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Hats In Hand, Trump Lawyers Plead A Very Weak Case To Special Counsel
The two attorneys for Donald Trump who “wrote” the letter last month requesting a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, James Trusty and John Rowley, were at the Department of Justice yesterday morning to try to convince prosecutors not to charge their client in the stolen classified documents case. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday morning that they met with Special Counsel Jack Smith is in charge of that, and other, Trump investigations for the DOJ.
It was bound to be an awkward meeting since the letter to Garland accused the DOJ of investigating Trump “in an outrageous and unlawful fashion.” It isn’t often that lawyers representing a client in a criminal matter begin their pre-indictment talks with prosecutors by accusing them of being the ones who broke the law.
The meeting between the Trump lawyers and prosecutors for the Office of the Special Counsel comes just two months after the federal grand jury looking into the stolen documents case heard testimony from a Trump aide who was present for the 2021 interview at Bedminster when Trump talked of having a top-secret document concerning plans for a U.S. attack on Iran. After the grand jury heard testimony from the unnamed Trump aide, a subpoena was issued for the top-secret Iran document as well as any other material in possession of the former president related to the Iran attack document, such as recordings or notes of the meeting at Bedminster.
Trump’s attorneys turned over some material to the special counsel in response to the subpoena but said that they could not find the top-secret document Trump claimed to have in his possession and was said to wave around during the interview with two ghost-writers for his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
It was the second time that lawyers for Donald Trump told the Department of Justice that they could not find certain top-secret documents that had been sought by a subpoena. The other time was in June 2022, when DOJ lawyers met at Mar-a-Lago with Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran, who turned over an envelope containing 38 top-secret documents along with an affidavit saying that the Trump lawyers couldn’t find any more classified documents than that.
An FBI search of Mar-a-Lago later that summer in August turned up over 100 classified documents the Trump attorneys, who had the run of Mar-a-Lago, couldn’t find. All of which was probably on the agenda of Monday morning’s meeting at the Office of the Special Counsel.
The FBI never sought, nor was there ever issued, a search warrant for Trump’s summer residence and office at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Defense attorneys have a phrase to describe the kind of meeting attended by Trump’s lawyers with Jack Smith’s prosecutors. They call it a hat-in-hand meeting. That’s the one where as a defense attorney you know because of stuff like missing classified documents and previous affidavits you have supplied to the DOJ that contained perjury that you have absolutely no chance of forestalling an indictment of your client, so you go hat-in-hand to those who have evidence of everything criminal your client has done and ask for leniency in the charges the prosecutors are contemplating.
Something along the lines of…you know our client, he’s always misplacing things and misremembering what happened with important documents, and we didn’t really intend to mislead you with the certification we gave you last year that we couldn’t find any more classified documents…
Maybe Trusty and Rowley were sitting there in an office at the Department of Justice shrugging their shoulders and saying, c’mon guys, how would you like to have this guy as a client! Can you give us a break?
Just imagine you’re a lawyer for a confessed criminal – yeah, I took the classified documents, because they’re mine! – and the prosecutors you’re sitting across from have followed every incriminating statement made by your client, and they have all the evidence that they had to get a search warrant to seize from your client’s club and from his own desk, and they have testimony from everyone at Mar-a-Lago from the security guys to the pool boy, and they have surveillance video tapes and audio tapes of your client bragging about having a top-secret national security document concerning an enemy of the United States.
Now try to come up with something that’s going to convince career prosecutors who have been doing this kind of thing for years that they’ve got it all wrong, that your client just accidentally took thousands of pages of government-owned documents from the White House by mistake, that he wasn’t really trying to trip them up when he got some half-wit judge in Florida to order the special master thing, that his lawyers, his other lawyers, didn’t really mean all that stuff they told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals about illegal searches and all the rest of it.
We’re not those guys! We’re the good guys!
Look! We’ve got our hats in our hands to prove 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.
Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.
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Yellowhammer Files: Inside Alabama's Crumbling, Inhumane Prison System
Lice so severe that even kerosene couldn’t kill them. Shoeless feet padding aimlessly. Gross malnourishment.
That’s how people described the Yellow Hammers, a semi-isolated colony of the ostracized and downtrodden in Illinois that developed during the Reconstruction Era.
The history of the Yellow Hammers is murky. As the legend goes, a Colonel Brodie of the Civil War — it doesn’t include a first name — came home to Alabama, the Yellowhammer State, and relocated to Wilmington, Illinois where he purchased several acres of wooded land and invited anyone from his home state to come live on it, creating essentially an encampment people called “Brodie’s Woods.” Those people who relocated to Wilmington from Alabama were impoverished, almost permanently, and made pariahs in the community as they huddled on Brodie’s land.
The pariahs’ poverty prevented those among them who were employed from purchasing their own equipment so they used company tools — when they were able to work — whose handles were painted yellow.
These stories, reported by a high school student, can’t be confirmed. First, the only nineteenth century colonel named Brodie was about 12 years old when the Civil War started. One William Brodie from Alabama fought in the Civil War but there’s no record of his being a colonel. A now defunct local Chicago newspaper, the Surburbanite Economist, reported in 1970 that an area of Wilmington, Illinois was known as Brodie’s Woods, but that’s one of very few verifiable mentions of the area.
The more likely story of the root of Yellowhammer is that a cavalry of soldiers from Huntsville went to Kentucky during the Civil War to aid Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s — history will call him both a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and an innovative warrior — Company A of the Confederate Army. They wore new sharp gray uniforms adorned with brilliant yellow trim. A Confederate soldier in tatters said they looked like the bird the yellowhammer, a type of woodpecker, which was made Alabama’s state bird in 1927. The Yellowhammers ended up becoming valuable team members; they supported several of Gen. Forrest’s victories, one of which frustrated Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.
That the history of the Yellow Hammers is so hard to pin down says quite a bit about the state today; tracing what really happens proves difficult. Even though Alabama media tries to cover events inside the prisons, the state of news in 2023 dictates that coverage isn’t as complete as anyone would like.
Just as the history of the Yellowhammers is unclear, the view into Alabama’s prisons is muddied by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and its commitment to opacity. The officials who run that system do not like looksies. Early this year, ADOC stopped releasing the number of in-custody deaths on a monthly basis, ostensibly because there were so many that they either couldn’t keep up or didn’t want to be embarrassed by their inability to protect the state's wards.
Nevertheless, the reports of carnage that keep dripping out — two men were murdered on May 15, 2023, an additional pair added to a list of over 60 since January 1, 2023 — have contributed to a narrative that men and women in Alabama prison are incorrigible, even feral, when all they’re doing is adapting to the environment that the state has established for them.
The truth is that a good number of them are quite high-minded. When they staged a strike last fall, they didn’t even protest the squalid conditions they live in, which happen to be deplorable. Instead they sought policy reform on sentencing and parole which will ultimately benefit people beyond them.
Their strike demands were imminently reasonable, despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s disagreement. But the demands were really only part of the story of the strike. My sources tell me that — under the guidance of some dedicated leaders who I won’t name now — rival gangs and sworn enemies convened in good faith to hammer out what they needed to ask for. In that respect, they’re behaving better than many of us on the outside if they can display that type of comity. They came together despite the fact that they worry every day — along with family and friends — that they’ll be killed or starved. They’re fighting back non-violently. Bravely.
And even effectively. Because of the strike demands, lawmakers introduced two bills poised to pass the Alabama legislature. First is a bill that would mandate the right to attend one’s own parole hearings by video (they can’t attend these crucial proceedings now) and second is a bill that would allow people serving life sentences to petition to have their punishment reduced. Most prison work stoppages achieve nothing. This group of men and women convinced people to listen and act. Do not count these people out.
That doesn’t mean the wind is under their yellowhammer wings. Gov. Ivey just signed a bill into law that reforms the so-called “good time” statute by making it harder to earn time off one’s sentence because ADOC failed to take the good time of someone who attempted escape. Their resilience doesn’t mean they’re safe now or being treated justly. It’s just the opposite.
Alabama’s prison population reflects a lot of their yellowhammer history. Like woodpeckers, they’re tenacious fighters. Much like the Yellowhammer Cavalry in 1862, they're nimble, capable of putting up a few wins, but then ultimately forgotten.
And they aren't living much differently than Brodie’s Yellow Hammers. Some aren’t supplied shoes and therefore aren’t allowed in the chow hall. As I have reported before, the ADOC intentionally starves them when they assert their rights. They wander, often squatting in dorms where they’re not assigned because they want to avoid being raped. The violence doesn’t cease; I hear reports of outright beatings that all too often result in lost “good time” but no medical treatment. And they huddle, displaced and ostracized, in one of Alabama’s 15 state-sanctioned colonies of fear and panic.
But unlike the legend of Brodie’s Woods, these tales are true and verifiable. There’s no fiction here. It’s traceable. It tracks, all too well.
That’s why today The National Memo announces an unflinching series that goes inside Alabama’s criminal legal crisis: the Yellowhammer Files. We’re going to trace and track data and stories until something changes. Check these files as they are published and you will be stunned by what you read.
Chandra Bozelko served more than six years 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. Her work has earned several professional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Los Angeles Press Club, The National Federation of Press Women and more.Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.
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