abortion stories will become more common. Is American journalism ready?

As more states restrict or ban abortion, more girls who are raped will face a choice between crossing state lines for care or having babies while they are still in elementary school.

Andrew Wyeth

House with a porch, by Andrew Wyeth

I wish that this weren’t true. But events this week make it very clear that if you can’t bear to believe it — even if it seems so impossible that it needs a heartily skeptical fact-checking treatment — it is going to happen.

And reporters who want to tell these stories (and the news organizations those reporters work for) may have to abandon some conventional journalism wisdom in order to give the stories the attention they deserve….

The two-byline story — written by Shari Rudavsky and Rachel Fradette — made headlines around the world. But the first reaction of mainly right-leaning news organizations — despite the fact that the doctor who performed the abortion was on the record saying this happened — was to try to debunk it. Why? I mean, in part because it’s horrible and we don’t want to believe a 10-year-old could get raped and pregnant, because 10-year-olds are babies themselves. (By the way, Covid appears to have increased early-onset puberty around the world. Getting your period “early” now means getting it when you’re younger than 8. People for whom a pregnant 10-year-old strains credulity should keep this in mind.)

The debate over the story’s veracity started with a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column. In “A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral,”

You can read the quotes at Neiman Lab, but lets just say Kessler was extremely skeptical.

“An abortion by a 10-year-old is pretty rare,” Kessler notes. (Oh, that “by.”) “The Columbus Dispatch reported that in 2020, 52 people under the age of 15 received an abortion in Ohio.” Definitions of “rare” may vary, but if 52 under-15-year-olds got abortions in Ohio in 2020, that’s one a week — and it’s just abortions that were reported, during a pandemic when a lot of abortion clinics were closed.

The Post column opened the door to worse takes. “Every day that goes by, the more likely that this is a fabrication. I know the cops and prosecutors in this state. There’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him,” Ohio attorney general Dave Yost told USA Today’s Ohio Network bureau on Tuesday. Picking up on Kessler’s “single source” criticism, Yost added, “Shame on the Indianapolis paper that ran this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called the episode “An abortion story too good to confirm,” as if there was something particularly juicy and delicious about this one (hint: It’s her age!)

We’re going to be seeing many more horror stories now that the Extreme Court has returned women and girls to second-class citizen status. And no, male journalists will not be ready to deal with the onslaught.

January 6 Committee News

CNN: Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff talking with January 6 committee, sources say.

Former President Donald Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was talking to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The support staffer was not someone who routinely communicated with the former President and was concerned about the contact, according to the sources, and informed their attorney.

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

The call was made after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly to the committee. The White House staffer was in a position to corroborate part of what Hutchinson had said under oath, according to the sources.

CNN was told the position of the witness Trump tried to call, but not the person’s name. Details about the witness Trump tried to contact have not been previously reported.

The initial revelation about Trump’s phone call was made in a dramatic moment at the end of this week’s hearing by committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, revealed that Trump “tried to call” an unnamed witness in the committee’s investigation. She said that witness “declined to answer or respond” to Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer. The committee has since supplied that information to the Department of Justice….

Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat who serves on the committee, told CNN on Tuesday that the individual Trump tried to call has been speaking with the panel.

“Trump himself had called someone who has been talking with us,” Aguilar said.

A source familiar with the panel’s investigation added that the committee has spoken to the person Trump tried to call, but not as part of a deposition.

Trump’s crimes just keep on piling up. When will he pay a price? No one outside the DOJ knows.

Donald Ayer, Stuart Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut at The Atlantic: January 6 Was Trump’s Project All Along. And The Department of Justice Has More Than Enough Evidence To Prosecute Him For It.

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Edward Hopper

By Edward Hopper

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump.

Read the rest of the argument at The Atlantic.

The New York Times: Jan. 6 Panel Will Turn Over Evidence on Fake Electors to the Justice Dept.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol for evidence it has accumulated about the scheme by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies to put forward false slates of pro-Trump electors in battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, disclosed the request to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and a person familiar with the panel’s work said discussions with the Justice Department about the false elector scheme were ongoing. Those talks suggest that the department is sharpening its focus on that aspect of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, one with a direct line to the former president.

Mr. Thompson said the committee was working with federal prosecutors to allow them to review the transcripts of interviews the panel has done with people who served as so-called alternate electors for Mr. Trump. Mr. Thompson said the Justice Department’s investigation into “fraudulent electors” was the only specific topic the agency had broached with the committee.

A Justice Department official said the agency maintained its position that it was requesting copies of all transcripts of witness interviews.

More details at the NYT.

CNBC reports that the next hearing is scheduled for next Thursday at 8PM. and will focus on “Trump’s hourslong failure to stop the Capitol riot.”

NBC News says there may be more hearings in August: The Jan. 6 committee won’t rule out more hearings this summer.

Have an enjoyable Thursday everyone!!


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

For the past few days, *Massachusetts* has been trending on Twitter. The reason for that is the state’s tough gun laws.

From The Boston Globe: ‘Massachusetts gun laws have been proven to work.’ Amid spate of mass shootings, policymakers tout Bay State as blueprint.

After 26 students and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Massachusetts expanded its already far-reaching gun safety law. Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas — the deadliest in US history — it was the first state to ban bump stocks. And when a teenager killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school, lawmakers here embraced their own “red flag” statute.

Tragedy has regularly proved to be an accelerant for change in Massachusetts, pushing state policymakers to tighten their already strict gun laws at a time when major federal changes have regularly stalled and Republican legislators in other states loosened theirs.

Now, in the wake of horrific gun violence in Buffalo, Uvalde, Texas, and elsewhere, activists and state officials are pointing to Massachusetts as a model, arguing that its rules weaving together background check mandates, far-reaching prohibitions, and local licensing standards should be a guide — if not for Congress, then other states.

“Massachusetts gun laws have been proven to work,” Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who has backed gun safety measures, said Monday, adding that the firearm death rate in this state “justifies thinking about what has been done here in the larger context of the nation.”

“I’ve talked to governors in other states and basically have said to them that they really ought to take a look at Massachusetts laws and make some decisions of their own,” Baker said. “I think it’s undeniable that the laws we have here have worked pretty well.”

Only Hawaii had a lower firearm mortality rate than Massachusetts in 2020; the year before — and in 2016 and 2015, as well — no state did, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And while gun violence has permeated other urban centers, Boston actually saw a drop in homicides and shootings in 2021 and has experienced even fewer so far this year, according to police data.

Yesterday, Massachusetts legislators prepared a letter to encourage leaders in other states to consider using the our state’s gun laws as a model. Some information about Massachusetts gun laws from the Globe article linked above:

Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban in 1998 and made it permanent in 2004, when the federal ban expired. It also limits ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and requires that any first-time applicant for a six-year firearm license undergo a gun safety course.

All license applicants are also subject to background checks, either for a Firearm Identification Card — which allows people to own and use some rifles or shotguns — or a license to carry, the state’s most popular gun license.

Known as a Class A license, it allows people to own and use handguns and certain other firearms, but also comes with an additional layer of scrutiny. Local police chiefs, who serve as the state’s licensing authority, can deny an applicant they deem to be unsuitable, allowing them the discretion to factor in considerations beyond someone’s criminal record.

That could include whether police have been called to their home, for example, or if they had been the subject of domestic violence incidents that didn’t result in arrests or charges.

Acting after the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the Legislature tightened its laws further. That 2014 law now allows police chiefs who want to deny, suspend, or revoke a shotgun or rifle license to file a petition in court.

It also mandated the state join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks and required that Massachusetts create an online portal for conducting the required background checks for private gun transfers.

I’ve quoted a lot, because the Globe article is behind a paywall. It also discusses some problems that have cropped up, e.g. the red flag law has seldom been used, and the laws have gotten complex and difficult for enforcement officials to navigate. Nevertheless, there has not been a mass shooting here for 22 years and we have fewer gun deaths than every state except Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court may soon make it much more difficult for local lawmakers to keep their states and cities safe.

From the NYT article:

Already this year, the New York Police Department has recovered more than 3,000 guns, and such arrests have hit a 28-year high. But across the city and state, authorities are bracing for a ruling, expected from the United States Supreme Court this month, which could strike down a century-old New York State law that places strict limits on the carrying of handguns.

Overturning the law could make it far easier to legally carry a handgun in the state, which officials say may have violent consequences for cities already struggling to tamp down a spike in gun crime that began two years ago.

“A lot more people are going to now want to go out and get guns. And for all the wrong reasons,” said Richard Aborn, the president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission. “I have people telling me they decided to get a gun that I never dreamed would go out and get a gun. They’re not going to use it illegally but they’re feeling this need to arm themselves in a way that I’ve not seen before.”

And if more New Yorkers are armed, he said, what would otherwise have been minor confrontations could turn deadly.

When the Supreme Court heard arguments over the law in November, a number of justices appeared predisposed against it, leading experts to believe that the law is likely to be struck down. If that happens, the ramifications could reach beyond New York: A handful of other states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts, have similar laws that could also be invalidated.

New York State requires anyone who wants to purchase a handgun to apply for a state license. But there is an additional level of scrutiny for people who want a license that allows them to carry their gun outside their home. The two petitioners before the Supreme Court, both upstate New Yorkers, are challenging the laws governing the carrying of handguns, though gun control advocates in the state worry that the rules for acquiring handguns will be next….

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul has said that she would consider calling a special session of the State Legislature if the law were overturned. And after a shooting in Buffalo last month in which a teenager motivated by racism killed 10 Black people at a grocery store, she brought up the law unprompted, saying that her administration was “preparing our state for what could be a Supreme Court decision that allows people to carry concealed weapons. We’re ready.”

I imagine Massachusetts lawmakers are also preparing.

With the January 6 hearings coming up on Thursday night, is it possible Trump could eventually get his comeuppance? I sure hope so.

From Dennis Aftergut at Slate:

May was a bad month for former President Donald Trump. And there are darkening clouds on his horizon. On June 9, the Jan. 6 House select committee will hold public hearings as part of its ongoing investigation into the storming of the Capitol last year. In short order, the set of six scheduled televised sessions this month are likely to build momentum toward making the case that the president was directly involved in attempts to undermine the peaceful transition of power. And as the steady dropping of shocking findings from the committee over the course of the past months suggests, the sessions will likely have many viewers on the edge of their seats.

June’s hearings follow a series of escalations in Trump’s ongoing legal battles stemming from his attempts to undermine the 2020 election. May’s legal developments and the looming hearings suggest increasing pressures and prospects that Trump will face criminal charges.

Why was May so bad for Trump? It’s not just a matter of investigators closing in. Georgia’s primary on May 24 delivered a blow to Trump. Three men the former president loves to hate—Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr—all defeated Trump’s candidates in the Republican primary. Trump is already trying to cast doubt on their election results, raising questions about Kemp’s 50-point win over David Perdue. Georgia voters, however, signaled they are ready to move on from the Big Lie.

Meanwhile, two parallel criminal investigations are heating up—one from the Justice Department and another from District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta. Willis is independently investigating Trump’s phone call with Raffensperger in which he shamelessly asked Raffensperger “to find 11,780 votes,” one more than needed to reverse Joe Biden’s Georgia victory. She is also looking into Trump’s pre–Jan. 6 conduct for violation of the state’s criminal prohibition on soliciting election fraud. Last week, we learned that she has subpoenaed 50 witnesses, including Raffensperger, who testified on June 2 for five hours before a grand jury. She has also subpoenaed Chris Carr for June 21.

As for the Justice Department, it is reportedly ramping up its inquiry into Trump’s circle and the fake elector scheme that Rudy Giuliani allegedly led for the Trump campaign. On May 31, the Guardian reported that DOJ’s May 26 subpoena to former Trump aide Peter Navarro specifically refers to Trump and seeks communications with him, hinting at tightening scrutiny for the former president. (On June 2, the DOJ indicted Navarro on two counts of contempt for defying the committee’s subpoena to testify and provide documents.)

There’s more at the Slate link.

A couple of previews of what we might learn from Thursday’s hearing:

From Politico:

Nick Quested, a British documentarian who was embedded with the Proud Boys in the period around Jan. 6, will be one of the witnesses Thursday when the Jan. 6 select committee presents its findings of the violent attack that threatened the transition of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Quested captured some of the most harrowing and vivid footage from the front lines of the violence that day, including key moments of confrontation between members of the mob and Capitol Police just before rioters stormed the barricades. His crew was also present for key conversations among Proud Boys leaders, as well as a garage meeting between the group’s national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, and Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, whose group also played a central role in the January 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The inclusion of Quested among the witnesses suggests the first hearing will focus substantially on the role of the Proud Boys in the attack. That focus dovetails with a decision by the Justice Department on Monday to escalate its case against the leaders of the group, charging Tarrio and four others with seditious conspiracy for their alleged plans to stop the transition of power by force….

The select committee and DOJ have come to view the Proud Boys as key instigators of the Jan. 6 violence. Though members of the group itself were not charged with assaulting police, the charges against them describe their actions as drivers of the most pivotal moments during the riot. Prosecutors have indicated that the Proud Boys strategy included activating non-Proud-Boys members of the crowd — who they referred to as “normies” — to help push past police. The Justice Department has also described the Proud Boys as “directing” and “mobilizing” the crowd to both march to the Capitol, breach its grounds and enter the building itself.

For example, prosecutors have noted that Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs briefly huddled with Ryan Samsel, another charged defendant, just before Samsel charged at a police barricade. Samsel’s push resulted in the first barricades being toppled, causing the first rush of rioters to the food of the Capitol.

An hour later, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, one of the other defendants in the case, used a stolen police riot shield to smash a Senate-wing window, the first breach of the Capitol building itself. A fellow Proud Boy who helped Pezzola carry the shield, Charles Donohoe, recently pleaded guilty to his involvement in the group’s efforts.

From the article:

A staffer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign instructed Republicans planning to cast electoral college votes for Trump in Georgia despite Joe Biden’s victory to operate in “complete secrecy,” an email obtained by The Washington Post shows.

“I must ask for your complete discretion in this process,” wrote Robert Sinners, the campaign’s election operations director for Georgia, the day before the 16 Republicans gathered at the Georgia Capitol to sign certificates declaring themselves duly elected. “Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result — a win in Georgia for President Trump — but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.”

The Dec. 13, 2020, email went on to instruct the electors to tell security guards at the building that they had an appointment with one of two state senators. “Please, at no point should you mention anything to do with Presidential Electors or speak to the media,” Sinners continued in bold.

The admonishments suggest that those who carried out the fake elector planwere concerned that, had the gathering become public before Republicans could follow through on casting their votes, the effort could have been disrupted. Georgia law requires that electors fulfill their duties at the State Capitol. On Dec. 14, 2020, protesters for and against the two presidential candidates had gathered on the Capitol grounds.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which begins public hearings on Thursday, is likely to highlight the scheme to appoint fake electors and explore whether top Trump campaign officials initiated the strategy as part of a larger effort to overturn the democratic election.

I’ve also heard that the committee will play video from testimony by Ivanka and Jared. It should be an interesting night. I can’t wait!

What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories have caught your attention today?