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Tag: mar a lago raid

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 Big Day With Special Master Doesn't Go Well (For Him)

Senior Judge Raymond Dearie, sitting in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, fired a warning shot over Trump’s head in his first act as special master in the case of the 11,000 documents Trump removed from the White House upon leaving the presidency, which he refused for months to return to the government as required by law.

At issue before Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida, and now before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in the appeal filed by the Department of Justice last Friday, are 100 classified folders containing an unknown number of secret documents which the DOJ wants the Circuit Court to release from Cannon’s stay restricting their use by the FBI and DOJ. Trump has publicly claimed that he declassified the documents in question in multiple tweets and other public statements, but notably, his lawyers have refrained from making the same claim in their filings opposing the DOJ’s motion to release them for use in its criminal investigation of Trump.

Trump’s lawyers have called the classified documents Trump held in Mar a Lago “alleged classified documents,” and Judge Cannon has seemed to question whether the documents are indeed classified as their markings would indicate and which the DOJ has said they are.

In Dearie’s letter to both the Trump lawyers and the DOJ yesterday laying out a proposed schedule for his work as special master, the judge in effect told Trump to put up or shut up about declassifying the secret documents he held. In their response to the judge’s proposed schedule, Trump’s lawyers squawked loudly: “The Draft Plan requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.”

Got that? For the first time, Trump has allowed his lawyers to acknowledge that he faces a potential indictment, and he does not want to be forced to show his hand before the indictment comes down and the prosecution demands that he do so.

In plain English, Trump and his lawyers are understandably reluctant to answer the judge about whether or not Trump declassified the documents held at Mar a Lago because Judge Dearies has faced them with the option of either telling the truth or lying. Having gotten away with lying in public for his entire adult life, Trump is clearly uncomfortable with the position he has put himself in: legal proceedings in court, before a judge, require that parties tell the truth, and lies told by either the plaintiff – Trump – or his lawyers are punishable.

Trump’s problem is that he took a whole slew of classified documents out of the White House, which the government subsequently seized, but he has no corresponding documents proving his statements that he declassified them. If they had been declassified, the documents themselves would have markings declaring them to be “declassified.” None of the documents seized from Mar a Lago or turned over to the National Archives or to the DOJ have such markings.

Declassification is a complicated and lengthy process. If a document is to be declassified, it must be sent to the agency which first classified it to be reviewed. At this point, the agency can object to the declassification and provide reasons why it should remain secret. If there are no objections, the document is sent around to other intelligence agencies or to the Department of Defense, if the DOD had used the document, and those agencies get an opportunity to review it and object to its declassification on the grounds that it might compromise ongoing operations, endanger a human source used in the production of the document, or reveal sources and methods of obtaining intelligence.

After this lengthy process, the document is returned to the agency which produced it for a final review and formal declassification. At that point, the document essentially becomes a record that would be available to the press and to the public via a Freedom of Information application, or it might be publicly released by the person or agency that requested the declassification.

Trump’s big problem is that he wanted secrets, not public information, because secrets have value that publicly available information does not. What good is a classified document if everyone knows what it says? If Trump had in fact declassified the documents in question, there would have been no argument about them in court before either Judge Cannon or the Circuit Court, and certainly there would be no reason for Judge Dearie to question Trump and his lawyers as to whether they had been declassified.

It's a box Trump himself constructed and locked himself into through a combination of arrogance and ignorance. Trump kept the documents because he believed “they are mine,” as he has said several times, an act and allegation of totalitarian levels of self-regard. But he had no knowledge of what is involved in declassifying information because he had never formally done so. He knew all about revealing secrets, as he did when he revealed secret information about Israel to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister only days into his presidency, and which he probably did in his private meeting with Vladimir Putin at Helsinki, which he held without any aides or even his own translator, agreeing to use Putin’s instead.

He could have let the DOJ have the classified documents the FBI took from Mar a Lago and been done with it. Instead, he went into court and asked for a special master to review the documents, and now here he is, having to respond to the demands of the very person he got a federal judge to appoint for the purpose of going through Trump’s professional underwear drawer, as it were.

Welcome to your big day, former President Trump, and good luck. You’re going to need it.

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 Lawyers Refuse Special Master Order On Documents He 'Declassified'

By Karen Freifeld and Sarah N. Lynch

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump's lawyers resisted revealing whether he declassified materials seized in an August FBI search of his Florida home as the U.S. judge appointed to review the documents planned his first conference on the matter on Tuesday.

Judge Raymond Dearie on Monday circulated a draft plan to both sides that sought details on documents Trump allegedly declassified, as he claimed publicly and without evidence, though his lawyers have not asserted that in court filings.

In a letter filed ahead of Tuesday's hearing, Trump's lawyers argued it is not time and would force him to reveal a defense to any subsequent indictment - an acknowledgement that the investigation could lead to criminal charges.

Dearie, a senior federal judge in Brooklyn, was selected as an independent arbiter known as a special master. He will help decide which of the more than 11,000 documents seized in the August 8 search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home should be kept from the Justice Department's criminal investigation into the alleged mishandling of the documents.

Dearie will recommend to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon which documents may fall under attorney-client privilege or an assertion of executive privilege, which allows a president to withhold certain documents or information.

It is unclear whether the review would go forward as instructed by Cannon, the Florida judge appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020 who ordered the review.

Trump is under investigation for retaining government records, some marked as highly classified, at the resort in Palm Beach, his home after leaving office in January 2021. He has denied wrongdoing, and said without providing evidence that he believes the investigation is a partisan attack.

The Justice Department on Friday appealed a portion of Cannon's ruling, seeking to stay the review of roughly 100 documents with classified markings and the judge's restricting FBI access to them.

Federal prosecutors said the special master review ordered by the judge would hinder the government from addressing national security risks and force the disclosure of "highly sensitive materials."

On Tuesday, Trump's legal team filed its response to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, opposing the government's request and calling the Justice Department's investigation "unprecedented and misguided."

In their 40-page filing, Trump's attorneys said the court should not take the Justice Department at its word that the roughly 100 documents in question are in fact still classified, and said the special master should be permitted to review them as a step towards "restoring order from chaos."

In Cannon's order appointing Dearie as special master, she asked him to conclude his review by the end of November. She instructed him to prioritize the documents marked classified, though her process calls for Trump's counsel to review the documents, and Trump's lawyers may not have the necessary security clearance.

The Justice Department has described the special master process as unnecessary, as it has already conducted its own attorney-client privilege review and set aside about 500 pages that could qualify. It opposes an executive privilege review, saying any such assertion over the records would fail.

The August FBI search came after Trump left office with documents that belong to the government and did not return them, despite numerous requests by the government and a subpoena.

It is still unclear whether the government has all the records. The Justice Department has said some classified material still could be missing after the FBI recovered empty folders with classification markings from Mar-a-Lago.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld, additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham, David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama)

Justice Department Rips Judge Cannon A New One With Appeal Brief

Judge Aileen Cannon may have thought she had granted the Department of Justice enough leeway to complete its investigation of Donald Trump for his mishandling and unsecure storage of classified documents at Mar a Lago, but in its appeal filed yesterday, the DOJ launched into a 29-page first-year-law lecture on the judge’s delusions about the law and her misunderstanding of the practicalities of conducting a national security investigation.

Cannon thought she was making two major concessions to the DOJ in her order issued on Thursday appointing Judge Raymond Dearie as special master. Previously she had told the DOJ it could not use the 100 folders of classified documents in their criminal investigation of Donald Trump. That order was specific and to the point. In her Thursday order, however, the judge told the DOJ that her previous order did not “restrict the Government from conducting investigations or bringing charges based on anything other than the actual content of the seized materials; from questioning witnesses and obtaining other information about the movement and storage of seized materials, including documents marked as classified, without discussion of their contents.”

This is what is usually called playing chicken with the government by those practicing before the bar. First, she tells the DOJ they can’t touch the classified documents or use them in any way whatsoever, even as they go about interviewing witnesses. Then she comes along and appears to reverse that restriction by allowing the DOJ to use the classified documents but not their contents. This is like telling a kid you can have your football back, but you can’t fill it with air and you can’t play with it.

The second concession she thought she was making was telling the special master that he was free to “prioritize” his review of the 11,000 documents, indicating that he could review the 100 classified documents first and then make “recommendations” to the judge as to how he thought the government could use them. The judge was depending on the DOJ and the special master to read-between-the-lines and conclude that her order was reasonable and go on with their business.

The DOJ is not satisfied with the judge’s so-called compromises and went straight at her order, calling it “unprecedented” because it enjoins “the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security.” The DOJ thus makes two major points: First, the classified documents don’t belong to Trump, they belong to the federal government, and second, this is a national security investigation, and the government should be accorded the same deference and discretion that courts have always yielded to the branch of government that is charged by the Constitution with defending the country.

And that’s just the first sentence of the DOJ’s appeal.

The DOJ proceeds to deliver twenty-three more pages attacking Judge Cannon on her interpretation of the law, her misunderstanding of or refusal to concede various facts in evidence, and her abject deference to Trump, which apparently caused her to drop to her knees as she cited “the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances.” The unprecedented circumstance she refers to is that Trump isn’t merely a common citizen, but a former president.

The DOJ’s position beforee the 11th Circuit, naturally, is that Trump is a citizen like any other, and while he should be accorded his rights under the law, he is not entitled to the special rights Cannon delivers to him on a silver platter in her order appointing the special master.

The DOJ makes no bones about pointing out that Judge Cannon appears to live on a legal planet occupied by exactly one person: herself. The entire purpose behind her order – the appointment of a special master to review the documents removed from the White House by Trump as to whether they are entitled to protection by attorney-client or executive privilege – is negated by the fact that neither privilege was ever asserted by Trump. The DOJ points out to the 11th Circuit that Judge Cannon appears to have claimed these privileges for Trump on her own, without input from the former president other than his original request that a special master be appointed for this purpose.

Talk about unprecedented! Only on Planet Cannon are federal judges entitled to claim executive privilege and attorney-client privilege for a plaintiff when neither privilege has been asserted.

The Nixon tapes decision by the Supreme Court established that even when a president or a former president asserts executive privilege over materials that he holds – in Nixon’s case, the White House tapes – such an assertion is “overcome by the government’s ‘demonstrated, specific need’ for them…because they are central to its ongoing investigation.”

That the “ongoing investigation” in both the Nixon and Trump cases was and is criminal in nature bears heavily on the rejection of the claim of either privilege, according to the DOJ appeal. The DOJ also points out that presidents cannot claim executive privilege over communications within the Executive Branch, only when such communications are sought by the Congress or by entities outside of the government. In this case, the DOJ reminded the Circuit Court, Trump is attempting to use the claim of executive privilege to prevent investigators who are part of the Executive Branch – the FBI and DOJ – from gaining access to materials which were classified by the Executive and owned by the Executive, from being used in a legitimate function of the Executive: a criminal investigation of the mishandling of national defense documents.

These are elements of law and procedure which should not have to be explained in an appeal to a Circuit Court, and yet here is the DOJ, in an echo of The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, having to do just that for a judge who -- like the title character in the play and film -- seems to have an unusual affection for authoritarian leaders, and particularly for Donald Trump.

The DOJ basically rehashes its argument that limiting the FBI’s access to and use of the 100 classified documents prevents the risk assessment by the Director of National Intelligence into whether or not the mishandling of national defense information by the former president has harmed the national defense. This is another case in which executive privilege cannot be claimed over documents owned by the government that are necessary to another part of the Executive Branch – the intelligence community – in carrying out its duties of helping to defend the nation.

The DOJ doubled down here in its appeal, pointing out that while Judge Cannon’s order may have appeared to allow the national security review of the classified documents to go forward, its limitations on the FBI blocked the assessment and thus damaged national security. The 100 classified documents “were stored in an unsecure manner over a prolonged period, and the court’s injunction itself prevents the government from even beginning to take necessary steps to determine whether improper disclosures might have occurred or may still occur.” By blocking the FBI from using the contents of the documents while interviewing witnesses and from analyzing the contents of the documents, the FBI is constrained from assisting the Director of National Intelligence in proceeding with the national security review.

Then the DOJ revealed a new wrinkle in its argument. The appeal claimed that the judge’s restrictions on the FBI’s use of the classified documents made it impossible to determine if any classified documents were still missing. The DOJ cited the 48 empty folders found at Mar a Lago with classification markings and told the Circuit Court that the judge’s order forbidding the FBI from using the contents of the classified documents prevented the government from identifying patterns in the documents Trump kept at Mar a Lago that might help determine the nature or even the specific names of the documents missing from the 48 empty folders.

In other words, the DOJ in its appeal to the 11th Circuit is coming close to accusing Trump of withholding secret documents in an attempt to thwart the government’s criminal investigation. The appeal strongly indicates that the DOJ believes some of the secret documents are missing from the folders because Trump has done something with them beyond hiding them, which would be included in the government’s national security assessment of harm caused by the fact that so many documents appear to be missing as well as by the mishandling of the seized documents themselves.

The DOJ goes into great detail describing Trump’s denials that he had even removed documents from the White House, and then his attempts to delay their return to the National Archives, including his incomplete response to a subpoena for the documents in which he had one of his lawyers certify that no more classified documents were being stored at Mar a Lago on June 3. The FBI search of Trump’s resort/club/residence in August turned up some 23 additional boxes of unreported material, including the 100 folders of classified documents the DOJ wants the appeals court to order released from Judge Cannon’s stay.

The bulk of the rest of the DOJ appeal goes into the legal issues involved and how Judge Cannon either ignored them or outright violated precedents and procedures. Lots of invocations of Rule 41(g) which requires that a plaintiff must show that “he had a possessory interest in the property seized by the government.” The DOJ takes pains to show Trump did not have any claim on the materials as much of the property and all of the classified documents seized by the FBI belong to the government under the Presidential Records Act and several other statutes regarding the handling of classified materials.

The DOJ includes a lengthy primer on how Trump cannot claim ownership of classified documents, nor can he claim executive privilege with respect to them, and lists a series of court decisions setting forth why executive privilege is qualified, not absolute. This primer was included in the DOJ’s last filing but obviously ignored by Judge Cannon wearing her “Miss Jean Brodie” robes as she found for Trump and against the government on every issue cited by the DOJ once again, this time with emphasis added.

Trump’s claim that he declassified the documents in question – which he made publicly but was never formally included in any of his filings to Judge Cannon – is dismissed by the government with a tsunami of details about what must be done to declassify documents, none of which Trump ever carried out. In fact, the DOJ asserts, there would be no contest over the contents of the classified documents if Trump had indeed declassified them, because at that point the contents could be made public and would not be subject to any restrictions placed by the judge on the documents. The entire matter would be moot.

What the whole thing boils down to in everything Judge Cannon has done to restrict the governments actions with regard to the classified documents, up to and including the appointment of a special master, is that she is all tingly and hot over one issue: the DOJ is engaged in a criminal investigation of the former president, and she doesn’t like it, so she has done her best to stop it.

Leaving aside all the legal twists and turns in the DOJ’s appeal, in plain English there is no possible claim of privilege, there is no issue over usage of contents, and no restrictions any judge could reasonably impose within the strictures of the law, because there is no case.

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

Fox Poll: Most Americans Say Trump Wrongly Took Government Documents

Fox News has spent weeks downplaying former President Trump’s pillaging of classified documents, accusing the Justice Department of “working in tandem” with media outlets to attack the ex-president, and parroting his social media drivel that’s endangered the lives of law enforcement.

Yet a new poll conducted by the right-wing network showed the great majority of Americans believe Trump was in the wrong and the FBI’s actions were justified in the classified documents case.

The Fox News survey found that 65 percent of Americans believe it was “inappropriate” for Trump to remove more than 11,000 government documents, some of which have classified markings, from the government's custody on his way out of the White House.

Only 26 percent of the respondents said they believe Trump was justified in taking out those documents, a 39-point margin off the two-thirds majority that thought Trump’s actions inappropriate.

Even among staunch Trump voters, Fox News reported, only an eight-point margin separated those who approved of Trump’s actions (48 percent) from those who disapproved (36 percent).

The survey also found that 56 percent of voters thought the FBI acted aptly in its execution of a court-approved search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home last August, as opposed to the 39 percent who believed its actions inappropriate.

7 in 10 voters surveyed said they still had confidence in the FBI, 30 percent of whom affirmed that their confidence in the bureau amounted to a “great deal,” while 41 percent said they had “some” confidence in the agency.

Fewer voters lacked confidence in the bureau now than in 2019, during the Trump administration, the poll also found: 13 percent of voters said they don’t have confidence in the agency, down from the 28 percent who said they didn’t in 2019.

The polling comes at a time when the former president and the Justice Department duel in court over the right and wrong of the politically-charged documents case, with Trump drawing rebuke from the department and the FBI for a social media campaign to paint the case a political witch hunt.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, rejected the Justice Department’s request to regain access to the classified documents seized from Trump’s clubs to resume its crucial inquiry into Trump’s mishandling of secret government documents.

Cannon dismissed the department’s complaints that the documents it sought to review are so sensitive and highly classified that any leaks could severely impair national security and instead appointed a special master chosen by Trump.

“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the Government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion,” Cannon wrote in her 10-page ruling.

The judge shrugged off criticism that her ruling heavily favored Trump and maintained her stance that an independent arbiter’s review was necessary “to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances.”

Trump Is Full Of Bluster -- But We Have To Take His Threats Seriously

The last time, following the search of the former president’s resort/club/residence at Mar a Lago, he had Lindsey Graham making his threats for him: “And I’ll say this. If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle … there will be riots in the street,” Graham said during an appearance on a Fox News show on August 28.

This time, Trump isn’t deputizing others to do his dirty work for him. Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show – yes, the smiling face of the so-called reasonable right has a show, as well as a column in the Washington Post – Trump made a double threat of what would happen if he is indicted by the DOJ. He began this way: “If a thing like that happened, I would have no prohibition against running,” Trump told Lapdog Hewitt, clearly threatening to run for president even if under indictment.

But he saved his best threat for last: “I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.” Asked by Hewitt what he meant by “problems,” Trump doubled down. “I think they’d have big problems. Big problems. I just don’t think they’d stand for it. They will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes,” Trump said, making an obvious reference to his followers.

Hewitt then asked Trump how he would deal with the “legacy media” when they inevitably accuse him of inciting violence. “That’s not inciting. I’m just saying what my opinion is,” Trump answered, perhaps having been warned by his lawyers to watch his words. “I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it.”

Okay, it doesn’t meet the legal definition of incitement of violence, but Trump was obviously calling out to his supporters using the pronoun “they,” as he goaded them to “not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes.” His prediction of “big problems…big problems” was reminiscent of Trump goading his followers to come to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 because it will “be wild!”

The words are deliberately indistinct, parsed in Trumpian fashion to get around any potential future charge of inciting a riot, but the MAGA hordes know exactly what he’s talking about. He’s telling them if the DOJ indicts him, they should take to the streets and not only “be wild” but do things that will cause “big problems,” as if the problem of the assault on the Capitol wasn’t “big” enough.

They are armed, folks, Trump’s followers are, with high-powered assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and plenty of ammunition. Forbes magazine in 2021 quoted the National Sports Shooting Foundation, an industry trade group that refers to assault rifles as “modern sporting rifles,” as estimating that there were about 20 million of them in the country in 2018.

“About 22.8 million firearms were sold nationwide in 2020, a record-breaking figure,” Forbes reported. “There were about 393 million guns in U.S. civilians’ hands in 2018, about 120 guns for every 100 people, according to a study by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. NSSF places the number even higher, at 434 million in 2020.”

Those figures are four years and two years old, respectively. But if we just take the number of assault rifles estimated in 2018, 20 million, and ignore the obvious fact that the number has doubtlessly increased significantly since then, the fact is that civilians in the U.S. are walking around with at least 10 times the number of such weapons that are in the armies of Ukraine and Russia combined. Those armies, and our army, have trained their soldiers to handle their weapons safely and fire them accurately. However, the average American civilian has had zero training in the use of the high-powered weapons because our laws don’t require such training.

There are more than 20 million assault rifles out there, not to mention semiautomatic pistols and other kinds of “sporting rifles,” as the firearms trade group absurdly calls them, and we have to assume that a lot of them are owned by the hordes of “conservative” supporters of Donald Trump.

These are the people who listened to Trump as he was ginning up his followers to attack the Capitol back in December of 2020, and they are the people Trump is addressing right now as he all-but comes right out and says they should prepare themselves to cause “big problems” if or when he is eventually indicted for committing crimes in the multiple investigations he is facing.

The last time this happened, we and the FBI and the Capitol Police and the Pentagon and every other law enforcement authority in the country just sat back and said to ourselves, oh, that’s just Trump shooting his mouth off. Nothing to see here.

And then the people who listened to what he was really saying attacked the United States Capitol, injuring some 140 police officers and directly or indirectly causing the death of 10 people.

They are listening this time, too, and some of them, as I’ve written previously in this column, are out there wearing ridiculous uniforms and face masks and they have been training themselves for the next time Trump calls them out.

He is preparing the ground for his armed followers to take to the streets if the DOJ or any other law enforcement authority indicts him for committing the multiple crimes he has been accused of.

It’s time we take him at his word, and it’s time the FBI and the DOJ and Homeland Security and the Pentagon started preparing for what’s coming.

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

#Endorse This: Colbert Nails Down Trump's Worst Legal Worry

Facing a litany of legal troubles following the FBI's discovery of classified government documents at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump is in a terrible bind. But Stephen Colbert says his worst problem is that he can't find a decent lawyer.

“His current legal team consists of a Florida insurance lawyer who’s never had a federal case, a former host at far-right One America News and a past general counsel for a parking garage company,” noted a smirking Colbert.

"Only the best and brightest people, right?" Colbert went on. "Please, Lord, I don’t ask for much, but please -- let this go to trial.”

Colbert imagines what a clown show that trial would be. Just click!

Watch the entire segment below: