“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.
It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.
Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.
Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.
A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.
Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.
The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.
That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.
Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.
Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.
Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.
Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.
I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.
This is from a New York Times article on this new development:
The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.
Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.
The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….
Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.
Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….
Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.
Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.
There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.
From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.
Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.
“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”
The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….
Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.
Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.
There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:
In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.
“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.
The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.
Read more and see the emails at Politico.
There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.
As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.
During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.
And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.
In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.
All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.
At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.
Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.
More interesting stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.
Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.
Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!
We are living in perilous times. Thanks to Trump’s enabling of U.S. Neo-Nazis, we’re learning that these toxic groups are everywhere–even here in ultra-blue Massachusetts. Back in July, about 100 members of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston in matching outfits, their faces concealed by masks. It was quite a shock to local law enforcement and city leaders.
From The Boston Globe, July 23, 2022: The white-nationalist Patriot Front is getting bigger, and more visible, in New England.
Internal videos released this year by a nonprofit media groupshowed Patriot Front members in action—boxing in the woods in Sutton, spray-painting graffiti in Quincy, draping their banner from a Storrow Drive overpass in Boston, slapping on stickers in Providence’s Waterplace Park.
Despite New England’s reputation as a deeply blue region, those who’ve studied Patriot Front say that its local faction is among the group’s most active nationally, along with Virginia and Texas, where several of its leaders are based. The group, rooted in a notorious far-right rally in Virginia in 2017, is finding a receptive audience for its white supremacist ideology among certain young men — and has targeted colleges for recruitment.
In fact, there have been hundreds of incidents involving Patriot Front members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island this year alone, according to statistics compiled by the Anti-Defamation League. In addition, at least ninePatriot Front members or associates from across the region have faced charges stemming from their work for the group.
“These extremists perceive New England to have favorable racial demographics, which supposedly presents more opportunities to find like-minded people,”said Jeff Tischauser, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an e-mail. “Extremists around the U.S. also take inspiration from New England history before, during, and immediately after the American Revolution.”
The July 2 march in Boston, which caught law enforcement and much of the public by surprise, represented something of a coming out party for the organization in New England, drawing members from all over the country to the city’s streets on a bustling holiday weekend. The noisy march of young white men banging drums and hoisting Patriot Front flags along the city’s storied Freedom Trail made national headlines and drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Michelle Wu.
So I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising to learn that a police officer in Woburn, Massachusetts is a Neo-Nazi with ties to white supremacist leader Richard Spencer. Somehow John Donnelly was able to keep it a secret until he was smoked out by an anti-fascist group called Ignite the Right. Here’s the beginning of Twitter thread they posted. You can see the rest on Twitter.
Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: He Marched At The Nazi Rally In Charlottesville. Then He Went Back To Being A Cop.
A Massachusetts police officer attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, five years ago and acted in key security and planning roles, HuffPost has confirmed. He also used an alias to post racist and antisemitic comments online. The officer, John Donnelly, was still an active-duty member of the police force until Thursday, shortly after HuffPost inquired about his status with the department and role in the deadly white supremacist rally.
Donnelly, 33, was a patrolman for the Woburn Police Department near Boston, where he has been employed since 2015.
But on the morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Donnelly could be seen on video arriving at the Charlottesville rally with Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist for whom Donnelly was apparently acting as a security guard. Spencer, Donnelly and a coterie of other suit-and-tie fascists worked their way into a city park where they held court beneath a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, posing for photos and talking into livestreams.
Donnelly was among hundreds of white supremacists who invaded the university town. His fellow attendees violently attacked counterprotesters, with one neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of anti-fascists, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others. That evening, Donnelly went to a party at a house near Charlottesville, where he joined in a celebration of the day’s events.
Donnelly then returned to Massachusetts and resumed his job as a cop.
His white supremacist activism and involvement in the Charlottesville rally has gone unknown for five years, during which time Donnelly — while still working as a police officer — became the president of a “back the blue” nonprofit raising money for law enforcement, as well as an award-winning real estate agent whose face is featured on a massive billboard in Woburn, a Boston suburb.
But last month, an anti-fascist collective called Ignite the Right provided HuffPost with evidence showing Donnelly attended the Charlottesville rally and connecting him to a series of deeply alarming messages posted online in which he advocated violence against leftists and minority groups.
HuffPo contacted the Chief of Police in Woburn, and Donnelly is now out of a job. Read about how Ignite the Right identified this secret Nazi at the link above.
Here’s a follow-up story, also from Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: District Attorney To Review All Cases Handled By Cop Who Planned Charlottesville Nazi Rally.
A Massachusetts prosecutor has promised to review all cases handled by police Officer John Donnelly after a HuffPost report exposed Donnelly’s role in planning the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Middlesex County District Attorney Marina Ryan announced Friday that her office is now “thoroughly reviewing any pending or closed cases” in which Donnelly, a patrolman in Woburn, Massachusetts, was involved.
“We will be issuing a discovering notice disclosing this matter to defense counsel on those cases,” Ryan said in a statement. “That notice has already been added to our publicly available list of officers subject to exculpatory evidence disclosure.” [….]
On Thursday, HuffPost published a report detailing how Donnelly, 33, was among hundreds of white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville in August 2017 for a “Unite the Right” rally, terrorizing the town while chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” and violently attacking counterprotesters….
Donnelly attended the rally as a bodyguard for Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist. Leaked chat logs from a neo-Nazi Discord server show Donnelly played an integral part in planning the weekend’s events.
The messages Donnelly posted on Discord show he may have belonged to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. His messages were also full of racist and antisemitic slurs, and at times they advocated violence against leftists and minorities.
I usually don’t share local stories, but this is likely the tip of the iceberg. There are very likely many more police officers like Donnelly everywhere in the U.S. I suppose they were always there, but Trump has enabled them and given them permission to act out.
In other news, Trump is facing multiple investigations and prosecutors are getting closer to the FPOTUS. Here’s the latest.
The Washington Post: Judge bucks Trump, orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury.
A former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence returned before agrand jury Thursday to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled President Donald Trump’s objections to the testimony, according to people familiar with the matter.
In a sealed decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that was not available from other sources, one of those people said.
Trump appealed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to postpone Short’s appearance while the litigation continues, the people said, signaling that attempts by Trump to invoke executive privilege to preserve the confidentiality of presidential decision-making were not likely to prevail….
Grand jury matters are typically secret, but The Washington Post has reported that prosecutors are working with grand jurors and looking extensively at the actions of Trump and his advisers in the period between the November 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021. Short’s case came to light on Sept. 22 after Trump attorneys M. Evan Corcoran, Timothy C. Parlatore and Rowley were seen at federal court in Washington when there were no publicly scheduled matters, along with a lead Jan. 6 federal prosecutor, Thomas Windom.
According to people familiar with the matter, Short had appeared before a grand jury in downtown Washington in July, but declined to answer certain questions after Flood argued the communications of top White House advisers are protected — and presented written documentation from Trump’s lawyers that they were asserting executive privilege.
The Justice Department asked the court to intervene, urging Howell to override Trump’s claim and to compel Short to answer questions about his communications with Trump, one person said. After arguments Sept. 22, Howell granted the government’s motion, the people said, but because the investigation and an appeal are ongoing, it is unclear if or when a redacted opinion will become public.
How long before Pence himself has to testify?
Julia Ainsley and Ali Vitali at NBC News: Congress asks Secret Service for an account of all contacts between agency, Oath Keepers up to and on Jan. 6, 2021.
The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection has asked the Secret Service for records of all communications between the far-right Oath Keepers group and Secret Service agents prior to and on the day of the attack, after a preliminary accounting by the agency indicated multiple contacts in 2020, according to a Secret Service spokesman.
The spokesman said the Congressional request follows a short telephonic briefing from the Secret Service to committee staff, in which the agency said an agent from its protective intelligence division had “numerous” contacts with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other group members prior to Trump rallies in fall 2020, but that they were all part of common practice to inform the group of security protocols to follow.
That initial briefing was prompted by federal trial testimony in which the ex-leader of the North Carolina Oath Keepers said Rhodes was in contact with a member of the Secret Service around the time of a September 2020 rally….
The Secret Service found that multiple members of the organization, not just Rhodes, spoke to an agent in the protective intelligence division ahead of Trump rallies, the most recent conversation coming before a Dec. 12, 2020, rally, Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi also said the initial search showed the communications were part of common practices that allow agents to tell protesters where they can and cannot be during an event and what items they are prohibited from bringing.
“They reached out concerning logistics about demonstration areas and rules for attending presidential events. This is common activity between organized groups and advance agents,” said Guglielmi.
Two Secret Service officials told NBC News once the Oath Keepers had the phone number of the member of the agency’s protective intelligence detail, they made numerous calls directly to that agent.
Maybe it was routine, maybe not. I’m taking everything the Secret Service says with a grain of salt.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: U.S. Asks Court to End Special Master Review of Files Seized From Trump.
In a 53-page brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, the Justice Department broadly challenged the legal legitimacy of orders last month by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who blocked investigators from using the materials and appointed an independent arbiter to sift them for any that are potentially privileged or Mr. Trump’s personal property.
The Justice Department already succeeded in persuading a panel of the Atlanta-based court to exempt about 100 documents marked classified from Judge Cannon’s move — a decision the Supreme Court declined to overturn this week. In its new filing, the Justice Department asked the appeals court to reverse her order for the remaining 11,000 or so records.
“This court has already granted the government’s motion to stay that unprecedented order insofar as it relates to the documents bearing classification markings,” the filing said. “The court should now reverse the order in its entirety for multiple independent reasons.” [….]
The Trump legal team is due to file a brief in November. The date of any oral arguments has not yet been announced, but the appeals court has granted a Justice Department request that it expedite consideration of the case. It may rule on the appeal before Judge Cannon receives the special master’s report and rules on any contested documents.
The dispute is the opening round in the main part of the Justice Department’s appeal of the orders by Judge Cannon as part of a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed after the F.B.I. carried out a court-ordered search of his Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, in August.
The Wall Street Journal: FBI Seeks Additional Information From Two Trump Aides About Mar-a-Lago Records.
Federal investigators contacted at least two aides to former President Donald Trump months before the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort and have sought to talk to them again in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said, as the Justice Department examines possible obstruction of its efforts to retrieve hundreds of government and classified documents.
The aides, Walt Nauta and Will Russell, are witnesses in the Justice Department’s investigation into the handling of presidential and classified records taken from the White House but aren’t formally cooperating with the probe, the people said. Mr. Russell hasn’t personally spoken to investigators, who are communicating directly with his counsel.
Mr. Nauta, a former military valet who went to work at Mar-a-Lago after Mr. Trump left the White House, was seen on surveillance footage moving boxes from a storage room before and after investigators issued a subpoena in May seeking the documents’ return, the people said. Mr. Nauta told investigators that he did so at Mr. Trump’s request, one of the people said.
The federal interest in Mr. Russell hasn’t been previously reported. He served in the Trump White House, including as a coordinator of presidential travel, and went on to work for the former president in Florida after he left office. Mr. Russell had previously been subpoenaed in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The FBI’s questioning of Mr. Nauta was earlier reported by the New York Times….
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the extraordinary Aug. 8 search came after at least one person familiar with the stored papers told investigators there were more sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago beyond what they had received in June through a grand jury subpoena.
Those two had better watch their backs. Now that their names are out there they’ll likely be dealing with death threats from the Trump cult.
More stories to check out:
Op-Ed by Norman Eisen, Danielle Brian and The Jan. 6 Hearings Are Over. These 3 Things Must Happen Now.
Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: Donald Trump Tried to Destroy the Constitution. What will it take for millions of Americans to care?
The Daily Beast: Creepy Message Shows Oath Keepers’ Bloodlust for Mike Pence.
That’s all I have for today. What stories are you following?