The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: william barr

Top Republican Says 'A Different Set Of Rules' Applies To Trump's Purloined Papers

The ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (TX), has said he wouldn’t take classified documents to his house, but former President Trump, who is squaring off with the Justice Department in court for doing just that, lived by “a different set of rules.”

Speaking to ABC’s This Week, McCaul told co-anchor Martha Raddatz that he wouldn’t take secret government documents home, but the congressman, nevertheless, spun for Trump like many of his GOP counterparts in Congress.

When Raddatz asked McCaul if he saw any reason for Trump to take highly classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, the Texan replied, "You know, I have lived in the classified world most of my professional career; I personally wouldn't do that. But I'm not the president of the United States. But he has a different set of rules that apply to him."

McCaul, who once accused former President Obama of imperiling American security, moved to downplay the gravity of Trump’s apparent disregard for national security, government secrets, and the statutes governing them, parroting a line from the GOP Rolodex of excuses for Trump: “The president can declassify a document on a moment’s notice.”

When pressed on the absurd notion that Trump, as president of the United States, had the power to declassify secret government papers merely by thinking it, McCaul replied, “There is a process for declassification. But again, the president’s in a very different position than most of us in the national security space.”

"I know they were taken out of the White House while he was president and whether or not he declassified those documents remains to be seen," McCaul added. "He says he did. I don't have all the facts there."

A former counsel for the House impeachment managers, Norman Eisen, told the Washington Post that McCaul’s suggestion was “absurd.”

“Congressman McCaul knows better,” Eisen told the Post’s Jennifer Rubin. “There is absolutely no factual basis to believe Trump’s or his cronies’ suggestion that all these documents went through the declassification process.”

“Is the congressman really prepared to entertain absurd notions like Trump having a standing automatic declassification order whenever he took a document upstairs to the residence? Come on,” Eisen added.

Whether or not Trump believed he declassified the White House documents in his position was no reason to hold onto them when he was asked, by a grand jury subpoena, to hand them over, the Justice Department wrote in an August 29 court filing.

“The government notes that the subpoena sought documents ‘bearing classification markings,’ and therefore a complete response would not turn on whether or not responsive documents had been purportedly declassified,” an attorney in the DOJ’s National Security Division wrote in the filing.

Former attorney general William Barr, who famously announced a month after the 2020 election that the feds had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected” the election’s outcome, said there was “no justification” for Trump to keep classified documents seized from his estate, per USA Today.

"I think it's a serious matter," Barr told the paper.

Trump Begs Gullible Donors For Money To 'Sue' CNN Over The  Big Lie

Barely two months after the House Select Committee took Donald Trump to task for conning his supporters out of $250 million for non-existent election-related litigation, the former president is at it again, begging followers to fund a meritless lawsuit against CNN that has yet to materialize.

On Friday, Trump pelted his supporters with emails pleading for donations to fund his “impending lawsuit” against the cable network for calling him a “liar” due to his persistent promotion of debunked claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential elections, according to The Daily Beast.

“I’m calling on my best and most dedicated supporters to add their names to stand with me in my impending lawsuit against fake news CNN,” wrote Trump in the email, captioned “Let’s SUE CNN”.

“Add your name immediately to show your support for my upcoming lawsuit against fake news CNN.”

The email concluded with a link that directs visitors to the ex-president’s donation portal, mirroring previous fundraising emails.

In a second email sent hours after the first, Trump wrote: “I’m going to look over the names of the first 45 Patriots who added their names to publicly stand with their President AGAINST CNN.”

The fundraising emails come after attorneys for Trump, who is still obsessing over his loss in the 2020 election, issued a 282-page document to CNN demanding the retraction of such terms as “the big lie” and “lying” from its coverage of his voter fraud election claims.

“Failure to publish such a correction, apology, or retraction will result in the filing of a lawsuit and damages being sought against you, CNN,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the letter.

In a statement July 27, Trump expressed his intent to go after “other media outlets” that called him out for spreading bogus election fraud conspiracies. "I will also be commencing actions against other media outlets who have defamed me and defrauded the public regarding the overwhelming evidence of fraud throughout the 2020 Election," Trump wrote. "I will never stop fighting for the truth and for the future of our Country!"


Multiple investigations at varying levels of government across dozens of states -- as well as a probe by former Attorney General William Barr -- yielded no plausible evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 elections, yet Trump’s attorneys defended their client’s insistence on the Big Lie.

“... President Trump’s comments [regarding the 2020 election] are not lies: He subjectively believes that the results of the 2020 presidential election turned on fraudulent voting activity in several key states,” wrote the former president’s legal team.

Perhaps encouraged by the recent strings of election deniers’ victories in recent Republican primaries, a Florida lawyer for Trump, Lindsey Halligan, also threatened July 29 on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast to sue CNN for describing Trump as “a liar.”

“CNN branded Trump as a liar, and referred to his questions regarding voter fraud as ‘the big lie,’ which is actually linked to Adolf Hitler,” Halligan told Bannon.

However, prominent commentators have ridiculed Trump’s threat to sue CNN for dafamation. Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman opined, "You don't need to have passed the bar exam to know that no one at CNN will lose sleep over his demand that the network "publish a full and fair correction, apology, or retraction" of dozens of statements accusing him of a cynical campaign of deceit. Trump is more likely to win the Olympic decathlon than to prevail in this dispute."

Newly Released Memos Expose Trump's Plan To Rig 2020 Census

After a two-year legal battle by former President Donald Trump and his administration to keep emails and memos hidden about the attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the House Oversight and Reform Committee released the documents Wednesday.

NPR reports that the newly discovered information shows a secret plan by Trump and his team to try to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who chairs the House oversight committee, said in a statement: "Today's Committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals. … It is clear that legislative reforms are needed to prevent any future illegal or unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census and chip away at our democracy."

Thanks to a 2019 Supreme Court ruling, Trump’s hopes of adding the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” to the census came crashing down.

The Trump administration had attempted to use the Voting Rights Act (VRA) as cover, with the unfounded claim that “legal arguments that the Founding Fathers intended for the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants.”

The new report by the House Committee should help the House protect the next census in 2030 with its efforts to pass HR 8326, the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act.

"[HR 8326] basically moves to make sure that the census is fair and accurate, that it is removed from political influence and that the decisions made are made on science and not politics," Maloney explained to NPR.

One of the key players behind adding the citizenship question to the census was former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversaw the Census Bureau.

Ross seemed to be hellbent on adding it to the form. But like all things in the Trump world, adding this particular question was unprecedented. Since the nation’s first count in 1790, based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, all Americans—citizens and noncitizens—have been counted on the form.

During his testimony in Congress, Ross alleged that the plan to add the question was based “solely” on a letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for more information on citizenship that would be used to protect racial and language minorities and enforce the VRA. However, as NPR reports, Ross was the person who initiated the DOJ’s need for more data.

“Sec. Ross has reviewed concerns and thinks DOJ would have a legitimate use of data for VRA purposes,” former Commerce Department attorney James Uthmeier wrote to John Gore, a Trump appointee at the DOJ.

In fact, an email written on September 17 from Uthmeier to Earl Comstock, another Trump appointee, indicated a need to keep their nefarious plan secret.

“Ultimately, everyone is in agreement with our approach to move slowly, carefully, and deliberately so as to not expose us to litigation risk,” Uthmeier wrote.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Can The January 6 Hearings Save Our Democracy From 'Institutionalism'?

Well before the House Select Committee’s January 6 investigation began, trust in the classic American system of checks and balances as reliable protection against executive (or, more recently, Supreme Court) abuses of power had already fallen into a state of disgrace. A domestically shackled Biden presidency, a Congress unable to act, and a Supreme Court that seems ever more like an autocratic governing body has left American “democracy” looking grim indeed.

Now, those hearings are offering the country (and the Justice Department) what could be a last chance to begin restoring the kind of governance that once underlay a functioning democracy. There is, however, a deeply worrisome trend lurking just under this moment’s attempt to garner accountability — namely, the way loyalty to institutional Washington (even outside the law) perpetuates a flight from accountability that’s become a crucial part of American political life.

So far, the January 6 hearings have inspired a cascade of takeaways. With each televised session, new evidence about the acts of Donald Trump and crew have come to light, among them that the former president was all too tight with the far right and that he knew the crowd approaching the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was armed and dangerous. So, too, those watching have learned about witness tampering and also the lengths White House lawyers and others went to in trying to restrain the former president’s engagement with the January 6th rioters. Overall, many Americans (though not so many Republicans) have learned that January 6th was part of a far larger Trumpian effort to negate the results of the 2020 presidential election, no matter the facts or the law.

Beyond chronicling what happened and assigning blame, something else in those hearings is worth noting: namely, they are exposing the ever-growing contradiction between Washington institutionalists, whose first loyalty is to the agencies and departments they served or are serving, and the supposed purpose or mission of those very institutions. And all of this will take the U.S. even further from the democracy it still claims to be, if those who have served in them and in the White House can’t be held accountable for their abuses of power and violations of law.

Over The Cliff Of False Institutionalism

For a long time now, the mechanisms of our democratic system of government meant to ensure accountability have been at the edge of collapse, if not obliteration. Who could forget how — something I’ve written about over the years at TomDispatch — the government officials who, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, led us into the Global War on Terror found myriad ways to evade or defang the checks and balances of the courts and Congress? In the process, they managed to escape all accountability for their crimes. To offer a striking example: the top officials in the administration of President George W. Bush lied about Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, which was their main excuse for their assault on his country in 2003.

According to the invaluable Costs of War Project, a year and a half after invading Afghanistan in 2001, the top officials of the Bush administration took this country into a war in Iraq that would cost the lives of more than 4,500 American service members and nearly as many U.S. military contractors. Almost 200 journalists and aid workers would also die in that conflict, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

The Costs of War Project estimates that the overall war on terror those officials launched will, in the end, have a price tag of nearly eight trillion dollars. Add to that the impossible-to-calculate costs of their acts to the rule of law, since they dismantled individual liberties and made a mockery of human rights. After all, the top officials of that administration oversaw the secret rewriting of the law to make torture at CIA “black sites” legal, while imprisoning individuals, including Americans, without access to lawyers, due process, or the courts at a prison they built in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a system distinctly offshore of what until then had been known as American justice.

When Barack Obama took over the White House in 2009, his administration failed either to mount a course correction or punish any of the torturers or jailers and those who gave them the green light to do so. As the president put it then, he chose to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” He refused even to hold an investigation into the misdeeds of Bush administration policymakers and lawyers who had rendered us a nation of torture, while secretly implementing warrantless surveillance policies on a mass scale, keeping Guantánamo open, and failing to bring the disastrous American presences in Afghanistan and Iraq to an end.

Ironically, in explaining his reasons for not shining a light into those CIA black sites or so much else that preceded him, Obama pointed to the importance of honoring institutionalism. It was crucial, he argued, for the Agency to be able to continue to function in ways that an investigation might impede. “And part of my job,” the president explained, “is to make sure that, for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.”

Consider that an early sign of a toxic default to the version of institutionalism that threatens us today.

In the Trump years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 presidential elections stopped short of indicting the former president. Mueller’s task was to investigate potential Russian interference with that election and possible coordination with Trump in that endeavor. Mueller ultimately backed away from indicting the president for obstruction of justice, despite the evidence he had, citing an obscure 1973 Department of Justice memo from the Watergate era (reaffirmed in 2000). The memo argued that such an act would distract the president from the pressing affairs of his office.

“The spectacle of an indicted president still trying to serve as Chief Executive boggles the imagination,” the memo said, and Mueller’s mind was evidently still boggled when it came to Donald Trump and the coming 2020 election.And then there was the failure to investigate the institutional problems that accompanied the country’s initial handling of the Covid pandemic. There has never been the slightest accountability for the denialism that greeted its initial stages, nor any attempt to document what went wrong then.

In June 2021, Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) called for the creation of “an independent 9/11-style commission” to understand how the public had been left so unprotected by the Trump administration in those early pandemic months and to discuss what lessons should be drawn from it for a future pandemic. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored such an approach in the Senate, but nothing ever happened.

Such a narrative of accountability and blame might have exposed “the vulnerabilities of our public health system and issue[d] guidance for how we as a nation can better protect the American people.” But no such luck. The institutionalists prevailed and the bills are still lying dormant in Congress.

In these years, a continual distaste for self-examination and institutional reform has eviscerated notions of accountability, while leaving the nation unprepared and unprotected not only from future pandemics, but from abuses of power aimed directly at our democracy. So far, Donald Trump, in particular, has paid no price for his attacks on democracy, as the January 6th committee has made all too clear.

Institutionalists Vs. Accountability

The January 6 hearings have only underscored the reticence of Attorney General Merrick Garland when it came to mounting a case against Donald Trump or any of his top officials. As former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal has written, “[W]e’ve seen no signs of such an investigation. Ordinarily, 17 months after a crime, one would expect to see some signs of an inquiry.” And yet Department of Justice (DOJ) veterans continue to attest to their faith that the institution and Attorney General Garland will rise to the occasion.

Harvard law professor and former DOJ official Jack Goldsmith recently asked readers to sympathize with the difficult decisions the attorney general has to deal with. Garland “arguably faces a conflict of interest,” Goldsmith wrote. He then added that Garland would not only have to be convinced that he had enough evidence to get a conviction in federal court, but would have to ask himself “whether the national interest would be served by prosecuting Mr. Trump.” Goldsmith does recognize that a failure to indict could send a message that the president, even Donald Trump, “is literally above the law.” Yet he still ends his piece with a plea for trust in the AG’s decision-making.

And Goldsmith is anything but alone in putting his faith in the institution above the dire necessity of holding top officials accountable. Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, a 10-year DOJ veteran, has, in the end, weighed in similarly. “I’m an institutionalist,” he told Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation, signaling his credentials as a trusting servant of that department. “My initial thought was not to indict the former president out of concern [for] how divisive it would be. But given what we have learned, I think that he probably has to be held accountable.” A mere two weeks later he, too, had backtracked, saying “we should have faith” in Garland and the prospect of future indictments of Trump and top members of his administration.

In reality, this embrace of institutionalism, far from being a badge of honor, has become a millstone around the neck of the Department of Justice and the nation as a whole. Throughout the tenure of William Barr as Trump’s attorney general, veterans of that department and career officials there assuaged the fears of those worried that he would contribute to its further politicization. As department veteran Harry Litman reassured Americans on NPR, “That would never be Bill Barr. He’s a[n] institutionalist. He understands the important values of the Department of Justice. He has integrity. He has stature. He’s nobody’s toady.”

As it turned out, until the very end of Trump’s presidency, Barr proved to be an institutionalist bent on twisting the definition to fit his needs. His numerous stints in the White House, going back to the early 1990s, turned his form of institutionalism into an embrace of loyalty to the president over any form of accountability. Before the report of Special Counsel Mueller was even released, Barr provided his own spin, contrary to its findings. As he told NPR:

“After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report… the deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

This, despite the fact that, as Mueller testified, he had concluded otherwise.

Such shout-outs to institutionalism have become an essential part of the post-Trump political scene as well, extending to the very nature of America’s governing principles. For example, institutionalists who oppose expansion of the Supreme Court argue that such a move would constitute “serious violations of norms” and ultimately “undermin[e] the democratic system” and “diminish [the court’s] independence and legitimacy,” or so a report on potential Supreme Court reform, commissioned by Biden in 2021, concluded. And even after the disastrous Supreme Court decisions repealing abortion rights and expanding gun rights, President Biden, the consummate self-declared institutionalist, indicated that expanding the court “is not something that he wants to do,” as if the traditions of our institutions are more important than fairness, the representation of the majority, or even justice itself.

Biden has similarly shown an impassioned reluctance to challenge Congress, refusing, for instance, to lead the way when it comes to ending the filibuster in the Senate. Earlier this year he did finally (and unsucessfully) support a carve-out from the filibuster in order to try to get a voting rights bill passed and more recently in support of passing abortion-rights legislation. But his belated and tepid words were at best mere gestures and utterly without effect.

Can The January 6 Hearings Change The Game?

The House Select Committee has been making its case directly to a remarkably substantial audience (mainly of Democrats and independents) — 20 million viewers for its opening evening session and 13 million for the daytime testimony of former White House aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, who attracted the largest daytime audience yet for the hearings, far exceeding even the most watched cable news shows at that hour. And keep in mind that those viewers are, of course, potential voters this November.

In addition to the public, the Department of Justice has been a target audience for those hearings. As Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee's vice-chair, said: “The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral. There could be more than one criminal referral.”

There’s another target audience, too: American history and the possibility that the integrity of our institutions can someday be restored. The hearings themselves project the hope that, despite the disastrous failures of American democracy and institutional Washington in this century, there are still guardrails capable of protecting us and fortifying the mechanisms of accountability.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the select committee, has summed up the matter this way:

“[F]or four years, the Justice Department took the position that you can’t indict a sitting president. If the Department were now to take the position that you can’t investigate or indict a former president, then, a president becomes above the law. That’s a very dangerous idea that the founders would have never subscribed to.”

Given Washington’s reliance in these years on loyalty to institutions rather than to democracy, it’s little wonder that polls of Americans show a waning trust in those very institutions. A recent Gallup poll typically “marks new lows in confidence for all three branches of the federal government — the Supreme Court (25 percent), the presidency (23 percent) and Congress, which ranked at a truly dismal seven percent.

The question is: Can a revival of accountability as a cherished element of governance help to rebuild those institutions and trust in them, or are we headed for a far grimmer America in the near future?

The January 6 hearings offer a certain hope that accountability might put institutionalism in its place. Restoring it (and so the faith of the American people in our democracy) should be the sine qua non for a post-Trumpist future. Whatever virtues our institutions may have, their true value can only persist if they are accountable to the principles of democracy they were created to uphold.

Copyright 2022 Karen J. Greenberg

Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author most recently of Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press). Lindsey Sullivan contributed research for this article.

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

The Big Lie, Wrapped In More Lies -- And Finally Stripped Bare

Now Americans know for certain what many suspected since Election Day 2020, which is that Donald Trump, his enablers in the Congress, his publicists on Fox News and his co-conspirators in the White House were in on the Big Lie from the very beginning. All of them understood all along that Trump's insistent claim about election fraud was false and intended solely to deceive their followers.

Both the original deception and its protective wrapping were ripped away by the House Select Committee's revelatory hearing on June 9.

It is now undeniable that Trump and his gang were aware from the first week of November 2020 that he had lost the election to Joe Biden. Trump aide Jason Miller testified to the select committee that the campaign's own data expert had informed the then-president he "was going to lose," based on an internal assessment of the reported "county-by-county, state by state results."

According to Miller, Trump rejected this incontrovertible judgment because he wanted to fight the outcome in court. But his campaign swiftly lost every case brought to contest the election on both the state and federal levels, in courts overseen by judges of both parties, culminating in the summary dismissal of its claims by the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority that included three of his appointees.

Trump and his cronies knew from the start that their legal claims were entirely meritless. So did the lawyers representing him, including Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom have suffered court disciplinary action for their conscious lies.

Everybody around Trump, and their brothers and sisters and cousins, knew that he and they were lying about the election, even as they stoked outrage among his gullible true believers. But they continued to promote the Big Lie — and all the subsidiary lies — as the fateful date of January 6 approached.

Attorney General William Barr testified that he told Trump on three separate occasions that the claims of fraud were absolutely baseless. "I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit."

Yet instead of accepting the blunt assessment of the nation's highest law enforcement official, who had defended him during the Russia investigation, even misleading the public about the Mueller report, Trump threw Barr out of the Oval Office. He then attempted to appoint an eager flunky, Jeffrey Clark, as acting attorney general in order to foist a conscious lie on the states by misusing the authority of the Justice Department.

On December 28, 2020, Clark had drafted a letter to Georgia officials falsely asserting that the department had found voting irregularities that affected election results in several states. This was itself a conscious lie. What stopped Clark's appointment was a threat by Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and other top attorneys in the Justice Department and the White House to resign en masse, a potentially ruinous scandal.

The pattern was clear as the hearing proceeded, with Ivanka Trump testifying that she believed Barr (confirming a New York Times report that neither she nor her husband Jared Kushner credited Trump's "fraud" nonsense). But nobody around Trump saw any evidence to support the Big Lie, including the president himself.

Neither did the professional liars at Fox News, who gulled their audience into believing claims that they knew were ridiculous. At the hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney displayed an ominous text from Fox host Sean Hannity to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: "Key now, no more crazy people, no more stolen election talk. Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real. Many people will quit." In other words, Hannity knew that the Big Lie was a lie, even as he and his network mendaciously promoted it.

Conscious of its own guilt and involvement, Fox refused to televise the hearings, devoting its airtime to conspiracy theories. The same consciousness of guilt also seems to have seized a number of Republican members of Congress, whose futile efforts to obtain pardons from Trump during his final days in office were also disclosed by Cheney.

The only people who honestly swallowed the Big Lie were Trump's followers, thousands of whom assaulted the Capitol on that "wild" day of January 6. Now many of those unfortunate fools — the same crowd who invested their faith in fascist nonsense about coronavirus vaccines and Hollywood pedophiles — will go to prison because they believed in their golden calf, Donald Trump, who knew he was lying to them and leading them to the slaughter.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

The Corruption That John Durham Ignores In His Own Backyard

The way land records work is pretty simple. Owners file a deed in the city, county or town’s clerk’s office and the deed states that the first owner, or grantor, is conveying the property to the new owner or grantee. Usually the new deed lists the page and volume number of the first owner’s deed. The deeds form a chain, connecting one to another in a way that can be tracked.

Except in East Haven, there’s a small piece of property, 105 McLay Avenue, where the land records offer two chains of title. One owner has a chain going back to 1924. The other owner doesn’t. That second owner’s chain starts in 2005 where the Town of East Haven simply appears as the owner of 105 McLay Avenue and conveys the property to a Connecticut corporation.There’s no deed conveying the property to the town and yet the town went and granted it — for unknown consideration — to a local business. It’s almost like the Town of East Haven stole the land.

Indeed, something is rotten in the Town of East Haven. I know; I’ve watched it unfold because one of the owners of 105 McLay Avenue is my father.

My father reported these problems to then-United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, John Durham. Connecticut’s Assistant Attorney General, Sandra Arenas, and also referred the matter to Durham’s office by letter. No one from Durham’s office ever contacted my father.

People who don’t live in Connecticut already know who Durham is. He’s the special counsel secretly appointed to ”investigate matters related to intelligence activities and investigations arising out of the 2016 presidential campaigns” by former Attorney General William P. Barr in October 2020. The first trial in that investigation against Michael Sussman, an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, ended when a jury acquitted Sussman of lying to the FBI on May 31.

Even with that special counsel assignment, Durham had time to take action here in Connecticut; he learned about problems in East Haven in October 2019; he didn’t resign from his Connecticut post until February 2021.

For context on the Sussmann acquittal and how easy it would have been for Durham to win if he actually had a case, only two percent of defendants in federal criminal cases insist on a trial. Of that two percent, only one percent prevail and are found not guilty.

It appears Durham would rather tilt at Trump’s windmills than look into corruption in his former home district.

The FBI would be the agency to investigate for the US Attorney’s office and it doesn’t confirm whether an investigation is ongoing or not, so it’s possible that the United States Attorneys office and/or the FBI are looking into this situation.

But inquiries like this don’t take that long or run into he-said-she-said forks in the investigative path; it’s not an issue of credibility. Public land records contain all the evidence and in East Haven they’re available online. A federal prosecutor could decide whether there’s a case or not sitting in his pajamas at home.

It’s not like Durham’s office was or is unaware of problems that plague East Haven; the town is known for corruption and chaos. In 2009, then-Mayor April Capone and her assistant were arrested for interfering with police. Neither was convicted.

In 2020, three town employees were arrested for “double-dipping” — collecting pandemic unemployment assistance while still being paid their salaries. One of the accused is former Mayor Joseph Maturo’s daughter and the former mayor has been noted for allegedly trying to influence the investigation into his child.

An East Haven School Board member was charged with fraud. His wife was removed from her post as the director of the preschool program amid a federal probe and she was cited for allegedly shoplifting $150 worth of goods from a local supermarket.
And that’s just the chicanery outside real estate and property matters.

East Haven land records have been the subject of investigation before. A local zoning officer was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2020 and resigned a few months later and no one’s provided a reason why. In 2015, East Haven zoning official Frank Biancur was charged with extorting money from a resident, telling him he would make the resident tear down an addition on his house if he didn’t pay.

Michael Milici, while serving as the town’s tax assessor, was placed on administrative leave last year for allegedly not paying employees overtime; Milici himself brought this issue to town officials. He retired soon after, but he had worked as the assessor for 31 years and oversaw the tax records related to 105 McLay Avenue. Milici was sued in 2004 when he was a member of the neighboring town of Branford’s Board of Assessment Appeals. Plaintiffs claimed Milici inflated the value of their house and received a reduced valuation on his own home in the town.

The entities that ended up with 105 McLay Avenue are Statewide Construction, Inc. and Connecticut contractor Robert Pesapane, a man who paid for an attorney to represent the assistant to former East Haven mayor Joseph Maturo to sue Maturo for sexual harassment. Maturo had blocked one of Pesapane’s construction projects.

Yet, even with this history of pandemonium, Durham’s office has done nothing.

To be fair, there are other people who could have intervened and corrected this situation. For one, Durham had attorneys working for him. The courts have consistently sided with the town but their findings don’t make sense; the trial court found that the two competing chains of title were “the same” even though one has three deeds and the other eleven. More litigation is planned.

Joseph Carfora, the mayor of East Haven, is aware of the matter. He received a certified letter about it in May 2020 that he never answered. His office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

I emailed the FBI’s then-Community Liaison Charlie Grady and asked for assistance with the matter. Grady’s response was that he wasn’t sure how the tip line worked but I should continue to use it. He ended his answer with “Good luck!”

Luck is what East Haven homeowners need if no one from the U.S. Attorney's office will step in.

By itself, deed fraud isn’t a crime. But when it’s done by a town employee, it indicates corruption. Deed fraud is also one of the most underreported thefts, according to former FBI agent Arthur Pfizenmeyer in an interview with Law.com.

But deed fraud is enough of a problem in Connecticut that the Connecticut General Assembly passed a law in 2017 making the filing of false deeds actionable in a very specific way.

While there’s no testimony on record supporting the bill and there was no opposition to it — it was placed on what’s called a consent calendar which means that it was combined with other bills that wouldn’t require debate — false deeds must be a problem in Connecticut in places other than East Haven. After all, three state representatives and two state senators didn’t draft a bill and see it through to passage for no reason.

The law also classified filing a false deed as a Class D felony, which means that what’s happening is in fact a criminal matter involving the town, an issue of potential public corruption, landing it right in Durham’s and the FBI’s wheelhouse.

The problems that can arise from these deeds extend beyond criminal investigation. According to Connecticut’s Marketable Record Title Act, if a party doesn’t have an unbroken chain of title to their property, they’re technically not the owner of it. That means that sales of certain real property may not be possible unless this is stopped. In fact, it may even invalidate certain deeds, meaning people could lose their homes.

Trump’s effect on real estate extends beyond New York. His obsession with Hillary Clinton distracted Justice Department officials and seduced Durham into pursuing these popcorn fart cases instead of dealing with crimes right in front of him in Connecticut.

Durham’s got another trial scheduled for October 2022, against Igor Danchenko, over lies Danchenko supposedly uttered to FBI agents over the Steele dossier. Durham’s priorities are clear; he’d prefer to chase phantom charges against Trump’s enemies than protect the residents of the district he once oversaw as the chief federal prosecutor.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Barr Says GOP Would Make 'A Big Mistake' To Choose Trump In 2024

Former US Attorney General William Barr has opined that Republicans would be making a “big mistake” if the party picks Donald Trump as its nominee for the 2024 presidential elections.

“I don’t think he should be our nominee — the Republican party nominee,” Barr told Sean Spicer, a former White House press secretary of the Trump Administration, during a Thursday appearance on Newsmax’s Spicer & Co show.

“And I think Republicans have a big opportunity – it would be a big mistake to put him forward,” Barr added.

It’s not the first time the ex-attorney general has ripped into the former president recently. In March, Barr criticized Trump during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, saying he expected Trump to lose the 2020 presidential elections because he’s “petty,” “divisive,” and had a temper.

“He's not my idea of a president,” Barr said. “I felt he was going to lose the election because he was not controlling himself. He was allowing this pettiness to come through, and I feel it's one of his great failings,” Barr told Tapper.

Barr also said he believed the GOP could secure a decisive majority if the party didn’t nominate Trump in the 2024 elections. “I think the Republicans can win a decisive majority, but I don't think we can do it with Trump,” he said. “He's just too divisive a candidate.”

Trump has not formally declared his intent to run for president again, but he has teased the prospect of doing so.

“We did it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Trump told his supporters in February at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida — implying that he had won the 2020 election. “We’re going to be doing it again a third time.”

In a January Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, 57 percent of Republicans said they’d vote for Trump in the 2024 elections.

Barr’s comments are sure to anger Trump, who has clashed repeatedly with the ex-attorney general since his landslide 2020 election loss. In his book titled One Damn Thing After Another, Barr assailed Trump for his false claims of voter fraud, writing that Trump’s “self-indulgence and lack of self-control” cost him the 2020 election — and that the capitol riot was caused by “the absurd lengths to which [Trump] took his ‘stolen election’ claim.”

Trump fired back in a three-page letter to NBC’s Lester Holt, where he appeared to call Barr fat, “slow,” “lethargic,” and “a big disappointment.”

“I realized early on that he never had what it takes to make a great Attorney General. When the Radical Left threatened to hold him in contempt and even worse, to Impeach him, he became virtually worthless to Law and Order and Election Integrity. They broke him just like a trainer breaks a horse,” Trump added in his statement.

Barr responded to the comments in a March interview with Savannah Guthrie, saying “It’s par for the course. The president is a man who, when he’s told something he doesn’t want to hear, he immediately throws a tantrum and attacks the person personally.”

The Trump Coup Is Ongoing -- And 'Moderate' Republicans Enable It

Some look back on the events following Donald Trump's 2020 election loss and think we dodged a bullet: There was a coup attempt, and thankfully it failed. Others believe that the whole thing has been overblown. Even as evidence piles up that the coup was far more extensive than siccing a mob on the Capitol, those two takes seem unshaken. There is another way to look at it: The coup is ongoing. With every new revelation about how extensive Trump's efforts to overturn the election were — and they are arriving on an almost daily basis — the flaccid response of Republicans makes the next coup that much more thinkable.

Trump, we now know, paged through the federal departments and agencies looking for willing insurrectionists. He explored the possibility of having the Justice Department seize voting machines in swing states (Bill Barr shot down the idea), and then considered installing Jeffrey Clark as attorney general in Barr's place (a threatened mass resignation stayed his hand). He then turned to the military and considered using his emergency powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to permit the Pentagon to seize voting machines and other records.

Things had gone as far as the drafting of a presidential "finding" about nonexistent fraud. Trump also tested the waters at the Department of Homeland Security, asking Rudy Giuliani to see whether the (unlawfully appointed) acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, would seize the voting machines under that department's auspices. Cuccinelli begged off.

This comes on the heels of revelations about phony slates of electors. Eighty-four Republicans from seven states signed bogus documents claiming that Trump had won their states and sent these fake Electoral College certificates to the National Archives.

Trump was busier attempting to undo the election than he had ever been as president. He summoned the leaders of the Michigan legislature to the White House after the election to convince them to certify that their state, which voted for Biden, had voted for him. He cajoled and threatened Georgia's secretary of state to "find" 11,780 votes. He phoned local election officials to pressure them to say they found fraud, buzzed the Arizona governor repeatedly even up to the minute he was signing his state's certification, and strong-armed the vice president to, in Trump's own words, "overturn the election."

A little-noticed feature of the stories about Trump's thus-far unsuccessful efforts to stage a coup is that even among the MAGA crowd, some things were considered beyond the pale. Barr was willing to swallow a lot, but he couldn't go along with lying about imaginary vote fraud. The high-ranking lawyers at the Justice Department were Trump appointees, but they would resign en masse rather than see Clark subvert the department for plainly unlawful ends. Brad Raffensperger voted for Trump but refused to lie for him. Cuccinelli was Trump's loyal immigration hawk, but he couldn't see his way to using his Homeland Security post to confiscate voting machines and commit fraud. And though Mike Pence, pressed hard by Trump for the last full measure of devotion, wavered (he phoned former Vice President Dan Quayle for advice), in the end, he did what he knew was right.

A healthy body politic, like a healthy physical body, needs antibodies. It needs certain automatic defenses. The actions of those Republicans were the vestigial antibodies of a healthy democracy. The people who made those crucial decisions were acting out of a sense that anything less would be dishonorable and would be perceived as such by the whole society.

But would they make the same decisions today? Every single time a Republican suggests that what Trump did and attempted to do was anything less than a five-alarm fire, they are weakening our immune system.

Sen. Susan Collins was asked whether she could support Trump in 2024. She declined to rule it out.

Just think about what message that sends to the rank and file about what is beyond the pale and what isn't. If Collins might even support Trump, maybe it's not such a big deal.

On the anniversary of January 6, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sneered at what he called "nauseating" remembrances, adding that "it's an insult to people when you say it's an insurrection." Another blow to the concept that something truly awful happened that must never be repeated.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has not hesitated to appear on the John Fredericks radio show since his inauguration. Fredericks was the host of a rally in October that featured an American flag that had been carried at the "peaceful" January 6 protest. Fredericks also ladles out big helpings of election falsehood to his listeners.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has announced a new podcast, hosted by Sen. Rick Scott, to help 2022 GOP senate candidates. First scheduled guest: Donald Trump.

It was not just an attempted coup. The steady sapping of republican virtue continues.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.