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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: classified documents

Trump: I'll Have The Loser Combo Plate And A Diet Coke, Please

What follows is my umpteenth-plus report on the Trump stolen documents case. To continue following my peregrinations through the courts covering this nonsense, please consider becoming a paid Substack subscriber and help me find my way.

This is what it sounds like when a Circuit Court of Appeals slams the door on you: “The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

The decision that came down on Thursday night against Donald Trump by the 11th Circuit was unanimous. Before the court’s recent decisions against him, Trump would have described the two judges on the panel he had appointed to the bench as “mine,” the same way he described as “mine” the hundreds of classified documents he had squirreled away in a dank basement of Mar-a-Lago and in a drawer of his own desk. In its 21-page decision, the 11th Circuit all but told him, no they’re not, and no we’re not.

I’ve been down the various rabbit holes the DOJ and the 11th Circuit have wandered through because a single federal judge in Florida, the execrable Eileen Cannon, took it upon herself to step out of her judicial robes and take on what is constitutionally the job of the executive branch, namely, making decisions about whether to undertake an investigation of a citizen for committing a federal crime. Cannon figured she knew better than the attorney general of the United States, whose job it is to investigate federal crimes, so she threw a series of roadblocks in front of the Department of Justice, which was attempting to determine why in God’s name Donald Trump had taken some 22,000 documents owned by the federal government to his home and office in Palm Beach, Florida, and what he did with them.

Judge Cannon put a hold on the DOJ’s use of the documents, all 22,000 of them, as evidence in its investigation, and turned them over to a special master in Brooklyn, of all places, to review the whole lot of them to see if any were subject to either attorney-client or executive privilege protections.

The DOJ quickly got the 11th Circuit to step in and remove from the special master review the hundreds of classified documents found in the possession of the former president by pointing out the obvious: They have markings on them bearing several levels of classification by the federal government which clearly labeled them as property of the government. The DOJ’s second appeal, asking that the entire process of the special master review be halted and all of the documents returned to its investigation, is the one which the 11th Circuit ruled on Thursday night. To put it mildly, it wasn’t a good night for Judge Cannon. The 11th Circuit found she lacked jurisdiction and basically said that her entire “theory of the case” was laughable on its face.

Trump has already been to the Supreme Court once, asking that they overrule the 11th Circuit’s first decision on the classified documents. The Supreme Court refused to hear that appeal with no dissents, strongly indicating that it will do the same thing again if Trump appeals the circuit court's latest decision.

It's been quite a month for the former president. “His” election-denying candidates, almost every one of them, lost their races for various offices around the land on Election Day. Later in November, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former U. S. attorney, Jack Smith, as special counsel to run both investigations of Trump – one into his attempts to overturn the election of 2020 and his incitement of the attack on the Capitol, and the other into his theft and mishandling of classified documents after he left office. Smith has been serving as chief prosecutor at the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the Netherlands. The prospect of having Jack Smith look into the crimes he is alleged to have committed is not a welcome one for the former president.

And then last week, Trump decided he would invite a notorious anti-semite and apologist for Adolph Hitler over for dinner at his club in Palm Beach. His dinner guest, the rapper and former multi-billionaire Ye, brought along a friend of his, Nick Fuentes, another notorious anti-semite, Holocaust denier, and admirer of Hitler. Fuentes, you will recall, was one of those who marched around Charlottesville, Virginia back in 2017, carrying tiki torches and shouting “Jews will not replace us.”

Trump was still dealing with the blow-back from that dinner when it became known that his former chief of staff, the oily and unctuous Mark Meadows, has been ordered to testify before the special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, which is looking into, among other things, Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, when he asked the man in charge of the state’s elections to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” so that he would be declared winner of the presidential election in Georgia. Meadows, it turns out, placed the phone call to the Georgia secretary of state, and once he got him on the line, handed the phone to his boss, Donald Trump. So, he was involved in the clearly illegal call (election tampering), he had obviously discussed it beforehand with Trump, and he doubtless has more to tell the Georgia grand jury than has come out so far.

Then “his” justices on the Supreme Court ruled that the House Ways and Means Committee can have access to a whole slew of Trump's tax returns that will show that he has never, ever paid any federal taxes.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the grand jury now being supervised by Jack Smith has been very busy. Former Trump aide Stephen Miller testified before that grand jury this past week – the one investigating January 6 and the efforts made by Trump to overturn the election of 2020. Later in the week, a federal judge ordered two former White House lawyers, Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, to testify before the same grand jury. Cipollone and Philbin testified in September, but refused to answer some questions, citing executive privilege. Trump sued in federal court asserting executive privilege in an attempt to prevent his two lawyers from being forced to testify and answer the questions they refused last time. The legal proceedings have gone on behind closed doors with the judge overseeing the grand jury in Washington. He has previously ordered other witnesses to testify when they tried to assert executive privilege, and it appears that is the case with these two very key witnesses.

Speaking of witnesses, we are, beginning today, witness to The Whole Thing Coming Apart at the Seams for Donald Trump. Nothing has been going right for the man. He announced his candidacy for president at mid-month in November and has not done a thing as a candidate yet. No rallies. No announcements of endorsements. No big statements on World Affairs. In fact, the only major public statement he’s made was a video he taped for something called the Patriot Freedom Project, a far-right extremist group raising money for the families of indicted and convicted 1/6 insurrectionists. “People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said in the video. “The country is going communist.”

Trump hasn’t acted like a candidate or spoken like a candidate or looked like a candidate. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot that he got on his Truth Social account one night recently and spread right-wing, white supremacist, and QAnon conspiracy theories for hours. The sole positive thing that has happened for him, if it can be called that, is having his Twitter account restored by the odious Elon Musk. That would be the social media network on which hate speech has skyrocketed since Musk took it over, according to a report in the New York Times this morning.

We have wondered for six years when something like this would happen. He’s being forced to give a deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s rape lawsuit. His closest aides are spending half their time with their own lawyers and the other half being questioned by lawyers before grand juries. A court to which he appointed two judges has ruled against him unanimously not once but twice in a case involving the search of his residence and office by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago. The search was legal, the court said. Former presidents are subject to the same laws everyone else must obey.

And Trump himself? Well, he’s out there posting hate and cozying up to Nazis and whining about being victimized as he watches the transactional sycophants in his party inch away from him not because he’s an awful person who spreads hate and tells lies and breaks the law, but because he’s a loser.

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this column is reprinted with permission.

In Latest Appeal, Trump Tries To Hide A Very Dangerous Secret

Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to take over the two criminal investigations of Donald Trump that are already underway. Smith is a former head of the Department of Justice’s public integrity division, and has been the chief prosecutor in The Hague at the International Criminal Court prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo since 2018.

The appointment of Smith as special counsel comes on the day after the DOJ filed its reply brief with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of Trump’s lawsuit that sought the order to appoint a special master to review all of the materials seized at Mar-a-Lago for protection under attorney-client or executive privilege. Judge Eileen Cannon had ordered that all the documents seized by the FBI could not be used by the DOJ in its criminal investigation of Trump until the special master review process was completed.

The DOJ appealed the order concerning the classified documents to the 11th Circuit, which quickly ordered that the DOJ be allowed to use the 103 folders of classified documents the FBI found in its search of Trump’s office and personal residence in its investigation and prosecution of Trump. The DOJ filed a second appeal asking that the 11th Circuit order that the department can use all of the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago in its prosecution. Trump opposed the motion, and yesterday’s DOJ filing responded to Trump’s answer to the DOJ’s appeal.

The position Trump is taking with the 11th Circuit is astounding. Essentially, Trump is telling the court that because the government documents were removed from the White House while he was still president, in late January of 2021, they are his personal property. It’s his “I took them, so they’re mine” defense. The assertion flies in the face of the Presidential Records Act, which states that any document shown to the president or used by him in the execution of his official duties is a presidential record and is therefore the property of the federal government and belongs in the National Archives along with all other records of his administration.

The DOJ in its filing called Trump’s position “novel and erroneous.” Not only did Trump never assert in his initial lawsuit before Judge Cannon that the documents at Mar-a-Lago were his “personal” records, he failed to raise his “novel and erroneous” argument in the previous action before the 11th Circuit.

The federal rules of procedure and several Supreme Court cases, cited by the DOJ in its brief, say that a plaintiff cannot raise in an appeal issues which the plaintiff did not use in his or her initial lawsuit. In other words, it’s not allowed to suddenly come into the appeals court and say, “Oh, wait a minute. I forgot to raise this issue before, so here it is this time.”

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) does not allow a president to designate official records as “personal” simply because he removed them from the White House during the time he was president. In fact, the PRA was passed by the Congress after Watergate specifically to disallow that. After leaving office, Richard Nixon attempted to keep possession of the White House tapes and assert that they were his property in order to prevent them from being used by reporters and historians writing about what he did while he was president. The PRA specifically forbade that and designated all records, documents, and other materials that originated while a president is in office as documents and materials owned by the government, not the president.

Further, the DOJ noted, it wouldn’t matter if the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago were the personal property of Trump, because search warrants like the one authorizing the search of Mar-a-Lago regularly give the FBI the right to seize anything found in the property subject to the warrant that may have been used in a crime. From the DOJ brief: “A document’s categorization as a ‘personal’ record does not preclude the government from obtaining it through a search warrant or using it in a criminal investigation. Law enforcement officials routinely conduct judicially authorized searches to seize evidence of crimes…Nothing in the law prohibits the government from using documents recovered in a search if they are ‘personal,’ and the search warrant here authorized the government to seize materials stored collectively with records bearing classification markings regardless of their status as ‘personal’ or Presidential records.”

The documents seized from Mar-a-Lago were taken pursuant to just such a warrant and purpose – for use in an investigation and possible criminal prosecution of the former president, not only for taking the documents with him to Mar-a-Lago, but for mishandling them after he left office. The documents are also needed by the DOJ to prove that Trump committed obstruction of justice when he refused for more than 18 months to return them to the government, along the way defying a subpoena for the documents in question. Failure to respond in a timely and honest fashion to a subpoena from the federal government is the very definition of obstruction of justice.

The rest of the DOJ’s 40-page brief goes deeply into the weeds of issues of jurisdiction and one essential issue which Trump mooted for himself by asking for and being granted review by a special master in the first place. In his first lawsuit before Judge Cannon, Trump raised an issue under Rule 41(g), which gives a person the right to apply for the return of any property seized pursuant to an “unlawful” search and seizure. Trump had asked for return of his property and documents under that rule, but because of the special master review, he and his legal team have already been given access to all of the 22,000 documents seized by the FBI, so the DOJ simply responded, “Plaintiff has now had an opportunity to review all of the seized records except those bearing classification markings, and the government has no objection to Plaintiff retaining copies.” That excludes the classified documents, which the government has previously held belong to it because of their classified markings.

Way down in the weeds of the Trump filing and the DOJ response, there are other, even more complicated corners revealing what is really behind Trump’s appeal. And here we turn to Marcy Wheeler at her Emptywheel blog for some clarification. It is often the case that a person will file a great big lawsuit, and subsequently, an appeal that raises a whole bunch of great big legal issues and makes all sorts of great big claims only because he, the plaintiff, wants to protect one or two things that if brought to light will cause him real damage.

Wheeler thinks that is exactly the case here, and it concerns a document over which Trump claimed executive privilege. It is not a single document, however, but what the DOJ called a “compilation that includes three documents that post-date Plaintiff’s term in office and two classified cover sheets, one SECRET and the other CONFIDENTIAL. Because Plaintiff can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as President, the entire mixed document is a Presidential record.”

Based on a close read of the DOJ brief, Wheeler wrote in her blog that Trump is claiming executive privilege over the “compilation” because it provides proof that Trump was using classified material after he left office “into his ongoing personal business.” The “compilation” documents, along with a document that apparently concerns the pardon of Roger Stone, both include a classified document along with non-classified materials. According to Wheeler, both of the documents “were stored in a readily accessible desk drawer. And they both reflect more personal business.” And they were both accessible by Trump’s personal secretary, Molly Michael, who was Trump’s executive assistant in the White House and who moved in the same position with Trump to Mar-a-Lago after he left office.

Wheeler believes, and I think she’s right, that the DOJ wants access to all of the documents seized from Mar a Lago, both classified and unclassified, because they want to use the documents they described as “compilation” when they question Molly Michael before the Washington grand jury. She is the witness who can provide evidence the DOJ needs to prove that Trump did not take the documents from the White House solely because he wanted them as “souvenirs,” as some reports have said, but because he wanted to use some of the classified documents in his post-White House personal business. “[Molly Michael] is likely the witness who can say when it was compiled. She would be the witness who could explain why Trump integrated a Secret document into his ongoing personal business. She might even testify that she saw the entire compilation, including the page over which Trump is claiming privilege, which would vitiate that privilege claim.”

That’s what’s really going on behind the scenes of the Trump and DOJ filings with the 11th Circuit. Trump is trying to protect himself from being charged with a very serious crime – misusing classified documents for personal gain – as Wheeler points out, a criminal act any juror could easily understand. For that reason, among all the others, the DOJ is trying to get the 11th Circuit to kick all the documents loose from the restrictions put on them by Trump’s personal pet, Judge Aileen Cannon.

So that’s where we stand tonight, folks, as the new special counsel, Jack Smith, is said to be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean flying back from The Hague to take over the criminal prosecution of Donald Trump. The 11th Circuit will hear oral arguments next Tuesday concerning the DOJ appeal, and legal experts today said that based on its quick resolution of the last appeal in favor of the DOJ, it is likely to do the same thing this time.

Watch this space. I’ll be covering the next steps in this case that may end up with a former president of the United States facing a jury of his peers for the first time in our history.

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this column is reprinted with permission.

Granted Immunity In Documents Case, Trump Aide Patel Must Talk -- Or Else

How does an obsessively loyal Trumpazoid like Kash Patel, who once swaggered down the wide halls of the E-Ring in the Pentagon as chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense (an enormously powerful position even if he held it for only two months) find himself between a rock, the Department of Justice, and a hard place, Donald Trump, on this sunny day in November?

Well, he was put there by the men he served, Donald Trump at the top of all of them. Yes, they were all men – from Devin Nunes, whom Patel served when he was Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; to John Bolton, Trump’s third National Security Adviser, under whom he served as a “senior director” in a position created especially for him; to Richard Grenell, Acting Director of National Intelligence, whom Patel served as a principal deputy; to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who was appointed after Patel reportedly urged Trump to fire the previous Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, for being disloyal to the president by refusing to have active duty troops deployed to put down protests after George Floyd was killed in the summer of 2020.

I realize that’s an unusual number of acting directors Patel served under, but hey! It was the Trump administration, and he couldn’t be bothered with meddlesome stuff like the Senate confirmation process, so Trump just kept appointing acting directors, letting them serve the time they were statutorily permitted and then moving them along in favor of the next acting director. So, Patel himself did a lot of acting, too, serving in senior positions in important places in the government like the Department of Defense and the Office of National Intelligence. Indeed, “acting” is a good name for Patel’s jobs, because what he did in those positions was not really to serve as a deputy, or whatever the other jobs he held were called, but rather to keep the acting director he reported to in line for his real master, who was always Donald Trump.

In that way, Patel was like one of the party enforcers Stalin sprinkled throughout his government and military, whose jobs were never to, say, carry a rifle in the army, or push papers in some corner of the bureaucracy, but rather to report back through the Communist Party chain of command to Stalin himself on whether the department head they nominally worked for were adequately loyal to the great man himself. Under Stalin, this led to a series of purges of top government officials. With a few tweaks and tucks, something of the same thing happened repeatedly throughout the Trump administration, as officials were continually forced out of their jobs. Their replacements were invariably less qualified than the people they succeeded, but far more loyal to the man at the top.

The problem with this kind of system is that it creates a paper tower of power, a structure of leaders who are not leaders at all, but rather what we might call loyals -- underlings dedicated to carrying out the orders of one man, in this case, Donald Trump. Kash Patel was an enforcer within Trump’s house of cards administration, and in order to be trusted with such an important job, Patel’s own loyalty had to exceed the loyalty of those he was not only reporting to, but reporting on. Thus, Patel found himself, or more likely wormed himself into, positions where his loyalty to the big boss at the top ended up giving him unusual access to what that big boss was doing, and not only that, but to the motives behind the orders he gave.

The thing that governments and large organizations like corporations or even academic institutions have in common when they are driven by leaders who demand excessive quantities of loyalty is simple: The point is never really to do the job at hand but to do what you’re told no matter what. If you are part of such an organization or government you know at all times that if you don’t toe the party line, or more likely, the line of the authoritarian leader at the top, you’re out.

What such authoritarian leaders have in common is that they hardly ever do the hard work of governing or, say, in an academic institution, teaching. What they do is give orders. Orders are words, and for them to be become the actual work of the organization, someone must carry them out.

Enter Kash Patel and water carriers like him. Because of his intense loyalty to Trump – he was among a very few loyalists who followed Trump into civilian life and has worked for him since he left the presidency – Patel was trusted with overseeing some of the products of one of the former president’s chief obsessions – the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Trump appointed him as one of his representatives to the National Archives, where much of the work-product of the Russia investigation resides. And according to Patel himself, Trump involved him in the decisions he made about the classified documents he removed from the White House and took to Mar a Lago.

Patel has told reporters that Trump declassified all the documents he took from the White House, a claim that neither he nor Trump has backed up with any documentation. Whether or not Trump declassified the documents may not matter in the investigation by the Department of Justice into Trump’s handling of the documents, because two of the criminal statutes Trump is thought to have violated do not require that the documents in question be classified. One statute involves obstruction of justice, and the other involves the removal and mishandling of so-called “national defense information,” which need not be classified to be subject to the statute.

This is why Patel today finds himself on the horns of a very, very difficult dilemma. The DOJ is intensely interested in the documents Patel claims to have knowledge about. Because Trump, like other authoritarian leaders gives orders, he must rely on others to carry them out. Patel is one of those who was apparently given orders concerning the documents of concern in the DOJ investigation, so he is thought to have knowledge about what Trump intended to do with the documents he took from the White House, and he may even know what Trump’s motive was for taking them.

When he previously testified before the grand jury, Patel claimed his protections under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, doubtlessly leading the DOJ to conclude that he has something to hide, which if he revealed might subject himself to prosecution. Yet now that he has been granted immunity from prosecution, Patel can’t claim the Fifth. He must answer questions from the grand jury truthfully or subject himself to prosecution for perjury, if not for the offenses he may have committed that he had avoided talking about by taking the Fifth the first time he testified before the grand jury.

How do you stay loyal to a man like Trump when you know if you tell the truth about what he did and why he did it, you might contribute to his being charged with federal crimes?

The New York Times reported yesterday that Patel has “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.” Epshteyn has testified before the Georgia grand jury that is investigating Trump’s attempts to put together fake slates of electors and the former president's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” enough votes for Trump to be declared winner of the presidential election in Georgia. Federal investigators looking into Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election seized Epshteyn’s cell phone in September.

So how about that? The two lawyers Trump has put in charge of his defense against potential charges in multiple investigations in multiple jurisdictions are themselves the recipients of grand jury subpoenas and themselves are potentially subjects of criminal investigations.

Not to worry. Patel appears to be counting on Trump winning the 2024 presidential election, which would return him to the White House and give him the power to pardon Patel, Epshteyn, and everybody else involved in both the documents case and attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Not only that, Patel is counting on his loyalty to Trump paying off big-time. On Monday, Patel appeared on “The Benny Show,” a pro-Trump podcast, where he was asked – get this – if he would accept an appointment to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation if Trump wins in 2024.

That would be the same FBI that is investigating not only Trump but Patel himself and is behind his subpoena to testify at the grand jury in Washington that is looking into Trump’s mishandling of top secret documents he took from the White House in 2021 and refused to give back to the government for more than 18 months, defying a subpoena and having one of his lawyers lie on an official document certifying that she had turned over all the documents he took to Mar a Lago.

The New York Times quoted Patel as telling the interviewer on “The Benny Show” this: “I’m all in with the boss, and you know that. First, I tell people, let’s win the midterms. And then let’s see what he does and, you know, you and I think I know what he’s going to do. And then it’s a two-year lift and you know what, they’re going to come after us.”

Patel would know. “They” are already after “the boss” and Patel himself, who now faces a grand jury appearance where he will be forced to tell what he knows about “the boss” or he, too, will face indictment.

How about that for a dilemma horn up your ass, huh?

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

Inside Trump's Web Of Lawyers, Lies, And Money With Kash Patel

Kash Patel has found himself in trouble this week for one thing: his loyalty to the twice-impeached sexual abuser and grifter, Donald Trump. The Washington Post reported last week that 11 Trump associates, campaign aides, allies, and friends “have been convicted or pleaded guilty in recent years to various offenses, with their total sentences nearing 30 years of imprisonment.”

Patel, a lawyer and former aide to looned-out former California Representative Devin Nunes, also served in some mysterious capacity on Trump’s national security council, as the chief of staff to the Director of National Intelligence, and as chief of staff to Trump’s final secretary of defense, Christopher Miller. Currently, Patel is on the board of the company that owns Trump’s Truth Social media platform, along with his former boss, Nunes, who is CEO of the company. In the tradition of other aides, followers, partners, employees, and political associates of Donald Trump, Patel now finds himself where so many have gone before him: in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice.

Trump had wanted to appoint Patel as a deputy director of the FBI and when that notion was shot down, as deputy director of the CIA, but that appointment also failed under pressure from within his own camp. Patel, it seems, wasn’t very popular among other Trump sycophants. Attorney General William Barr, for example, told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Patel would become deputy director of the FBI “over my dead body.”

Patel is what they used to call in the old U.S. Cavalry a horse-holder: an enlisted aide who saddled and held onto the bridle of a cavalry officer’s horse as he prepared his gear and mounted. They were a necessary part of the cavalry as constituted for deployment in battle. In later years, after the cavalry was disbanded, the term “horse-holder" became a pejorative used to describe junior officers who put themselves at the beck and call of senior officers, ever-seeking a chance to kiss their superiors’ asses and get promoted.

Another apt word for the Patels of the political world, especially those around Donald Trump, is puppies.

Other Trump associates violated the law and went to prison – or like Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn, were pardoned – for offenses as various as lying to the FBI, running fund-raising scams, bank fraud, or obstruction of justice. One was even convicted on child sex crimes. Patel, on the other hand, finds himself sadly on the wrong side of the Department of Justice basically for doing what he was told by the man on whom he had modeled himself. He lied for the Big Liar himself when he told interviewers that he had witnessed Trump declassifying all the highly sensitive classified documents removed from the White House and taken to Mar-a-Lago. Whether Trump told him to lie, or asked him to lie, or Patel simply took it upon himself to lie for the man to whom he has been loyal since his time on the NSC, is unknown.

But it is an issue for DOJ prosecutors who are investigating Trump’s handling of all the 22,000 documents – classified and unclassified, both – he took to Mar-a-Lago and then resisted turning over for more than 18 months to the National Archives, where they belonged. Prosecutors are said to be looking at Patel for obstruction of justice, or conspiracy to obstruct justice, with his public lies about Trump’s declassification of the stolen documents. Early in October, prosecutors put Patel before the Washington, D.C. grand jury investigating Trump’s handling of the classified documents found in Trump’s residence and office at Mar-a-Lago when the FBI searched the place in August. Patel is reported to have refused to answer questions from the grand jury, citing his protection against self-incrimination afforded by the Fifth Amendment.

Which is his right, of course. But it was his own boss who famously said during one rally speech or another, “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” To which prosecutors appear to have answered, "Indeed, Kash, what’s up with all your skittishness answering questions about the classified documents you claim you saw Trump declassify when he was still president?”

To that end, DOJ prosecutors have made a filing with a federal judge in Washington asking that Patel be compelled to testify to the grand jury. The DOJ is said to be contemplating giving Patel immunity from prosecution. Under such an immunity deal, Patel would have no protection under the Fifth Amendment and could be compelled to testify about his knowledge of Trump’s handling of the classified documents taken from the White House. The New York Times calls this “a move Mr. Patel’s lawyers have strenuously opposed.”

And no wonder, because it is right here, folks, that it gets very, very interesting. The identity of Patel’s lawyers takes us way deep, and I mean way deep, into the multiple investigations swirling around the role that Trump played in the January 6 insurrection -- and extend to a conspiracy to defraud the government, interfere with an official function of the government, and of course to mishandling the classified documents Patel says he saw Trump declassify.

In a story about Patel’s grand jury testimony, CNN described Patel’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, as he “ducked out of the ongoing Oath Keepers trial where he is a defense attorney for another defense client to escort Patel, wearing a bold red plaid jacket, down from the grand jury meeting area and out of the building.”

Got that? Patel’s lawyer is also the lawyer for one of the Oath Keepers on trial for sedition in the D.C. federal courthouse, Kelly Meggs, founder of the Florida branch of the Oath Keepers and husband of Connie Meggs, who goes on trial early next year for everything up to but not including sedition -- namely, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, aiding and abetting obstruction, conspiracy, and entering restricted grounds [the Capitol] on January 6, 2021.

I am sure you will also be interested to know that lawyer Woodward is likewise the attorney of record for Walt Nauta, the former White House valet who DOJ prosecutors have questioned twice about his movement of boxes out of the basement storage room at Mar-a-Lago, after a subpoena had been issued to Trump demanding return of those boxes of documents and other materials he had taken from the White House to his resort/hotel/residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Prosecutors are seeking a third interview with Nauta, who was seen on Mar-a-Lago security video moving the boxes. Nauta is said to have told DOJ investigators during his first interview that he moved the boxes at the direction of Donald Trump. In his second interview, however, after he had hired Stanley Woodward as his lawyer, Nauta contradicted his earlier testimony and said he could not recall who told him to move the boxes. That’s why prosecutors are seeking a third interview with Trump’s former White House valet, who is now serving the same function for the former president at his Florida residence.

Woodward’s co-counsel in the Oath Keepers sedition case is another lawyer in the Trump orbit, Juli Haller. Politico describes her this way: “Juli Haller was part of Donald Trump’s legal brigade in Michigan, filing a lawsuit alongside the ubiquitous Sidney Powell that claimed absentee vote counts were likely manipulated by a computer algorithm developed by allies of deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez.” Politico says Haller was one of nine lawyers sanctioned in the Michigan case and was ordered to pay the city of Detroit’s legal fees and was referred by the judge for possible disbarment. The judge in the case called Haller’s lawsuit “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

Politico reports that Haller was also involved in at least four additional bogus lawsuits on behalf of Trump in other states, including Arizona, where her case was dismissed by a judge who said in his decision that the plaintiff [Donald Trump] was “sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence.”

According to a complaint filed by several attorneys against Haller and other lawyers involved in the phony Trump election fraud lawsuits with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, she and her fellow Trump lawyers “notably failed to disclose to the court that their false factual claims had been dismissed in state courts,” and made numerous other deceptive statements to the court. According to the complaint filed with the Grievance Commission, when Haller and the other attorneys were given a chance to defend the claims they made in their Trump lawsuits, they “voluntarily” withdrew the suits in lieu of offering “a factual defense.”

In other words, Haller and her team of Trump lawyers, who were operating under the direction of Sidney “release the Kraken” Powell, cut and run.

But while Sidney Powell faces disbarment proceedings in Texas, Juli Haller is still in the game on the side of MAGA extremists in the Oath Keepers, apparently representing not only Kelly Meggs in the current sedition case, but his wife Connie in her upcoming trial early in 2023.

Lawyers, guns, and money? In Trumpworld it’s lawyers, lies, and money. Who is paying for Woodward to represent Kash Patel and Walt Nauta? We don’t know. Who’s paying the legal bills of husband-and-wife Oath Keepers, the mighty Meggs? We don’t know that, either.

But the slug-like creep of Trump and his lawyers, liars, and thugs continues, leaving slime on everyone and everything they touch.

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

FBI Seeks Third Interview With Trump's Valet On Mar-a-Lago Documents

Rats scuttled into their holes all around Washington, D.C. this morning as news arrived that prosecutors running the investigation of Donald Trump’s handling of classified and non-classified documents he took from the White House in January of 2021 are seeking a third interview with a witness who was seen on Mar a Lago video security footage moving boxes from the basement storage room at Trump’s resort/hotel/club/residence.

The New York Times reported that the witness in question is a former Navy cook from Guam who worked in the White House mess before becoming a personal valet to Trump. He has been described as the guy who brought Trump his Diet Cokes in the Oval Office. After Trump lost his attempts to overturn the election and was forced to leave the White House, the former valet, Walt Nauta, followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago in Florida and apparently took up the same duties as a private employee of the former president. It was in this capacity that prosecutors saw Nauta moving the boxes on the video footage from Mar-a-Lago.

The security video footage shows Nauta carrying the boxes as he exits the Mar-a-Lago storage room into a short hallway in the basement. The security footage apparently ends there and does not show where Nauta took the boxes.

In an interview earlier this year, Nauta told DOJ investigators he carried the boxes from the storage room to Trump’s residence at the direction of the former president. During a second interview, Nauta was apparently “less specific,” about who told him to take the boxes to Trump’s residence, according to today’s report in the Times. DOJ prosecutors are seeking a third interview with Nauta to clear up the apparent discrepancy between the first and second interviews.

According to the Times, prosecutors did not show Nauta the security video footage when they interviewed him, indicating strongly that the security footage may be the source of at least some of the DOJ’s questions about Nauta’s veracity during his first two interviews. Prosecutors have also taken testimony from other witnesses who work at Mar-a-Lago and may have information from them which contradicts what Nauta has told them.

According to the Times, “at some point while Mr. Nauta was engaged with the Justice Department about the boxes, he changed lawyers, hiring two Washington criminal defense attorneys.” Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys specialized in white-collar crime do not come cheap. There have been reports that lawyers hired by people questioned during the Russia investigation charged upwards of $1000 an hour, which raises an interesting question: How did a valet working at Mar-a-Lago come into the kind of money it would take to hire such lawyers? Trump has been paying his own legal bills with money he has raised for his Save America PAC, which he formed days after the TV networks called the 2020 election for Joe Biden. It is not known if Trump has paid Nauta’s legal bills, although it has been reported that the Trump superPAC has paid the bills of other Trump associates who have become wrapped up in the various investigations faced by the former president.

The DOJ is also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election of 2020, including his involvement in the formation and submission of slates of fake electors to the Congress on January 6.

The DOJ has put Kash Patel before the D.C. grand jury investigating Trump’s handling of the top secret Mar-a-Lago documents. Patel is a former Trump administration official who served in various capacities over the four years Trump was in the White House and was appointed by Trump as one of his two representatives to the National Archives concerning the documents he removed from the White House.

Without providing any evidence that it happened, Patel has told reporters that Trump declassified all the documents he took with him to Mar-a-Lago. The Times reported today that sources in Washington say that Patel took the Fifth Amendment multiple times while giving testimony to the grand jury investigating the documents case. Prosecutors believe that Patel can provide information about Trump’s intentions regarding the documents recovered during the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in August. Recall that they found 22,000 documents, including 103 folders of classified material, some of it with the highest security markings that the government can bestow on secret documents.

One of the crimes Trump is suspected of committing is obstruction of justice. Both Patel and Nauta could provide information about why Trump took the documents in the first place, and ordered them moved around after he had been issued a subpoena demanding that he return the documents. Trump refused to comply completely with the subpoena, and it was only after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago that the 22,000 documents were recovered by the government.

According to the Times, the DOJ is now debating how it can force Patel to testify before the grand jury again. It’s a difficult question, because there are pluses and minuses involved in giving a witness immunity from prosecution. The Times reported that the DOJ may be considering other options, such as trying to get Patel to cooperate by threatening him with prosecution but offering a deal for lesser charges or a reduced sentence if he agrees to cooperate in the investigation.

Good luck with that, DOJ. Patel is a slimy little creature who once worked for Devin Nunes and was involved in the great secret documents incident early in the Russia investigation when Nunes, who was on the House Intelligence Committee, announced that he had “found” documents “proving” that President Obama had spied on Trump campaign officials. The documents Nunes “found,” which did no such thing, were actually handed to him in the offices of the National Security Council by Kash Patel, who then worked there in some minor capacity.

Patel’s loyalty to Trump sent him on to bigger and better things. During his last days as President, Trump tried to appoint Patel as deputy director of the CIA, a move that was successfully blocked by Pat Cipollone, Trump’s White House counsel. Then he tried to appoint Patel as deputy director of the FBI -- which according to his memoir, former Attorney General William Barr told Mark Meadows, then White House chief of staff, would happen only “over my dead body.”

Both moves by Trump to elevate Patel to positions in the FBI and CIA are thought to be related to Trump’s obsession with the Russia investigation. In his capacity as Trump’s representative to the National Archives, Patel attempted to declassify documents from the Special Counsel investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The National Archives refused to declassify the documents and make them public, as Patel had demanded on behalf of Trump. Patel reportedly has knowledge about the initial removal of the 22,000 documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Busy, busy, busy has been Kash Patel as a loyal worker-bee for Donald Trump. And now busy, busy, busy he must be with his lawyers trying to fight being hauled before the Washington grand jury yet again.

All of the recent reporting about the witnesses the DOJ has called to testify before its Washington grand jury and the matter of Walt Nauta indicate that the investigation of Trump’s removal of classified and non-classified documents from the White House, and their handling once under his control at Mar a Lago, is far from over.

I’m on the story. Watch this space.

Justice Department Urges Appeals Court To Overturn Cannon Orders Entirely

You remember what this whole thing is about, right? Donald J. Trump, on his second to the last day in office, took a whole truckload of official government documents, 11,000 in all, and other materials that did not belong to him, to his club/hotel/residence in Palm Springs, Florida, known as Mar-a-Lago, and refused to return them to the National Archives where under the Presidential Records Act they belong, until a threat was made to bring in the Department of Justice.

He then proceeded to dribble out the documents he had stolen in bits and chunks, a dozen boxes here, a manila envelope there, until the DOJ went to a federal judge and got a search warrant and the FBI conducted a search of Mar-a-Lago, turning up some 23 new boxes of the government’s material, including no less than 103 folders of classified documents, some marked Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information, the rarest and highest classification the government can use, which the FBI found in boxes in Trump’s residence and office, and three of them were in one of the drawers of the former president’s desk.

And there things stood until Trump filed a motion with a different judge in Florida from the one who issued the search warrant, Aileen Mercedes Cannon, whom he had appointed in 2020 just before Election Day and who wasn’t confirmed until after he had lost the election. His motion asked the judge to appoint a special master to review all 11,000 documents seized by the FBI for possible attorney-client or executive privilege and to bar the DOJ from using any of the documents in its criminal investigation of Trump.

Filings and motions flew about like bats swooping through the night air after mosquitoes. I have done my diligent best to cover all these activities in various courts, including Judge Cannon’s, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Trying to keep up with all the action in Trump v. U.S. has been exhausting. Earlier this week, it looked like we had reached a denouement of sorts when the Supreme Court in a 35-word order threw Trump’s emergency motion out the door without a single dissenting vote or comment.

And yet, and yet, here we are once again straining our eyes and firing our limp and expended synapses trying to understand why this Trumpian bullshit is still before the courts, and so, still beneath our tired gaze.

This time, the DOJ has filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit asking the appeals court to overturn the entirety of Judge Cannon’s original order sending the stolen Mar-a-Lago documents, all 11,000 of them, to the special master for review, and at least one of her subsequent orders doing something I cannot bring myself to look up but which had to have been as unprecedented as it was bogus on its face.

From the DOJ appeal and from my many readings of the various motions and filings, I can dimly recall that the 11th Circuit had already returned the 103 folders of classified documents to the DOJ so they could use them in the criminal investigation of Trump, as well as in the review by the Director of National Intelligence of damage to the national security which may have happened because of Trump’s mishandling of so many classified documents and documents containing national defense information. (He stored them for a time in a basement room with no lock on it in Mar a Lago, and the documents were handled by Trump aides and employees of his resort who were not cleared to even pick up much less see such sensitive national defense information.)

But Judge Cannon wasn’t finished. She most recently issued an order returning the 103 folders of classified documents to the purview of the special master, a move which made them available to Trump and his lawyers to examine at their leisure. I think the Supreme Court’s order overturned that Cannon order, but I’m too tired and sick of the whole thing to look it up and make sure.

Suffice to say, Trump’s various motions to Judge Cannon and her various orders have so muddled the situation surrounding the documents that Trump admits he took from the White House and stored in Mar-a-Lago, that the whole thing has devolved into a tangle of bogus filings by Trump and even more bogus orders by Judge Cannon, which the DOJ’s appeal to the 11th Circuit is attempting to undo.

That is why today’s filing is 57 pages long, fully 20 pages longer than its previous record of 37 pages. The DOJ is having to cover so many bogus issues raised by Cannon’s many legal errors and failures to properly follow precedent that they have outdone themselves. The DOJ takes seven pages in its “Table of Authorities” and cites no less than 61 cases and statutes it then refers to in its brief, some multiple times. Four of the cases have the name “Trump” in their titles, and one involves the warrant issued to the FBI authorizing the search of Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The legal obfuscations by Trump are so numerous they create a low-lying legal fog that the DOJ takes three pages to drive through in its introduction; the brief then takes seven and a half pages to feel its way through the “Procedural History” of the case. Twenty-seven pages are spent in the DOJ’s “Argument,” listing all of the errors made by Cannon and the failures of Trump to meet his obligations under the law to prove various elements necessary to the issues he raised, such as failing to show the harm he would suffer if the DOJ regains full access to all of the documents which do not belong to Trump in the first place, and which Cannon ordered to be reviewed by the special master.

Paragraph titles in this lengthy section of the brief read like this:


Plaintiff Failed to Establish the “Foremost” Factor Needed for the Exercise of Jurisdiction.


Plaintiff Has No Plausible Claims of Executive Privilege.

Plaintiff cannot invoke executive privilege to bar the Executive Branch’s review and use of its own records.

Any claim of executive privilege as to the records bearing classification markings would fail for additional reasons.

Plaintiff Has No Plausible Claims of Attorney-Client Privilege That Would Justify an Injunction.

Plaintiff’s Purported Factual Disputes Are Irrelevant.

Plaintiff’s suggestion that he might have declassified the seized records is irrelevant.

Plaintiff’s suggestion that he might have categorized seized records as “personal” records under the PRA only weakens his executive privilege claims.


You can just taste the contempt dripping from the pens of the DOJ lawyers who signed the brief, can’t you?

Well, in the final sentence of the DOJ brief, you can almost hear Jay Bratt, who runs the department's counter-intelligence division, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and the other signatories to the brief taking a deep breath as they choke down what they would really like to say to the “plaintiff” and the federal district court which erred so egregiously throughout the case: “For the foregoing reasons, the Court should reverse the district court’s September 5 order with instructions to dismiss this action.”

The ”instructions,” should the 11th Circuit decide to approve the DOJ’s appeal, will be issued to the person Trump appointed to carry his water and who did so with such manifest gusto: Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon.


Supreme Court Washes Its Hands Of Trump -- And Oh,That Stings!

The filing last week by Trump with the Supreme Court asking for a partial stay of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision removing 100 classified documents from the purview of the Special Master was 37 pages long. The Department of Justice response this week to the Trump motion was 32 pages long.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of Trump’s motion, posted yesterday, consists of a single sentence on one page: “The application to vacate the stay entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Sept. 21, 2022, presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the court is denied.”

Not one justice, including Ginni’s husband, dissented. The decision came down exactly two days after the DOJ filed its response to the Trump filing.

Trump’s motion did not ask that the classified documents be barred from the DOJ’s criminal investigation of Trump. Instead, it asked that the classified documents be returned to the Special Master to be reviewed for possible attorney-client privilege or executive privilege. This would have meant that the highly classified documents, some marked as very rare “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information,” would have been available to Trump’s lawyers and thus to Trump himself.

There has been much speculation about why Trump would want to see the classified documents, but most legal experts theorized that the entire 37-page Supreme Court motion was simply another delaying tactic which would have allowed the Trump legal team to continue to make mischief with the documents, possibly by insisting that they be included in any possible criminal trial because the government wouldn’t want to introduce such sensitive secrets as evidence, causing charges against to be dismissed.

The court’s order is also a blow to the reputation and career of District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, whose orders have kept Trump in the courts with his motions and filings until today when the Supreme Court stepped in and told Trump, and his pet judge, to take a walk off a short pier. That the court took only two days to issue its order amounts to an even sharper slap to Cannon and her attempts to meddle in the DOJ’s investigation of Trump.

All that’s left to do now is for Judge Raymond Dearie, the Special Master, to make his recommendations to Judge Cannon, pretty much all of which will now be moot because Trump’s lawyers, if they want to continue to practice law and earn a living in this country, will tell Trump that his avenues of appeal have now dead-ended. There is nowhere else for Trump to go. His struggles with the DOJ have just come to a dead halt.

There is the possibility, which the DOJ is said to entertain, that Trump still has some classified documents he has not turned over to the FBI. Depending on the nature of these still missing documents – one already seized by the FBI contained information about nuclear weapons – Trump may use the documents in an attempt to graymail his way out of being indicted. This seems unlikely however, because nearly anything he could threaten to do with the documents would subject him to even more felony charges of mishandling national defense information or obstruction of justice.

Trump, who is famously blatant when he cheats at his favorite game, golf, has just met an opponent who won’t put up with his shenanigans: Merrick Garland. The Attorney General of the United States just scored a hole in one page with the Supreme Court.

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

Mar-a-Lago Aide Admits To FBI That Trump Order Classified Boxes Moved

The Washington Post is reporting that after Trump had been issued a subpoena by the DOJ for documents which he had taken from the White House and stored at Mar-a-Lago, he ordered aides to move boxes of documents from the storage room and perhaps other places into his personal residence at the multi-purpose resort which is, at once, a club, a hotel, an event facility, and Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida.

The FBI has interviewed at least one witness who described being ordered personally by Trump to move the boxes around Mar-a-Lago. According to the Post, security camera footage has been gathered by the FBI which corroborates the witness’s account. The footage “showed people moving the boxes,in Mar-a-Lago,. The witness has been interviewed multiple times and at first denied handling classified materials or moving boxes but changed his story after the FBI had gathered more evidence, apparently the surveillance footage showing people moving the boxes.

The Post reported that the witness testimony played a role in the DOJ deciding to seek a search warrant for Trump’s residence, office, and storage room at Mar-a-Lago. Subsequently, the FBI subpoenaed additional footage from surveillance cameras at the resort/hotel/residence. It was after the FBI had executed the search warrant that they seized 103 more classified documents than Trump had turned over in response to the subpoena, which had been served two months earlier. The search of Mar-a-Lago in August also found 11,000 more documents and other materials that Trump had taken with him from the White House when he moved to Mar-a-Lago that were not turned over to the DOJ in response to the subpoena.

The DOJ’s response to Trump’s Supreme Court motion on Tuesday contained what appears to be an oblique reference to some of the evidence it gathered about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the criminal investigation into his mishandling of highly classified documents and other national defense information at Mar-a-Lago. From the DOJ filing: “The FBI uncovered evidence that the response to the grand jury subpoena was incomplete, that additional classified documents likely remained at Mar-a-Lago, and that efforts had likely been taken to obstruct the investigation.”

The only thing Trump did in response to the DOJ subpoena was have his attorneys hand over a single sealed envelope that contained only 38 classified documents, 17 of which were marked “Top Secret,” according to other court filings by the DOJ. Representatives of the DOJ, including its head of the counterintelligence division, Jay Bratt, personally went to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to collect the sealed envelope and met with two of Trump’s lawyers, who allowed them to go into the storage room but not to inspect the boxes stored there.

It was at that meeting that Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Trump, provided the DOJ with a signed statement attesting that no more government documents, classified or unclassified, were held at Mar-a-Lago. The statement was proved false on August 8 when the FBI found the gigantic trove of government documents and other materials Trump had removed from the White House in January of 2021. Christina Bobb has now been interviewed by investigators for the DOJ about the circumstances behind her signed declaration, which was untrue, and what she knew about Trump’s storage of government documents at Mar-a-Lago. Bobb has been described in press reports as “cooperating” with the government. She had to hire her own lawyer after it was revealed that her June statement was blatantly false.

This story just keeps gushing new details about Trump’s crimes, and I will do my best to keep you abreast of each and every new development.

Stay tuned.

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 subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter