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Melodrama And Meltdown Among Trump's Conspiracy-Peddling, FBI-Hating Cult

I used to think self-styled “progressives” and Black Lives Matter activists had coined the dumbest political slogan of the twenty-first century: “Defund the Police.” Democratic strategist James Carville called it “the three worst words ever in the English language.” Not for nothing has President Biden gone out of his way to declare, as reported by the New York TimesCharles Blow, that “when it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not ‘defund the police.’ It’s ‘fund the police.’”

Ordinary citizens may have mixed feelings about cops, but everybody wants help fast when they dial 911—a point so elementary only the smuggest kind of intellectual could fail to understand it.

So, naturally, MAGA Republicans have gone them one better. “Defund the FBI,” chants Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Georgia Republican insists that “Joe Biden has weaponized the FBI and DOJ against President Trump and his supporters.”

She’s selling T-shirts and ball caps with the motto for $30 each on her campaign website. Amazon has a page offering anti-FBI gear for half that price. Be the first on your block to offer support for bank robbers, kidnappers, Russian spies, and your friendly neighborhood terrorist cell.

Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Co), Paul Gosar (R-TX) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and other members of the Mighty Trump Art Players have endorsed similar notions. There’s even a guy running for the Florida legislature who posted a notice on Twitter to the effect that “Under my plan, all Floridians will have permission to shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds on sight!”

Remember when Texas led the nation in deluded right-wing cranks? The Sunshine State’s definitely catching up.

Maybe that’s why God sent this hurricane to wet them down.

See, anybody can play at being a prophet, ascribing divine intent to random, unconnected events. All that’s necessary is absolute shamelessness. There’s an irreducible number of superstitious fools who need End Times melodrama to keep them stimulated.

Me, I prefer baseball.

But speaking of melodrama, there’s Donald J. Trump, the former president who can’t seem to make up his mind. One minute he says he’s being persecuted by FBI agents who planted classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and the next he tells Fox News’s Sean Hannity that “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, it’s declassified. Even by thinking about it, because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it.”

Never mind that, historically speaking, the FBI has long been by far the most politically conservative agency of the U.S. government. Even if you buy the mental telepathy angle, these things cannot both be true.

A rational observer would see Trump’s alibi as a de facto confession.

So naturally Trump has turned away from rational observers and toward QAnon, the religio-political millenarian cult that claims, among other things, that the Democratic Party and the “Deep State” are controlled by a cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles led by Hillary Clinton, and that Trump (along with long-deceased John F. Kennedy, Jr.) is leading a heroic, clandestine war against it.

Things were supposed to have come to a head on Inauguration Day, 2021—the “Great Awakening” adepts called it—when Trump would be re-instated, JFK Jr. would emerge from hiding and Hillary’s monstrous allies would be arrested and publicly executed.

Needless to say, the failure of this prophecy occasioned a certain amount of re-calculating, but True Believers throughout history have risen to the challenge. Cults tend to fade out gradually; rarely all at once. Over time, ridicule has greater force than reason.

With Citizen Trump leading the parade, QAnon is currently riding high. No doubt partly due to his growing legal peril—the Jan. 6 grand jury investigation, the New York lawsuit aimed at putting the Trump Organization out of business, and the DOJ’s criminal probe into stolen Top Secret documents—the former president’s political rallies have grown increasingly other-worldly.

He, his family and his supporters, Trump told an impassioned crowd last week in Wilmington, N.C., all face “torment, persecution and oppression.” Recorded music similar what some called “the QAnon theme song,” induced hundreds to raise their arms in a one-finger salute signifying unity.

“Where we go one, we go all,” cultists assure each other.

Absent clinical paranoia, it’s not clear how Trump’s impassioned followers imagine themselves personally threatened. Nevertheless, millions do imagine exactly that. But are they prepared to go to war for him? To threaten large-scale civic violence to rescue his mangy orange hide from criminal prosecution? That’s the implied threat.

I, for one, seriously doubt it. QAnon is essentially an online phenomenon, an aggregation of cranks sitting at home alone getting all worked up over silly fantasies. Political pornography. Nobody with anything to lose is going to risk it to save Trump from himself.

Soon enough, he’ll be history, and QAnon with him.

Prosecutors Answer Trump's 'Planted Evidence' Claim With Mar-a-Lago Inventory

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

Dearie Tells Trump Attorneys To Put Up Or Shut Up On 'Planted Evidence' Claims

In yet another sign of just how much everyone who is not Judge Aileen Cannon is fed up with Donald Trump’s lies about the documents that were removed from Mar-a-Lago, recently appointed special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, has ordered Trump’s legal team to be specific in its claims about “planted evidence.”

Dearie has given the Department of Justice until Monday to submit a complete list of everything they took during the search of Trump’s Florida storage rooms and office. When that list is in, Trump’s team then gets four days to tell Dearie:

  • if any items are on the list that they think the FBI or DOJ has added; or
  • if any items are not on the list because the FBI or DOJ left them out.

It’s a put-up or shut-up moment. Just as he did with Trump’s hedging around declassification, Dearie has little tolerance for these false claims and distractions.

“This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory.”

When it comes to declassification, Trump has claimed to “declassify everything” outside of court, but when Dearie pressed Trump’s legal team, they refused to name a single document that was declassified. Trump may still be going on television to talk about his ability to magically think documents into a declassified status, but he’s going to have a very difficult time raising this in a court—his attorneys were given the opportunity to do just that, and they passed.

Similarly, Trump has also been hinting that some of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago may be been planted by the FBI, going back to comments he made on his failing social media platform the day following the FBI search. Trump and his representatives have repeated these claims several times in interviews and at rallies.

During his Wednesday night interview with Fox pundit Sean Hannity, Trump was at it again, suggesting that the FBI could have “dropped something” into the piles of documents that were photographed at Mar-a-Lago, or that they might have “added something” later. But even on Hannity, Trump wasn’t willing to get more specific.

Dearie isn’t about to let this claim by Trump derail or delay the special master process, saying it will run “concurrently” with the process of reviewing documents.

This order also sets a fairly swift series of dates for which the remaining steps in that process will happen. By Friday (i.e., tomorrow), both sides are to agree on an electronic hosting site for the documents. By Monday, all the documents are to be in place on that site, with unique numbers for every page. Trump’s team is to immediately begin reporting any pages that they feel are privileged, “on a rolling basis,” and these documents will be dealt with as they appear.

Trump’s team is to finish with this by October 14, when it will submit “its final and complete log of designations,” and both sides are to finish their review of any disputed documents by October 21. It’s not quite the October 7 date Dearie wanted at the outset, but it’s also not the post-election November 30 date set by Judge Cannon.

None of this means Trump will shut up about “planted documents.” After all, he absolutely has not shut up about “declassifying documents.” But it does mean he’ll have a very hard time if he ever tries to make such a claim in court.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Judge Slaps Down Dershowitz Demand That FBI Return Pillow Guy's Phone

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell will not be getting his cell phone back from the FBI any time soon, even after his new lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, demanded it from a federal court in their First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment lawsuit against Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray.

Lindell’s phone was seized by federal agents at an Indiana Hardee’s drive-thru after a duck hunting trip the shredded foam entrepreneur and right-wing conspiracy theorist recently took. Last week he accused the federal government of engaging in “Gestapo tactics” for taking his phone, despite a warrant that shows he is reportedly under investigation for possible identity theft, conspiring to damage a protected computer connected to a suspected voting equipment security breach, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

On Tuesday Dershowitz and three other attorneys filed suit against the DOJ in a Minnesota federal court.

On Wednesday Dershowitz and the other attorneys filed a memorandum demanding the judge appoint a special master, and in an interview on Lindell’s streaming video website went so far as to state, “What we’re seeking is what President Trump got in the Mar-a-Lago case, the appointment of a special investigator to look into this – or return of the cell phone.”

On Thursday United States District Court Judge Eric Tostrud of Minnesota, appointed by Donald Trump in 2018, responded, in this order posted by Politico’s Kyle Cheney.

“Denied,” he wrote in his ruling, while criticizing the attorneys’ work, presumably including Dershowitz’s.

“Plaintiffs,” Judge Tostrud wrote, “have not served Defendants [Garland and Wray] with the Complaint, or at least Plaintiffs have not yet filed any proof of service.”

That was just the first slap.

Lindell’s attorneys, including Dershowitz, had said the seizure of Lindell’s phone constituted an “emergency,” and filed a request for a temporary restraining order.

Tostrud spent the next several pages of his Thursday order explaining all the technical and legal reasons why the motion requesting Lindell’s phone be returned were faulty or just wrong.

Among them: “A temporary restraining order is an ‘extraordinary remedy.'”

Other legalese include, “The request does not comply with Rule 65(b),” “With respect to subparagraph (b)(1)(B), however, Plaintiffs’ attorney filed no certification,” and “Plaintiffs do not discuss the Rule or cite any authority that might explain why the cellphone’s return is appropriate under the Rule.”

Other damning language includes, “But that’s it,” “that’s understating things,” and “it would be a stretch to grant relief.”

Then there’s this one: “It is a familiar rule that courts of equity do not ordinarily restrain criminal prosecutions.”

The judge even cited Wednesday evening’s 11th Circuit smack-down of Donald Trump’s attempt to claim 100 classified documents may or may not be classified but should be returned to him in his criticism.

Top national security attorney Brad Moss referred to that as he mocked Dershowitz, saying, “nice lawyering, sir.”


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump’s Secret Document Grab Reflects The Culture Of Official Washington

Thanks to Donald Trump, secrecy is big news these days. However, as political pundits and legal experts race to expose the layers of document-related misdeeds previously buried at his Mar-a-Lago estate, one overlooked reality looms large: despite all the coverage of the thousands of documents Trump took with him when he left the White House, there’s been next to no acknowledgment that such a refusal to share information has been part and parcel of the Washington scene for far longer than the current moment.

The hiding of information by the former president, repeatedly described as “unprecedented” behavior, is actually part of a continuum of withholding that’s been growing at a striking pace for decades. By the time Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the stage had long been set for removing information from the public record in an alarmingly broad fashion, a pattern that he would take to new levels.

The “Secrecy President”

As recent history’s exhibit number one, this country’s global war on terror, launched soon after the 9/11 attacks, was largely defined and enabled by the withholding of information — including secret memos, hidden authorizations, and the use of covert methods. During President George W. Bush’s first term in office, government lawyers and officials regularly withheld information about their actions and documents related to them from public view, both at home and abroad.

Those officials, for instance, legalized the brutal interrogations of war-on-terror prisoners, while conveniently replacing the word “torture” with the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” and so surreptitiously evading a longstanding legal ban on the practice. The CIA then secretly utilized those medieval techniques at “black sites” around the world where its agents held suspected terrorists. It later destroyed the tapes made of those interrogations, erasing the evidence of what its agents had done. On the home front, in a similarly secretive fashion, unknown to members of Congress as well as the general public, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to set up an elaborate and far-reaching program of warrantless surveillance on Americans and others inside the United States.

Consider that the launching of an era of enhanced secrecy techniques. No wonder Bush earned the moniker of the “secrecy president.” Only weeks after the 9/11 attacks, for instance, he put in place strict guidelines about who could brief Congress on classified matters, while instituting new, lower standards for transparency. He even issued a signing statement rebuking Congress for requiring reports “in written form” on “significant anticipated intelligence activities or significant intelligence failure.” To emphasize his sense of righteousness in defying calls for information, he insisted on the “president’s constitutional authority to… withhold information” in cases of foreign relations and national security. In a parallel fashion, his administration put new regulations in place limiting the release of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

President Obama also withheld information when it came to war-on-terror efforts. Notably, his administration shrouded in secrecy the use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists (and civilians) in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Official reports omitted reliable data about who was killed, where the killings had taken place, or the number of civilian casualties. As the American Civil Liberties Union concluded, administration reporting on civilian harm fell “far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.”

And well beyond the war-on-terror context, the claim to secrecy has become a government default mechanism. Tellingly, the number of classified documents soared to unimaginable heights in those years. As the National Archives reports, in 2012, documents with classified markings — including “top secret,” “secret,” and “confidential” — reached a staggering 95 million. And while the overall numbers had declined by 2017, the extent of government classification then and now remains alarming.

Erasing the Record Before It’s Created

President Trump’s document theft should be understood, then, as just another piece of the secrecy matrix.

Despite his claim — outrageous, but perhaps no more than so many other claims he made — to being the “most transparent” president ever, he turned out to be a stickler for withholding information on numerous fronts. Taking the war-on-terror behavioral patterns of his predecessors to heart, he expanded the information vacuum well beyond the sphere of war and national security to the purely political and personal realms. As a start, he refused to testify in the Mueller investigation into the 2016 presidential election. On a more personal note, he also filed suit to keep his tax records secret from Congress.

In fact, during his time in office, Trump virtually transformed the very exercise of withholding information. In place of secrecy in the form of classification, he developed a strategy of preventing documents and records from even being created in the first place.

Three months into his presidency, Trump announced that the White House would cease to disclose its visitor logs, citing the supposed risk to both national security and presidential privacy. In addition to hiding the names of those with whom he met, specific high-level meetings took place in an unrecorded fashion so that even the members of his cabinet, no less the public, would never know about them.

As former National Security Advisor John Bolton and others have attested, when it came to meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump even prohibited note-taking. In at least five such meetings over the course of his first two years in office, he consistently excluded White House officials and members of the State Department. On at least one occasion, he even confiscated notes his interpreter took to ensure that there would be no record.

Congress, too, was forbidden access to information under Trump. Lawyers in the Department of Justice (DOJ) drafted memos hardening policies against complying with congressional requests for information in what former DOJ lawyer Annie Owens has described as “a policy that approached outright refusal” to share information. In addition, the Trump administration was lax or even dismissive when it came to compliance with the production of required reports on national security matters. Note as well the reversal of policies aimed at transparency, as in the decision to reverse an Obama era policy of making public the number of nuclear weapons the U.S. possessed.

But don’t just blame Donald Trump. Among the most recent examples of erasing evidence, it’s become clear that the Secret Service deleted the text messages of its agents around the president from the day before and the day of the January 6th insurrection. So, too, the phone records of several top Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were wiped clean when they left office in accordance with directives established early in the Trump presidency. Similarly, the phone records of top Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security officials were scrapped. In other words, recent reports on the way Trump regularly shredded documents, flushed them down the White House toilet, and generally withheld presidential papers — even classified documents, as revealed during the Mar-a-Lago search — were of a piece with a larger disdain on the part of both the president and a number of his top officials for sharing information.

Erasing the record in one fashion or another became the Trump administration’s default setting, variations on a theme hammered out by his predecessors and taken to new levels on his watch.

A Perpetual Right to Secrecy?

Admittedly, before Trump arrived on the scene, there were some efforts to reverse this pattern, but in the long run they proved anemic. Barack Obama arrived at the White House in January 2009 acknowledging the harm caused by excessive government secrecy. Emphasizing transparency’s importance for accountability, informed public debate, and establishing trust in government, the new president issued an executive order on his first full day in office emphasizing the importance of “transparency and open government” and pledging to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Nearly a year later, he followed up with another executive order setting out a series of reforms aimed at widening the parameters for information-sharing. That order tightened guidelines around classification and broadened the possibilities for declassifying information. “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government,” it read. Six years later, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper produced a report on the “principles of Intelligence transparency for the intelligence community” and a “transparency implementation plan” that again aimed at clarifying the limits, as well as the purposes, of secrecy.

And Obama’s efforts did indeed make some headway. As Steven Aftergood, former director of the Federation of American Scientists, concluded, “The Obama administration broke down longstanding barriers to public access and opened up previously inaccessible records of enormous importance and value.” Among other things, Aftergood reported, Obama “declassified the current size of the U.S. nuclear arms arsenal for the first time ever,” as well as thousands of the president’s daily briefs, and established a National Declassification Center.

Still, in the end, the progress proved disappointing. As Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan put it, the Obama administration’s record on transparency was among “the most secretive” in our history. She also castigated the president’s team for “setting new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information Requests.” As an Associated Press analysis of federal data verified, the Obama administration did indeed set records in some years when it came to not granting those FOIA requests.

Executive distaste for sharing information is certainly nothing new and has often been linked, as during the war on terror, to misrepresentations, misdeeds, and outright deceit. After all, half a century ago, the administration of President Richard Nixon (of Watergate fame) defended the right to withhold information from the public as an effective way of covering up the American role in Vietnam. Those withheld materials, eventually released by the New York Times, showed that, over the course of four administrations, the national security state had misled the public about what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam, including hiding the secret bombing of neighboring Cambodia and Laos.

Still, let’s recognize what Donald Trump has, in fact, done. Though no longer president, he’s now taken the withholding of government information well beyond the borders of the government itself and deep into his private realm. In doing so, he’s set a dangerous precedent, one that brought the FBI to his doorstep (after months of attempts to access the documents in less intrusive ways). The challenge now is to address not just Trump’s clumsy efforts to unilaterally privatize a government practice, but the systemic overreach officials have relied on for decades to withhold staggering amounts of information from the public.

The Biden administration is alert to this issue. Notably, President Biden reversed several of Trump’s classification decisions, including his policy of not reporting the number of American nuclear weapons. More systematically, the National Security Council recently launched an effort aimed at revising the nation’s unwieldy classification system, while Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has stated her intention to review the excessive classification of government documents.

In a 2022 letter to Congress, Haines pointed to the downside of a government that refuses to share information. “It is my view,” she wrote, “that deficiencies in the current classification system undermine our national security, as well as critical democratic objectives, by impeding our ability to share information in a timely manner, be that sharing with our intelligence partners, our oversight bodies, or, when appropriate, with the general public.”

True to her word, in the three months following that statement of allegiance to transparency, Haines has released a steady flow of material on controversial topics, including unclassified reports on everything from the origins of Covid to climate change to an assessment of the “Saudi government’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Still, despite such efforts, the powers that be are arguably being hoisted on their own petard. After all, Donald Trump followed in the wake of his predecessors in sanctioning expansive secrecy, then made it a be-all and end-all of his presidency, and now claims that it’s part of his rights as a former president and private citizen. As the head of a political movement, now out of office, he’s done the once unthinkable by claiming that the veil of secrecy, the right to decide what should be known and who should know it, is his in perpetuity.

The horror of his claim to untethered secret authority — no wonder some of his MAGA followers refer to him as their “god-emperor” — violates the very idea that a democracy is a pact between individual citizens and elected officials. The valid response to the holding of documents at Mar-a-Lago shouldn’t just be reclaiming them for the public record or even the clear demarcation of the law as it applies to a private citizen as opposed to a president (though both are essential). What’s needed is a full-throated demand that policies of secrecy, allowed to expand exponentially in this century without accountability or transparency, are destructive of democracy and should be ended.

Copyright 2022 Karen J. Greenberg

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and author most recently of Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press). Julia Tedesco conducted research for this article.

Reprinted with permission from Tom Dispatch.

Dearie Challenges Trump Lawyers To Prove He Declassified Mar-a-Lago Documents

"You can't have your cake and eat it."

That is what Judge Raymond Dearie told Trump’s lawyers yesterday when they objected to his demand that they submit a sworn affidavit attesting to any actions Trump had taken to declassify the 100 folders of top-secret documents the government is seeking permission to use in its criminal investigation of Trump. Dearie, acting as special master, pressed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly on whether Trump had actually declassified the documents Trump removed from the White House and took with him to Mar a Lago.

The meeting, held in Dearie’s court in Brooklyn, was supposed to address the schedule he proposed for reviewing the 11,000 documents and other materials Trump removed from the White House when he left office on Jan. 20, 2021.

Instead, the session devolved into a lengthy back-and-forth between the judge and Trump’s attorneys over Trump’s repeated claims that he had declassified the secret documents seized by the FBI during its August search of his hotel/club/residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Part of the subject of the meeting was Dearie’s plan for both sides to examine all the documents and submit their proposed labels for each one – personal, privileged, or unprivileged – by October 7. Trump’s lawyers objected to that schedule and asked for more time, possibly until the end of the month, before the documents have to be categorized.

The primary issue, raised by the government in its motion to Judge Cannon over a week ago and in its appeal of the judge’s order last Friday, is the status of the 100 folders with various classification markings that hold an unknown number of classified documents. The Department of Justice has asked that Judge Aileen Cannon’s order restricting their use by the government in its criminal investigation be lifted. Trump’s lawyers claimed to Cannon last week, and yesterday in their answer to the DOJ appeal, that the documents should not necessarily be considered classified, and neither court should accept the government’s word that they are classified.

In yesterday's filing to the appeals court, Trump’s lawyers wrote, “The government again presupposes that the documents it claims are classified are, in fact, classified and their segregation is inviolable. However, the government has not yet proven this critical fact. The president has broad authority governing classification of, and access to, classified documents.”

During the initial stages of the meeting, Dearie appeared to accept that the documents are classified, referring to the markings on them showing various levels of classification, including Secret and Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information. He told Trump’s lawyers that in effect, Trump was trying to have things both ways: He is refusing to certify that he declassified the documents while asking Cannon and the Circuit Court as well as Dearie, the new special master, not to accept the DOJ’s contention that all of the documents remain classified.

Trump’s lawyers contended that having to certify that the documents were declassified would cause them to “disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.” Responding to that, Dearie proclaimed, “I can’t allow litigation strategy to dictate the outcome of my recommendations to Judge Cannon. What am I looking for? As far as I am concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said. “What business is it of the court?” The “it” Dearie referred to is the contention of Trump’s lawyers that the classification status of the documents should remain in question.

Responding to an assertion by one of Trump’s lawyers that Dearie was “going a little beyond what Judge Cannon contemplated,” the judge replied testily, “I was taken aback by your comment that I’m going beyond what Judge Cannon instructed me to do. I think I’m doing what I’m told [by Judge Cannon].” Trump’s lawyers said the issue was not about “gamesmanship,” and told the judge, “We shouldn’t have to be in a position to have to disclose declarations and witness statements.”

It was at that point that Judge Dearie told the Trump legal team, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.” He then announced that henceforth he will operate on the assumption that the documents are classified according to their markings and proceed accordingly. Dearie’s decision raised the possibility that he will move quickly to review the classified documents and that he may recommend to Cannon that she lift her order restricting their use by the government. After all, he seemed to indicate, after both the DOJ and the Trump legal team have reviewed the documents and labeled them as private, privileged or not privileged, everyone will have seen the documents, classified and otherwise, so the issue of restricting the use of their content will be moot.

Dearie’s meeting lasted only 40 minutes, and based on his attitude about his duties as a special master and the way he dismissed the contentions of Trump’s lawyers, it may turn out to have been the longest 40 minutes of the former president’s life.

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 luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

Trump's New Claims On Stolen Classified Documents Are Way Beyond Absurd

The Trump response to the Justice Department's filing with Judge Aileen Cannon on her order for the special master is 21 pages long, but they don’t waste any time getting right into the meat of their ridiculous crap-ola. On page one, Trump asserts that the “Government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th President of his own Presidential and personal records.”

Got that? On line 3 of the filing, Trump and his lawyers are telling the judge that the papers he turned over to the National Archives in January, and the classified documents he turned over to the DOJ in June, and the classified documents seized by the FBI on August 8 – all of them, irrespective of the fact that they were all the work-product of the federal government and by law belong to the federal government, well, Judge Cannon, they are mine.

One page later, it gets worse. Trump’s lawyers refer to the classified documents in question – you know, the ones we’ve all seen in the photograph taken by the FBI in Trump’s office – as “purported ‘classified records.’” In other words, they are contesting that the documents marked classified as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information and others marked Top Secret and Classified, are not classified documents at all. The filing then goes on to contest the government’s contention that “if a document has a classification marking, it remains classified irrespective of any actions taken during President Trump's term in office.”

Gee, what could those “actions” have been? Well, what they are apparently indicating without coming right out and saying so is that Trump declassified the documents during the time he served as president, despite the complete lack of evidence that this is true.

When documents are declassified, they are marked as such in order that they are permitted to be held and seen by persons without security clearances. None of the documents Trump turned over, nor any of those seized by the FBI, have those declassification markings.

Politico pointed out on Friday that in the joint filing by the government and Trump’s lawyers proposing potential special masters, “Trump’s attorneys once again did not echo Trump’s claim that he had declassified any of the materials he possessed at Mar-a-Lago.” Well, folks, that stance is out the door, because in today’s filing, Trump is not only asserting that the classified documents are “Presidential records” under the legal definitions of the Presidential Records Act (PRA), but they are only “purported classified documents.”

The Trump filing then dives into a legal analysis on the “merits” of the government’s claims, under subheads like “APPLICABLE LAW,” and “PRESIDENT TRUMP IS LIKELY TO SUCCEED ON THE MERITS.” Don’t you just love that one? They refer to the former president as “President Trump,” and that appellation carries on throughout the rest of the filing: There were “materials seized from President Trump,” the argument in the filing was “raised by President Trump.” They tell the judge that “President Trump clearly has an individual interest in and need for the seized property.”

It’s “President Trump” this and “President Trump” that, almost as if they figure if they keep referring to him as “President Trump” enough times, the judge is more likely to agree with the fiction that he is somehow still “President Trump” and not a civilian plaintiff engaged in a lawsuit with the government. They even go so far as to assert, “The Government contends that President Trump can have no such interest in the purported ‘classified records.’ But, again, the Government has not proven these records remain classified. That issue is to be determined later.”

The don’t specify when “later” is, but presumably they are making a not terribly subtle reference to that time dearly hoped for and conspired for by the former president when he will be returned to office by fiat, or some other magical way, and then he can do with all of the documents what he wishes, because of course, as he has said repeatedly, “they are mine.”

And then there is this: “However there still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents. The Government’s position therefore assumes a fact not yet established. This Court’s Order exercising jurisdiction did not make findings as to the classification status of any documents. Further, whether it was lawful for the Government to seize those documents has yet to be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Let’s take a moment to parse this jewel: they are alleging that the government “assumes a fact not yet established” that the classified documents we’ve all seen – including, presumably, Judge Cannon – in the FBI photograph showing multiple documents with multiple and very serious classification markings. And then, incredibly, they are questioning whether the FBI search and seizure of the documents from Mar-a-Lago was “lawful” because it has not been “determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Wow. A federal judge – albeit a different federal judge from Judge Cannon – issued a legal search warrant in response to a legal request backed up by uncontested reasons for probable cause, and yet that judge was allegedly “not competent” to do it. Moreover, they are indicating that this is yet another issue they will pursue in some future lawsuit not yet filed by Trump.

It gets worse by increments and then by tsunami. Trump asserts that “The president has the power to declassify documents,” even though he is not the president anymore – which, if you read the wording of the filing, they are contesting, as well. Then they assert that “A former president has an unfettered right to access Presidential records,” using an exceedingly tortured reading of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) which conveniently omits the fact, very much in evidence, that the “presidential records” in question were removed from the White House under circumstances that do not comport with the PRA, and moreover that the classified records removed from the White House were not stored in the secure conditions mandated by law for such highly sensitive documents.

They go on to assert that contrary to the DOJ’s exhaustive explanation of why a national security intelligence assessment cannot be carried out without the assistance of the FBI, the judge’s order does not forbid the FBI from assisting in the intelligence assessment, which is, again, a tortured reading of Judge Cannon’s original order which clearly does bar the FBI from even looking at the seized documents or using them when interrogating witnesses.

You would think, reading the new Trump filing, that his lawyers have trouble reading and understanding the English language, but perhaps it is the case that they understand something about Judge Cannon which is “not in evidence” in this case, i.e., that she is such a profoundly entranced Trumpazoid that she will read her own words in her previous order about appointing a special master exactly like Trump says she should, and of course reject the government’s motion to exclude the 100 classified documents from her order.

Trump contends that the government and the people will not suffer “irreparable harm” by the appointment of a special master, but of course, “PRESIDENT TRUMP AND THE PUBLIC WOULD BE HARMED BY THE STAY,” (emphasis in the Trump filing.) And why, you might ask, would this be so? Well, what we’re dealing with here, according to the Trump filing, is an “investigation of a former President of the United States by the administration of his political rival.”

What happened to “President Trump?” Well, all of a sudden in their filing the Trump lawyers came up against a brick wall: the administration of the actual President is investigating the “former president,” as their wording grudgingly admits. There is simply no other way to put it, unless they wanted to assert that one president is investigating another president in a country for which the Constitution mandates that there can be only one president at a time. Amazingly, given the ridiculous depths into which the entire the Trump filing dives, it seems that even Trump lawyers are unwilling to suffer the immediate disapprobation that would attend to such a patently absurd contention.

Even though this filing by the Trump legal team does not specifically echo Trump’s claim that he “automatically declassified” all of the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, they certainly point in the direction of bringing up that contention in a future lawsuit. In fact, if there is a thread throughout the filing it is the dangling of issues that might be brought up either when the DOJ appeals, or in more lawsuits Trump is no doubt contemplating.

It is what you would expect from a man who has his excellent team of lawyers and the excellent team of Big Mac chefs at the local McDonald’s on speed dial.

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 luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

System Of Injustice Fails Breonna Taylor -- And Protects Donald Trump

You can be sure the FBI and the Department of Justice dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on the search warrant before they went looking for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the home of the former president of the United States, and hit the jackpot. Though I wasn’t there, I’m confident that no agent busted down doors or shot around corners.

According to reports, though not to the hysterical hyperbole employed by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, this was a professional operation, approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the federal judiciary.

Still, thanks to Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a special master must sort through and review 13,000 documents and items seized from Mar-a Lago before the investigation can continue. The ruling came after even Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr — who judged Cannon’s ruling “deeply flawed” — eventually came to the conclusion that the federal government had no choice but to act in the face of Trump’s defiance.

More delay, more court review, it seems, before the public gets any closer to finding out why a private citizen who used to be president took classified government documents to his private club or what national, perhaps damaging secrets Trump and company held on to despite entreaties to do the right thing.

I get it, though. I understand why the former president and his followers — the crowd current President Joe Biden accurately labels “MAGA Republicans” — believe that the rules apply only to some, while others get to make them up as they go along. Just look at the excuses they make for his behavior, and the twists and turns of spine and morality necessary to turn violent Capitol rioters into “patriots.”

To realize there really are different and inequitable systems of justice in a country that swears it isn’t so, look no further than the case of a woman who was given none of the protections or attention that those with wealth and power take for granted.

Breonna Taylor was defenseless. In fact, as we’ve found out from a guilty plea by someone tasked with enforcing the law, the search that ended in Taylor’s death was based on lies.

Former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett late last month pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting she helped falsify the warrant and conspired with another officer to concoct a cover story when the March 2020 killing of this young Black woman belatedly made national news.

I relate much more to Taylor’s plight than Trump’s, having been seen more than once during my growing-up years as more perp than citizen minding my own business by law enforcement patrolling my working-class Black neighborhood. Then again, I would think that most Americans struggling to get through each day would find more similarities with the emergency room technician who wanted to be a nurse than a former president who refuses to accept defeat in a presidential election.

Yet, one search garners the headlines and boiling outrage, while the other earns little more than a mention, unless you’re a friend or family member or anyone interested in an American system of justice that works fairly.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. But with every day, every new Trump revelation and accompanying pushback by those who would rather not know the truth, it becomes depressingly clear that way too many Americans are not just fine with the status quo, but are willing to fight to make sure certain people get away with everything.

Imagine how any other ordinary citizen would be treated had they defied polite, then stern requests, then a subpoena to turn over documents that were never theirs to begin with, that contain information that could endanger the security of Americans and their allies.

To listen to his constant whining, to skim endless emails begging for cash, Trump doesn’t realize how lucky he is, or has been for his whole coddled life, one littered with bankruptcies and bailouts, lawsuits and settlements. Pain has been cushioned, often erased, by lawyers, toadies and loyal yes-men and yes-women who deflect and sometimes take the fall while he moves on, using his megaphone to spew grievance and claim victimhood.

At rallies, like his recent one in Pennsylvania, he name-called law enforcement, Democrats and anyone who fails to see things his way; he relishes stoking anger, not that he has to do very much. Like The Hulk in The Avengers movie, Trump’s acolytes are “always angry.”

While Breonna Taylor at first did not have millions of followers willing to defend her right to get a peaceful night’s sleep without police officers skating on thin legal ice precipitating a deadly encounter, many did take up her cause and marched to support it.

But I’d wager that some of the same folks who at the time shouted “back the blue” and blamed Taylor herself before all the facts were in now favor defunding the FBI and any other law enforcement agency whose goal is to keep the nation’s secrets out of the hands of random visitors at Trump’s Florida compound, where a fake Rothschild and a Chinese infiltrator have roamed the halls.

If you are truly intent on officers of the law following it, consistency would demand some support for the 26-year-old Kentuckian, now that it’s clear justice was not done in her case. But I don’t think many of the Jan. 6, 2021, crowd would ever link arms with those marching for accountability from authorities for one Black woman and others who fit her profile.

Alas, consistency has gone the way of the courage of mainstream Republicans, who now may not praise Trump but dare not criticize him.

It’s ironic that it fell to the same federal government that is the target of Trump and MAGA ire to seek just a bit of belated justice for Taylor, with the Department of Justice charging four officers involved in that botched Louisville operation, one that was as sloppy as the Mar-a-Lago search was certainly by the book.

In Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron has dodged responsibility, with his own grand jury speaking out about charges he failed to present. But despite pushback on how he handled or mishandled what happened to Breonna Taylor, the Republican rising star, with the support of Donald Trump and, he hopes, MAGA Republicans in his state, Cameron may yet gain the governor prize he craves.

Not my idea of justice, but maybe America’s.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.