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Secret Court Battle Raging As Trump Tries To Suppress January 6 Testimony

The fight over how to deal with the classified documents that Donald Trump stole from the White House and hid away in Mar-a-Lago is continuing with rulings both from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and in the courtroom of “special master” Judge Raymond Dearie. In the past two days, both of those locations have handed Trump’s team of second-rate lawyers major defeats, with a stay that allows the Department of Justice to continue a criminal investigation, and a ruling that Trump’s vague claims about “declassification” are off the table.

But CNN reports that there’s another battle going on concerning executive privilege. A secret battle.

In this battle, another set of Trump attorneys is working to prevent a federal grand jury from ever hearing evidence of Trump’s actions in attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, including how Trump participated in events leading to the violence of Jan. 6. Trump has reportedly constructed a “firewall” around the conversations he had in the White House, and tearing down that wall may be the most important step in seeing Trump indicted for his attempts to overthrow the lawful government.

Before he even stepped into the Oval Office, Donald Trump was abusing the idea of executive privilege. In particular, former officials in the Trump White House have repeatedly refused to testify or produce documents under the theory that Trump might declare conversations or documents privileged, even though Trump hasn’t made any such claim. Information that had regularly been available in the past was hidden behind privilege. Officials refused to appear before committees or to make regular briefings to Congress. At one point, Trump even tried to claim executive privilege over the census.

And now Trump is continuing to insist on a kind of former executive privilege over documents and conversations he never moved to protect while in office. Trump tried to shield White House records around Jan. 6 using this retroactive executive privilege. Mark Meadows declared that post-White House orders from Trump were enough to keep him from testifying. At one point, Trump’s privilege claims were so extreme that a federal judge felt it necessary to remind Trump that “presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

The scale of the secret battle being fought to keep this privilege in place isn’t clear, because most of it appears to be happening under seal. Attorneys are meeting in closed chambers, making their cases before judges in hearings that are no more than numbered entries on the docket,

A portion of this battle temporarily became visible when former Trump White House adviser Eric Herschmann was issued a grand jury subpoena in August. As Brandi Buchman reported on Monday, Herschmann is known to have warned Trump in 2021 against removing presidential records, and told him that failing to return any documents he had taken could result in “serious legal charges.” Reports centering on the subpoena suggest that the jury also wanted to talk to Herschmann about “events surrounding January 6.”

But the effort to get Herschmann to testify became entangled with the ongoing fight over privilege. Herschmann is willing to testify. However, Trump’s attorneys are in court trying to exert privilege over conversations with Herschmann—including those that took place after Trump was out of office and Herschmann was no longer employed by Trump.

Herschmann, who was known to oppose many of the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is just one of the people that federal prosecutors would like to see testify. They’re also seeking testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin. Both Cipollone and Philbin have reportedly appeared in front of the grand jury, but only after negotiating carveouts that would prevent them from being asked about conversations with Trump.

Just as Trump’s claims to have declassified documents (while refusing to name any documents that have been declassified) resulted in pushback from Judge Dearie, Trump’s claims to have privilege without setting out topics or conversations that are specifically privileged is also resulting in frustration. As The New York Times reported last week, even Herschmann is frustrated by his inability to get clear answers.

For weeks this summer, Mr. Herschmann tried to get specific guidance from Mr. Trump’s current lawyers on how to handle questions from prosecutors that raise issues of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

What Herschmann got was a mixture of “perplexing answers” and advice that he “assert sweeping claims of executive privilege” that would put everything off limits, no matter the subject.

But there’s one big flaw with all of Trump’s arguments in defense of his privilege wall.

“The Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon's purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason.”

Who said that? The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation said that in 2012, when they were insisting that President Barack Obama could not use privilege to hide details of the “Fast and Furious” operation. And that was a sitting president, who was dealing with a still-in-progress international incident.

What held with Nixon certainly holds with Trump. These are criminal investigations. Trump is attempting to use a “sweeping claim of privilege” to hide all of his attempts to overturn the election and his involvement with inciting violence on Jan. 6. His “firewall” should be given all the legal consideration of a stack of preschool blocks.

But that’s not how it’s being treated. And it could be this secret fight, held under seals of a different kind of privilege, that determines whether Trump climbs onto the podium at the next GOP convention—or watches it from jail.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Meadows Claimed Boxes Taken From White House Held Only 'News Clippings'

With every new revelation out of the Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago scandal, his theft of highly classified documents becomes even more blatant. And the idea that anyone—from a judge to Republicans in Congress—is still engaged in the pretense that what Trump did was no big deal, becomes ever more ridiculous.

On Friday evening, The Washington Post reported a new aspect to the Doc-a-Lago affair. As with most such information, it showed once again that not only did Trump commit multiple crimes in taking and holding these documents, obstruction was apparent at every possible step. It wasn’t simply that he dragged his feet in response to requests, demands, and subpoenas from the National Archives and Department of Justice. Trump and his staff did what Trump always does, they lied.

In this case, the latest revelation is that Trump tried to push the National Archives off by claiming he didn’t even have any documents covered under the Presidential Records Act, much less compartmentalized information on the nuclear defense capabilities of a foreign power. Instead of hundreds of classified documents, and over 11,000 pages of documents that definitely are covered by the PRA, Trump told the National Archives that he had just 12 boxes of “news clippings.”

Making this even more egregious: This statement reportedly came directly from former chief of staff Mark Meadows.

According to the Post, National Archives attorney Gary Stern spoke with former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin. Philbin told Stern that he had spoken to Meadows about concerns Trump had left the White House with presidential records. But according to Meadows, Trump didn’t have anything. Just that dozen boxes of clippings.

According to Meadows and Philbin, “Trump’s team was aware of no other materials.”

This is an enormous lie. First, there was the simply quantity of the documents Trump ferried away. The National Archives got 15 boxes back in January. The FBI took more documents in July. And FBI agents took 12 boxes in the search at Mar-a-Lago. On top of that, we know they didn’t take everything. Donald Trump and Mark Meadows may not be excessively clever, but there should be an assumption they can tell the difference between twelve and more than thirty.

Then comes the actual nature of the documents. Even if Judge Aileen Cannon chooses not to believe the FBI, the National Archives have already stated that they found more than 150 classified documents just in the materials that were handed to them in January. That was before another stack of classified documents was handed over in July. And before the FBI carried out it’s search in August. In all, there were over 300 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

And, thanks to that one photo provided in a DOJ filing, we not only know that Trump has atrocious taste in carpet, but that these documents were clearly marked as containing some of the most sensitive information in existence.

The blatantly obvious nature of the documents that Trump stole—and the fact that he kept many of the classified documents not among the boxes in storage, but in his office—shows that he absolutely knew what he had. Trump knew what he was taking. He also knew how critical it was to national security. He just didn’t care. Because he knew what it was worth.

A spokesperson for Meadows has responded to the Post story with a statement that Meadows, “did not personally review the boxes at Mar A Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them.” It’s too bad that’s not what he told Philbin.

If Meadows didn’t personally review the boxes, but he told Philbin they contained only ‘news clippings,’ then where did he get that information? Meadows deserves a chance to explain. Under oath.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Judge Slaps Down Trump's Frivolous Lawsuit Against Clinton

While Donald Trump managed to find a highly unqualified judge who was willing to work hand in hand with his attorneys to grant his “special master” request, his court shopping isn’t always so effective. Back in March, Trump filed a sprawling, 108-page conspiracy theory-laden lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and others, claiming that he was the victim of a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood” and basically that people had the audacity to try and stop him from winning the 2016 election. Clinton’s name may be at the top of the list, but the actual suit includes 35 named defendants, 10 John Does, 10 corporations, and the government. The list of charges is even longer.

Over the last few months, Trump’s legal team has responded to questions about the filing by making it even longer, padding it with more rambling pages, even more claims, and with complaints that Federal District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks was also part of this grand conspiracy. On Thursday, Middlebrooks spent 65 pages explaining everything wrong with Trump’s ludicrous suit before dismissing “with prejudice” the charges against Clinton and others. The judge also sliced and diced claims from Trump that he was being nickeled and dimed over legal technicalities.

The inadequacies with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are not “merely issues of technical pleading,” as Plaintiff contends, but fatal substantive defects that preclude Plaintiff from proceeding under any of the theories he has presented. At its core, the problem with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff is not attempting to seek redress for any legal harm; instead, he is seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this Court is not the appropriate forum.

What makes this extra fun is that Trump really thought he might get something out of this despite the fact that the lawsuit reads very much like a transcription of one of his rambling, paranoia-filled rally speeches and includes an amazing list of charges against Clinton, the government, and everyone who opened their mouth to point out that Trump was, without a doubt, the worst candidate ever to stand for any office. Christopher Steele? In there. Peter Strzok? Of course. James Comey, Lisa Page, Fusion GPS, Bruce and Nelly Ohr, the DNC … Oh, the gang’s all here.

All of them are terrible, because not only does Donald Trump think that the only way he can lose an election is if someone cheated, he also believes that running against him in an election is a crime.

Why did Trump think any of this would work? Because Trump did with this suit did just what he did with the special master request: He filed it in a location where he knew there was a right-wing judge he had appointed. When his special master request reached Judge Aileen Cannon, she didn’t throw it back for not being properly filed or formed, she helped Trump’s attorney’s revise the document to get it over the transom. And when Trump failed to even make a request for injunction or relief that was okay because Cannon filled those those things in for him.

Trump certainly expected the same kind of loving care on this suit. However, the district court docketing system happened to toss the case to Middlebrooks. Who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. And Middlebrooks proceeded to make a tasty meal of Trump’s nonsense.

Trump tried to put the brakes on this outcome earlier by demanding back in April that Middlebrooks recuse himself because he wasn’t nominated by Trump. Middlebrooks took no time in denying Trump’s demand and explaining how all this is supposed to work.

Every federal judge is appointed by a president who is affiliated with a major political party, and therefore every federal judge could theoretically be viewed as beholden, to some extent or another. As judges, we must all transcend politics.

That would be nice. In this case, Middlebrooks then got on with the business of writing a novella on the silliness behind Trump’s claims.

In his lawsuit, Trump alleges that everyone, just everyone, was involved in a conspiracy in which they sought to “nefariously sway the public’s trust” and that they “worked together with a single, self-serving purpose: to vilify Donald J. Trump.”

If that was a crime, then a few hundred million people in this country would certainly be guilty. Fortunately, trying to win an election is still legal, for now.

Middlebrooks spent considerable time detailing the ways in which everything about Trump’s suit was the worst kind of nonsense. Not only did Trump wait so long in filing the complaint that he was well beyond the legal statute of limitations for such civil claims, this lawsuit repeated exactly the primary failing of his special master claim by failing to note any way in which Trump was actually harmed by any of the actions he described, or why anything said by Clinton and others was not “plainly protected by the First Amendment.”

The judge also made clear—at length—that court was not the place for this kind of dispute, that there was nothing that looked like legal harm to be found anywhere in all Trump’s claims, and that you can’t sue people just because you don’t like them.

In particular, Trump tossed in claims such as “racketeering” but failed to provide a single example of activity that fit such a charge. Middlebrooks actually pointed this out the last time he punted the suit back to Trump’s attorneys, but no one seems to have listened.

Fundamentally, Plaintiff cannot state a RICO claim without two predicate acts, and, after two attempts, he has failed to plausibly allege even one. Plaintiff cannot state an injurious falsehood claim without allegations of harm to his property interests. And Plaintiff cannot state a malicious prosecution claim without a judicial proceeding, but he unsuccessfully attempts to misconstrue, misstate, and misapply the law to do so anyway.

Trump claimed racketeering, but provided no evidence; charged that he was injured without showing any harm; and claimed “malicious prosecution” over something that didn’t even involve a court case. It is all just as foolish as it sounds.

But since, of course, the real purpose of this suit was to generate emails saying “Donald Trump needs $5 FROM YOU by MIDNIGHT or HILLARY Clinton might WIN!” What actually happened in court is of little consequence.

And Trump can now see if he can get such a filing in front of Cannon. She’s so helpful.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump Reportedly Held Documents On Foreign Power's Nuclear Capacity

Among the highly classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago was at least one that detailed the military defenses of a foreign nation, including its nuclear capabilities. The Washington Post is reporting that these documents were so tightly guarded that access to them could be granted only by the president and select cabinet members.

Reportedly, these documents are among the most closely held and valuable secrets the U.S. possesses. Obtaining such information can take years, or decades, and may require conducting extensive analysis, the expenditure of many millions of dollars, and even endangering the lives of numerous agents.

Not only are these documents of exceptional value, they are also acutely dangerous. Such documents are rarely, if ever, shared—not even with allies. Making such a document available to someone who should not see it could seriously destabilize whole regions, making war much more likely. Even nuclear war.

As described, these are documents are well beyond “top secret.” These are “need-to-know” documents, limited to a very small number of people at the highest level of government. Reportedly, some of these documents are so restricted that no one in the Biden administration except President Joe Biden is authorized to review them. Nonetheless, the Post reports that “such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.”

Imagine any two countries with a long history of animosity. Israel and Iraq. Pakistan and India. North and South Korea. Now imagine giving one of them all that the U.S. military knows about the defenses of their opponent—including how many nuclear weapons they have, where they’re stored, what kind of threat each poses. Or, imagine walking up to a representative from Russia or China and offering to show them everything that the United States knows about their own military.

At best, the outcome would be a hasty rearrangement of resources and weapons, negating much of the value of U.S. intelligence. At worst, the outcome could be war.

These are documents that could completely alter the balance between two rivals. Revealing such a document could also severely weaken the national security of the United States. It’s hard to imagine anything else that Donald Trump might have left lying around that represents a greater threat to the stability and well-being of the entire planet.

After previously reports suggested that documents related to nuclear weapons were among those sought at Mar-a-Lago, Trump, predictably, called the story “a hoax. just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax.”

A bipartisan Senate committee led by Republicans concluded that Trump’s campaign had over 100 contacts with Russian agents, provided information they knew was going to high levels in the Russian government, and sought more assistance from Russia. That report concluded that some of these actions “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

So if that’s how Donald Trump defines a “hoax,” then yes, maybe this is another one. An even more grievous one.

In the detailed list of documents subpoenaed from Trump were some including the “S/FRD” sub-classification in addition to top secret. This abbreviation is “reserved for information that relates primarily to the military use of nuclear weapons.”

In addition to these documents, some were labelled “HCS,” for human intelligence. The sources for these documents will likely now have to be exfiltrated where possible, or otherwise abandoned. Simply the chance that their identities have been compromised is enough to make any future information from these sources suspect.

At the moment, any investigative action that the federal government might take related to this material has been frozen by Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon, who ruled on Sunday night that Trump should be granted his request for a “special master” to review all seized documents and sort out any over which he might have some form of privilege. If the ruling is not overturned on appeal, the level of classification connected to these documents makes the pool of available masters vanishingly small.

Trump has repeatedly stated—though not in court—that he has declassified all material coming to Mar-a-Lago. However, not only does this contradict both practice and law concerning how documents are classified and declassified, documents at this level are never declassified.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

FBI's Mar-a-Lago Inventory Shows 88 Empty Folders For Classified Documents

On Friday, Judge Aileen Cannon unsealed the detailed inventory of materials that the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. When it comes to the classified documents themselves, there’s not much new to learn here. The totals are the same as what we had already seen: 33 boxes containing over 100 documents carrying some form of classification. Unfortunately for those who are curious, there’s nothing to be learned of the documents themselves except that some had markings for confidential, some were secret, and some were top secret. Unlike that now-iconic image of documents scattered on a eye-searing carpet, there are no details about what form of contents might have been in each document.

Also on the list are hundreds of photographs that the FBI recovered, likely because the White House Records Office had informed the National Archives that many photographs considered to be presidential records were missing. The same goes for many of the non-classified documents recovered.

But the most interesting thing about the inventory may be what wasn’t there. As in, the inventory lists at least 46 “empty folders” carrying markings for classified documents, and another 42 empty folders with instructions that they be returned to a military aide.

It’s absolutely possible that the contents of these folders were simply scattered among the boxes of documents that the FBI recovered, or were part of the folder given to agents on June 3, or were in the boxes handed to the National Archives back in January. After all, one of the things that has so concerned both the archives and the intelligence community is the utter disdain with which critical documents have been treated by Trump. From the information given, it’s not possible to map these folders back to the precise level of classification given to the documents they once held.

Those January boxes contained classified materials filed haphazardly among magazines and newspaper clippings. The disorder and failure to properly restrict access to these documents was part of why the Archives immediately went on alert and considered going to the Department of Justice to let them know of the danger.

However, the idea that some or all of these folders may have contained classified documents or military information that is now missing in action seems all too possible.

Considering that the affidavit sworn out to obtain the search warrant indicated that the Department of Justice had evidence that some documents were “likely concealed and removed” the idea that Trump’s files were full of empty folders for documents that could contain critical national security information is both frightening and infuriating.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Bombshell FBI Filing Shows Top Secret Documents In Trump's Office

On Tuesday evening, the Department of Justice responded to the order from a Donald Trump-appointed judge who said she was inclined to grant Donald Trump’s request for a “special master” to review documents removed during the Aug. 8 FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.

In that response to Judge Aileen Cannon, the department not only explained the timeline of events with more clarity than has been revealed before, but delivered a shocking view of how classified information had been treated by Trump, including directly stating that highly classified documents were “likely concealed and removed” for the purposes of obstruction. The DOJ response even included an image showing how FBI agents found clearly marked, highly classified documents of the most sensitive kind: sitting in plain sight, spread across the floor. Other documents were recovered from the drawers of Trump’s desk.

Included in the filing is information that resets the narrative on several events that took place at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s attorneys insisted that all the records taken from the White House were held in that now infamous “storage room.” However, the DOJ reports that “the former President’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes” in that room. Trump’s attorneys even signed a statement, saying that their own “diligent search” found no other classified materials.

That statement is what’s known, in legal terms, as an outright lie; it’s also unquestionable obstruction and concealment of classified materials. And that’s just the start.

As many have pointed out, the arrangement of documents on the floor likely represents them being pulled from the box on the right by the FBI for the purposes of taking a documentation photo, not their being tossed out by Trump.

On quick review, the DOJ filing breaks down into these areas:

First, there is the summary of the government’s argument opposing the appointment of a special master. In this summary, the DOJ argues that Trump lacks standing to make this request; that the Presidential Records Act establishes clear rules for the ownership and treatment of these documents; and simply, that the documents do not belong to Trump. Additionally, the government insists that there’s no point in giving Trump his special master, because the FBI filter team has already completed its review of the documents.

And the DOJ doesn’t hesitate to push back at Judge Cannon for her unprecedented intervention in the case.

Furthermore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment challenges to the validity of the search warrant and his arguments for returning or suppressing the materials seized.

Next comes the factual background of the case. That’s where most of the new information—and big, sharp nails in Trump’s legal coffin—are waiting.

From the moment Trump reluctantly left the White House in January 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has worked to retrieve materials that had been improperly taken to Mar-a-Lago. When they finally recovered 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago in January 2022, they discovered a variety of clearly-labeled classified information scattered within the boxes, including 25 documents labeled “Top Secret.”

The nature of the documents recovered at that point, and the way in which they had been casually stored among old magazines, newspaper clippings, and other unrelated material, made NARA want to go straight to the FBI. However, they decided to work with Trump through the process of the Presidential Records Act. At every step, Trump and his attorneys were slow to respond, failed to respond, or gave responses that didn’t answer questions sent, ultimately stretching out the process for months.

Finally, the fed-up NARA team told Trump’s attorneys that they were going to proceed with referral to the FBI. Trump tried to assert privilege, which NARA rejected. Once the FBI reviewed the records, a criminal inquiry was swiftly opened. In May, a grand jury subpoena was submitted to Trump, demanding the return of all classified documents. Again, Trump’s team slowed the process, applying for an extension that gave them until June 7 to comply.

On June 3, FBI agents and DOJ attorney visited Mar-a-Lago and were given a single “Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape,” containing what were supposed to be the last classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Trump attorney (and OAN host) Christina Bobb then signed a document stating that “a diligent search was conducted“ and no more classified material remained.

When it comes to the infamous storage room, the visiting agents were told that the remainder of Trump’s White House materials were stored there.

Critically, however, the former President’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.

The Redweld envelope turned out to contain 38 classified documents, including 17 marked “Top Secret.” However, the FBI soon “uncovered multiple sources of evidence” that more classified documents were still at Mar-a-Lago, and not just in the storage room. How this information came to them is not made clear in the filing, but this seems to very likely be the result of a whistleblower.

And it wasn’t just that Trump was still holding onto classified information after handing over a signed statement that there were no more documents. It’s that there was an active effort underway to hide that information from the government.

The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.

When the FBI finally conducted its search, it found numerous documents outside the storage room, including three classified documents inside Trump’s own desk.

The image above attached to the filing—which shows top secret documents scattered uncovered across a carpeted floor—is purposely of too low a resolution to read details. However, it is possible to make out that some of these documents are marked “HCS,” meaning that they represent human intelligence, generally related to United States undercover assets overseas. Other document are marked “TK,” meaning “talent keyhole.” These are documents related to “space assets,” generally satellite imagery or associated analysis. Neither type of document seems like something Trump could even potentially argue was open to claims of privilege or connected to any legitimate activity.

The Aug. 8 FBI search netted over 100 new classified documents in two hours—after Trump’s attorney swore that there were no more to be found.

With each new filing, the case against Trump becomes more damning. Even following the FBI search, most pundits were ready to write this off as a dispute between Trump and NARA, one that was likely to be ended once all the documents were filed back into their proper places.

But at this point, it’s not just a matter of Trump holding documents he shouldn’t have taken.

  • These were classified documents of the highest possible level, including human intelligence and space-based intelligence that could not even vaguely be construed as connected to something Trump would need “for his memoirs.”
  • They were extremely clearly marked, shredding any claim that they were taken accidentally.
  • Trump took every effort to drag his feet in holding onto these documents, including having his attorney sign off on a patently false claim that there were no more classified documents to be found.
  • Far from being stored in any secure location, documents were found scattered across Mar-a-Lago, including in Trump’s desk.

it’s hard to see how the case for outright obstruction, lying to the FBI, hiding classified materials, and interfering with an investigation could be any clearer.

If the appearance of the documents in the DOJ filing represents how they were found, just the image alone raises additional concerns. Why were these document spread out across the floor? They give every appearance of documents that were were either being searched for specific contents, or even photographed.

Every filing so far has made the case against Trump even more obvious, to the point that it’s simply overwhelming.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Intelligence Agencies Fear Trump Has Leaked Identities Of US Spies Overseas

In what may be the most shocking story to emerge from the entire Mar-a-Lago document scandal, The New York Times is reporting that officials at intelligence agencies fear that among the classified information Donald Trump stole was details on U.S. assets embedded in foreign countries. The names, locations, and even the existence of such assets is among the most guarded secrets of the nation. But something mysterious has been happening over the last few years, with an unusual number of foreign sources being killed or arrested.

In the past, officials have worried that documents leaked by outlets like WikiLeaks might, either purposely or intentionally, reveal the identity of U.S. sources, putting their lives at risk. But now, intelligence agencies have a greater concern: A man who has a horde of stolen documents, connections to numerous hostile governments, and a frequently expressed disdain for both sources and the intelligence community. Put it all together, and you get one of the most amazing front pages in recent years.

In the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one fact stood out: The United States had uncannily accurate information about Russia’s plans. It was crystal clear that, not only did the U.S. have a fleet of high resolution satellites and other resources observing Russian movements on the ground, they also had sources inside the Kremlin that were giving the White House a direct pipeline into Vladimir Putin’s every thought.

It’s hard to put a value on that kind of intelligence. In this one case, it’s even possible that Ukraine would not have survived, had it not received early, accurate warnings of both Russian troop build-ups and Putin’s intentions. Thanks to U.S. intelligence sources.

It can take years to establish a reliable source. It can take moments for that point of light to go dark.

Even before he took up residence in the White House, Trump frequently expressed disdain for the intelligence services. Just as he bragged that he was “smarter than all the generals” and declared that his natural instincts allowed him to declare the climate crisis a fraud, Trump has celebrated his “gut” over the combined efforts of agents and analysts. Stories of Trump’s refusal to engage with intelligence briefings have been all too common over the last five years. Trump sneered that his own intelligence chiefs were “naïve” in their assessments of international events, mocked their findings, and insisted they should “go back to school.”

Even more than intelligence agencies, Trump hates whistleblowers. At every instance, he had ridiculed the idea of an anonymous source, insisted that whistleblowers be revealed, then attacked and endangered them once they were known. In his first impeachment, Trump constantly attacked the whistleblower who revealed his attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He didn’t just ridicule the whistleblower continuously, but insisted that the whistleblower testify in public—Republicans in Congress took up that call.

Most tellingly, when Trump learned an alleged name for the whistleblower, he tweeted it over and over.

Pair Trump’s attitude toward the intelligence services, whistleblowers, and witnesses of all kinds, with his incredible disdain for protecting classified information, and it’s a recipe for utter catastrophe. The revelation of a “NOC list,” giving away dozens of undercover operatives in vital roles, may be the subject of adventure fiction, but it seems like an all-too-real possibility for Trump.

And if the nation needed another reminder of just how lax Trump’s actual security at Mar-a-Lago really is, there was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week in which a 33-year-old Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant convinced Trump that she was actually an heiress of the Rothschild banking family.

In addition to the FBI, law enforcement agents in Canada have confirmed that she has been the subject of a major crimes unit investigation in Quebec since February.

But there she was at Mar-a-Lago, playing golf with Trump and Sen. Lindsay Graham. She was there. So were all those documents suspected to hold key information about U.S. sources in some of the most sensitive areas of the world.

Even the hint that one of these sources might have been revealed can result in an immediate, emergency exfiltration to bring them to safety in the U.S. That means that it doesn’t even take the death or arrest of a U.S. source to cripple intelligence gathering. All it takes is concern that a source might have been compromised.

Donald Trump has provided plenty of cause for concern.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump Admits FBI's 'Fake' Probe Of Hillary Clinton Gave Him 2016 Victory

Donald Trump is a prime example of someone who lies so often, that sometimes he ends up running into the truth, just by accident. On Saturday afternoon, Trump cranked up underpopulated and deeply in debt social media scam Truth Social to deliver a message that, breaking with precedent, I’m going to post in full.

In this post, Trump straight out says that: Comey conducted a “fake investigation” of Hillary Clinton and because of that, he was able to win the 2016 election. Which is, despite Trump’s twisting events through his own personal hate space, absolutely the truth.

From the moment Comey broke all rules and precedent at the FBI, taking matters into his own hands to announce an investigation not just days before the election, but before the first scrap of evidence had been collected, it was obvious that his statement benefited Trump immensely.

On the same weekend that Comey announced that the FBI would be investigating Clinton over emails that turned out to be nonexistent, it was also revealed that he thought investigating Donald Trump for his connections to Russia was “too political.” So anything the FBI learned on that front was covered up.

It was was immediately obvious that Comey played a decisive role in swinging the extremely narrow decision in 2016 to Trump.

Five Thirty Eight underlined this fact months later:

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

Just four days after the election, Clinton was cleared, for a second time, when the supposed new evidence that caused Comey to blow up the election turned out to be an absolute nothing. Which nailed down Comey’s role in history.

FBI Director James Comey’s too late “nothing to see here,” doesn’t make up for the bomb he hurled into the election process ten days ago. All it does is confirm that Comey, far from being a scrupulous guardian of big-J Justice and an exemplar of non-partisan honesty, is an easily-influenced dishrag willing to cause irreparable damage to the nation without a scrap of valid evidence.

It was indeed a fake investigation of Hillary Clinton. And it did absolutely put Trump in the White House. It was nice of Trump to admit that.

And it also explains why, having already seen the power of fake investigations first hand, Trump was willing to extort Ukraine in an attempt to launch a fake investigation of Hunter Biden.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump's Hand-Picked Judge Orders Absurd 'Special Master' In Documents Case

It should have been possible to see what was coming, when Donald Trump’s team of highly unqualified attorneys managed to submit Trump’s complaint incorrectly, and the judge gave them a do over. Then the complaint came in missing everything necessary, and the judge sent instructions on exactly what she wanted to see. And now the Trump-appointed judge has broken with all legal precedent, and written wholly new law in the process, to give Donald Trump exactly what he wanted—a special master.

Judge Aileen Cannon didn’t stop with saying she intends to appoint a special master, she insists that the federal government provide a more detailed list of the documents taken, a list to be shared with Trump. Only she seems to have missed even more steps than Trump’s attorneys, like even sending the suit to the supposed “defendant,” or giving any reason why her could T can intervene in any way.

how any of this would work, and how anyone would appoint a special master to review documents classified at the highest possible level … seems not just impossible, but ridiculous. But then, this is entirely new legal ground … the kind that should only exist in the Twilight Zone.

Actual legal experts have some opinions about this ruling.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Biden Blasts 'Semi-Fascist' MAGA Republicans In Powerful Midterm Address

On Thursday evening, President Joe Biden didn’t so much take the gloves off as he put them on. He then proceeded to deliver a 10-round pounding to the modern Republican Party, in a speech that marked a sharp departure for Biden—and set a tone Democrats would be wise to emulate in the weeks remaining before the midterm elections.

In a 30-minute speech delivered at a rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore, Biden drew a sharp line between the traditional Republicans he has worked with and the past, and the “MAGA Republicans” currently threatening to tear America apart. Then he went on to make it clear that stopping the MAGA movement is a now or never fight to save America.

“The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They’re a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace—embrace—political violence. They don’t believe in democracy.”

Those words doubled-down on a statement Biden had earlier in the evening where, as CNN reports, Biden warned a crowd at a fundraiser that America is either on the brink of disaster, or at the moment of salvation.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the—I’m going to say something—it’s like semi-fascism.”

The willingness of the president to work with Republicans, and to continue to seek bipartisan solutions, even as Republicans were doing their best to sabotage his efforts while painting him as both somehow simultaneously weak and an existential threat has been frustrating to many. But in this speech, Biden’s only outreach to Republicans was an urgent plea for those who have not been taken in by the semi-fascism of the MAGA movement: to join with Democrats in saving the nation.

“This is why in this moment, those of you who love this country—Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans— we must be stronger.”

Also on Thursday, the White House Twitter account lit a hot blue flame under Republican hypocrites who were feigning outrage over the idea of student loan forgiveness, while ignoring how they had been handed six- or seven-figure checks to forgive loans of their own. Many observers attribute that shift in tone on the Twitter account to the welcome addition of former “voice of New Jersey” Megan Coyne to the White House social media team.

But if anyone was thinking that the fire was going to be restricted to Twitter, Biden’s speech made clear that, as Democrats move toward the fall elections, he is approaching that moment with the zeal of someone who clearly sees the danger threatening our nation.

A moment that comes along only ever six or seven generations in world history...

Biden also referenced the invasion of Ukraine and the increasing belligerence of China during the Maryland speech, saying that he could see now how Donald Trump’s embrace of authoritarians had harmed America’s message and authority. “I underestimated how much damage the previous four years had done in terms of America’s reputation in the world,” said the president.

Yet Biden’s speech wasn’t only about underscoring the threat of those who model themselves after Trump. He also held up the accomplishments of the last two years, saying that "We never gave in and we're delivering for the American people now. Even our critics have been forced to acknowledge real progress."

Throughout the speech, Biden underscored the vast gulf between the positions of Democrats and the anti-democracy positions of the current Republican Party. Republicans, said Biden, “have made their choice to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division. We've chosen a different path, forward, the future, unity, hope and optimism.”

And when it came to his “vision of a better America,” Biden also did not hold back when making clear exactly what that is. If Democrats can hold the House and gain two more seats in the Senate, Biden said, Democrats would soon be delivering on a list of policies that America desperately needs.

If Democrats can get two more Senators and keep the House...

“We’ll codify Roe v. Wade. We’ll ban assault weapons. We’ll protect Social Security and Medicare. We’ll pass universal Pre-K. We’ll restore the child care tax credit. We’ll protect voting rights, pass election reform, and make sure no one ever has the opportunity to steal an election again.”

Watch the full speech below, via WUSA:

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Rejected In Court, Trump Motion On Classified Papers Provokes Laughter

The most notable aspect of Donald Trump’s reaction to the FBI executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago has been the difference between what Trump has said in public, and what Trump attorneys have said in court. At rallies, in fundraising emails, and in the empty wastes of the Truth Social platform, Trump has flung spittle in all directions and accused the FBI, DOJ, National Archives, and President Biden of every form of harassment. But in court … crickets.

Finally, on Monday evening, Trump actually followed up two weeks of threats with some action. His crack legal team marched straight to the court of a judge that Trump appointed. There, they dropped a motion for a “special master” to oversee the handling of documents seized in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago two weeks ago and for the return of some of the documents taken.

While this move finally allows Trump to address the “Why doesn’t he go to court?” question that popped up in any discussion of the FBI search, it generates a lot more questions. Like … why is it that Donald Trump never seems capable of securing anyone competent for his legal team? Because the biggest thing that Trump’s filing has generated from the legal community is laughter.

On Tuesday, the court had to tell Trump’s team they needed a do-over. Because they failed to even properly file the ridiculous motion.

And another update. The court—meaning the Trump-appointed judge hearing this case—has responded again by asking Trump’s legal team to answer a few questions. Questions like … what the hell is this thing?

Trump’s team has submitted a complaint without a complaint, or a basis, or a proposed standing. Or just about anything that represents an issue that can be dealt with in court. So, after two strikes, the judge is giving Trump’s team a third swing at turning in something that makes sense.

What are the odds?

That Tuesday morning response from the court “denying without prejudice” Trump’s motion came for the simplest of all reasons: His legal team failed to follow the rules when submitting the motion.

A pro hac vice motion—a request from a lawyer who is accredited in another area, but not in the state in which it was filed—is both very common and well-defined. Still, Trump’s team got it done—where “it” meant screwing this up badly enough that they have to start over. What they got back in response was essentially the court saying, “You failed to fill in the form correctly. Go read the instructions and try again.”

While they’re in there crossing the T’s and dotting those I’s, Trump’s legal team might also want to reconsider some of the actual contents of the motion, all of which was apparently crafted for how it will read in Trump’s next “We need your $100 by midnight!” fundraising effort rather than meeting any legal standard. Lines like “Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It can not be utilized as a weapon for political purposes” might be good for a Truth Social post, but don’t have any meaning in this context.

The motion calls the search of Mar-a-Lago, which was conducted after months of efforts from the National Archives and others to retrieve national security information stolen by Trump, a “shockingly aggressive move.” Trump also uses the filing for a hefty dose of simple whining, saying that the FBI and Department of Justice have long “treated him unfairly.”

But if the motion makes room for lots of chest-beating and Job-level of claims of rolling in ashes and potshards, there’s one thing it tellingly leaves out.

That stuff—the statute which Trump’s team is invoking in this request for a special master and the return of some documents and citations of existing case law—is missing in action from the motion.

Special masters are court-appointed experts who can help judges with a variety of tasks. Over the past year, for instance, several judges across the country tapped special masters in redistricting cases to draw new maps. They’ve been used to investigate claims of voter fraud, such as in 1948 when the Republican Party lodged claims of fraud against the campaign of then Sen. Lyndon Johnson. Frequently, special masters are used to sort potential issues of attorney-client privilege when it comes to documents involved in a criminal trial. For example, the judge in the prosecution of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen appointed just such a special master to weed out any documents between Cohen and Trump that would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

But exactly what law, regulation, or precedent Trump’s attorneys are citing remains a mystery. So does where Trump gets the idea that he can ignore every past regulation and ruling concerning the limits of executive privilege. Doing any research before filing this motion was apparently too much of a bother.

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported on Monday, this is far from the only reason attorneys are “giggling” at Trump’s motion. First off, this kind of request is usually made immediately after, or even during, a search of documents in question. That Trump’s team waited two weeks demonstrates that they have no actual concern about the documents being read by the FBI, and that this is all for show.

Second, the claims about how “aggressive” the FBI search was are sharply undercut by the evidence that shows how the National Archives, White House, and DOJ absolutely bent over backward in an effort to allow Trump to return the documents without generating exactly this kind of incident. Compare this question from Trump’s motion:

Why raid my home with a platoon of federal agents when I have voluntarily cooperated with your every request?

With this paragraph from the Acting Archivist of the United States to Trump’s attorneys on May 10:

As the Department of Justice’s National Security Division explained to you on April 29, 2022: There are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community getting access to these materials. According to NARA, among the materials in the boxes are over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages.

Trump was given the reasons, he was given the time to respond, and he did respond—by stalling over and over and refusing to hand over classified documents that contained “important national security interests.”

As Marcy Wheeler writes at emptywheel, Trump’s document is a lot of things. Including:

  • A confession to a violation of the Espionage Act
  • A confession to making a threat against the Attorney General
  • A legal shit show
  • Serial proof that a Trump search was conducted like other searches
  • Filed in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Probably written in significant part by Kash Patel
  • Not backed by sworn declarations to substantiate its “factual claims”
  • An invocation not of special master reviews by Trump’s own personal attorneys but instead an invocation of a terrorist lawyer convicted of conspiring with that terrorist.

But it is not a serious legal document, much less the “significant fourth amendment challenge” Trump insisted he would file. Or, in other words …

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Alarm Over 300 Classified Documents Held Illegally By Trump At Mar-a-Lago

How many classified documents is too many? When Hillary Clinton used a private email address during her role as secretary of state, there were three emails that had marks that may have made them classified that were stored on the still-secure server. That was enough to generate media coverage that was literally wall to wall, including every single column of the front page of The New York Times, as well as congressional investigations, a prolonged investigation from the FBI, and endless chants of “lock her up!”

But when it comes to the boxes of material removed from Mar-a-Lago, the number of classified documents seems to be somewhat higher. Like, orders of magnitude higher. Because on Monday evening, the same New York Times reported that Trump was hoarding more than 300 classified documents. That includes at least one set of materials containing an unknown number of documents that were marked with the highest level of ”top secret/sensitive compartmented information.”

More than 150 classified documents were in the first tranche of material that Trump finally handed over in January after long efforts to secure their return by the National Archives. It was looking through that information that made it absolutely clear that Trump was holding hostage secrets that are vital to the nation. What the FBI found when they went back into the material Trump had not returned was as least as many more examples of classified material as it had found on the first pass.

On Tuesday morning, the story of Trump’s massive cache of national secrets does at least rate an appearance in the Times, even if it doesn’t get the screaming headlines and full-page coverage of someone who kept secure an ambiguously labeled email.

Exactly what subjects were covered by the materials recovered in the FBI raid is not specified, but there are two things of immediate note. First, the 15 boxes of material recovered in January reportedly held “documents from the C.I.A., the National Security Agency and the F.B.I. spanning a variety of topics of national security interest.”

The nature of these documents was such that,” not only did the National Archives immediately continue their correspondence with Trump in an effort to secure the remainder of the documents he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, they almost immediately began preparing to contact the FBI.

The second notable fact about these documents is that Trump claimed to have gone through all the information personally. According to the Times, multiple people have reported that Trump “went through the boxes himself in late 2021.” So even if Trump can claim to be ignorant of what got tossed into the boxes that he illegally hauled away from the White House, he certainly knew what he had even before sorting out the documents that were given to the Archives in January, And he gave no more than half of the documents that were classified.

That includes Trump taking documents that former White House officials had selected to be returned and putting them in a set of boxes for things he wanted to keep. Boxes that Trump labeled “Mine.”

The 26 boxes that the FBI carried away from Mar-a-Lago following the raid reportedly contain at least 11 sets of material clearly marked as classified, including that set of Top Secret/SCIF material. Earlier this month, Trump all but admitted that the documents recovered included information on the nation’s nuclear secrets after reports that nuclear weapons information was part of what drove the urgency in getting the material back.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Justice Department Vigorously Pursuing Trump's Coup Conspiracy

Earlier on Wednesday, Brandi Buchman reported on a Washington Post story revealing that the Department of Justice is investigating Donald Trump as part of a criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. That investigation has involved questions put to false electors brought before a federal grand jury, and interrogation of top aides to Mike Pence, who were recently seen strolling out of the Washington, D.C., federal courthouse.

But one detail of the story in that report is something that a number of outlets seem to have overlooked, and which has considerable implications: While the questioning of these witnesses before the grand jury may be a recent occurrence, the investigation itself is not.

The original Post story mentions that the Justice Department (DOJ) was looking into the phone records of “key officials and aides in the Trump administration” back in April. Including records of former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. This indicates that, rather than following in the footsteps of the House select committee on Jan. 6, the DOJ has actually been paralleling their effort all along, if not actually getting in front. The way in which some of these questions are being framed also suggests that the investigation may be broader than just the specifics of the Jan. 6 plot.

The DOJ has been building its case against Trump and other White House officials well before the first public hearing of the House committee, and it’s continuing to flesh out that case with witness testimony. The fact that witnesses like former Pence chief of staff Marc Short are being called before that jury could indicate that the DOJ is well along in their investigation—and the fact that those witnesses are being asked specifically about statements and intentions from Trump—gives a good indication of the investigation’s direction.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutor Thomas Windom revealed a new warrant for Trump attorney John Eastman. Connected with this is something that was seen in a “manual screen capture” of Eastman’s phone, obtained by an “agent not associated with the investigation team.” What this means is puzzling, but it’s enough to have Eastman’s phone, and a copy of that screen capture, locked up in Virginia for an examination.

Politico indicates that this is a precursor for a search of Eastman’s phone that will be done using a “filter protocol” so that only those messages associated with keywords or phrases are viewed by agents.

Eastman was the primary author of the legal pretense behind the Jan. 6 scheme, but some of those questioned by the grand jury, including some false electors, were also involved in earlier versions of Trump’s attempted overthrow of the 2020 election. The investigation may also be looking into those parts of the plot that involved efforts to sabotage the certification of electors in December, as well as efforts to spread false information to state and federal courts.

The violence on Jan. 6 is the visible portion of what was a much more extensive plan, and Jan. 6 was itself just one of several efforts that Trump and his team made to overturn the election. Many of these plans were started well before Trump lost the 2020 election.

That the only visible portion of the DOJ investigation until recently has been the tip of the iceberg is certainly frustrating. And Attorney General Merrick Garland apparently was aware of that feeling when, as NBC News reports, Garland “spoke more expansively” about the DOJ activities on Tuesday evening than he has in the past. He also didn’t shy away from a direct comparison to the work being done by the House committee.

“Look,” said Garland, “the Justice Department has been doing the most wide-ranging investigation in its history. And the committee is doing an enormously wide-ranging investigation, as well. It is inevitable that there will be things that they find before we have found them. And it’s inevitable that there will be things we find that they haven’t found. That’s what happens when you have two wide-ranging investigations going on at the same time.”

And honestly … that’s hugely relieving. Nothing that Garland said seemed to contain the kind of narrowly focused, blinders-firmly-in-place language we’ve heard in the past.

But of course Garland’s statements were reassuring, especially when NBC’s Lester Holt did everything possible to frame the situation in the worst way possible.

Holt: “The indictment of a former president, and perhaps a candidate for president, would arguably tear the country apart. Is that your concern as you make your decision down the road here, do you have to think about things like that?”
Garland: “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”

Really, that’s all we needed to hear. It’s a shame we’re only hearing it now.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Homeland Security Launches Criminal Probe Of Secret Service Text Deletions

Last week the DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari informed members of the House Select Committee on January 6 that the Secret Service had improperly deleted text messages for the dates surrounding the attempted coup. A spokesperson for the Secret Service promptly responded by calling the inspector general a liar, saying that while “data resident on some phones” was lost as part of a “pre-planned system migration,” it wasn’t as if anything had been deleted.

In fact, said the spokesperson, “none of the texts [the inspector general’s office] was seeking had been lost in the migration.” That statement came exactly two days before the Secret Service informed the select committee that, whoops, it had no texts to provide. Except, somehow, for exactly one from former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund.

All of which makes it seems like the Secret Service deliberately purged its text messages from the period, then lied about purging them. Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi also appears to have lied when he claimed that the Secret Service deleted those text messages before it had any idea there was a reason to keep them, as Congress ordered the preservation of those records ten days after the assault on the Capitol.

With all that, it’s not a huge surprise that NBC News is reporting DHS has opened a criminal investigation into the Secret Service.

On Wednesday, Cuffari reportedly informed the Secret Service that the investigation into those text messages is now a criminal investigation.

In a letter from Inspector General Gladys Ayala to Secret Service Director James Murray, the inspector general’s office called a halt on any other action concerning the texts from the Secret Service side. That includes a freeze on all digital media, and insists that the Secret Service ”immediately refrain from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices, or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The immediate result is some confusion: The select committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service for those messages, while the inspector general has ordered them to stop looking. Past messages from the Secret Service and statements from Guglielmi had demonstrated a high level of disdain for Inspector General Cuffari. So it would not be surprising to find that the agency erred on the side of ignoring his instructions.

On the other hand, there is the phrase “criminal investigation.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Bannon Admitted (On Tape) That Trump Planned To Steal 2020 Election

Three days before the 2020 election, Steve Bannon explained that Donald Trump could not lose. Because if he did lose, Trump intended to declare victory anyway. Then Trump would use the power of his position to simply overturn the election results.

Mother Jones has laid their hands on more than an hour of audio recordings between Bannon and supporters of exiled Chinese oligarch and Mar-a-Lago member Guo Wengui. The recording was made on the evening of Oct. 31, 2020, at a point when the polls showed President Joe Biden about to easily defeat Trump.

In that recording, Bannon lays everything—everything—out neatly for the group of mostly Chinese immigrants. After explaining the electoral process and how Trump had worked to ensure that Republicans would use mail-in ballots less than Democrats, Bannon rolled straight into how that could be turned into a means of stealing the election.

“What Trump’s gonna do, is just declare victory,“ said Bannon. “Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”

Counting mail-in ballots, said Bannon, put Democrats at “a natural disadvantage. And Trump’s going to take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself a winner.”

In the incredible conversation reported by Mother Jones, Bannon makes no claim at all that Trump will actually win. Instead, Bannon explains that using momentary advantage Trump enjoys because early returns favor Republicans, he will simply claim victory at a point when he holds an advantage in key states.

“As it sits here today,” said Bannon, “at 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that.'”

That’s exactly what happened. Though the speed with which his edge disappeared seemed to throw Trump off the track and alter the timing. After tweeting claims of fraud and insisting “don’t believe the polls—Trump is winning,” he angrily stumbled onto the nation’s TV screens after 2 AM to declare that “frankly, we did win this election.” Except by that time it was clear that Biden was well ahead.

None of this plan was exactly secret. Trump spent months making it clear that he intended to attack the whole concept of mail-in ballots, even though he voted by mail-in ballot. Two months before the election, Trump was pushing stories of “Trump ballots being discarded in dumpsters” and claiming that trucks of Biden ballots were driving around the country. In fact, Trump had hit this idea so frequently that polls showed 78% of Trump supporters believed that mail-in ballots led to fraud.

The claims about mail-in ballots were directly tied to Trump’s increasing disdain for all things COVID-19. The idea was to convince his voters to not have any concern about standing in long lines in the midst of a pandemic, no matter their health or age. Trump wanted his people out in person, not voting by mail. That result was an actual decrease in requests for Republican mail-in ballots even as Democratic requests were reaching an all-time high.

That’s exactly as Trump wanted it. Get his people to the polls. Claim victory based on the early numbers. Declare the mail-in votes invalid.

The night after Bannon’s talk to the Chinese group, Axios reported that Trump had told his “confidants” that he would declare victory if there was a point in the evening when it looked like he was ahead “even if the Electoral College outcome still hinges on large numbers of uncounted votes in key states like Pennsylvania.” Specifically:

Trump's team is preparing to claim baselessly that if that process changes the outcome in Pennsylvania from the picture on election night, then Democrats would have "stolen" the election.

Bannon didn’t just explain to the group that Trump intended to steal the election, he explained how the work he, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani had done to raise doubts about Biden and to release salacious claims about Hunter Biden had undercut the ability of the electoral process to result in a peaceful transfer of power, saying that any chance “for a peaceful resolution of this is probably gone.”

Instead, Bannon listed three possibilities: Trump won, which Bannon insisted would cause riots, or “either Biden’s up slightly and Trump says he stole it, right, and he’s not leaving. Or it’s undefined and we can’t figure out who’s leading, and Trump’s saying he’s stealing it, and he’s not leaving.”

Trump’s secret plan to undercut the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and claim victory based on early results wasn’t exactly secret. He not only spent months doing it openly, he even did this when looking at the 2016 results. What’s important about Bannon’s statement is both the clear admission that Trump intended to steal the election, and that he had no intention of leaving the White House.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Georgia Grand Jury Subpoenas Giuliani, Eastman And Graham

It’s not just the House Select Committee on January 6 that wants a better look at many of those involved in Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Thanks to their wide-ranging activities in many states, investigations are going on at the local, state, and federal level into actions that Trump’s team took in attempting to reverse the will of the American people.

No state may have borne more of Trump’s focused fury than Georgia. President Joe Biden carried the state by over 12,500 votes, making it second to Arizona when it comes to the the narrowest margin of victory. This was far outside the realm of possible change that might be addressed by a recount, but Georgia conducted a recount anyway. When that didn’t make things any better for Trump, he requested that Georgia count a third time, which it did. Trump still lost, and by a bigger number than ever.

But Trump wasn’t done with Georgia. Right up until January 6, Trump’s team tried every possible way to steal Georgia’s electoral votes. And now some of the most familiar names in MAGA land are getting hauled before a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia. That includes Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and attorney John Eastman.

An incomplete list of how Trump attempted to overturn the results in Georgia includes:

  • An “absurd” lawsuit that was blasted by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as being nothing more than a collection of lies that had been flatly rejected in other states. (That lawsuit was actually withdrawn the morning of January 6.)
  • Trump’s call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump was caught on tape asking for Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to defeat Biden, and threatening the official if he didn’t come through for Trump.
  • Giuliani appeared three times before Georgia state legislators, spreading claims of voter fraud he knew were unfounded and encouraging them to take control of the election process and simply ignore the votes.
  • Eastman also appeared before a legislative hearing and argued that there was “more than enough” evidence of voter fraud and that it was the “duty” of the legislators to appoint alternative electors.
  • Drafting a slate of 16 fake electors who then pretended to be the “lawfully elected electors” of the state and submitted false documents to Congress.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham called Raffensperger and urged him to simply toss out mail-in ballots in counties that favored Biden.
  • Trump, Giuliani, Powell, and a cast of dozens if not hundreds went on to insist that Kemp and Raffensperger were part of an international plot to deny Trump a repeat visit to the White House.

Now, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Trump’s team is going to get another day in court, but not the day they wanted.

The grand jury has subpoenaed Giuliani, Graham, and Eastman, along Trump advisers Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro, and Jenna Ellis. They’ve also subpoenaed conspiracy-mongering podcast host Jacki Pick Deason.

Giuliani, Eastman, Mitchell, Chesebro, and Ellis are all expected to argue attorney-client privilege when it comes to their conversations with Trump. However, this can’t protect Giuliani or Eastman when it comes to their own claims before the legislature, especially since it is now clear they were aware their claims of election fraud were unfounded. When it comes to Graham … well, nothing can justify Lindsey Graham.

State officials who went along with the false elector scheme are also likely to see subpoenas.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.