Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley stepped into the hallway after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday to supporters asking for selfies and autographs — and, from others, a less friendly greeting.
“We love Trump, we love Trump!” a crowd around her started chanting. Some Haley supporters shouted her name back as the former U.N. ambassador escaped with staff to an elevator.
The dust-up showed the risks of taking the primary fight to what has clearly become Trump’s home turf. Though CPAC has long been seen as a big-tent forum for the conservative movement and a mandatory cattle call for presidential hopefuls, the annual conference has increasingly grown into a stomping ground for the 45th president and his “Make America Great Again” wing of the GOP. Trump will speak at the event Saturday.
“Remember, you’re not at CPAC, you’re at TPAC,” John Fredericks, a pro-Trump talk radio host broadcasting from the sidelines here, said in an interview Wednesday. He said potential 2024 rivals opted to skip the conference rather than risk getting booed or losing the straw poll. “We own this thing, it’s ours,” he said. “No Trump, no CPAC.”
This year’s lineup was heavy with Trump family members and acolytes — such as Lara Trump, Donald Trump Jr., former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, losing 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — to the near-total exclusion of the party’s other voices.
Monday Reads: The One Year Anniversary of the Uvalde School Shooting (and Other News)Posted: May 22, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, just because | Tags: debt ceiling crisis, Evan Corcoran, F-16 warplanes, Florida, Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy, LULAC, NAACP, Ron DeSantis, stolen documents case, Ukraine, Uvalde school shooting 11 Comments
I’m filling in for Dakinikat this morning, because she’s working down to the wire to get her final grades turned in today. Biden and McCarthy are still haggling over the debt ceiling, Ron DeSantis will soon announce his candidacy for president, and we’re still waiting for the next Trump indictment to drop. But I’m going to begin with stories marking the anniversary of the Uvalde school shooting which will be on Wednesday, May 24.
From Raw Story:
UVALDE — At 7 a.m. on a Monday in February, Jessica Treviño, with squinty eyes, goes into her sons’ bedroom and in a low, raspy voice tells them to wake up. Eleven-year-old David James rolls out of bed, but 9-year-old Austin, the youngest of the four Treviño children, doesn’t move from the lower bunk bed.
The siblings get ready for school. David James grabs the car keys and starts the family’s black Ram 1500 truck for his mother.
Austin, who is still in bed covered by a blanket, tells his mother he doesn’t want to go to school.
“I can’t leave you by yourself,” Jessica, 40, tells him, leaning over his body as their fat bulldog, Chubs, tries to jump on the bed. “You have to go to school.”
Austin doesn’t move. The night before, the sound of police sirens woke him.
“It’s ’cause there were cop sounds last night so he’s kinda scared,” David James tells his mother.
It’s not the first time one of the children won’t go to school because something spooked them. And Jessica knows it won’t be the last.
These kids survived the Uvalde mass shooting.
Three of the four Treviño children were students at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022, and were on campus for an awards ceremony as an 18-year-old with an AR-15 rifle approached the school.
That day, Jessica picked up David James, Austin and her now 12-year-old daughter, Illiaña, from the school about 11:30 a.m.
Jessica later found out that as she was driving off, the shooter had just walked into a classroom, killing two teachers and 19 students — including Illiaña’s best friend, a 10-year-old student in room 112, who was Illiaña’s defender when other children made fun of her.
A few days after the shooting, Jessica took Illiaña, whom she calls Nana, to Uvalde’s plaza to leave a teddy bear and flowers at a memorial for her friend. Suddenly, Illiaña’s heart began to race and she had trouble breathing. Jessica took her to the local hospital, which transferred her to an intensive care unit in San Antonio. The doctor there told Jessica that Illiaña was suffering cardiac arrest and her body shut down from acute stress. She was released after a week.
That’s severe PTSD. Read the rest and see photos at the Raw Story link.
Khloie Torres was the 10-year-old who repeatedly called 911 on the day of the Uvalde mass shooting. “Please hurry. There is a lot of dead bodies,” she told the dispatcher.
She took blood from some of the other students and smeared it all over herself to make it seem like she was already dead.
CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz spoke to Khloie’s mother who told him, “Knowing the police didn’t do anything, it’s just crazy. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Does she ever ask you why the police took so long?” Prokupecz asked.
“She does. She’s like, Mom, why did it take police so long to come in here? I don’t even know what to say to her. She don’t (sic) trust any police now,” the mom, Jamie Torres, explained. “They let everybody in those conjoined rooms down. The families have changed forever because they were too weak to go in the room, but my 10-year-old sitting across the door was offering to open it. And they still didn’t want to go in.”
The mother told CNN to show the body camera footage of her daughter. The police are shown leading Khloie out, and the next footage shows her on the bus covered in blood. She’s trying to speak through tears. Sitting in the seat in front of her is her best friend, 9-year-old Kendall Olivarez, who was losing consciousness. She was shot twice, once in the left shoulder and in her back. In the video, first responders were shouting at her to stay with them. A wailing cry is then heard.
“Please help! I don’t want to die,” Khloie cried to the 911 dispatcher.
“It’s definitely stressed her out,” Jamie Torres explained. “PTSD, all of that. She has all of that. You know, she can’t walk into a restaurant or any kind of building without counting every exit of the door.”
“She counts exits?” Prokupecz asked.
“Yes, if we go to McDonald’s, she sits closest to the door that she can,” the mother said.
NBC News: An Uvalde victim’s family feels betrayed by officials withholding details from that day.
UVALDE, Texas — Javier Cazares is haunted by the 30 minutes or so that passed after his 9-year-old daughter, Jacklyn, was shot and before law enforcement officers finally confronted the gunman firing an AR-15 inside Robb Elementary School.
“She wasn’t shot in the very beginning. She was shot somewhere in the middle. If they had gone in 30 minutes, 40 minutes” earlier, he said in an interview, “maybe she could still have been alive.”
A total of 73 minutes passed before law enforcement stopped the 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle.
The loss has been worsened, according to Cazares, by the refusal of people in power to take responsibility for their failures, to fill in the details for the grieving parents who need to know more about what happened each minute of that deadly day, to own up to fateful mistakes and remove those who made them, to make sure the families get the support they need when they need it, and to change gun laws.
“The first couple months, you know, it still seemed unreal,” he said. “And now, it’s like betrayal.”
A new CNN special on Sunday by Shimon Prokupecz revealed new video footage not previously made public of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.
After an hour of doing nothing, the shooter was finally dead, and police moved in.
The show opens with the sound of gunfire from the shooter and from the police. The next scene is a group of officers finally entering the classroom. What follows is a collection of body camera footage showing officers vomiting outside. Others were sobbing and holding each other. A different video showed an officer shaking while trying to clean blood off their hands.
Before that, the video that was released showed the police standing around, trying to figure out what to do.
Sorry, but the blood is still on their hands, and they’ll never be able to wash it off.
The footage that CNN showed was approved by the parents to reveal to the public. Prokupecz explained to viewers that the families hope that showing the footage in the special will help create more motivation to do something more to help stop the mass shootings.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told Prokupecz that they’ve fought for the information previously blocked from the public. In some cases, it’s only because of the media that any parents can access information about what happened that day.
Biden and McCarthy are meeting again today about the debt limit. The New York Times:
President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed on Sunday to meet on Monday afternoon to try to jump-start talks aimed at averting a default on the nation’s debt, capping a tumultuous stretch of negotiations that faltered over the weekend as the two sides clashed over Republicans’ demands to cut spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.
Mr. McCarthy announced the meeting — his third with Mr. Biden this month, scheduled for after the president’s return from the Group of 7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan — after he concluded a call with the president on Sunday sounding more sanguine than before about the prospects for a deal.
The speaker said House G.O.P. and White House negotiators would continue talks at the Capitol on Sunday to lay the groundwork. White House negotiators left the Capitol on Sunday night after a two-and-a-half-hour bargaining session with their Republican counterparts but said they intended to keep working before Monday’s session.
Mr. Biden “walked through some of the things that he’s still looking at, he’s hearing from his members; I walked through things I’m looking at,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I felt that part was productive. But look — there’s no agreement. We’re still apart.”
I sure hope that Biden isn’t going to back down like Obama did in 2011.
On Ukraine, The New York Times reports: Biden Announces More Aid for Ukraine as Group of 7 Powers Meet in Japan.
HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Biden and other leaders of the world’s major industrial democracies rallied around Ukraine on Sunday with vows of resolute support and promises of further weapons shipments even as Russian forces claimed to have seized full control of a bitterly contested city.
Mr. Biden and his counterparts figuratively and, in some cases, literally wrapped their arms around President Volodomyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who made an audacious journey halfway around the world from his ravaged homeland to Hiroshima, Japan, to solicit aid for the first time in person from the Group of 7 powers at their annual summit.
“Together with the entire G7, we have Ukraine’s back, and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Zelensky while announcing another $375 million in artillery, ammunition and other arms for Ukraine. At a later news conference, Mr. Biden voiced defiance of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
“I once more shared and assured President Zelensky, together with all G7 members and our allies and partners around the world, that we will not waver,” he said. “Putin will not break our resolve, as he thought he could.”
Zelensky got what he has long asked for.
Mr. Zelensky won the major prize he sought a day before arriving in Hiroshima when Mr. Biden reversed himself and agreed to make it possible for Ukraine to obtain F-16 warplanes. Mr. Biden on Sunday defended his long reluctance to allow such jets to be sent to Ukraine by saying the time had not yet been right and arguing that they would not have stopped Russia from taking Bakhmut in months of grinding ground combat.
“F-16s would not have helped in that regard at all,” he told reporters. “It was unnecessary. For example, let’s take just Bakhmut, for example. It would not have any additional added consequence.”
In authorizing the F-16 training now, Mr. Biden said he was preparing Ukraine for the day down the road when it would need to deter further Russian aggression.
A new story from Hugh Lowell of The Guardian on the stolen Trump documents investigation: Trump was warned about retaining classified documents, notes reveal.
Federal prosecutors have evidence Donald Trump was put on notice that he could not retain any classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return last year, as they examine whether the subsequent failure to fully comply with the subpoena was a deliberate act of obstruction by the former president.
The previously unreported warning conveyed to Trump by his lawyer Evan Corcoran could be significant in the criminal investigation surrounding Trump’s handling of classified materials given it shows he knew about his subpoena obligations.
Last June, Corcoran found roughly 40 classified documents in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and told the justice department that no further materials remained at the property. That was later shown to be untrue, after the FBI later returned with a warrant and seized 101 additional classified documents.
Biden advisers believe they can hold up what the GOP governor calls his “Florida blueprint” as a warning to the country about what would happen if DeSantis or any other Republican wins the White House in 2024 – a human embodiment, essentially, of Biden’s argument that “MAGA extremism” goes beyond Donald Trump.
And along the way, they believe the Florida governor’s record may give them a chance at the state’s 30 electoral votes.
The Biden campaign has quietly started putting campaign cash and efforts into Florida – and will decide in the coming months whether to put more – as it gauges the president’s chances of reversing the reddening of a state he lost by a wider-than-expected margin in 2020.
It’s an insurance policy strategy for a campaign that has so far almost exclusively focused on Biden as the alternative to Trump, who continues to lead Republican primary polls and whom DeSantis has already spent months trying to knock out of the way.
And it comes as Biden advisers push back on ongoing criticism from Florida Democrats that they flubbed their chance last year to damage DeSantis early by not investing much energy or money against him as he ran for reelection, racking up a whopping 19-point victory and tens of millions in campaign funds, likely now headed to a supportive super PAC.
“They’ve realized the outcome of their negligence. [DeSantis] now has a lot of resources that he can use,” said former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who won a Miami-area House seat in the 2018 blue wave but lost it two years later as Trump carried the state. “You don’t want to lose your democracy? You want to stop fascism? Then do something about his reelection. We could have stopped [DeSantis] in 2022. No one did anything.”
That’s all I have for you today. This is an open thread–please feel free to discuss these stories or post your own suggested links on any topic.
Extra Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: April 29, 2023 Filed under: American Gun Fetish, Cats, caturday, Criminal Justice System, Donald Trump, ethics, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion, AR-15, Dobbs decision, Jane Roberts, John Roberts, mass shootings, nuclear weapons, Samuel Alito, stolen classified documents case, Texas, Trump fund-raising, Ukraine, Wire fraud 14 Comments
I’m getting a very slow start this morning. It feels like everything is kind of awful today, as it often is lately. The politics news is bad enough, but sadly there’s been another mass shooting and the perpetrator is still at large. Not surprisingly, it’s in Texas, and of course the weapon was an AR-15.
ABC News: 5 dead in Texas ‘execution-style’ shooting, suspect armed with AR-15 is on the loose.
Five people are dead after being shot in a Texas home by a suspect armed with an AR-15 style rifle in a horrific series of “execution style” shootings, police said.
A manhunt is currently underway for the suspect, identified by police as 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza, according to ABC station KTRK in Houston.
A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Oropeza and assigned a $5 million bond. Authorities believe Oropeza left by walking or on a bicycle and is currently within a two mile radius of the scene, KTRK reported.
Police said the incident occurred at 11:31 p.m. local time on Friday when officials from the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office received a call about harassment in the town of Cleveland, about 55 miles north of Houston.
When authorities arrived at the location, they found several victims shot at the property, police said. Three of the deceased were females and two were males, including the youngest, an 8-year-old boy.
Two female victims were discovered in the bedroom lying on top of two surviving children, authorities told ABC News.
Three minors were located uninjured, but covered in blood. They were transported to a local hospital.
Police said they believe the massacre occurred after neighbors asked the suspect to stop shooting his gun in the front yard because there was a baby trying to sleep.
“My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said ‘Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that’s trying to go to sleep,” and he had been drinking and he says ‘I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,'” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.
WTF?! I’m at a complete loss for words. There’s more insanity at the link.
Yesterday we got more shocking news about our out-of-control Supreme Court.
Sammy Alito gave a pathetic, whiny interview to James Taranto and David Rivkin of The Wall Street Journal: Justice Samuel Alito: ‘This Made Us Targets of Assassination.’
Justice Samuel Alito was supposed to speak to law students at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., but when they showed up, he wasn’t there….
It wasn’t a lingering fear of Covid-19. In a mid-April interview in his chambers, Justice Alito fills us in on the May 12, 2022, event: “Our police conferred with the George Mason Police and the Arlington Police and they said, ‘It’s not a good idea. He shouldn’t come here. . . . The security problems will be severe.’ So I ended up giving the speech by Zoom,” he says. “Still, there were so many protesters and they were so loud that you could hear them.”
By now a noisy mob of law students may sound like any other school day, but last May also was a tumultuous time for the court. The preceding week, someone had leaked a draft of Justice Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a landmark abortion case that wouldn’t be decided until late June….
He now says that the leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. . . . But it was damaging.”
It was damaging for millions of American women and for doctors too, but Sammy is oblivious to that. Alito also believes he knows who the leaker is.
“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” he says. He’s certain about the motive: “It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft . . . from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside—as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”
That campaign included unlawful assemblies outside justices’ homes, and that wasn’t the worst of it. “Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” Justice Alito says. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.” On June 8, an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh; the suspect was later charged with attempted assassination and has pleaded not guilty.
This man is delusional. No one suggested preventing the decision by murdering one of the justices. People peacefully demonstrated outside their homes. One crazy guy showed up outside Kavanaugh’s house and then turned himself into to police without doing anything.
He adds that “I don’t feel physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He is “driven around in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.” Deputy U.S. marshals guard the justices’ homes 24/7. (The U.S. Marshals Service, a bureau of the Justice Department, is distinct from the marshal of the court, who reports to the justices and oversees the Supreme Court Police.)
He’s a lot safer than women who are refused care after miscarriages until they are at death’s door, but Sammy couldn’t care less about them. He is also ignorant of the history of protests against Supreme Court justices.
Anyway, read the interview at the the WSJ if you can stomach it.
Yesterday, Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz broke a story about John Roberts ethical problems: Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show.
Two years after John Roberts’ confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot. After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms.
Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was now the highest-ranking judge in the country. “There are many paths to the good life,” she said. “There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.”
And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least for the years 2007 to 2014. During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated a whopping $10.3 million in commissions, paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them.
That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.
“When I found out that the spouse of the chief justice was soliciting business from law firms, I knew immediately that it was wrong,” the whistleblower, Kendal B. Price, who worked alongside Jane Roberts at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Insider in an interview. “During the time I was there, I was discouraged from ever raising the issue. And I realized that even the law firms who were Jane’s clients had nowhere to go. They were being asked by the spouse of the chief justice for business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there was no one to complain to. Most of these firms were likely appearing or seeking to appear before the Supreme Court. It’s natural that they’d do anything they felt was necessary to be competitive.”
Roberts’ apparent $10.3 million in compensation puts her toward the top of the payscale for legal headhunters. Price’s disclosures, which were filed under federal whistleblower-protection laws and are now in the hands of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, add to the mounting questions about how Supreme Court justices and their families financially benefit from their special status, an area that Senate Democrats are vowing to investigate after a series of disclosure lapses by the justices themselves.
No wonder Roberts is resisting any serious ethics rules for his powerful court. Unfortunately he’s not alone. Even the liberal justices don’t want ethics rules. The three branches of government are supposed to be equal, but the Supremes are behaving as if their branch is more equal than the other two.
ABC News: All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says.
There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code.
All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal.
The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.
“The justices … consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues,” the members of the high court said in a document titled “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices.”
It appears to be the first time an entire court has publicly explained its approach to ethics issues and attested to specific parts of federal law governing their conduct.
The justices’ statement, appended to a letter from Chief Justice John Roberts to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appears squarely aimed at answering critics’ concerns and demands from some for outside oversight.
“Without a formal code of conduct, without a way to receive ethics complaints and without a way to investigate them, the Supreme Court has set itself apart from all other federal institutions,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a left-leaning judicial watchdog group that has been lobbying Congress to mandate a high court code.
Durbin said Thursday in a statement that the justices’ explanation of their approach to ethics “raises more questions than it resolves.”
“Make no mistake,” he said, “Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not.”
I hope Durbin is prepared to keep pushing this.
Two stories on Trump’s crimes:
The New York Times: Prosecutors in Jan. 6 Case Step up Inquiry Into Trump Fund-Raising.
As they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.
The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.
In the past several months, prosecutors have issued multiple batches of subpoenas in a wide-ranging effort to understand Save America, which was set up shortly after the election as Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising entity. An initial round of subpoenas, which started going out before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in the 2024 race and Mr. Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in November, focused on various Republican officials and vendors that had received payments from Save America.
But more recently, investigators have homed in on the activities of a joint fund-raising committee made up of staff members from the 2020 Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, among others. Some of the subpoenas have sought documents from around Election Day 2020 up the present.
Prosecutors have been heavily focused on details of the campaign’s finances, spending and fund-raising, such as who was approving email solicitations that were blasted out to lists of possible small donors and what they knew about the truth of the fraud claims, according to the people familiar with their work. All three areas overlap, and could inform prosecutors’ thinking about whether to proceed with charges in an investigation in which witnesses are still being interviewed.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Dennis Aftergut at Justia: Trump’s Nonsensical Letter to Congress Attacking the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago Case Shows He Has No Defense.
On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a desperate, 10-page letter to Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The punch line comes in its conclusion: “DOJ should be ordered to stand down” in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump for obstructing justice in his 18 months of stonewalling the return of classified documents improperly held at Mar-a-Lago.
Of course, Congress has no such power. Ironically, the letter achieved something completely unintended. It effectively confirmed that Trump has no viable defense against the likely Justice Department charges for Trump’s obstruction.
The letter also revealed for the first time that the classified documents recovered in the August 7, court-approved search of Trump’s country club home may include briefings of foreign leaders.
It’s hard to know what Trump was trying to achieve beyond “spin.” No crimes to see here, the letter lamely contends.
His lawyers assert that Trump didn’t knowingly possess or retain top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. His aides were just sloppy, the letter says, in the rushed process of leaving the White House, and Trump didn’t even know the classified documents were there. Even Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden inadvertently took classified documents after their time in office.
If these contentions are a preview of Trump’s defenses to an indictment from Smith’s grand jury, Jack Smith can rest easy. The arguments are so abysmally weak that they leave any knowledgeable observer with a simple inference: Trump and his lawyers know an indictment is coming soon and there’s nothing they can do about it but offer smoke and mirrors.
Like asking Congressman Turner to investigate the need for legislation to address the lack of controls on classified documents that elected officials unintentionally take when leaving public service. Here’s the problem for the former president and his letter: Jack Smith has mountains of evidence that contradict Trump’s claim that his improper possession and retention of those classified documents was inadvertent.
Read more at the link.
I haven’t been following the war in Ukraine very closely, but this NYT headline caught my attention: U.S. Wires Ukraine With Radiation Sensors to Detect Nuclear Blasts.
The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.
In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago, experts have worried about whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would use nuclear arms in combat for the first time since the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The preparations, mentioned last month in a House hearing and detailed Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Energy Department, seem to constitute the hardest evidence to date that Washington is taking concrete steps to prepare for the worst possible outcomes of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s second largest nation.
The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation.
In a statement sent to The New York Times in response to a reporter’s question, the agency said the network of atomic sensors was being deployed “throughout the region” and would have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion.” Additionally, it said the deployed sensors would deny Russia “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution.”
Read more details at the NYT.
I’m going to end there. What else is happening? What stories have captured your interest today?
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: March 4, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: CPAC, Dominion lawsuit, Fox News, George Conway, gossip, Joe Biden, Kellyanne Conway, Merrick Garland, Michael Beschloss, odds and ends, Ron De Santis, Rupert Murdoch, Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine 23 Comments
I’m not finding a lot of exciting stories today, which is actually fine with me, because I’m going through one of my periods of being burned out on political news. So once again, I’m offering a mixed bag of odds and ends that I found interesting. Here goes…
CPAC is still in the news and, as Dakinikat indicated yesterday, it’s even more bizarre than ever before.
Steve Reilly and Maggie Severns with a long read at Grid: Why does CPAC seem extra weird this year? How CPAC went from launching the Reagan era to “Schlapp Inc. and the Trump grifters.”
Its sponsors include multiple organizations founded by convicted criminals. Key speaking slots are filled with prominent election deniers. Many top Republicans are keeping their distance.
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the most troubled parts of the conservative movement were on full display.
“It has transformed itself into a Donald Trump-supporting group fully engaged with election deniers, culture wars and indicted guests,” said Al Cardenas, who led the American Conservative Union (ACU), which produces the event, from 2011 to 2014.
“It’s Schlapp, Inc. and Trump grifters,” said GOP strategist Dennis Lennox, who has attended CPAC since 2007, referring to CPAC and Matt Schlapp, the current head of the ACU, who faces his own legal problems.
Sponsors in years past have included blue chip companies like Google and pillars of the conservative movement like the Heritage Foundation, the National Review and the Washington Times.
Among this year’s CPAC sponsors: America’s Frontline Doctors, whose founder Simone Gold was sentenced to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the #WalkAway Foundation, whose leader Brandon Straka was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and admitting he recorded himself telling Capitol rioters to “go go go.”
Other sponsors include New Federal State of China, a lobbying group cofounded by former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was convicted in July 2022 of contempt of Congress. Real America’s Voice, a network that broadcasts Bannon’s “War Room” program on which 2020 election falsehoods continue to prevail, is also a sponsor, with a large booth for broadcasting outfitted in red, white and blue signage.
Reilly and Severns trace the history of CPAC beginning in the 1970s and describe how it has devolved over the years.
Isaac Arsdorf and Meryl Kornfield at The Washington Post: Haley heckled as Trump movement asserts its dominance at shrunken CPAC.
It’s a mystery to me what these people see in Trump. He has only sunk deeper into dementia over the past two years, but he symbolizes something for these strange people–maybe it’s just that he gives them permission to hate.
Daniel Dale at CNN: Fact check: Republicans at CPAC make false claims about Biden, Zelensky, the FBI and children.
The Conservative Political Action Conference is underway in Maryland. And the members of Congress, former government officials and conservative personalities who spoke at the conference on Thursday and Friday made false claims about a variety of topics.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio uttered two false claims about President Joe Biden. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia repeated a debunked claim about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama used two inaccurate statistics as he lamented the state of the country. Former Trump White House official Steve Bannon repeated his regular lie about the 2020 election having been stolen from Trump, this time baselesly blaming Fox for Trump’s defeat.
Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida incorrectly said a former Obama administration official had encouraged people to harass Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina inaccurately claimed Biden had laughed at a grieving mother and inaccurately insinuated that the FBI tipped off the media to its search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Two other speakers, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka, inflated the number of deaths from fentanyl.
And that’s not all. Here is a fact check of 13 false claims from the conference, which continues on Saturday.
Head over to CNN to read the detailed list of lies with corrections.
Fallout continues from the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.
The Hollywood Reporter: Rupert Murdoch, Fox Corp. Sued For Sharing Biden’s Presidential Ads Before They Aired.
A complaint has been filed against Fox Corp. and chairman Rupert Murdoch over allegations that the network chief gave confidential information in 2020 to former president Donald Trump’s campaign.
In a suit filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, progressive watchdog group Media Matters claims that Fox made an illegal contribution to Trump’s political action committee when Murdoch shared then-candidate Joe Biden’s campaign advertisements with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. The liberal nonprofit seeks the maximum fine allowable for violations of campaign contribution laws and “appropriate remedial action” against Fox, Murdoch and the Make America Great Again PAC for a “nefarious attempt by people in power to operate a press entity as a political organization.”
A filing in Dominion Voting System’s defamation suit against Fox included claims that Murdoch gave Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public. It cited a deposition from Murdoch and internal company communications.
The Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits campaign contributions from corporations, including direct or indirect gits of money or services. The FEC considers information about advertising, messaging and other campaign strategy a contribution, according to the complaint.
While there are press exemptions for violations of the FEC Act, the suit alleges that Fox wasn’t acting as a press entity. It stresses that the ads hadn’t aired at the time Murdoch provided the information to Kushner and that the ads were covertly shared to hide the alleged misconduct.\
“This ‘distribution’ is diametrically opposed to Fox Corporation’s regular press activity broadcasting news programming through television and radio outlets and online publications,” writes Angelo Carusone, a lawyer for Media Matters in the suit. “Murdoch’s secret conveyance of the Biden advertisement is even less like press activity than a cablecasting company sending campaign flyers in its bills – and neither can be protected by the press Exemption.”
Politico: Dems want to cut Fox off after lawsuit revelations.
The thunderclap of stories showing Fox News’ role in pushing 2020 election fraud conspiracies and aiding Donald Trump’s campaign has intensified calls among Democrats to black out the network.
The revelations, made public as part of a $1.6 billion lawsuit brought against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems, showed that some network hosts and executives endorsed lies about Trump’s loss, hosted conspiracy theorists whom they thought were unhinged, and overtly prioritized the company’s profit over truth. A related deposition of the media empire’s chair, Rupert Murdoch, revealed that he shared private intel about Joe Biden’s campaign TV ads and provided debate strategy with top Trump advisers.
For years, Democrats have been engaged in a debate over whether the party should shun the cable news giant or grudgingly use its airwaves to run counterprogramming. But in the midst of the latest saga, a newer type of reaction has emerged: that they should sever all ties, including any money spent advertising on the network.
“There is nothing in those documents to show they operate like a real news organization,” said Doug Gordon, a Democratic strategist. “If you are running a campaign in 2024, how do you in good faith hand your ads to Fox when you know they handed them over to Republicans? If there are any general election debates, how do you let Fox be a moderator?”
There is no indication, at this juncture, that major Democratic entities are ready to halt their ad buys on Fox News, let alone its many affiliates. But that is partially because few Democratic campaigns or causes are currently spending ad money. In the interim, the Dominion lawsuit revelations have led to louder calls for the party to make a firm break from any involvement with the cable channel, whom they view as functionally a campaign arm for Republicans. Democrats spanning the ideological spectrum have even started calling on the White House Correspondents’ Association — the group of news reporters advocating for press access — to boot Fox News reporters from the briefing room.
I’m skeptical that the wimpy Democrats will actually follow through on any of this, but I’d love to be surprised.
Politico: The Trump world-Fox News war gets nasty.
In his first minute onstage at CPAC on Friday, Steve Bannon identified one of his top targets of the moment, an entity he claimed is opposing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at its own peril: Fox News.
The host of the popular War Room podcast and longtime Trump hand started by ripping the conservative channel for announcing that Joe Biden had won Arizona on election night in 2020.
“Fox News illegitimately called it for the opposition, and not Donald J. Trump,” the Trump adviser-turned-talk show host told the crowd in National Harbor, Maryland, an audience full of diehard MAGA supporters.
Ten minutes in, Bannon went after the network again, rousing the audience to their feet as he called out Fox for not having Trump on since he announced his campaign in November. He called out Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. founder who sits atop the media empire.
“Murdoch, you’ve deemed Trump’s not going to be president,” Bannon continued as the crowd roared with applause. “But we deem that you’re not going to have a network, because we’re going to fight you every step of the way.”
Far from random broadsides, Bannon’s screed against Fox News was the latest in what has become a hot war between MAGA world and the longtime conservative channel. Trump himself has gone off on Fox News before, often for coverage he has deemed unfair. But the current state of affairs — coming at the start of what promises to be a deeply contested GOP primary — is as strained as it has ever been.
Some news out of Ukraine
The New York Times: The U.S. attorney general meets with Zelensky during a surprise visit to Ukraine.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Friday to reaffirm America’s commitment to help hold Russia responsible for war crimes, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
Mr. Garland held several meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and foreign law enforcement officials in Lviv, while attending the United for Justice Conference, the department said in an email.
During the conference, Mr. Garland “reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbor,” the email said.
Mr. Zelensky, in his nightly address, said the thrust of the conference was to hold Russia’s leadership to account for atrocities committed by its army, a position he has hammered home repeatedly over the last year of war. “The main issue of all these meetings and the Lviv conference is accountability,” he said.
Mr. Garland’s visit, which was not public in advance for security concerns, comes on the heels of President Biden’s trip to Kyiv last month — and two days after Mr. Garland told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was determined to hold Russians accountable for war crimes they are committing in Ukraine.
Mr. Garland, a former federal judge whose family escaped the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, singled out Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Moscow-allied Wagner paramilitary group.
“Mr. Prigozhin, who runs this thing, is in my view a war criminal — and maybe that’s inappropriate for me to say as a judge before getting all the evidence,” Mr. Garland told the committee.
Mr. Garland added that he believes the group “is responsible for the attacks on Ukrainians in the Donbas” and accused them of using prisoners from Russia “as cannon fodder” in Ukraine.
A few gossipy odds and ends
NPR: Russia’s foreign minister gets laughed at over Ukraine remarks at a global conference.
Ever since Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, it has become rare for major international conferences to invite Russian officials. So, when an Indian think tank welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to speak, it made for some awkward exchanges.
This week, India’s Observer Research Foundation gathered academics, business executives and diplomats from the G-20, or Group of 20 economies, for a conference in Delhi known as the Raisina Dialogue.
On Friday, Lavrov took center stage of a Q&A session, where he voiced Moscow’s views on the war in Ukraine.
In one exchange, Lavrov received loud applause for accusing the West of having a double standard, noting its heavy criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite Western powers having invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. In another, the reaction was less positive.
“The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people,” he said.
Before Lavrov could finish his sentence, the audience laughed and groaned — loud enough for the foreign minister to pause and stumble on his words.
“Of course it influenced the policy of Russia, including the energy policy. And the blunt way to describe what is the change, what changed, we would not anymore rely on any partners in the West,” Lavrov added.
Page Six: Kellyanne Conway and George Conway to divorce after 22 years of marriage.
Page Six hears that Kellyanne Conway, the longtime advisor to President Donald Trump, and George Conway, the longtime tormentor of President Trump, have decided to divorce after 22 years of marriage.
Beltway insiders tell us that they’ve both lawyered up and that the two sides are hashing out the details of the split.
During the 2016 elections, Kellyanne served first as a campaign advisor to candidate Trump and then as his campaign manager, while her husband co-founded the Lincoln Project with the express purpose of keeping Trump out of the White House.
After the inauguration, she became senior counselor to the president, while George continued to lambast Trump at every opportunity on social media.
In 2022, Vanity Fair wrote that, “One of the greatest mysteries of the 21st century is the marriage of Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George — specifically, if they hate each other as much as their public commentary would suggest, or if the whole thing is some kind of three-dimensional chess designed to further their own interests.” [….]
The pair wed in 2001 and share four children, but their political differences during the Trump administration took a toll on their relationship.
In her 2022 memoir “Here’s the Deal,” Kellyanne said that she considered George’s steady barrage of criticism of the then-president a betrayal of their marriage, calling it “cheating by tweeting.” She also said that Ivanka Trump had suggested couples therapy.
Read the rest at the link.
The Washington Post: White House physician says small lesion removed from Biden’s chest was cancerous.
President Biden had one cancerous skin lesion removed from his chest on Feb. 16, his longtime doctor Kevin C. O’Connor said in a letter Friday. O’Connor said that all cancerous tissue was successfully removed, and no further treatment is needed.
The headline is a bit misleading, as Beschloss didn’t actually call Trump a cockroach; he just compared Trump’s ability to survive with cockroaches.
CNN Politics: DeSantis appointee to new Disney oversight board suggested tap water could turn people gay.
An appointee to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new oversight board in control of Disney’s special tax district called homosexuality “evil” last year and shared a baseless conspiracy theory that tap water could be making more people gay.
On Monday, the Republican governor appointed Ron Peri, an Orlando-based former pastor and the CEO of The Gathering – a Christian ministry focused on outreach to men – as one of five people who will now oversee the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body that has given Disney unique powers in Central Florida for more than half a century.
DeSantis signed a bill in February that allowed him to replace the district’s existing board – mostly people with ties to Disney – with a five-member body that he hand-picked. The move to remove power from Disney comes nearly a year after the company spoke out against a Florida bill – which DeSantis later signed into law – to restrict certain classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
A CNN KFile review of Peri’s past comments found that he frequently made derogatory remarks about the LGBTQ community.
“So why are there homosexuals today? There are any number of reasons, you know, that are given. Some would say the increase in estrogen in our societies. You know, there’s estrogen in the water from birth control pills. They can’t get it out,” Peri baselessly said in a January 2022 Zoom discussion, later put on YouTube. “The level of testosterone in men broadly in America has declined by 50 points in the past 10 years. You know, and so, maybe that’s a part of it.”
“But the big part I would suggest to you, based upon what it’s saying here, is the removal of constraint,” he continued. “So our society provided the constraint. And so, which is the responsibility of a society to constrain people from doing evil? Well, you remove the constraints, and then evil occurs.”
Read more at CNN.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?
Friday ReadsPosted: February 24, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, morning reads | Tags: Jack Smith, January 6 grand jury, Mar-a-Lago, Mike Pence, Speech and Debate clause, stolen government documents, Ukraine 17 Comments
I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she takes her cat Keely to the vet. Keely hasn’t had any problems since the seizure a few days ago, but she needs to be checked out and also get some shots. I’m curious to know what the vet thinks–I hope Dakinikat will update us later on.
The one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is getting lot of coverage today.
This is from The New York Times’ live updates: Here’s what to know on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With messages of support and new pledges of weapons, allies rallied around Ukraine on Friday as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion prompted shows of solidarity around the world and a mix of anxiety and resolve in Ukraine.
“We will be victorious,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference, saying that Ukraine could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons.
Even as leaders in Ukraine and around the world marked the anniversary with ceremonies and speeches, the fighting continued much as it has for the past year. The war has already done untold damage: Tens of thousands have been killed on both sides, millions of Ukrainians have been made homeless, and Ukraine has sustained tens of billions of dollars worth of damage that has left cities flattened and people around the country grappling with dark and cold.
But Ukrainians have also found strength in shared sacrifice, and hope in the setbacks their country’s forces have dealt Russia on the battlefield. Ukraine has largely stopped the offensives of its much larger and better-armed neighbor and has regained swathes of captured land, aided by the United States and its European allies, which have remained united, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to Kyiv.
The war has reverberated around the globe, reshaping and strengthening alliances, and affecting everything from grain prices to energy policy. But even as Russia found itself more isolated from the West, sanctions have failed to bring the country to its knees, and much of the rest of the world has continued to provide economic or diplomatic support to Moscow.
Read more details and updates at the NYT link.
From the AP: US commits $2 billion in drones, ammunition, aid to Ukraine.
The Pentagon announced a new package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with a $2 billion commitment to send more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones into the fight.
The announcement comes just days after President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv and pledged America’s continuing commitment to Ukraine. Biden told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people that “Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
In a statement Friday, the Pentagon said the aid includes weapons to counter Russia’s unmanned systems and several types of drones, including the upgraded Switchblade 600 Kamikaze drone, as well as electronic warfare detection equipment.
It also includes money for additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, artillery rounds and munitions for laser-guided rocket systems. But, in an unusual move, the Pentagon provided no details on how many rounds of any kind will be bought. Including this latest package, the U.S. has now committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion is a chance for all who believe in freedom “to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine.”
Biden was scheduled to meet virtually Friday with other Group of Seven leaders and Zelenskyy “to continue coordinating our efforts to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its war,” the White House said.
Those efforts include what the White House called “sweeping” sanctions on over 200 people and entities “to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine.” The Biden administration will also further restrict exports to Russia and raise tariffs on some Russian products imported to the U.S.
CNN has a story on the new sanctions: US Treasury takes ‘one of its most significant sanctions actions to date’ on anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The US Treasury Department on Friday took what it called “one of its most significant sanctions actions to date” to crack down on those aiding Moscow’s war against Ukraine, targeting Russia’s metals and mining sector, its financial institutions, its military supply chain and individuals and companies worldwide that are helping Moscow avoid existing sanctions.
These latest actions by the Treasury Department are among a series of new measures announced by the Biden administration Friday that are meant to strengthen Kyiv and deter those providing support to Moscow as the war enters its second year without signs of abating.
Friday’s sweeping actions are meant to fill in gaps in existing sanctions that have been imposed over the past year of the war and are intended to impair “key revenue generating sectors in order to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The administration on Friday imposed sanctions against a total of “over 200 individuals and entities, including both Russian and third-country actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that are supporting Russia’s war effort,” according to the White House fact sheet.
The latest tranche of Treasury Department sanctions target a total of 22 individuals and 83 entities, according to a Treasury Department news release, and were taken in coordination with the Group of 7 nations.
The US State Department also imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian officials and entities involved in the war and will take “steps to impose visa restrictions on 1,219 members of the Russian military, including officers, for actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Three Russian military officials – Artyom Igorevich Gorodilov, Aleksey Sergeyevich Bulgakov, and Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vasilyev – will be blocked from entering the US due to their involvement “in gross violations of human rights perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of wars,” Blinken said.
You can also check these two longer reads about Ukraine:
Defense One: EXCLUSIVE: Seven Former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders Say U.S. ‘Must Do Everything We Can’ for a Ukrainian Victory.
Politico has an oral history of the Russian invasion, compiled from hours of interviews by Politico reporters: ‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine.
There is some breaking news about the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents case. Both The Guardian and CNN are claiming exclusives.
The Guardian: Classified Trump schedules were moved to Mar-a-Lago after FBI search – sources.
Donald Trump’s lawyers found a box of White House schedules, including some that were marked classified, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in December because a junior aide to the former president had transported it from another office in Florida after the FBI completed its search of the property.
The former president does not appear to have played a direct role in the mishandling of the box, though he remains under investigation for the possible improper retention of national security documents and obstruction of justice. This previously unreported account of the retrieval was informed by two sources familiar with the matter.
Known internally as ROTUS, short for Receptionist of the United States, the junior aide initially kept the box at a converted guest bungalow at Mar-a-Lago called the “tennis cottage” after Trump left office, and she soon took it with her to a government-leased office in the Palm Beach area.
The box remained at the government-leased office from where the junior aide worked through most of 2022, explaining why neither Trump’s lawyer who searched Mar-a-Lago in June for any classified-marked papers nor the FBI agents who searched the property in August found the documents.
Around the time that Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago from his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey at the end of the summer, the junior aide was told that she was being relocated to a desk in the anteroom of Trump’s own office at Mar-a-Lago that previously belonged to top aide Molly Michael.
The junior aide retrieved her work belongings – including the box – from the government-leased office and took them to her new Mar-a-Lago workspace around September. At that time, the justice department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s retention of national security documents was intensifying.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
CNN: Exclusive: How a box with classified documents ended up in Trump’s office months after FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department wants to know how a box containing a handful of classified records scattered among copies of presidential schedules turned up at Mar-a-Lago late last year, well after several rounds of searches of the property by federal agents and aides to former President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith in recent weeks have interviewed a Trump aide who copied classified materials found in the box using her phone to put them onto a laptop. After a voluntary interview with the aide, prosecutors subpoenaed the password to the laptop, which she provided, according to one of the sources.
The classified documents contained in the box were discovered in December, after the Justice Department told Trump’s legal team to conduct yet another search for documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
People familiar with the Trump legal team’s efforts to locate documents describe a confusing chain of events that delayed discovery of the box, including having its contents uploaded to the cloud, emailed to a Trump employee, and moved to an offsite location before finally ending up back at a Mar-a-Lago bridal suite that is now Trump’s office – the very place that the FBI had searched just weeks earlier….
The odyssey of the box has been a recent focus of Smith’s investigation into the mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with the line of questioning from federal prosecutors. The haphazard handling of documents that ended up online, on computers and moved around to multiple locations could further complicate Trump’s case in an investigation with criminal implications.
One person who described the box’s movements and the special counsel’s inquiry into it described federal investigators as suspecting a “shell game with classified documents.” The person said Trump’s daily movements and instructions to staff are a core part of prosecutors’ questions as well.
More details at CNN.
Mike Pence is getting quite a bit of attention in the news today, and it’s not positive attention.
CBS News: Special counsel asks judge to compel Mike Pence to testify in Jan. 6 probe.
Federal prosecutors have asked the chief judge in Washington, D.C.’s federal court to compel former Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a grand jury subpoena and testify as a witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, three people familiar with the investigation told CBS News.
The motion to compel Pence’s testimony — filed in secret to Chief Judge Beryl Howell in recent days — came after lawyers for former President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege in response to Pence’s subpoena, the people said.
That assertion of executive privilege on Pence’s subpoena, the people added, is in line with how Trump’s team has responded to related subpoenas over the past year, with Trump’s attorneys often arguing that private conversations or interactions with a president should remain confidential….
Pence and his lawyers have also been preparing to invoke the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause as a means of protecting him from the investigation. That clause protects members of Congress from being questioned about their legislative actions by other branches of the federal government.
Pence contends his unique role as both a member of the executive branch and president of the Senate — who presided over Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021 — would be covered under the clause….
The motion to compel testimony filed by the special counsel’s office is the logical next step in a criminal probe, with prosecutors seeking to force a witness or third party to comply with a grand jury subpoena. Filed less than two weeks after news broke that Pence had received the subpoena, the legal document asks the court to uphold the subpoena’s legal authority and indicates Justice Department prosecutors are moving quickly in their attempt to get Pence before a grand jury.
Former federal judge Michael Luttig, who advised Pence when he was dealing with Trump’s pressure campaign to get Pence to try to overturn the 2020 election, has an op-ed in The New York Times today: Mike Pence’s Dangerous Gambit.
Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.
The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.
Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do. But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Another take on this issue from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Pence has no right to dodge a subpoena.
Former vice president Mike Pence is bent on demonstrating to the MAGA base that he is not about to help prosecute would-be coup instigator Donald Trump, the very person who seemed to delight in egging on the mob that called for Pence’s head. To that end, Pence has threatened to refuse to appear in response to the grand jury subpoena special counsel Jack Smith has issued.
Rather than deploy the executive-privilege defense (almost certainly a loser since President Biden has waived it; in any case, United States v. Nixon stands for the proposition that executive privilege generally gives way in a criminal prosecution), Pence has cited the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause. This passage from Article I protects lawmakers from arrest on the floor of Congress for things said there.
A close examination of Pence’s claim shows that the defense, even if valid in some respects, does not protect him from testifying about issues relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt.
The argument that the vice president is an officer of Congress, and hence covered by the clause, is reasonable. Andy Wright and Ryan Goodman writing at Just Security explain: “The Speech or Debate Clause is designed as a safeguard against politically motivated civil litigation or criminal prosecutions that can chill congressional debate or intimidate legislators.” Therefore, they conclude, “It makes sense that the protections should extend to a Vice President when acting as President of the Senate or in other legislative branch capacity.” The Justice Department already conceded as much in multiple civil suits brought against the vice president (both Pence and then-vice president Joe Biden).
Yet, there is a compelling argument that Pence’s use of the speech and debate clause is inconsistent with the clause’s purpose, which is to insulate members of Congress from pressure from the executive. It might also be argued (as retired judge Michael Luttig has) that Pence’s role on Jan. 6 was purely ceremonial, not legislative, and thus the speech and debate clause does not apply. After all, Pence himself argued that day that he had no legislative authority to nullify the electoral votes.
These points might be subjects of novel litigation. But the government need not dispute the clause’s relevance because a good deal of what Smith wants to investigate is beyond any legislative function, and hence outside the scope of the clause.
Read more at the WaPo.
That’s all I have for you today. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following?
Losar and Lundi Gras ReadsPosted: February 20, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: Faux News, Losar, lundi gras, mardi gras, Ukraine 24 Comments
Losar Tashi Delek to you, Sky Dancers! Happy 2150 to everybody!
So, it’s the beginning of a new year for those of us following the Buddhism of the Himalayas. Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, and I’m following the traditional old-school way of resting up the day before. Plus, Losar is a day to clean house; mine needs that more than I need to see a few parades.
When my kids were younger, we read Jataka stories during Spring break. These stories are lessons in developing a moral framework.
Ani Wangmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, reminded me of one story that always seemed sad and yet, heroic. This is an excellent lesson to think about on this auspicious day!
Irrelated to astrology, rabbit is one of the four harmonious friends from Buddhist folklore, sharing their living environment and collaborating peacefully. May all beings strive for such harmony in the world, in this year and beyond.
In a Jataka story a rabbit’s virtue draws attention of the gods, who challenge him to test the sincerity of his dedication to serving others. The rabbit sacrificed his life for others, and in his honour the gods imprinted his shape to the moon, so that when we look at it, we can always remember virtue. May we always selflessly strive to benefit all beings.
This story also reminds me of former President and Rosalyn Carter, who spent endless hours rebuilding and building homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Today, the story reminds me of other harmonious friends as President Biden’s surprise trip to Ukraine demonstrates our country’s unwavering commitment to democracy abroad, even if it’s endangered here at home. This is the headline from the New York Times. “Biden Visits Kyiv, Ukraine’s Embattled Capital, as Air-Raid Siren Sounds. President Biden took a nearly 10-hour train ride from the border of Poland to show his administration’s “unwavering support” nearly a year into Russia’s invasion.” Good for him because the FAUX nation wants to bail on them.
President Biden made a surprise trip to the embattled capital of Ukraine on Monday, traveling under a cloak of secrecy into a war zone to demonstrate what he called America’s “unwavering support” of the effort to beat back Russian forces nearly a year after they invaded the country.
Mr. Biden arrived early Monday morning to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the two stepped out into the streets of Kyiv even as an air-raid siren sounded, a dramatic moment that underscored the investment the United States has made in Ukraine’s independence.
“One year later, Kyiv stands,” Mr. Biden declared at Mr. Zelensky’s side in Mariinsky Palace, the gilded ceremonial home of the Ukrainian president. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”
“Thank you so much for coming, Mr. President, at a huge moment for Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said.
Mr. Biden promised to release another $500 million in military aid in coming days, mentioning artillery ammunition, Javelin missiles and Howitzers, but he did not talk about the advanced arms that Ukraine has sought. Mr. Zelensky told reporters that he and the president spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.”
This is from David Rothkopf at the Daily Beast. “Biden’s Trip to Kyiv is the Ultimate Humiliation for Putin—and Trump.” It should humiliate the Fucks at FAUX, but hey, they just care about their ratings.
Stirringly, just days ahead of the one year anniversary of Russia’s brutal offensive against Ukraine, Biden walked through the streets of Kyiv, paid his respects to those who had fallen in defense of Ukraine, and said, “Freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for, for as long as it takes.”
Biden also movingly invoked the conversation he had with Zelensky last February as Russia’s massive escalation of its nine-year-old war of unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. He recalled with Zelensky at his side, “You said you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again. That dark night…the world was literally bracing for the fall of Kyiv…perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”
Of course, the symbolism of the American president standing alongside Zelensky, walking through the Ukrainian capital even as air raid sirens sounded, carried many other messages as well.
To those fighting for Ukraine, it was a vitally important message of solidarity that came with further commitments from Biden of military support for Ukraine.
To Vladimir Putin, it was Biden’s way of saying, “I am here in Kyiv and you are not. You not only did not take Kyiv in days as some predicted, but your attack was rebuffed. Your army suffered a humiliating defeat from which it has not recovered.”
And, now we turn our eyes to the Fucks at Faux News. Mike Allen of Axios has this exclusive. “Scoop: McCarthy gives Tucker Carlson access to trove of Jan. 6 riot tape. “It’s not very comforting knowing that second in line to Biden is this fascist jerk.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 riot, McCarthy sources tell me.
- Carlson TV producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin digging through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks.
Why it matters: Carlson has repeatedly questioned official accounts of 1/6, downplaying the insurrection as “vandalism.”
- Now his shows — “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, and “Tucker Carlson Today” and “Tucker Carlson Originals” on the streaming service Fox Nation — have a massive trove of raw material.
Carlson told me: “[T]here was never any legitimate reason for this footage to remain secret.”
- “If there was ever a question that’s in the public’s interest to know, it’s what actually happened on January 6. By definition, this video will reveal it. It’s impossible for me to understand why any honest person would be bothered by that.”
There’s some more on the MAGA Propaganda Station today. Charles Kaiser writes this news at The Guardian, “How Dominion Voting Systems filing proves Fox News was ‘deliberately lying'”
Document makes clear senior Fox News figures knew after 2020 election voter fraud claims were false – and it’s likely a landmark case
The Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe said Dominion Voting Systems’ brief requesting summary judgment against Fox News for defamation – and $1.6bn – is “likely to succeed and likely to be a landmark” in the history of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
“I have never seen a defamation case with such overwhelming proof that the defendant admitted in writing that it was making up fake information in order to increase its viewership and its revenues,” Tribe told the Guardian. “Fox and its producers and performers were lying as part of their business model.”
The case concerns Fox News’s repetition of Donald Trump’s lie that his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden was the result of electoral fraud, including claims about Dominion voting machines.
Tribe said the filing “establishes that Fox was not only reckless” but also that producers, owners and personalities were “deliberately lying and knew they were lying about the nature of Dominion’s machines and the supposed way they could be manipulated”.
Filed last week, the 192-page document makes it clear that senior figures at Fox News from Rupert Murdoch down knew immediately after the election that claims of voter fraud, in particular those aimed at Dominion, were false.
Tucker Carlson called the charges “ludicrous” and “off the rails”. Sean Hannity texted about “F’ing lunatics”. A senior network vice-president called one of the stories “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS”.
But none of this knowledge prevented hosts from repeating lies about everything from imaginary algorithms shaving votes from Dominion machines to non-existent ties between the company and Venezuela
Tribe was one of several first amendment experts to call the filing nearly unprecedented.
More comments from the other expert witnesses are in the article at the link above.
Here are two articles showing how climate change is causing global havoc. BB’s Boston has hardly had a winter. It’s in the 80s in New Orleans for the end of the Carnivale season and the beginning of Lent. That’s a little early for those temperatures.
Ana Mano / Reuters:
Three dozen dead as Brazil rains cause calamity
Oliver Milman / The Guardian:
‘Not much time left’: Salt Lake City’s mayor on the Great Lake drying up
This is from last fall from the Yale Enviornment 360. “As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia. Warmer air is thinning most of the vast mountain range’s glaciers, known as the Third Pole, because they contain so much ice. The melting could have far-reaching consequences for flood risk and for water security for a billion people who rely on meltwater for their survival.”
Spring came early this year in the high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote border region of Pakistan. Record temperatures in March and April hastened melting of the Shisper Glacier, creating a lake that swelled and, on May 7, burst through an ice dam. A torrent of water and debris flooded the valley below, damaging fields and houses, wrecking two power plants, and washing away parts of the main highway and a bridge connecting Pakistan and China.
Pakistan’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, tweeted videos of the destruction and highlighted the vulnerability of a region with the largest number of glaciers outside the Earth’s poles. Why were these glaciers losing mass so quickly? Rehman put it succinctly. “High global temperatures,” she said.
Just over a decade ago, relatively little was known about glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the vast ice mountains that run across Central and South Asia, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. But a step-up in research in the past 10 years — spurred in part by an embarrassing error in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which predicted that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 — has led to enormous strides in understanding.
Like I said, Lundi Gras is still my day of rest! But here’s a look at what’s going on today! So, this is my peak holiday season! Y’all can keep that stuff after Halloween and before Twelfth night!
Have a great day, whatever you’re up to!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?