Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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Responding to an order from the special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, the Department of Justice last night filed a revised list of the items taken from Mar-a-Lago during a search of the premises on August 8. Judge Dearie ordered the filing in response to implications made by lawyers for Donald Trump in court and in previous court filings that the FBI had planted evidence among the documents and items taken from the Palm Beach estate.
While Trump’s lawyers couched their allegations in legalese, Trump himself has come right out and stated that the FBI planted evidence when they searched Mar-a-Lago, most recently when he described to an interviewer on Newsmax the “ransacked” appearance of his residence when he visited the place recently.
Because the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had removed 100 folders of classified documents from the purview of the special master and returned them to the DOJ for use in its criminal investigation of Trump, Dearie limited his order for the revised inventory to the 11,000 non-classified documents, official government photographs, news clippings, Time covers, North Korean dictator mash notes, and other items the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago.
In addition to updating its inventory, adding about 55 items to its previous list of seized materials, the FBI agent in charge of the search filed an affidavit with the special master certifying that an additional review of the seized items had been done.
“In order to ensure that the Detailed Property Inventory was accurate, I and FBI personnel working under my direction conducted an additional review and recount of the Seized Materials in order to make this declaration,” the lead FBI agent wrote. “That additional review and recount resulted in some minor revisions to the Detailed Property Inventory.”
The only other revision to the original inventory involved the total number of empty classified folders the FBI previously said it had found, which was 48. The FBI had reported finding two empty classified folders in a box in the storage room at Mar a Lago. The updated inventory states that was a mistake, and lists the 46 empty classified folders found in Trump’s office as the only ones found during the search.
Interestingly, the FBI has now certified that all of the empty classified folders came from Trump’s office, clearly implying that if the empty folders had once held classified documents, they were removed by someone with access to Trump’s office. Trump himself had access to his Mar-a-Lago office, along with a very short list of close aides, all of whom can be served with subpoenas and questioned about the empty folders and whether they removed any classified documents from them, or know who did.
Legal experts on MSNBC and CNN are practically unanimous in describing Dearie’s order as a “put up or shut up” moment for Trump. He has until Friday to respond to the DOJ filing. The Trump response must affirm or deny that the FBI’s revised list is accurate, and if Trump alleges that it is inaccurate, list any documents or other materials that Trump contends do not belong to him or were not present at Mar-a-Lago at the time of the search, and list anything that Trump claims belongs to him that is missing from the inventory. The response will be a sworn document subject to charges of perjury and/or contempt of court.
Trump will not cease shooting his mouth off about the “corruption” in the FBI or lying about the planting of evidence at Mar-a-Lago.. But anything Trump says on Newsmax or on his pathetic Truth Social app may be used against him in future court proceedings of the special master and by prosecutors who may bring charges against him for mishandling the government-owned documents, classified and unclassified, or for removing them from the White House in the first place.
Trump built the mousetrap that his demand for a special master has turned into, and he’s got his snout sitting right on its trigger.
Watch this space for updates.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can read his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter
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Efforts to reform the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law whose quirks and ambiguities became a roadmap for Donald Trump and his allies to try to subvert congressional certification of 2020’s Electoral College vote, moved a step closer in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday.
The Senate Rules Committee, in a bipartisan 14-to-1 vote, approved a bill that clarified state and congressional procedures for the final stages of certifying presidential election results. The bill explicitly seeks to prevent the abuses that led to the insurrection on January 6, 2021.
“I’m pleased that we are where we are today,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who voted to send the bill to the full Senate. “Assuming that we make no changes here today, or, at most, technical changes, I’ll be proud to vote for it and to help advance it.”
The Electoral Count Act (ECA) was passed after one of the 19th century’s most disputed elections. Like 2020’s presidential election, that contest also saw states sending competing Electoral College slates to Congress and violence at the Capitol. The ECA, which took years to write, is notorious for garbled and dense passages that Trump’s most aggressive supporters sought to exploit to subvert Joe Biden’s victory in November 2020.
The remedy, The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act or S.4573, seeks to blunt the cornerstones of Trump’s attempted coup.
“The Electoral Count Act was largely overlooked for over 130 years, but it was at the center of a plan to overturn the 2020 election and the will of the American people, that, as we all know who work here, culminated in a violent mob desecrating the Capitol,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the rules committee. “They did this by making false claims that this law allowed the vice president to refuse to accept Electoral College votes that were lawfully cast, by recruiting state legislators to declare a failed election and appoint their own [presidential] electors, and by exploiting the fact that the law allows one single senator and one single representative to object to a state’s Electoral College votes and use baseless claims to delay the count in Congress.”
The bill is the result of a bipartisan group of 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans working for months to create a narrowly focused bill that prevents abuse by either party if their candidate loses. Klobuchar and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the rules committee’s ranking minority member, highlighted four primary areas in the legislation.
“The bill explicitly rejects, once and for all, the false claims that the vice president has authority to accept or reject Electoral [College] votes. It makes it clear that the vice president role during the joint session is ceremonial,” Klobuchar said. “Second, it raises the threshold to challenge the electoral votes [of any state] during the joint session of Congress to guard against baseless claims. Right now, just two people out of the 535 members can object and slow down and gum up the counting. This bill would raise the threshold to one-fifth of Congress.”
“It replaces the undefined and controversial ‘failed election’ clause [in the 1887 law] and ensures that states can’t overturn the results of an election,” Blunt said, referring to state legislatures overriding their state’s popular vote for president. “It provides for an expedited federal court process to ensure states issue [presidential Electoral College] certifications after the [popular vote result of the election] has been certified in their state.”
The only rules committee member to object to the bill and vote against it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who claimed that it was a federal power grab.
McConnell, however, called the bill “common sense” and said that it – not a recently House-passed ECA reform bill – was the “only bipartisan compromise… [that can] become law.”
“It’s common sense… that the vice president obviously has no personal discretion or power over the presidential vote,” McConnell said. “It is common sense to protect states' primacy in appointing their electors, but also strengthen requirements that states publicize their rules before the elections and stick to them. It’s common sense to make technical fixes to other related laws like the Presidential Transition Act. And it's common sense that our colleagues leave chaos-generating bad ideas on the cutting-room floor.”
Several voting rights organizations praised the committee’s action. But they also noted that it was the only pro-democracy legislation that stood a chance of emerging from Congress after the 2020 presidential election, which they said was insufficient.
"Fixing the Electoral Count Act is critical, but it is not enough. It eliminates some avenues for election sabotage, but many others remain,” said Wendy R. Weiser, vice president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
On the other hand, Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization opposing more authoritarian government, noted the reform was supported by many Republican senators.
“The bipartisan vote to advance the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) underscores the momentum and cross-ideological consensus… [to] strengthen presidential elections in the future,” said Genevieve Nadeau, Protect Democracy counsel. “We now call on Congress to finish the job and pass the strongest ECA reform possible by the end of the year.”
Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.