Trump Watch, Capitol Siege News

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Shown below is a list of recent news stories reporting on probes of President Trump, his administration and businesses. The reports are listed in reverse chronological order, and are drawn primarily from news stories relating to investigations and the U.S. Congress of major claims of wrongdoing.

Note: Excerpts below are from the authors' words except for subheads and "Editor's notes" such as this. This segment of our near-daily summary of Trump Watch News and Commentary encompasses news stories that began in 2021. For material in 2020, kindly visit a link for it that will be posted soon here.

-- Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

 

2021-23

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

 

 

January

Jan. 31

 djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Well-Worn Legal Playbook Starts to Look Frayed, Maggie Haberman, Jan. 31, 2023. Former President Trump’s familiar tactics of defiance and delays appear less successful than ever amid a swirl of investigations and court proceedings.

The expanding legal threats facing former President Donald J. Trump are testing as never before his decades-old playbook for fending off prosecutors, regulators and other accusers and foes, with his trademark mix of defiance, counterattacks, bluffs and delays encountering a series of setbacks.

In other legal maneuvering and in seeking to shape public opinion about cases involving him, Mr. Trump has experienced regular reversals in court in recent months even as he begins his campaign for another term in the White House.

“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida wrote this month in fining the former president and one of his lawyers nearly $1 million for filing a frivolous civil suit against Hillary Clinton and F.B.I. officials. “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer.”

That fine appeared to lead Mr. Trump to quickly drop a similar suit he had filed against Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, who is pressing ahead with a $250 million suit claiming widespread financial fraud by the former president, his oldest children and his company.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence on Monday to a grand jury about his role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign — the latest in a series of investigations and legal proceedings that are grinding on despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to block or undercut them.

The Justice Department is investigating his handling of classified documents and his role in the efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, and he is facing a potential indictment from the prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., in connection with his efforts to remain in power after his election loss.

Two suits against Mr. Trump brought by E. Jean Carroll, a New York-based writer who has accused him of raping her in the 1990s in a department store dressing room, are moving ahead despite his threats to sue her.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y. attorney general seeks sanctions against Trump and his legal team, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 31, 2023. Attorneys working under New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday asked a judge overseeing the office’s $250 million fraud lawsuit to place sanctions on Trump parties and their attorneys for “falsely” denying facts in recent court filings and rehashing “frivolous” arguments.

James’s team filed a major civil enforcement action against former president Donald Trump, three of his adult children, the family business and other executives there in September, alleging a deliberate fraud aimed at deceiving lenders and insurance brokers, giving the impression that Trump’s wealth was worth more than it really was. The Trump parties also allegedly undervalued his assets to reduce tax liabilities.

arthur engoran judgeIn a letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, right, on Tuesday, Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel at the attorney general’s office, said the Trump parties repeatedly denied reality in their set of official court filings last week and did not learn from past admonishments made by Engoron over the repeated use of “frivolous” arguments.

“A cursory review of the [filings] reveals that a number of the denials are demonstrably false and actually contradict sworn statements by the Defendants in other proceedings,” Wallace wrote.

Lawyers for the attorney general’s office pointed to sworn testimony in other recent proceedings, including a deposition in another lawsuit from Trump himself, that contradicts some of what the Trump attorneys claimed in their written formal responses to the lawsuit. Trump lawyers, according to the letter, quibbled over the attorney general’s references to the “structure of the Trump Organization,” which is an improper argument, the office said.

Trump attorneys also rejected that he was president of the company during a stretch of time that included his U.S. presidency, which Trump’s own testimony in an unrelated civil case contradicted, the letter said. The attorney general’s request also noted that Eric Trump, who along with his siblings Donald Jr. and Ivanka served as an executive at the company, denied through the filing that Seven Springs, a Westchester, N.Y., family property, was purchased in 1995 for $7.5 million even though he acknowledged it previously.

Engoron scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning to address the attorney general’s requests. The judge recently admonished the Trump side for other uses of meritless arguments and considered sanctions but did not impose any. “It does not appear that this point was taken, alina habbahowever, and [the attorney general’s office] would ask the Court to renew the issue,” Wallace’s letter said.

Alina Habba, left, one of Trump’s attorneys, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Attorneys for Trump were hit with sanctions recently in another matter. A federal judge in Florida imposed sanctions on Trump’s legal representatives, hitting them with a $1 million fine for a presentation of frivolous and baseless claims in a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

After the sanctions, Trump lawyers withdrew lawsuits against James in Florida and New York.

 

Judge Luttig: No Historical Precedent to Support VP Pence Counting Alternative Slates of Electors: Former Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig tells the January 6 Committee that John Eastman's memo arguing that Vice President Pence had the authority to count alternative slates of electors from seven states was incorrect.

Judge Luttig: No Historical Precedent to Support VP Pence Counting Alternative Slates of Electors: Former Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig tells the January 6 Committee that John Eastman's memo arguing that Vice President Pence had the authority to count alternative slates of electors from seven states was incorrect. "There was no historical precedent, from the beginning of the founding...that would support the possibility," the judge says on June 16, 2022, with C-SPAN video here.

washington post logoWashington Post, He never ascended to the Supreme Court, but some think he has played a far more consequential role, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Jan. 31, 2023. Michael Luttig, the retired judge who advised Mike Pence on Jan. 4, 2021, and testified before the Jan. 6 committee, envisions "the beginning of the end of Donald Trump."

Late one night in the spring of 1994, a 40-year-old federal judge, shown at right in a 2005 photo, was startled awake by loud pounding at the front door of his home in michael luttig 2005Vienna, Va.

The sound was so jarring, so insistent, so out of character for his quiet Washington suburb that it unnerved J. Michael Luttig, a product of Northeast Texas who had put down deep roots in Beltway power circles.

Luttig told his wife, Elizabeth, to call the police. “Keep the line open,” he added.

Baffled, anxious, annoyed, Luttig opened the door just a crack. There stood a stocky man with thick black eyebrows.

Antonin Scalia. Associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia HR 1300Scalia, left, had driven through the night at the request of Luttig’s mother, who wanted him to be the one to break the news: Luttig’s 63-year-old father, John, had been killed in a carjacking outside his Tyler, Tex., home barely an hour earlier. And so the judicial legend showed up to sit with his former clerk as he placed one grim phone call after another, Luttig recalled in a recent interview, sharing the story publicly for the first time.

It had to be Scalia on this most awful night of their lives. Bobbie Luttig, who was seriously injured in the attack, knew how her son looked up to him. For a generation of conservative law students, Scalia was a paragon of a judicial philosophy centered on reverence for the original text of the Constitution. Luttig had clerked for him at the federal district court in Washington and later held one of the posts Scalia had occupied on his own path to the bench, in the Office of Legal Counsel, an obscure but influential cadre of brainy attorneys who provide legal guidance to the president.

Theirs had evolved into something more than a mentor-mentee relationship, more than a friendship. They were integral parts of a movement, the keepers of the conservative banner in Washington’s clubby legal circles, where bright, young aspirants could be tapped by their elders and set on a path toward the most important legal jobs in the nation. Reared in the Ford and Reagan administrations, ascendant in George H.W. Bush’s, Luttig became the protege and eulogist of one chief justice, Warren Burger; a groomsman for another, John Roberts. (In a recent interview, Luttig repeatedly turned to phrases like “one of my best friends in life” to describe some of the most prominent judges, lawyers, business leaders and journalists in America.)

By the time Scalia stood in his doorway, the young law students were looking up to Luttig, too. His obsessively precise written opinions for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond had marked Luttig as one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the legal system — the most conservative judge on the most conservative court in America.

More than a quarter-century later, it was Luttig (pronounced LEW-tig) who would get a late-night call to come the aid of his tribe: Mike Pence, in his final days as vice president, would seek out Luttig’s legal advice on the night of Jan. 4, 2021, as Donald Trump pressured him to help overturn the results of the 2020 election. But Pence and his allies would need more from Luttig than his private counsel.

They needed his imprimatur.

What began as a late-night phone call has turned into the quest of a lifetime for Luttig, the pinnacle of a long and storied career, highlighted last summer by his stirring appearance before the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol and by the committee’s final report released in late December, which mentions his name more than 25 times.

Retired conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig testified on June 16 that President Trump and his allies pose a “clear and present danger” to American democracy.

But Luttig wasn’t just condemning Trump and Trumpism. He was trying to bring a nation to its senses.

“We Americans no longer agree on what is right or wrong, what is to be valued and what is not, what is acceptable behavior and not, and what is and is not tolerable discourse in civilized society,” he said. “America is adrift.”

Months removed from that star turn, Luttig’s worries have begun to ebb ever so slightly. He now envisions a nation one day disentangled from Trump’s influence, even as the former president launches a new campaign. It’s a future Luttig is trying to shape in court cases, in legislative chambers where he’s helped craft election law changes and in professorial public appearances where he explains in painstaking detail how American democracy, though imperiled, can still be preserved.

Luttig can think of only one reason he would have been wrested out of quiet semiretirement for this mission. It was, he’s concluded, nothing less than “divine intervention.”

Related Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Justice Failures, Scandals

william barr hearing new

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr’s Image Rehab Is Kaput, David Firestone, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Firestone is a member of the editorial board. Former Attorney General William Barr has spent the last year in a desperate salvage operation for what’s left of his legal and ethical reputation.

During his 22 months in office, he allowed his Justice Department to become a personal protection racket for his boss, Donald Justice Department log circularTrump, and left prosecutors, the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials subject to the worst impulses of the president. But then, in his 2022 memoir, Mr. Barr did an about-face, bashing Mr. Trump for lacking a presidential temperament and singling out his “self-indulgence and lack of self-control.”

In the book, he urged Republicans not to renominate Mr. Trump in 2024, accusing the former president of going “off the rails” with his stolen-election claims by preferring the counsel of “sycophants” and “whack jobs” to that of his real advisers. Clearly concerned that history was paying attention, he was even stronger in his videotaped testimony to the Jan. 6 committee, loosing a variety of barnyard epithets and bitter insults to describe Mr. Trump’s legal strategy. He said the president had become “detached from reality” and was doing a disservice to the nation.

The hollow and self-serving nature of this turnabout was always apparent. Mr. Barr never made these concerns public at a time when his dissent would have made a difference. Instead, he left office in 2020 showering compliments on his boss, praising Mr. Trump’s “unprecedented achievements” and promising that Justice would continue to pursue claims of voter fraud that he must have known were baseless.

But if Mr. Barr harbored any fantasy that he might yet be credited with a wisp of personal integrity for standing up for democracy, that hope was thoroughly demolished on Thursday when The Times published the details of what really happened when Mr. Barr launched a counter-investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The reporting demonstrated a staggering abuse of the special counsel system and the attorney general’s office, all in a failed attempt by Mr. Barr to rewrite the sour truths of Mr. Trump’s history.

It was bad enough when, in March 2019, Mr. Barr tried to mislead the public into thinking the forthcoming Mueller report exonerated Mr. Trump, when in fact the report later showed just how strong the links were between the campaign and the Russian government, john durham Customwhich worked to help defeat Hillary Clinton. A few months later Mr. Barr assigned John Durham, right, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, as a special counsel to investigate Mr. Mueller’s investigation, hoping to prove Mr. Trump’s wild public allegations that the federal intelligence officials had helped instigate the claims of Russian interference to damage him.

Attorneys general are not supposed to interfere in a special counsel’s investigation. The whole point of the system is to isolate the prosecution of sensitive cases from the appearance of political meddling. But the new Times reporting shows that Mr. Barr did the opposite, regularly meeting with Mr. Durham to discuss his progress and advocating on his behalf with intelligence officials when they were unable to come up with the nonexistent proof Mr. Barr wanted to see. (Aides told Times reporters that Mr. Barr was certain from the beginning that U.S. spy agencies were behind the allegations of collusion.)

When the Justice Department’s own inspector general prepared to issue a report saying that, while the F.B.I. made some ethical mistakes, the investigation was legitimate and not politically motivated, Mr. Durham lobbied him to drop the finding. When that effort was unsuccessful, Mr. Barr reverted to his usual pattern of trying to spin the report before it was issued, disagreeing with its finding before it was even out. Mr. Durham then followed up with a similar statement, shattering the clear department principle of staying silent about a current investigation.

The two men even traveled to Britain and Italy together, pressuring government agencies there to disclose what they told U.S. spy agencies about the Trump-Russia connections. That infuriated officials of those governments, who said they had done nothing of the kind, and no evidence was ever found that they had. But on one of those trips, The Times reported, Italian officials gave the men a tip which, people familiar with the matter said, linked Mr. Trump to possible serious financial crimes. (It is not clear what those crimes were, and more reporting will be necessary to reveal the details.) Did Mr. Barr follow protocol and turn the tip over to regular prosecutors in his department for investigation? No. Instead, he gave it to his traveling companion, Mr. Durham, who opened a criminal investigation but never made it public and never filed charges, and when word began to trickle out that a suspected crime had been discovered, he falsely let the world think it had something to do with his original goal.

The Durham investigation, of course, has never presented any evidence that the F.B.I. or intelligence agencies committed any misconduct in the course of the Russia investigation, bitterly disappointing Mr. Barr and especially his patron, Mr. Trump, who had assured his supporters for months that it would produce something big. Desperate for some kind of success, Mr. Durham indicted Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who had worked for Democrats in their dealings with the F.B.I., over the objections of two prosecutors on the special counsel team who said the case was far too thin and who later left the staff.

Mr. Sussmann was acquitted last May of lying to the bureau, and the jury forewoman told reporters that bringing the case had been unwise. Mr. Barr later tried to justify the trial by saying it served another purpose in exposing the Clinton campaign’s starting the Russia narrative as a “dirty trick.” The trial did nothing of the kind, but it did expose Mr. Barr’s willingness to abuse the gratuitous prosecution of an individual to score political points against one of Mr. Trump’s most prominent enemies.

One of the other casualties of this deceitful crusade was the deliberate damage it did to the reputations of the F.B.I., the intelligence agencies and officials in Mr. Barr’s own department. All of these agencies have had many problematic episodes in their pasts, but there is no evidence in this case that they willfully tried to smear Mr. Trump and his campaign with false allegations of collusion. They were trying to do their jobs, on which the nation’s security depends, but because they got in Mr. Trump’s way, Mr. Barr aided in degrading their image through a deep-state conspiracy theory before an entire generation of Trump supporters. Republicans in the House are launching a new snipe hunt for proof that these same government offices were “weaponized” against conservatives, an expedition that is likely to be no more effective than Mr. Durham’s and Mr. Barr’s.

But weakening the country’s institutions and safeguards for political benefit is how Mr. Barr did business in the nearly two years he served as the nation’s top law enforcement official under Mr. Trump. He has a long history of making the Justice Department an instrument of his ideology and politics; when he was attorney general in 1992 during the Bush administration, the Times columnist William Safire accused him of leading a “Criminal Cover-up Division” in refusing to appoint an independent counsel to investigate whether the Bush administration had knowingly provided aid to Saddam Hussein that was used to finance the military before Iraq invaded Kuwait. Under Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr did the opposite, demanding that an unnecessary special counsel do the bidding of the White House and trying to steer the investigation to Mr. Trump’s advantage. His efforts came to naught, and so will his campaign to be remembered as a defender of the Constitution.

David Firestone is a member of the editorial board. Mr. Firestone was a reporter and editor at The Times from 1993 to 2014, including serving as a congressional correspondent and New York City Hall bureau chief, and was executive editor for digital at NBC News until 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Durham Fiasco Is a Warning of What’s to Come, Michelle Goldberg,right, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Thank goodness michelle goldberg thumbSpeaker Kevin McCarthy has created a House subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government!

Last week, The New York Times reported on an outrageous example of such weaponization, the flagrant use of federal law enforcement powers to target an administration’s political enemies. I’m talking, of course, about the John Durham special counsel investigation, which was meant to root out the ostensibly corrupt origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and quickly came to embody the sins that Donald Trump and his allies projected onto the F.B.I.

Trump’s circle insisted, falsely, that the Mueller inquiry was a hit job that employed Russian disinformation — via the Steele dossier — to frame Trump, all part of a plot cooked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Durham seems to have bought into this Trumpist conspiracy theory, and to help prove it, he tried to employ what appears to be Russian disinformation to go after the Clinton camp. More specifically, he used dubious Russian intelligence memos, which analysts believed were seeded with falsehoods, to try to convince a court to give him access to the emails of a former aide to George Soros, which he believed would show Clinton-related wrongdoing.

john durham CustomAstonishingly, The Times found that while Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr and Durham, right, were in Europe looking for evidence to discredit the Russia investigation, Italian officials gave them a “potentially explosive tip” linking Trump to “certain suspected financial crimes.” Rather than assign a new prosecutor to look into those suspected crimes, Barr folded the matter into Durham’s inquiry, giving Durham criminal prosecution powers for the first time.

Then the attorney general sat back while the media inferred that the criminal investigation must mean Durham had found evidence of malfeasance connected to Russiagate. Barr, usually shameless in his public spinning of the news, quietly let an investigation into Trump be used to cast aspersions on Trump’s perceived enemies. (The fate of that inquiry remains a mystery.)

This squalid episode is a note-perfect example of how Republican scandal-mongering operates. The right ascribes to its adversaries, whether in the Democratic Party or the putative deep state, monstrous corruption and elaborate conspiracies. Then, in the name of fighting back, it mimics the tactics it has accused its foes of using.

Look, for example, at the behavior that gave rise to Trump’s first impeachment. Trump falsely claimed that Joe Biden, as vice president, used the threat of withholding American loan guarantees to blackmail the Ukrainian government into doing his personal bidding. Hoping to get Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to substantiate his lies, Trump tried to use the threat of withholding American aid to … blackmail the Ukrainian government into doing his personal bidding. The symmetry between accusations and counter-accusations, in turn, fosters a widespread cynicism about ever finding the truth.

It’s important to keep this in mind because we’re about to see a lot more of it. Now that they control the House, Republicans have prioritized investigating their political opponents. McCarthy has stacked the Oversight Committee, central to the House’s investigative apparatus, with flame-throwing fantasists, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and Lauren Boebert. Further, as Politico reported in a “field guide” to the coming Republican inquiries, McCarthy has urged Republicans to treat every committee like the Oversight Committee, meaning all investigations, all the time.

There are going to be investigations into Hunter Biden, and investigations into the origins of the pandemic. There will likely be scrutiny of the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago and Biden’s handling of classified documents. And, as my colleague David Firestone on the editorial board put it over the weekend, “Republicans in the House are launching a new snipe hunt” for proof that the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies were “weaponized” against conservatives.

These all promise to be congressional equivalents of the Durham inquiry. Certainly, most if not all congressional investigations are politically motivated, but there is nevertheless a difference between inquiries predicated on something real, and those, like the many investigations in the Benghazi attack, meant to troll for dirt and reify Fox News phantasms. House Democrats examined Trump’s interference with the C.D.C. during the acute stage of the pandemic. House Republicans plan to look into what the Republican congressman Jim Banks termed the military’s “dangerous” Covid vaccine mandates. There might be an equivalence in the form of these two undertakings, but not in their empirical basis.

It remains to be seen whether our political media is up for the task of making these distinctions. The coverage of Trump and Biden’s respective retention of classified documents offers little cause for optimism. Again and again, journalists and pundits have noted that, while the two cases are very different, there are seeming similarities, and those similarities are good for Trump. This is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since by speculating about political narratives, you help create them.

“John Durham has already won,” said the headline of a Politico article from last year, noting his success in perpetuating the right’s fevered counter-history of Russiagate. Of course he didn’t win; he would go on to lose both cases arising from his investigation as well as the honorable reputation he had before he started it. What he did manage to do, however, was spread a lot of confusion and waste a lot of time. Now the Republican House picks up where he left off.

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates, Inside An FBI Sting on Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Vicky Ward, Jan 31, 2023. Yesterday, I reminded you that, yes, I once danced with the sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has found himself, once more, in the headlines because a retired FBI agent, Charles McConigal, has been charged with taking money from him. A spokesperson for Deripaska told the New York Times that Deripaska did not hire McConigal for any purpose.

Over the weekend I phoned around to try to find out a little more about Deripaska’s VERY complicated see-saw relationship with law enforcement in the US.

Briefly, it’s emerged the FBI tried to hire him as informant in 2014-2016. They wanted inside information on Russian organized crime and Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign (he said there was none).

And, before all this, back in 2009, the FBI had a working relationship with him–of sorts. He spent $25 million in helping the FBI try to find an American spy who was kidnapped by the Iranians, and has not been seen in years.

So when I started hitting the phones on this, I knew I’d find something because I know people who know Deripaska. But I didn’t think I knew someone who wore a wire for the FBI in a sting operation of which Deripaska was the target. But, that’s why you should always cast a wide net when phoning sources…

So…...

Jan. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan Prosecutors Will Begin Presenting Trump Case to Grand Jury, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, Jan. 30, 2023. The decision potentially sets the case, tied to Donald Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star in 2016, on a path toward criminal charges.

david pecker croppedOn Monday, one of the witnesses was seen with his lawyer entering the building in Lower Manhattan where the grand jury is sitting. The witness, David Pecker, left, is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with the porn star, Stormy Daniels, right.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomAs prosecutors prepare to reconstruct the events surrounding the payment for grand jurors, they have sought to interview several witnesses, including the tabloid’s former editor, Dylan Howard, and two employees at Mr. Trump’s company, the people said. Mr. Howard and the Trump Organization employees, Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, have not yet testified before the grand jury.

The prosecutors have also begun contacting officials from Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, one of the people said. And in a sign that they want to corroborate these witness accounts, the prosecutors recently subpoenaed phone records and other documents that might shed light on the episode.

djt michael cohen disloyalA conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, left, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.

Still, the developments compound Mr. Trump’s mounting legal woes as he faces an array of law enforcement investigations: A district attorney in Georgia could seek to indict him for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, and he faces a special counsel investigation into his removal of sensitive documents from the White House.

Mr. Bragg’s decision to impanel a grand jury focused on the hush money — supercharging the longest-running criminal investigation into Mr. Trump — represents a dramatic escalation in an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end.

Under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney’s office had begun presenting evidence to an earlier grand jury about a case focused not just on the hush money but on Mr. Trump’s broader business practices, including whether he fraudulently inflated the alvin bragg twittervalue of his real estate to secure favorable loans and other financial benefits. Yet in the early weeks of his tenure last year, Mr. Bragg, right, developed concerns about the strength of that case and decided to abandon the grand jury presentation, prompting the resignations of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.

One of them, Mark F. Pomerantz, was highly critical of Mr. Bragg’s decision and has written a book that is scheduled to be published next week, “People vs. Donald Trump,” detailing his account of the inquiry. Mr. Bragg’s office recently wrote to Mr. Pomerantz’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, expressing concern that the book might disclose grand jury information or interfere with the investigation.

For his part, Mr. Trump has denied all wrongdoing and chalked up the scrutiny — as he has many times before — to a partisan witch hunt against him. If he were ultimately convicted, Mr. Trump would face a maximum sentence of four years, though prison time would not be mandatory.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg’s office declined to comment. Mr. Pecker’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Ronald P. Fischetti, declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. McConney and Ms. Tarasoff.

The panel hearing evidence about the hush money is likely what’s known as a special grand jury. Like regular grand juries, it is made up of 23 Manhattan residents chosen at random. But its members are sworn in to serve for six months to hear complex cases, rather than the routine 30-day panels that review evidence and vote on whether to bring charges in cases of burglary, assault, robbery, murder and other crimes.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump is now in the process of being criminally indicted by grand juries in three different jurisdictions, Bill Palmer, bill palmerright, Jan. 30, 2023.  When Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg decided last year not to criminally indict Donald Trump for his Trump Organization financial fraud, it seemed obvious that Bragg was simply trying to avoid being the first to indict Trump, and that he’d eventually indict him on something. After all, Bragg would have zero chance of reelection in Manhattan if he doesn’t end up indicting Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerLast week Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the court that indictment decisions in her criminal probe against Donald Trump were “imminent.” Now that Willis is seemingly just days away from indicting Trump, it’s perhaps not a surprise that Alvin Bragg is now also in the process of indicting Trump.

Bragg is presenting evidence of Donald Trump’s campaign finance fraud to a grand jury, per the New York Times. Specifically, Trump is being criminally targeted for illegally using campaign money as part of his payoff scheme to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. This is the same Trump criminal plot which previously sent Michael Cohen to prison. So all that Bragg really has to do is show that Cohen was acting upon Trump’s instruction.

Michael Cohen responded to today’s news by retweeting a reminder that he met with the Manhattan DA’s office just two weeks ago. Cohen also retweeted a reporter who stated that campaign finance charges could be the “most dangerous criminal case” against Trump, in terms of landing a conviction.

The public will understandably be wary of Alvin Bragg until he actually indicts Trump, given how badly Bragg has dragged his feet up to this georgia mappoint. But there would be no reason for Bragg to go to the effort of presenting a criminal case against Trump to a grand jury, and leaking to the media that he’s doing so, unless he’s already decided to go through with indicting Trump. Bragg was seemingly just waiting until word came down that the Fulton County DA is now just days away from indicting Trump, meaning Bragg will get to indict Trump second (or third) instead of first.

This all comes after Bloomberg reported roughly two weeks ago that DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith was just weeks away from critical indictment decisions in his own criminal case against Donald Trump. This means Trump is now on track to be indicted by three different sets of prosecutors, each of which will put him on criminal trial. It’s been tricky to predict the timing, but this was always coming. And now we’re here.

 

 

william barr at doj

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The real ‘weaponization’ of the Justice Department: Barr and Durham, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 30, 2023. jennifer rubin new headshotHouse Republicans are right that politicization of the Justice Department has been a jaw-dropping abuse of power. They’ve got the wrong culprit, however.

As a blockbuster New York Times article made clear, then-Attorney General William P. Barr, above, and special counsel John H. Durham engaged in unethical, abusive manipulation of the Justice Department in pursing the baseless conspiracy theory that the intelligence community had conducted a witch hunt of then-President Donald Trump in connection with Russian manipulation of the 2016 election.

The Times reported that “the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim Justice Department log circularcharacterized the Russia investigation.” Durham brought two baseless cases, both resulting in acquittal. When Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s thorough investigation debunked their entire theory, Barr tried to pressure him to keep it under wraps. Then, as he did with the Robert S. Mueller III report, Barr publicly mischaracterized and trashed the report.

Durham also used a grand jury to pry into the record of major Democratic donor George Soros. Moreover, while supposedly operating independently, he met frequently with his pal Barr, in violation of the basic precept that a special counsel must operate with a high degree of independence. (From the Times article: “Mr. Durham visited Mr. Barr in his office for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work. They also sometimes dined and sipped Scotch together.”)

Worst of all:

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

Their conduct was so egregious that several career prosecutors quit rather than participate in (to borrow a phrase) the witch hunt. In the end, Barr conceded there was no there there — but only after the 2020 election.

Former prosecutors reacting to the Times report were outraged. Andrew Weissmann tweeted, “This is all about the Trump weaponization of the DOJ — but we know that the House Rs won’t give a damn about it.” Joyce White Vance concurred:

Three responses are warranted, although sadly none is likely to hold Barr accountable.

  • First and foremost, Attorney General Merrick Garland should have the spine to remove Durham for gross misconduct. Moreover, any report issued should remove the names of those exonerated in court or who were never charged. They are victims of a political smear, which Garland should not enable by allowing baseless allegations to circulate publicly. Don’t hold your breath, however. Garland has shown little willingness to revisit the department’s conduct in the prior administration. (As an alternative, the inspector general could investigate Barr and Durham.)
  • Frankly, Garland erred in never conducting a top-to-bottom review of politicization during the Trump era (including Barr’s politicization of sentencing recommendations and the department’s misrepresentations in the U.S. Census case). Instead of prioritizing the department’s outside reputation over the need to remove the stench of corruption, Garland should have gotten to the bottom of the Barr/Durham debacle long ago. (At the very least, it would have preempted the false MAGA narrative that Democrats have been the ones engaged in misconduct).
  • Second, Barr and Durham, right, should face disciplinary action just as coup architect John Eastman (coincidentally on Thursday) john durham Customwas charged with 11 counts by the California state bar for “violating a variety of attorney ethics rules in multiple episodes, court cases and other conduct,” as CNN put it. Unless and until attorneys such as Barr and Durham face accountability, the threat of professional disgrace and the loss of their law license, other lawyers will be tempted to engage in such shenanigans.
  • However, Eastman, Jeffrey Clark (facing bar proceedings) and Rudy Giuliani (suspended from practice in New York) have sadly been the exception to the rule of sloth and passivity from state bars. Scores of attorneys who signed onto frivolous lawsuits after the 2020 and 2022 elections (including challenging Kari Lake’s defeat in Arizona) have yet to face any penalty.
  • The list of attorneys who participated in the effort to overturn the 2020 election but as yet have faced no consequences (Kenneth Chesebro, Cleta Mitchell) is far too long. (And none of the members of Congress who signed onto the utterly baseless Supreme Court brief seeking to disenfranchise millions of Americans has been taken to task.) State bars need to do their job to restore integrity to the legal profession.
  • Finally, Congress should be investigating Barr and Durham’s gross misconduct. You can be sure, however, that MAGA Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and the “weaponization of government” select subcommittee won’t be interested

In sum, just as Garland seeks to hold accountable political leaders who threatened our democracy, he must hold his own department lawyers’ responsible for misconduct. If not, an inspector general, state bars and congressional Democrats should do the job.

  • CNN, Book reveals why Trump wasn't charged for Stormy Daniels hush money payments, Jim Acosta

 

william barr hearing new

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr’s Image Rehab Is Kaput, David Firestone, Jan. 30, 2023. Mr. Firestone is a member of the editorial board.

Former Attorney General William Barr has spent the last year in a desperate salvage operation for what’s left of his legal and ethical reputation.

During his 22 months in office, he allowed his Justice Department to become a personal protection racket for his boss, Donald Justice Department log circularTrump, and left prosecutors, the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials subject to the worst impulses of the president. But then, in his 2022 memoir, Mr. Barr did an about-face, bashing Mr. Trump for lacking a presidential temperament and singling out his “self-indulgence and lack of self-control.”

In the book, he urged Republicans not to renominate Mr. Trump in 2024, accusing the former president of going “off the rails” with his stolen-election claims by preferring the counsel of “sycophants” and “whack jobs” to that of his real advisers. Clearly concerned that history was paying attention, he was even stronger in his videotaped testimony to the Jan. 6 committee, loosing a variety of barnyard epithets and bitter insults to describe Mr. Trump’s legal strategy. He said the president had become “detached from reality” and was doing a disservice to the nation.

The hollow and self-serving nature of this turnabout was always apparent. Mr. Barr never made these concerns public at a time when his dissent would have made a difference. Instead, he left office in 2020 showering compliments on his boss, praising Mr. Trump’s “unprecedented achievements” and promising that Justice would continue to pursue claims of voter fraud that he must have known were baseless.

But if Mr. Barr harbored any fantasy that he might yet be credited with a wisp of personal integrity for standing up for democracy, that hope was thoroughly demolished on Thursday when The Times published the details of what really happened when Mr. Barr launched a counter-investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The reporting demonstrated a staggering abuse of the special counsel system and the attorney general’s office, all in a failed attempt by Mr. Barr to rewrite the sour truths of Mr. Trump’s history.

It was bad enough when, in March 2019, Mr. Barr tried to mislead the public into thinking the forthcoming Mueller report exonerated Mr. Trump, when in fact the report later showed just how strong the links were between the campaign and the Russian government, john durham Customwhich worked to help defeat Hillary Clinton. A few months later Mr. Barr assigned John Durham, right, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, as a special counsel to investigate Mr. Mueller’s investigation, hoping to prove Mr. Trump’s wild public allegations that the federal intelligence officials had helped instigate the claims of Russian interference to damage him.

Attorneys general are not supposed to interfere in a special counsel’s investigation. The whole point of the system is to isolate the prosecution of sensitive cases from the appearance of political meddling. But the new Times reporting shows that Mr. Barr did the opposite, regularly meeting with Mr. Durham to discuss his progress and advocating on his behalf with intelligence officials when they were unable to come up with the nonexistent proof Mr. Barr wanted to see. (Aides told Times reporters that Mr. Barr was certain from the beginning that U.S. spy agencies were behind the allegations of collusion.)

When the Justice Department’s own inspector general prepared to issue a report saying that, while the F.B.I. made some ethical mistakes, the investigation was legitimate and not politically motivated, Mr. Durham lobbied him to drop the finding. When that effort was unsuccessful, Mr. Barr reverted to his usual pattern of trying to spin the report before it was issued, disagreeing with its finding before it was even out. Mr. Durham then followed up with a similar statement, shattering the clear department principle of staying silent about a current investigation.

The two men even traveled to Britain and Italy together, pressuring government agencies there to disclose what they told U.S. spy agencies about the Trump-Russia connections. That infuriated officials of those governments, who said they had done nothing of the kind, and no evidence was ever found that they had. But on one of those trips, The Times reported, Italian officials gave the men a tip which, people familiar with the matter said, linked Mr. Trump to possible serious financial crimes. (It is not clear what those crimes were, and more reporting will be necessary to reveal the details.) Did Mr. Barr follow protocol and turn the tip over to regular prosecutors in his department for investigation? No. Instead, he gave it to his traveling companion, Mr. Durham, who opened a criminal investigation but never made it public and never filed charges, and when word began to trickle out that a suspected crime had been discovered, he falsely let the world think it had something to do with his original goal.

The Durham investigation, of course, has never presented any evidence that the F.B.I. or intelligence agencies committed any misconduct in the course of the Russia investigation, bitterly disappointing Mr. Barr and especially his patron, Mr. Trump, who had assured his supporters for months that it would produce something big. Desperate for some kind of success, Mr. Durham indicted Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who had worked for Democrats in their dealings with the F.B.I., over the objections of two prosecutors on the special counsel team who said the case was far too thin and who later left the staff.

Mr. Sussmann was acquitted last May of lying to the bureau, and the jury forewoman told reporters that bringing the case had been unwise. Mr. Barr later tried to justify the trial by saying it served another purpose in exposing the Clinton campaign’s starting the Russia narrative as a “dirty trick.” The trial did nothing of the kind, but it did expose Mr. Barr’s willingness to abuse the gratuitous prosecution of an individual to score political points against one of Mr. Trump’s most prominent enemies.

One of the other casualties of this deceitful crusade was the deliberate damage it did to the reputations of the F.B.I., the intelligence agencies and officials in Mr. Barr’s own department. All of these agencies have had many problematic episodes in their pasts, but there is no evidence in this case that they willfully tried to smear Mr. Trump and his campaign with false allegations of collusion. They were trying to do their jobs, on which the nation’s security depends, but because they got in Mr. Trump’s way, Mr. Barr aided in degrading their image through a deep-state conspiracy theory before an entire generation of Trump supporters. Republicans in the House are launching a new snipe hunt for proof that these same government offices were “weaponized” against conservatives, an expedition that is likely to be no more effective than Mr. Durham’s and Mr. Barr’s.

But weakening the country’s institutions and safeguards for political benefit is how Mr. Barr did business in the nearly two years he served as the nation’s top law enforcement official under Mr. Trump. He has a long history of making the Justice Department an instrument of his ideology and politics; when he was attorney general in 1992 during the Bush administration, the Times columnist William Safire accused him of leading a “Criminal Cover-up Division” in refusing to appoint an independent counsel to investigate whether the Bush administration had knowingly provided aid to Saddam Hussein that was used to finance the military before Iraq invaded Kuwait. Under Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr did the opposite, demanding that an unnecessary special counsel do the bidding of the White House and trying to steer the investigation to Mr. Trump’s advantage. His efforts came to naught, and so will his campaign to be remembered as a defender of the Constitution.

David Firestone is a member of the editorial board. Mr. Firestone was a reporter and editor at The Times from 1993 to 2014, including serving as a congressional correspondent and New York City Hall bureau chief, and was executive editor for digital at NBC News until 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Durham Fiasco Is a Warning of What’s to Come, Michelle Goldberg,right,  Jan. 30, 2023. Thank goodness michelle goldberg thumbSpeaker Kevin McCarthy has created a House subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government!

Last week, The New York Times reported on an outrageous example of such weaponization, the flagrant use of federal law enforcement powers to target an administration’s political enemies. I’m talking, of course, about the John Durham special counsel investigation, which was meant to root out the ostensibly corrupt origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and quickly came to embody the sins that Donald Trump and his allies projected onto the F.B.I.

Trump’s circle insisted, falsely, that the Mueller inquiry was a hit job that employed Russian disinformation — via the Steele dossier — to frame Trump, all part of a plot cooked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Durham seems to have bought into this Trumpist conspiracy theory, and to help prove it, he tried to employ what appears to be Russian disinformation to go after the Clinton camp. More specifically, he used dubious Russian intelligence memos, which analysts believed were seeded with falsehoods, to try to convince a court to give him access to the emails of a former aide to George Soros, which he believed would show Clinton-related wrongdoing.

john durham CustomAstonishingly, The Times found that while Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr and Durham, right, were in Europe looking for evidence to discredit the Russia investigation, Italian officials gave them a “potentially explosive tip” linking Trump to “certain suspected financial crimes.” Rather than assign a new prosecutor to look into those suspected crimes, Barr folded the matter into Durham’s inquiry, giving Durham criminal prosecution powers for the first time.

Then the attorney general sat back while the media inferred that the criminal investigation must mean Durham had found evidence of malfeasance connected to Russiagate. Barr, usually shameless in his public spinning of the news, quietly let an investigation into Trump be used to cast aspersions on Trump’s perceived enemies. (The fate of that inquiry remains a mystery.)

This squalid episode is a note-perfect example of how Republican scandal-mongering operates. The right ascribes to its adversaries, whether in the Democratic Party or the putative deep state, monstrous corruption and elaborate conspiracies. Then, in the name of fighting back, it mimics the tactics it has accused its foes of using.

Look, for example, at the behavior that gave rise to Trump’s first impeachment. Trump falsely claimed that Joe Biden, as vice president, used the threat of withholding American loan guarantees to blackmail the Ukrainian government into doing his personal bidding. Hoping to get Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to substantiate his lies, Trump tried to use the threat of withholding American aid to … blackmail the Ukrainian government into doing his personal bidding. The symmetry between accusations and counter-accusations, in turn, fosters a widespread cynicism about ever finding the truth.

It’s important to keep this in mind because we’re about to see a lot more of it. Now that they control the House, Republicans have prioritized investigating their political opponents. McCarthy has stacked the Oversight Committee, central to the House’s investigative apparatus, with flame-throwing fantasists, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and Lauren Boebert. Further, as Politico reported in a “field guide” to the coming Republican inquiries, McCarthy has urged Republicans to treat every committee like the Oversight Committee, meaning all investigations, all the time.

There are going to be investigations into Hunter Biden, and investigations into the origins of the pandemic. There will likely be scrutiny of the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago and Biden’s handling of classified documents. And, as my colleague David Firestone on the editorial board put it over the weekend, “Republicans in the House are launching a new snipe hunt” for proof that the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies were “weaponized” against conservatives.

These all promise to be congressional equivalents of the Durham inquiry. Certainly, most if not all congressional investigations are politically motivated, but there is nevertheless a difference between inquiries predicated on something real, and those, like the many investigations in the Benghazi attack, meant to troll for dirt and reify Fox News phantasms. House Democrats examined Trump’s interference with the C.D.C. during the acute stage of the pandemic. House Republicans plan to look into what the Republican congressman Jim Banks termed the military’s “dangerous” Covid vaccine mandates. There might be an equivalence in the form of these two undertakings, but not in their empirical basis.

It remains to be seen whether our political media is up for the task of making these distinctions. The coverage of Trump and Biden’s respective retention of classified documents offers little cause for optimism. Again and again, journalists and pundits have noted that, while the two cases are very different, there are seeming similarities, and those similarities are good for Trump. This is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since by speculating about political narratives, you help create them.

“John Durham has already won,” said the headline of a Politico article from last year, noting his success in perpetuating the right’s fevered counter-history of Russiagate. Of course he didn’t win; he would go on to lose both cases arising from his investigation as well as the honorable reputation he had before he started it. What he did manage to do, however, was spread a lot of confusion and waste a lot of time. Now the Republican House picks up where he left off.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump hits the trail in two states, some vulnerabilities come into focus, Hannah Knowles and Camila DeChalus, Jan. 30, 2023. Trump campaigned in New Hampshire and then headed to South Carolina on Saturday, amid growing Republican interest in elevating other standard-bearers.

Minutes into a campaign speech here Saturday, Donald Trump raised his false claims the 2020 election was stolen from him — returning to an issue that many Republicans worry has cost their party crucial support.

Hours earlier in New Hampshire, Trump delivered meandering remarks at a meeting of the state GOP, where some party delegates said that although they liked how he governed, they would prefer a new face in 2024. Outside the high school auditorium, a booth promoted a rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with “draft DeSantis 2024″ fliers and T-shirts.

“It’s time for a younger person or someone new to have their time,” said Karen Umberger, one of the delegates, in an interview.

As he hit the trail for the first time since launching a third bid for the White House in November, signs of Trump’s newfound vulnerabilities came into focus. The trip effectively ushered in the start of the 2024 Republican presidential primary campaign season, with Trump fighting to keep his place at the top of a potentially crowded field.

Politico, Trump hits DeSantis: He's a Covid skeptic phony, Meridith McGraw, Josh Kraushaar, Jan. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The former president slams the Florida governor — and potential 2024 rival — as he hits the campaign trail in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

politico CustomSince announcing in November, Donald Trump had an unconventional start to his third presidential campaign: He did not campaign at all.

That’s now changing, and part of the reason the former president is holding his first formal campaign events of 2024 in New Hampshire and South Carolina this weekend is that others may be forcing his hand.

In recent days, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called Trump and suggested she would be announcing her decision to enter the presidential race soon, a conversation that a person familiar with it described as cordial.

“She called me and said she’d like to consider it. And I said you should do it,” Trump told reporters, noting that Haley once said she would not get in the race if Trump runs again.

But Haley may be only a modest challenge for Trump going forward. He also is on a collision course with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to jump into the race.

On Saturday, Trump took his sharpest swings at DeSantis to date, accusing the governor of “trying to rewrite history” over his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump said DeSantis, who has been openly skeptical about government efforts to vaccinate people against the virus, “promoted the vaccine as much as anyone.” He praised governors who did not close down their states, noting that DeSantis ordered the closure of beaches and business in some parts of the state.

“When I hear that he might [run] I think it’s very disloyal,” Trump said.

As for the polls showing DeSantis beating him in key nominating states, Trump was dismissive.

“He won’t be leading, I got him elected,” he said. “I’m the one that chose him.”

For months Trump has been tucked away at his resort in Palm Beach, where he has hosted parties, sent out missives on his social media site Truth Social, played golf, and plotted out his next steps.

When he re-emerged on Saturday, flying to New Hampshire on his rehabbed Trump-branded 757 plane, he was determined to showcase himself as a candidate who still has the star power that catapulted him to the White House in 2016, and could once again elbow out a full field of Republican challengers.

“They said ‘he’s not doing rallies, he is not campaigning. Maybe he’s lost his step,’” Trump said at a meeting of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed now than I ever was.”

Unlike 2020, when he ran unopposed as president, Trump is expected to have a field of Republican challengers to deal with this time around, beyond Haley. In anticipation of a crowded field, Trump’s campaign has compiled research on different potential candidates, according to an adviser. But Trump himself brushed off concerns that he is in danger of not securing the nomination. “I don’t think we have competition this time either, to be honest,” he said.

At the New Hampshire GOP meeting, Trump announced outgoing New Hampshire GOP Chair Stephen Stepanek would help oversee his campaign in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

And later in the day, at an appearance at the South Carolina statehouse, Trump announced endorsements from close ally and occasional golf buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster — a notable display of political muscle in Haley’s home state.

“The good news for the Republican Party is there are many, many talented people for years to come, but there is only one Donald Trump,” Graham said. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new. There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”

But Republican activists in New Hampshire are plainly divided. As Stepanek rejoins the Trump campaign, outgoing Vice Chair Pamela Tucker was recruiting volunteers for Ron to the Rescue, a super PAC formed after the midterms to boost DeSantis if he runs for president.

“We’re not never-Trumpers. We’re people who supported Trump. We love Trump. But we also know, more importantly, that we need to win. And Ron DeSantis has proven it time and time again now he can win elections,” Tucker said in an interview.

Matt Mayberry, a former congressional candidate and past New Hampshire GOP vice chair who supported Trump and has appeared at rallies with him in the state, said he isn’t taking sides yet in the still-forming primary.

  • Politico, Trump makes his first big move in New Hampshire, Jan. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

 

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Courses Will Host Three Tournaments for Saudi-Backed LIV Golf, Alan Blinder, Jan. 30, 2023. As the league announced more details of a 14-stop second season, former President Donald J. Trump’s courses remained central to the schedule, deepening his ties to Riyadh.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s golf courses will host three tournaments this year for the breakaway league that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is underwriting, deepening the financial ties between a candidate for the White House and top officials in Riyadh.

LIV Golf, which in the past year has cast men’s professional golf into turmoil as it lured players away from the PGA Tour, said on Monday that it would travel to Trump courses in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia during this year’s 14-stop season. Neither the league nor the Trump Organization announced the terms of their arrangement, but the schedule shows the Saudi-backed start-up will remain allied with, and beneficial to, one of its foremost defenders and political patrons as he seeks a return to power.

Part of LIV’s scheduling approach, executives say, hinges on the relative scarcity of elite courses that can challenge players such as Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith — and the abundance of them in a Trump portfolio that is more accessible than many others to the new circuit. In a court filing last week, LIV Golf complained anew that the PGA Tour had warned “golfers, other tours, vendors, broadcasters, sponsors and virtually any other third parties” against doing business with the rebel league.

But Trump, whose courses hosted two LIV Golf events in 2022, has expressed no public misgivings about his company’s ties to the league, which has drawn attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and prompted accusations that the country was turning to sports to repair its reputation. A confidential McKinsey & Company analysis presented to Saudi officials in 2021 suggested there were significant obstacles to success and underscored the limited financial potential for one of the world’s largest wealth funds.

Jan. 29

Axios Sneak Peek, 1 Big thing: Trump's sleepy start to 2024, Josh Kraushaar, Jan. 29-30, 2023. Former President Trump's first campaign swing of the 2024 campaign generated little of the excitement that has long defined his glitzy political rallies.

axios logoWhy it matters: From party officials to state legislators, there wasn't a visible show of support for Trump's 2024 bid among rank-and-file New Hampshire Republicans in attendance.

In contrast to the large rallies that propelled him in 2016 and 2020, the New Hampshire event — timed to the state party annual meeting — was held in a compact high school auditorium, with about 400 people in attendance.
The most organized show of Trump support was about a dozen fans standing outside the parking lot, who weren't credentialed for the event.

Driving the news: In a long-winded, hourlong address, Trump recalled what he says are his greatest successes as president — from cracking down on illegal immigration to stunting the spread of ISIS and launching the Space Force.

About one-third of the crowd loudly applauded as outgoing state party chairman Stephen Stepanek introduced Trump by endorsing his campaign. (He will be serving as Trump's top New Hampshire adviser.) But the speech overall drew a lukewarm reaction from the attendees.

Trump's biggest applause came 45 minutes into his speech, when he introduced a new proposal to crack down on critical race theory in public school classrooms. He also drew an enthusiastic response when he proposed a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

Noting that pundits have panned the former president's low-key schedule since announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump responded: "I have two years. I’m more angry now and I’m more committed than ever.”

What they're saying: "Trump has not been mortally wounded but was damaged by the results in the midterm election," said former Republican state party chairman Wayne MacDonald, a state lawmaker. "Trump lost the 2020 election, and the number of people who still hold onto the belief that he didn't are a dwindling minority."

Between the lines: Signs of enthusiasm for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were notable throughout the event. The pro-DeSantis efforts were led by the super PAC Ron To the Rescue, which set up shop inside the GOP meeting. A second DeSantis supporter was selling T-shirts at a stand.

A life-sized cutout of DeSantis stood just outside the auditorium. Only a smattering of visible signs of Trump enthusiasm — red MAGA hats from his most devoted supporters — were present in the high school's hallways.

Reality check: Trump's base of support has always been with ordinary Republican voters who don't participate in grassroots political events. Last year, Republican primary voters rejected candidates backed by popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu in favor of MAGA-oriented candidates.

The bottom line: Polls indicate Trump's support is soft in New Hampshire. The widespread sentiment among Republicans there is that Trump served the country well, but he's unelectable in 2024.

  • 2. California's battle lines, Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) prospects in the hotly contested California Senate race are directly related to how relevant Trump remains in 2024, a California-based Democratic strategist tells Axios.

3. Poll of the week: Cracks in the Granite (state), New Hampshire Democratic voters overwhelmingly don't want President Biden to run for re-election and would seriously consider voting for an alternative, according to a University of New Hampshire poll.

Jan. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Jan. 26, 2023. The review by John Durham, right, at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it john durham Customfailed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.

It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

donald trump for president button nice smileEgged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: What did the Italians tell Barr and Durham about Donald Trump's criminal activity? Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Jan. 27, 2023. In the fall of 2019, Attorney General William Barr and John Durham, the Special Counsel assigned by Barr to investigate the FBI for wrongly investigating Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign for ties to Russia, flew to Italy to pressure law enforcement there to fess up that they were involved with the FBI in what was falsely called by Trump the "Russia hoax."

wayne madesen report logoInstead of getting the goods on the FBI -- whose top counterintelligence agent in New York at the time was in bed with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska --Italian law enforcement provided Barr and Durham with information that Trump was involved in a major criminal matter, including suspicious financial dealings. Barr assigned Durham, a pro-Trump shill, to investigate the matter, granting him, for the first time, criminal prosecution authority. Not only did Durham not find any evidence of a "Russia hoax" involving the FBI logoDemocratic Party, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, or George Soros -- all of whom Durham had under investigation -- but the criminal matter conveyed by the Italians was never acted upon.

WMR had reported on a serious criminal matter involving the car bombing assassination of Maltese journalist  Daphne Caruana Galizia, right, on October 16, 2017 and its possible ties to Trump. Italian intelligence and law enforcement have kept a close eye on Malta daphne caruana galizia croppedever since the 1970s, when the island country developed close ties with the Soviet Union and Libya. Although Malta is now a member of the European Union, the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza (Financial Guard), as well as the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE) foreign intelligence service maintain a close eye on Malta, which has become a haven for offshore banking, corporate brass plates, and Russian and other foreign residents who have purchased Maltese passports and established residency in the twin island nation.

Caruana Galizia was assassinated after she had implicated Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his wife, and top aides in a scandal partly exposed by the release of the Panama Papers. The scandal led directly from Malta to Azerbaijan and, ultimately, to the Trump Organization in New York.

Caruana Galizia was well-aware of Trump's connections to international wealth and political and financial power brokers. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she wrote on her website, "You can't get more establishment than billionaire Donald Trump, scion of an extremely wealthy WASP family. So the real problem is stupidity and malice. But then it always was."

And, as she found out a year later, you can't get more corrupt and murderous than Donald Trump. Whatever the Italians passed on to Barr and Durham about Trump, America's "Mr. Magoo" Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has a duty and an obligation to the American people to make that information public without delay.

 Jan. 26

 

mitch mcconnell elaine chao

Politico, The private angst over Donald Trump’s racist attacks on Elaine Chao goes public, Meridith McGraw, Jan. 26, 2023 (print ed.). His rhetoric “says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”

politico CustomOver the past several months, the leading Republican presidential candidate has launched a series of racist attacks on the wife of the Republican Party’s Senate leader, a woman who once served in his Cabinet.

But while former President Donald Trump’s taunts at Elaine Chao — demeaning her as “Coco Chow” or a variation of Mitch McConnell’s “China-loving wife” — have been mostly met with silence from fellow GOP officials, the main target of them is now speaking out.

“When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation,” Chao said in a statement to POLITICO. “He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”

Chao’s statement is an extremely rare case of the former Transportation Secretary wading into the political thicket that her former boss has laid around her since the end of his administration. It suggests that discomfort with Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has reached a new level amid several high-profile shootings targeting Asian Americans.

On at least a half a dozen occasions, Trump has taken to his social media platform, Truth Social, to criticize McConnell’s leadership, and to suggest, among other things, that he is conflicted because of his wife’s connection to China. Last fall, in a message widely viewed by Republicans and Democrats as a threat, he said that McConnell “has a DEATH WISH.”

But the personal attacks on Chao have stood out above the others, both for their overt racism and the relatively little pushback they’ve received. McConnell and his team have not responded. And on the rare occasion where she has been asked about them, Chao has pleaded for reporters to not amplify the remarks. Other Republicans have dismissed the attacks as Trump just being Trump. The former president “likes to give people nicknames,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in October on CNN.

Politico, Meta to reinstate Donald Trump’s Facebook account, Rebecca Kern, Jan. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Trump's campaign team had petitioned the company to reinstate his account in mid-January, saying that a continued ban would amount to Meta silencing "Mr. Trump's political voice."

politico CustomMeta will lift the ban on Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks after a suspension that lasted more than two years.

meta logoThe decision restores the former president’s access to a platform that he used to powerful effect as a campaigner, and could potentially boost his faltering 2024 fundraising. But a Trump return could also lead to more election misinformation on the platform, Democrats warn, since Facebook has a policy of not fact-checking political candidates — and Trump has continued to push the false narrative that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. Trump had been banned by Facebook after violating rules against incitement of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs and the U.K.’s former deputy prime minister, said in a blog post announcing the decision.

“But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act,” he said.

Trump’s campaign team had petitioned the company to reinstate his account in mid-January, saying that a continued ban would amount to Meta silencing “Mr. Trump’s political voice.”

However, it’s unclear how quickly Trump will rejoin. He has not resumed posting on Twitter since Elon Musk reinstated him in November, and his campaign did not return a request for comment. Trump’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even if Trump chooses to rejoin, many political observers think it’s unlikely he’ll regain his previous level of influence.

In making its decision to restore Trump’s account, Meta evaluated several factors, including violent incidents and indicators of civil unrest. The company had initially suspended the president after his role in the Jan. 6 issurection, then extended the ban indefinitely.

Meta, Twitter and Google’s YouTube all banned Trump for posts inciting violence that were tied to the Jan. 6 insurrection. It wasn’t until he launched his own social media company — Truth Social — in February 2022 that he was able to more widely reach his audiences again, although its reach is far smaller, with just 4.7 million followers compared to 34 million on Facebook and 23 million on Instagram.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Refused to Text. Until Now, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump, averse to leaving records of his communications, had long avoided text and email.

One of former President Donald J. Trump’s most consistent personal traits — one that his advisers say has helped keep him out of even worse legal jeopardy — has been his refusal to communicate by text or email.

Until now.

Mr. Trump, 76, who is heading into his third presidential campaign and is still under scrutiny by investigators on multiple fronts, has at last become a texter, according to three people with knowledge of his new habit. His messages have recently shown up in the phones of surprised recipients, they said.

Jan. 25

 

scott adams via proofProof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24-25, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to seth abramson graphicStrange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams (above) and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

 The Adams Podcast Takes Me On—But Also, Elon Musk.

Like many journalists, I used to admire [Matt] Taibbi before he decided to leave journalism and enter the much darker but more lucrative world of far-right propaganda with other opportunists like Glenn Greenwald and Bari Weiss.

matt taibbiTaibbi, left, has followed me on Twitter for many, many years—I do not and have never followed him—and has at times seemed obsessed with me, repeatedly commenting on my writing and research despite the fact that there’s little point in doing so: Taibbi, who lived in Russia for many years and allegedly engaged in all sorts of grotesque misconduct while there, believes the Trump-Russia scandal was a “hoax”, whereas I have spent years of my professional life as a journalist substantiating that the scandal was nothing of the sort. That effort has involved thousands and thousands of major-media citations compiled into three bestselling hardcover books, an ebook, a podcast, a substack, a popular Twitter feed, and a fast-growing Post News feed.

I have nothing really to say to Taibbi anymore, and vice versa, because he is for some eldritch reason (or it could just be mountains of cash) committed to running cover for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump without any compelling evidence in support of his tawdry crusade. I call my transient spat with Taibbi a “wrinkle” in the Scott Adams-oriented narrative I’m unfolding here because, as Forbes noted, Adams has a well-documented penchant for hitching his wagon to the star of the nearest would-be authoritarian celebrity-cum-tyrant and seeing how far that sycophancy will take him.

For years that man has been Donald Trump, but with Trump’s star now fading a bit—if not so much among his MAGA base as certain MAGA influencers—one might expect Adams to be looking for a new ideological patron.

And right now the clearest pick in that direction would be Elon Musk. Elon Musk suddenly interjected himself into my spat with Taibbi a few days ago.

 

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” in December, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story and limit other controversial messaging that Musk wants distributed. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Musk has invested Taibbi with primary authority to selectively report out carefully curated pieces of Twitter’s internal communications, all of which are designed to discredit Musk’s predecessors at the company—a leadership cadre he detests, likely for having run the company as competently as it did for so many years before Musk bought it and ran it directly into the ground at speed. Given that Musk has already lost one of the stenographers he chose to disseminate his revenge-porn-like pseudo-journalism—the aforementioned far-right columnist Bari Weiss, who publicly abandoned Musk over his hypocritical illiberalism on free speech—he can ill afford to reveal any daylight between himself and another of his minions. Thus, his reflexive defense of Matt Taibbi at—at least what appears to be—all costs.

So Here’s Where Things Start to Get Weird…

If Taibbi and Musk didn’t react well to me showing them a now-famous Guardian article confirming that the Trump-Russia investigation was actually informally launched in 2015 on the basis of reliable intelligence from seven allied intelligence agencies, Adams reacted even worse to me citing another now-famous Guardian report that says Twitter has had a systemic right-wing bias ensconced inside its algorithm for many, many years now. Adams leads up to his fury over the Guardian report by first addressing what he sees as the preposterousness of the Politico article that undermines Taibbi’s claims about the #ReleaseTheMemo imbroglio.

The analysis published the Guardian, and the confession by Twitter, renders the main thrust of the #TwitterFiles project farcical.

Why It All Matters. As I put the finishing touches on this massive Proof report over the last few days, the world learned three astonishingly significant things that are relevant to the subject of this narrative:

  1. truth social logoDonald Trump is returning to Twitter—despite denials from Truth Social chief Devin Nunes—as multiple sources have confirmed that Trump is looking to end his exclusivity agreement with his own social media platform when that contract ends in June.
  2. FBI counterintelligence may have been compromised during the Trump-Russia scandal, inasmuch as there may have been secret ties between the Russian oligarch who led Trump-Russia collusion on the Russian side—Paul Manafort’s longtime boss, Oleg Deripaska—and one of the top FBI counterintelligence officials at the time, Charles McGonigal, who was in fact the lead in the Trump-Russia investigation.
  3. Elon Musk responded to the news of Trump returning to Twitter by suggesting that he believes the Biden administration will try to “weaponize federal agencies against Twitter” in response.

If you put all these new items together, you get the following interconnected narrative:

1. The most lucrative tweeter in American history is about to return to Elon Musk’s near-bankrupt Twitter, which could single-handedly save Musk’s demonstrably bad $44 billion investment in the platform;

2. Musk must justify his reinstatement of Trump—the event that has opened the door to Trump’s lucrative, potentially Twitter-saving return to the platform—by falsely contending that Twitter long systematically disfavored (rather than issued spectacular hidden advantages to) dangerous far-right elected officials like Trump;

3. As more and more evidence emerges establishing the truth of what I was the first to report on (at HuffPost) six years ago—Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a collage.the New York City field office of the FBI, run by Charles McGonigal (shown at right, clean-shaven in a collage with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska) , was a nest of pro-Trump sentiment before and during the Trump-Russia scandal—the attempt by the new House GOP majority that Elon Musk openly stumped for on Twitter to frame the FBI as pro-Biden is now more likely than ever to fail, which will force the House GOP to engage in precisely the same sort of disinformation campaign about systemic biases in a massive institution that Musk and Taibbi and Adams have been waging on behalf of Twitter;

and 4. A pretty good sign that Musk is ready and willing to aid Congress in committing this new fraud on the American people (putting aside all the allegations of fraud Musk has faced over the years) is that his first response to the news that Trump is returning to Twitter was to spread a baseless conspiracy theory about pro-Biden deep-state actors inside the federal executive branch—where the FBI also resides. There’s not a jagged line between these four elements, but a straight one.

And indeed, Proof will add one more data-point to this group: that Mr. Trump is rejoining Twitter because he needs to do so to successfully run for President of the United States in 2024, which means that Elon Musk’s willingness to aid and abet false Trumpist and congressional narratives about the Biden administration—which false narratives he is trying to ensure dovetail with his own false narratives about pro-Democratic bias inside Twitter—can only have the effect of propping up a flailing Donald Trump presidential campaign whose success in 2024 could well mean the end of American democracy.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Relevant Recent Headlines

Jan. 23

 

 

Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a collage.

Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a photo collage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former senior FBI official accused of working for Russian he investigated, Shayna Jacobs, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Charles McGonigal, a former counterintelligence chief, is charged with money laundering and other counts connected to oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

FBI logoThe former head of FBI counterintelligence in New York has been charged in two separate indictments that accuse him of taking secret cash payments of more than $225,000 while overseeing highly sensitive cases, and allegedly breaking the law by trying to get Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, left, removed from a U.S. sanctions list, officials said Monday.

Charles McGonigal, 54, who retired from the FBI in September 2018, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions and other charges in connection to his alleged ties to Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his role at the FBI, McGonigal had been tasked with investigating Deripaska, whose own indictment on sanctions-violation charges was unsealed in September.

Separately, McGonigal was accused in a nine-count indictment in federal court in Washington of hiding his receipt of $225,000 from a former Albanian intelligence agent living in New Jersey. McGonigal was also accused of hiding foreign travel and contacts with senior leaders in countries including Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia where the former Albanian agent had business interests.

McGonigal’s alleged involvement with Deripaska may impact a significant push by the Justice Department to hit wealthy Russians with economic sanctions for conducting business in the United States, an effort that accelerated last year with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The twin indictments are also a black eye for the FBI, alleging that one of its most senior and trusted intelligence officials was taking secret cash payments and undermining the bureau’s overall intelligence-gathering mission.

Through his lawyer, McGonigal pleaded not guilty at a brief court appearance Monday. The lawyer, Seth DuCharme, told journalists that his client "served the United States for decades in positions of public trust and leadership, so this is a distressing day for him, but we’re going to litigate the case in the courtroom.”

Prosecutors alleged that from at least August 2017 and beyond his retirement from the FBI, McGonigal failed to disclose to the FBI his relationship with the former Albanian security official, described as “Person A” in charging papers. He also allegedly failed to disclose that he had an “ongoing relationship with the Prime Minister of Albania,” the indictment said. Since 2013, Edi Rama has served as the prime minister of that country.

In late 2017, authorities charge, McGonigal received packages of cash totaling $225,000 from Person A — the first time, in a parked car outside a New York City restaurant, the next two times at the person’s New Jersey home. According to the indictment, McGonigal “indicated to Person A that the money would be paid back.”

Months later, at McGonigal’s urging, the FBI opened an investigation into an American lobbyist for an Albanian political party that is a rival of Prime Minister Rama, an investigation that used Person A as a source of information, authorities said.

Current and former U.S. officials who know and have worked with McGonigal said they were shocked by the indictments. As a senior FBI counterintelligence official, McGonigal had access to an extraordinary amount of sensitive information, potentially including investigations of foreign spies or U.S. citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign governments, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the work McGonigal did. One former official said that McGonigal had worked with the CIA on counterintelligence matters.

Palmer Report, Analysis: FBI official indicted for taking dirty Russian money – and it may finally blow the lid off the Trump Russia bill palmerscandal, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 23, 2023.  When the DOJ criminally indicted former FBI official Charles McGonigal on Monday, it took me a minute to find the right words to write about it, because of just how monumental this story is. McGonigal has been indicted for taking dirty money from Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which is shocking when you consider that McGonigal was one of the FBI officials in charge of investigating the connections between Donald Trump and Russia. But that may just be the start of how big this is.

bill palmer report logo headerFor one thing, it raises questions about just how long McGonigal was working for the Russians. Did he try to sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation from within? Is that part of why the Trump-Russia probe, which started strong with so many indictments, ended up falling apart before reaching any of the bigger fish? But there’s more.

McGonigal worked in the FBI’s New York field office. This is the same field office that is widely believed to have forced James Comey to go public with the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, for fear that field office would leak it. This is the same field office that Rudy Giuliani publicly bragged he’d been illegally getting inside information from. Were these leaks also McGonigal’s handiwork? Is that why they were always so well-timed in Trump’s favor? And was McGonigal behind the now-infamous New York Times article published during the 2016 election cycle, which falsely claimed that the FBI had found no connection between Trump and Russia?

Come to think of it, I’ve spent the past half a year pointing out someone within the DOJ seemed to be feeding one suspicious pro-Republican leak to the media after another. There was the leak about Matt Gaetz supposedly being off the hook, which was apparently fictional, given that the FBI never did issue a declination letter. There was the leak about there supposedly being enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden, which was also apparently fictional, given that he never was charged.

These leaks, all aimed at making Republicans look good or making Democrats look bad, and none of them ever substantiated by any subsequent reporting, have long stood out as suspicious. And now the DOJ has criminally indicted a top FBI official, whose field office has a history of similarly suspicious pro-Republican leaks, for having been on a Russian oligarch’s payroll.

It’s not difficult to see just how big this could end up being. It gets even more mind boggling when you consider that McGonigal, by virtue of having worked for the Feds, knows full well that he’s extremely unlikely to win at trial. So even if he’s afraid to flip on Deripaska, there’s a good chance he’ll decide to flip on other DOJ/FBI personnel who were involved, and anyone in Trump world he was conspiring with. This indictment just blew the lid off something major – and we’re about to start finding out what it is.

 capitol riot rather

washington post logoWashington Post, Four Oath Keepers found guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy, Rachel Weiner, Jan. 23, 2023. The verdict is the the second of three seditious conspiracy cases charged in the U.S. Capitol breach.

Four members of the far-right Oath Keepers group were convicted of seditious conspiracy Monday, joining founder Stewart Rhodes in being found guilty by a jury of plotting to keep President Donald Trump in power by force.

Seditious conspiracy charges are rarely used and even more rarely successful, making the verdict a significant victory for the Justice Department. Of the nearly 1,000 people charged with committing crimes at the Capitol on Jan. 6, only 14 were charged with seditious conspiracy, identified by the Justice Department as not just participants in a violent mob but leaders using brutality to further a political plot. In November, the same prosecution team failed to convict three associates of the Oath Keepers of the crime.

At Rhodes’s trial only he and Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs were found guilty of conspiring to commit sedition, while three associates were convicted of less politically loaded felonies that did not require plans to use force. The Oath Keepers verdict — which came after the jury deliberated for about 13 hours — comes as five members of the Proud Boys face trial down the hall on seditious conspiracy charges.

Joseph Hackett, 52; Roberto Minuta, 38; David Moerschel, 45 and Edward Vallejo, 64, were all also convicted Monday of obstructing lawmakers and Congress generally and conspiring to do the same. Hackett was convicted of destroying evidence by deleting it from his devices, while Minuta and Moerschel were acquitted on that charge. Hackett and Moerschel were acquitted of responsibility for damaging the Capitol’s historic Columbus doors.

The Oath Keepers were described by federal prosecutors as armed and dangerous traitors, and by their attorneys as hapless has-beens who stumbled into chaos.

“They claimed to wrap themselves in the Constitution, but they trampled it,” prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in closing arguments. “They ignored the will of the people,” he said, but “had the audacity to claim to be oath-keepers.”

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta allowed all four men to await sentencing on 24-hour house arrest, noting that none of them had prior criminal history or issues on pretrial release.

Richard Barnett sits inside the office of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 6, 2021 (AFP Photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

Richard Barnett sits inside the office of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 6, 2021 (AFP Photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Man photographed in Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6 convicted of 8 counts, Paul Duggan, Jan. 23, 2023. An Arkansas man who entered the U.S. Capitol with rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, and was photographed lounging at a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite was convicted Monday of eight federal crimes related to the incursion.

Richard “Bigo” Barnett, who acknowledged leaving a vulgar written message for Pelosi before departing the suite with a purloined envelope bearing the California Democrat’s digital signature, sat impassively as a jury in U.S. District Court in Washington delivered its verdicts.

After eight days of testimony and legal arguments in Barnett’s trial, the panel began deliberating Monday morning and reached guilty findings on all eight counts against him, including four felonies, in less than two hours.

As for potential prison time, the most serious charge in the case, obstructing an official proceeding, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars. Based on previous prosecutions of Jan. 6 defendants, however, advisory sentencing guidelines used by the court are likely to recommend a much shorter term for Barnett.

He kicked back in Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6. Now he has ‘regrets.’

Although a prosecutor argued Monday that Barnett, who lives in Gravette, Ark., in the Ozarks, should be jailed pending his May 3 sentencing, Judge Christopher R. Cooper allowed him to remain on home detention.

Barnett, a construction company employee in 2020 and an ardent supporter of then-President Donald Trump, was carrying a walking stick equipped with a 950,000-volt stun device when he entered the Capitol with a riotous mob. Congress was meeting that day to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election despite Trump’s false claim that he had been denied a second term because of voter fraud.

In addition to obstructing an official proceeding, Barnett was convicted of two felonies related to carrying a dangerous weapon during the attack on the Capitol and a felony charge of civil disorder. The four misdemeanors he was convicted of included theft of government property, meaning the empty envelope.

Authorities said the stun device on his retractable walking stick was capable of rendering a person unconscious if held against the skin for 10 seconds.

Legally speaking, it did not matter to prosecutors whether Barnett sat or stood in the House speaker’s deserted office suite. His alleged criminal presence in the Capitol was the key issue in his trial.

But what brought him to viral notoriety was his decision to recline nonchalantly in a staff member’s swivel chair and plunk his left work boot atop the desk.

Like Jacob Chansley, the shirtless so-called QAnon shaman, who roamed the Capitol in face paint and horned headgear during the riot, and another accused trespasser, often referred to as the “zip tie guy,” who scaled the Senate gallery wearing military fatigues and carrying a fistful of plastic handcuffs, Barnett became an avatar of the Jan. 6 mayhem in widely viewed images captured by photojournalists.

Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison. The accused “zip tie guy,” identified by the FBI as Eric Munchel, is awaiting trial in U.S. District Court.

Jan. 22

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump team struggles to muster support ahead of S.C. event, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 22, 2023.  Two prominent South Carolinians are considering a run, complicating the picture for the former president.

Advisers to Donald Trump have blanketed South Carolina Republican officials with pleading phone calls in recent weeks in an effort to drum up endorsements and attendees for the former president’s first campaign swing of the 2024 cycle next week.

But the appeals have run headlong into a complicated new reality: Many of the state’s lawmakers and political operatives, and even some of his previous supporters, are not ready to pick a presidential candidate.

They find themselves divided between their support for Trump, their desire for a competitive nomination fight in the state and their allegiance to two South Carolina natives, former governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, who have taken steps to challenge Trump for the nomination. Both are said by people close to them to be seriously considering a bid, and Haley is expected to announce in the coming weeks, South Carolina operatives said.

The result foretells a Trump launch event in the early primary state — with an expected endorsement by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and a reaffirmation of support from Gov. Henry McMaster (R) — that positions the former president as a serious contender but stops short of demonstrating the dominance that he once enjoyed.

“Nikki Haley is probably our first South Carolinian since we voted for George Washington that has really had a chance of being president of the United States,” said former South Carolina GOP chair Katon Dawson, a supporter of the former governor, explaining the challenge. “And I think the Trump folks are going to run into that history.”

State party chairman Drew McKissick will not be attending the Jan. 28 Trump event, because of the RNC meeting next week in republican elephant logoCalifornia, and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a close ally of both Trump and Haley, has a prior commitment on Jan. 28 that he may not be able to break to attend the rally, according to their advisers. Hope Walker, executive director of the state party, recently turned down a job offer from the Trump campaign because she has decided to stay in her role for the cycle.

Republican consultants in South Carolina agree that Trump starts in a strong position, especially if many candidates remain in the race after the Iowa and New Hampshire contests.

“A two-way race is competitive for Trump. And in a crowded race, Trump has a significant advantage,” said one Republican who had reviewed recent data from the state. “There is just a segment of Trump voters that Trump gets no matter what.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump withdraws lawsuit against N.Y. attorney general, John Wagner, Jan. 20, 2023. Former president Donald Trump withdrew a lawsuit Friday against New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) that had sought to shield his revocable trust from James, who is pursuing a $250 million civil suit against Trump over a decade’s worth of allegedly fraudulent business practices.

“Plaintiff, PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP, by and through his undersigned counsel and pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i), hereby voluntarily dismisses his claims in this action against Defendant, LETITIA JAMES, without prejudice,” said the one-page document filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The action came a day after news broke that U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks had fined Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba, almost $1 million for what was ruled a frivolous lawsuit brought against his 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton and others.

Judge Donald Middlebrooks, shown in a photo by J. Albert Diaz.In his 46-page judgment, Middlebrooks, left, shown in a photo by J. Albert Diaz, cited the lawsuit against James as among those that demonstrated “a pattern of abuse of the courts” by Trump.

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that James’s $250 million lawsuit against Trump will go forward, calling arguments by Trump’s team “frivolous.”

At issue is a lawsuit that James filed in September against Trump; three of his adult children who have been company executives; his longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg; and the company after a multiyear investigation. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has set an October trial date for the major civil case to be heard.

The lawsuit, which could effectively cripple the Trump Organization’s ability to do business in New York, accuses the family-run real estate, golf resort and hospitality business of purposely deceiving lenders, insurance brokers and tax agencies to get preferable loan rates and reduce its tax liability by using bogus asset valuation figures from 2011 to 2021.

The Trump lawsuit that was withdrawn in Florida had charged that James has “repeatedly abused her position as Attorney General for the State of New York to pursue a vendetta against President Trump.”

Trump had made similar claims against James in state and federal court in New York.

Last May, a federal judge in Syracuse, N.Y., dismissed Trump’s lawsuit against James — which claimed that her long-term civil investigation into his business practices was an abuse of authority that needed to be stopped.

The former president’s attempt to halt James’s probe into the Trump Organization and its dealings with lenders and tax authorities was rejected in a 43-page decision by U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes.

In a statement, James said her office would “continue this investigation undeterred,” suggesting that Trump has made efforts to “choose how the law” applies to him.

Jan. 20

 djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Orders Trump and Lawyer to Pay Nearly $1 Million for Bogus Suit, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 20, 2023 (print ed.). In a scathing ruling, a federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered Donald J. Trump and one of his lawyers together to pay nearly a million dollars in sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of Mr. Trump’s perceived hillary clinton benghazi committee cnn pompeo 10 22 15political enemies, including Hillary Clinton, shown at left, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey.

The ruling was a significant rebuke of Mr. Trump, who has rarely faced such consequences in his long history of using the courts as a weapon against business rivals and partners, as well as former employees and reporters.

And it was the latest setback for Mr. Trump as he faces a broad range of legal problems and criminal investigations. His lawyers are increasingly under scrutiny themselves for their actions in those cases, as well as divided in the advice they are offering him.

“This case should never have been brought,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page ruling. “Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”

While Mr. Trump has often blamed his lawyers for his problems, the judge, in his ruling on Thursday, addressed Mr. Trump’s history of using the courts as a cudgel, going back decades in his business career.

“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Judge Middlebrooks wrote. “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions.”

Judge Middlebrooks said Mr. Trump’s suit had been “brought in bad faith for an improper purpose” and had “needlessly harmed” the 31 individuals and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, he had sued “in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative.” The judge added that Mr. Trump’s use of the courts had helped to undermine the public’s confidence in them.

“A continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Mr. Trump and his lawyers undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm,” he wrote.

alina habbaThe judge said Mr. Trump and the lawyer who filed the case for him, Alina Habba, right, and her firm, Habba Madaio & Associates, were to pay $937,989.39.

 Washington Post, Trump withdraws lawsuit against N.Y. attorney general, John Wagner, Jan. 20, 2023. Former president Donald Trump withdrew a lawsuit Friday against New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) that had sought to shield his revocable trust from James, who is pursuing a $250 million civil suit against Trump over a decade’s worth of allegedly fraudulent business practices.

“Plaintiff, PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP, by and through his undersigned counsel and pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i), hereby voluntarily dismisses his claims in this action against Defendant, LETITIA JAMES, without prejudice,” said the one-page document filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The action came a day after news broke that U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks had fined Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba, almost $1 million for what was ruled a frivolous lawsuit brought against his 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton and others.

Judge Donald Middlebrooks, shown in a photo by J. Albert Diaz.In his 46-page judgment, Middlebrooks, left, shown in a photo by J. Albert Diaz, cited the lawsuit against James as among those that demonstrated “a pattern of abuse of the courts” by Trump.

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that James’s $250 million lawsuit against Trump will go forward, calling arguments by Trump’s team “frivolous.”

At issue is a lawsuit that James filed in September against Trump; three of his adult children who have been company executives; his longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg; and the company after a multiyear investigation. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has set an October trial date for the major civil case to be heard.

The lawsuit, which could effectively cripple the Trump Organization’s ability to do business in New York, accuses the family-run real estate, golf resort and hospitality business of purposely deceiving lenders, insurance brokers and tax agencies to get preferable loan rates and reduce its tax liability by using bogus asset valuation figures from 2011 to 2021.

The Trump lawsuit that was withdrawn in Florida had charged that James has “repeatedly abused her position as Attorney General for the State of New York to pursue a vendetta against President Trump.”

Trump had made similar claims against James in state and federal court in New York.

Last May, a federal judge in Syracuse, N.Y., dismissed Trump’s lawsuit against James — which claimed that her long-term civil investigation into his business practices was an abuse of authority that needed to be stopped.

The former president’s attempt to halt James’s probe into the Trump Organization and its dealings with lenders and tax authorities was rejected in a 43-page decision by U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes.

In a statement, James said her office would “continue this investigation undeterred,” suggesting that Trump has made efforts to “choose how the law” applies to him.

 

 

peter navarro white house image

Politico, Judge denies Navarro effort to dismiss contempt case for defying Jan. 6 committee, Kyle Cheney, Jan. 20, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling said Navarro, shown when in office above, had failed to prove that former President Donald Trump wanted him to assert executive privilege over his potential testimony.

politico CustomA federal judge on Thursday rejected a last-ditch effort by Peter Navarro, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump, to dismiss the contempt of Congress charges he faces for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee, keeping his late January trial on track to begin.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said Navarro had failed to prove that the former president wanted him to assert executive privilege over his potential testimony — a key claim that Navarro has long maintained justified his decision to simply blow off the select committee’s subpoena.

But Navarro provided no evidence of his claim, asserting only that Trump privately asked him to invoke executive privilege. Without at least a shred of proof that Trump made a “formal” assertion of executive privilege, Mehta said, he could not grant Navarro’s motion.

“Defendant has failed to come forward with any evidence to support the claimed assertion of privilege. And, because the claimed assertion of executive privilege is unproven, Defendant cannot avoid prosecution for contempt,” Mehta wrote in the 39-page ruling.

It’s a significant decision in an area with little precedent: what current and former presidents must do to assert executive privilege. Mehta acknowledged that there’s not much to guide how courts should determine when a proper assertion has been made. But he said limited court rulings on the subject suggest there must be at least some formal evidence it occurred.

Mehta noted that two other Trump aides whom the House sought to hold in contempt — Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino — produced letters from Trump ordering them to assert executive privilege on his behalf. The Justice Department declined to prosecute the men, and Mehta indicated that the absence of a similar letter from Trump to Navarro led to a reasonable conclusion that Trump had not asserted executive privilege over his testimony.

Mehta’s ruling means that Navarro’s trial on two charges of contempt of Congress is likely to commence later this month. He faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison on each charge — one for refusing to testify and the other for refusing to provide documents — if convicted.

The select committee had hoped to interview Navarro about his coordination with former Trump adviser Bannon and efforts to strategize with members of Congress seeking to challenge the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021, during the counting of Electoral College ballots. The committee recommended that Navarro be held in contempt in April 2022, and the full House quickly followed suit. The Justice Department charged him in June.

Mehta’s ruling also gutted a series of defenses Navarro had hoped to raise at his trial, including that he had a “good-faith belief” that he was immune from the committee’s subpoena. Mehta also agreed to prohibit Navarro from arguing that the select committee’s subpoena was invalid because the panel didn’t have a full complement of 13 members or a ranking Republican member appointed by GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Support for Trump Is Wavering Among Nation’s Evangelical Leaders, Maggie Haberman and Michael C. Bender, Jan. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump, who relied on evangelical voters in 2016, has accused Christian leaders of “disloyalty.” Can he count on them in 2024?

On Sunday, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a longtime supporter of Donald J. Trump who has yet to endorse his 2024 White House bid, shared the stage at his Dallas megachurch with one of the former president’s potential rivals next year: former Vice President Mike Pence.

The next day, Mr. Trump lashed out at Pastor Jeffress and other evangelical leaders he spent years courting, accusing them of “disloyalty” and blaming them for the party’s disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

While Pastor Jeffress shrugged off the criticism, others weren’t as eager to let it slide, instead suggesting that it was time for Mr. Trump to move out of the way for a new generation of Republican candidates.

The clash highlighted one of the central tensions inside the Republican Party as it lurches toward an uncertain 2024 presidential primary: wavering support for Mr. Trump among the nation’s evangelical leaders, whose congregants have for decades been a key constituency for conservatives and who provided crucial backing to Mr. Trump in his ascent to the White House.

If these leaders break with Mr. Trump — and if evangelical voters follow, which is by no means a certainty — the result will be a tectonic shift in Republican politics.

“When I saw his statement, I thought, ‘You’re not going to gain any traction by throwing the most loyal base under the bus and shifting blame,’” said Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical activist in Iowa and the chief executive of the Family Leader organization.

Mr. Vander Plaats said that while evangelicals were grateful to Mr. Trump for his federal judicial appointments and for moving the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, many thought that his time as leader of the party has passed given how hardened many Americans’ views of him are. Asked whether Mr. Trump would command support among evangelical leaders as he did in the past, Mr. Vander Plaats, who has criticized Mr. Trump in the past, said, “No way.”

Indeed, recent polls point to some Trump fatigue among Republican voters. But it is an open question whether evangelical voters will abandon him if prominent Christian ministers support other candidates. And Mr. Trump has previously had an ability to cleave various types of conservative voters from their longtime leaders, as he did during his unexpected Republican primary victory in 2016.

 

 

Solomon Peña, shown above in an AP photo at center under arrest, who is accused of organizing attacks on the homes of four Democratic officials.

Solomon Peña, shown above in an AP photo at center under arrest, who is accused of organizing attacks on the homes of four Democratic officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Red Flags, G.O.P. Backed Candidate Now Charged in Shootings, Simon Romero and Maggie Astor, Jan. 20, 2023. “We could have picked apart this guy,” one Republican leader in New Mexico said of Solomon Peña, shown above at center under arrest, who is accused of organizing attacks on the homes of four Democratic officials.

djt maga hatThe former Republican candidate accused of targeting the homes of Democrats in drive-by shootings had routinely called for locking up 2020 election officials in Guantánamo Bay. He promoted conspiracy theories about solar power, feminism and “the demonic theories of the Globalist Elites.” He had been demoted twice by the U.S. Navy and served nearly seven years in prison for burglary.

Yet powerful party leaders in New Mexico not only gave the first-time candidate, Solomon Peña, 39, full-throated endorsements, they also opened their checkbooks to fund his race for a state legislative seat in central Albuquerque long held by Democrats. Some knew about his prison record but said they felt that he had turned his life around. Local and state authorities now say they are investigating whether drug money helped fund his campaign.

“He came across to me as a very respectful, thoughtful young man,” said Harvey Yates, an oilman and former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, who donated $5,000 to Mr. Peña’s election effort. Now, Mr. Yates acknowledges that he may have made a mistake. He said that he felt “very bad, very sad” for Mr. Peña, “who I think really had possibilities.”

The police say that after losing his race by a landslide in November — he received 26 percent of the vote — and refusing to concede, Mr. Peña organized shootings at the homes of prominent Democrats, including two who certified the election results. The attacks came at a time of growing fears across the country about a trend of political violence, mostly from the right wing, including the attack on the husband of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a conspiracy to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

 Accused former Marines Micah Coomer, left, Joshua Abate, center, and Dodge Dale Hellonen.

 Accused former Marines Micah Coomer, left, Joshua Abate, center, and Dodge Dale Hellonen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Three active-duty Marines with intelligence jobs charged in Jan. 6 breach of U.S. Capitol, Spencer S. Hsu and Alex Horton, Jan. 20, 2023. Rare arrests of active U.S. military members highlight challenge of policing extremist ideologies in the ranks.

Three active duty members of the Marine Corps assigned to intelligence-related jobs, including one at the National Security Agency headquarters in Maryland, have been charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, according to court filings unsealed Thursday and military service records.

Cpl. Micah Coomer, Sgt. Joshua Abate and Sgt. Dodge Dale Hellonen were arrested Tuesday and Wednesday near Camp Pendleton, Calif., Fort Meade, Md., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., respectively, and appeared in local federal courts.

The FBI said Abate admitted to entering the Capitol “with two ‘buddies’” during a June 2022 interview that was part of his security clearance process while assigned to the Marine Corps’s Cryptologic Support Battalion, which is partnered and headquartered with the NSA at Fort Meade. According to charging papers, Abate said they “walked around and tried not to get hit with tear gas,” and “admitted he heard how the event was being portrayed negatively and decided that he should not tell anybody about going into the U.S. Capitol Building.”

Each faces counts including trespassing, disorderly conduct and illegal parading or picketing in a restricted Capitol building or grounds, in connection with the riots that injured scores of police officers, left offices ransacked and forced lawmakers to evacuate the premises amid Congress’s meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The sergeants’ occupations as special communications signals analysts and the corporal’s job as an intelligence surveillance reconnaissance system engineer were first reported by Military.com and were confirmed in their service records.

A Marine Corps spokesperson said, “We are aware of an investigation and the allegations. The Marine Corps is fully cooperating with appropriate authorities in support of the investigation.”

Abate’s attorney David Dischley declined to comment. Federal defenders for the other two men did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The men are the first active-duty military members to be charged in the Capitol attack since Maj. Christopher Warnagiris of the Marine Corps was arrested in May 2021. He is awaiting trial on felony counts including assaulting or impeding police and obstructing an official proceeding. About 120 of the roughly 940 people arrested in the Capitol breach served in the military, reserves or National Guard.

 

peter navarro white house image

Politico, Judge denies Navarro effort to dismiss contempt case for defying Jan. 6 committee, Kyle Cheney, Jan. 20, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling said Navarro, shown when in office above, had failed to prove that former President Donald Trump wanted him to assert executive privilege over his potential testimony.

politico CustomA federal judge on Thursday rejected a last-ditch effort by Peter Navarro, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump, to dismiss the contempt of Congress charges he faces for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee, keeping his late January trial on track to begin.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said Navarro had failed to prove that the former president wanted him to assert executive privilege over his potential testimony — a key claim that Navarro has long maintained justified his decision to simply blow off the select committee’s subpoena.

But Navarro provided no evidence of his claim, asserting only that Trump privately asked him to invoke executive privilege. Without at least a shred of proof that Trump made a “formal” assertion of executive privilege, Mehta said, he could not grant Navarro’s motion.

“Defendant has failed to come forward with any evidence to support the claimed assertion of privilege. And, because the claimed assertion of executive privilege is unproven, Defendant cannot avoid prosecution for contempt,” Mehta wrote in the 39-page ruling.

It’s a significant decision in an area with little precedent: what current and former presidents must do to assert executive privilege. Mehta acknowledged that there’s not much to guide how courts should determine when a proper assertion has been made. But he said limited court rulings on the subject suggest there must be at least some formal evidence it occurred.

Mehta noted that two other Trump aides whom the House sought to hold in contempt — Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino — produced letters from Trump ordering them to assert executive privilege on his behalf. The Justice Department declined to prosecute the men, and Mehta indicated that the absence of a similar letter from Trump to Navarro led to a reasonable conclusion that Trump had not asserted executive privilege over his testimony.

Mehta’s ruling means that Navarro’s trial on two charges of contempt of Congress is likely to commence later this month. He faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison on each charge — one for refusing to testify and the other for refusing to provide documents — if convicted.

The select committee had hoped to interview Navarro about his coordination with former Trump adviser Bannon and efforts to strategize with members of Congress seeking to challenge the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021, during the counting of Electoral College ballots. The committee recommended that Navarro be held in contempt in April 2022, and the full House quickly followed suit. The Justice Department charged him in June.

Mehta’s ruling also gutted a series of defenses Navarro had hoped to raise at his trial, including that he had a “good-faith belief” that he was immune from the committee’s subpoena. Mehta also agreed to prohibit Navarro from arguing that the select committee’s subpoena was invalid because the panel didn’t have a full complement of 13 members or a ranking Republican member appointed by GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Jan. 19

 

Longtime columnist E. Jean Carroll, plaintiff in civil suits accusing Donald Trump of rape three decades again and defamation more recently, is show at left in a recent file photo along with Trump. jt e jean carroll

Longtime advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, plaintiff in civil suits accusing Donald Trump of rape three decades again and defamation more recently, is show at left in a recent file photo along with Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump thought photo of accuser was of ex-wife during deposition, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump mistook his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples when shown a photograph from the 1990s in a deposition at Mar-a-Lago last year, potentially undermining one of the common defenses he has used to deny an attack.

Trump, who is being sued by Carroll, an author and advice columnist, for defamation and sexual assault stemming from the same alleged encounter, has repeatedly said Carroll is not his “type,” suggesting an assault could not have occurred because he would not have pursued her romantically.

“That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” Trump said under examination from Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, in a new selection of excerpts from the deposition that was unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Trump’s blunder in a sworn deposition was quickly corrected by his attorney Alina Habba, who told him it was Carroll, not Maples, an actress and singer who was married to Trump from 1993 to 1999.

The top 10 Republican presidential candidates for 2024, ranked

Maples was Trump’s second of three wives and is the mother of Trump’s youngest daughter, Tiffany.

Trump’s lawyer did not immediately have a comment.

The black-and-white photo at issue has been circulating since Carroll made allegations against then-president Trump in 2019, detailing an account in her memoir of a forced sexual act during an encounter with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

Trump has denied having ever known Carroll, and in response to the photo’s existence, he has said in the past that he was often introduced to people at events that he didn’t know. In the deposition, he said the photo appeared to show him on a “receiving line,” possibly at a charity event, where he met and greeted guests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Support for Trump Is Wavering Among Nation’s Evangelical Leaders, Maggie Haberman and Michael C. Bender, Jan. 19, 2023. Former President Trump, who relied on evangelical voters in 2016, has accused Christian leaders of “disloyalty.” Can he count on them in 2024?

On Sunday, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a longtime supporter of Donald J. Trump who has yet to endorse his 2024 White House bid, shared the stage at his Dallas megachurch with one of the former president’s potential rivals next year: former Vice President Mike Pence.

The next day, Mr. Trump lashed out at Pastor Jeffress and other evangelical leaders he spent years courting, accusing them of “disloyalty” and blaming them for the party’s disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

While Pastor Jeffress shrugged off the criticism, others weren’t as eager to let it slide, instead suggesting that it was time for Mr. Trump to move out of the way for a new generation of Republican candidates.

The clash highlighted one of the central tensions inside the Republican Party as it lurches toward an uncertain 2024 presidential primary: wavering support for Mr. Trump among the nation’s evangelical leaders, whose congregants have for decades been a key constituency for conservatives and who provided crucial backing to Mr. Trump in his ascent to the White House.

If these leaders break with Mr. Trump — and if evangelical voters follow, which is by no means a certainty — the result will be a tectonic shift in Republican politics.

“When I saw his statement, I thought, ‘You’re not going to gain any traction by throwing the most loyal base under the bus and shifting blame,’” said Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical activist in Iowa and the chief executive of the Family Leader organization.

Mr. Vander Plaats said that while evangelicals were grateful to Mr. Trump for his federal judicial appointments and for moving the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, many thought that his time as leader of the party has passed given how hardened many Americans’ views of him are. Asked whether Mr. Trump would command support among evangelical leaders as he did in the past, Mr. Vander Plaats, who has criticized Mr. Trump in the past, said, “No way.”

Indeed, recent polls point to some Trump fatigue among Republican voters. But it is an open question whether evangelical voters will abandon him if prominent Christian ministers support other candidates. And Mr. Trump has previously had an ability to cleave various types of conservative voters from their longtime leaders, as he did during his unexpected Republican primary victory in 2016.

 

Trump legal advisors John Eastman, left, and Rudy Giuliani speaking on Jan. 6, 2021 at a rally led by then-President Donald Trump outside the White House whereby speakers repeatedly urged the crowd to oppose the presidential vote certification process then pending before the U.S. Congress (File Photo)..

Trump advisors John Eastman, left, and Rudy Giuliani speaking on Jan. 6, 2021 at a rally led by then-President Donald Trump outside the White House whereby speakers repeatedly urged the crowd to oppose the presidential vote certification process then pending before the U.S. Congress (File Photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, John Eastman Is Unbowed as Investigations Proliferate, Danny Hakim and Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 19, 2023. A legal reckoning awaits a chief architect of Donald Trump’s effort to reverse his election loss. But in Mr. Eastman’s telling, he was far from a criminal.

John C. Eastman, a legal architect of Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times under questioning by the House Jan. 6 committee.

But in recently released testimony from the committee’s investigation, other witnesses had plenty to say about him.

Many White House lawyers expressed contempt for Mr. Eastman, portraying him as an academic with little grasp of the real world. Greg Jacob, the legal counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence, characterized Mr. Eastman’s legal advice as “gravely, gravely irresponsible,” calling him the “serpent in the ear” of Mr. Trump. Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House lawyer, recounted “chewing out” Mr. Eastman. Pat A. Cipollone, the chief White House counsel, is described calling Mr. Eastman’s ideas “nutty.”

In the coming months, Mr. Eastman will be facing a legal reckoning. He has been drawn into the criminal investigation into election interference in Atlanta, which is nearing a decision on potential indictments. The F.B.I. seized his iPhone. And the Jan. 6 committee, in one of its last acts, asked the Justice Department to investigate Mr. Eastman on a range of criminal charges, including obstructing a congressional proceeding. For good measure, he faces a disciplinary bar proceeding in California.

 

merrick garland john laucsch al drago bloomberg

Attorney General Merrick Garland, right, announces last week his appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Biden government documents case. Alongside him is John R. Lausch, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News).

washington post logoWashington Post, How the White House strategy on classified documents backfired, Matt Viser, Tyler Pager, Carol D. Leonnig and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jan. 19, 2023. When sensitive documents began to emerge, Biden aides are said to have tried to defer to the Justice Department, lie low and avoid Trump-like behavior. They got a political firestorm — and then a special counsel.

One of President Biden’s personal attorneys entered the luxurious 10-story office building, so near the U.S. Capitol that its promoters billed it as “the front seat to power,” on a Wednesday last November to begin what seemed a mundane task: clearing out a rarely used office that Biden occupied after leaving the vice presidency.

The attorney, Pat Moore, went through a large closet and found nothing out of the ordinary, a person familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Then he tackled a smaller closet, finding it stuffed with folders, boxes and other political memorabilia, including documents related to Beau Biden’s funeral, drafts of political speeches and boxes of personal books, the person said.

But next, Moore made a surprising discovery: a folder with a cover sheet saying it contained secret government documents. Moore immediately called another attorney and notified the White House Counsel’s Office, which in turn contacted the National Archives, according to two people familiar with the matter.

But if the way they found the classified documents was out of the ordinary, Biden’s lawyers were determined to be sticklers for the rules once it happened, said people familiar with their work.

Those first decisions inside the airy office complex at the Penn Biden Center at 101 Constitution Ave. NW launched a 71-day push by Biden’s team, federal archivists and the Justice Department to make sense of the startling discovery. It culminated in Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision, to the deep consternation of many in the White House, to appoint a special counsel.

Interviews with people directly involved in the discovery and the subsequent fallout provided new details on the effort to handle the crisis created at the intersection of politics, intelligence and the law. Republicans and other critics say the White House was, at a minimum, slow to seek the truth and level with the public; Biden’s aides say they were simply proceeding cautiously in a sensitive probe and taking their lead from federal investigators.

Jan. 14

 

 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Ginni Thomas Gave the Strangest January 6 Testimony By Far—and in Doing So Revealed Far More Than She Intended, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, Jan. 14, 2023. In “The January 6 Files #2: Ginni Thomas, Part I,” an ex-federal criminal investigator and criminal defense lawyer whose January 6 research Congress has cited unpacks January 6 evidence others missed. (Note: This report builds upon Proof’s many prior reports on Ginni Thomas: I, II, III, IV, V.)

Introduction: Before the January 6 testimony of Ginni Thomas can be discussed as to its specifics, several broader points about her September 29, 2022 appearance before the House January 6 Committee must be established that confirm it as perhaps the strangest—and most suspicious—testimony ever seth abramson proof logoreceived by the Committee.

These points include the following:

(1) Ginni Thomas lied about her testimony before it began. Thomas initially insisted that she “couldn’t wait” to talk to the House January 6 Committee, as she had nothing to hide. This itself was, apparently, a lie. Within a matter of weeks, Thomas’s attorney Mark Paoletta was attacking the Committee on several fronts, insisting that Thomas would never testify before it and falsely contending that Thomas had no knowledge of any events related to January 6 despite the fact that (by then) it’d been well established by major media that she was in contact with several of the major January 6 coup plotters in the latter half of 2020 as they were in the midst of their illicit plotting.

(2) Ginni Thomas chose as her attorney the former boss of a leading coup plotter. There’s a basically endless stock of high-end lawyers in America who are willing to jump onto a high-profile case, and that includes scores of well-respected conservative lawyers who primarily work in Washington, D.C. So it is truly inexplicable that Ginni Thomas, in the midst of claiming to have no connection to the Trumpist coup plots that encircled D.C. in January 2021, hired as her lead attorney for the most important legal imbroglio of her life Mark Paoletta, a longtime close professional associate of Ken Klukowski—not just one of the leading co-conspirators of John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark in the Trumpist plot to stage a historic anti-democratic coup inside the Department of Justice, but a man who Thomas specifically stood accused of having helped infiltrate the DOJ. Thomas’s choice of attorney alone would have marked her as running in insurrectionist circles, but in fact during her 136 pages of congressional testimony things got even worse—as she admitted to herself being a close associate of Klukowski.

ginni thomas gage skidmoreGiven that Thomas, right, knew this line of questioning was coming, her voluntary selection of Paoletta to represent her raises an understandable concern that she wanted a trusted and privileged conduit to Klukowski (Paoletta) to ensure that her testimony synched with his. Certainly, as we know from public hearings held by the House January 6 Committee this is a strategy many of the January 6 coup plotters have used: hiring lawyers intimately connected to Trump, his family, his inner circle, and his leading PACs, with formal joint defense agreements or informal information-sharing agreements (sometimes conducted against the will of the witnesses involved in them, such as Trumpworld lawyer Stefan Passantino’s apparent dismissal of his client Cassidy Hutchinson’s demand that he not share attorney-client privileged data with other Trumpworld figures) being used to pass information between conspirators.

Thomas could have avoided this appearance of complicity with leading Trumpist coup plotters, but she decided to indulge it, instead. And that’s not all, unfortunately: her own testimony before the House January 6 Committee, as we will soon see, offers compelling evidence that she herself sought—multiple times, even—to inappropriately make contact with other January 6 witnesses either directly or through her attorney (especially witnesses whose testimony could, based on all the evidence we have thus far, be problematic for her) which would seem to increase the odds that her selection of Klukowski’s friend Paoletta as her lead counsel was indeed a strategic decision.

(3) Ginni Thomas refused to testify under oath. To be clear, a refusal to testify under oath certainly does not equate to an intent to lie, but keep in mind that Thomas and her lawyer had loudly opined that not only did Thomas have nothing to hide from the House January 6 Committee but also that there was nothing of importance she could offer to it. Just so, her status as the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has, as she has at times conceded, opened social and professional doors for her and lent additional attention and weight to her words, so surely the flip side of that must be that if one’s spouse is one of just nine people in the United States who sit atop the nation’s jurisprudential superstructure, one must also (in addition to the myriad perks that come with that status) have some obligation—quite apart from the one Thomas already has from the mere fact that she herself is a lawyer—to respect government investigations enough to want to assist them to the best of your ability.

It is strange that media pundits so often note that Thomas is a partisan without simultaneously noting that she is also a lawyer, a judge’s spouse, a devout Christian, and someone who has worked for years in public service—all identities that would militate in favor of a person who says they have nothing to hide being willing to testify under oath in a duly constituted public inquiry (which the House January 6 Committee surely was).

Ginni Thomas refusing to testify under oath is so complex a legal, political, moral, ethical, and logistical question that it could easily give birth to its own report at Proof. Suffice to say that there is nothing normative, non-controversial, or simple about the decision, especially (again) since it was a decision made on the advice of a man extremely close to a man alleged to be a leading coup plotter.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Jan. 13

 

donald trump ny daily pussy

New disclosures in the E. Jean Carroll rape lawsuit echo Trump's words in "Hollywood Access" videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Shown Then: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed innocence in the Carroll case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump falsely claimed in deposition that Carroll spoke about enjoying rape, Shayna Jacobs and Isaac Arnsdorfo, Jan. 13, 2023. In sworn questioning, Donald Trump denied raping E. Jean Carroll but also falsely claimed she said she enjoyed sexual assault.

Donald Trump used a sworn deposition in a case brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll to continue calling her a liar and to claim she is e jean carrollmentally ill — denying that he sexually assaulted her even as he falsely claimed Carroll, left, said in a CNN interview that she enjoyed being raped.

In rambling and combative testimony at an October session at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated past claims he didn’t know Carroll, shown at left right and below through the years, e jean carroll twitterexcept as an adversary in what he termed “hoax” litigation, and said she was a “nut job" who was fabricating the story altogether.

“I know nothing about her,” he said in response to questions from Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, according to court documents unsealed Friday. “I think she’s sick. Mentally sick.”

The former president twisted Carroll’s comments from a June 2019 interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, in which she said she shied away from calling her alleged encounter with Trump a “rape” because the word “has so many sexual connotations” and is a “fantasy” for many.

“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she told Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview, explaining that she instead thinks of her alleged attack as a “fight.”

Trump cited the interview in telling Kaplan that Carroll “loved” sexual assault.

e jean carroll cover new york magazine“She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay?” Trump said in the deposition. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

Kaplan then asked: “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?”

And Trump answered: “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

Carroll, an author and advice columnist, publicly accused Trump in 2019 of raping her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. She has a pair of pending lawsuits against him in federal court in Manhattan, the first for defamation over comments by Trump in 2019 trashing her and her account, and the latter over the alleged sexual assault itself.

Trump has denied knowing Carroll at all, even though he was photographed with her and her then-husband at an event decades ago.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected a bid by Trump’s attorneys to dismiss Carroll’s sexual assault lawsuit, which was filed under a New York law that lets sexual assault victims sue years later.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said she would appeal the judge’s decision not to toss out the newer case. A spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign declined further comment.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is considering whether the Justice Department can represent Trump as a federal employee, a long-running legal dispute that has been heard by various courts and could effectively put an end to the defamation claims.

Kaplan has scheduled an April trial date for both lawsuits.

Some portions of Carroll’s deposition in the defamation lawsuit were already part of the public docket. Portions of Trump’s deposition were ordered released in a separate decision Friday by Judge Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll’s attorney. That decision followed a bid by Trump’s attorneys to keep the previously donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaredacted section sealed.

The deposition depicts a full display of Trump’s trademark bluster. He complained to Roberta Kaplan, the attorney, about having to “waste a whole day doing these ridiculous questions with you” and said he would sue both Carroll and her attorney “after this is over.”

He also insisted incorrectly that Truth Social, the social media website he launched in response to his disciplinary removal from Twitter, was more successful than mainstream sites like Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. Truth Social, whose audience has reportedly grown since its rocky launch, still has nowhere near the reach as the others apps on the market.

Kaplan asked Trump during the deposition to list times he’s labeled an event a “hoax,” which he has said about Carroll’s allegation. “The Russia Russia Russia hoax ... Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine hoax,” Trump replied, apparent references to federal probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s alleged meddling in the disbursement of Ukraine military funding during his term. He listed several others and said of the legal proceedings initiated by Carroll: “This is a hoax too.”

When directly asked if he’d ever sexually assaulted or touched a woman’s intimate parts without consent, his lawyer objected and Trump responded.

“Well, I will tell you no, but you may have some people like your client that lie,” Trump said.

At least 17 women have come forward with allegations that Trump physically touched them inappropriately, many of them supported by people they told at the time. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations.

 

 

 Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization ordered to pay $1.6 million penalty in tax fraud case, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 13, 2023. The Trump Organization was sentenced to pay $1.6 million in fines to the state on Friday — the maximum allowed by law — following its December conviction on tax crimes carried out by two of its longtime executives.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office argued for the top possible financial punishment for the former president’s private company, describing egregious and deliberate long-term conduct that both benefited former president Donald Trump’s namesake company and the executives involved in the cheating.

“The sheer magnitude of this fraud merits the largest financial sanction authorized by law,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said at the company’s sentencing.

Steinglass said the company “cultivated a pervasive culture of fraud, underreported executive compensation, falsified business records and otherwise helping their senior management evade taxes to keep their own costs as low as possible.”

allen weisselberg croppedLongtime Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg, right, was the key witness against the company. He pleaded guilty in August to 15 felonies and agreed to testify in exchange for a significantly reduced sentence of five months in jail and five years of probation, which was imposed in court on Tuesday. He also paid the state more than $2 million in back taxes, fines and interest. He faced up to 15 years in jail.

Trump Organization spokeswoman Kimberly Benza said in a statement Friday that the verdict would be appealed.

In brief remarks after the company’s sentencing, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the company’s punishment was “not enough” and said state laws for corporate tax fraud should carry harsher penalties.

Jan. 11

 

 

turning point 12 2023

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Biggest Hole in the House January 6 Committee Final Report Has Been Found—and It Could Hold the Key to All Future seth abramson graphicInvestigations of Donald Trump’s Insurrection, Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 11, 2023. In “The January 6 Files #1: Charlie Kirk,” a former federal criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney whose January 6 research Congress often cites unpacks January 6 evidence others missed.

In “The January 6 Files #1: Charlie Kirk,” a former federal criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney whose January 6 research Congress often cites, unpacks January 6 evidence others missed.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction

The evidence is quickly mounting—after the public release of over a hundred January 6 witness transcripts by the House January 6 Committee in the final hours of 2022—that the plot to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 had its origin in the Turning Point USA “Student Action Summit” (SAS) that was held just four miles from Mar-a-Lago between December 19 and December 22 of 2020.

Hours before that raucous far-right conference began, then-President of the United States Donald Trump—at the time just 72 hours from flying to Mar-a-Lago himself—infamously announced his endorsement of a “big” and “wild” event (which he termed a “protest”) that was slated to occur a nine-minute walk from the Capitol on January 6.

Documentary evidence now confirms that this December 2020 Mar-a-Lago-adjacent summit, which featured Trump himself as well as Trump family members and leading congressional allies, was used to shape the planning, funding, and logistics of a rally and subsequent march in January 2021—a rally and march that in turn helped set off an armed insurrection of a sort not seen in the United States since the American Civil War.

charlie kirk hostThe summit, which brought together far-right radicals from all across the country and even threatened to turn violent—with “angry” and “tense” confrontations between attendees and local officials—was set up by Turning Point USA (TPUSA) founder Charlie Kirk, right.

Speakers at the summit included Donald Trump (by phone), Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Donald Trump Jr.’s soon-to-be-fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump domestic policy adviser Sebastian Gorka, and Trump foreign policy adviser Tucker Carlson. United States senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), who would play critical roles as Trump allies during the horrifying events of January 6, also attended and spoke. Many less well-known far-right firebrands, like convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza and author/podcaster David J. Harris Jr.—the latter of whom was in D.C. on January 6, 2021—were also speakers at the summit.

Promotional materials for the several-day event, which was attended by thousands, promised that it would offer “first-class activism training” to all attendees while in turn “organizing” them for future political action. It promised to put these angry, tense, newly organized far-right activists in direct contact with many conservative “political leaders and top-tier activist organizations.”

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Jan. 10

 

Trump Organization’s former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg arrives to court, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in New York (AP Photo by John Minchillo).

Trump Organization’s former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg arrives to court, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in New York (AP Photo by John Minchillo).

Law&Crime, Ex-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg Gets Five Months Behind Bars, as Judge Bemoans Sentence Couldn't Have Been 'Much Greater,'
Jerry Lambe, Jan. 10, 2023. "Were it not because I made that promise, I would not be imposing five-month sentence, I would be imposing a much greater sentence," Judge Merchan said in court.

Allen Weisselberg, right, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, will be trading his office in the glitzy Trump Tower for a cell in one of the most allen weisselberg croppedscandal-beset prisons in the country after pleading guilty to a series of financial crimes in connection with his work for the former president’s real estate empire.

New York Judge Juan Manuel Merchan on Tuesday sentenced the 75-year-old Weisselberg to five months in prison to be served at Rikers Island immediately. He appeared to dress for that outcome, skipping his usual business suit in favor of a North Face fleece and navy sweatpants.

The judge said that Weisselberg’s testimony at the Trump Organization criminal trial, over which he also presided, gave him pause about the lenient prison sentence he had agreed to hand down in the current case.

“Were it not because I made that promise, I would not be imposing a five-month sentence. I would be imposing a much greater sentence,” Merchan said in court. “Most significantly was the $6,000 payroll payment to Mr. Weisselberg’s wife and the reason I find that so offensive is that it was driven purely by greed.”

Merchan explained how Weisselberg was “earning upwards of seven figures” and clearly “did not need that money.” However, he still “found a way” to make sure that his wife received sufficient payroll income so she could “one day benefit from social security payments she was not entitled to.”

The sentence was previously agreed to by Weisselberg and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in exchange for the longtime Trump executive pleading guilty to 15 separate criminal charges and testifying against the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp, which were convicted last month on more than a dozen felony charges.

In addition to the time in prison, Judge Merchan also sentenced Weisselberg to five years of post-release probation and ordered him to make full repayment of taxes, penalties, and interest due to New York City and New York State tax authorities totaling $1,994,321.

With good behavior, Weisselberg may be eligible for release from detention in just over three months.

Prior to the Judge Merchan passing the sentence, Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., asked the court to further reduce his client’s time behind bars, requesting that Weisselberg be permitted to serve the second half of his prison term under house arrest.

“Aside from fact that he’s 75 years old, Mr. Weisselberg has no criminal history. He does have history of military service and has fully accepted responsibility for actions in this case, poses no danger to community, and has already been punished severely,” Gravante said, adding that what his client has had to endured was “unique for this particular case.”

“The publicity in this case has exponentially increased the severity of punishment that he has had to suffer,” Weisselberg’s attorney told the court.

He then spoke about how Weisselberg’s grandchildren “saw their grandfather being led into court” earlier that morning, and said the shame his crimes brought upon his family “causes him more pain than anything else that’s been imposed on him.”

The only individual currently charged in the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into the company’s roughly 13-year tax fraud scheme, Weisselberg in August pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny, three counts of third-degree criminal tax fraud, one count of first-degree scheme to defraud, one count of fourth-degree conspiracy, one count of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud, four counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and four counts of first-degree falsifying business records.

Brazilian Coup Attempt, U.S. Ties

 

Brazilian, Other Fascist Attacks (Graphic via The Wayne Madsen Report).

Brazilian, Other Fascist Attacks on U.S., Western Legislatures (Graphic via The Wayne Madsen Report).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: We are in a global war on fascism: When will the Biden administration face that fact? Wayne Madsen, Jan. 9-10, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2023. As Ian Fleming famously wrote in "Goldfinger" -- "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."

wayne madesen report logoThe attack on the Brazilian National Congress, Supreme Court, and the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, dubbed the "Tropical Trump" is beyond coincidence. The attack on Brazil's government institutions is the fourth such major attack by fascist cadres representing a collection of anti-democratic cadres which include neo-Nazi thugs, anti-vaccine conspiracists, fundamentalist Christian extremists, and anti-social malcontents. In August 2020, such a group attacked and almost occupied the German Reichstag building in Berlin.

That was followed by the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of electors in the 2020 presidential election. Shortly after the January 6 attack, convoys of Canadian truckers attempted to lay siege to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, forcing the suspension of the regular order of business by the House of Commons and Senate. And on January 8, almost two years to the date since the January 6th attack, Brazilian fascists, aided and abetted by some of the same individuals who were behind the coordination of the attacks in Berlin, Washington, and Ottawa, stormed the government buildings in the Brazilian capital.

If fascist attacks on legislative bodies over the past few years includes assaults or other threatening actions targeting U.S. statehouses and governors' mansions, the insurrection in Brazil would count as the fifteenth such attack by fascists. The far right has also targeted the Legislative Assemblies of Alberta and Ontario and the parliament of the state of Victoria in Australia and New Zealand.

Four major attacks on the national legislatures of Germany, the United States, Canada, and Brazil in two years is enemy action. The enemy, the greatest global fascist threat since the Axis pact of World War II, represents a far-right coalition that includes Donald Trump and his chief political acolytes, including Steve Bannon, Jason Miller, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, and others.

President Biden could take advantage of his current "Three Amigos" Summit in Mexico City with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce a global anti-fascist coalition dedicated to eliminate safe havens for fascist seditionists, Florida as but one example, and quick deportations, extraditions, and arrests of those who conspire to overthrow democratically-elected governments. That should happen today, not tomorrow, next week, or next month.

  • Update: Bolsonaro coup backer Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) has just been made chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

 

 

Then-U.S. President Trump is shown meeting, from left, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Vice President Mike Pence and Bolsonaro Press Secretary Fabio Wajngarte (March 7, 2020 photo at Mar-a-Lago via Instagram).

Then-U.S. President Trump is shown meeting, from left, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Vice President Mike Pence and Bolsonaro Press Secretary Fabio Wajngarte (March 7, 2020 photo at Mar-a-Lago via Instagram).

washington post logoWashington Post, Brazil’s riot puts spotlight on close ties between Bolsonaro and Trump, Michael Kranish and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jan. 10, 2023 (print ed.). In August 2021, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s son traveled to Sioux Falls, S.D., to meet with some of the most prominent purveyors of former president Donald Trump’s false claims of mass election fraud.

Eduardo Bolsonaro had a dire warning for the group, which included Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former top adviser: Brazil’s electronic voting system was “ridiculous” and vulnerable to mass fraud, he said according to a recording of the event.

How Bolsonaro’s rhetoric — then his silence — stoked Brazil assault

brazil flag wavingThe gathering was part of the prologue to events that unfolded in Brazil on Sunday, when Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed government buildings — smashing windows and assaulting police — in a striking echo of the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Like Trump, Bolsonaro had spent months predicting mass fraud and then refused to concede defeat after losing his October election.

While no evidence has emerged that Bolsonaro or his son had a direct role in the rioting in Brazil’s capital, it is clear that the family fomented anger against democratic institutions — part of a playbook that reflected their deep ties to Trump and those who fueled his own push to cast doubt on American election results.

jair bolsonaro brazilAs Trump endorsed Jair Bolsonaro, right, for reelection, prominent U.S. election deniers made inroads with Bolsonaro’s movement and family, according to interviews and public documents. Eduardo Bolsonaro discussed election fraud with Bannon and lunched with former Trump adviser Jason Miller, while Donald Trump Jr. spoke remotely to a gathering in Brazil last year to push claims that outside forces were seeking to undermine Bolsonaro’s campaign.

In more recent months, Bannon has used his “War Room” podcast to stoke claims of fraud in Bolsonaro’s loss and insist that proof of systematic cheating was at hand. When rioters breached Brazilian government buildings on Sunday, Bannon took to the social media site Gettr to call the pro-Bolsonaro crowds “Brazilian freedom fighters.”

Bolsonaro’s new life as a Florida man: Fast food runs and selfies

The parallels between Trump and Bolsonaro show how an anti-democratic ideology embraced by Trump has been exported abroad and enlisted by foreign leaders and their allies. In addition to Brazil, Trump supporters have forged ties with far-right leaders in Hungary and other parts of Europe. While both Bolsonaro and Trump were ultimately cast out of office, with democratic institutions ratifying the will of voters, the recent turmoil has illuminated how deeply the Trump network has been enmeshed in Bolsonaro’s political world.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. would ‘treat seriously’ requests to revoke Bolsonaro’s visa, Miriam Berger, Emmanuel Felton and Karen DeYoung, Jan. 10, 2023 (print ed.). Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro arrived in Florida on Dec. 30, 2022 — two days before the inauguration of his opponent, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and nine days before a large group of his supporters stormed Brazil’s capital and tried to overturn the country’s democratic elections.

But his tenure in the Sunshine State, where some analysts believe he’s hoping to stay clear of possible legal trouble back home, could be limited. If he entered the United States on a diplomatic visa, he would have to depart by the end of the month or apply for a different status, the State Department said Monday, amid calls by some lawmakers to extradite the far-right leader.

The United States requires all visitors from Brazil to acquire a visa. But Bolsonaro’s legal status remains murky. Both the White House and the State Department have refused to comment on his visa status, citing the need to protect individual confidentiality.

Bolsonaro was still Brazil’s president when he touched down in Florida, and could have entered on an A-1 visa reserved for diplomats and heads of state. In an apparent tacit recognition that Bolsonaro could be using a diplomatic visa, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that A-1 visa holders had 30 days to either leave or apply for a different visa at the conclusion of their term in office.

“If an A visa holder is no longer engaged in official business on behalf of that government, it is incumbent on that visa holder to depart the U.S., or to request a change to another immigration status within 30 days,” Price told reporters. “If an individual has no basis on which to be in the United States, an individual is subject to removal by the Department of Homeland Security.”

“It’s the responsibility of the individual to take care of it,” he said.

Several Democratic lawmakers have questioned why Bolsonaro has been allowed to remain after his supporters tried to overthrow Brazil’s democratically elected government.

The White House said that while it had not yet received any requests from Brazil regarding Bolsonaro’s “visa status,” it would “treat seriously” any inquiries to review or revoke it.

Politico, Biden to host Brazilian President Lula in February following storming of government buildings, Nahal Toosi and Myah Ward, Jan.10, 2023 (print ed.). The announcement came hours after Biden and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts released a joint statement pledging to support the recently elected leader of the country.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden will host Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, right, widely known as Lula, in Washington in February, the White House announced on Monday.

Lula headshot 2022Biden extended the invitation during a call with Lula following the weekend storming of Brazil’s government institutions, according to the White House. During the call, Biden condemned the rioters’ violence and “conveyed the unwavering support of the United States for Brazil’s democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people as expressed in Brazil’s recent presidential election, which President Lula won,” the White House said in a statement.

The announcement came hours after Biden and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts released a joint statement pledging to support the recently elected leader of the country, whose predecessor has fueled doubts about his legitimacy.

The statement of condemnation from the three North American leaders came as they attended a summit and as some Democrats called for that predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, to be kicked out of the United States. Bolsonaro is reported to have been staying in Florida after he skipped Lula’s recent inauguration.

Biden administration officials declined to say whether they were looking at kicking out Bolsonaro, but noted that the Brazilian government had not requested it. A Brazilian news organization, meanwhile, reported that Bolsonaro had been admitted to a Florida hospital because of abdominal pains, though that report could not immediately be confirmed. Agence France-Presse later tweeted the same information about the former president’s health and hospitalization, citing his wife.

Unwilling to accept his defeat, Bolsonaro supporters on Sunday stormed Brazil’s presidential, congressional and supreme court buildings. The events echoed the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a vocal backer of Bolsonaro. Like Trump, Bolsonaro has a strongman style and sought to sow doubts about the election he lost.

Monday’s statement from Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was terse, but it put the countries’ full support behind Lula.

Jan. 7

 

joe biden presidential citizens medal 1 6 2023

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden warns of dangers posed by ‘big lie,’ rewards heroes of Jan. 6, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jan. 7, 2023 (print ed.). 
Biden honored more than a dozen people (shown above) who helped protect and uphold American democracy leading up to and on the day of the insurrection.

President Biden marked the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol on Friday by warning of continued dangers posed by “the ‘big lie’” and honoring more than a dozen people who helped protect and uphold American democracy leading up to and on the day of the insurrection.

“Two years ago on Jan. 6, our democracy was attacked. There’s no other way of saying it,” Biden said. “All of it was fueled by the lies about the 2020 election. But on this day two years ago, our democracy held because we the people … did not flinch. We the people endured.”

Biden’s comments came against the backdrop of a chaotic four days in the House of Representatives, where Republican lawmaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has failed to garner enough votes to become speaker over 13 ballots, a public display of disarray that Biden called “an embarrassment” on Wednesday. McCarthy won a significant number of Republican holdouts on Friday but still does not have enough votes to become speaker.

Some Democrats have argued that the chaos in the House was a relic of Jan. 6, as the nation has clearly failed to overcome bitter political divisions. Many of the holdouts continue to baselessly claim the 2020 election was stolen and have remained loyal to former president Donald Trump.

The ceremony Friday marked the day a violent mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election. The attack resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four others. Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died a day after sustaining injuries defending the Capitol, was honored posthumously on Friday. Four other police officers with the Capitol Police and D.C. police died by suicide in the days and months after the attack.

“He lost his life protecting the citadel of democracy,” Biden said of Sicknick. Then, speaking directly to Sicknick’s family, Biden added: “I know you’re proud of the honor being bestowed on Brian. But I also know this difficult moment brings back everything as if it happened this very day.”

More than half of the honorees receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal in the East Room of the White House were law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol against an angry mob spurred on by Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election. Other awardees were elected officials and poll workers who sought to fairly count ballots and uphold election results amid an intense pressure campaign from Trump and his supporters to overturn them.

The awardees include Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer who diverted an angry mob away from the Senate floor as legislators were still evacuating. Biden also honored Howard Liebengood, a Capitol Police officer who died by suicide four days after the insurrection.

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother-and-daughter duo who both served as election workers in Fulton County, Ga., also received the medal. The two endured threats and harassment after the election.

“Both of them were just doing their jobs until they were targeted and threatened by the same predators and peddlers of lies that would fuel the insurrection. They were literally forced from their homes, facing despicable racist taunts,” Biden said of Freeman and Moss.

  • Ashli Babbitt’s mother arrested by police on Capitol riot anniversary
  • Social Security numbers of Trump officials, allies posted in Jan. 6 files

 Washington Post, Supporters raise millions to rebrand Jan. 6 rioters as ‘patriots,’ Annie Gowen, Jan. 7, 2023 (print ed.). Right-wing supporters of the “Jan. Sixers” cast them as valiant political prisoners — and brush aside powerful evidence to the contrary.

For nearly two hours, about two dozen people on a group Telegram live stream cried, read Scripture, listened to hymns — and prayed fervently for defendants in jail facing trial for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“We pray for unity in those cells,” said one of the group’s leaders, a woman named Aida. “Get close to them, Father God, to protect our brothers.”

This nightly prayer call featured one of many support groups that have formed in the two years since the violent mob — encouraged by former president Donald Trump — stormed the U.S. Capitol building and threatened the country’s peaceful transition of power after Joe Biden’s victory.

Right-wing supporters of the “Jan. Sixers” have formed prayer chains, instigated letter writing campaigns, organized vigils and raised millions for their legal defense — all with the aim of supporting the 932 federally charged defendants they see as valiant patriots, prisoners of conscience persecuted for engaging in their First Amendment rights.

They have persevered despite powerful evidence to the contrary — including judges uniformly excoriating defendants, ongoing guilty pleas and investigations, as well as a recent congressional report showing the extremity of the violence, the detail of the planning and the failure of Trump and other White House officials to quell the riot.

Since 2021, Jan. 6 defendants have raised more than $3.7 million on the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, according to a Washington Post review of accounts that remain public, and millions more have been raised by umbrella groups in the name of the “patriots” — a flood of money that has raised concerns about fairness and oversight.

“It’s amazing that this movement is really growing by leaps and bounds,” said Ned Lang, a former town councilman from Tusten, N.Y., whose son, Edward “Jake” Lang, pleaded not guilty to charges of beating police officers with a baseball bat during a lengthy assault. The Lang family has raised more than $335,000 through two GiveSendGo accounts, and Jake has his own personal assistant to manage his interview requests and podcast schedule — from jail.

The portrayal of the Jan. 6 defendants as political prisoners is anathema to many outside the far right who haven’t forgotten the five who died in the event, the Capitol Hill police officers slipping on blood as they fought for their lives and the hangman’s gallows rioters constructed before chanting that then-vice president Mike Pence should be hanged for certifying an election they wrongly believed was fraudulent.

“It’s almost like Jan. 6 is baked into the electorate on the far right. When they see Jan. 6, they automatically think peaceful patriots being persecuted as political prisoners,” said Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman and senior technical adviser for the House Select Committee that investigated the attack. “It normalizes violence as an acceptable method for political disagreement. In effect, it endorses domestic terrorism. Not to mention that January 6th is a case study in radicalization and actions based completely on fantasy.”

Jan. 6

 

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Several documentary filmmakers have made Jan. 6 projects. Getting them released is proving difficult, Elahe Izadi, Jan. 6, 2023 (print ed.).  Documentary filmmakers found reluctant subjects, wary distributors, polarization fears — and a long shadow from the hearings into the attack on the Capitol.

Nick Quested watched along with millions of other viewers as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol doled out revelation after revelation in a series of live televised hearings last year. But for him, some of the findings were less than revelatory.

“Scooped!” he found himself thinking on more than one occasion. “Scooped! … Scooped again!”

A British documentary filmmaker, Quested spent several months following the Proud Boys, which positioned him for an intimate view of the far-right extremist group’s actions during the siege on the Capitol two years ago. His unreleased film is one of more than a dozen recent or in-the-works projects related to the Capitol riot — the kind of world-shaking event, fraught with unanswered questions, tangled narratives, stark human tragedy and startling visuals, that could be documentary fodder for generations to come.

But launching a Jan. 6 documentary right now is proving complicated for many filmmakers and producers. Some of the subjects are still too traumatized to talk about it easily. Some platforms and distributors may hesitate to take on such a project, concerned that the topic has become too polarizing or that it has already inspired too many films.

And then there was the Jan. 6 committee itself, which revealed so many compelling details about the attack through a rich narrative approach worthy of a hit prime-time serial — and, unlike filmmakers, had subpoena power to get certain subjects to talk.

The subtle stagecraft behind the Jan. 6 hearings

One of those, ironically, was Quested, who testified as a witness in the first of the much-watched hearings this past summer and shared some of his film footage in response to a subpoena. Now, as he continues to labor on his project, he prefers not to mull whether the Jan. 6 hearings stole his thunder.

“This is too important to be selfish about your film at this point,” he said. “This is our collective future that we’re discussing here.”

Jan. 5

 

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The awful corruption of Trump’s ‘coup lawyers’ demands accountability, Greg Sargent, Jan. 5, 2023. You are probably familiar with greg sargentthe term “mob lawyer.” It might now be time to inaugurate another, similar term: “coup lawyer.”

John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani were instrumental to the plotting and execution of President Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow his reelection loss, and they corruptly abused their knowledge of the law to that end. Will they ever face real accountability?

Eastman and Giuliani are facing disciplinary proceedings and might even get disbarred. But if they are disciplined on overly narrow grounds — say, for making false statements — it would be a highly insufficient outcome. They should also face professional discipline that declares in some way that their efforts to undermine our constitutional order were central features of their unscrupulous professional misconduct.

Yet good-government advocates are beginning to fear that opportunity will be squandered.

Right now, the state bar in California — where Eastman is licensed — is investigating whether he violated ethics rules governing attorneys. And the bars in New York and D.C. — where Giuliani is licensed — are currently weighing the former New York City mayor’s fate.

In Giuliani’s case, a New York court temporarily suspended him from practicing law for making false statements in court — his lies about the 2020 election — and the D.C. bar appears focused on that charge as well. In Eastman’s case, it is unclear what misconduct the California bar is weighing.

But the option exists for disbarment on a broader basis, according to advocates urging this course of action. In California, New York and D.C., ethics rules provide for sanctions on the grounds of fundamental unfitness for the legal profession and deep contempt for the rule of law. Disbarment decisions should cite both lawyers’ efforts to help Trump subvert democracy as the basis for those violations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Several documentary filmmakers have made Jan. 6 projects. Getting them released is proving difficult, Elahe Izadi, Jan. 5, 2023. Documentary filmmakers found reluctant subjects, wary distributors, polarization fears — and a long shadow from the hearings into the attack on the Capitol.

Nick Quested watched along with millions of other viewers as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol doled out revelation after revelation in a series of live televised hearings last year. But for him, some of the findings were less than revelatory.

“Scooped!” he found himself thinking on more than one occasion. “Scooped! … Scooped again!”

A British documentary filmmaker, Quested spent several months following the Proud Boys, which positioned him for an intimate view of the far-right extremist group’s actions during the siege on the Capitol two years ago. His unreleased film is one of more than a dozen recent or in-the-works projects related to the Capitol riot — the kind of world-shaking event, fraught with unanswered questions, tangled narratives, stark human tragedy and startling visuals, that could be documentary fodder for generations to come.

But launching a Jan. 6 documentary right now is proving complicated for many filmmakers and producers. Some of the subjects are still too traumatized to talk about it easily. Some platforms and distributors may hesitate to take on such a project, concerned that the topic has become too polarizing or that it has already inspired too many films.

And then there was the Jan. 6 committee itself, which revealed so many compelling details about the attack through a rich narrative approach worthy of a hit prime-time serial — and, unlike filmmakers, had subpoena power to get certain subjects to talk.

The subtle stagecraft behind the Jan. 6 hearings

One of those, ironically, was Quested, who testified as a witness in the first of the much-watched hearings this past summer and shared some of his film footage in response to a subpoena. Now, as he continues to labor on his project, he prefers not to mull whether the Jan. 6 hearings stole his thunder.

“This is too important to be selfish about your film at this point,” he said. “This is our collective future that we’re discussing here.”

Jan. 4

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 papers detail infighting, ‘chaos’ among extremist organizers, Hannah Allam, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). Newly released documents zoom in on the role of far-right militants and conspiracy theorists.

How do we know that the architects of a pro-Trump rally that spiraled into insurrection were right-wing extremists? They said so themselves, according to newly released witness interviews from the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

But it doesn’t mean they were all on the same page.

Thousands of pages of documents made public in recent weeks portray promoters of the Stop the Steal movement as backstabbing rivals who viewed one another as “crazies,” “extremists,” “nutty,” and “white supremacist.” The documents include a text exchange in which former senior Trump adviser Hope Hicks, while watching the Capitol rioting unfold, lamented, “We all look like domestic terrorists now.”

The behind-the-scenes chaos detailed in the report underlines how the risk of violence that day was known in advance, causing alarm even among some organizers who said they had qualms about working with fellow pro-MAGA factions such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, extremist groups whose members later were charged in the attack.

“I don’t think that we should be out there inciting people,” Amy Kremer of Women for America First told the committee of another organizer’s public chant of “victory or death.”

The documents offer glimpses into other aspects of national right-wing organizing: leaders’ proximity to power, a tolerance for violent rhetoric, fierce infighting, and the role of “grifters” who make their living by stoking conservative outrage. The committee traces this mobilization to Trump, going back to a 2015 campaign-trail interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to show how Trump “normalized” the extremist factions that later rallied supporters to march on the Capitol.

Here are five examples of how the latest documents shed light on the militant, conspiratorial movements that have gained a toehold in mainstream Republican politics:

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Jan. 6 committee yet again debunks Trump claim of 10,000 troops, Glenn Kessler, Jan. 4, 2023.

“The highly partisan Unselect Committee Report purposely fails to mention the failure of Pelosi to heed my recommendation for troops to be used in D.C.”

— former president Donald Trump, in a post on Truth Social, Dec. 22

Trump and his defenders have repeatedly claimed that the violence at the Capitol two years ago would have been prevented if only his order for 10,000 troops had been heeded. We have explored this claim twice before and debunked it, each time awarding Four Pinocchios.

But now the Jan. 6 committee has released its report and dozens of transcribed interviews that provide new details on the meetings in which Trump claims he requested troops at the Capitol.

Trump, in his post, says he made a “recommendation for troops” and that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) failed to act on it. But the evidence shows Trump did not issue any formal request — so there was nothing for Pelosi to heed. The committee report says it found “no evidence” to support the claim that he ordered 10,000 troops.

Moreover, the committee said that when he referenced so many troops, it was not because he wanted to protect the Capitol. He “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by left-wing counterprotesters,” the report said.

The report says that Trump brought up the issue on at least three occasions but in such vague and obtuse ways that no senior official regarded his words as an order. Here’s what we know now about his statements at the time:

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jack Smith returns to U.S. weeks after becoming Trump special counsel, Perry Stein and  Devlin Barrett, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). Tasked with two Trump-related investigations, the former war crimes prosecutor has returned from Europe, people familiar with the situation said

washington post logoWashington Post, Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Jan. 6 panel he’s become a political ‘lightning rod,’ Dan Lamothe, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke with congressional investigators about a ‘deliberate attempt’ to smear the military’s general officer corps.

The Pentagon’s top general told congressional investigators scrutinizing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that he has become a “lightning rod for the politicization of the military,” decrying critics who have sought to “smear” him and the Defense Department’s other senior leaders.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered the assessment during a remarkable portion of his discussion with the House select committee in November of that year. The panel in recent days released Milley’s interview transcript along with dozens of other documents as its work drew to a close.

He cited as one example the backlash he faced upon telling lawmakers in separate testimony months earlier that he wanted to “understand White rage,” a statement prompted by Republicans who had criticized leaders at the U.S. Military Academy for allowing cadets to learn about critical race theory. The academic framework centers on the concept that racism is systemic and not just exhibited by prejudiced people.

Milley told the Jan. 6 committee that he is “constantly strung out” along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other top officials at the Pentagon. The military, he said, must avoid such fights.

“I think it’s fundamental to the health of the republic that we have an apolitical military,” Milley said in his testimony. “And apolitical means nonpartisan, neither Democrat nor Republican, and we execute the lawful orders of the civilian leadership that’s appointed over us. The key is ‘lawful’ orders, and therein lie some judgment calls.”

Milley addressed a range of issues during the Nov. 17, 2021, interview, including the Pentagon’s response to the Capitol riot, how senior defense officials navigated President Donald Trump’s tumultuous final year in office, and what Milley did to reassure U.S. allies and adversaries after Trump’s refusal to accept the election results culminated in an eruption of violence.

Jan. 3

 

capitol right full crowd uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, As Jan. 6 Panel Closes, More Evidence Trump Planned to Join Protesters, Luke Broadwater, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Emily Cochrane, Jan. 3, 2023 (print ed.). One top aide wrote in a note on Jan. 6 that former President Trump had wanted to walk alongside the crowd as it descended on Congress; Since Friday, the panel has released a whirlwind of files, including an adviser’s testimony that Mr. Trump seemed to acknowledge his election loss.

The nation’s top military officer saw the Jan. 6 attack as similar to the “Reichstag moment” that led to Nazi dictatorship. Aides for former President Donald J. Trump saw their future job opportunities slipping away, and predicted being “perpetually unemployed.” Mr. Trump himself saw the push to overturn the 2020 election as a financial opportunity, moving to trademark the phrase “Rigged Election.”

These were among the latest revelations from the House Jan. 6 committee, which released a whirlwind of documents in its final days and wrapped up its work on Monday. Since Friday night, the panel has released several troves of evidence, including about 120 previously unseen transcripts along with emails and text messages obtained during its 18-month inquiry, totaling tens of thousands of pages.

The evidence touched on nearly every aspect of Mr. Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election. It provided new details about how some of his top allies lobbied for aggressive plans to keep him in power, while others lamented how the dark day of Jan. 6, 2021, had negatively affected their employment prospects.

The panel said it has now turned over an “enormous volume of material” to the Justice Department as Jack Smith, the special counsel, conducts a parallel investigation into the events of Jan. 6.

“Accountability is now critical to thwart any other future scheme to overturn an election,” the committee’s leaders, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement.

In the end, the committee released about 280 transcripts of interviews. Though the panel interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, only a few hundred sessions took the form of formal depositions or transcribed interviews. Lawmakers said they withheld certain transcripts that contained sensitive information.

Here are some takeaways from the recently released evidence.

 

Then-U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney, R-WY, and Adam Kinzinger, R-IL are shown at left with incoming U.S. Rep. George santos, R-NY, and his campaign supporter U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, shown at right.

Shown above are then-U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney, R-WY, and Adam Kinzinger, R-IL. The photo was accompanied by another showing the incoming and disgraced U.S. Rep. George santos, R-NY, and his campaign supporter U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, who replaced Cheney in Republican House leadership because Cheney was willing to investigate Trump's role as part of her committee work. The photo array was labeled: "A tale of two Republican parties. An honorable one, for now in the wilderness. A dishonorable one, for now in power. Proud to stand with the first, and against the second." (Reported via Twitter by Bill Kristol, Bulwork co-founder and former chief of staff to then-Vice President Dan Quayle, a Republican from Indiana).

george santos elise stefanik

Politico, Inside the Jan. 6 committee’s massive new evidence trove, Kyle Cheney, Jan. 3, 2023 (print ed.). The panel's evidence provides the clearest glimpse yet at the well-coordinated effort by some Trump allies to help Trump seize a second term he didn’t win.

politico CustomThe Jan. 6 select committee has unloaded a vast database of its underlying evidence — emails between Trump attorneys, text messages among horrified White House aides and outside advisers, internal communications among security and intelligence officials — all coming to grips with Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election and its disastrous consequences.

The panel posted thousands of pages of evidence late Sunday in a public database that provide the clearest glimpse yet at the well-coordinated effort by some Trump allies to help Trump seize a second term he didn’t win. Much of the evidence has never been seen before and, in some cases, adds extraordinary new elements to the case the select committee presented in public — from voluminous phone records to contemporaneous text messages and emails.

Trump lawyers strategized which federal courts would be likeliest to uphold their fringe constitutional theories; Trump White House aides battled to keep unhinged theories from reaching the president’s ears; as the Jan. 6 attack unfolded, West Wing aides sent horrified messages about Trump’s incendiary tweets and inaction; and after the attack, some Trump allies discussed continued efforts to derail the incoming Biden administration.

Here’s a look at some of the most extraordinary and important evidence in the select committee’s files.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Proof Launches Stage 2 of Its January 6 Coverage, Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 3, 2023. Proof’s January 6 reporting—which has seth abramson graphicprovoked lawsuit threats from and texts between key January 6 actors, and often appeared in the U.S. House record—is moving from investigation to evidence review.

Introduction: The first two years of Proof have been a wild ride. This media outlet evolved into a sprawling, 14-section center for curatorial journalism that accrued a readership of 75,000 and became one of the Top 15 political substacks in the world.

seth abramson proof logoIt was cited in the successful House January 6 Committee referral of Steve Bannon for criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice. Its reports were entered into the Congressional record during the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. It was the subject of private texts between two of the key event-planners behind January 6, Trump adviser Katrina Pierson and Women for America First capo Amy Kremer.

In 2022, the House January 6 Committee even reached out directly to Proof for aid.

Shortly thereafter, Proof published the fourth book in the New York Times-bestselling Proof series: Proof of Coup: How the Pentagon Shaped An Insurrection. The book tells the story of events so critical to national security, politically sensitive, and (not to put too fine a point on it) historically contingent—because they remain under active federal investigation—that they don’t even appear in the sprawling final report of the House January 6 Committee.

Proof has been the subject of lawsuit threats from key January 6 figures Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, as well as the co-founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes.

And Proof is currently being sued for $25 million by an attorney linked to the Flynn family, Kash Patel, Truth Social head (and former GOP congressman) Devin Nunes, and the First Amendment Praetorians (bodyguards for Flynn, Ali Alexander, Patrick Byrne, Sidney Powell and other Trumpist leaders in the post-election period in 2020).

January 6 reporting at Proof has been cited by major-media news outlets around the world, and even helped launched a Brazilian congressional inquiry into the actions of neo-fascist Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of Trump ally and former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. (You can read much more about the odd, frenetic history of Proof here.)

And now, in these opening hours of 2023, Proof is about to enter a striking new phase in its celebrated January 6 investigation.

The Three Stages of An Investigation

From its founding in January 2021—just a week after the events of January 6—Proof has followed (a) the curatorial journalism methods I taught as a journalism professor at University of New Hampshire, and (b) the investigative methods that I employed as a federal criminal investigator in D.C. in the 1990s. My journalistic and investigative practices are informed by years of criminal defense work in multiple jurisdictions as an attorney, up to and including coordination and execution of investigative and trial-advocacy strategies in First-Degree Murder cases.

Every investigation worth its salt has at least three discrete stages.

(1) Building a theory of the case and collecting supporting evidence. Since every criminal case begins, on the defense side at least, with certain documents already prepared by the government—most notably police reports, but in some cases also photographs, timelines, witness interviews, maps, and other such investigative work product—an investigator is often in a position to develop an initial theory of the case (that is, a narrative of what most likely happened in a given situation and why) with the aid of these seminal documents.

January 6 is no exception. The work of law enforcement agents, corporate journalists, and independent researchers gave Proof a mountain of data with which to work in building a theory of the case for the coup plot behind January 6, as well as potential plans of action for collecting additional evidence that might confirm or deny such a theory. Those who don’t actually read Proof, and only casually consume social media content that discusses Proof, often mistake my work as a curatorial journalist (a type of investigative journalist) who has a background in criminal investigation and trial advocacy as the advancement of hard-and-fast notions about how a given criminal conspiracy unfolded. In fact, what Proof offers is the routine work of an investigator and a curatorial journalist—revealing what existing reliable evidence tells us, with an eye toward encouraging future investigations based on a well-sourced theory of the case.

To the extent Proof often ends its reports with explicit proposals for additional federal investigation(s), this project is clear to anyone who reads Proof and has a background in any of law, criminal investigation, or curatorial (investigative) journalism. It is also clear to anyone who simply approaches the work of this media outlet in good faith. All too often, however, what critics of Proof there are either never read Proof or do so with no background in (or even interest in) the professional pursuits that animate this site.

So much of the work that readers of Proof have found here over the last two years has been the basic work of a simultaneously journalistic and legalistic investigation in its earliest stages: synthesizing seminal evidence to create an investigative plan firmly rooted in a theory of the case, a theory that self-consciously remains unproven but is undergirded by what evidence presently exists. And since, in the law, proof is evidence that tends to support a given theory of a case (only those with no knowledge of the law equate the word proof to the phrase proof beyond a reasonable doubt), this publication has—from the day of its birth—been denominated Proof. If the aim of every report on this site had been to offer “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” for some ironclad and presumptively immovable theorem rather than “proof” advancing a mutable theory of the case, it would’ve instead been called Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

So how do we know that Proof was successful in Stage 1 of its January 6 investigation?

For the reasons stated above: its work spooked key January 6 figures to the point that they obsessively discussed it backchannel, and in some instances even tried to shut it down; it was cited as part of the permanent Congressional record a number of times, including during both an impeachment trial and a successful federal investigation and prosecution of white-supremacist Trump adviser Steve Bannon; and it was deemed so essential to the journalism surrounding January 6 that not only was it repeatedly cited by major media, but led to the House January 6 Committee reaching out to its author.

Katrina Pierson, the trusted Donald Trump presidential adviser who was in charge of the precipitating event on January 6—Trump’s incitement-to-insurrection rally at the White House Ellipse, now the subject of a sprawling federal criminal investigation by the FBI—opined in 2021, as we now know from the House January 6 Committee’s final publication of data, that this author was “like a dog with a bone” when it comes to January 6: in other words, per the definition of that phrase, “stubborn, tenacious, persistent, relentless, and dogged.” While there can’t be a much better endorsement of the work done by Proof since mid-January 2021 than this, the fact that some media columnists—non-reporters whose job, more or less, is to capriciously separate U.S. journalists into the cool and the uncool—have written hit-pieces about Proof shot through with barely disguised envy underscores that few media outlets have been as successful at tearing down the layers of misinformation, disinformation, rumor and innuendo surrounding the events of January 6 as this one.

Which is why there was always going to be a Stage 2 to Proof’s January 6 reporting.

(2) Evidence review. Once any available initial (seminal) evidence has been reviewed, and a theory or dueling theories of the case developed, and evidence supporting that theory or theories pursued, a time inevitably comes for the most critical determination of all: has one theory of the case won out, in view of all the evidence now compiled?

Determining this takes an encompassing and sometimes lengthy evidentiary review—a process not nearly as dry as it sounds, as it operates upon not just seminal evidence and early supporting evidence but the entire universe of available evidence that the case investigators have been able to compile, collate, and curate over a protracted period of time (in the case of January 6, approximately two years).

It’s at this stage that a final determination is made about “what really happened.”

While invariably some evidence once desired will be finally found to be unavailable—will even have been destroyed or degraded, perhaps intentionally—it is in this second stage that decisions can and must be made, with the evidence present, about whether the evidence is sufficient to warrant a criminal prosecution (if the investigators are government investigators) or what defense will be offered if or when a prosecution commences (if the investigators are defense investigators).

What differentiates these two different perspectives are their ambitions. What conjoins them is that each must make a good-faith effort to determine “what really happened.”

Just as a prosecutor, aided by his or her investigators, can’t proceed with a prosecution unless he or she believes the case they will offer to a jury is a fully realized, evidence-undergirded narrative roughly answering to the description “what really happened”, a successful defense to criminal allegations always starts with—but may or may not end with—a similarly fully realized, evidence-undergirded narrative. Simply put, a defense attorney and defense investigator can’t do their jobs properly if they don’t have a fully formed record (whether memorialized or simply memorized) of what happened in a given criminal incident. They need this to determine how to use that record (or just some of it) to force government agents to meet their constitutional burden of proof.

Needless to say, if the defense’s theory of a case ends up not bearing any meaningful relation to “what really happened,” the theory is doomed to be reified in court as a losing defense strategy. While the defense theory of the case need not be a totalizing narrative, it also cannot be contradicted in significant ways by the evidentiary record if it hopes to have any chance of success.

So how does this translate to Stage 2 of the January 6 investigation at Proof, which is about to be launched?

Now that the House January 6 Committee has published not just an 845-page final report but the entirety of the “non-sensitive” portion of its evidentiary record—which includes over a hundred notable witness transcripts—the seminal evidence related to January 6 (much of it already synthesized by DOJ in its prosecutions of January 6 foot-soldiers and by some independent researchers via the online #SeditionHunters effort) can be conjoined to this new evidence, and to existing theories of the case, to form the most complete picture of the events of January 6 we have ever had. Books like Proof of Coup—which cover information that was left out of the House January 6 Committee report for national security and political-sensitivity reasons (e.g., fear of destabilizing institutions that defend the nation’s soil and the President of the United States)—can also become a critical part of this encompassing evidentiary record.

You may now be asking, “Yes, but doesn’t the House January 6 Committee’s final report constitute the conclusive synthesis and summation of the January 6 record?”

And the answer—perhaps surprisingly—is no.

The reason the House January 6 Committee not only released a final report but all the evidence upon which it relied is because its work was curtailed far more dramatically than many realize. Had the Democrats not lost the House of the Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections, we could expect the House January 6 Committee to have continued its work for at least two more years. We would have had more hearings, more witness interviews, a longer final report, and—above all—much, much more federal litigation in an effort to force certain subpoenaed witnesses to honor their subpoenas. Moreover, because DOJ likely needs to make its charging decisions with respect to the January 6 coup plotters (as opposed to merely its foot-soldiers) in 2023, we would expect that a House January 6 Committee not prematurely shuttered by Republican gains in the House in November 2022 would have gleaned an enormous amount of additional data from anything DOJ already has or will soon find that will be made public via its hotly anticipated prosecutions of the masterminds of January 6.

The Committee is aware, in other words, that legions of corporate and independent journalists have been waiting to assist the Committee in its investigative work. All that these people and entities (which include this author and this media outlet) have been waiting for is the release of the evidence Congress has developed as it chased down various theories of the case of January 6 which—to be candid—Proof helped develop both directly and indirectly.

Now that this evidence has been made public, Stage 2 of the January 6 investigation—which is also Stage 2 of the January 6 investigation at Proof—can begin. It is likely to last almost the entirety of 2023.

But what about Stage 3? When will that stage begin, and what form will it take?

(3) Prosecution. In cases with only one defendant, calling the “prosecution” stage an “investigative” stage would make no sense. Indeed, one of the only things Law & Order gets right about the criminal justice system is the native divide between police and prosecutors (though, remarkably, the show and its numberless offspring get wrong precisely who these entities represent; in the criminal justice system, the “people” are represented only by juries, while judges represent the impartial face of the law and both police and prosecutors represent, in the most literal sense imaginable, the government).

In a situation, like the one emanating from the events of January 6, in which 1,000+ foot-soldiers and as many as fifty coup plotters may ultimately be charged—though we should have much more confidence that the former will happen than the latter—the prosecution stage is also an investigative stage because certain coup plotters may cut cooperation deals with the federal government to save their own skins. Such deals require these wrong-doers to divulge to investigators everything they know about the January 6–related crimes others may have committed.

In this way, new prosecutions can become part and parcel of existing investigations.

In the case of January 6, Stage 3 is almost certain to overlap somewhat with Stage 2 because (a) Stage 2 may take as long as a year, (b) DOJ appears to be operating on a political calendar that presumes that all politically sensitive prosecutions relating to January 6 must be launched by mid-2023 (in an effort to conclude them all by the end of Summer 2024, with an eye toward minimal overlap with the 2024 general election), and (c) it is a sure bet—if past is precedent—that DOJ will let certain coup plotters off the hook who it should in fact have prosecuted, which will only complicate (while also stoking new interest in) Stage 2.

For journalists, Stage 3 is of course not about prosecutions but about reporting on prosecutions, which usually involves little more than detailing what happens in court (and perhaps on occasion opining on how events could have or should have developed differently). Proof will likely conduct some journalism of this sort in late 2023 and 2024—after all, its author has a law degree and practiced criminal law for many years—but it is not likely to be as bracing or complex a process of discovery as Stage 2 will be.
Conclusion

It is the ambition of this author to have the Stage 2 investigation of January 6 at Proof be the most comprehensive—and essential—such journalistic coverage in the United States.

If that sounds like a preposterously lofty goal, perhaps it is: certainly, January 6 is already as reported on and analyzed an event as America has ever seen.

But as we have already seen, coverage of the House January 6 Committee Final Report is, at least in major corporate media, fairly shallow. Only a handful of newly released January 6 witness transcripts have been given any attention at all, and this attention has generally been (a) not from lawyers, (b) focused only on one or two very obvious takeaways, (c) so transient that the assumption of major media appears to be that Americans can’t focus on any discrete piece of evidence for more than a day or two, and (d) disconnected from the best research on January 6 (which frankly has come from obsessive independent researchers with an eye for detail, rather than major-network TV producers with an eye toward producing satisfying one-off “A” blocks).

What is needed now are researchers, historians, and investigative journalists who will, with academic precision, take discrete pieces of evidence and plug them meaningfully into the vast network of data the historic January 6 investigation has become. If major-media coverage of January 6 has devolved into briskness, redundancy and shallowness, it must now be durable, incisive and profound. It’s with this in mind that Proof says the following: that it aims for its readers to be the best-informed students of January 6 anywhere in the world.

This goal isn’t a small one—not when January 6, 2021 has turned out to be merely the launch of an ongoing far-right insurrection inside America, one that aims to replace our democracy with an authoritarian, Christofascist tyranny. January 6 doesn’t matter because of what it was in American history, but because of what it is right now.

In view of all this, the idea of Proof starting 2023 by launching Stage 2 of its January 6 investigation is at once exhilarating and terrifying. Proof has already uncovered, via its soon-to-be-launched “January 6 Files” series—which decodes, contextualizes, and networks the most important January 6 witness transcripts in exhaustive detail—acts of perfidy and possible sedition that couldn’t even have been contemplated, let alone reported on, prior to the release of witness transcripts (in the scores and more) by the U.S. House of Representatives over just the last two weeks.

What Proof asks of its readers, in advance, is a certain degree of patience. There are so many documents newly available for review by January 6 historians, researchers, and January 6 beat reporters that it is tempting to think they can be adequately unpacked in quick-hit major-media “listicles” addressing just a handful of the most high-profile witness transcripts. In fact, Stage 2 will be a painstaking process that may take, as was noted above, almost the entirety of 2023.

I intend this introductory essay to serve as a personal invitation for you to take a year-long journey with me right here at Proof, a place where the journalism is indeed—and very proudly so—“like a dog with a bone”: stubborn, tenacious, persistent, relentless, and dogged.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who later taught digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Jan. 2

 

djt hope hicks

Newly disclosed message from former Trump White House and campaign aide Hope Hicks (shown above in a file photo) about the Jan 6 insurrection stated: “All of us who didn’t have jobs lined up will be perpetually unemployed....I’m so mad and upset. We all look like domestic terrorists now....This made us unemployable, untouchable. God, I’m so fucking mad.” (Reported via Twitter by Mike Sington, former senior executive at NBCUniversal.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Capitol police chief: FBI, DHS and Pentagon failed on Jan. 6, Carol D. Leonnig, Jan. 2, 2023 (print ed.). In a new firsthand account of the frantic efforts of Capitol Police officers to protect Congress and themselves from an armed mob on Jan. 6, 2021, the department’s former chief blames cascading government failures for allowing the brutal melee.

The federal government’s multibillion-dollar security network, built after 9/11 to gather intelligence that could warn of a looming attack, provided no such shield capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021on Jan. 6, former Capitol Police chief Steven A. Sund, left, writes in a new book.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and even steve sund recroppedhis own agency’s intelligence unit had been alerted weeks earlier to reams of chilling chatter about right-wing extremists arming for an attack on the Capitol that day, Sund says, but didn’t take the basic steps to assess those plots or sound an alarm. Senior military leaders, citing political or tactical worries, delayed sending help.

And, Sund warns in Courage Under Fire, it could easily happen again. Many of the factors that left the Capitol vulnerable remain unfixed, he said.

The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the book, which will be published Jan. 3.

In his account, Sund describes his shock at the battle that unfolded as an estimated 10,000 protesters inflamed by President Donald Trump’s rally earlier in the day broke through police lines and punched, stabbed and pepper-sprayed officers, outnumbering them “58 to 1.”

Sund said his shock shifted to agony as he unsuccessfully begged military generals for National Guard reinforcements. Though they delayed sending help until it was too late for Sund’s overrun corps, he says that he later discovered that the Pentagon had rushed to send security teams to protect military officials’ homes in Washington, none of which were under attack.

Sund reserves his greatest outrage for those Pentagon leaders, recounting a conference call he had with two generals about 2:35 p.m., 20 minutes after rioters had broken into the Capitol and as Vice President Mike Pence and other lawmakers scurried to hiding places.

Sund writes that Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt told him he didn’t like the optics of sending uniformed Guard troops to the Capitol, but could allow them to replace police officers at roadside checkpoints. Listening incredulously and trying to explain that he needed help to save officers’ lives, Sund said, he felt both “nauseated” and “mad as hell.”

“It’s a response I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Sund writes. While on the call, Sund recalls hearing the frantic voice of an officer being broadcast into the command center: “Shots fired in the Capitol, shots fired in the Capitol.”

Sund’s anger boiled over and he shouted the report of gunfire into the conference call: “Is that urgent enough for you now?” Then Sund hung up to deal with this new crisis.

 

December

Dec. 31

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel releases Trump tax returns in another setback for former president, Marianna Sotomayor, Jonathan O'Connell and Michael Kranish, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). The Democratic-led panel released the financial documents for six years, capping a protracted legal and political battle that could have been prevented had former president Donald Trump followed presidential precedent and released his returns voluntarily.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday released Donald Trump’s tax returns, dealing yet another setback to the former president and 2024 White House candidate as he faces multiple federal and state investigations.

irs logoThe Democratic-led panel released the financial documents for six years, capping a protracted legal and political battle that could have been prevented had Trump followed presidential precedent and released his returns voluntarily.

Democrats have pushed for more than three years to make Trump’s tax returns public, and the documents were finally made available to the Ways and Means Committee late last month after the Supreme Court denied a last attempt by Trump to withhold the records.

The release marks another blow to Trump, who is struggling to mount a campaign for president as numerous investigations and controversies continue to swirl around him. His most recent actions, from dining with avowed white supremacists to suggesting terminating the Constitution, have left many in the Republican Party reconsidering whether he remains the most viable candidate to lead the GOP after midterm voters largely rejected candidates backed by the former president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tax Returns Were Released to the Public. Here’s What They Reveal, Jim Tankersley, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump, who fought for years to keep his tax returns private, made no charitable donations in 2020, and his own tax law may have cost him.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have followed through with their vow to make public six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, giving the American public new insight into his business dealings and drawing threats of retaliation from congressional Republicans.

The release on Friday morning contained thousands of pages of tax documents, including individual returns for Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, as well as business returns for several of the hundreds of companies that make up the real estate mogul’s sprawling business organization.

The committee had this month released top-line details from the returns, which showed that Mr. Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes during the first three years of his presidency, including just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, his first year in office. He paid no tax in 2020 as his income dwindled and his business losses mounted.

The documents contain new details not revealed in those earlier releases. New York Times reporters are combing the pages for key takeaways. Here is a running list.

Dec. 30

 

Politico, Trump taxes show foreign income from more than a dozen countries, Bernie Becker and Benjamin Guggenheim, Dec. 30, 2022. While Trump surrendered day-to-day control of his business empire, he kept ownership.

Donald Trump’s tax returns show the former president received income from more than a dozen countries during his time in office, highlighting a string of potential conflicts of interest.

Trump’s returns, which were made public by House Democrats on Friday after a lengthy legal fight, disclosed income from 2015 to 2020 from a wide range of foreign countries, including Canada, Panama, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, among others.

While the documents did not provide details on the money flows, Trump owns golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, and his name has adorned luxury hotels from Panama to Canada.

The former president was known for fusing his business interests with America’s highest public office, drawing allegations of using his role to promote his private resorts, direct federal money to his hotels and encourage foreign governments to spend money that would directly benefit the Trump family interests.

His far-flung concerns, foreign and domestic, are nested in more than 400 separate business entities. A 2019 report by the watchdog group OpenSecrets said he had more than $130 million in assets in more than 30 countries.

The six years of tax returns disclosed Friday show that Trump received extensive income from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom — including gross business income of at least $35.3 million from Canada in 2017, the year he entered office.

That year, Trump also brought in $6.5 million from China, $5.8 million from Indonesia and $5.7 million from India.

By 2020, his last full year in office, Trump reported $8.8 million in income from the U.K. and another $3.9 million in Ireland.

It’s not a surprise that Trump continued to receive money from foreign interests while he was president, since he kept ownership of the company.

Dec. 27

 

 nicholas luna portraitFormer Donald Trump “body man” (personal assistant) Nicholas Luna, shown above

Proof, Source: Nick Luna Not Involved with Trump NFT Company CIC Digital or Trump NFT Scam, Seth Abramson, left, Dec. 27, 2022. Journalists at both the New seth abramson graphicYork Times and Washington Post linked CIC Digital and a similarly named company, CIC Ventures—but that presumption appears to have been wrong, per a Proof source.

Proof readers will be well aware that Proof has reported both here and elsewhere—for instance, in the New York Times-bestselling Proof Trilogy—that former president Donald Trump has a history of directly or indirectly promising money, jobs, and/or favors to those federal witnesses who testify before Congress or speak to the DOJ or FBI in a fashion consistent with his own interests, leading to some understandable concern that if any such individual were to have been seth abramson proof logoinvolved in Trump’s get-richer-quick NFT scam it could position that scam as part of a larger January 6 cover-up.

As the subhed of this new Proof report indicates, and as the last Proof report on Mr. Trump’s NFT venture disclosed, both the Washington Post and New York Times saw leading journalists on their payrolls draw conclusions about two Trump-launched companies—CIC Ventures and CIC Digital—that treated the two as one and the same, and therefore possibly at the head of a January 6 Witness Tampering scheme.

But Proof can now report, on the basis of contact with a person confirmed to have knowledge of the situation—and to whom Proof has granted anonymity to allow them to speak freely—that while former Trump “body man” Nicholas Luna was indeed involved with CIC Ventures for the purposes of signing contracts for Mr. Trump’s post-presidential speaking engagements, he had no involvement, formal or otherwise, with CIC Digital, a distinct venture that ultimately contracted with a dodgy entity named NFT INT LLC to mint Trump’s chintzy, much-mocked NFTs. Indeed, per this Proof source, CIC Digital was founded after Luna left Trump’s employ in October 2021.

This source believes CIC Digital to have been run, instead, by individuals associated with (or even formally part of) the Trump Organization. This source further states that there were no contacts between Luna and the listed co-director for CIC Ventures, Trump lawyer John Marion.

These revelations keep active the following key questions: (1) why a Trump lawyer (Marion) was made the co-director of an entity exclusively associated with Trump’s speaking engagements; (2) whether Marion was also involved with CIC Digital; and (3) whether Marion was given his business role(s) in the labyrinthine world of Trump single-purpose (sometimes shell) corporations as a means to avoid paying him for legal services rendered—whether through corporate perks or write-offs or by allowing Marion to do side business under Trump’s aegis and/or brand, as appears to have been the case in Ukraine with fellow Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani—or to generate a zone of attorney-client privilege in the context of a Witness Tampering (or other criminal) scheme.

Hopefully the Times and Post will update their coverage of Donald Trump’s NFT scam consistent with this new reporting by Proof.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who later taught digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Dec. 26

 

 

 Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a leading proponent of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump

 Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a leading proponent of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" that led to the Capitol insurrection, is shown in a collage with then-President Donald Trump (File photos).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The missing piece in the January 6th Committee Report, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books (including wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallThe Rise of The Fourth Reich, below,  and former synidcated columnist, Navy intellitence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 25-26, 2022.

The House Select Committee on the January 6 attack on the Congress did an admirable job of cutting through the obstruction of justice, obfuscation, and plain old lying from Donald Trump and his administration’s and presidential campaign’s hopeless sycophants.

wayne madesen report logoHowever, the committee failed to answer the mail on the military’s involvement in pre- and post-coup plans for a Trump military-civilian junta to rule the United States. Far too many Department of Defense political appointees were not criticized in the committee’s report, particularly those who failed to order the early deployment of National Guard troops to safeguard the Capitol complex for the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes to proclaim Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the president- and vice president-wayne madsen fourth reich coverelect of the United States.

It is quite clear that Trump had installed a coterie of military and civilian officials at the Pentagon whose main task it was to fail to respond to pleas for assistance from congressional and Washington, DC authorities as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.

The presence of then-Major General Charles Flynn, right, within the U.S. Army’s Pentagon staff should have raised the suspicions of the committee. Flynn’s brother, charles flynn oTrump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn, had been one of the chief proponents of advancing Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign to the point where he called for the military to not only seize voting machines but Trump to declare martial law and hold an unconstitutional “do-over” of the November 3rd election.

Other active duty officers who stymied the dispatch of National Guard troops to the Capitol included Lieutenant General Walter Piatt, Charles Flynn’s immediate superior, who remains the Director of the Army Staff at the Pentagon, and then-Brigadier General Christopher LaNeve, the Director of Operations and Mobilization, who worked under Piatt and Flynn, and has since been promoted to Major General and is currently the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

It is very clear that a group of far-right retired flag rank military officers stood ready to fill important government positions in a Trump junta after a successful January 6 coup. During the 2020 campaign 317 of these officers, representing “Flag Officers 4 America,” signed an open letter full of vitriolic pro-Trump rhetoric, including the charge that the “Democrat Party” was “welcoming Socialists and Marxists” and that “our historic way of life is at stake.”

WMR has compiled a spreadsheet listing the names of the “Flag Officers 4 America” and other lower-ranked military retirees and active members of the military and reserves who provided aid and comfort to Trump and his coup plotters. While this is not a complete list of officer-level traitors in the U.S. military community, it can be appended with additional names.

just security logo

Just Security, January 6 Clearinghouse Congressional Hearings, Government Documents, Court Cases, Academic Research, Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix, Dec. 26, 2022. Deposition Transcripts of House Select Committee (sorted by affiliation, alphabetical, date of deposition)   Welcome to this all-source repository of information for analysts, researchers, investigators, journalists, educators, and the public at large. 

Check out our new addition below: A curated repository of deposition transcripts from the House Select Committee. Readers may also be interested in Major Highlights of the January 6th Report.

If you think the January 6 Clearinghouse is missing something, please send recommendations for additional content by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

The authors are grateful for the assistance of Joshua Asabor, Matthew Bailey, Sarah Butterfield, Brianne Cuffe, and Nicholas Tonckens in the creation of the Clearinghouse.

Dec. 24

 

Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters after they storm the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by Jon Cherry via Getty Images).Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters after they storm the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by Jon Cherry via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, With Evidence and Calls for Accountability, Jan. 6 Panel Seeks a Legacy, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The committee’s report provided new details on former President Trump’s actions and a record for history. But Republicans will try to discredit it.

The House Jan. 6 committee’s 845-page final report is chock-full of new details about former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

It documents how Mr. Trump and his allies tried at least 200 times to convince state or local officials to throw out President Biden’s victory. It reveals that Mr. Trump did, in fact, push for the National Guard to be present on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — but to protect his supporters as they marched on Congress, not lawmakers.

And it has new testimony from Trump aides like Hope Hicks, who became overwhelmed with disgust at the president’s behavior and the mob riot they were witnessing. “We all look like domestic terrorists now,” she wrote in a text.

But even as the committee continues to reveal damning evidence about the attack on the Capitol and what led to it, it has reached the end of its run. The publication of the report, the result of an exhaustive monthslong effort, has created a permanent record intended at a minimum to hold Mr. Trump accountable in history. Criminal referrals have been issued. Much of the panel’s staff has moved on, accepting other jobs.

Dec. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Jan. 6 report’s most important finding: Trump enabled extremist groups, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 23, 2022. It will take weeks to jennifer rubin new headshotabsorb the massive, 845-page report from the House Jan. 6 select committee. No doubt, certain sections will receive more attention than others, such as Chapter 1, about Donald Trump’s role in constructing election lies, and Chapter 7, about the near-total absence of White House records during the four-hour siege of the U.S. Capitol. (Was any evidence destroyed?)

But from a historical, legal and national security perspective, the most alarming information comes in Chapters 6 and 8 and Appendix 1. Those sections cover the right-wing extremists who jointly planned and executed the violent uprising — and the degree to which Trump enabled their attack.

First and foremost, the report busts a myth promoted by right-wing apologists that because some insurrectionists began the assault on the Capitol before Trump concluded his “Stop the Steal” speech, he was not the inspiration for the attack. Wrong.

 

ali alexander alex jones proof uncredited

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Stunning New Ali Alexander Text Message Released By House January 6 Committee Could Be the Smoking Gun for Link Between Trump and Capitol Attackers, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left,Dec. 23, 2022. The House January 6 Committee has just released dozens of transcripts of January 6 witness testimony—and the one transcript that only Proof would be obsessed with is the one everyone needs to read.

For two years, Proof spilled more words reporting on Ali Alexander and Alex Jones and their role in the events of January 6, 2021 than any media outlet in the United States. All told, more than a hundred Proof reports detailed how these two men in particular—along with their fellow Stop the Steal co-organizer Roger Stone—directly coordinated with the Trump White House, and seth abramson proof logoeven Donald Trump himself, to move an armed mob from the White House Ellipse onto the Capitol grounds on January 6.

Then the House January 6 Committee hearings came, and Alexander and Jones were hardly mentioned at all. Instead, the Committee focused almost exclusively on Trump, and in only attenuated ways on Trump advisers who had been close to him for many years, like Stone. Alexander was interviewed but not mentioned, Jones was mentioned once or twice but had successfully fought revealing any testimonial evidence to the Committee by over and over and over again pleading his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination under live questioning by the Committee.

This led some to fear that Proof had been off-base in focusing so much on the Stop the Steal group alongside other topics that ultimately did make up a significant part of the Committee’s more than a dozen televised presentations to America: for instance, the Trump-, John Eastman-, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA)–led coup inside the DOJ or the pressure campaign the first two men waged against then-vice president Mike Pence.

So when, just 24 hours ago, the Committee began releasing dozens of transcripts of its interviews with January 6 witnesses, relatively few gravitated toward the Alex Jones transcript—not only because it was by then widely known that Jones had pleaded the Fifth Amendment in response to every question asked of him (despite having often insisted in the past that he had done nothing wrong with respect to the events of January 6), but because Jones hadn’t been a focus of the Committee’s many televised evidentiary hearings, so how significant could his testimony or transcript possibly be?

In fact, it may be a smoking gun.

As Proof has reported across scores of investigative reports on his activities on and before January 6, Ali Alexander has always claimed that he’s met face-to-face with Donald Trump several times (to the point that Trump had developed a nickname for him prior to January 6, “Sammy,” for his likeness to the late entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.), has spoken with him on other occasions as well, was in touch with Donald Trump Jr.’s wife-to-be Kimberly Guilfoyle on (at a bare minimum) Insurrection Eve, and was in constant communication with the 2020 Trump presidential campaign on January 6 itself. He’s also intimated that he was in touch with top officials at the White House throughout December of 2020—a period of time in which he began making what many would consider terroristic threats against the United States related to January 6.

More recently, over at Post News, Proof detailed how the just-published Executive Summary of the House January 6 Committee Report makes clear that Trump and Eastman developed their plot to use January 6 to overturn the 2020 election results in the first week of December 2020, approximately two weeks before Ali Alexander made public his plan to create a mob scene on Capitol Hill on that date (that is, on federal grounds that it would be illegal to enter upon or occupy on that day in January 2021).

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who later taught digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

Dec. 21

 

 

djt trump tax chart

ny times logoNew York Times, Tax Live Updates: Despite Mandate, I.R.S. Delayed Auditing Trump in Office, House Panel Finds, Charlie Savage, Emily Cochrane, Stephanie Lai and Alan Rappeport, Dec. 21, 2022. The committee voted to release six years of former President Trump’s tax returns, ending a nearly four-year process to make his financial information public. Members of the committee revealed that the I.R.S. failed to audit Mr. Trump during his first two years in office despite a program that makes it mandatory.

The Internal Revenue Service failed to audit former President Donald J. Trump during his first two years in office despite a program that makes the auditing of sitting presidents mandatory, a House committee revealed on Tuesday after an extraordinary vote to make public six years of his tax returns.

Mr. Trump filed returns in 2017 for the two previous tax years, but the I.R.S. began auditing those filings only in 2019 — the first on the same day in April the Ways and Means Committee requested access to his taxes and any associated audits, a report by the panel said. The I.R.S. has yet to complete those audits, it said, and the agency started auditing his filings covering his income while president only after he left office.

The revelation could transform the political context of the committee’s nearly four-year fight to obtain information about Mr. Trump’s taxes and any related audits. Its chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, had said the panel needed the data to assess the I.R.S.’s mandatory presidential audit program, but Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Republicans called that a pretext for a politically motivated fishing expedition.

The suggestion of dysfunction in the auditing program was an early takeaway in what could be a series of disclosures related to the release of Mr. Trump’s returns. Democrats said it might be several days before thousands of pages of tax filings from Mr. Trump and several associated businesses from 2015 to 2020 became public as they redacted sensitive details, like street addresses and bank account numbers.

But a Joint Committee on Taxation staff report released Tuesday night included some details from his tax filings.

When combined with tax records previously obtained by The New York Times, the records show that in 2018, Mr. Trump had positive taxable income for the first time in more than a decade. That change occurred largely because he had sold properties or investments at a gain of $22 million, and he appears to have exhausted the business losses he had been rolling over year after year. As a result, he paid $999,466 in federal income taxes for 2018. But his long-term pattern of reporting negative income returned by 2020, and he paid no federal income taxes for that year.

The party-line vote to release the materials came during the last weeks of Democratic control of the House after Republican gains in the midterm election. The committee invoked a century-old statute that allows it to lawfully make public otherwise confidential tax information involving Mr. Trump, who had defied tradition by refusing to disclose his financial information as a presidential candidate and sitting president.

The committee debated behind closed doors for more than four hours before voting to make public Mr. Trump’s returns. The move brought to an end a prolonged battle by the House to obtain Mr. Trump’s returns.

After the vote, Mr. Neal, who as the committee’s chairman requested Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, praised the panel’s handling of the documents.

“This was not about being punitive,” he said. “This was not about being malicious. And there were no leaks from the committee. We adhered carefully to the law.”

But Republicans on the committee portrayed the decision as unjustified, setting a dangerous precedent and eroding a norm against exposing private taxpayer information that risked paving the way for lawmakers to routinely expose political adversaries’ private finances.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the key numbers from Donald Trump’s tax returns, Charlie Smart, Dec. 21, 2022. New figures in a report by the House Ways and Means Committee showed that Donald J. Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes in his first three years as president, and that he paid no taxes in 2020 as his income began to dwindle.

Mr. Trump’s fortunes changed during his presidency, according to the figures in the report, which include details on the former president’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020. In the two years before he became president, Mr. Trump suffered heavy business losses, the records showed. In his first three years as president, he had an adjusted gross income of $15.8 million.

Mr. Trump’s tax bills, after deductions, were based on his income when it was above zero, as well as the alternative minimum tax in four of the six years. The A.M.T. limits deductions that would have otherwise helped to erase his tax burden. He reduced his resulting tax bills with a mix of tax credits that included incentives and givebacks to business owners.

Background:

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: From 2020: We obtained years of Donald Trump’s tax information. It showed tax avoidance and chronic losses, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, Sept. 27, 2020. The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump paid $1.1 million in taxes during his presidency, but $0 in 2020, data released by the House panel showed, Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, Dec. 21, 2022. The former president reported a burst of income after entering the Oval Office, but by the end of his term, his tax filings had reverted to large losses, according to data released by a House panel.

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, House committee votes to make public Trump’s tax returns, Amy B Wang and Michael Kranish, Dec. 21, 2022 (print ed.). The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted 24-16 to release former president Donald Trump’s tax returns to the public, capping a protracted legal and political battle that began when Trump was in the Oval Office.

Democrats have for more than three years pushed to make Trump’s tax returns public, and the documents were finally made available to the Ways and Means Committee late last month after the Supreme Court denied a last attempt by Trump to withhold the records.

irs logoThe committee meeting got underway just after 3 p.m. Tuesday and was immediately moved to a closed session to discuss Trump’s tax returns because of the confidential nature of the subject matter. For the sake of transparency, committee members voted by unanimous consent to make public a transcript of the closed session afterward.

Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), right, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, first sought to obtain six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns in 2019, after Democrats retook the House majority. They argued that Congress needed to do so to evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits and for the sake of oversight.

richard neal headshotTrump — who broke with a decades-long tradition of presidential candidates and presidents by refusing to make his tax returns public — has for years falsely claimed that he could not release them while under “routine audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.

The New York Times in 2020 reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, when he won the presidency, and another $750 in 2017. The Times, which obtained tax data covering more than two decades, also reported that he paid no income tax in 10 of the 15 years before he ran for president.

At the time, a Trump spokesman disputed the accuracy of the Times report and said Trump had paid tens of millions of dollars in “personal taxes” to the federal government, a vague phrase that left unclear what taxes were paid. The records obtained by the Times showed that Trump had reduced his taxes by aggressively using losses to offset income, among other methods.

Those revelations followed reporting by The Washington Post and other organizations that showed Trump had paid little or no federal income taxes in the earlier years of his career. The Post wrote in its biography, “Trump Revealed,” that Trump paid no income taxes in 1978 and 1979, using tax deductions such as real estate depreciation that enabled him to claim a negative income of $3.8 million.

When 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton noted in a debate that Trump did not pay federal income taxes for those two years, Trump responded, “That makes me smart.” Then when Clinton speculated that Trump might not have paid “any federal income tax for a lot of years” — which turned out to be the case — Trump said the government would have “squandered” the money.

Here's why Congress can obtain Donald Trump's tax returns

During his campaign for president, in which he frequently boasted that he was an extraordinarily wealthy and successful tycoon, Trump said that he would release his “beautiful” tax returns to back up his claims. But he said he would not make them public while he was being audited.

The legal battle between Trump and the Ways and Means Committee played out in the courts for years, continuing even after Trump left office. But last month, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the House committee to examine Trump’s tax returns, without stating a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the records.

“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of counsel, and finally, our case has been affirmed by the highest court in the land,” Neal said in a statement then. “Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different. This rises above politics, and the Committee will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.”

Trump and his Republican allies have criticized the effort to obtain his tax returns as a partisan attack, and warned that Congress making the former president’s returns public after he has left office would violate separation of powers.

“Let me be clear: Our concern is not whether the president should have made his tax returns public, as is traditional, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns,” Brady said Tuesday shortly before the Ways and Means Committee meeting began. “Our concern is that, if taken, this committee action will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president.”

Still, federal judges have consistently ruled that lawmakers established the “valid legislative purpose” required for disclosure. The Supreme Court’s decision late last month came after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024.

In arguing against the release of the tax records, Trump’s legal team said the committee’s premise for seeking the information “has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the President’s tax information to the public.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Release of Trump Tax Returns Could Herald New Era for Taxpayer Privacy, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 21, 2022 (print ed.). With Republicans set to retake control of the House of Representatives, a potential release of former President Trump’s tax returns risks reprisals.

As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald J. Trump teased that the release of his tax returns was imminent, pointing to the scale and complexity of his wealth as a reason that he had so far bucked tradition by failing to release his financial information.

irs logo“I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” Mr. Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” at the time, adding, “This is not, like, a normal tax return.”

The tax returns never materialized. Over the next seven years, Mr. Trump first blamed an invasive Internal Revenue Service audit for his refusal to make his returns public and then, as president, waged an extended legal battle against House Democrats who sought to force their release.

Several years of tax return data obtained by The New York Times showed that Mr. Trump paid scant income taxes over the years and detailed the financial struggles of his properties, yet the full scope of his tax history remained shrouded in secrecy.

That could change this week. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a vote to decide whether to make public six years of the former president’s tax records. That action comes after the Supreme Court last month declined to block the Treasury Department, which oversees the I.R.S., from releasing the returns to Congress. The decision paved the way for the returns to be transferred from the I.R.S. to the Ways and Means Committee.

Now, in the days before they hand control of the House to Republicans, Democrats must decide exactly what to do with the documents.

The formal release of Mr. Trump’s tax records would represent both a significant act of transparency and what some fear is the end of an era of taxpayer privacy. It would also raise questions about whether, in this case, Democrats on the House committee created a pretext for using their power as a political weapon against an opponent.

“If they get revealed, it seems to me they ought to have a pretty good reason for why that’s in the public interest,” said John Koskinen, who served as I.R.S. commissioner in the Obama and Trump administrations. “It’s a dangerous precedent.”

Presidents are not required by law to release their tax returns, but for decades they have done so voluntarily to demonstrate to the American public that they have nothing to hide.

For years, Democrats have been angling for access to Mr. Trump’s returns, using various justifications for why lawmakers should be allowed to see private financial data. In 2017, when House Democrats were in the minority, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, asked his Republican colleagues to seek their release so the American public could better understand Mr. Trump’s financial ties to foreign governments and potential conflicts of interest. Republican lawmakers refused to comply.

When the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2019, they made getting access to Mr. Trump’s returns a priority. They relied on a century-old provision in the tax code that gives congressional tax-writing committees the power to review private returns.

To demonstrate that there was a “legitimate legislative purpose” for the request, House Democrats sought the returns as part of an oversight inquiry into the effectiveness of a rule that requires the I.R.S. to audit all presidential tax returns. Mr. Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin, refused to turn the tax returns over and warned that the request from Democrats could come back to haunt them if Republicans decided someday to weaponize the I.R.S.

House Republicans are expected to make that argument on Tuesday when they attempt to persuade Democrats not to release Mr. Trump’s records.

“Ways and Means Democrats are unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond President Trump and jeopardizes the privacy of every American,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. “Going forward, partisans in Congress have nearly unlimited power to target political enemies by obtaining and making public their private tax returns to embarrass and destroy them.”

He added: “This is not limited to public officials, but can target private citizens, business and labor leaders and Supreme Court justices.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the Jan. 6 committee’s report boosts the Georgia probe into Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 21, 2022. While the House jennifer rubin new headshotJan. 6 select committee’s report provides a road map for potential federal charges against former president Donald Trump, perhaps more immediately important is how it will inform prosecutors investigating him in Georgia.

It is quite likely the district attorney overseeing that case, Fani Willis, will file her case against Trump much sooner than federal prosecutors. And the committee’s findings make a compelling case for indictment under Georgia law.

Consider the facts set forth in the committee’s executive summary:

  • Trump was repeatedly informed that his claims of fraud in Georgia were thoroughly investigated and debunked. At one point, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger offered to send Trump a link to the state’s audit. “I don’t care about a link. I don’t need it,” Trump told him. He might as well have said, “the facts be damned.”
  • The committee also reiterated facts about Trump’s call with Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in which Trump pressured the election official to “find 11,780 votes” to flip the state’s results. Trump “asserted conspiracy theories about the election that Department of Justice officials had already debunked. Trump also made a thinly veiled threat to Raffensperger and his attorney about his failure to respond to Trump’s demands.”
  • Despite the absence of evidence of fraud and warnings that claims of fraud were endangering election officials, Trump and his sidekick Rudy Giuliani vilified Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss in meetings with state legislators and during public rallies. Trump’s depraved conduct set the election workers up for death threats and harassment.
  • The committee reports that on Dec. 28, 2020, then-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark “worked with a Department employee named Kenneth Klukowski — a political appointee who had earlier worked with [Trump lawyer] John Eastman — to produce a draft letter from the Justice Department to the State legislature of Georgia.” The letter falsely stated the administration had uncovered “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.” That was a lie, as former Justice Department official Richard Donoghue confirmed in an email. And both Clark and Trump knew it.

 

djt handwave file

Politico, Trump lawyers target Adult Survivors Act in attempt to invalidate rape lawsuit, Erin Durkin, Dec. 21, 2022. Lawyers for the accuser are pushing to release the deposition Trump gave in the case, which is currently sealed. E. Jean Caroll brought a new suit against former President Donald Trump after New York passed the Adult Survivors Act.

politico CustomA lawyer for Donald Trump said Wednesday he will try to dismiss a lawsuit by a woman alleging the former president raped her in the 1990s by arguing New York’s Adult Survivors Act is unconstitutional, but a judge suggested he is not inclined to throw out the case.

Lawyers appeared in federal court in Manhattan in a lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store decades ago. She brought a new suit against Trump after New York passed the Adult Survivors Act, which gives victims of sexual assault two years to sue over past assaults that would previously have been barred by the statute of limitations.

“There’s a serious question here as to whether the Adult Survivors Act is constitutional,” said Trump’s lawyer, Michael T. Madaio.

When the defense attorney mentioned a motion to get the case dismissed, Judge Lewis Kaplan responded, “I wouldn’t count on that.”

Before the new legislation passed, Carroll was suing Trump for defamation over statements he made in 2019 denying the alleged attack. She filed the new suit over the alleged incident on Thanksgiving, when the Adult Survivors Act took effect. She also added a new defamation claim, over statements Trump made this October about her claims.

The judge asked the Trump attorney why the Adult Survivors Act would be unconstitutional when the Child Victims Act, a previous law allowing victims who were kids at the time to sue years later, held up in court. Madaio said that legislation was different because it dealt with a specific subset of vulnerable people.

Attorneys for Carroll want to bring the case to trial in April, when the original defamation suit was scheduled to be tried. Trump’s lawyers want to push it back to later in the year. Kaplan said he would decide on a schedule later Wednesday.

Dec. 20

 

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, House committee votes to make public Trump’s tax returns, Amy B Wang and Michael Kranish, Dec. 20, 2022. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted 24-16 to release former president Donald Trump’s tax returns to the public, capping a protracted legal and political battle that began when Trump was in the Oval Office.

Democrats have for more than three years pushed to make Trump’s tax returns public, and the documents were finally made available to the Ways and Means Committee late last month after the Supreme Court denied a last attempt by Trump to withhold the records.

irs logoThe committee meeting got underway just after 3 p.m. Tuesday and was immediately moved to a closed session to discuss Trump’s tax returns because of the confidential nature of the subject matter. For the sake of transparency, committee members voted by unanimous consent to make public a transcript of the closed session afterward.

Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), right, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, first sought to obtain six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns in 2019, after Democrats retook the House majority. They argued that Congress needed to do so to evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits and for the sake of oversight.

richard neal headshotTrump — who broke with a decades-long tradition of presidential candidates and presidents by refusing to make his tax returns public — has for years falsely claimed that he could not release them while under “routine audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.

The New York Times in 2020 reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, when he won the presidency, and another $750 in 2017. The Times, which obtained tax data covering more than two decades, also reported that he paid no income tax in 10 of the 15 years before he ran for president.

At the time, a Trump spokesman disputed the accuracy of the Times report and said Trump had paid tens of millions of dollars in “personal taxes” to the federal government, a vague phrase that left unclear what taxes were paid. The records obtained by the Times showed that Trump had reduced his taxes by aggressively using losses to offset income, among other methods.

Those revelations followed reporting by The Washington Post and other organizations that showed Trump had paid little or no federal income taxes in the earlier years of his career. The Post wrote in its biography, “Trump Revealed,” that Trump paid no income taxes in 1978 and 1979, using tax deductions such as real estate depreciation that enabled him to claim a negative income of $3.8 million.

When 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton noted in a debate that Trump did not pay federal income taxes for those two years, Trump responded, “That makes me smart.” Then when Clinton speculated that Trump might not have paid “any federal income tax for a lot of years” — which turned out to be the case — Trump said the government would have “squandered” the money.

Here's why Congress can obtain Donald Trump's tax returns

During his campaign for president, in which he frequently boasted that he was an extraordinarily wealthy and successful tycoon, Trump said that he would release his “beautiful” tax returns to back up his claims. But he said he would not make them public while he was being audited.

The legal battle between Trump and the Ways and Means Committee played out in the courts for years, continuing even after Trump left office. But last month, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the House committee to examine Trump’s tax returns, without stating a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the records.

“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of counsel, and finally, our case has been affirmed by the highest court in the land,” Neal said in a statement then. “Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different. This rises above politics, and the Committee will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.”

Trump and his Republican allies have criticized the effort to obtain his tax returns as a partisan attack, and warned that Congress making the former president’s returns public after he has left office would violate separation of powers.

“Let me be clear: Our concern is not whether the president should have made his tax returns public, as is traditional, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns,” Brady said Tuesday shortly before the Ways and Means Committee meeting began. “Our concern is that, if taken, this committee action will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president.”

Still, federal judges have consistently ruled that lawmakers established the “valid legislative purpose” required for disclosure. The Supreme Court’s decision late last month came after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024.

In arguing against the release of the tax records, Trump’s legal team said the committee’s premise for seeking the information “has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the President’s tax information to the public.”

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live: Jan. 6 committee refers Trump to Justice Department for prosecution, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Amy B Wang, Mariana Alfaro and Azi Paybarah, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol voted Monday to send to Justice Department prosecutors a recommendation that the former president be charged with four crimes: inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.

The move has no legal weight, but marks the first time Congress has made such a referral for a former president.

Here’s what to know

  • Tte committee is referring four Republican House members — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.), and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — to the Ethics Commmittee for ignoring the panel’s subpoenas.
  • Committee members have agreed to make all evidence and transcripts of depositions publicly available. Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said most “non-sensitive” materials would be released by the end of the year.
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chairwoman, accused Trump of an “utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty” and said he is “unfit for any office.”
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a panel member, said that Trump used prolific fundraising based on his false claims of voter fraud in “concerning” ways. Some of the money was used to “provide or offer employment to witnesses,” Lofgren said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Why the Jan. 6 committee mattered, Editorial Board, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack approached the end of its work Monday with a dramatic recommendation that the Justice Department charge former president Donald Trump with four crimes, including inciting or assisting an insurrection.

This criminal referral is symbolic; the Justice Department is responsible for making a tough call on whether such charges would stick — and whether it would be prudent to indict a former president and current presidential candidate.

The committee has secured its legacy in different ways, providing a searing picture of what occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, and exhibiting the cowardice of those who, out of fear of Mr. Trump, refused to help it reckon with that dark day.

The public now knows much more about Mr. Trump’s culpability. New details, including videotaped testimony from former Trump aides, showed Mr. Trump had been told he’d lost the election but nevertheless leaned on state officials, the Justice Department, his vice president and others to keep him in power — a campaign that resulted in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
Monday’s hearing featured new revelations about longtime Trump adviser Hope Hicks. While the Capitol was being swarmed on Jan. 6, she texted a White House spokesman that she had urged Mr. Trump on both Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 to tweet something about how protests that day should be nonviolent, but he’d refused. Ms. Hicks recalled Mr. Trump telling her: “The only thing that matters is winning.”

Ms. Hicks is just one of the Republicans who testified about Mr. Trump. The list also includes Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Ms. Hutchinson was a star witness despite having much to lose professionally — and even as her former boss, ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, refused to testify.

The two House Republicans who served on the committee, Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), also deserve credit. Sadly, neither will return to Congress next year. But the work they did helped create a vital historical record. The committee plans to release the bulk of its non-sensitive records, including transcripts of deposition. The report they’ll put out this week will include a series of legislative recommendations for preventing a future Jan. 6.

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live: Jan. 6 committee refers Trump to Justice Department for prosecution, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Amy B Wang, Mariana Alfaro and Azi Paybarah, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol voted Monday to send to Justice Department prosecutors a recommendation that the former president be charged with four crimes: inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.

The move has no legal weight, but marks the first time Congress has made such a referral for a former president.

Here’s what to know

  • Tte committee is referring four Republican House members — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.), and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — to the Ethics Commmittee for ignoring the panel’s subpoenas.
  • Committee members have agreed to make all evidence and transcripts of depositions publicly available. Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said most “non-sensitive” materials would be released by the end of the year.
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chairwoman, accused Trump of an “utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty” and said he is “unfit for any office.”
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a panel member, said that Trump used prolific fundraising based on his false claims of voter fraud in “concerning” ways. Some of the money was used to “provide or offer employment to witnesses,” Lofgren said.


A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.


A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky visits the battleground city of Bakhmut, aiming to show Ukraine’s resolve, Marc Santora and Anton Troianovski, Dec. 20, 2022. In perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the ravaged city of Bakhmut on Tuesday morning to rally the soldiers there and demonstrate his defiance of Russia’s invasion. Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assaults, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.

His unannounced visit came only hours after President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged that his war may not be going according to plan, saying the situation in Russian-held parts of Ukraine was “extremely difficult.”

The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war. As losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”

Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.

In Bakhmut, Mr. Zelensky saluted the courage of the soldiers fighting in grueling conditions.

“It seems to me that the Bakhmut heroes should get the same that every person gets,” Mr. Zelensky said, according to Freedom TV, a Ukrainian network that covered the trip. “I wish their children, families — that everything is fine with them, that they have warmth, that they have health.”

Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly spoken about that the “very difficult” situation in parts of Donbas, with the fighting around Bakhmut particularly vicious. He said in a recent address that Russian forces had “destroyed” Bakhmut, turning the city, once home to 70,000 people, into “burned ruins.”

On previous trips to the front, Mr. Zelensky went to raise Ukraine’s blue-and-gold flag after Russian occupation forces were driven out of cities including Izium in the northeast and Kherson in the southwest. Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.

The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.

While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions. They have suffered heavy losses and there have been widespread reports of low morale and disorder in the Russian ranks, with convicts recruited to fight clashing with other units.

The British military defense intelligence agency said on Monday that Russian recruits in eastern Ukraine are “likely being threatened with summary execution” if they fail to heed orders to assault Ukrainian positions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers Unveil Sprawling Spending Bill to Avoid Shutdown, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 20, 2022. The legislation, which would fund the U.S. government through September, would significantly increase federal spending. The 4,155-page package includes more aid for Ukraine, changes to the Electoral Count Act and a ban on TikTok on government devices. 

Top lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a sprawling government spending package that would keep the government open through next fall after reaching a compromise on billions of dollars in federal spending, including another round of emergency aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

U.S. House logoThe legislation would increase federal spending from the last fiscal year, providing $858 billion in military spending and more than $772 billion for domestic programs for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends in September, according to a summary released by Senate Democrats.

With Republican support needed for the measure to pass the Senate, Democrats bowed to conservative opposition to approving a larger increase that would have kept funding levels equal for the health, education and other domestic programs that President Biden and his party have prioritized.

The release of the legislation came around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, just days ahead of a midnight Friday deadline to fund the government or face a shutdown, after lawmakers passed a one-week stopgap funding bill last week to give themselves more time to discuss the bigger spending package.

The package is the last opportunity for Democrats to shape the federal budget while their party controls both chambers of Congress and for several retiring lawmakers to push a final round of pet projects into law. With Republicans set to take control of the House — and vowing to force deep spending cuts — lawmakers in both parties were eager to finish the compromise and remove one possible threat of political brinkmanship.

 

Trump, Insurrectionists, Allies

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Release of Trump Tax Returns Could Herald New Era for Taxpayer Privacy, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 20, 2022. With Republicans set to retake control of the House of Representatives, a potential release of former President Trump’s tax returns risks reprisals.

As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald J. Trump teased that the release of his tax returns was imminent, pointing to the scale and complexity of his wealth as a reason that he had so far bucked tradition by failing to release his financial information.

irs logo“I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” Mr. Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” at the time, adding, “This is not, like, a normal tax return.”

The tax returns never materialized. Over the next seven years, Mr. Trump first blamed an invasive Internal Revenue Service audit for his refusal to make his returns public and then, as president, waged an extended legal battle against House Democrats who sought to force their release.

Several years of tax return data obtained by The New York Times showed that Mr. Trump paid scant income taxes over the years and detailed the financial struggles of his properties, yet the full scope of his tax history remained shrouded in secrecy.

That could change this week. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a vote to decide whether to make public six years of the former president’s tax records. That action comes after the Supreme Court last month declined to block the Treasury Department, which oversees the I.R.S., from releasing the returns to Congress. The decision paved the way for the returns to be transferred from the I.R.S. to the Ways and Means Committee.

Now, in the days before they hand control of the House to Republicans, Democrats must decide exactly what to do with the documents.

The formal release of Mr. Trump’s tax records would represent both a significant act of transparency and what some fear is the end of an era of taxpayer privacy. It would also raise questions about whether, in this case, Democrats on the House committee created a pretext for using their power as a political weapon against an opponent.

“If they get revealed, it seems to me they ought to have a pretty good reason for why that’s in the public interest,” said John Koskinen, who served as I.R.S. commissioner in the Obama and Trump administrations. “It’s a dangerous precedent.”

Presidents are not required by law to release their tax returns, but for decades they have done so voluntarily to demonstrate to the American public that they have nothing to hide.

For years, Democrats have been angling for access to Mr. Trump’s returns, using various justifications for why lawmakers should be allowed to see private financial data. In 2017, when House Democrats were in the minority, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, asked his Republican colleagues to seek their release so the American public could better understand Mr. Trump’s financial ties to foreign governments and potential conflicts of interest. Republican lawmakers refused to comply.

When the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2019, they made getting access to Mr. Trump’s returns a priority. They relied on a century-old provision in the tax code that gives congressional tax-writing committees the power to review private returns.

To demonstrate that there was a “legitimate legislative purpose” for the request, House Democrats sought the returns as part of an oversight inquiry into the effectiveness of a rule that requires the I.R.S. to audit all presidential tax returns. Mr. Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin, refused to turn the tax returns over and warned that the request from Democrats could come back to haunt them if Republicans decided someday to weaponize the I.R.S.

House Republicans are expected to make that argument on Tuesday when they attempt to persuade Democrats not to release Mr. Trump’s records.

“Ways and Means Democrats are unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond President Trump and jeopardizes the privacy of every American,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. “Going forward, partisans in Congress have nearly unlimited power to target political enemies by obtaining and making public their private tax returns to embarrass and destroy them.”

He added: “This is not limited to public officials, but can target private citizens, business and labor leaders and Supreme Court justices.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A Diminished Trump Meets a Damning Narrative, Maggie Haberman, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s current woes extend beyond the committee’s report, but the case the panel laid out further complicates his future.

As the summer and the House Jan. 6 committee’s hearings began, former President Donald J. Trump was still a towering figure in Republican politics, able to pick winners in primary contests and force candidates to submit to a litmus test of denialism about his loss in the 2020 election.

Six months later, Mr. Trump is significantly diminished, a shrunken presence on the political landscape. His fade is partly a function of his own missteps and miscalculations in recent months. But it is also a product of the voluminous evidence assembled by the House committee and its ability to tell the story of his efforts to overturn the election in a compelling and accessible way.

In ways both raw and easily digested, and with an eye for vivid detail, the committee spooled out the episodic narrative of a president who was told repeatedly he had lost and that his claims of fraud were fanciful. But Mr. Trump continued pushing them anyway, plotted to reverse the outcome, stoked the fury of his supporters, summoned them to Washington and then stood by as the violence played out.

It was a turnabout in roles for a president who rose first to prominence and then to the White House on the basis of his feel for how to project himself on television.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the final Jan. 6 hearing, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). At their final meeting, the bipartisan committee of nine House lawmakers released a 160-page summary of their findings, bringing to an end the most comprehensive examination of the violence aimed at stopping the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th president.

The panel voted 9 to 0 to accept the final report and to urge the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against Mr. Trump and his allies in four separate areas of the law.

Here are some takeaways:

1) The committee kept its focus on Trump. The committee’s hourlong presentation focused almost exclusively on Mr. Trump, essentially ignoring findings about intelligence and security failures at the Capitol before and during the attack. The committee also did not dwell on the information it collected about the rise of domestic extremism.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Jan. 6 Committee Just Made History. Here’s What That Means for Prosecutors, Norman Eisen, E. Danya Perry and Fred Wertheimer, Dec. 20, 2022. Mr. Eisen and Ms. Perry are among the authors of “Trump on Trial,” a Brookings Institution report on the Jan. 6 committee. Mr. Wertheimer is president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to strengthen American democracy.

In voting on Monday to issue a sweeping final report, the Jan. 6 committee has honored its duty and the Constitution. When the full report is released this week, there will be much to review and process for our country, our government and American history. But given the facts that have been revealed, these hearings had to end with criminal referrals against Donald Trump and his minions.

The House committee articulated a powerful legal case encompassing the many schemes of Mr. Trump, John Eastman and others, including the audacious promotion of false electoral slates. The committee also recommended prosecution of Mr. Trump on charges of inciting insurrection and giving aid or comfort to insurrectionists — a charge unseen since the Civil War. The referrals make clear to prosecutors and to Americans just how dangerous the attempted coup was, and how vulnerable our system was (and is) to such assaults.

The committee demonstrated its seriousness of purpose by refusing to put forth a laundry list of defendants. The committee members have all along thought as legislators and public educators, but also have put themselves in the minds of prosecutors. That led them to rightly focus on a short list of prospective defendants against whom the evidence is most damning, providing critical context to the prosecutors. Focusing on the very best cases avoids diluting the effect of the referrals with more tenuous theories against a large number of actors, and emphasizes the cases the prosecutors can actually win.

There is a logic to suggesting the consideration of charges against Mr. Eastman, who was the outside coup counsel, together with his client Mr. Trump and others such as Jeffrey Clark, who was instrumental in advocating the coup from within as a government lawyer. The committee wrote that Mr. Clark “stands out as a participant in the conspiracy.” A focus on the client and his counsel is not only powerfully symbolic — this was, after all, an attempted coup that was advanced by attorneys, not soldiers — it’s also driven by the evidence that the committee has accumulated. It indicates that a strong case can be advanced against Mr. Trump, Mr. Eastman and others for their scheme to fraudulently declare Mr. Trump president by pushing a staggering variety of falsehoods culminating in proposed fake electoral slates.

 Then-President Trump with elections strategist John Eastman show in a White House file photo.

Then-President Trump with elections strategist John Eastman show in a White House file photo.

ap logoAssociated Press, Jan. 6 panel urges Trump prosecution with criminal referral, Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker And Farnoush Amiri, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The House Jan. 6 committee urged the Justice Department on Monday to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump for the violent 2021 Capitol insurrection, calling for accountability for the former president and “a time of reflection and reckoning.”

After one of the most exhaustive and aggressive congressional probes in memory, the panel’s seven Democrats and two Republicans are recommending criminal charges against Trump and associates who helped him launch a wide-ranging pressure campaign to try to overturn his 2020 election loss. The panel also released a lengthy summary of its final report, with findings that Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to thwart the will of voters.

At a final meeting Monday, the committee alleged violations of four criminal statutes by Trump, in both the run-up to the riot and during the insurrection itself, as it recommended the former president for prosecution to the Justice Department. Among the charges they recommend for prosecution is aiding an insurrection — an effort to hold him directly accountable for his supporters who stormed the Capitol that day.

The committee also voted to refer conservative lawyer John Eastman, who devised dubious legal maneuvers aimed at keeping Trump in power, for prosecution on two of the same statutes as Trump: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing an official proceeding.

While a criminal referral is mostly symbolic, with the Justice Department ultimately deciding whether to prosecute Trump or others, it is a decisive end to a probe that had an almost singular focus from the start.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Trump “broke the faith” that people have when they cast ballots in a democracy and that the criminal referrals could provide a “roadmap to justice” by using the committee’s work.

“I believe nearly two years later, this is still a time of reflection and reckoning,” Thompson said. “If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.”

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chairwoman, said in her opening remarks that every president in American history has defended the orderly transfer of power, “except one.”

The committee also voted 9-0 to approve its final report, which will include findings, interview transcripts and legislative recommendations. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.

The report’s 154-page summary, made public as the hearing ended, found that Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election. While the majority of the report’s main findings are not new, it altogether represents one of the most damning portraits of an American president in recent history, laying out in great detail Trump’s broad effort to overturn his own defeat and what the lawmakers say is his direct responsibility for the insurrection of his supporters.

The panel, which will dissolve on Jan. 3 with the new Republican-led House, has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, held 10 well-watched public hearings and collected more than a million documents since it launched in July 2021. As it has gathered the massive trove of evidence, the members have become emboldened in declaring that Trump, a Republican, is to blame for the violent attack on the Capitol by his supporters almost two years ago.

After beating their way past police, injuring many of them, the Jan. 6 rioters stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s presidential election win, echoing Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud and sending lawmakers and others running for their lives.

The attack came after weeks of Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat — a campaign that was extensively detailed by the committee in its multiple public hearings, and laid out again by lawmakers on the panel at Monday’s meeting. Many of Trump’s former aides testified about his unprecedented pressure on states, on federal officials and Pence to object to Biden’s win. The committee has also described in great detail how Trump riled up the crowd at a rally that morning and then did little to stop his supporters for several hours as he watched the violence unfold on television.

Politico, Insurrection Fallout: Jan. 6 panel refers McCarthy, 3 other Republicans for ethics violations, Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The Jan. 6 select committee said on Monday that four House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, violated congressional ethics rules by defying subpoenas for testimony and documents.

politico CustomThe panel referred the lawmakers for a review by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, which is seen as unlikely to take action against the members. The ethics panel declined to comment.

kevin mccarthyIn addition to McCarthy, right, three other lawmakers were referred for defying subpoenas: Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).

Another GOP member who ignored the summons, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, left, is leaving Congress after this year and will be out of the ethics panel’s reach. He has issued public statements about his contact with former President Donald Trump, including about Trump’s mo brooks ofloating of an idea to rescind the results of the 2020 election and reinstall him as president.

The select panel subpoenaed the five lawmakers in May. None of them complied with the summonses, generally citing concerns about the committee’s composition and legitimacy.

The ethics panel, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, has the power to impose fines or recommend discipline by the full House. Individual lawmakers can file complaints with the ethics panel for its consideration in the next Congress, but its investigations move slowly.

jim jordan shirtsleevesJordan spokesperson Russell Dye denounced the referral as a “partisan and political stunt” by the select panel. Biggs, in a tweet, also denounced the referral and called it “inappropriate” to use the ethics panel “to help reach the J6 Committee’s pre-determined conclusions.” Spokespeople for McCarthy and Perry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Select panel members recognize the long-shot nature of the transmission but view the defiance of the subpoenas as an undermining of congressional subpoena power that could harm future investigations.

“I don’t know what the Ethics Committee will do. I don’t even know who it’s composed of at this point,” panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) acknowledged.

“I certainly hope the Ethics Committee will not regard this as a partisan matter,” he added. “It raises a profound problem that we have to solve for the 117th Congress, the 118th Congress and for all future Congresses.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Accuses Trump of Insurrection and Refers Him to Justice Dept., Luke Broadwater, Dec. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The committee also accused the former president of three other federal crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the United States. Five Trump allies were referred as well.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol accused former President Donald J. Trump on Monday of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress and one other federal crime as it referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.

The action, the first time in American history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution, is the coda to the committee’s 18-month investigation into Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in a violent mob of the former president’s supporters laying siege to the Capitol.

The criminal referrals were a major escalation for a congressional investigation that is the most significant in a generation. The panel named five other Trump allies — Mark Meadows, his final chief of staff, and the lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and Kenneth Chesebro — as potential co-conspirators with Mr. Trump in actions the committee said warranted Justice Department investigation. The charges, including a fourth for Mr. Trump of conspiracy to make a false statement, would carry prison sentences, some of them lengthy, if federal prosecutors chose to pursue them.

The committee’s referrals do not carry legal weight or compel any action by the Justice Department, which is conducting its own investigation into Jan. 6 and the actions of Mr. Trump and his allies leading up to the attack. But the referrals sent a powerful signal that a bipartisan committee of Congress believes the former president committed crimes.

  Donald Trump (left) and his “body man” Nick Luna (right).

Donald Trump (left) and his “body man” Nick Luna (right).

Proof, EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump’s NFT Scam May Have Been Part of a January 6 Cover-Up, Seth Abramson, left, Dec. 19-20, 2022. As bizarre as it sounds, the backstory to how seth abramson graphicTrump made $4.5 million on $99 NFTs in just twelve hours suggests it’s not only the NFTs that are scams, but even the purpose of the whole enterprise.

In April 2021 in southern Florida, Donald Trump was hunkered down at (variously) his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, and his nearby golf club in West Palm Beach. He was awaiting the inevitable: the formation of a congressional January 6 investigation.

One of the members of Trump’s ever-narrowing inner circle spending time with him down in Florida following the January 6 coup attempt Trump helped orchestrate was apparently Trump’s longtime body man, Nick Luna. Luna had been Trump’s chief personal assistant on January 6, 2021, so if there was one thing Trump could have been certain of in April 2021 it was that Luna would be one of the first January 6 witnesses called by the United States Congress.

seth abramson proof logoAnd if there was a second thing Donald Trump knew in April 2021, it was that Nick Luna could testify to a very, very great deal of what he—Trump—had said and done (or, as the case might be, not done and not said, though he should have) both on January 6 and in the critical hours and days leading up to the January 6 insurrection.

In fact, one can rather easily see that Luna—due to his minute-to-minute proximity to Trump while Trump was orchestrating what was arguably a Seditious Conspiracy, and because of the fact that Luna isn’t a politician who owes his political career to Trump (or has partial protection from subpoena, as do members of Congress, under the Speech and Debate Clause)—was in April 2021 one of the most enticing witnesses a DOJ or FBI or congressional investigator could possibly have imagined, indeed perhaps the most enticing of all potential January 6 witnesses.

So Trump, ensconced at Mar-a-Lago and at his nearby golf club, did what any man facing potential Seditious Conspiracy charges would do: he used his golf club address to make Luna, a young man in his early 30s, the head of a corporation that would, in time, use Trump’s name, image, and likeness to make Luna a very, very rich young man.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who later taught digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

Capitol Hill Police Officer Caroline Edwards during congressional testimony about the Jan. 6 riot, with a screenshot of rioters via ABC News and Getty Images.

Capitol Hill Police Officer Caroline Edwards during congressional testimony about the Jan. 6 riot, with a screenshot of rioters via ABC News and Getty Images.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Was Caught in the Capitol Riot, and I Still Feel the Pain of That Day, Caroline Edwards, Dec. 19, 2022 (print ed.). Many Americans think that the saga of the Capitol riot will soon be at its end. For two years, this country has endured an impeachment, lawsuits, criminal investigations, congressional hearings, televised theater. And this week, Congress will release its final report.

But there is nothing final about this moment. A funeral doesn’t put an end to your grief. The trauma cannot be bookended by paperwork. These scars cannot be masked with fine print, debated in committee.

For me, this story cannot end overnight, because the riot itself was an attack not just on an essential American institution but also on the people who live and serve to protect it.

I was at the Capitol during the riot. I stood shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, fighting for our lives, to protect the Capitol and the people who work there. Even now, I can barely talk about it.

In fact, very few Capitol Police officers can.

Sometimes we hold it to our chests, letting it weigh us down. Sometimes we forget for one moment that it happened, and we feel like ourselves again.

Until someone brings it up.

And then it physically hurts to talk about it.

That day, we held our fellow officers’ hands as they got medical treatment and held vigil beside their hospital beds. We performed CPR on strangers and friends. We went home and washed blood, chemicals and bodily fluids off ourselves. We told our loved ones that we were all right.

For the most part, we were. In an outstanding show of resiliency, officers got a few hours of sleep and then showed up, battered and bruised, to work the next day. Not only that, they showed up to the very places they had just been traumatized. They stood post in the crime scenes where, just hours before, they were battling for their lives. Day after day, officers came to work with the knowledge that not all of us had made it out alive.

But months later, I was still struggling to process what had happened. Many of us were.

On June 9, I was in the waiting room off the main hearing chamber, about to testify before the committee investigating the attack. There was a TV playing the hearing; I remember the noise leaking out from the chamber and then hearing it again, two seconds later, from the TV, as if the sound had been echoing through the halls. If I just focused on the echo, I rationalized, I wouldn’t have to hear what was being said. The truth is, I didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t wait for the ordeal to be over.

And then I heard the noise that haunts me to this day: the roar of the crowd at the riot. It instantly transported me back to Jan. 6. I started shaking and sweating. “I’m not there. I’m not there,” I chanted to myself. “It’s over. I’m not there.” But nothing was working. I could feel sweat trickling down my back. I tried to take deep breaths. From my training with the Capitol Police’s peer support program, I knew I was in real danger. I took off my shoes to feel the carpet underneath my feet, and I put my hands on a wooden desk — anything to tell my body that it wasn’t back on the West Front of the Capitol that January. I must have looked insane.

Slowly, my consciousness came back to the waiting room, and my heart slowed. I took a sip of water. They called for a brief recess. I was next. I went to a bathroom, still shaking, and looked in a mirror. Could I do this? Could I actually stand in front of these people and tell them my story? What if I broke down as I just did? I started praying. I didn’t know what else to do. I asked God to let people see me and hear me and know that my words were true. I knew that as long as I told the truth, I didn’t have anything to worry about.

A sense of calm came over me. I was ready. I was ready for everyone to finally hear what I had lived with for a year and a half, ready to show people the face of someone who had been to hell and back again. And if that person happened to have shaking hands and sweat on her face, that’s what people were going to see. They needed to look at me, hear me and understand me. I needed to let America in. I took a deep breath and left the bathroom a different person.

Recently I gave a speech in which I talked about the strength beyond measure I see in the small moments and everyday deeds of my fellow Capitol Police officers. I see it in the way they put flowers on the memorials of their fallen comrades. I see it in the way they continue to show up for one another, day in and day out. I see it in their laughter in the hallways and during roll call, in the way they train the next generation of their peers how to do the job and teach them the lessons we had to learn the hard way on Jan. 6. I see strength in the way officers are carrying on. I get my strength from them. Any time I’m tempted to worry about the future, I remind myself that these people made sure I went home alive that day. If they had to, they would do it again.

But the trauma kicked off by the Capitol riot is still with us. Only by talking to one another and seeking out help and support from our fellow officers will we find peace — and that could take years. But I sincerely hope that any law enforcement officer knows that in a crisis, my phone is always on. You are never alone as long as you know me.

Axios Sneak Peek, 1 big thing: Jan. 6 committee's unanswered questions, Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Dec. 19-20, 2022. Even after 18 months of investigation and over 1,200 witness interviews, the House Jan. 6 committee released the executive summary of its final report today with several major questions lingering, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

axios logoWhy it matters: The committee's work has been historic, culminating in an unprecedented criminal referral against former President Trump on four charges. But gaps remain — largely as a result of roadblocks that special counsel Jack Smith must now overcome in his own criminal investigation of Trump and his allies.

1. Witness tampering: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said today that the committee had "obtained evidence of efforts to provide or offer employment to witnesses."

One witness was "offered potential employment that would make her 'financially very comfortable' as the date of her testimony approached by entities apparently linked to Donald Trump and his associates," according to the report.
"The Select Committee is aware of multiple efforts by President Trump to contact Select Committee witnesses. The Department of Justice is aware of at least one of those circumstances," the report adds.

Asked why witness tampering wasn't included in the criminal referrals, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told Axios: "We wanted to proceed where we feel the evidence is overwhelming ... and not throw out dozens of charges. We're very focused on what we actually know."

 

Dec. 19

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel to Cap 18-Month Inquiry With Final Public Session Today, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 19, 2022. The committee is expected to approve its final report and vote on issuing criminal and civil referrals against Donald Trump at a 1 p.m. hearing.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will hold its last public meeting on Monday afternoon, ending an 18-month investigation with the approval of its final report and a vote on issuing criminal and ethics referrals against former President Donald J. Trump and his top allies.

During a business meeting at 1 p.m., the committee is expected to discuss some of the findings in its final report and recommendations for legislative changes.

The panel is also expected to vote on referring Mr. Trump to the Justice Department on charges of insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Referrals against Mr. Trump would not carry any legal weight or compel the Justice Department to take any action, but they would send a powerful signal that a congressional committee believes the former president committed certain crimes.

 Donald Trump (left) and his “body man” Nick Luna (right).

Donald Trump (left) and his “body man” Nick Luna (right).

Proof, EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump’s NFT Scam May Have Been Part of a January 6 Cover-Up, Seth Abramson, left, Dec. 19, 2022. As bizarre as it sounds, the backstory to how seth abramson graphicTrump made $4.5 million on $99 NFTs in just twelve hours suggests it’s not only the NFTs that are scams, but even the purpose of the whole enterprise.

In April 2021 in southern Florida, Donald Trump was hunkered down at (variously) his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, and his nearby golf club in West Palm Beach. He was awaiting the inevitable: the formation of a congressional January 6 investigation.

One of the members of Trump’s ever-narrowing inner circle spending time with him down in Florida following the January 6 coup attempt Trump helped orchestrate was apparently Trump’s longtime body man, Nick Luna. Luna had been Trump’s chief personal assistant on January 6, 2021, so if there was one thing Trump could have been certain of in April 2021 it was that Luna would be one of the first January 6 witnesses called by the United States Congress.

seth abramson proof logoAnd if there was a second thing Donald Trump knew in April 2021, it was that Nick Luna could testify to a very, very great deal of what he—Trump—had said and done (or, as the case might be, not done and not said, though he should have) both on January 6 and in the critical hours and days leading up to the January 6 insurrection.

In fact, one can rather easily see that Luna—due to his minute-to-minute proximity to Trump while Trump was orchestrating what was arguably a Seditious Conspiracy, and because of the fact that Luna isn’t a politician who owes his political career to Trump (or has partial protection from subpoena, as do members of Congress, under the Speech and Debate Clause)—was in April 2021 one of the most enticing witnesses a DOJ or FBI or congressional investigator could possibly have imagined, indeed perhaps the most enticing of all potential January 6 witnesses.

So Trump, ensconced at Mar-a-Lago and at his nearby golf club, did what any man facing potential Seditious Conspiracy charges would do: he used his golf club address to make Luna, a young man in his early 30s, the head of a corporation that would, in time, use Trump’s name, image, and likeness to make Luna a very, very rich young man.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who later taught digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Faces a Week of Headaches on Jan. 6 and His Taxes, Maggie Haberman, Dec. 19, 2022 (print ed.). After five years of dramatic headlines about controversies surrounding Donald Trump, the coming week will be consequential.

After more than five years of dramatic headlines about controversies, scandals and potential crimes surrounding former President Donald J. Trump, the coming week will be among the most consequential.

On Monday, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol by Mr. Trump’s supporters will hold what is almost certainly its final public meeting before it is disbanded when Republicans take over the majority in the new year.

The committee’s members are expected to debate criminal referrals to the Justice Department in connection with the riot and Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power, which culminated on Jan. 6 as the pro-Trump mob tried to thwart the certification of his successor’s 2020 electoral victory. The biggest topic is whether to recommend that Mr. Trump face criminal charges.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will meet privately to discuss what to do with the six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns that it finally obtained after nearly four years of legal efforts by Mr. Trump to block their release.

The committee could release them publicly, which would most likely be done in the final days of Democratic control of Congress.

And on Wednesday, the Jan. 6 committee is expected to release its report on the attack, along with some transcripts of interviews with witnesses.

Taken together, this week will point a spotlight on both Mr. Trump’s refusal to cede power and the issue that he has most acutely guarded for decades, the actual size of his personal wealth and his sources of income.

 

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inauguration.

New York Times, Proud Boys Trial Is Set to Open, Focusing on Role in Jan. 6 Violenceny times logoNew York Times, Proud Boys Trial Is Set to Open, Focusing on Role in Jan. 6 Violence, Alan Feuer, Dec. 18, 2022. The trial is opening less than a month after Stewart Rhodes, the leader of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, was convicted of seditious conspiracy.

The Proud Boys defendants are also charged with seditious conspiracy, but they are accused of playing a central role in the Capitol riot.

Much as in Mr. Rhodes’s trial, the government’s presentation in the Proud Boys trial will seek to bolster its sedition charges with thousands of internal text messages seized by the government and insider testimony from cooperating witnesses. But the differences between the two proceedings may be more instructive than their similarities.

For one thing, prosecutors never accused Mr. Rhodes and his four co-defendants of personally committing serious acts of violence at the Capitol. Instead, they proved that the Oath Keepers plotted to use force against the government by pointing out that the group persistently said a civil war might be needed to fight the administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and that on Jan. 6 it stashed an arsenal of high-powered weapons in hotel rooms in Virginia.

enrique tarrio micBut in trying the Proud Boys, prosecutors plan to take a different tack: They will offer the jury a detailed account of how the five defendants — including Enrique Tarrio, above, the group’s former chairman — led their own troops and other “tools” in the mob into battle at the Capitol and played a central role in breaches of the building and in hand-to-hand fights with the police.

Founded in 2016 during Mr. Trump’s first run for office, the Proud Boys have long described themselves as “Western chauvinists” out to protect American politics from the supposedly corrosive effects of modern liberal culture.

But something else has always simmered beneath that public guise: a toxic stew of male grievance, misogyny, Islamophobia and anti-gay hatred, as well as a veneration of violence that has often boiled over into brawling in the streets.

The government plans to tell some of that history at the trial and to demonstrate how the Proud Boys, under Mr. Tarrio’s leadership, became involved in pro-Trump rallies in Washington after the election. At one of those events, on Dec. 12, 2020, Mr. Tarrio burned a Black Lives Matter banner that had been hanging at a local Black church; other members of the group clashed with leftist counterprotesters, resulting in a Proud Boys leader, Jeremy Bertino, getting stabbed.

A lingering effect of that incident, prosecutors plan to argue, is that it turned the Proud Boys against the police after years of having troublingly close relationships with officers across the country. The government wants to show the jury how the group became disillusioned with law enforcement to explain the events of Jan. 6, when members of the Proud Boys took the lead in assaulting the police.

One week after the December rally, Mr. Trump posted a message on Twitter that announced another protest — which he said would be “wild” — in Washington on Jan. 6. Prosecutors will try to show that the Proud Boys heard the message as a clarion call and sprang into action.

Working with a group of his top lieutenants, prosecutors say, Mr. Tarrio put together a handpicked crew of “rally boys” who would take the lead in the Proud Boys’ efforts on Jan. 6. The rank-and-file members of the group, Mr. Tarrio later said, would work in 10-man teams that day with medics and communications experts.

Mr. Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, having been kicked out of Washington by a local judge after he returned to the city two days earlier and was arrested over the banner-burning incident and for carrying two high-capacity firearm magazines.

But prosecutors plan to argue to the jury that three of his co-defendants — Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Fla.; Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash.; and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia — took the lead on the ground that day. A fourth co-defendant — Dominic Pezzola of Rochester, N.Y. — is best known for having broken one of the first windows at the Capitol with a stolen police riot shield.

As part of the government’s case, jurors are also likely to hear from several former Proud Boys who have since pleaded guilty, including two from North Carolina: Mr. Bertino and Charles Donohoe. The government may also seek to introduce evidence about a document called “1776 Returns” that was given to Mr. Tarrio by one of his girlfriends and detailed a plan to surveil and storm several government buildings around the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Recent court filings suggest that the lawyers for the Proud Boys intend to mount a robust defense. Echoing the lawyers in the Oath Keepers case, their central argument will be to claim that while the defendants breached the Capitol building, they did not plan the attack in any way that rose to the level of seditious conspiracy.

Dec. 17

World Crisis Radio, Historical Commentary and Strategy, To help defend Constitutional government, January 6 Committee must issue criminal referrals against Trump and his co-conspirators! webster tarpley twitterWebster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 17, 2022 (124:01 mins.). Trump’s day of reckoning approaches: Fateful events next week include Monday decisions on criminal and civil referrals, followed by Tuesday’s announcements of further action from House Ways and Means after initial probe of Don’s tax returns, and Wednesday’s publication of the January 6 Committee’s final report with interview transcripts: democracy hangs in the balance!

Public focus is also on Eastman, Giuliani, and Meadows of Don’s circle; TPM publishes trove of Meadows messages exchanged with 34 GOP tyrants;War of all against all rages among House Republicans as McCarthy appears to fall short of 218 votes need to be Speaker, meaning no decision on first ballot of January 3; Coalition Speaker is only means of avoiding prolonged chaos; Struggle for power in RNC mirrors pervasive power struggles throughout GOP;

Special Counsel subpoenas witnesses in seven battleground states: AZ-MI-WI-GA-NV-NM-PA;

Erratic Putin punks out of yearly press conference, but redoubles rocket rattling; Gen. McCaffrey welcomes promise of Patriot battery for Ukraine, wants ATACMs and other offensive weaponry added as well; Ukrainian command expects Russian winter offensive, most likely against Kyiv;

Berserker Musk launches vendetta vs. his Twitter critics, provoking warnings from European Union and United Nations; DeSantis forming anti-vax council of mountebanks and charlatans to help recruit anti-science mob;

Twilight of globalization as finance oligarchs, anti-union practices, foreign supply chains, just in time inventory, and prevalence of speculation over hard-commodity manufacturing are transformed;

Breaking: Press reports January 6 committee is preparing criminal referrals against Trump for conspiracy to defraud US, insurrection, and obstruction of an official proceeding; Conviction for insurrection would entail lifetime ban from federal office!

Dec. 16

 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), left to right, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), Thursday, June 9, 2022

Politico, Exclusive: Jan. 6 panel to vote on urging DOJ to prosecute Trump on at least three criminal charges, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu, Dec. 16, 2022. The report that the select panel (with two of its leaders shown at right above) is expected to consider on Monday afternoon reflects some recommendations from a subcommittee that evaluated potential referrals.

politico CustomThe Jan. 6 select committee is preparing to vote on urging the Justice Department to pursue at least three criminal charges against former President Donald Trump, including insurrection.

The report that the select panel is expected to consider on Monday afternoon, described to POLITICO by two people familiar with its contents, reflects some recommendations from a subcommittee that evaluated potential criminal referrals. Among the charges that subcommittee proposes for Trump: 18 U.S.C. 2383, insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), obstruction of an official proceeding; and 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States government.

It’s unclear whether the select committee’s final report will recommend additional charges for Trump beyond the three described to POLITICO, or whether it will urge other criminal charges for other players in Trump’s bid to subvert his 2020 loss. The document, according to the people familiar, includes an extensive justification for the recommended charges.

To justify incitement of insurrection, the report references U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s February ruling saying Trump’s language plausibly incited violence on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters besieged the Capitol in a bid to disrupt congressional certification of his loss to Joe Biden. The report also cites the Senate’s 57 votes in last year’s impeachment trial, Trump’s second, to convict him on an “incitement of insurrection” charge passed by the House.

The select panel’s report also notes that, in order to violate the insurrection statute, Trump did not need an express agreement with rioters — but rather, simply needed to provide “aid or comfort” to them.

A select committee spokesperson declined to comment.

A Trump spokesperson denounced the committee’s plans.

“The January 6th un-Select Committee held show trials by Never Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history,” said Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung in a statement. “This Kangaroo court has been nothing more than a Hollywood executive’s vanity documentary project that insults Americans’ intelligence and makes a mockery of our democracy.”

DOJ, which is already pursuing a criminal probe of Trump’s Jan. 6-related actions, is not required to consider referrals from Congress, which have no legal weight. However, the select committee plans to act in the hopes that lawmakers’ input can influence prosecutorial decision-making. Panel chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has also raised the possibility of referrals to outside entities like bar associations for the constellation of lawyers involved in election subversion efforts.

  • Highlights: Jan. 6 panel ends with unanimous subpoena for Trump testimony

The panel’s lawmakers have debated the value of referrals at length through the end of their investigation. But in recent days, they’ve made the referrals into a play for history and have stressed their symbolic nature, regardless of what DOJ or other entities might do.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Politico, House Dems poised to release Trump’s tax secrets, Brian Faler, Dec. 16, 2022. The move could pile on to the controversies surrounding the former president.

politico CustomHouse Democrats will likely unmask new details about former President Donald Trump’s long-hidden taxes following a key meeting now set for next week.

That would be a highly unusual move sure to ignite another post-presidential controversy surrounding Trump, who is running again for the White House.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal won access to Trump’s filings in November, after a long court fight, but they remain closely held, with only a handful of lawmakers and aides allowed to examine them. They’re still protected by strict privacy laws that make it a felony for anyone to divulge even basic details about Trump’s taxes.

But there is a way around those rules: Neal’s committee could vote privately to make them public, and that’s what the Massachusetts Democrat wants his colleagues to consider in a closed-door meeting now set for Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Democrats intend to release specifics from the returns, though what exactly will be unveiled is unclear. They could release Trump’s entire returns or perhaps something more limited, such as a summary.

Most of Neal’s colleagues have yet to see the filings, though he has granted access to the panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

It would be extremely rare for lawmakers to forcibly release someone’s tax information, especially a former president’s, and Trump was not legally required to disclose any of his tax information while he was running for president or after he was elected.

But he defied a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns, incensing Democrats, who waged a three-and-a-half year court fight for the documents. A century-old law allows the heads of Congress’ tax committees to see anyone’s returns.

Many Democrats say the public has a right to know where the president’s earnings come from, and how much he pays in taxes. They also want to know how vigorously the IRS has been implementing a long-standing policy of automatically auditing every president.

irs logo“Nearly four years ago, the Ways and Means Committee set out to fulfill our legislative and oversight responsibilities, and evaluate the Internal Revenue Service’s mandatory audit program,” said Neal, in a statement.

“As affirmed by the Supreme Court, the law was on our side, and on Tuesday, I will update the members of the committee.”

Democrats believe the law granting Neal access to the filings only applies to the chairs of the tax panels, not their ranking members, so they’re racing to act before Republicans take over the House on Jan. 3.

Neal demanded Trump’s personal returns and filings for eight business entities from 2015 to 2020.

That overlaps with some of the records previously reported by the New York Times but also includes ones from additional years.

richard neal headshotTrump’s real estate business was convicted earlier this month of tax fraud. He is promising an appeal.

Republicans say Democrats want to embarrass Trump, and that releasing the returns would create a bad precedent that may be used against others.

Republicans, though, released protected tax information about conservative groups during the Obama administration, as part of their investigation into whether the IRS had discriminated against groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Before that, amid a controversy over former President Richard Nixon’s taxes, experts say Congress released some of his private information alongside filings that Nixon had voluntarily disclosed.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Mar-a-Lago, Where Thousands Partied Near Secret Files, Anjali Singhvi, Mika Gröndahl, Maggie Haberman, Weiyi Cai and Blacki Migliozzi, Dec. 15, 2022 (3-D interactive multimedia). A Times investigation shows how Donald J. Trump stored classified documents in high-traffic areas at Mar-a-Lago, above, where guests may have been within feet of the materials.

Mar-a-Lago is the primary home of former President Donald J. Trump. It is also a private club reserved for 500 members and a venue for parties and fund-raisers that are frequently attended by hundreds of people at a time.

With the exception of the Trump family suite, members and their guests have access to much of the 20-acre property.

Since January, the federal government has retrieved three batches of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. In a search in August, the F.B.I. seized the third batch — more than 13,000 items, including 103 classified documents — from a storage area and Mr. Trump’s office.

Classified documents are supposed to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of a presidential term. But after the end of his term in 2021, Mr. Trump stored the materials at Mar-a-Lago.

Politico, Judge unseals new details of contacts among Rep. Perry, Trump-connected attorneys, Kyle Cheney, Nicholas Wu and Josh Gerstein, Dec. 16, 2022.  The document addressed communications among the Pennsylvania Republican, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, his aide Ken Klukowski and conservative lawyer John Eastman.

politico CustomA federal judge revealed Friday that earlier this year she granted Justice Department investigators access to emails between three Trump-connected attorneys and Rep. Scott Perry as part of the federal investigation into election subversion efforts by the former president and others.

beryl howellAt the request of DOJ, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell, right, unsealed a June opinion in which she determined that 37 emails sent among Trump-era Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, his aide Ken Klukowski and conservative attorney John Eastman and Perry (R-Pa.) — another top Donald Trump ally who chairs the House Freedom Caucus — were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

Notably, Howell indicated in her opinion that investigators had prioritized accessing any emails sent to or from Perry’s account.

Howell also unsealed a second opinion, issued in September, in which she determined that 331 documents from Clark — whom Trump nearly installed as acting attorney general as part of his bid to seize a second term — were similarly not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The documents were largely versions of a potential autobiography Clark had outlined in mid-October 2021, writing that recounted a bizarre effort to have Trump install him as acting attorney general in order to get more traction to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. The outline included a description of a pivotal Jan. 3, 2021, meeting between Trump and senior DOJ officials where almost the entire top echelon of the department threatened to resign if the then-president put Clark in charge.

Clark’s legal team waded into the fight over the apparent book outline. But Howell seemed to disapprove of aspects of the approach Clark’s lawyers took to the document dispute, describing their strategy at one point as “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

The information revealed in the opinions is the most significant insight yet into what prosecutors are doing with evidence they have obtained in their review of figures associated with Trump’s quest to remain in power despite losing reelection.

FBI agents seized Eastman’s phone in June, the same week they searched Clark’s home. Perry’s phone was also seized by FBI agents in August. Eastman lost a legal bid to reclaim his phone, and Perry, who mounted a similar effort, quickly dropped it.

The judge’s June order appears to have been issued without the involvement of Clark, Klukowski, Eastman or Perry and was based on filings from a “filter team” that DOJ set up to handle the potentially sensitive information.

 

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump downplayed drumbeat of intelligence warnings on covid, report finds, Shane Harris, Dec. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The intelligence community repeatedly warned the president in early 2020 about the impending pandemic, a Democrat-led House committee report notes.

Beginning in late January 2020, U.S. intelligence agencies reported to senior Trump administration officials that the coronavirus spreading in China threatened to become a pandemic and spark a global health crisis.

But then-President Trump’s public statements over the next two months “did not reflect the increasingly stark warnings coursing through intelligence channels,” including the president’s daily brief, available to Trump and senior members of his administration, according to a report issued Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee.

By February, the intelligence community “had amply warned the White House in time for it to act to protect the country,” committee investigators concluded. Trump claimed in a May 2020 tweet that the intelligence community “only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner,” a statement that “simply does not match the record of intelligence analysis published in late January and February,” the committee found.

U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

Committee staff spent two years examining the intelligence community’s response to the covid-19 pandemic. Their report, which was staffed by bipartisan aides but written by the Democrats, who hold the majority on the committee, broadly praises the work of intelligence analysts for providing early warning about the virus for policymakers.

Dec. 15

 

Wayne Madsen Report via Twitter, Here folks! Here’s a free digital Trump trading card. Wayne Madsen, Dec. 15, 2022. And it doesn’t cost $99! Merry Christmas.  

Wayne Madsen Report via Twitter, Here folks! Here’s a free digital Trump trading card. And it doesn’t cost $99! Merry Christmas, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 15, 2022.   

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sells a New Image as the Hero of $99 Trading Cards, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 15, 2022. Money from sales of the digital trading cards, which depict the former president as characters like a superhero and a “Top Gun”-style fighter pilot, will go directly to him instead of his 2024 campaign.

Donald J. Trump’s political opponents have long criticized him as something of a cartoon character. On Thursday, the former president made himself into one — but with the aim of turning a profit.

In his first significant public move since opening his 2024 presidential campaign last month, Mr. Trump announced an online store to sell $99 digital trading cards of himself as a superhero, an astronaut, an Old West sheriff and a series of other fantastical figures. He made his pitch in a brief, direct-to-camera video in which he audaciously declared that his four years in the White House were “better than Lincoln, better than Washington.”

The sale of the trading cards, which Mr. Trump had promoted a day earlier as a “major announcement” on his social media website, Truth Social, perplexed some of his advisers and drew criticism from some fellow conservatives.

“Whoever told Trump to do this should be fired,” Keith and Kevin Hodge, two Trump supporters and stand-up comedians, posted on Twitter.

“Man, when all Patriots are looking for is hope for the future of our country and Trump hypes everybody up with a ‘BIG ANNOUNCEMENT’ then drops a low-quality NFT collection video as the ‘announcement,’ it just pushes people away,” they said in another post.

MeidasTouch Podcast, Live: Trump’s Humiliating NFT Announcement & Jack Smith Gets Closer to INDICTMENT, Ben, Brett and Jordy Meiselas, Dec. 15, 2022 (18:22 min. video). On today’s episode of the MeidasTouch Podcast, the brothers dissect and analyze the most consequential news of the week.

The brothers discuss Trump’s humiliating ‘MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT,’ President Biden’s signing of the historic Respect For Marriage Act and the deranged right-wing reaction that ensued, the frivolous lawsuits filed by loser MAGA Republicans in Arizona, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s bizarre anti-vax and anti-truth push. See

.

 

Dec. 13

 

 

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

ABC News, Jan. 6 select committee announces final public meeting Monday, Katherine Faulders, Dec. 13, 2022. Chairman Bennie Thompson said the panel's final report will come next Wednesday.

House Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters on Tuesday that the panel plans to hold its final public meeting on Monday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. ET -- two days earlier than expected.

Thompson said the committee will vote on criminal referrals and on report approval next Monday and that its final report will come two days later, on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Thompson said the report will be posted online. It's not clear whether that will be accompanied by a press conference or if it will just be posted at a certain time.

Dec. 12

 

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inauguration.

capitol peter stager

Talking Points Memo, Exclusive Series: The Meadows Texts: A Plot To Overturn An American Election, Hunter Walker, Dec. 12, 2022. TPM Has Obtained Explosive Evidence Uncovered By The January 6 Select Committee; The messages you are about to read are the definitive, real-time record of a plot to overturn an American election; Mark Meadows Exchanged Texts With 34 Members Of Congress About Plans To Overturn The 2020 Election.

TPM has obtained the 2,319 text messages that Mark Meadows, who was President Trump’s last White House chief of staff, turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Today, we are publishing The Meadows Texts, a series based on an in-depth analysis of these extraordinary — and disturbing — communications.

The vast majority of Meadows’ texts described in this series are being made public for the very first time. They show the senior-most official in the Trump White House communicating with members of Congress, state-level politicians, and far-right activists as they work feverishly to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. The Meadows texts illustrate in moment-to-moment detail an authoritarian effort to undermine the will of the people and upend the American democratic system as we know it.

The text messages, obtained from multiple sources, offer new insights into how the assault on the election was rooted in deranged internet paranoia and undemocratic ideology. They show Meadows and other high-level Trump allies reveling in wild conspiracy theories, violent rhetoric, and crackpot legal strategies for refusing to certify Joe Biden’s victory. They expose the previously unknown roles of some members of Congress, local politicians, activists and others in the plot to overturn the election. Now, for the first time, many of those figures will be named and their roles will be described — in their own words.

Meadows turned over the text messages during a brief period of cooperation with the committee before he filed a December 2021 lawsuit arguing that its subpoenas seeking testimony and his phone records were “overly broad” and violations of executive privilege. The committee did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Since then, Meadows has faced losses in his efforts to challenge the subpoena in court. However, that legal battle is ongoing and is unlikely to conclude before next month, when the incoming Republican House majority is widely expected to shutter the committee’s investigation. Earlier this year, Meadows reportedly turned over the same material he gave the select committee to the Justice Department in response to another subpoena. These messages are key evidence in the two major investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. With this series, the American people will be able to evaluate the most important texts for themselves.

Meadows has not, thus far, responded to multiple requests for comment. The texts Meadows provided to the select committee encompass the period from election night in 2020 through President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. It is not clear which, if any, texts Meadows withheld from the committee, but the text message log offers multiple hints it is only a partial record of his conversations. There are discussions that clearly lack prior context and messages where participants indicate there is further communication taking place on encrypted channels.

But despite the seeming gaps, Meadows’ text record is still incredibly revealing. Some of the contents of the log were published in “The Breach,” a book about the Jan. 6 attack that I co-wrote with Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman and senior technical adviser to the committee. In our book, Riggleman described how he and his fellow committee investigators dubbed Meadows’ text log “the crown jewels” because they served as the “road map to an insurrection.” Along with the text messages that appeared in “The Breach,” some of Meadows’ messages have also been revealed by media outlets. The Washington Post published his exchanges with Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Some of Meadows’ conversations with Fox News personalities and other members of the media were disclosed by the select committee. CNN and I have published Meadows’ conversations with some Republican members of Congress including; Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Additionally, CNN has published Meadows’ texts with Fox News personality Sean Hannity and his messages from the period directly surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. However, there’s more. So much more.

TPM is kicking off this series with an exclusive story showing that the log includes more than 450 messages with 34 Republican members of Congress. Those texts show varying degrees of involvement by members of Congress, from largely benign expressions of support for Trump to the leading roles played by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jody Hice (R-GA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the plot to reverse Trump’s defeat. We reached out to all these legislators, and will be detailing their roles and responses to our questions in the first installment of the series, which is coming later today.

 

couy griffin facebook

In a now-deleted Facebook post, New Mexico county official Couy Griffin, above, predicted of Inauguration Day at the Capitol, “blood will run out of the building.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Obstruction Charge Takes Center Stage at Jan. 6 Court Hearing, Alan Feuer, Dec. 12, 2022. A federal appeals court ruling could affect the cases of hundreds of people charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers squared off on Monday at a federal appeals court hearing in Washington over the use of a criminal charge whose viability could affect the cases of hundreds of people indicted in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — and could help decide what, if any, charges could ultimately be brought against former President Donald J. Trump.

The charge at the center of the arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was the obstruction of an official proceeding before Congress.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department has used the count in scores of Capitol riot cases to describe how a pro-Trump mob disrupted the central event on Jan. 6: the certification of the 2020 election that took place during a joint session of Congress.

Defense lawyers want the appeals court to rule that the count has been applied incorrectly by the Justice Department and dismiss it from all the Jan. 6 cases in which it has been charged.

The arguments presented at the 90-minute hearing, while highly technical, hit on a critical issue that has shaped the contours of the government’s vast investigation of Jan. 6. That issue was how prosecutors in hundreds of cases have decided between charging people with petty offenses like trespassing or disorderly conduct, which carry a maximum of six months in jail, or the much more serious obstruction count, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

During the hearing, a prosecutor, James Pearce, argued in favor of the obstruction charge, saying that it had been properly applied in nearly 300 Jan. 6 criminal cases. The law requires proving that any interference with a congressional proceeding be done “corruptly,” and Mr. Pearce argued that in cases where the charge has been used, defendants committed other “corrupt” acts like destroying government property or assaulting police officers.

A defense lawyer, Nicholas D. Smith, countered that the obstruction charge had been wrongly applied and that its use in all of the Capitol riot cases should be struck down — even in those in which defendants have already pleaded guilty or been sentenced.

 

mar a lago aerial CustomMiami Herald, Trump’s lawsuit in classified documents case is ‘closed,’ Jay Weaver, Dec. 12, 2022. Florida judge officially dumps Trump lawsuit over Mar-a-Lago document seizure.

miami herald logoFormer president Donald Trump’s legal effort to thwart a Justice Department investigation into classified documents seized from his palatial Palm Beach estate (shown above) was officially tossed out Monday.

aileen cannonU.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, right, after being rebuked by a federal appellate court for allowing Trump’s lawsuit to move forward, brought his controversial lawsuit to a halt after the court had ordered her to end it.

“This case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction,” Cannon wrote in a one-page order released Monday. “The Clerk of Court shall close this case.”

At the beginning of the month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Cannon had no authority to grant Trump’s request for an independent expert to evaluate thousands of documents that FBI agents took from his Mar-a-Lago residence on Aug. 8 to determine if any were off limits to the feds because of potential attorney- or executive-privilege protections.

The special master, a federal judge in New York, was supposed to report back to Cannon soon with his assessment of the documents as the Justice Department continued its probe of the classified documents that Trump took from the White House to his Palm Beach estate after losing the presidency in 2020. Trump is under investigation by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., which is considering allegations of mishandling classified government documents, violating national security laws and obstructing justice.

djt maga hatBut a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court threw out her Sept. 5 order allowing the special master to review the seized documents for potential privilege issues. The panel found that Cannon, who was nominated by Trump to the federal bench, had no authority to appoint the independent expert or even get involved in the former president’s suit after a West Palm Beach magistrate judge had properly approved a lawful warrant for the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago.

The Dec. 1 ruling overturning Cannon’s decision was blistering and came from three judges who were also Republican-appointed, two of them also by Trump.

In a 21-page opinion, the judges — Chief Judge William H. Pryor, Britt Grant and Andrew L. Brasher — described the Trump legal team’s arguments as a “sideshow,” highlighting that his lawyers never made the fundamental point that FBI agents showed a “callous disregard” for the former president’s constitutional rights. The appellate panel found that the “callous disregard standard has not been met here, and no one argues otherwise” — including the presiding judge, Cannon.

"There is no record evidence that the government exceeded the scope of the warrant — which, it bears repeating, was authorized by a magistrate judge’s finding of probable cause [of a crime],” the panel wrote. “And yet again, [Trump’s] argument would apply universally; presumably any subject of a search warrant would like all of his property back before the government has a chance to use it.”

In her Sept. 5 order, Cannon noted that she agreed with Justice Department lawyers that FBI agents carrying a search warrant for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate had not shown a “callous disregard for [his] constitutional rights,” concluding that “this factor cuts against the exercise of equitable jurisdiction.”

But rather than follow her own analysis, Cannon extended Trump protections not provided to ordinary citizens by appointing the special master to review the FBI’s evidence, citing the “unprecedented circumstances” of the U.S. government raiding a former president’s home.

Cannon assumed jurisdiction in the Justice Department’s investigation by appointing New York federal judge Raymond Dearie to view about 100 classified records and thousands of other personal and presidential records taken from Trump’s home and private club to determine if any contained privileged correspondence with lawyers. Cannon refused to let a Justice Department “filter team” of agents and prosecutors do the job.

Jon Sale, a prominent white-collar defense lawyer in Miami who had been asked by Trump to represent him in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, said the appellate court’s message was unambiguous.

“The court’s ruling makes it clear that no person who is the subject of a search warrant, including a former president, is above the law,” said Sale, who served as a Watergate federal prosecutor during the Nixon administration scandal.

But he added: “At the same time, under our Constitution, all people who are the subjects of search warrants, including former presidents, are presumed innocent during the course of the investigation.”

Dec. 11

 

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inaugution.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Another Trump hotel falls under a cloud of controversy, Ron Leshnower, Dec. 11, 2022. In an opinion piece published in the Chicago Tribune on June 19, 2014, Donald Trump vehemently defended the use of a huge sign bearing his name on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. He bill palmer report logo headerargued against critics who believed such a sign was architecturally and aesthetically offensive, claiming “my name is known and respected worldwide” and “brings a prominence to Chicago by mere fact of recognition.”

There is no question that Trump’s name is known worldwide, but Trump excels in offering new reasons for his name to become even less respected with each passing day. It has reached a point where now, eight years later, the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board is demanding that it’s time “to take a jackhammer” to the vain eyesore that persists as a monument to hate, fascism, and corruption.

capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021The Tribune’s new editorial on Thursday offers a quick history lesson of how Trump’s sign came to be, which is a tale replete with strategic political contributions and shady dealings. The Tribune then acknowledges its own recent support for Trump’s sign. Just last year, the newspaper came out against a proposed ordinance that would ban anyone “convicted of treason, sedition or subversive actions from doing business with the city, including having a sign permit.”

chicago tribune hqIn doing so, the Tribune (whose former headquarters is shown at left) declared in 2021: “It’s Trump’s building, and he should have the prerogative of stamping his name on it.” Concerned about “anti-Trump fever” that could lead the city to attract a lawsuit alleging violations of private property rights, the Tribune insisted at the time that city officials “would be wise to swallow their distaste and leave the sign alone.”

However, two very recent developments have changed the equation, prompting the Tribune to pen a new editorial proposing that the toxic sign be demolished. The first is Trump calling for the “termination” of the Constitution on account of a “massive fraud” that stole the 2020 election from him, as the man-child claimed. The second is a jury finding that the Trump Organization “was corrupt at the core” and an obvious “criminal enterprise.”

The Tribune now calls for Chicago to figure out a way to jackhammer that sign to the ground–whether it’s new negotiations, another ordinance, or a public relations campaign. Not only does the Tribune support such an effort this time, but it suspects “most everyone who lives there” would as well. Indeed, it’s high time for this oversized sign promoting an equally overinflated ego to go.

Dec. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge won’t hold Trump’s office in contempt, people familiar say, Spencer S. Hsu, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 10, 2022. Justice Department sought contempt order from chief judge over whether all classified documents have been recovered.

A federal judge on Friday declined to hold former president Donald Trump’s office in contempt for not fully complying with a May subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, according to people familiar with the proceedings.

beryl howellU.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, right, told Justice Department lawyers and Trump’s legal team to come to an agreement themselves over what actions or assurances by Trump’s office would satisfy the government, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sealed court proceedings.

“The President and his counsel will continue to be transparent and cooperative,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Justice Department log circularThe hearing punctuated months of mounting Justice Department frustration with Trump’s legal team after attorneys provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club.

They made that claim when handing over 38 documents to the Justice Department in response to the grand jury subpoena. But the FBI later amassed evidence suggesting that more classified material remained at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department secured a warrant, and FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, retrieving some 13,000 additional documents, about 100 of them classified. The department is investigating the potential mishandling of classified material, destruction of government property or obstruction of the investigation.

Items with classified markings found at Trump storage unit in Florida

One of the central areas of disagreement between the two sides has centered on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, The Post first reported earlier this week.

Dec. 9

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

 

djt confidential markings

The warrant authorizing the search of former president Donald Trump’s home said agents were seeking documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge to Hear Justice Dept. Contempt Request in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 9, 2022. The department wants a representative of Donald Trump to swear under oath that there are no more classified documents at any of his properties.

A federal judge in Washington was set to hear arguments at a closed-door hearing on Friday about whether to force a representative of Donald J. Trump’s presidential office to swear under oath that there are no more classified documents at any of Mr. Trump’s properties, according to two people familiar with the matter.

beryl howellThe judge, Beryl A. Howell, right, is also being asked to decide whether to impose financial penalties or issue a contempt finding if no one from Mr. Trump’s office agrees to formally vow that, to the best of their knowledge, all of the classified materials he took from the White House when he left office last year have been returned to the government.

Justice Department log circularThe hearing, in Federal District Court in Washington, is being held at the request of federal prosecutors who asked Judge Howell in recent days to declare Mr. Trump in contempt of court for failing to obey a grand jury subpoena that was issued in May seeking the return of all of the classified records in his office’s possession.

The request by the government, first reported on Thursday by the Washington Post, came after months of frustration with the former president and his lawyers, who have repeatedly made assurances to prosecutors that the sensitive materials had all been returned — only to find out there were more.

No matter what Judge Howell decides, the fact that she has been asked to mull a contempt finding suggests that the Justice Department has taken a newly aggressive stance toward Mr. Trump’s long-delayed response to the government’s efforts to retrieve a trove sensitive records that he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida.

Dec. 8

 

djt hands open amazon safe

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyers found items marked classified at his Fla. storage unit, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers have told federal authorities no classified material was found in additional searches of Trump Tower in New York and his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Lawyers for Donald Trump found at least two items marked classified after an outside team hired by Trump searched a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla., used by the former president, according to people familiar with the matter.

Those items were immediately turned over to the FBI, according to those people, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The search was one of at least three searches for classified materials conducted by an outside team at Trump properties in recent weeks, after Trump’s legal team was pressed by a federal judge to attest that it had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings, according to people familiar with the matter.

There has been a lengthy and fierce battle between Trump’s attorneys and the Justice Department in a Washington federal court in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Much of the legal wrangling remains under seal by a federal judge, but people familiar with the matter say the Justice Department has raised concerns about what prosecutors view as a long-standing failure to fully comply with the May subpoena by Trump’s team.

Emails released by the General Services Administration, which assists former presidents during their transition to private life, show that the government agency helped rent the storage unit at a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021. The unit was needed to store items that had been held at an office in Northern Virginia used by Trump staffers in the months just after he left office.

The emails show that the GSA and Trump staffers worked together to arrange to ship several pallets of boxes and other items weighing more than 3,000 pounds from Northern Virginia to the Florida storage unit in September 2021.

A person familiar with the matter said the storage unit had a mix of boxes, gifts, suits and clothes, among other things. “It was suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things,” this person said. “To my knowledge, he has never even been to that storage unit. I don’t think anyone in Trump World could tell you what’s in that storage unit.”

 

Editorial cartoon showing former Trump White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (Mike Lukovich for The Atlanta Journal Constitution).Editorial cartoon showing former Trump White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (Mike Lukovich for The Atlanta Journal Constitution).

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ramp up investigation of Kushner family business dealings, Michael Kranish, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats on a pair of congressional committees have launched an aggressive new effort to obtain information about whether Jared Kushner’s actions on U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf region as a senior White House adviser were influenced by the bailout of a property owned by his family business.

Citing previously undisclosed emails and other documents related to former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, the committees on Monday night sent letters to the State and Defense departments requesting material that they say could shed new light on whether “Kushner’s financial conflict of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade and national security policies for his own financial gain.”

The letters, obtained by The Washington Post, focus on efforts by Kushner and his father, Charles Kushner, to bail out a troubled 41-story Fifth Avenue office building in New York City. The Kushner company in 2018 made a deal with a Canadian company, Brookfield Asset Management, which invested $1.2 billion for a 99-year lease. As a result, the Kushner family company avoided defaulting on a loan that was due the following year.

ron wydenDemocrats have long raised questions about the deal because the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, had a stake in one of Brookfield’s investment arms.

Brookfield said when it was negotiating its deal in 2018 that “no Qatar-linked entity has any involvement in or even knowledge of this potential transaction.” But Democrats have continued probing whether any Qatari money went into the project.

carolyn maloney oNow, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), in their roles as chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Oversight Committee, have broadened that inquiry, co-authoring letters to the State and Defense departments. They wrote that they are seeking an array of documents addressing their concerns that Jared Kushner’s role in Middle East policy could have played a role in the bailout.

Neither Jared Kushner, who now runs a private-equity company, nor Charles Kushner, who serves as chairman of the Kushner real estate company, responded to requests for comment.

The saga of the Fifth Avenue property has long been one of the darkest chapters in Jared Kushner’s career.

After his father went to prison for federal tax evasion and other charges after being convicted in 2005, Kushner — who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump — remade the family real estate business. He sold many of the company’s New Jersey apartments and paid $1.8 billion for the Fifth Avenue property, the most ever paid in the United States for an office building at that time. While Kushner called it a “great acquisition,” the purchase came just before the 2007 real estate crash, undercutting the value of the property and putting the family business at risk.

As Kushner recounted in “Breaking History,” his recent memoir: “There was no way I was going to let the investment fail. I had very little leverage, so I was willing to talk to anybody.” He called it the biggest challenge of his career.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Bedeviled by Company’s Conviction and Senate Candidate’s Defeat, Maggie Haberman, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The Trump Organization was branded a felon and Herschel Walker was defeated, in one of Donald Trump’s worst days since announcing his presidential candidacy.

Tuesday’s conviction of the Trump Organization on charges of financial impropriety, coupled with the loss by former President Donald J. Trump’s candidate in the Georgia Senate runoff, marked one of the worst days for Mr. Trump since he announced his presidential candidacy roughly three weeks ago.

First came the events in the city where he was born and raised.

In New York, the jury that heard the case brought by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, deliberated over two days before returning guilty verdicts on all 17 counts related to a tax-fraud scheme, a sweeping condemnation of the company that bears Mr. Trump’s name.

A lawyer for the company said officials will appeal the verdict, which was due in part to testimony from its longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on company perks.

Mr. Trump said that he was “disappointed” with the verdict and pointed the finger at Mr. Weisselberg, suggesting he was a lone wolf. But in a morning post on his social media website, Truth Social, Mr. Trump had criticized the district attorney and accused him of running a “Witch Hunt for D.C. against ‘Trump’ over Fringe Benefits, something that in the history of our Country, has never been so tried in Court before.”

 Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Conviction Won’t Be a Financial Death Sentence for the Trump Organization, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s family business will be forever tarred, but the maximum penalty it faces is relatively mild.

The conviction of Donald J. Trump’s family business on Tuesday represented a devastating blow to the former president, exposing what prosecutors called a “culture of fraud and deception” at his company and providing his political rivals with ammunition as he embarks on a third presidential campaign.

The Trump Organization itself, however, faces a much milder threat.

The maximum penalty the company could pay is $1.62 million, a drop in the bucket for the Trump Organization, which often raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year during his presidency. The company has spent more money paying its lawyers to fight the case.

The size of the potential punishment underscores that while the tax fraud conviction has forever tarred the Trump Organization’s name — and branded it a felonious enterprise — the company is facing far less than a financial death sentence.‌ ‌And it helps explains why the company was unwilling to plead guilty.

The Trump Organization resisted a deal even after its long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, agreed to plead guilty and testify at the company’s trial, which was focused on off-the-books luxury perks that the company doled out to some of its executives.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not accuse Mr. Trump, or anyone in his family, of taking part in the scheme, though prosecutors named the former president and his adult children liberally at trial. In their closing arguments, they used a single exhibit to try to convince jurors that Mr. Trump had approved of the scheme.

Although the Trump Organization has maintained its innocence — and Mr. Trump has chalked up the case to a politically motivated witch hunt by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg — the company might have been more willing to strike a deal if it ‌had been facing a harsher punishment.‌ ‌

It is unclear what changes Mr. Trump might make to the company in the wake of the verdict. The Trump Organization is a collection of more than 500 corporate entities, only two of which were on trial.

It is possible that he could shutter those corporations — the Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. — without much effort.

A company, of course, cannot be imprisoned, and the two convicted Trump corporations are not publicly traded. As such, there are no financial regulators to punish them or public investors to flee from them.‌ ‌

The Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. are‌ also‌ not central to Mr. Trump’s moneymaking enterprise. They largely perform back-office functions, employing and paying top executives, so they do not hold any loans, liquor licenses‌ or other privileges that might slip away in the wake of the conviction.
‌ ‌
That’s not to say that the reputational harm from the conviction won’t inflict some damage. It ‌could scare off potential lenders and business partners, or enable them to impose stricter terms on Mr. Trump. Local governments that do business with Mr. Trump — he operates public golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx — might use the verdict as leverage to wiggle out of their contracts, and it could discourage other government agencies from doing deals with him.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Looks like the Manhattan DA is gearing up to make a run at Donald Trump after all, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 8, 2022. Now that Manhattan bill palmerDistrict Attorney Alvin Bragg has secured multiple felony convictions against Donald Trump’s company, he’s hiring a former DOJ prosecutor and appears to be gearing up for indicting Trump himself. This isn’t a surprise.

bill palmer report logo headerI told you all along that the Manhattan DA would end up indicting Trump long before 2024. More of you are starting to see it now. It’s never a matter of “optimism” or “keeping the faith” or any of that nonsense. There’s just a way things work in politics.

Bragg should have indicted Trump eight months ago. He clearly wanted to play it safe by waiting for the Trump Organization to be convicted first, and perhaps waiting for the DOJ to indict Trump first. But Bragg was always going to make a move of his own, because he has to.

Bragg is up for reelection in 2024 in Trump-hating Manhattan, and knows he’ll have no shot at all unless he indicts and convicts Trump for something. Therefore it’s going to happen. It’s that simple. That whole “he’s being bribed, he’s being blackmailed” narrative was just painfully naive.

Whatever you think of Bragg – and if you have a low opinion of him it’s totally justified – he was always going to end up indicting Trump. He knows he doesn’t have a choice. Most of politics is complicated. But this one really is that simple.

Even the very worst of politicians are always going to selfishly do whatever they think is best for themselves. They are literally never going to intentionally ruin themselves just so they can twist their mustache and say “ha ha, I really made a mess for the rest of you!” As cartoonishly as some political villains try to portray themselves, at the end of the day they’re all just making calculations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 special counsel subpoenas Ariz., Wis. and Mich. officials for Trump communications, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Patrick Marley, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The requests seek all communications with former president Donald Trump, his campaign, and his top aides and lawyers involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 result.

Special counsel Jack Smith has sent grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — three states that were central to President Donald Trump’s failed plan to stay in power following the 2020 election — seeking any and all communications with Trump, his campaign, and a long list of aides and allies.

The requests for records arrived in Dane County, Wis.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; and Wayne County, Mich., late last week, and in Milwaukee on Monday, officials said. They are among the first known subpoenas issued since Smith was named last month by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee Trump-related aspects of the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as the criminal probe of Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents at his Florida home and private club.

The subpoenas, at least three of which are dated Nov. 22, indicate that the Justice Department is extending its examination of the circumstances leading up to the Capitol attack to include local election officials and their potential interactions with the former president and his representatives related to the 2020 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump team searches two of his properties amid court battle with DOJ, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers say no classified documents were found at Trump Tower in New York or at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Lawyers for former president Donald Trump conducted a search of at least two of his properties for classified materials in recent weeks, after they were instructed by a federal judge to attest they had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s legal team hired an outside firm to carry out the search of his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and, more recently, Trump Tower in New York, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

The team also offered the FBI the opportunity to observe the search, but the offer was declined, the people said. It would be unusual for federal agents to monitor a search of someone’s property conducted by anyone other than another law enforcement agency. Federal authorities have already searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s primary residence, and he spends almost all of his time at those three properties, advisers say.

Trump’s lawyers have told the Justice Department that the outside team did not turn up any new classified information during their search, according to people familiar with the process, and have said they utilized a firm that had expertise in searching for documents.

Dec. 7

 


vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, Donald Trump and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Week, Vicky Ward, Dec. 7, 2022. What Trump Org tax fraud, the Georgia run-off, and those new classified documents say about the former president’s future.

'For rather obvious reasons, my phone has been pinging with texts and emails from readers suggesting that Donald Trump is having a very bad week. There’s the fact that the Trump Org was convicted of tax fraud. Then there’s the fact that his chosen Senatorial candidate, Herschel Walker, was beaten in the Georgia run-off by Sen. Raphael Warnock. And then there’s the news broken by the Washington Post that an outside team hired by Trump discovered items with classified markings in storage that they’ve passed on to the FBI to add to the pile found at Mar-a-Lago.

So, yes, the former president has probably had better weeks, but I am not sure that the consequences for his future are as disastrous as some of the alarmist headlines imply.

First: his business. I phoned around to my sources in real estate, who include people who run funds that have lent to Trump, and asked, Does the conviction change anything? Would you lend to him again?

The answer was yes.

As long as you are not a bank, where the underwriting committee probably would not let you lend to a business with a conviction against it, lending to Trump is actually now more enticing for the aggressive investment funds.

As for his numerous partners? (Remember, in New York City, the Trump Organization only owns two buildings outright: the ground lease of 40 Wall Street and the commercial condominium at Trump Tower. The other buildings that bear his name are licensing deals.) Well, my sources—who include fund managers, brokers and lawyers—agree it’s a question of whether those people still think there’s “brand value” in the Trump name. According to the straw poll I conducted in the actual industry, the answer as to whether they will do business again with Trump is either “I am not sure” or speculation that partners will stay and that foreigner investors in particular are attracted to his name.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization convicted in N.Y. criminal tax fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s namesake company was convicted Tuesday of tax crimes committed by two of its longtime executives after a Manhattan trial that gave jurors a peek at some of the inner workings of the Trump Organization’s finances.

The real estate, hospitality and golf resort operation headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. faces the possibility of a $1.6 million fine. New York Supreme Court jurors began their deliberations mid-day on Monday.

The company was charged with scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

Prosecutors built the case largely around longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny. He was promised a steeply reduced sentence of five months in jail in exchange for testifying against the company. He had faced up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors claim to jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud

allen weisselberg croppedIn his testimony, Weisselberg, right, detailed how he and the company’s comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, schemed to cheat state and federal tax authorities over a 15-year period beginning in 2005. Weisselberg used the company to cover major personal expenses like rent for a luxury apartment on the Hudson River, Mercedes Benz leases for himself and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

In some instances, he paid the company back for his personal expenses, which allowed him to use pre-tax compensation illegally. Other expenses were paid for by the company but not reported as taxable income as required by tax laws.

ny times logoNew York Times, Conviction Won’t Be a Financial Death Sentence for the Trump Organization, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich Dec. 7, 2022.  Former President Trump’s family business will be forever tarred, but the maximum penalty it faces is relatively mild.

The conviction of Donald J. Trump’s family business on Tuesday represented a devastating blow to the former president, exposing what prosecutors called a “culture of fraud and deception” at his company and providing his political rivals with ammunition as he embarks on a third presidential campaign.

The Trump Organization itself, however, faces a much milder threat.

The maximum penalty the company could pay is $1.62 million, a drop in the bucket for the Trump Organization, which often raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year during his presidency. The company has spent more money paying its lawyers to fight the case.

The size of the potential punishment underscores that while the tax fraud conviction has forever tarred the Trump Organization’s name — and branded it a felonious enterprise — the company is facing far less than a financial death sentence.‌ ‌And it helps explains why the company was unwilling to plead guilty.

The Trump Organization resisted a deal even after its long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, agreed to plead guilty and testify at the company’s trial, which was focused on off-the-books luxury perks that the company doled out to some of its executives.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not accuse Mr. Trump, or anyone in his family, of taking part in the scheme, though prosecutors named the former president and his adult children liberally at trial. In their closing arguments, they used a single exhibit to try to convince jurors that Mr. Trump had approved of the scheme.

Although the Trump Organization has maintained its innocence — and Mr. Trump has chalked up the case to a politically motivated witch hunt by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg — the company might have been more willing to strike a deal if it ‌had been facing a harsher punishment.‌ ‌

It is unclear what changes Mr. Trump might make to the company in the wake of the verdict. The Trump Organization is a collection of more than 500 corporate entities, only two of which were on trial.

It is possible that he could shutter those corporations — the Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. — without much effort.

A company, of course, cannot be imprisoned, and the two convicted Trump corporations are not publicly traded. As such, there are no financial regulators to punish them or public investors to flee from them.‌ ‌

The Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. are‌ also‌ not central to Mr. Trump’s moneymaking enterprise. They largely perform back-office functions, employing and paying top executives, so they do not hold any loans, liquor licenses‌ or other privileges that might slip away in the wake of the conviction.
‌ ‌
That’s not to say that the reputational harm from the conviction won’t inflict some damage. It ‌could scare off potential lenders and business partners, or enable them to impose stricter terms on Mr. Trump. Local governments that do business with Mr. Trump — he operates public golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx — might use the verdict as leverage to wiggle out of their contracts, and it could discourage other government agencies from doing deals with him.

 

wmr Reichburger Coup 12 7 2022Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Neo-Nazis on move in North Carolina and Germany, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 7, 2022. In my The Rise of the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, this wayne madsen fourth reich coverauthor calls for governments around the world to cooperate in suppressing resurgent Nazism and Fascism.

Recent events in North Carolina, Germany, and elsewhere have shown that governments are beginning to take more seriously the threat of international Nazism.

Germany's action December 7 in arresting more than a score of far-right insurrectionists underscores the global threat, as described below. In addition, Russian support for far-right terrorists is coming into sharper focus.

The right-wing terrorist attack on two Duke Energy electrical substations in Moore County, North Carolina, which knocked out power to 45,000 homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, is being investigated by federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The neo-Nazi plotters in North Carolina were in possession of a handwritten list of a dozen sites in Idaho and surrounding states that, according to the federal indictment, "contained a transformer, substation, or other component of the power grid for the northwest United States."

djt rudy giuliani

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani ‘weaponized’ law license in Trump election suit, D.C. Bar argues, Keith L. Alexander, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Trump adviser should be disbarred over ‘frivolous’ lawsuit, prosecuting attorney says.

Former New York City Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani defended his role challenging the 2020 presidential election as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Monday, after the D.C. Bar accused Giuliani of misusing his law license and called for it to be revoked.

During his testimony before the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility of the D.C. Bar, Giuliani at times minimized his role in a lawsuit that falsely alleged the November 2020 general presidential election was wrought with fraud in the key state of Pennsylvania after President Biden was declared winner.

capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021Hamilton “Phil” Fox III, the lead prosecuting attorney for D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, called Giuliani’s fraud allegations in Pennsylvania “unfounded” and said they misrepresented or took advantage of two unprecedented events affecting the state: Pennsylvania had just started using mail-in ballots for the election, and the coronavirus pandemic forced independent observers to be distanced from poll workers tasked with opening mail-in ballots and reviewing signatures.

Fox argued that although several courts in Pennsylvania found “kinks” in the new voting system in Pennsylvania, there was no evidence of fraud.

Despite such court assertions, Giuliani “weaponized his law license by filing a frivolous lawsuit” and as a result, should have his licensed suspended or revoked, Fox said.

“There was no case in law nor fact for which Mr. Giuliani set forth on grounds of fraud,” Fox said.

Giuliani’s lawsuit on behalf of Trump seeking to throw out votes cast in the state was rejected by a judge. A federal appeals court refused to let the campaign file a revised complaint.

Giuliani and his attorney, John Leventhal, argued that Trump asked Giuliani to join the case a day after the elections and to “quickly” get up to speed on election results in at least 10 other states, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, North and South Carolina, and New Mexico.

Leventhal argued that because Trump’s legal challenge did not go forward, there was no legal reason for Giuliani to have his law license revoked.

“The complaint was not accepted. This was never accepted by the court,” Leventhal said.

Under cross examination by Fox, Giuliani said another attorney drafted the initial fraud complaint and that he added a “few paragraphs.”

Fox introduced a second complaint that was filed, in which Giuliani said the fraud allegations were removed. But then Giuliani admitted that he instructed to have the fraud allegations added back into the complaint.

Repeatedly during questioning, Fox argued that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, was not answering his questions.

Testimony in the Giuliani hearings is expected to continue through this week and can be viewed via live on the web. At one point during Monday’s hearing, more than 1,000 viewers were tuned into the YouTube channel.

Dec. 6

 

 Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization convicted in N.Y. criminal tax fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 6, 2022. Former president Donald Trump’s namesake company was convicted Tuesday of tax crimes committed by two of its longtime executives after a Manhattan trial that gave jurors a peek at some of the inner workings of the Trump Organization’s finances.

The real estate, hospitality and golf resort operation headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. faces the possibility of a $1.6 million fine. New York Supreme Court jurors began their deliberations mid-day on Monday.

The company was charged with scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

Prosecutors built the case largely around longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny. He was promised a steeply reduced sentence of five months in jail in exchange for testifying against the company. He had faced up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors claim to jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud

allen weisselberg croppedIn his testimony, Weisselberg, right, detailed how he and the company’s comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, schemed to cheat state and federal tax authorities over a 15-year period beginning in 2005. Weisselberg used the company to cover major personal expenses like rent for a luxury apartment on the Hudson River, Mercedes Benz leases for himself and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

In some instances, he paid the company back for his personal expenses, which allowed him to use pre-tax compensation illegally. Other expenses were paid for by the company but not reported as taxable income as required by tax laws.

McConney, who admitted in his testimony to committing crimes, was granted immunity under New York law because he was called by prosecutors as a grand jury witness in the case.

Prosecutors argued the conduct of Weisselberg and McConney made the company criminally liable. Two Trump Organization entities — the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corp. — were on trial. Both were found guilty on all charges.

Lawyers for the entities argued that Weisselberg had no intent to help the company — only himself — and that prosecutors did not successfully prove there was corporate liability. Prosecutors argued the company saved on their Medicare tax responsibility and benefitted in other ways from the scheme.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also argued at the close of the case that Trump had personal knowledge of the tax cheating carried out by his executives. At one point in his summation, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass pointed to a document that had been initialed by Trump and called it “explicit” proof of his knowing that his executives were tinkering with expenses to reduce their tax liabilities.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. In a recent social media post, he denied having knowledge of the crimes Weisselberg and McConney committed.

 

stormy daniels djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Avenatti Gets 14-Year Sentence for Stealing Millions From Clients, Eduardo Medina, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Michael Avenatti, the michael avenatti twitter photobrash lawyer known for representing the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels (shown above) in lawsuits against former President Donald J. Trump, was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from his clients and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to collect taxes from his coffee business, federal prosecutors said.

Mr. Avenatti, who rose to national prominence in 2018 while representing Ms. Daniels, was also ordered to pay nearly $11 million in restitution to the four clients he stole from, including a person who is paraplegic and has mental health issues, and to the I.R.S., the Justice Department said in a news release.

Prosecutors said Mr. Avenatti obstructed I.R.S. efforts to collect more than $3.2 million in unpaid payroll taxes, which includes money that he withheld from the paychecks of employees who worked for his coffee company, Global Baristas US LLC.

His 14-year prison sentence will run consecutively to the five-year prison term he is currently serving for two separate convictions in New York, prosecutors said. He has been in prison since Feb. 7.

Dec. 3

 

djt sedition graphic

Twitter, Analysis: Seditious Conspiracy by Trump? Seth Abramson, left, attorney, professor and best-selling author, Dec. 3, 2022. Calling for the overthrow of our government via “the termination of all rules, seth abramson proof logoseth abramson headshotregulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” is Incitement to Sedition. If Trump has taken any action in conjunction with anyone else to advance his goal [see announcement on Dec. 3 above] it is Seditious Conspiracy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defaults Loom as Poor Countries Face an Economic Storm, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 3, 2022. Debt-relief efforts are stalling as developing economies are being hit by higher interest rates, a strong dollar and slowing global growth.

Developing nations are facing a catastrophic debt crisis in the coming months as rapid inflation, slowing growth, rising interest rates and a strengthening dollar coalesce into a perfect storm that could set off a wave of messy defaults and inflict economic pain on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Poor countries owe, by some calculations, as much as $200 billion to wealthy nations, multilateral development banks and private creditors. Rising interest rates have increased the value of the dollar, making it harder for foreign borrowers with debt denominated in U.S. currency to repay their loans.

Defaulting on a huge swath of loans would send borrowing costs for vulnerable nations even higher and could spawn financial crises when nearly 100 million people have already been pushed into poverty this year by the combined effects of the pandemic, inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger poses another headwind for a world economy that has been sputtering toward a recession. The leaders of the world’s advanced economies have been grappling privately in recent weeks with how to avert financial crises in emerging markets such as Zambia, Sri Lanka and Ghana, but they have struggled to develop a plan to accelerate debt relief as they confront their own economic woes.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors tell jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud at Trump Organization, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The former president is not charged in the criminal trial of his namesake company. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday.

Donald Trump knew about a 15-year tax fraud carried out by longtime executives at his namesake company, a prosecutor argued Friday, saying the illegal activity ended when the company cleaned up its business practices around the time Trump entered the White House.

At the close of the Trump Organization’s criminal trial, prosecutors introduced the idea that Trump had knowledge of crimes committed by his top deputies. The claim was a way of supporting their theory that the real estate, hospitality and golf company is criminally culpable for and benefited from tax cheating.

“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant was just not real,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said during his summation. He asked jurors, who are likely to begin deliberations in the case on Monday, to dismiss the idea that executives who committed crimes had simply gone “rogue.”

At the same time, Steinglass also told the jury that it “doesn’t matter” whether they believe Trump knew about the fraud, because the former president is allen weisselberg croppednot considered a conspirator in the case.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. Allen Weisselberg, right — his former chief financial officer and a Trump family employee for a half-century — pleaded guilty to fraud this summer. Testimony about the fraud from Weisselberg and Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney — who was granted immunity automatically by state law when he appeared before the grand jury — were key elements of the prosecution’s case.

Dec. 2

 

 djt fbi evidence mar a lago

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Scraps Special Master’s Review in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The decision removed a major obstacle that had hindered the Justice Department’s inquiry into former President Trump’s handling of sensitive material.

A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a major obstacle to the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of government documents, ending an outside review of thousands of records the F.B.I. seized from his home and freeing the Justice Department to use them in its inquiry.

In a unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta shut down a lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump that has, for nearly three months, slowed the inquiry into whether he illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago residence and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

aileen cannonThe appeals court was sharply critical of the decision in September by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, right, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, to intervene in the case. The court said Judge Cannon never had legitimate jurisdiction to order the review or bar investigators from using the files, and that there was no justification for treating Mr. Trump differently from any other target of a search warrant.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court wrote.

Limits on when courts can interfere with a criminal investigation “apply no matter who the government is investigating,” it added. “To create a special exception here would defy our nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.’”

The panel’s ruling is set to take effect next Thursday. If there is no stay for an appeal before then, the review by the independent arbiter, or special master — Raymond J. Dearie, a judge who sits in the Eastern District of New York — would abruptly end. At that point, Judge Cannon would also be required to dismiss Mr. Trump’s lawsuit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Embraces Extremism as He Seeks to Reclaim Office, Peter Baker, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). As he gets his 2024 campaign underway, former President Trump has aligned himself with forces that used to be outside the mainstream of U.S. politics.

Former President Donald J. Trump once again made clear on Thursday night exactly where he stands in the conflict between the American justice system and the mob that ransacked the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power nearly two years ago.

He stands with the mob.

Mr. Trump sent a video statement of support to a fund-raiser hosted by a group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project on behalf of families of those charged with attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” he said. The country, he warned, “is going communist.”

The video underscored just how much the former president has aligned himself with forces that used to be outside the mainstream of American politics as he seeks to reclaim the White House through a rematch with President Biden in 2024. With the Justice Department targeting him as well as some of his violent allies, Mr. Trump’s antigovernment jeremiads lately sound like those once relegated to the outer edges of the political spectrum.

He has embraced extremist elements in American society even more unabashedly than in the past. The video comes as Mr. Trump has been using music sounding like a QAnon theme song at recent rallies and hosting for dinner Kanye West, a rap star under fire for antisemitic statements, and Nick Fuentes, a prominent white supremacist.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes, Perry Stein, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Justice Dept. will weigh seditious conspiracy conviction in deciding whether to pursue other high-profile Trump allies, people familiar with the matter said.

A day after a federal jury convicted two far-right extremists of leading a plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that his Justice Department would continue to “work tirelessly” to hold accountable those responsible for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, such as Roger Stone, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

merrick garlandBut Garland, right, declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against them or any other people who did not physically participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing where he also touted Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system in Jackson, Miss.

Garland called the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, and Jackson’s water crisis, “significant matters of public interest.”

“I’m very proud of the attorneys, investigators and staff whose unwavering commitment to rule of law and tireless work resulted in yesterday in these two significant victories,” he said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Everything is happening to Donald Trump all at once now, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 2, 2022. When Donald Trump lost and tried to avoid leaving bill palmeroffice, it was because he knew that without the protections of the presidency, he was on a path to prison one way or the other. After the Manhattan DA punted, it’s taken the Feds roughly as long as the glacially slow Feds usually take to bring federal criminal charges. But we’re up against it now, and a lot of things are suddenly moving fast.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals fully put Trump’s special master stunt out of its misery, clearing what appears to be the final major hurdle in the DOJ’s effort to criminally indict Trump for stealing classified secrets.

This came even as a federal court separately ruled that former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone must give full testimony to the grand jury in the DOJ’s criminal probe into Trump’s actions related to January 6th. This comes days after it was reported that longtime Trump adviser Stephen Miller has testified to that same grand jury.

Last night the New York Times also reported that multiple Trump associates, including his longtime social media guy Dan Scavino, have recently testified to the DOJ grand jury in the classified documents case.

In other words, a number of aspects of the DOJ’s various criminal investigations into Donald Trump, which had been twisting in the wind for some time, are now coming together rather quickly.
   
Newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith has clearly hit the ground running. He promised there would be no delays of any kind, and there haven’t been. But some of these recent developments were put into motion shortly before Smith was appointed. This is perhaps less about Smith coming in and cracking proverbial heads, and more about the long struggle to build this kind of federal criminal indictment finally reaching the endgame, and Merrick Garland having chosen to appoint Smith at this particular time because these criminal cases against Trump simply need a closer. In any case, we all know where this is heading now.

ny times logoNew York Times, Report Suggests Tax Audits of Trump Foes Were Random, but Leaves Questions, Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). A report said that the returns were initially part of a randomly generated pool, but that a flaw in the final winnowing required further attention.

The Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general said in a report on Thursday that highly invasive audits of two of former President Donald J. Trump’s chief enemies — the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe — happened after their tax returns were randomly selected for inclusion in the initial pools from which the agency drew to carry out the examinations.

But the 19-page report said there appeared to be some deviations from the I.R.S.’s rigorous rules for random selection when the agency winnowed down the initial pools to make the final selections of the returns that would be audited. That created a risk, the report said, that someone could have had the chance to have a return from the larger pool chosen for the smaller group that would be audited.

As a result, the report said, the inspector general, known as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, would continue to look into what happened.

“Although we did not identify misconduct during our review, TIGTA is taking additional steps to assess the process used to select” the returns that would be audited, the report said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Company Trial Nears End as Lawyers Dissect Words of Key Witness, Jonah E. Bromwich, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Defense lawyers and prosecutors delivered closing arguments in the trial of Donald J. Trump’s family business on Thursday, agreeing that its employees had engaged in a lucrative tax fraud scheme for more than a decade but drawing diametrically opposed conclusions about whether their actions implicated the Trump Organization itself.

Each team provided its own interpretation of the testimony of Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, who has already pleaded guilty to the scheme. Mr. Weisselberg, along with other executives, was partially compensated in perks that included an Upper West Side apartment and luxury cars that he was able to avoid paying taxes on.

As a condition of his plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg appeared for the prosecution at trial, and the closing arguments on Thursday zeroed in on his testimony, with both sides claiming that Mr. Weisselberg had proven their case. The defense kicked things off, with a lawyer for the Trump Organization, Susan Necheles, saying that the case was about “the greed of Allen Weisselberg.”

“You saw him on the witness stand almost crying,” she said. “He knew he was doing something wrong, and he was ashamed of it and he kept it secret.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge sentences men behind election robocall scam to register new voters, Daniel Wu, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). In the summer of 2020, tens of thousands of people across five states received robocalls urging them not to vote by mail. The calls falsely warned that mailing in their ballots that fall could lead to their information being harvested by police, debt collectors or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ohio prosecutors in October 2020 charged right-wing operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl with telecommunications fraud in connection with the scheme, and two years later, the two men pleaded guilty.

Now, they have their punishment: They must spend 500 hours helping register people to vote.

Judge John Sutula in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court also sentenced Burkman and Wohl to two years of probation, fines of $2,500 each and electronic monitoring from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for six months, according to the county prosecutor’s office.

“I think it’s a despicable thing that you guys have done,” the judge said on Tuesday, comparing the robocall scam to efforts to suppress Southern Black voters in the 1960s, Cleveland.com reported.

Burkman, 56, and Wohl, 24, staged several irreverent stunts to add to the stream of disinformation that bombarded Americans in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. The pair called a news conference promising to produce a sexual assault accuser against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, though the alleged accuser never showed. They allegedly recruited young Republican men to make false sexual assault claims against then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. They staged a fake FBI raid on Burkman’s Arlington, Va., home that briefly fooled The Washington Post.

“These two individuals attempted to disrupt the foundation of our democracy,” a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office wrote to The Post on Wednesday. “Their sentence of two years’ probation and 500 hours of community work service at a voter-registration drive is appropriate.”

In October 2020, Michigan’s attorney general first brought felony charges against the pair of intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election law and using a computer to commit a crime. Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general, investigated Burkman and Wohl before referring them to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor the same month, he said in a statement. New York’s attorney general joined a lawsuit against the pair started by various civil rights organizations in May 2021.

The attorneys general alleged that the robocalling operation targeted minority communities to suppress their voting power.

The cases against Burkman and Wohl in Michigan and New York are ongoing. Burkman and Wohl may also face a historic $5 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission for making robocalls to cellphones without people’s consent.

Dec. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s very bad week leaves him teetering on the brink of disaster, Jennifer Rubin, right, author of Resistance, shown below, Dec. 1, 2022. Donald jennifer rubin new headshotTrump just had very bad week.

Five members of the Oath Keepers were convicted for serious felonies relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that the former president instigated. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify in Georgia’s criminal investigation into his attempt to overturn the state’s results. And a federal judge denied Trump’s claim that he has absolute immunity jennifer rubin book resistancefrom civil suits.


And that’s just the court-related developments. More Republicans have turned on him for dining with a Holocaust denier. Congress also made progress to fund the government — including the Justice Department — through September, potentially taking away a tool that Republicans could have used to blunt Trump’s legal woes.

The convictions against the Oath Keeper members should be particularly troubling for Trump. Two members, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy. The other three were not found guilty of seditious conspiracy, but all five were found guilty of obstructing a congressional proceeding and aiding and abetting. Rhodes faces Justice Department log circularup to 60 years in prison, unless he cuts a deal with prosecutors.

Each of these charges could be applied to Trump should he be indicted for his role in triggering the violence on Jan. 6, although the facts would differ for a seditious conspiracy case against him. Still, as Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment, puts it, “Now we know D.C. jurors can be receptive to that count.” He adds, “Perhaps a more likely charge against the former president is obstruction of Congress, and here again, DOJ can only be emboldened by its success on those counts in the Oath Keepers case.”

merrick garlandAttorney General Merrick Garland, right, took a well-earned victory lap on Tuesday. “Today the jury returned a verdict convicting all defendants of criminal conduct, including two Oath Keepers leaders for seditious conspiracy against the United States,” Garland said in a written statement. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021.” That could include characters in Trump’s inner circle with whom Rhodes was in communication with, such as Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

The convictions raise the Justice Department’s incentive to indict Trump for a number of reasons. First, the verdict should breed confidence in the Justice Department that juries will convict of serious crimes arising from the coup plot. It also effectively confirms that the violent assault on the Capitol to stop the transfer of power meets the definition of “sedition” and that seeking to disrupt the electoral voting counting amounts to an obstruction of an official proceeding. Second, failing to hold Trump accountable would appear contrary to the principle of “equal justice” for all people regardless of their position of power. Finally, these verdicts make convictions in cases against others who participated in the insurrection more likely, increasing the number of potential cooperating witnesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s dinner with antisemites provides test of GOP response to extremism, Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Marianna Sotomayor, Dec. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans are showing increasing willingness to criticize Trump over his meeting with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has issued anti-Jewish diatribes.

Former president Donald Trump’s refusal to apologize for or disavow the outspoken antisemites he dined with last week is setting him increasingly at odds with leaders of his own party, providing the first test of his political endurance since launching his third run for the White House.

The fracas is also testing how Republicans will handle the party’s extreme fringe in the months ahead after years of racist, misogynist and antisemitic speech flooding into the political bloodstream during the Trump era.

Trump has been taken aback by the backlash and maintained that the controversy over his Mar-a-Lago dinner with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, who has been vocally spouting antisemitic conspiracy theories, would blow over, according to advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations. “I think it’s dying down,” they recalled Trump saying.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trumpists are vowing to sabotage Biden. Act on this now, Democrats, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 1, 2022. It’s clear that the incoming greg sargentHouse GOP majority will try to use debt-limit extortion to extract all kinds of concessions from Democrats. This will likely focus on refusing to raise the nation’s borrowing limit to try to secure deep spending cuts. The slimness of the GOP majority will empower the MAGA caucus, which will wield this weapon to wreak havoc we can only guess at.

A top Senate Republican has now signaled that his party will use the debt limit to seek cuts to entitlements. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) flatly declared this week that if Republicans withhold support for raising the debt limit — which would threaten default and economic disaster — it could increase pressure on Democrats to “deliver” on raising the Social Security retirement age. This is ominous coming from the Senate GOP whip.

Unfortunately, there are reasons to be skeptical that Democrats will use the lame-duck session to protect the country from the damage this could unleash. Senate Republicans are supposed to be the sober ones, relative to the House GOP. If such threats from a GOP leader in the upper chamber aren’t enough to get Democrats to act, what would be?

 

November

Nov. 29

 

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes, above, stayed outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but prosecutors said he was the ringleader of a plot to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden.

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy of seditious conspiracy for leading a months-long plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Justice Department log circularThe panel of seven men and five women deliberated for three days before finding Rhodes and lead Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs guilty of conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transition of presidential power. But three other associates were not convicted of the historically rare and politically freighted sedition count. All five were convicted of obstructing Congress as it met to confirm the results of the 2020 election. Both offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Rhodes, 56, in a dark suit and black eye-patch from an old gun accident watched impassively as verdicts were read.

James Lee Bright, one of Rhodes’s attorneys, said Rhodes intended to testify on behalf of other Jan. 6 defendants “if asked.” Edward L. Tarpley Jr, another Rhodes lawyer, noted that the defendants were acquitted on 11 of the 28 counts: “This is not a total victory for the government in any way shape or form.”

Rhodes and his co-defendants were the first accused of seditious conspiracy and the first to face trial and be convicted on any conspiracy charge to date in the massive Jan. 6 investigation. He is the highest-profile figure to face trial in connection with rioting by angry Trump supporters who injured scores of officers, ransacked offices and forced lawmakers to evacuate the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes and followers, dressed in combat-style gear, converged on the Capitol after staging an “arsenal” of weapons at nearby hotels, ready to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction in an attack on the ‘bedrock of democracy,’ the government charged. Rhodes’s defense said he and co-defendants came to Washington as bodyguards and peacekeepers, bringing firearms only in case Trump met their demand to mobilize private militia to stop Biden from becoming president.

Analysts called the outcome a vindication for the Justice Department.

“The jury’s verdict on seditious conspiracy confirms that January 6, 2021, was not just ‘legitimate political discourse’ or a peaceful protest that got out of hand. This was a planned, organized, violent assault on the lawful authority of the U.S. government and the peaceful transfer of power,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at George Washington University.

“Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible,” Eliason said.

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwellU.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who helped defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, said he ran over to the federal courthouse when he heard there was a verdict. He sat sweating in the front row as the verdict was read.

“I was emotional,” Dunn said afterward. “I didn’t expect to cry.”

He thanked the jury and the Justice Department for their work on the case.

“I don’t look at it like a victory,” Dunn said. “A victory is when you win. This was right. This was about doing the right thing.”

The verdict in Rhodes’s case likely will be taken as a bellwether for two remaining Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trials set for December against five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys, including the longtime chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio. Both Rhodes and Tarrio are highly visible leaders of the alt-right or far-right anti-government movements, and were highlighted at hearings probing the attack earlier this year by the House Jan. 6 committee.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, January 6th Committee Report -- The devil may be in the details, Wayne Madsen, author of 22 books (including The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich, shown below) and a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2022. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAs the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection by Donald Trump and his allies wraps up, there is hope that some details of the planned coup d'état will be found either in the main report or its appendices.

wayne madesen report logoAs just one example, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have not advanced their investigations of who planted pipe bombs at Democratic and Republican National Committee headquarters.

wayne madsen fourth reich coverIn September last year, the FBI was requesting the public to supply any additional information on the identity of the suspect who planted the bombs.

The FBI said that the two pipe bombs were of sufficient explosive strength to have seriously injured or killed bystanders had they detonated.

There is other evidence that points to the January 6th insurrectionists having inside help in the Congress, including the offices of the House and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms; the Secret Service; and possibly other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

With the November 29 convictions for seditious conspiracy being handed down by a Washington, DC jury for insurrection leaders Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, the government has established that there was a criminal plot to overthrow the government. Such a predicate will undoubtedly empower the January 6th Committee to identify in its report others who were part of the conspiracy.

Politico, Mark Meadows ordered to testify in Trump investigation, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election in Georgia.

politico CustomSouth Carolina’s Supreme Court has unanimously ordered former White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election in Georgia.

“We have reviewed the arguments raised by [Meadows] and find them to be manifestly without merit,” South Carolina’s Supreme Court justices wrote in a brief opinion.

Mark MeadowsThe decision affirmed a lower court’s ruling requiring Meadows, right, to testify to the Fulton County grand jury investigation led by District Attorney Fani Willis. Meadows was initially scheduled to appear for testimony on Nov. 30, and it’s unclear if that appearance is still on track.

Attorneys for Meadows and a spokeswoman for Willis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The five-member court’s decision was just three paragraphs long. It cited the “exigent circumstances involved” but did not go into detail about the dispute.

Willis sought Meadows’ testimony in September as part of her expansive investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to disrupt the election process in Georgia, including his push for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The fight over the Meadows’ subpoena wound up before the South Carolina courts under procedures many states have agreed on to enforce court orders for testimony issued by courts in another state. To compel testimony from out-of-state residents, Willis must first get the approval of local courts. Meadows is a resident of South Carolina.

Courts in New York and Florida have similarly upheld efforts by Willis to obtain testimony from non-Georgia residents, including Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

Nov. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: If We Ignore Donald Trump We Might See Who He Really Is, Patti Davis, Nov. 28, 2022. Ms. Davis is an author and a daughter of President Ronald Reagan.

When I was about 8 or 9, I was bullied ruthlessly in school by a boy in my class. I faked being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school, but my parents figured out that something was going on and my father came in to talk to me. I confessed to him that I was scared of my tormentor, and what followed was a lesson in the beauty of ignoring another person. He explained that bullies crave attention and that if they are ignored, they sort of deflate. He then showed me how frustrating it is to feel like you’re invisible, by ignoring me when I tried to speak to him. It worked. I returned to school, I ignored the bully and he gave up his attacks on me.

Donald Trump is like the abusive boyfriend or ex-husband who won’t go away. In that situation, one would take out a restraining order, but obviously we can’t do that with Mr. Trump. So how about not making him the predominant news story? I have noticed, to be fair, that he is a little less predominant, but let’s face it, he is still everywhere in the news. I understand that announcing his candidacy for president is news. But does it have to be a front-page story? Does the end of his exile from Twitter have to dominate the day’s coverage? Does every move he makes, every ridiculous statement he utters, have to be reported?

With each news story, each segment on television, we are giving him the elixir that keeps him going — attention. There are plenty of things going on in the world that are more important than Donald Trump. We have a planet to save. Russia is still waging war on Ukraine, and still imprisoning American citizens like Brittney Griner. The West is running out of water. There are mass shootings so often it’s hard to keep track of them. Just to name a few really important issues.

What if there was a collective pledge among responsible news organizations to take Donald Trump off the front pages, to not talk about him every single day? He would huff and puff and try to blow the house down, but no one would be paying attention. Think of how much calmer the waters would be. Think of how many other stories would get the bandwidth they deserve.

Nov. 27

 

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Congress gets to see Trump’s tax returns. It shouldn’t have taken so long, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2022. Restoring the norm under which presidential contenders voluntarily disclose their tax returns — followed by nearly every major-party nominee since Nixon — is important.

Voters should expect to know what financial conflicts of interest they might bring to the job. And in Mr. Trump’s case, those records were especially relevant, given that he headed a sprawling and secretive privately held business. In addition to his tax records, he should have provided a detailed accounting of his holdings and interests. His refusal to do so became glaring as Mr. Trump pressed to reform the tax code in 2017. Americans could only guess how its provisions might personally enrich the president and his family.

irs logoIf presidential candidates do not voluntarily share their returns, Congress might try to impose new rules. So could state lawmakers. In response to the Trump tax return saga, for example, New York legislators passed a law in 2019 allowing state officials to give congressional investigators the tax information they have on file. State lawmakers could also write laws that mandate the automatic release of candidates’ state tax returns after they claim major-party presidential nominations.

But it should not come to that. It would be healthier for the country to see candidates once again perform essential acts of honesty and transparency — not because they have to but because voters deserve it.

Nov. 23

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Seeking to Question Mike Pence in Jan. 6 Investigation, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Nov. 23, 2022. Prosecutors want to speak with the former vice president as a witness to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power, and he is said to be considering how to respond.

The Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected.

Complicating the situation is whether Mr. Trump would try to invoke executive privilege to stop him or limit his testimony, a step that he has taken with limited success so far with other former officials.

Mr. Pence was present for some of the critical moments in which Mr. Trump and his allies schemed to keep him in office and block the congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. An agreement for him to cooperate would be the latest remarkable twist in an investigation that is already fraught with legal and political consequences, involving a former president who is now a declared candidate to return to the White House — and whose potential rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination include Mr. Pence.

Thomas Windom, one of the lead investigators examining the efforts to overturn the election, reached out to Mr. Pence’s team in the weeks before Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Jan. 6 investigation and a separate inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Mr. Garland has said that the appointment of the special counsel, Jack Smith, will not slow the investigation.

Officials at the Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for Mr. Pence also declined to comment.

The discussions about questioning Mr. Pence are said to be in their early stages. Mr. Pence has not been subpoenaed, and the process could take months, because Mr. Trump can seek to block, or slow, his testimony by trying to invoke executive privilege.

Mr. Trump has cited executive privilege to try to stop other former top officials from talking with investigators. While those efforts have generally been unsuccessful in stopping testimony by the officials to a federal grand jury, they have significantly slowed the process.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to slow or block testimony included asserting executive privilege over testimony from two of Mr. Pence’s top aides: his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his general counsel, Greg Jacob. But both men returned for grand jury interviews after the Justice Department, in a closed-door court proceeding, fought the effort to apply executive privilege.

Mr. Pence, who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s efforts to enlist him in the plan to block certification of the Electoral College results, has been publicly critical of Mr. Trump’s conduct in the run-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and on the day of the attack, when members of a pro-Trump mob were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

“If there was an invitation to participate, I’d consider it,” Mr. Pence said at the time. But he added that he was concerned that speaking to a congressional committee would violate the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. “But as I said, I don’t want to prejudge. If ever any formal invitation” came, he said, “we’d give it due consideration.”

However, in interviews for the release of his new book, “So Help Me God,” Mr. Pence has been more emphatic in his opposition to providing testimony to the House committee, asserting that “Congress has no right to my testimony” about what he witnessed.

“There’s profound separation-of-powers issues,” Mr. Pence told The New York Times in an interview. “And it would be a terrible precedent.”

But Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, sees the Justice Department inquiry differently given that it is a criminal investigation. His testimony could be compelled by subpoena, though none has been issued.

The former vice president is being represented by Emmet Flood, a veteran Washington-based lawyer who served as the lead Trump White House lawyer dealing with the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

Prosecutors want to speak with the former vice president as a witness to former President Trump’s efforts to remain in power.
Mr. Pence is open to considering the request, according to people familiar with his thinking.

 

liz cheney adam kinzinger jamie raskin

washington post logo Washington Post, Jan. 6 panel staffers angry at Cheney for focusing so much of report on Trump, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 23, 2022. 15 former and current staffers expressed concern that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.

Since Rep. Liz Cheney accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offer to serve as the vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Wyoming Republican has exerted a remarkable level of control over much of the committee’s public and private work.

Now, less than six weeks before the conclusion of the committee’s work, Cheney’s influence over the committee’s final report has rankled many current and former committee staff. They are angered and disillusioned by Cheney’s push to focus the report primarily on former president Donald Trump, and have bristled at the committee morphing into what they have come to view as the vehicle for the outgoing Wyoming lawmaker’s political future.

Fifteen former and current staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, expressed concerns that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.

The feuding brings to the fore a level of public acrimony within the Jan. 6 committee that previously had largely played out behind the scenes, as public attention was focused on a series of blockbuster public hearings focused on Trump’s role fomenting the attack.

Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s Gold Team, excluding reams of other investigative work.

Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the Blue Team — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism.

“We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public,” said one former committee staffer. “But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.”

Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler issued a blistering statement Wednesday to The Washington Post in response to the criticisms.

“Donald Trump is the first president in American history to attempt to overturn an election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” Adler said. “So, damn right Liz is ‘prioritizing’ understanding what he did and how he did it and ensuring it never happens again.”

Adler added, “Some staff have submitted subpar material for the report that reflects long-held liberal biases about federal law enforcement, Republicans, and sociological issues outside the scope of the Select Committee’s work. She won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’ that suggests Republicans are inherently racist or smears men and women in law enforcement, or suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”

Tim Mulvey, the select committee’s spokesman, said in a separate statement that the panel’s “historic, bipartisan fact-finding effort speaks for itself, and that won’t be changed by a handful of disgruntled staff who are uninformed about many parts of the committee’s ongoing work.”

“They’ve forgotten their duties as public servants and their cowardice is helping Donald Trump and others responsible for the violence of January 6th,” Mulvey’s statement continued. “All nine committee members continue to review materials and make contributions to the draft report, which will address every key aspect of the committee’s investigation. Decisions about the contents of the report ultimately rest with the committee’s bipartisan membership, not the staff.”

The internal tensions over Cheney’s role also stand in contrast to the widespread public praise from many Democrats and even some Republicans, who have hailed her for standing up to Trump and defending democratic norms. Cheney, under siege by Trump and ostracized by the GOP, was defeated in the Wyoming primary this summer and will leave office in January.

Some staffers noted that the mission of the committee — as spelled out in the resolution authorizing its formation — was to discover what political forces and intelligence and security failures allowed the U.S. Capitol Police and its partners to be so overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the attack and to ensure that such an event could not happen again. Leaving any relevant information out of the final report would ignore important lessons for the future and issues that will outlive Trump, they argued.

But in the wake of an NBC News story earlier this month that the final report would not include much of the panel’s work not directly related to Trump, lawmakers on the committee are now reassessing what to include in the final draft and also eyeing different ways to publicly share more of the investigators’ work outside of the report. That could include sharing findings on the committee’s website or releasing internal transcripts.

A senior committee staffer told staff in a virtual conference meeting two weeks ago that none of the work done by people serving on teams other than the Gold Team that didn’t focus on Trump would be included in the final report.

“Everybody freaked out,” the staffer said.

The announcement, this staffer argued, was premature and based on negative reactions from lawmakers who concluded that draft chapters written by non-Gold investigative teams should not be included because they were either too long or too academic in nature. However, the staffer said, while committee members disliked those chapters, they were open to including some of that material in a more concise or streamlined form.

Nov. 22

 

 

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supreme court headshots 2019

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court denies Trump request to withhold tax returns from Congress, Robert Barnes, Nov. 22, 2022. The court’s order means that the Treasury Department may quickly hand over six years of tax records from former president Donald Trump and some of his companies to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied former president Donald Trump’s efforts to block the release of his tax records to a congressional committee that has sought the information for years.

irs logoThe court’s order means that the Treasury Department may quickly hand over six years of tax records from Trump and some of his companies to the House Ways and Means Committee.

There were no recorded dissents in the court’s order.

Lawmakers have said they need Trump’s tax returns from his time in office to help evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits. Trump has argued that Democratic lawmakers are on a fishing expedition designed to embarrass him politically.

Time is not on the side of Democrats who run the committee. The demands for the records will almost surely expire in January, when Republicans take control of the House as a result of the recent midterm elections.

“Delaying Treasury from providing the requested tax information would leave the Committee and Congress as a whole little or no time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is quickly approaching its end,” House general counsel Douglas N. Letter said in a filing to the court.

Trump’s lawyers said that was all the more reason to grant the request to block the release of the records. “The Congress has only a few days left on its legislative calendar,” lawyer Cameron T. Norris said in his filing. “Though a few days is enough time to improperly expose the most sensitive documents of its chief political rival, it’s not enough time to properly study, draft, debate, or pass legislation.”

Trump's early 2024 launch fails to rally GOP around him

Last month, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. That court also refused to put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Advice for Jack Smith, the New Special Counsel in the Trump Investigations, Andrew Weissmann, Nov. 22, 2022. Mr. Weissmann, right, andrew weissmann croppedwas a senior prosecutor in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over the investigations of Donald Trump, has joined a select club: He is one of a small number of special prosecutors in modern history to investigate a sitting or former U.S. president. Now is a good time to look back to these examples and take stock of what we can learn from them.

The challenges for Mr. Smith will be shaped by the context in which he operates within the executive branch and the nature of his factual investigation. It is useful to take note of how this differs from the special counsel investigation of a president that immediately preceded him, led by Robert Mueller. I was a senior member of that team.

Mr. Smith is stepping into a political context very different from the one that confronted Mr. Mueller. Most notably, because of Justice Department policy, Mr. Mueller was forbidden to charge a sitting president. Now that Mr. Trump is a former president, Mr. Smith is not subject to that limitation. (That policy does not apply to presidential candidates like Mr. Trump.)

Mr. Trump also no longer has key weapons he wielded to frustrate the Mueller investigation: the destabilizing threat of firing the special counsel and Justice Department leadership to curtail the scope of the investigation and the ability to dangle and bestow presidential pardons to discourage witnesses from cooperating.

The Mueller team’s adversarial relationship with the White House at times also extended to the Justice Department, which sought to manage and scrutinize the investigation and narrow its scope in detrimental ways. Indeed, I experienced more senior Justice Department oversight, not less, when working on the special counsel investigation than I had for a standard Justice Department case.

Mr. Smith has other advantages that relate to the status of the work he is now called on to perform. He is assuming the helm of two substantial investigations in progress — one related to the events surrounding the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, the other to the handling of government documents at Mar-a-Lago — with designated teams of prosecutors and agents he is inheriting. He is not, as Mr. Mueller was, required to fly and build the plane simultaneously.

The factual nature of the investigations is also an advantage: Although the Jan. 6 investigation is hydra-headed, it is far less complex than investigating political interference by a foreign country in a presidential election.

The Mar-a-Lago documents case is straightforward for experienced prosecutors and agents. In that regard, it is like the investigation of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. That investigation, which I led, involved for the most part simple economic crimes that the department prosecutes routinely.

Mr. Smith will still face the challenges of Mr. Trump’s post-presidential bully pulpit and name-calling from his allies in Washington. And investigating and prosecuting matters in the blinding glare of the media poses numerous challenges. For one, as I learned from the Mueller investigation and the Enron Task Force, it is far harder to persuade a witness to admit to wrongdoing when that admission will be splattered across outlets nationwide.

Nov. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Family’s Newest Partners: Middle Eastern Governments, Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 20, 2022. The government of Oman is a partner in a real estate deal signed last week by the former president, intensifying questions about a potential conflict as he seeks the White House again.

When former President Donald J. Trump returned briefly last week to his office at Trump Tower in New York, he was joined by his son Eric Trump and the top executive of a Saudi Arabian real estate company to sign a deal that creates new conflict-of-interest questions for his just-launched presidential campaign.

The deal is with a Saudi real estate company, which intends to build a Trump-branded hotel, villas and a golf course as part of a $4 billion real estate project in Oman. The agreement continues a practice that had been popular for the Trump family business until Mr. Trump was elected president — selling branding rights to an overseas project in exchange for a generous licensing fee.

But what makes this project unusual — and is sure to intensify the questions over this newest transaction — is that by teaming up with the Saudi company, Mr. Trump is also becoming part of a project backed by the government of Oman itself.

The deal leaves Mr. Trump, as a former president hoping to win the White House again, effectively with a foreign government partner that has complex relations with the United States, including its role in trying to end the war in Yemen and other important foreign policy agenda items for Washington.

Nov. 19

 

 merrick garland new

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Garland’s appointment of a special counsel was cautious. But also bold, Ruth Marcus, right, Nov. 19, 2022. Trump should not sleep soundly. Attorney General Merrick Garland, ruth marcusshown above, on Friday made a typically cautious decision in a bold way: He appointed a special counsel to investigate former president Donald Trump, but chose a veteran lawyer known for an aggressive streak and a fast prosecutorial metabolism.

This was a step Garland didn’t want to take; he believed the department’s career lawyers were capable of doing the job with integrity and independence. But he had been anticipating — and, careful lawyer that he is, preparing for — this possibility for months.

The first shoe to drop was President Biden’s statement that he intended to run again. That wasn’t enough, in Garland’s assessment, to trigger the requirements of the Justice Department’s special counsel regulations. Even if Trump was teasing another presidential run, the department’s twin investigations — into the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection — could proceed as normal.

But Trump’s announcement that he would enter the 2024 race forced Garland’s reluctant hand. The rules, he believed, didn’t leave him any choice.

I thought Garland had more leeway to make the judgment call the other way, but in retrospect it seems almost inevitable that the by-the-books attorney general would go the special counsel route. Justice Department regulations provide that the attorney “will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted” and that investigation or prosecution “would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances.”

The regulations offer an out, one I previously wrote that Garland should take: The attorney general doesn’t have to name a special counsel if he decides that would not be in the public interest. But consider: An administration headed by a president who has announced his intention to seek reelection is investigating a former president who just declared he will run again. If this does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance, what would? What lesson would not appointing a special counsel send to future attorneys general? These are serious concerns.

If Garland had a mission on leaving the bench to return to Justice, it was to repair the department’s reputation for independence and integrity, battered after four years of Trump administration meddling, and to reassure its demoralized troops. Naming a special counsel was never going to assuage the concerns of Trump partisans that the Biden administration is out to get him, as the immediate reaction from Trumpworld underscored. Trump denounced the effort to take any whiff of politics out of the decision-making as “the worst politicization of justice in our country.” A Trump campaign spokesperson called the announcement “a totally expected political stunt by a feckless, politicized, weaponized Biden Department of Justice.”

But Garland’s goal was not to persuade the unpersuadable. It was, in the familiar language of the law, aimed at how a reasonable person would perceive the fairness of the investigation, and whether a reasonable person would think a special counsel was warranted under the facts at hand and the language and spirit of the regulations. It was telling that in this regard, Garland did not acknowledge that investigating Trump constituted a conflict of interest for the department — just that the circumstances had become extraordinary.

“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity,” Garland said. “And I also believe that appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do.”

This is where the bold part comes in: Special counsels usually have big names. Former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III, tapped to oversee the Trump-Russia probe, is the most recent such example. History offers others: Harvard Law School professor Archibald Cox to conduct the Watergate investigation as special prosecutor; former U.S. attorney Robert Fiske and then former appeals court judge Kenneth Starr to handle the Whitewater investigation as independent counsels. They came to the job with a public reputation that, at least in theory, lent credibility to their oversight.

jack smith vestJack Smith, right, Garland’s choice, is decidedly low profile. I spoke with a number of former prosecutors who not only didn’t know Smith — they hadn’t even heard of him. But Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor who has been working at The Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo, offers advantages that the boldface names don’t. He knows how the department works. He knows how to speed an investigation along. “Stop playing with your food,” Mueller used to instruct hand-wringing prosecutors. Smith is, by all accounts, no food-player. And he offers a potential counter-balance to Garland’s innate cautiousness; hard-charging is the word that comes up in speaking with former colleagues.

“Jack Smith makes me look like a golden retriever puppy,” tweeted Andrew Weissmann, the famously aggressive former Enron and Mueller prosecutor who worked with Smith for years in the federal prosecutor’s Brooklyn office.

One example of Smith’s inclination to aggressiveness: the 2011 decision to charge former North Carolina senator John Edwards for accepting illegal presidential campaign contributions to help support his mistress. This was a stretch, as I wrote at the time, and the subject of controversy within the department. Smith, the head of the department’s Public Integrity Section, pressed to indict. The case ultimately fizzled as a jury acquitted Edwards on one count and deadlocked on five others; the department chose not to seek a retrial.

“For those concerned that the appointment of a Special Counsel will delay things: just the opposite,” Weissmann wrote. “Jack is a super fast, no-nonsense, and let’s-cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. And now, with less DOJ bureaucracy in decision-making, the investigations can move faster.”

That may be over-optimistic, but Trump should not sleep soundly. As a prosecutor, “you have to be able to admit that if it’s not there, it’s not there,” Smith said when he took the public integrity job in 2010. “I think that’s hard for people to do and having been a prosecutor for 15 years that is something I can do.”

Nov. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Could Go to Prison, and Then Walk Free. Here Are His Five Investigations, Explained, Ankush Khardori, Nov. 17, 2022 (interactive). Mr. Khardori is a lawyer and legal analyst. He spent several years as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice. Before he joined the federal government, he defended corporate clients against charges of fraud and other crimes.

djt march 2020 CustomDonald Trump and his business empire are currently the subjects of no fewer than five major simultaneous investigations, a truly extraordinary challenge for anyone, let alone a former and possibly future president of the United States. These are complicated investigations, with long and winding paths to resolution. They involve scores of federal and state investigators and witnesses across the country, from politicians eager to shield themselves from scrutiny to employees turning on their colleagues to a former president who knows how to navigate — and manipulate — the legal system like no one else.

The public has very little visibility into how these investigations are proceeding day by day, as government officials quietly gather evidence and plan their next moves. Any number of unexpected developments — surprise witnesses, hung juries and perhaps even a special counsel empowered to oversee Justice Department investigations — could slow or derail their work.

FBI logoThe announcement of Mr. Trump’s candidacy for president does not halt any of these investigations, but it could affect how prosecutors weigh their options, and his uniquely polarizing status could affect how judges and juries resolve any cases that make it to trial. Were he to win the election, he could put an end to any pending federal prosecutions or investigations once in office.

Even at this stage, some potential scenarios are possible to discern, including the possibility — however improbable it may seem — that all of the investigations resolve in his favor, with no conviction and no serious legal consequences. Based on interviews with experts and analysis of media reports, as well as of the law itself, here is a close look at some of the paths by which such an outcome could come to pass.

Below we illustrate the likely key steps for prosecutors and other enforcement officials, as well as offramps Mr. Trump could use to stay out of prison or otherwise mitigate the possible repercussions from these probes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some of former President Trump’s staunchest allies have shunned his attempt to recapture the White House, Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Weisman, Nov. 17, 2022. Early signs suggest he may struggle to win over Republican Party leaders for his third presidential bid, after a string of disappointments, but Donald Trump’s staunchest voters are another matter.

Three billionaire donors have moved on and others are actively weighing their options. A number of former allies are staying on the sidelines. A long list of potential rivals — from popular governors to members of Congress — are seriously assessing their chances for 2024. Even his own daughter has declined to get involved.

Within hours of Donald J. Trump announcing his third presidential bid on Tuesday, some of his former aides, donors and staunchest allies are shunning his attempt to recapture the White House, an early sign that he may face difficulty winning the support of a Republican Party still reeling from unexpected midterm losses.

While Mr. Trump has long faced opposition from the establishment and elite quarters of his party, this round of criticism was new in its raw bluntness, plainly out in the open by Wednesday and focused on reminding voters that the Trump era in Republican politics has led to the opposite of the endless winning Mr. Trump once promised.

“The message he delivered last night — which was self-serving, which was chaotic — was the same one that lost the last election cycle and would lose the next,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican and Trump critic who spoke Wednesday from Iowa, where he is testing the waters for a presidential run in 2024. “We need alternatives.”

A growing chorus of Republican officials, lawmakers and activists blame the former president for their failure to regain control of the Senate and for what will be a narrow margin in the House.

The scope of the Republican losses has prompted some of his allies to publicly voice complaints they have long kept private about the former president’s ability to win the White House. For those who have been more vocal, their concerns have morphed into far more direct attacks as they try to seize what they see as a chance to move past Mr. Trump and embrace a new class of party leaders.

At an annual gathering of Republican governors in Orlando, donors and lobbyists mingled with governors past, present and future while weighing ways to wrest Mr. Trump from the party’s base. Their main complaint was not over policy or even style, but losses the party has taken since Mr. Trump won the White House in 2016.

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican often mentioned as a potential 2024 candidate, said she did not believe Mr. Trump offered “the best chance” for the party in 2024.

“If we narrow our focus there, then we’re not talking to every single American,” Ms. Noem said in an interview as she sat across a mahogany table from her political adviser, Corey Lewandowski, who served as campaign manager for an early portion of Mr. Trump’s 2016 bid. “Our job is not just to talk to people who love Trump or hate Trump. Our job is to talk to every single American.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Key Witness in Trump Organization Trial Takes Stand Under Pressure, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, Nov. 17, 2022. Allen Weisselberg served the family firm for decades. A plea deal has him testifying in the company’s tax fraud case, telling the truth or facing jail time.

allen weisselberg croppedAllen H. Weisselberg, right, is the man in the middle.

To avoid a long prison sentence, he pleaded guilty to 17 felonies and on Thursday will continue testifying for Manhattan prosecutors in their criminal tax fraud case against Donald J. Trump’s family business, where Mr. Weisselberg worked for decades.

But Mr. Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the company, remains on the payroll, taking a $640,000 salary, and has refused to turn on Mr. Trump — who is the subject of a broader investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

With his freedom and livelihood on the line, Mr. Weisselberg is caught between the prosecutors with whom he struck a deal and the family that has employed him for nearly a half-century.

Mr. Weisselberg stepped into his role as the prosecution’s star witness on Tuesday, testifying about his involvement in a tax scheme at the Trump Organization, where he and other executives were compensated in lavish off-the-books perks. Mr. Weisselberg failed to pay taxes on those benefits, which included his Manhattan apartment, his leased Mercedes-Benzes and even his cable bill.

Mr. Weisselberg and the company were charged in 2021; a year later, he pleaded guilty, reaching a deal that required him to testify truthfully. If he does, he is expected to be sentenced to five months in jail and with good behavior could serve as little as 100 days behind bars.

If the judge concludes that Mr. Weisselberg lied on the stand, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

“Mr. Weisselberg’s legal situation is as complex as that faced by any witness,” said his lawyer, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., noting that his client must testify even though he continues to be “a loyal employee of the Trump Organization.”

“Mr. Weisselberg’s mission is clear. He will take the stand, answer every question truthfully, and let the chips fall where they may,” Mr. Gravante said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Is Running in 2024. The White House Has a Plan, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s advisers have been working on a strategy for responding to what they expect will be constant attacks.

With Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he is officially running to reclaim the Oval Office he falsely asserts was stolen from him, President Biden is ready to implement what some of his top aides refer to as “the Trump project.”

Mr. Biden has spent much of the last year putting a fearsome face on the “ultra-MAGA” agenda, taking aim at Republican senators, governors and state lawmakers. Now, he will return the focus to his once and future foil — Mr. “Make America Great Again” himself.

Inside the West Wing, a small group of presidential advisers has been working to develop a plan for how Mr. Biden and the White House will respond to what they expect will be a constant stream of invective from the former president now that he is formally a candidate.

Mr. Trump started the attacks almost immediately in his speech on Tuesday night announcing his presidential run, as he complained about “Biden and the radical-left lunatics running our government right into the ground.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is out for vengeance — and to protect himself from prosecution, George T. Conway III, right, Nov. 17, 2022 george conway post(print ed.). He was always going to run. Absent incarceration or interment, and perhaps only the latter, he inevitably would seek the presidency again. His narcissism, his megalomania, his delicate yet illimitable ego, would have it no other way.

Donald Trump craves the power. Even more, he craves the attention. And more than ever — after an unprecedented two impeachments, a humiliating reelection defeat that he can’t even admit, and amid multiple criminal investigations and civil suits — he seeks vengeance. The l’état c’est moi president who apparently tried to sic the IRS on his enemies (and perhaps succeeded), and who tried to extort Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden, can’t wait to get back on the job.

Trump won’t succeed, as his successive losses of the House, Senate, presidency and last week’s midterm results show. Too many Americans would crawl on broken glass to vote against him, no matter who his general election opponent may be. They have seen enough.

That goes also for many Republicans, particularly the sophisticated ones. Their views were succinctly stated by Marc Thiessen just the other day: “Mr. President, it is not in your interest to run in 2024. If you do, you will likely lose. And you will destroy what remains of your legacy in the process. Please, don’t do it,” Thiessen begged.

Legacy? Trump has none, other than his impeachments and the stain of Jan. 6, 2021. He’ll never be remembered for much else. Historians will perpetually rank him as among the worst — if not the worst — in the presidential pantheon. As they should, befitting a man who, despite having sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, did his level best to destroy it.

Trump can’t ruin a legacy he doesn’t have, but he could easily wreck something else: the Republican Party. Which is why so many in the GOP are, at long last, so alarmed. And why Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the right-wing donor class and so many Republican Party operatives seek an alternative. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, they hope, will save the day.

Nov. 16

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: At Trump’s angry announcement, the magic is gone, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump, The Post reported dana milbank newestTuesday, “wants to recapture the underdog vibe" of his 2016 campaign for the presidency.

If that is his goal, he has already scored a big win. Huge, in fact.

Republicans are (justifiably) blaming Trump for their pratfall in last week’s midterms, the third straight election in which voters rejected the MAGA brand. #Winning

Trump-endorsed election deniers, such as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, lost up and down the ballot, as Republicans blew their chance to take the Senate and win a workable majority in the House. #Winning

Aides pressed Trump, publicly, not to announce his 2024 presidential candidacy on Tuesday night, so soon after the dismal election. #Winning

Republican office holders conspicuously avoided Mar-a-Lago for Trump’s “special announcement.” Even Trumpophilic Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) begged off, claiming bad weather kept him from flying from Washington to Palm Beach, when in fact air travel Tuesday was normal. Reporters spotted only one current member of Congress: Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina — and he was defeated in a primary.

Republicans, sick and tired of so much winning, are crying out to Trump: Please, stop winning.

djt maga hatBut the Mussolini of Mar-a-Lago replies: No, we’re going to keep winning.

“In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” he informed to his guests — an announcement that surprised no one and delighted only slightly more.

Trump aide Jason Miller promised a 35-minute, “very forward-looking” speech. Instead, it was interminable, meandering and, well, low-energy, as Trump kept departing from the teleprompter into gibberish.

He was defensive. He said the “fake news” is “trying to blame me” for the disappointing election showing, but he had an “unprecedented success rate” (!) with his endorsements.

He spoke nonsense: “I’ve gone decades — decades — without a war, the first president to do it that long,” he said of his four-year term.

 Washington Post, Trump, who as president fomented an insurrection, says he is running again, Isaac Arnsdorf

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s 2024 candidacy won’t stop Justice Dept. criminal probes, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Nov. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Officials have discussed whether a special counsel should be appointed as Trump runs. But some legal experts think it’s too late for that.

Donald Trump’s just-announced 2024 presidential bid won’t protect him from criminal probes but could complicate the decision-making process at the Justice Department, as senior officials strive to show that investigating a political figure is not the same thing as a political investigation.

Justice Department log circularPrivately, Justice Department officials have discussed the possibility of appointing a special counsel to take over investigations involving Trump — such as the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case or the attempts to prevent Joe Biden from ascending to the presidency after the 2020 election — if Trump formally declares himself a 2024 presidential candidate, people familiar with the matter said.

How serious those discussions were and how long ago they occurred are not clear. But Attorney General Merrick Garland and others may soon face a decision point, as Trump, who lost his bid for a second term in 2020, announced his next presidential campaign Tuesday night.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The people familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump, who as president fomented an insurrection, is running for the White House again

hillary clinton buttonPlenty of political candidates have been investigated while they ran for office — including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2016. The FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was opened in mid-2015, continued throughout the primaries, was closed just before the nominating convention and then publicly reopened less than two weeks before Election Day.

No special counsel was appointed for that probe.

Justice Department regulations say the attorney general “will” appoint a special counsel, essentially a prosecutor handpicked to tackle a particularly criminal investigation, if a case meets several criteria, specifically: that an investigation is warranted in a way that presents a conflict of interest for the Justice Department “or other extraordinary circumstances,” and that under those circumstances “it would be in the public interest” to appoint a special counsel to handle the case.

Critically, even if a special counsel is appointed, that person would still report to the attorney general, who would have the ultimate authority on what to do about the evidence.

Garland made that point earlier this year when asked at a Senate hearing why he had not appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, who is the focus of a long-running probe involving his business dealings and taxes.

The status of key investigations involving Donald Trump

“This is a fact and law determination in each case,” Garland told the lawmakers, adding that special counsels “are also employees of the Justice Department” — meaning they still report to the attorney general.

Sarah Isgur served as an adviser to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in 2017, when he appointed Robert S. Mueller III a special counsel to investigate any possible ties between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. She said she doesn’t think Garland has much choice but to name a special counsel if Trump runs for president.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign operation takes shape ahead of expected 2024 announcement, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Nov. 16, 2022 (print ed.).The former president envisions a smaller campaign akin to his 2016 effort rather than the better funded but losing 2020 bid.

A trio of longtime Republican operatives will lead Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign, which the former president is set to announce Tuesday evening in the ballroom of his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to five people familiar with the staffing decisions.

djt maga hatThere are expected to be notable differences from his 2020 campaign, advisers say. His nascent presidential bid is not currently expected to have a traditional campaign manager, with multiple advisers in top roles, according to some of the people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Trump is famous for firing campaign managers.

Compared with 2020, the 2024 bid is expected to have a smaller staff and budget, advisers say, as Trump has complained that his failed 2020 campaign had too many people and spent too much money. He often told people that he did not even know what some of the people on his last campaign did.

The new campaign is expected to be based in South Florida, advisers say, instead of having a Washington presence.

Trump has told others he wants to re-create the underdog vibe of the 2016 campaign. He faces a range of challenges, including multiple federal and state investigations, growing criticism from Republicans, and unpopularity in many of the early 2024 states.

Trump is famous for overriding campaign advisers and pitting aides against each other, and some allies have already predicted drama and cinematic firings — before the campaign has even launched.

The top advisers include Chris LaCivita, a longtime Republican strategist who is directing a super PAC tied to Trump, and Susie Wiles, a Florida-based political consultant who helped Trump win the state in his previous two presidential bids and has led his political operation for the past 18 months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s 2024 candidacy won’t stop Justice Dept. criminal probes, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Nov. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Officials have discussed whether a special counsel should be appointed as Trump runs. But some legal experts think it’s too late for that.

Donald Trump’s just-announced 2024 presidential bid won’t protect him from criminal probes but could complicate the decision-making process at the Justice Department, as senior officials strive to show that investigating a political figure is not the same thing as a political investigation.

Justice Department log circularPrivately, Justice Department officials have discussed the possibility of appointing a special counsel to take over investigations involving Trump — such as the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case or the attempts to prevent Joe Biden from ascending to the presidency after the 2020 election — if Trump formally declares himself a 2024 presidential candidate, people familiar with the matter said.

How serious those discussions were and how long ago they occurred are not clear. But Attorney General Merrick Garland and others may soon face a decision point, as Trump, who lost his bid for a second term in 2020, announced his next presidential campaign Tuesday night.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The people familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump, who as president fomented an insurrection, is running for the White House again

hillary clinton buttonPlenty of political candidates have been investigated while they ran for office — including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2016. The FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was opened in mid-2015, continued throughout the primaries, was closed just before the nominating convention and then publicly reopened less than two weeks before Election Day.

No special counsel was appointed for that probe.

Justice Department regulations say the attorney general “will” appoint a special counsel, essentially a prosecutor handpicked to tackle a particularly criminal investigation, if a case meets several criteria, specifically: that an investigation is warranted in a way that presents a conflict of interest for the Justice Department “or other extraordinary circumstances,” and that under those circumstances “it would be in the public interest” to appoint a special counsel to handle the case.

Critically, even if a special counsel is appointed, that person would still report to the attorney general, who would have the ultimate authority on what to do about the evidence.

Garland made that point earlier this year when asked at a Senate hearing why he had not appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, who is the focus of a long-running probe involving his business dealings and taxes.

The status of key investigations involving Donald Trump

“This is a fact and law determination in each case,” Garland told the lawmakers, adding that special counsels “are also employees of the Justice Department” — meaning they still report to the attorney general.

Sarah Isgur served as an adviser to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in 2017, when he appointed Robert S. Mueller III a special counsel to investigate any possible ties between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. She said she doesn’t think Garland has much choice but to name a special counsel if Trump runs for president.

Nov. 15

Emptywheel, Analysis: Devlin Barrett’s “People Familiar With The Matter,” Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Nov. 15, 2022. As Devlin Barrett’s sources would have marcy wheelerit, a man whose business ties to the Saudis include a $2 billion investment in his son-in-law, a golf partnership of undisclosed value, and a new hotel development in Oman would have no business interest in stealing highly sensitive documents describing Iran’s missile systems.

I’ll let you decide whether the claim, made in Barrett’s latest report on the stolen documents case, means the FBI is considering the issue very narrowly or Barrett’s sources are bullshitting him.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Barrett has a history of credulously repeating what right wing FBI agents feed him for their own political goals, which means it’s unclear how seriously to take this report. Particularly given several critical details Barrett’s story does not mention:

 

 

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigators see ego, not money, as Trump’s motive on classified papers, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A review by agents and prosecutors found no discernible business interest in the Mar-a-Lago documents, people familiar with the matter said.

Federal agents and prosecutors have come to believe former president Donald Trump’s motive for allegedly taking and keeping classified documents was largely his ego and a desire to hold on to the materials as trophies or mementos, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department log circularAs part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed the classified documents that were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club, looking to see if the types of information contained in them pointed to any kind of pattern or similarities, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Several Trump advisers said that each time he was asked to give documents or materials back, his stance hardened, and that he gravitated toward lawyers and advisers who indulged his more pugilistic desires. Trump repeatedly said the materials were his, not the government’s — often in profane terms, two of these people said.

The people familiar with the matter cautioned that the investigation is ongoing, that no final determinations have been made, and that it is possible additional information could emerge that changes investigators’ understanding of Trump’s motivations. But they said the evidence collected over a period of months indicates the primary explanation for potentially criminal conduct was Trump’s ego and intransigence.

A Justice Department spokesman and an FBI spokeswoman declined to comment. A Trump spokesman did not return a request for comment Monday.

Trump and the Mar-a-Lago documents: a timeline

The analysis of Trump’s likely motive in allegedly keeping the documents is not, strictly speaking, an element of determining whether he or anyone around him committed a crime or should be charged with one. Justice Department policy dictates that prosecutors file criminal charges in cases in which they believe a crime was committed and the evidence is strong enough to lead to a conviction that will hold up on appeal. But as a practical matter, motive is an important part of how prosecutors assess cases and decide whether to file criminal charges.

Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, said keeping hundreds of classified documents, many marked top secret, at a private home “is such a perplexing thing to do” that it makes sense for prosecutors to search for a motive.

“It makes perfect sense as to why prosecutors would be spending time scouring through the various records and documents to look for some kind of pattern or theme to explain why certain records were kept and why others were not,” Mintz said. “In presenting a case to a jury, prosecutors typically want to explain the motive for committing a crime. It’s not necessary to prove a crime, but it helps tell the story of exactly how a crime unfolded, according to the government.”

Court papers say the Justice Department has been investigating Trump and his advisers for three potential crimes: mishandling of national security secrets, obstruction, and destruction of government records.

The Washington Post has previously reported that among the most sensitive classified documents recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago were documents about Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said. The Post has also reported that some of the material focuses on the defense systems of a foreign country, including its nuclear capabilities.

Two advisers to the former president who personally reviewed boxes of material in Trump’s White House said he often threw hundreds of pieces of paper in boxes — mixing in highly sensitive documents with years-old schedules and other mundane material.

Top national security prosecutor joins Justice Dept.' Mar-a-Lago investigation

The FBI has recovered three batches of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in the past year. The first batch, in January, came when Trump agreed to hand over to the National Archives and Records Administration 15 boxes of material that the agency believed contained historical presidential records. In those boxes, archivists found 184 classified documents, including 25 marked top secret, which were scattered throughout the boxes in no particular order, according to court filings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign operation takes shape ahead of expected 2024 announcement, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Nov. 15, 2022. The former president envisions a smaller campaign akin to his 2016 effort rather than the better funded but losing 2020 bid.

A trio of longtime Republican operatives will lead Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign, which the former president is set to announce Tuesday evening in the ballroom of his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to five people familiar with the staffing decisions.

There are expected to be notable differences from his 2020 campaign, advisers say. His nascent presidential bid is not currently expected to have a traditional campaign manager, with multiple advisers in top roles, according to some of the people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Trump is famous for firing campaign managers.

Compared with 2020, the 2024 bid is expected to have a smaller staff and budget, advisers say, as Trump has complained that his failed 2020 campaign had too many people and spent too much money. He often told people that he did not even know what some of the people on his last campaign did.

The new campaign is expected to be based in South Florida, advisers say, instead of having a Washington presence.

Trump has told others he wants to re-create the underdog vibe of the 2016 campaign. He faces a range of challenges, including multiple federal and state investigations, growing criticism from Republicans, and unpopularity in many of the early 2024 states.

Trump is famous for overriding campaign advisers and pitting aides against each other, and some allies have already predicted drama and cinematic firings — before the campaign has even launched.

The top advisers include Chris LaCivita, a longtime Republican strategist who is directing a super PAC tied to Trump, and Susie Wiles, a Florida-based political consultant who helped Trump win the state in his previous two presidential bids and has led his political operation for the past 18 months.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Detail Foreign Government Spending at Trump Hotel, Luke Broadwater and Eric Lipton, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Six nations spent lavishly at the hotel as they sought to influence the Trump administration, according to a breakdown released by the House Oversight Committee.

Officials from six nations spent more than $750,000 at former President Donald J. Trump’s hotel in Washington when they were seeking to influence his administration, renting rooms for more than $10,000 per night, according to documents that his former accounting firm turned over to Congress.

The governments of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China spent more money than previously known at the Trump International Hotel at crucial times in 2017 and 2018 for those countries’ relations with the United States, according to the documents, which were obtained by the House Oversight Committee and released on Monday.

The officials spent freely at the hotel, the records show. The Malaysian prime minister, for instance, hired a $1,500 personal trainer during his stay at the Trump hotel in 2017. The Saudi Ministry of Defense rented several suites, costing $10,500 each, with rooms reserved under the name “His Excellency.” Qatari officials spent more than $300,000 there in the weeks leading up to a meeting with Mr. Trump in 2018.

The documents build on the public record of how Mr. Trump’s hotel brought in millions during his presidency from foreign governments. The Oversight Committee has previously estimated that the hotel received more than $3.75 million from foreign governments from 2017 to 2020, raising concerns about possible violations of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Allows Subpoena for Arizona Republican’s Phone Records, Adam Liptak, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court paved the way for the Jan. 6 panel to obtain phone records of the Arizona Republican Party’s chairwoman.

The Supreme Court paved the way on Monday for the House committee investigating the Capitol attack to obtain phone records of Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party.

As is its custom in ruling on emergency applications, the court’s brief order gave no reasons. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. noted dissents, also without giving reasons.

Experts in legal ethics have said that Justice Thomas should recuse himself from cases concerning the Jan. 6 attack in light of the efforts of his wife, Virginia Thomas, to overturn the 2020 election. Ms. Thomas’s activities included lobbying the speaker of the Arizona House to try to reverse Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the state.

Lower courts had ruled against Dr. Ward, an osteopathic physician who the committee said had played a key role in efforts to subvert the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Vice President Mike Pence said former President Trump was “reckless” in assailing him on Jan. 6, Maggie Haberman, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). In excerpts from an interview with ABC, the former vice president said he was angered that Donald J. Trump’s tweet during the Capitol attack had endangered him and his family.

Former Vice President Mike Pence told ABC News that he was “angered” by former President Donald J. Trump’s “reckless” tweet assailing him during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, in his first interview about the violent efforts by Mr. Trump’s supporters to keep him in power.

The first excerpts from Mr. Pence’s interview, with the ABC anchor David Muir, were aired on Sunday and Monday, with more to be broadcast on Monday night. The former vice president gave the interview to promote his new book, “So Help Me God,” which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.

Mr. Pence provided his views as Mr. Trump prepares to announce a third presidential campaign on Tuesday night at a rally at his private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, which the F.B.I. searched over the summer to recover dozens of classified documents that had left the White House with Mr. Trump.

“The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building,” Mr. Pence told Mr. Muir, referring to the former president’s comments at an event on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Ellipse near the White House. At the rally, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing certification of the Electoral College results of the 2020 election to delay or overturn the outcome, and then called on the crowd to march to the Capitol.

Nov. 14

 

djt on phone white house photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wanted I.R.S. Investigations of Foes, Top Aide Says, Michael S. Schmidt, Nov. 14, 2022 (print ed.). John Kelly, who was White House chief of staff, said former President Trump wanted investigations into perceived enemies like the former F.B.I. director.

While in office, President Donald J. Trump (shown above in a White House photo during his presidency) repeatedly told John F. Kelly, his second White House chief of staff, that he wanted a number of his perceived political enemies to be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Kelly said.

FBI logoMr. Kelly, right, who was chief of staff from July 2017 through the end of 2018, said in response to questions from The New York Times that Mr. Trump’s demands were part of a broader pattern of him trying to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who had been john kelly o dhscritical of him, including seeking to revoke the security clearances of former top intelligence officials.

Mr. Kelly said that among those Mr. Trump said “we ought to investigate” and “get the I.R.S. on” were the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe. His account of Mr. Trump’s desires to use the I.R.S. against his foes comes after the revelation by The Times this summer that Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe had both been selected for a rare and highly intrusive audit by the tax agency in the years after Mr. Kelly left the White House.

Mr. Trump has said he knows nothing about the audits. The I.R.S. has asked its inspector general to investigate, and officials have insisted the two men were selected randomly for the audits.

irs logoMr. Kelly said he made clear to Mr. Trump that there were serious legal and ethical issues with what he wanted. He said that despite the president’s expressed desires to have Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe investigated by the I.R.S., he believes that he led Mr. Trump during his tenure as chief of staff to forgo trying to have such investigations conducted.

After Mr. Kelly left the administration, Mr. Comey was informed in 2019 that his 2017 returns were being audited, and Mr. McCabe learned in 2021 that his 2019 returns were being audited. At the time both audits occurred, the I.R.S. was led by a Trump political appointee.

New York Daily News May 9, 2017.(Comey was a Republican whose firing by Trump during Comey's 10-year term was reported by the New York Daily News in front page story at right on New York Daily News May 9, 2017.)

Mr. Trump regularly made his demands in response to news reports in which he thought his perceived enemies made him look bad. The president would carry on about having them investigated to the point that Mr. Kelly thought he needed to tell the president that what he wanted was highly problematic, explaining, in sometimes heated conversations, that what Mr. Trump wanted was not just potentially illegal and immoral but also could blow back on him.

Mr. Trump would eventually let the idea go, Mr. Kelly said, but during subsequent outbursts about his enemies he would again bring up his desires to have them investigated.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s presidency he regularly, in both public and private, ranted about Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump had fired in May 2017, and Mr. McCabe, who played a leading role in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

 

McCabe, a career federal prosecutor, successfully sued to regain his pension that had been eliminated one day short of vesting when Trump's team fired him. He wrote a memoir,

McCabe, a career federal prosecutor and Justice Department official, successfully sued to regain his pension that had been eliminated one day short of vesting when Trump's team fired him. He wrote a memoir, "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Vice President Mike Pence said former President Trump was “reckless” in assailing him on Jan. 6, Maggie Haberman, Nov. 14, 2022. In excerpts from an interview with ABC, the former vice president said he was angered that Donald J. Trump’s tweet during the Capitol attack had endangered him and his family.

Former Vice President Mike Pence told ABC News that he was “angered” by former President Donald J. Trump’s “reckless” tweet assailing him during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, in his first interview about the violent efforts by Mr. Trump’s supporters to keep him in power.

The first excerpts from Mr. Pence’s interview, with the ABC anchor David Muir, were aired on Sunday and Monday, with more to be broadcast on Monday night. The former vice president gave the interview to promote his new book, “So Help Me God,” which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.

Mr. Pence provided his views as Mr. Trump prepares to announce a third presidential campaign on Tuesday night at a rally at his private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, which the F.B.I. searched over the summer to recover dozens of classified documents that had left the White House with Mr. Trump.

“The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building,” Mr. Pence told Mr. Muir, referring to the former president’s comments at an event on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Ellipse near the White House. At the rally, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing certification of the Electoral College results of the 2020 election to delay or overturn the outcome, and then called on the crowd to march to the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Justice Department and Donald Trump’s lawyers clashed over the status of seized documents in newly unsealed briefs, Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer, Nov. 14, 2022. A pair of unsealed briefs argue over the ex-president’s power to claim White House materials as his property and invoke executive privilege.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department has urged a special master to broadly reject assertions by former President Donald J. Trump that he owns a range of documents the F.B.I. seized from his Florida residence and that he can invoke executive privilege to bar criminal investigators from looking at some of them.

But lawyers for Mr. Trump have put forward the opposite case, laying out a sweeping vision of his power to declare documents as his personal property and to keep files from his presidency secret from the Biden-era executive branch.

The opposing views were on display in rival briefs partly unsealed on Monday. The two sides had recently submitted the briefs to Judge Raymond J. Dearie, the special master who is overseeing a process of resolving disputes about the status of some 13,000 documents and photographs seized in August.

Nov. 13

 

Marla Maples, left, Michael Boulos, Tiffany Trump and former President Donald J. Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday (Photo by Hy Goldberg for DenisLEON&Co.)

Marla Maples, left, Michael Boulos, Tiffany Trump and former President Donald J. Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday (Photo by Hy Goldberg for DenisLEON&Co.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Tiffany Trump Weds at Mar-a-Lago, Tammy La Gorce, Nov. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Tiffany Trump and Michael Boulos, whose wedding was almost derailed by Hurricane Nicole, treated their guests to an American-Lebanese celebration at her father’s private residence.

The arrival of Hurricane Nicole at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday may have paused preparations for the wedding of Tiffany Trump and Michael Boulos, but the ceremony, which took place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the club and private residence of former President Donald J. Trump, went ahead as planned despite the severe weather days before.

Toni Breiss, a Lebanese wedding and event planner known for his over-the-top productions, was brought on to realize the couple’s dream wedding.

Ms. Trump, 29, was escorted down the aisle before 250 guests by her father, Mr. Trump. The bride wore a custom dress designed by Elie Saab.

Ms. Trump chose the Grecian goddess-inspired gown by the Lebanese designer as a nod to Mr. Boulos’s heritage and thought it fitting for their American-Lebanese wedding, Ms. Trump said via Mr. Watts.

Mr. Boulos, whom Vanity Fair described as her “billionaire heir boyfriend,” was born in Lebanon and is the 25-year-old heir to Boulos Enterprises, a Nigerian distribution and assembly company for vehicles including motorcycles and power bikes, run by his father, Massad Boulos.

The couple started dating in 2018, according to Town and Country, and announced their engagement on Instagram in January 2021, on the final full day of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Ms. Trump graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 2020.

Ms. Maples, 59, of Miami, was married to Mr. Trump from 1993 to 1999. Ms. Trump, the couple’s only child, has managed to keep a lower public profile than Trump’s other children have. She is the only adult child of Mr. Trump’s not to be sued by the New York attorney general, Letitia James.

washington post logoWashington Post, In filing, Trump lawyers again claim he had right to declassify documents, Perry Stein, Nov. 12, 2022 (print ed.). But as they have before, lawyers for the former president stop short of saying he declassified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump’s lawyers provided a more detailed explanation in a court filing Thursday evening as to why they say the former president had the authority to personally declassify sensitive government documents, though they again stopped short of saying Trump actually declassified materials that he kept after leaving the White House.

The legal team’s explanation was included in a 67-page response to the Justice Department’s appeal of a lower court’s decision to appoint an outside arbiter to sift through the thousands of documents seized from Trump’s Florida residence on Aug. 8 to see if any should be shielded from criminal investigators because they are privileged.

Trump’s lawyers acknowledged that there is a process to declassify documents, which they stated includes going to the person who originally classified the document — or to that person’s supervisor — to declassify them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s claim about using the FBI to stop 2018 vote counting, explained, Philip Bump, right, Nov. 12, 2022. The former president made a remarkable claim on his social philip bumpnetwork — a claim that's almost certainly false.

Donald Trump told his supporters that they ought to tune in next week for a special announcement — almost certainly some sort of formalization of his months-long winking about seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. But Trump is not waiting for that announcement to begin taking shots at the man generally considered his most formidable opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Over at the social media platform Trump helped start, the former president has been on a tirade against DeSantis, very clearly out of frustration that DeSantis sailed to reelection on Tuesday while Trump-endorsed candidates were battered. So Trump is offering up context like “shouldn’t it be said that in 2020, I got 1.1 Million more votes in Florida than Ron D got this year, 5.7 Million to 4.6 Million?”

Most of this was just part of the ambient Trump noise that Americans generally tune out. But then there was another claim, a new one, that raised eyebrows. As part of a thread claiming credit for nearly every aspect of DeSantis’s political career (not completely unfairly), Trump brought up the aftermath of the 2018 election in Florida that DeSantis narrowly won.

“After the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott,” Trump wrote, “I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen.…”

This is a really remarkable claim, that as president he leveraged the Justice Department to intervene in an election. It is also almost certainly false.

It’s useful to remember what happened that year. In an echo of the midterm elections just ended, 2018 was a remarkably good year for Democrats — except for Florida. There, Democratic advantages in the gubernatorial and Senate races evaporated, leading to narrow Republican victories. DeSantis won by about 30,000 votes; incumbent Gov. Rick Scott won election to the Senate by about 10,000.

Those margins were close enough that attention turned to the counting of mail ballots in the days after the election, a process that is by now deeply familiar to political observers. So was the context in which that counting took place: Scott alleged that the slow process of counting votes in Democratic-heavy counties like Broward offered the opportunity for illegal ballots to be injected. There was no actual evidence of this; he and his allies insisted that ballots were appearing out of nowhere to be included, which wasn’t true. But it was a way to cast doubt on the vote and, potentially, to shut down a vote count that had consistently eroded his advantage after Election Day.

This is what Trump appears to be referring to. But the timeline of what happened makes clear that none of this had anything to do with DeSantis.

Scott first made his allegations about fraudulent voting in a news conference on the evening of Nov. 8, 2018. This was the first moment at which this idea that the vote count was suspicious was introduced (beyond rumblings for a few hours prior). But notice that it was Scott who was making these allegations, not DeSantis.

There’s a good reason for this: DeSantis’s race had already been called! The Associated Press declared DeSantis the winner of the gubernatorial race nearly two days before.

Vote counting did continue to reduce DeSantis’s lead, but there were not enough outstanding votes to potentially alter the outcome. So the call was made, and there was no question whether he would have “the votes necessary to win,” as Trump put it.

You may also recall that a potentially related incident occurred at the same time: Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, resigned his position. Was this a function of resistance to pressure to influence the outcome in Florida?

Probably not. Sessions’s resignation was announced on the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2018, before there was any public question about the vote counting in Florida. What’s more, there had been months of animosity between Sessions and Trump over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. There was plenty of reason to think that Trump wanted Sessions gone unrelated to any purported FBI pressure.

Nov. 10

 

 Graphic by New York Post

new york post logoNew York Post, Opinion: Here's how Donald Trump sabotaged the Republican midterms, John Podhoretz, Nov. 10, 2022 (print ed.). "What Tuesday night’s midterm election results suggest is that former President Donald Trump is perhaps the most profound vote repellant in modern American history."

Hey, Lyin’ Ted and Sleepy Joe: Meet Toxic Trump. You know, if the former president had any self-knowledge or even the slightest ability to be self-deprecating, he might consider giving himself this alliterative nickname.

After three straight national tallies in which either he or his party or both were hammered by the national electorate, it’s time for even his stans to accept the truth: Toxic Trump is the political equivalent of a can of Raid.

What Tuesday night’s results suggest is that Trump is perhaps the most profound vote repellent in modern American history.

The surest way to lose in these midterms was to be a politician endorsed by Trump.

This is not hyperbole.

Except for deep-red states where a Republican corpse would have beaten a Democrat, voters choosing in actually competitive races — who everyone expected would behave like midterm voters usually do and lean toward the out party — took one look at Trump’s handpicked acolytes and gagged.

Liberal fundraisers actually put money behind Trump-endorsed candidates in GOP primaries all over the place to help them prevail so that Democrats could face them in the general election. It was transparently cynical and an abuse of our political process. But it worked like gangbusters.

As Kevin Robillard of the Huffington Post noted on Wednesday afternoon when a Michigan Democrat named Hilary Scholten was finally declared the winner of her House seat against a raving lunatic named John Gibbs: “With this race call, every single Republican who won their primary with help from Democratic meddling has lost in the general election.”

Gibbs is an example of Trump’s monomania. A former official for Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, Gibbs tweeted that officials associated with Hillary Clinton participated in Satanic rituals. But no matter! Gibbs believed the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump, the only stance that matters to the former president.

Trump backed Gibbs in the primary to unseat a sitting Republican, Peter Meijer, because Meijer had the temerity to vote in favor of impeachment after the shame of Jan. 6.
Trump got his way. Republicans lost the seat.

This pattern repeated itself over and over and over again.

In almost every place a Trumpster lost, there had been a regular Republican who could and should have been the party’s nominee — a nominee who could have taken advantage of the uniquely horrible facts and fundamentals confronting Democratic candidates in 2022.

But then Toxic Trump came into these races, picking the candidate who bowed lowest — or, as in Pennsylvania, went for a snake-oil doctor salesman because, it seems, his wife enjoyed watching Mehmet Oz carny-bark on afternoon TV.

And the independent voters’ history tells us would ordinarily have flocked to the GOP and said, “Oh, man, what is that stink?”

In the past four midterms, indies by double-digit margins chose the party that did not hold the White House. In 2018, with Trump as president, the independent vote was 12 points in the Democrats’ favor. In 2006, with George W. Bush in the Oval Office, the number was 18 points. When Barack Obama was president in 2010 and 2014, indies went 16 and 12 points in the Republican direction, respectively.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know as the Trump Organization’s Trial Resumes, Lola Fadulu, Nov. 10, 2022. After pausing because of a Covid outbreak, the prosecution of the former president’s company was to start again Thursday. Reacquaint yourself with events so far and what’s to come.

The tax-fraud trial of Donald J. Trump’s family business is scheduled to resume in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday after not having met since Nov. 1 because of an outbreak of Covid-19.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office last year accused two Trump Organization entities — the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corp. — of a scheme that began in 2005 that involved doling out tax-free perks to top executives, including rent-free apartments and leased luxury vehicles.

Defense lawyers argued in their opening statements that the key beneficiary of the scheme — the company’s chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg — acted on his own behalf and that the two corporate entities could not be held criminally responsible. Mr. Weisselberg, who was originally charged in the scheme, pleaded guilty and is expected to testify.

Though the court hasn’t met in 10 days, only three workdays have been missed: There is no court on Wednesdays or Friday afternoons, and courts were closed for Election Day.

 

djt looking up

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump confesses to Florida election crime just to harm Ron DeSantis, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 10, 2022. The 2022 midterm elections have bill palmerfinally proven to everyone that Donald Trump is indeed every bit as unpopular and non-influential as we’ve spent the past twenty-two months saying he was. At this point Trump has no realistic 2024 prospects, and is only relevant in the sense that everyone is waiting for him to be indicted for espionage and arrested.

Trump seems to understand that his political relevance is fading by the minute, and so he’s going to great lengths today to try to get himself into bill palmer report logo headerthe headlines. First he made a point of calling himself a “stable genius” again, even though he has to know how poorly it played the last time he used that phrase. Now Trump is doing something far more substantive: he’s confessing to crimes.

Trump announced on his social media network today that in 2018 he ordered the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office to prematurely stop the vote counting in Florida, and that this single handedly allowed Ron DeSantis to declare a narrow victory. Trump is framing his actions as an attempt at stopping the election from being “stolen.” But the actions he’s describing are felony election fraud.

This is the same thing he got caught doing in Georgia during the 2020 election, and that he’s now under criminal investigation for at the federal and state level. The difference is, he was more blatant about it in 2020, and got caught in the act. The 2018 election in Florida did seem highly suspicious at the time, going the complete opposite of the way every other demographically similar state played out in that same election cycle. But there wasn’t any evidence that Trump had the Feds block Florida officials from finishing the vote count.

Trump could simply be making this up. That’s how far gone Trump is. He’s openly confessing to a four year old felony, and we’re left trying to figure out whether he’s making it up. But either way, Trump just put the public’s focus on the suspicious manner in which DeSantis was very narrowly elected to begin with, in a way that scandalizes DeSantis and portrays him as a weak candidate – even as DeSantis is hoping the media will portray him as dominant and inevitable.

At this point Donald Trump does have the benefit of knowing, deep down, that he’s likely on his way to prison no matter what. This means he can confess to a 2018 felony like this, and it doesn’t really change anything for him; he’s already set to be indicted on more serious and easily proven charges. If Trump consciously or subconsciously understands that he’s going down anyway, he doesn’t really have to worry about how much he harms himself in the name of trying to take his designated enemies like DeSantis down with him.

Nov. 9

Rolling Stone, Trump Keeps Musing About Journalists Being Raped in Prison — He’s Not Joking, Ryan Bort and Asawin Suebsaeng, Nov. 9, 2022. A knowledgeable source tells Rolling Stone that the former president has wondered how he might be able to jail reporters if he retakes the White House.

rolling stone logoDonald Trump ended his pre-midterm rally blitz in disgusting fashion, calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “an animal,” championing the death penalty, and giddily imagining the prison rape of the journalist who reported on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“The leaking from the Supreme Court is unbelievable,” the former president said Monday night at a rally in Ohio. “But you get the information very easily. You tell the reporter who is it … and if the reporter doesn’t want to tell you it’s ‘bye bye.’ The reporter goes to jail. When the reporter learns he’s going to be married to a certain prisoner who’s extremely strong, tough, and mean, he will say, ‘you know, I think I’m going to give you the information.'”

The rally on Monday wasn’t the first time Trump imagined journalists being raped in prison. He laid out the same fantasy at a rally in Texas last month, saying the reporter would give up the identity of the leaker as soon as they realize they are “going to be the bride of another prisoner very shortly.” The audience burst out in laughter, just as they did Monday night in Ohio.

It isn’t just a laugh line.

This year, as Trump has privately strategized about what a second term, potentially starting in 2025, could look like, he’s begun occasionally soliciting ideas from conservative allies for how the U.S. government and Justice Department could go about turning his desires — for brutally imprisoning significant numbers of reporters — into reality.

“He said other countries do it — the implication being: Well, why not here?” the source recounts.

democratic donkey logoThe other countries here are un-free authoritarian states, the kind for which Trump has long showed admiration. North Korea does not tolerate free expression. China and Russia are well known for jailing journalists. Viktor Orban, the Trump-endorsed autocratic ruler of Hungary, has been targeting reporters, as well. Trump has repeatedly made clear he wants to reshape America into a similarly brutal, fascist state. He praised China on Monday for executing drug dealers and sending the bullet to their families, drawing cheers from the crowd. He touted his “great relationship” with the man responsible, President Xi, at a rally last week. “He’s president for life,” Trump said. “I call him king.”

Trump closed the rally on Monday by noting that he will be making a “very big announcement,” which is widely expected to be a declaration of his 2024 presidential candidacy, at Mar-a-Lago next Tuesday.

Trump hasn’t just recently started wondering about how he might be able to jail journalists should he reclaim the White House in 2024. He was wondering about it almost immediately upon arriving there for the first time, as well. The New York Times reported in 2017 that less than a month after Trump took office, he griped to then-FBI Director James Comey about leaks to the media, and told Comey he should consider imprisoning journalists who publish classified information. It’s unclear how Comey responded. Trump would fire him less than three months later.

Raw Story, 'Furious' Trump is pinning the blame on Melania for his decision to back Dr. Oz: reporter, Brad Reed, Nov. 9, 2022. 'Furious' Trump is pinning the blame on Melania for his decision to back Dr. Oz: reporter.

raw story logo squareStill more reports are coming in about former President Donald Trump's angry reactions to seeing some of his hand-picked candidates face defeat during Tuesday's midterm elections.

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman chimed in on Twitter with her own dispatch that claimed the twice-impeached former president is now even blaming former first lady Melania Trump for some of his own poor endorsements.

"Trump is indeed furious this morning, particularly about Mehmet Oz, and is blaming everyone who advised him to back Oz -- including his wife, describing it as not her best decision, according to people close to him," Haberman writes.

Haberman also reports that the losses of Trump-backed candidates such as Oz and Don Bolduc may impact his decision to announce his third presidential campaign next week.

READ MORE: 'An absolute disaster': Fox News pundit calls GOP midterm performance a 'searing indictment of the Republican Party'

"There are people pushing Trump to reschedule his announcement next week, and several Rs have texted asking whether he will, but it’s risky and would be acknowledging he’s wounded by yesterday, something that some of his advisers insist is not the case," she writes.

Trump started teasing his third presidential campaign earlier this week, and he also issued a warning against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis against pursuing the presidency in 2024.

"I really believe he could hurt himself badly," Trump said of a potential DeSantis White House run. "I think he would be making a mistake, I think the base would not like it — I don’t think it would be good for the party."

Raw Story, ‘Stupid and reckless’: GOP operative declares ‘the end of the Trump era’ after midterm ‘catastrophe,’ Sky Palma, Nov. 9, 2022.  ‘Stupid and reckless’: GOP operative declares ‘the end of the Trump era’ after midterm ‘catastrophe.’

At least 14 Trump-endorsed candidates are projected to lose their midterm bids -- a result that sources tell ABC News has the former president "fuming."

Republicans appeared poised on Wednesday to carve out a slim majority in the US House of Representatives but their hopes of a "red wave" in midterm elections were dashed as President Joe Biden's Democrats defied expectations.

According to ABC News, as the results began to roll in Tuesday night, Donald Trump was watching from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and started to become angry as some of his most high-profile candidates appeared to be headed to defeat in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

"This is a sinking ship," one top Trump adviser told ABC News. "We're not going to beat that."

"This was the end of the Trump era and the dawn of the DeSantis era," a Republican operative close to the Trump orbit told ABC News. "Like every other Trump catastrophe, he did this to himself with stupid and reckless decisions."

The losses in Pennsylvania of Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano were particularly jarring for Trump. Sources tell ABC News he blamed his wife, Melania, for pressuring him to endorse Oz. He also blaming aides for leading him to endorse other failed candidates.

Nov. 8

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Garland's dead reckoning with history, Nov. 7-8, 2022. Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 7, 2022. Garland on deck to become wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallone of America's worst constitutional Attorneys General -- and its last.

Rather than toss the proverbial book at former President Donald Trump for a host of high crimes, including sedition and insurrection, theft of government property and highly-classified files, witness tampering, and threatening judges and other public officials, Attorney General Merrick Garland is reportedly considering a special counsel post-midterm election to determine whether Trump should be criminally charged.

wayne madesen report logo Trump, of course, is playing Garland for the sucker he believes him to be. In that, Trump may have correctly assessed that the overly-merrick garlandcautious Garland will not indict a 2024 candidate for president. Trump is expected to announce his candidacy in the middle of the month.

Most Americans agree that the Justice Department and the House Select Committee on the January 6, 2021 coup attempt have together amassed enough evidence to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump is guilty of multiple flagrant violations of federal laws. In dragging his feet Justice Department log circularon prosecuting Trump, Garland may go down in history as one of the more infamous contemporary gravediggers of America's democracy.

In adopting a mediocre approach to confronting the specter of American fascism head-on, Garland is repeating the mistakes of two of his predecessors who also had the opportunity of severely crushing fascist sedition in America but failed to do so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oath Keepers Leader Points Finger at Colleagues in Sedition Trial, Alan Feuer, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right militia, testified that he did not order anyone to go into the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that he had nothing to do with an armed force waiting nearby.

At the height of the chaos at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, two dozen members of the Oath Keepers militia met outside the building with their leader, Stewart Rhodes.

When some of them reported that they had just come back from inside the Capitol, Mr. Rhodes was outraged, he testified in court on Monday. Taking the stand at his own sedition trial, he said that those who had gone inside the building that day had done so of their own accord — and that he had never had a plan or had given any orders to go in.

“When I heard that they went in,” he told jury, “I said, ‘That was stupid.’”

Testifying for a second day at the trial in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Rhodes sought to wash his hands of much of what the Oath Keepers did on Jan. 6, laying the blame on several of his colleagues.

He told the jury that one of his co-defendants, Kelly Meggs, who went inside the Capitol with others in the group, had gone “off mission.”

Justice Matters,

, Glenn Kirschner, Nov. 7-8, 2022 (10:41 min. video). Five members of the Oath Keepers organization are on trial for attempting to violently stop the certification of Joe Biden's election win.

Today, the lead defendant and head of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes took the witness stand and testified in his own defense. But it didn't go so well for Elmer when he had to face cross-examination by the prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Kate Rakoczy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans sue to disqualify thousands of mail ballots in swing states, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The lawsuits coincide with a systemic effort by GOP leaders to persuade voters to cast ballots in person, not absentee.

Republican officials and candidates in at least three battleground states are pushing to disqualify thousands of mail ballots after urging their own supporters to vote on Election Day, in what critics are calling a concerted attempt at partisan voter suppression.

In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court has agreed with the Republican National Committee that election officials should not count ballots on which the voter neglected to put a date on the outer envelope — even in cases when the ballots arrive before Election Day. Thousands of ballots have been set aside as a result, enough to swing a close race.

In Michigan, Kristina Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, sued the top election official in Detroit last month, seeking to toss absentee ballots not cast in person with an ID, even though that runs contrary to state requirements. When asked in a recent court hearing, Karamo’s lawyer declined to say why the suit targets Detroit, a heavily Democratic, majority-Black city, and not the entire state.

And in Wisconsin, Republicans won a court ruling that will prevent some mail ballots from being counted when the required witness address is not complete.

Over the past two years, Republicans have waged a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud. Experts say the litigation — which could significantly affect Tuesday’s vote — represents a parallel strategy of suing to disqualify mail ballots based on technicalities. While the rejections may have some basis in state law, experts say they appear to go against a principle, enshrined in federal law, of not disenfranchising voters for minor errors.

The suits coincide with a systematic attempt by Republicans — led by former president Donald Trump — to persuade GOP voters to cast their ballots only on Election Day. Critics argue that the overall purpose is to separate Republicans and Democrats by method of voting and then to use lawsuits to void mail ballots that are disproportionately Democratic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Black voters in Florida express fear, confusion as DeSantis election laws kick in, Lori Rozsa, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Geraldine Harriel usually helps her elderly parents vote by taking their mail-in ballots to the elections office for them. But new voting laws in Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis’s elections police force had her questioning that this year.

So on a recent Sunday, she drove them to an early-voting site — gingerly guiding her 80-year-old mother who walks with a cane to the entryway and then pushing her 84-year-old father in a wheelchair along the same path.

“Nobody wants to take the chance of being picked up,” Harriel, 65, said, referring to the voting police unit, which made its first arrests in August.
Florida residents shocked by DeSantis voter fraud arrests

Tuesday will mark the first major election in Florida since the legislature pushed through changes impacting voting in the Sunshine State. Voter advocates say the laws disproportionately impact Black voters — making it harder for many to vote — and have created an environment of confusion and fear.

Voters can deliver ballots for immediate family members — but there are new forms to fill out and some like Harriel worry that even a small mistake could result in a fine or an arrest. It is now illegal to turn in more than two ballots that don’t belong to a close relative. There are new restrictions for organizations that help register voters. And shortly after its inception, DeSantis’s Office of Election Crimes and Security announced deputies had made 20 arrests — 15 of them involving Black voters accused of voting illegally.

The arrested voters were charged with casting ballots even though they did not qualify to vote. A state constitutional amendment gives most people formerly convicted of a felony the right to vote. Several of those arrested say they thought they qualified. They applied to register, got voting cards and were never told they had acted improperly until officers showed up to question them on a summer afternoon.

“These laws were put in place to intimidate people, and that’s what’s happening,” LaVon Bracy, the director of democracy for Faith in Florida, a religious nonprofit that encourages civic participation. “People are just wondering, is it worth it?”

Nov. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, What we’ve learned from the Jan. 6 Oath Keepers trial so far, Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman, Nov. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors have rested their case after more than a month of testimony in the seditious conspiracy trial of Stewart Rhodes.

The seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol reached a turning point as U.S. prosecutors finished presenting their case Thursday in federal court.

For more than a month, prosecutors have presented nearly 30 witnesses, played hours of video and reviewed scores of messages as they try to convince a jury in Washington that the group on trial sought to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power and “shatter a bedrock of American democracy.” Rhodes himself took the witness stand Friday, but only briefly, as the defense portion of the case began.

Rhodes is the highest-profile defendant charged so far in the Jan. 6 investigation and is accused of steering a months-long effort to keep President Donald Trump in office by force. He is among 14 defendants hit with the historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy in one of the largest investigations in U.S. history, and the trial has been watched closely for what it might reveal about the quest to subvert the 2020 presidential election results by anyone in Trump’s inner circle.

Rhodes is on trial with Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins. All are accused of conspiring to engage in sedition, obstruct Congress’s affirmation of President Biden’s victory and impede lawmakers from performing their official duties on Jan. 6. Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins, who went into the Capitol, are also accused of damaging property, and all but Watkins are charged with destroying evidence.

Here are some highlights of testimony and evidence the government has presented:

  • What ties did Stewart Rhodes have to Donald Trump?
  • What did Rhodes do outside the Capitol on Jan. 6?
  • What was revealed by Oath Keepers cooperating with the government?
  • What about the other Oath Keepers on trial?
  • What have other witnesses said?

 truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump once reconsidered sticking with Truth Social. Now he’s stuck, Nov. 7, 2022. The former president has told his allies that he can’t leave his Twitter clone because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse.

The co-founders of former president Donald Trump’s post-presidential start-up, Trump Media & Technology Group, had a name for June 11, 2021: “meltdown day.”

Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, former contestants on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” had a week earlier traveled with an 11-person entourage to Trump’s palatial golf club in Bedminster, N.J., to show off what they’d worked for months to build: a web of conservative-aimed business ventures, including the Twitter clone Truth Social, that heavily promoted and depended on Trump’s name and brand.

Trump, however, was already considering other ideas. On June 11, Trump met at Bedminster with another suitor: his former aide Jason Miller, who was launching a rival conservative social network, Gettr, and had offered Trump at least $5 million a year and a stake in the company to join.

A Trump defection would have triggered a disastrous meltdown of everything Litinsky and Moss had created. Trump Media lawyers scrambled to mount a counterattack, according to people familiar with the episode, which has not been previously reported.

Would Trump really “do a side deal?” the Trump Media co-founders wrote in a daily log that company whistleblower Will Wilkerson shared with government investigators and The Washington Post.

Trump ultimately stuck with Truth Social, helping the site attract a modest following. But the billionaire industrialist Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could put Trump’s commitment to a new test, and some in his orbit wonder whether he’ll be able to stay loyal to a small site that is struggling to gain an audience and faces looming financial threats.

Trump has told his allies that he can’t leave Truth Social, because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse, according to people familiar with his thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a detailed request for comment for this story.

Musk has called Twitter’s ban of Trump, after the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, a mistake and pledged to reinstate Trump’s account, although when that might occur remains unclear. Trump, however, has said he would not return even if he were invited back, saying he wanted to focus his efforts on Truth Social.

“If I choose to run, I will only use Truth” to post his thoughts, Trump told Fox News on the day after Musk’s takeover of Twitter became official. “When I put out a Truth, it is all over the place.” The platform feels “like home,” he said, and he likes “the way it works.” In a Truth Social post, he added, “I LOVE TRUTH!”

But Trump’s 4 million followers on the platform are a small fraction of the 88 million he once had on Twitter, and his dozens of posts — called “truths” — there in recent weeks have received none of the broad engagement and traction he counted on during his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump speeches use dozens of lies, exaggerations to draw contrast with Biden, Isaac Arnsdorf, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s rally script centers on juxtaposing conditions two years ago with now, relying on misrepresentations of both.

Even in a midterm marked by misinformation, conspiracy theories and false or misleading attacks, nobody does it like Donald Trump.

The former president, in a burst of campaigning for Republican candidates while he readies his own third bid for the White House, is honing a stump speech based around juxtaposing current conditions with those during his presidency — a contrast he heightens by misrepresenting and exaggerating on both ends. His speech Thursday at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, contained at least 58 false or misleading statements, and he added at least another 24 distinct falsehoods at a Saturday speech in Latrobe, Pa., according to a Washington Post analysis.

Many of the inaccuracies were repeat offenses for Trump and consistent with his exhaustively documented record of dispensing with the truth. But lately his speeches have also become a clearinghouse for the vast array of rumors, memes and myths that spread in right-wing media and fill up many other Republicans’ campaign speeches and ads.

Nov. 5

 

 

Saudi King Salman presents President Donald Trump with the collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh in 2017. The collar is among the items investigators have asked the National Archives to locate (Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci AP).

Saudi King Salman presents President Donald Trump with the collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh in 2017. The collar is among the items investigators have asked the National Archives to locate (Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci AP).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigators searching for pricey gifts that Trump received from foreign leaders, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 5, 2022. Golf clubs, diamond earrings and a soccer ball from Putin are among the gifts that House Oversight has asked the National Archives to find.

Congressional investigators are looking for dozens of pricey mementos gifted to former president Donald Trump and his family members by foreign governments, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The House Oversight Committee has asked for help in locating the items from the National Archives, which is among the agencies charged with keeping presidential gifts, two of the people said.

The eclectic list ranges from golf clubs given to Trump by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a 2018 World Cup soccer ball gifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a gold-plated collar of Horus, the falcon-headed ancient Egyptian god, given by Egypt’s president, a large painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador, and a $6,400 collar of King Abdulaziz al Saud, a ceremonial honor from Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The dozens of gifts are worth in sum an estimated $50,000 or more, according to people familiar with the request. The committee has asked the archives to check whether the gifts are among the items transferred there from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency as required by law, according to those familiar with the request. The committee is also seeking records from Trump’s team about its record keeping, a Trump adviser said.

It’s not clear why the Oversight Committee made the request for these specific items; a spokesperson for the committee declined to comment except to say the investigation is ongoing. The Archives also declined to comment, and it’s unclear where the agency is in the process of trying to find these items and which gifts, if any, on the list were properly accounted for.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, nor did officials who handled gifts in the Trump administration.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Weighs Special Counsel for Trump Inquiries if He Runs, Glenn Thrush, Updated Nov. 4, 2022. The department is hoping to make decisions on whether to charge the former president in the documents and Jan. 6 inquiries before the 2024 campaign heats up.

The Justice Department hopes to reach a decision on whether to bring charges against former President Donald J. Trump before the 2024 campaign heats up, and is considering appointing a special counsel to oversee investigations of him if he runs again, according to people familiar with the situation.

Justice Department log circularThe department is investigating Mr. Trump’s role in the efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and his retention of sensitive government documents at his residence and resort in Florida. It has made no decision in either case, but the inquiry into the former president’s handling of the documents is more straightforward, with prosecutors having publicly cited potential crimes that could be charged.

Senior department officials and veteran prosecutors with the department’s national security division, in conjunction with the U.S. attorney’s office in South Florida, have spent recent weeks quietly navigating the thicket of thorny issues needed to file charges in the documents investigation, weighing evidence, analyzing legal precedents and mulling practical considerations such as the venue of a possible trial.

The investigation, while proceeding quickly by Justice Department standards, has been slowed by Mr. Trump’s efforts in court to restrict the government’s access to the files removed from his home, and by the department’s self-imposed 30-day pause in issuing subpoenas ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

 

 

tom barrack cbswashington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally Thomas Barrack acquitted of violating foreign agents law, Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump who chaired his inauguration committee, was acquitted Friday of violating federal law by acting as a foreign agent without authorization while trying to help the United Arab Emirates influence the U.S. government.

Barrack, the billionaire founder of Colony Capital who has had a decades-long relationship with Trump, was accused of promoting talking points from UAE officials to members of the Trump administration. He also allegedly pushed propaganda for the UAE in appearances on major TV news networks and in publish pieces.

Prosecutors said Barrack was motivated to keep the UAE happy because its sovereign wealth fund invested $374 million with Colony Capital from 2017 to 2018 and there was a possibility of more to come.

A jury at U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Friday reached a verdict in the trial, which opened in late September.

 

vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, Analysis: Here’s Why Trump Crony Tom Barrack Was Acquitted of Spying for the UAE, Vicky Ward, Nov. 4-5, 2022. Dispatches from the Tom Barrack Trial.

After seven weeks at trial, longtime Trump ally Tom Barrack was acquitted today of all charges against him regarding the allegation he acted as an unregistered foreign lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates.

Why?

There are three main reasons I believe that the jury acquitted Barrack and his young associate Matthew Grimes.

The first is that the law at hand—Section 951, which emanates out of the Cold War period—is poorly written and basically unenforceable.

[more analysis here]

So, in the end, what happened here was that Barrack (even despite his wealth) came across as “normal”—not as immoral or pompous or even so wedded to Trump that he couldn’t criticize him.

In fact, the statement Barrack made afterwards is extraordinary for its call for political unity.

Here’s what he said:

God Bless America, the system works. These 12 people, normal people with such complex, unbelievable facts in front of them, somehow fought through all of the quagmires to find Lady Justice with a torch burning, and a brilliant and committed Judge who protects them. Let's stop fighting with each other, let's stop the politicization. Whoever the President is, honor him or her and put all this garbage behind us. Tolerance and understanding is the magic elixir we need at the moment. That is what America is—the greatest country in the world that has given me, my family, and my heritage so much to be grateful for.

Now, will Trump pay attention to his words?

Almost certainly not.

 

stewart rhodesPolitico, Oath Keepers leader takes the stand in seditious conspiracy trial, Kyle Cheney, Nov. 4, 2022. Rhodes, above, tries to soften image of his group while prosecutors expose violent plans for Jan. 6.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath keepers, took the stand Friday in his seditious conspiracy trial and sought to reframe the jury’s perception of his group as a benevolent, apolitical, patriotic force of military veterans.

In one of the most consequential turns on the witness stand for a criminal defendant in modern history, Rhodes began laying out his most aggressive defense against charges that he attempted to subvert the 2020 election by force in order to keep Donald Trump in power.

But his task is a daunting one. Prosecutors have already presented a massive seditious conspiracy case against Rhodes and four Oath Keeper allies, describing the group as mounting an “armed rebellion” against the incoming Biden administration. Assistant U.S. attorneys spent more than a month piecing together hundreds of text messages — often explicit — describing Rhodes and his allies’ extensive planning to descend on D.C. and resist the transfer of power.

politico CustomThe group amassed an arsenal of firearms at an Arlington, Va., Comfort Inn, performed security details for speakers at a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally before dozens of Oath Keepers marched to the Capitol and ultimately inside the building, while a violent mob clashed with police. Rhodes didn’t enter the Capitol, but worked the perimeter outside, eventually congregating with his allies — including codefendants Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins. Thomas Caldwell, an Oath Keeper from Virginia who helped coordinate the group’s weapons cache, is also on trial alongside the other leaders.

The case against the group is the most significant yet to emerge from the Justice Department’s massive nationwide investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which has resulted in charges against about 900 people ranging from simple trespassing to seditious conspiracy. Other than the Oath Keepers, only the leaders of the pro-Trump Proud Boys face seditious conspiracy changes, and they’re set to face trial next month.

Rhodes spent his first day of testimony largely describing his own background — he emphasized that he’s a quarter Mexican, grew up poor and and spent a year-long stint working for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who he said he was drawn to because of his antiwar and libertarian stances.

Nov. 4

 

Washington Post, Widow of Fox journalist killed in Ukraine seeks answers: Why was security team not with her husband?

Efrain Galicia, center, poses for a photo with his attorney, Benjamin Dictor, far right, and supporters, on Wednesday in New York (Associated Press photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump settles lawsuit after security guards’ scuffle with protesters, Adela Suliman, Nov. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump settled a lawsuit Wednesday, just days ahead of the trial of a lawsuit filed by protesters who alleged they were manhandled by his security personnel outside Trump Tower in New York in 2015.

The details of the settlement have not been made public, but jury selection for a civil trial presided over by Bronx Judge Doris Gonzalez had been underway, according to court documents.

The suit was brought by five New Yorkers of Mexican descent, led by Efrain Galicia, who alleged that Trump’s bodyguards engaged in a scuffle with them as they demonstrated outside the building on Sept. 3, 2015, over anti-Mexican comments Trump made during his presidential campaign.

The case sought punitive damages after alleging that Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and others punched one of the men in the head while trying to grab a sign that read, “Make America Racist Again!” Schiller has previously said that he was simply trying to make space on the sidewalk and that he struck the protester only after the man grabbed him from behind.

“Plaintiffs are proud to have settled their claims and to have obtained written recognition by Donald Trump of their right to protest on the public sidewalk,” their attorney, Benjamin Dictor, told The Washington Post in a statement Thursday.

“Powerful men may put their names on buildings, but the sidewalk will always belong to the people,” Dictor added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally Thomas Barrack acquitted of violating foreign agents law, Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 4, 2022. Barrack, the billionaire founder of Colony Capital who has had a decades-long relationship with former president Donald Trump, was accused of promoting talking points from UAE officials to members of the Trump administration.

Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of former president Donald Trump and chairman of his inauguration committee, was acquitted Friday of violating federal law by acting as a foreign agent without authorization while trying to help the United Arab Emirates influence the U.S. government.

Barrack, the billionaire founder of Colony Capital who has had a decades-long relationship with Trump, was accused of promoting talking points from UAE officials to members of the Trump administration. He also allegedly pushed propaganda for the UAE in appearances on major TV news networks and in published pieces.

After the verdict, Barrack descended a ballroom-style staircase into the lobby of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to loud applause and cheers from his family and other supporters. Outside the courthouse, Barrack praised the jury and the justice system.

He said that “against all odds” the jury sorted through a complex case to clear him and his co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, on all counts.

“God bless America,” Barrack said. “The system works.”

Barrack and at least two dozen supporters left the courthouse in downtown Brooklyn to begin a celebration nearby. “I’m going to go have a drink,” he said with a wide grin after a reporter asked where he was headed.

Barrack’s acquittal is a high-profile loss for the Justice Department after several successful prosecutions of defendants on charges of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Rick Gates, all former Trump advisers, faced similar charges and were convicted.

At the trial, prosecutors said Barrack was motivated to keep the UAE happy because its sovereign wealth fund invested $374 million with Colony Capital from 2017 to 2018 and there was a possibility of more to come.

In his testimony, Barrack suggested his ties to Trump made him a target for federal investigators. He described admiring Trump but feeling disappointed that he did not adopt a more moderate approach in office.

Barrack’s attorney, Randall Jackson, said the government’s case misconstrued Barrack’s relationship with the UAE. He emphasized a lack of proof of an agreement between Barrack and officials from the UAE to work on their behalf. Prosecutors suggested an agreement was implied.

“You heard not one word during this entire trial about passing on sensitive intelligence,” Jackson said in his summation this week. “It never happened. Never materialized.”

Jackson told jurors the absence of a witness who could discuss the alleged arrangement between Barrack and the UAE “should be stunning” and that “not a single witness came into this courtroom … who had any personal knowledge of any relevant facts to the case.”

Nov. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Files a Suit Against N.Y.’s Attorney General, and Against Advice, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Nov. 3, 2022. The case, filed in Florida, seeks to stop Letitia James’s lawsuit in New York and includes Mr. Trump’s signature rhetoric. His legal advisers are split on the wisdom of filing it.

A tirade of a lawsuit that Donald J. Trump filed on Wednesday against one of his chief antagonists, the New York attorney general, was hotly opposed by several of his longstanding legal advisers, who attempted an intervention hours before it was submitted to a court.

Those opposed to the suit told the Florida attorneys who drafted it that it was frivolous and would fail, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The loudest objection came from the general counsel of Mr. Trump’s real estate business, who warned that the Floridians might be committing malpractice.

Nonetheless, the suit was filed. It accuses Attorney General Letitia James of trespassing on Mr. Trump’s right to privacy in Florida, where he lives, and seeks to halt her own civil case in New York against the former president and his company.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump used his social network, Truth Social, to announce his suit and to criticize Ms. James in charged language, saying that “while James does nothing to protect New York against these violent crimes and criminals, she attacks great and upstanding businesses.”

In September, Ms. James filed her lawsuit against Mr. Trump after a three-year investigation into his business practices. Her suit accused Mr. Trump and his family business, the Trump Organization, of committing “staggering” fraud, overvaluing its assets by billions of dollars. It sought to bar Mr. Trump and three of his children from ever running a business in the state again and to essentially shut down some of his New York properties.

On Thursday, a judge granted a recent request from Ms. James to stop Mr. Trump from transferring assets and to appoint a monitor to make sure that he does not.

The former president has already tried unsuccessfully to stop Ms. James’s investigation, filing a complaint in federal court in New York that was dismissed in May. The new 41-page lawsuit against Ms. James was filed in Palm Beach by Timothy W. Weber, Jeremy D. Bailie and R. Quincy Bird, members of a St. Petersburg-based law firm — and was championed by Boris Epshteyn, an in-house counsel for the former president who has become one of his most trusted advisers.

Background:

  • An empire under scrutiny. Letitia James, New York State’s attorney general, has been conducting a yearslong civil investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s business practices, culminating in a lawsuit that accused Mr. Trump of “staggering” fraud. Here’s what to know:
  • The origins of the inquiry. The investigation started after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, testified to Congress in 2019 that Mr. Trump and his employees had manipulated his net worth to suit his interests.
  • The findings. Ms. James detailed in a filing what she said was a pattern by the Trump Organization to inflate the value of the company’s properties in documents filed with lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Mr. Trump’s lawsuit. In December 2021, Mr. Trump sued Ms. James, seeking to halt the inquiry on the grounds that the attorney general’s involvement in the investigation was politically motivated. In May, a federal judge dismissed the suit.
  • Invoking the Fifth Amendment. In August, Mr. Trump faced questions by the attorney general under oath. He declined to answer anything and invoked his right against self-incrimination, leaving Ms. James with a crucial decision: whether to sue the former president or seek a settlement.

 

Nov. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Inquiry Scrutinizes Trump Allies’ False Claims About Election Worker, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Nov. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors are seeking testimony from three people who took part in the pressure campaign against the worker, Ruby Freeman, after the 2020 election.

One is a 69-year-old Lutheran pastor from Illinois. Another is a celebrity stylist who once described herself as a publicist for Kanye West. A third is a former mixed martial-arts fighter and self-described “polo addict” who once led a group called “Black Voices for Trump.”

All three individuals now find themselves entangled in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia after former President Donald J. Trump’s loss there, with prosecutors saying they participated in a bizarre plot to pressure a Fulton County, Ga., election worker to falsely admit that she committed fraud on Election Day in 2020.

The three — Trevian Kutti, the publicist; Stephen C. Lee, the pastor; and Willie Lewis Floyd III, the polo fan — have all been ordered to appear before a special grand jury in Atlanta, with a hearing for Mr. Lee scheduled for Tuesday morning at a courthouse near his home in Kendall County, Ill.

None have been named as targets of the investigation or charged with a crime. Yet the decision to seek their testimony suggests that prosecutors in Fulton County are increasingly interested in the story of how the part-time, rank-and-file election worker, Ruby Freeman, 63, was confronted by allies of Mr. Trump at her home in the Atlanta suburbs in the weeks after he was defeated by President Biden.

Ms. Freeman and her daughter were part of a team processing votes for the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections on election night. Soon after, video images of Ms. Freeman and her daughter handling ballots were posted online and shared widely among some Trump supporters, who claimed falsely that the video showed the two women entering bogus votes to skew the election in Mr. Biden’s favor.

Mr. Trump helped spread the fiction. During his now-famous telephone call to the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Jan. 2, 2021, when Mr. Trump implored Mr. Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” the votes Mr. Trump needed to win the state, Mr. Trump referred several times to Ms. Freeman, calling her a “vote scammer” and “hustler.”

Ms. Kutti, 52, is a Trump supporter based in Chicago who was once registered as an Illinois lobbyist supporting the cannabis industry; she had also previously worked as a publicist for R. Kelly, the disgraced R&B singer. Prosecutors sought her testimony in a May court filing; it is unclear if she has appeared before the special grand jury, which meets behind closed doors.

But Ms. Kutti unquestionably met with Ms. Freeman on Jan. 4, 2021, after showing up in her neighborhood, cryptically claiming to work for “some of the biggest names in the industry.”

After persuading Ms. Freeman to meet her at a police station in Cobb County, outside Atlanta — the police had been summoned when Ms. Kutti came to her home, and an officer recommended that they talk at the station — Ms. Kutti warned her that an event would soon occur that would “disrupt your freedom,” according to police body-camera video of the meeting. Ms. Kutti also offered help, telling Ms. Freeman that she was going to call a man who had “authoritative powers to get you protection.”

Palmer Report, Analysis: DOJ gives immunity to “big fish” witness Kash Patel – and he’s testifying against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 2-3, 2022.  The DOJ has bill palmerreportedly spent months working to back various people involved in Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal into a corner, in order to get them to testify against Trump to a grand jury. The tricky part is that many of them have potential legal culpability of their own in this scandal. So they don’t want to testify against themselves while testifying against Trump, and are therefore more inclined to plead the fifth.

bill palmer report logo headerOne such witness is Kash Patel, who recently asserted that he can’t be compelled to testify against Trump because doing so would violate his own Fifth Amendment rights. After the courts agreed, the DOJ has now decided to grant Patel limited immunity, and he will indeed testify against Trump in the coming days, per the Wall Street Journal. So what does this mean?

First of all, it means Patel can’t invoke the Fifth Amendment in his testimony. This kind of limited immunity is specifically designed to allow Patel to tell the grand jury about what he and Donald Trump did together without incriminating himself, because prosecutors will not be allowed to turn around and use Patel’s testimony against Patel.

kash patel o croppedThat said, it doesn’t mean Patel, right, will necessarily go free. Limited immunity means the DOJ can still prosecute Patel for his role in the classified documents scandal; it just can’t use Patel’s testimony against Patel. However, if prosecutors end up deciding that Patel’s testimony was sufficiently useful in taking Trump down, they could decide not to indict him.

To be clear, there are no magic wands available for Patel in any of this. Even if he considers himself innocent, he clearly fears being prosecuted and convicted for his alleged role in this scandal, or he wouldn’t have previously refused to testify without immunity. And now that he’s been given limited immunity, if he backs out at the last minute and refuses to testify, the DOJ can nail him for obstruction. For that matter, if Patel were to lie during his testimony in the hope of protecting Trump, the DOJ could then nail Patel for perjury. In other words, Patel may or may not go to prison if he cooperates against Trump, but he’s now nearly a lock for prison if he fails to cooperate against Trump.

In any case, the WSJ is reporting that Patel is testifying against Trump. So unless Patel very stupidly changes his mind at the last second, it means the DOJ has landed the kind of “big fish” inside witness that it’s been seeking against Trump all along. Testimony from someone like Patel can establish Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In criminal cases against crime bosses, testimony from top underlings is typically what leads to a conviction at trial.

 

Washington Post, Widow of Fox journalist killed in Ukraine seeks answers: Why was security team not with her husband?

Efrain Galicia, center, poses for a photo with his attorney, Benjamin Dictor, far right, and supporters, on Wednesday in New York (Associated Press photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump settles lawsuit after security guards’ scuffle with protesters, Adela Suliman, Nov. 3, 2022. Former president Donald Trump settled a lawsuit Wednesday, just days ahead of the trial of a lawsuit filed by protesters who alleged they were manhandled by his security personnel outside Trump Tower in New York in 2015.

The details of the settlement have not been made public, but jury selection for a civil trial presided over by Bronx Judge Doris Gonzalez had been underway, according to court documents.

The suit was brought by five New Yorkers of Mexican descent, led by Efrain Galicia, who alleged that Trump’s bodyguards engaged in a scuffle with them as they demonstrated outside the building on Sept. 3, 2015, over anti-Mexican comments Trump made during his presidential campaign.

The case sought punitive damages after alleging that Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and others punched one of the men in the head while trying to grab a sign that read, “Make America Racist Again!” Schiller has previously said that he was simply trying to make space on the sidewalk and that he struck the protester only after the man grabbed him from behind.

“Plaintiffs are proud to have settled their claims and to have obtained written recognition by Donald Trump of their right to protest on the public sidewalk,” their attorney, Benjamin Dictor, told The Washington Post in a statement Thursday.

“Powerful men may put their names on buildings, but the sidewalk will always belong to the people,” Dictor added.

 

vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, All Roads Lead to Putin: The Dramatic Close of the Trial of Trump Crony Tom Barrack, Vicky Ward, Nov. 2-3, 2022 (updated). Justice Department log circularThis afternoon, the trial of Trump crony Tom Barrack drew to a dramatic close.

You could hear a pin drop as prosecutor Sam Nitze—who, as I’ve written about before, has a flair for the dramatic—effectively scaled back his tone and his strident demeanor to tell the jury sotto voce that essentially it doesn’t matter how much they admire 75-year-old tycoon Barrack or agree with his opinions on the Middle East or how much sympathy they feel for 29-year-old Matthew Grimes for making the mistake of choosing the wrong mentor in Barrack.

The law is the law, Nitze said—and Barrack and Grimes went “way, way over a line” by working as unregistered foreign agents for the UAE, according to the evidence, which is composed, at least partially, of dozens of damning text messages and emails.

Nitze also said repeatedly that Barrack lied in the courtroom, leaving me to wonder if that ultimately could leave the defendant open for additional perjury charges.

What I now fear is not what we’ve seen in the Barrack trial but what we haven’t seen. How many other countries were actually effectively seducing Trump via his cronies? It certainly seems like it could have been more than just the UAE.

I understand prosecutors must be laser-focused to achieve results, so I understand why they haven’t gone down all these other rabbit holes. But the very fact they even exist is chilling. I wouldn’t have thought to say this before the weekend, but if you want some unputdownable bedtime reading right now, I highly recommend the Mueller Report. It’s a lot scarier now than it was when it first came out.

Nov. 2

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says, Rachel Weiner, Nov. 2, 2022. Four days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, above, tried to tell President Trump it was not too late to use paramilitary groups to stay in power by force, according to testimony Wednesday in federal court.

If he did not, protesters “should have brought rifles” to Washington, and “we could have fixed it right then and there,” Rhodes said during a Jan. 10 recorded meeting, boasting that he would have killed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Rhodes made the violent comments at a meeting in Texas with Jason Alpers, who described himself on the witness stand as a military veteran and co-founder of Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG). That organization played a key role in spreading false claims about the 2020 election through misleading and inaccurate reports about voting machine software.

On the stand, Alpers said he had an “indirect” line to Trump’s “inner circle,” without elaborating.

That apparent relationship is why Rhodes wanted to meet, Alpers testified. He said he recorded the meeting to accurately “provide information to President Trump.” What he got, he said, disturbed him enough to eventually go to the FBI.

Alpers took the stand in the sixth week of trial for Rhodes and four others accused of taking part in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government and planning to block the lawful transition of presidential power by force.

Kellye SoRelle, who is charged separately from Rhodes and has been described in court as both his girlfriend and an attorney for the Oath Keepers, was also at the meeting, Alpers testified.

“Here is the thing, we’re gonna fight,” Rhodes is recorded saying. “We’re not gonna let them come get our brothers. We’re going to fight, the fight’s going to be ours.”

And if he had known on Jan. 6 that Trump would never invoke the Insurrection Act, Rhodes said, he would have gone further that day — including assassinating a Democratic leader.

“If he’s not going to do the right thing, and he’s just gonna let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes says on the recording. “We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang f------- Pelosi from the lamppost.”

Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, is currently hospitalized after being attacked by a man who officials say was looking to kill her.

Rhodes in the recording, also called the riot “a good thing in the end,” because it “showed the people that we have a spirit of resistance.”

But he said if Trump left office, “everyone that was at the Capitol” would be in danger of being charged with “felony murder … because someone died.” SoRelle is heard agreeing: “I know it’s gonna happen.”

What to know about the Oath Keepers sedition trial: Stewart Rhodes, founder and leader of Oath Keepers, is charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 riot. He is accused of guiding a months-long effort to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the swearing-in of President Biden. Rhodes is the most high-profile person charged in the investigation so far. Five members of the extremist group Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, face trial. Prosecutors will try to convince jurors that Rhodes and his group intentionally conspired to use force to prevent President Biden’s swearing-in. The trial is an important step in the wider probe, analysts say.

 

 

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). 

Politico, Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as 'only chance' to stop 2020 election certification, Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein and Nicholas Wu, Nov. 2, 2022. Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have received any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Pool photo by Erin Schaff via Getty Images).Court.

Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.

“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our politico Customonly chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”

“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.

The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but they have not been publicly released.

Nov. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Second Oath Keepers cooperator says he saw Jan. 6 as ‘Bastille-type’ moment, Spencer S. Hsu, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Graydon P. Young testifies in Rhodes seditious conspiracy trial that he thought Capitol breach at time could start a revolution: “I was acting like a traitor, someone acting against my own government.”

A star government witness in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes testified that he believed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol could start a new American revolution potentially led by the extremist group.

“I felt like it was a ‘Bastille-type’ moment in history, like in the French Revolution,” Florida Oath Keepers member Graydon Young testified.

“I guess I was acting like a traitor, someone acting against my own government,” he said in the trial of Rhodes and four others in federal court in Washington.

The testimony on Monday of Young, 57, of the Tampa area, is critical to the prosecution. He is one of three expected witnesses who have pleaded guilty to at least one of three overlapping conspiracies in which Rhodes and others are charged. Oath Keepers co-defendants are accused of being in military-style gear in a “stack” formation outside the Capitol and with staging firearms just outside Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roberts temporarily delays release of Trump tax records, Robert Barnes, Nov. 1, 2022. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. temporarily halted the release of former president Donald Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee, and called for more briefing in the case.

Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as Thursday.

Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold.

Roberts, the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, put the release on hold and called for a response from the committee by noon on Thursday.

 

October

Oct. 31

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opening statements begin in Trump Organization’s criminal trial, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 31, 2022. The criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization is set for opening statements Monday, with prosecutors looking to prove allegations that the company for years provided untaxed compensation for executives.

The criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization is set for opening statements Monday, with prosecutors looking to prove allegations that the company for years provided untaxed compensation for executives.

The trial is the result of a three-year probe of the Trump Organization’s business practices by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and former district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Bragg has said he is still evaluating whether former president Donald Trump committed crimes when allegedly manipulating the value of his assets to get favorable loan and interest rates, or devaluing his assets to reduce his tax liability.

Trump and three of his adult children who have served as executives at the company have not been charged personally.

The Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp. proceedings in New York Supreme Court could last up to six weeks and are expected to involve witnesses who still work at the company, including longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is on paid leave, and comptroller Jeffrey McConney. Both are alleged to have orchestrated a scheme to pad the compensation packages for company executives with perks that weren’t taxed during 15 years from 2005 to 2021.

Trump Organization’s criminal trial on fraud charges to start Monday

Weisselberg was the only individual indicted with the companies. He pleaded guilty in August and agreed to testify at the organization’s trial. In exchange for his testimony, he will receive a five-month jail sentence. He had been facing up to 15 years in prison.

McConney was a grand jury witness and has been given immunity from prosecution under New York state law.

In recent days, prosecutors warned prospective jurors that some witnesses may be hesitant to testify. Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger told jurors during voir dire Thursday that some witnesses in the case are still employed by the Trump Organization and its subsidiary, and they “may be reluctant at times to answer some questions.”

“It’s understandable … They are testifying against their employers,” Hoffinger said.

The selected panel of 18 jurors includes six alternates.

The tax fraud and conspiracy case was filed in July 2021 and alleges that Weisselberg and McConney, who ran the company’s finances, kept two sets of books to reflect actual compensation, with unreported executive perks such as cars and pricey apartments, and compensation figures that were reported to state and federal tax authorities. The company is based at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

Weisselberg personally saved over $900,000 in taxes through the false reporting, according to prosecutors. He is expected to testify about his own conduct and his plea agreement limits the scope of what he’s required to discuss.

The Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corp. could owe a combined maximum fine of $1.6 million, if convicted.

Politico, Despite Eastman appeal, Jan. 6 committee accesses 8 disputed emails, A federal judge had ruled they were evidence of a likely crime, Kyle Cheney, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Congressional investigators have obtained eight disputed emails that attorney John Eastman — a key architect of Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election — had asked a federal appeals court to shield from lawmakers.

politico CustomEastman revealed in a Sunday court filing that he delivered a link to the Jan. 6 select committee providing access to the eight emails last week — an effort to comply with a federal district court judge’s order — but asked the committee to refrain from reviewing the records while he mounted an appeal.

Instead, the select committee rejected his request, questioning whether a formal appeal had been lodged, and downloaded the documents, Eastman indicated. He is now asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to demand that the select committee return or destroy the documents — and prevent the panel from making use of them until the appeals court takes action.

“While a stay barring the production is no longer available, an order directing the return or destruction of the documents and barring further use of them pending the appeal remains a viable remedy,” Eastman’s attorney Anthony Caso wrote.

But such an order by a court against Congress would be an extraordinary step by one coequal branch against another, and would be virtually impossible to enforce. A similar effort by Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich — who asked a judge to claw back financial records from the select committee after JP Morgan provided them in December — was met with extreme skepticism from a district court judge in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 29

 

djt hands open amazon safe

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: The Trump administration: the worst counterintelligence disaster in U.S. history, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Oct. 28-29, 2022. In an era marked by unprecedented events, it is not hyperbole to state that the Donald Trump administration and the twice-impeached disgraced ex-president's post-presidency represent the worst counterintelligence disaster in U.S. history.

wayne madesen report logoAn examination by WMR of court records, including criminal cases dealing with violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and Trump's misappropriation of highly-classified documents at his private properties, points to over a dozen foreign intelligence services, most of them hostile to U.S. national interests, having gained access to America's most guarded secrets.

  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary QAnon: Russia-style, Wayne Madsen, left, author and former Navy intelligence officer, Oct. 26-27, 2022. Russia's dangerous religious rhetoric is setting the stage for modern-day pogroms in Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top national-security prosecutor joins Trump Mar-a-Lago investigation, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 29, 2022 (print ed.). David Raskin joins the case as outside national-security experts say prosecutors have amassed evidence that meets some key criteria for charging the former president.

One of the Justice Department’s most experienced national security prosecutors has joined the team overseeing the intensifying investigation of classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club, people familiar with the matter said.

National security law experts interviewed by The Washington Post say prosecutors appear to have amassed evidence in the case that would meet some of the criteria for bringing charges against the former president — an unprecedented action that they said likely would only happen if the Justice Department believes it has an extremely strong case.

David Raskin,who served for many years as a senior federal prosecutor in New York City, and more recently has worked as a prosecutor in Kansas City, Mo., has been quietly assisting in the investigation into Trump and his aides, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Raskin is considered one of the most accomplished terrorism prosecutors of his generation, having worked on the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was tried in Virginia as a co-conspirator in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Raskin was also part of the team that prosecuted Ahmed Ghailani in federal court in Manhattan in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. Ghailani was acquitted of most counts but found guilty of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. He is the only Guantánamo Bay detainee to be brought to a U.S. court and tried and convicted. Both Moussaoui and Ghailani received life sentences.

Justice Department officials initially contacted Raskin to consult on the criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. But his role has shifted over time to focus more on the investigation involving the former president’s possession and potential mishandling of classified documents, the people familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key Proud Boys Jan. 6 co-conspirator pleads guilty, Tarrio lawyer says, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Oct. 29, 2022 (print ed.). A cooperator plea by John Charles Stewart related to the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case is disclosed as the U.S. turns up pressure on Proud Boys ahead of December trial.

An accused key co-conspirator who longtime former Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio allegedly said proposed storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has pleaded guilty in a deal with U.S. prosecutors, Tarrio’s lawyers revealed Friday.

Details of the plea emerged in a pretrial hearing as the government ratchets up pressure against Tarrio and four other defendants who face trial in December on a charge of seditious conspiracy.

During the hearing in federal court in Washington, Tarrio defense attorney Sabino Jauregui said that John Charles Stewart, 44, of Carlisle, Pa., pleaded guilty in June. Prosecutors interjected, and U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly immediately halted the public session to go behind closed doors, which after resuming made no further mention of Stewart.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rejects promoting general involved in Capitol riot response, Dan Lamothe, Oct. 29, 2022. The Pentagon backed Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, the director of the Army staff, to become a four-star general. But the Biden administration nixed his promotion.

Oct. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Upholds House’s Effort to See Trump’s Tax Returns, Charlie Savage, Oct. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The former president is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to rehear the matter.

A full federal appeals court denied on Thursday former President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to block Congress from gaining access to his tax returns, leaving in place a three-judge panel’s ruling that a federal law gives a House committee chairman broad authority to request them despite Mr. Trump’s status as a former president.

But the terse unsigned order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejecting Mr. Trump’s request to rehear the case does not necessarily mean that Congress will obtain the records, which it has sought as it investigates his finances under its oversight powers. Mr. Trump’s legal team has vowed to fight the congressional effort “tooth and nail,” and is very likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

If the justices do not resolve the matter before the end of the year, and if Republicans retake control of the House — as polls indicate is likely — the House under G.O.P. control is virtually certain to drop the request. Mr. Trump has generally pursued a strategy of using the slow pace of litigation to run out the clock on various oversight and investigative efforts.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which requested the tax returns, had asked the appeals court to expedite treatment of the matter, but it did not. Nevertheless, in a statement, Representative Richard E. Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, praised the decision.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump does not have a magic wand when it comes to this, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 28, 2022. It’s entirely possible that Musk will bill palmergo ahead and reinstate Donald Trump (among other right wing criminals) on Twitter in the coming hours or days, with no one there to stop him.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing: it won’t matter.

For one thing, Donald Trump was on Twitter throughout the entire 2020 election cycle, tweeting up a storm, and he still lost that election by seven million votes. So no, Trump getting back on Twitter will not somehow magically make him a more viable political candidate going forward. Even if Trump were still in the “legitimately a political candidate” stage of his life, being back on Twitter wouldn’t help him.

For that matter, Trump has now moved on to the criminal defendant stage of his life. As we’ve seen in some other high profile DOJ criminal cases, Trump’s tweets will be used against him, both in the indictment and at trial. So if Trump does get back on Twitter, and he begins posting tweets that donald trump twitterare aimed at obstructing justice or count as a confession to crimes, those tweets will only increase the odds that the DOJ gets a conviction once Trump is on trial.

Trump will not help himself in any way by being back on Twitter, and if he gets carried away, he’ll harm himself and cement his own downfall. And while Trump does love trying to incite violence, he can’t just tweet a magic combination of words that causes his supporters to magically take over the government. Nothing works that way. Trump couldn’t even pull that off back when he was still President. For all the fear and loathing over January 6th, everyone forgets that Trump’s attempt at violently keeping himself in office was a complete failure. And now his supporters are more afraid to get violent, because Trump no longer controls federal law enforcement.

twitter bird CustomNor will Trump being back on Twitter somehow magically help the Republicans in the midterms. Trump’s rallies haven’t helped Republican candidates one bit in the general election thus far. His tweets won’t either. Trump has had some fun meddling in Republican primaries over the years, but he never has had the ability to boost Republican candidates in general elections.

So no, there’s no reason to sit around and fret about the possibility of Donald Trump getting back on Twitter. Now more than ever, Trump is a powerless broken man who’s merely playing defense as the Feds close in on him. His future consists of indictments and prison bars. If he wants to humiliate himself with some more stupid tweets along the way, so be it.

Oct. 27

 

elon musk sideviewPolitico, Musk owns Twitter — and Washington awaits Trump's return, Rebecca Kern, Oct. 27, 2022. Elon Musk, shown above, will own Twitter, after the two sides finally closed a $44 billion deal Thursday to sell the company to the world’s richest man.

twitter bird Custompolitico CustomMusk’s takeover — reported by multiple news outlets on Thursday night — could have huge implications for the future of Washington’s favorite social media app, especially if former President Donald Trump is allowed back on the platform, and if Musk loosens the rules to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation.

With just 12 days until the midterm elections, a resurrected Trump Twitter account could have electoral implications, donald trump twittergiving the former president a megaphone to again challenge election results, blast his opponents and spread falsehoods.

What exactly Musk does next is an open question, to say nothing of Trump.

In an effort seemingly aimed at easing concerns from nervous advertisers, Musk, a self-professed “free-speech absolutist,” promised on Thursday that the platform would not descend into “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”

Oct. 26

 

djt bob woodward

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Trump Tapes: 20 interviews that show why he is an unparalleled danger, Bob Woodward, above right, Oct. 24-26, 2022 (multimedia). In more than 50 years of reporting, I have never disclosed the raw interviews or full transcripts of my work.

But after listening again to the 20 interviews I conducted with President Donald Trump during his last year as chief executive, I have decided to take the unusual step of releasing them. I was struck by how Trump pounded in my ears in a way the printed page cannot capture.

In their totality, these interviews offer an unvarnished portrait of Trump. You hear Trump in his own words, in his own voice, during one of the most consequential years in American history: amid Trump’s first impeachment, the coronavirus pandemic and large racial justice protests.

This essay was adapted from “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward's Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump,” by Bob Woodward. It will be published Oct. 25 by Simon & Schuster Audio. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Audio. All rights reserved.

Much has been written about that period, including by me. But “The Trump Tapes,” my forthcoming audiobook of our interviews, is central to understanding Trump as he is poised to seek the presidency again. We spoke in person in the Oval Office and at Mar-a-Lago, as well as on the phone at varying hours of the day. You cannot separate Trump from his voice.

In the summer of 2020, for example, when the pandemic had killed 140,000 people in the United States, Trump told me: “The virus came along. That’s not my fault. That’s China’s fault.” I asked him:

Woodward: Was there a moment in all of this, last two months, where you said to yourself, “Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime”?

Trump: No.

On the printed page his “no” reads flat, a simple declaration. Now listen to the audio of that exchange. This “no” is confident, dismissive, full of self-assurance. It leaves no doubt about the finality of his judgment. This “no” distances him from bearing responsibility.

Sound has an extraordinary emotional power, an immediacy and authenticity. A listener is brought into the room. It is a completely different experience from reading Trump’s words or listening to snatches of his interviews on television or the internet.

Trump’s voice magnifies his presence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump chief of staff Meadows ordered to testify before Ga. grand jury, Amy B Wang and Tom Hamburger, Oct. 26, 2022. Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating Republican efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in the state, a South Carolina judge ruled Wednesday.

Mark MeadowsFulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) has said that her inquiry is examining “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” Because Meadows, right, does not live in Georgia, she could not subpoena him to testify but filed a petition in August for him to do so.

South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller ruled Wednesday that Meadows must comply with a subpoena as his testimony is “material and necessary to the investigation and that the state of Georgia is assuring not to cause undue hardship to him.”

The ruling was confirmed Wednesday by Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Willis. DiSantis said Meadows would not be called until after the midterm elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Acquisition Company Tied to Trump Media Says Early Talks Were Not ‘Substantive,’ Matthew Goldstein, Oct. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Lawyers for Digital World recently told regulators that the SPAC had not violated any rules by talking to Trump Media before going public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Pressure Trump Aides to Testify in Documents Case, Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The move is part of an effort by prosecutors to punch through the claims of privilege the former president is using to hamper the investigation of his push to overturn the election.

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to force the two top lawyers in Donald J. Trump’s White House to provide additional grand jury testimony as prosecutors seek to break through the former president’s attempts to shield his efforts to overturn the 2020 election from investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors filed a motion to compel testimony from the two lawyers, Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin, last week. They told Beryl A. Howell, a judge in Federal District Court in Washington who oversees grand jury matters, that their need for the evidence the men could provide should overcome Mr. Trump’s claims that the information is protected by attorney-client and executive privilege, the people said.

The filing was the latest skirmish in a behind-the-scenes legal struggle between the government and Mr. Trump’s lawyers to determine how much testimony witnesses close to the former president can provide to the grand jury, which is examining Mr. Trump’s role in numerous schemes to reverse his election defeat, culminating in the mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mr. Cipollone, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, and Mr. Philbin, who served as his deputy, initially appeared before the grand jury last month after receiving subpoenas, but declined to answer some of the questions prosecutors had about advice they gave to Mr. Trump or interactions they had with him in the chaotic post-election period, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

The government’s filing, which was reported earlier by CNN, asked Judge Howell to force the men to return to the grand jury and respond to at least some of the questions they had declined to answer.

If compelled to testify fully, Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin could provide the grand jury with firsthand accounts of the advice they gave Mr. Trump about his efforts to derail the results of the election with a variety of schemes, including one to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors in states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. They could also tell the grand jury about Mr. Trump’s activities and mind-set on Jan. 6 and the tumultuous weeks leading up to it.

Judge Howell has already ruled in favor of the government in a similar privilege dispute concerning testimony from two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, according to several people familiar with the matter. Both Mr. Short and Mr. Jacob returned to the grand jury this month and answered questions that Mr. Trump’s lawyers had sought to block as being privileged during their original appearances.

Oct. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Business, Already Shrinking, Faces a Tough Test in Court, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, Oct. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Trump Organization’s trial on tax fraud and other charges begins Monday in Manhattan, raising questions about the future of the business.

At the dawn of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, his family business appeared poised for a windfall: It unveiled new hotel lines, held ribbon-cuttings around the world and attracted major tournaments to its golf clubs, enough for Eric Trump, who ran the company while his father was in the White House, to remark, “The stars have all aligned.”

Five years later, those stars have faded. The former president’s company, grappling with legal and political scrutiny, has halted its expansion to concentrate on its existing properties. It even sold the Trump hotel in Washington, once the center of the MAGA universe.

This week will drive home that stark reversal of fortune as the company faces a highly public reckoning: a criminal trial in Manhattan, where the district attorney’s office will accuse it of tax fraud and other crimes.

Although Mr. Trump himself was not indicted, he is synonymous with the company he ran for decades, a business that bears his name and served as a launching pad for his presidency.

The trial in State Supreme Court will present an embarrassing scene for the former president, pushing to the forefront one of several criminal investigations swirling around him.

allen weisselberg croppedThis case centers on special perks doled out by the former president’s business, the Trump Organization, which comprises a universe of more than 500 corporate entities. Last year, the district attorney’s office accused two of those entities — The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp. — of awarding off-the-books benefits like rent-free apartments and leased luxury vehicles to a few top executives who failed to pay taxes on the perks.

As jury selection begins on Monday, the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, appears to have the upper hand. The Trump Organization’s 75-year-old chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with the two corporations to carry out the scheme — and agreed to testify at their trial, tipping the case in favor of Mr. Bragg, a Democrat.

Justice Matters, Commentary: The Trump Organization "show trial" kicks off today. But Donald Trump will not be held accountable, Glenn Kirschner, Oct 24, 2022 (7:18 mins.).

What can only be described as a show trial kicks off in state court in New York today.

In a true perversion of justice, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg chose not to criminally charge Donald Trump, even though he charged his chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and the Trump organization with a 15-year-long criminal scheme to defraud in the first degree.

These crimes undoubtedly were committed at the direction of and for the ultimate benefit of Donald Trump, and Bragg's career prosecutors concluded that there was ample evidence to indict and convict Trump. Yet Bragg killed the investigation into Trump, optioning only to indict Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

Oct. 23

 

 

djt nancy pelosiPolitico, Pelosi: Trump isn't ‘man enough’ to testify after Jan. 6 subpoena, Olivia Olander, Oct. 23, 2022. The House Speaker, shown above with Trump in file photos, also slams the idea that voters don't trust Democrats with the economy.

politico CustomHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi goaded former President Donald Trump on the airwaves Sunday, saying she doesn’t think he’ll testify for the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I don’t think he’s man enough to show up,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show” host Jonathan Capehart in a wide-ranging interview.

She also suggested Trump’s lawyers might not want him to show up, since he would be testifying under oath and possible penalty of perjury.

The committee formally issued a subpoena to Trump on Friday, asking him to testify after a months-long investigation and series of hearings. However, the move is largely symbolic, as the committee is unlikely to compel Trump to testify before it dissolves at the end of this year.

Should Trump refuse to testify, the public should judge him for that decision, Pelosi said.

“No one is above the law. If we believe that, then they should make a judgment about how he responds to that request,” she said.

Footage of Jan. 6, 2021, released this month showed Pelosi during the attack on the Capitol saying — twice — that she’d punch the former president if he came to the building.

“I want to punch him out. And I’m going to go to jail, and I’m going to be happy,” Pelosi said at the time, one of many instances in which she’s expressed her disdain for Trump.

The Jan. 6 select committee has maintained that Trump played a “central role” in instigating the attack on the Capitol and attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In interviews Sunday — with a midterm election looming just over two weeks away — Pelosi also addressed the economy, which recent polls have shown is a top issue for voters.

Republicans “don’t have a solution to inflation,” she said. The speaker also said she doesn’t agree with the idea that voters don’t trust Democrats with the economy.

Americans should understand the difference between inflation as a global issue and the cost of living, Pelosi said, maintaining that Biden has made strides on reducing prescription drug prices and lowering unemployment.

As Americans continue to deal with high prices, Republicans have taken back ground in recent midterm polling after Democrats saw a bump over the summer. The president’s party typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections.

Earlier, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Pelosi said she “absolutely” doesn’t regret congressional pandemic relief spending that may have contributed to inflation.

“That was necessary for people to survive. ... When you reduce unemployment, it’s inflationary. That is a fact,” Pelosi said.

Oct. 22

World Crisis Radio, Biden pledges to enact Roe into law on first day of new Congress! Webster G. Tarpley (historian, author, right), Oct. 22, 2022 (132.50 webster tarpley 2007mins.). McCarthy shares his nightmare agenda with Punch Bowl News — Woe to the vanquished: Speaker wannabe plans early betrayal of Ukraine, citing exorbitant costs to justify treachery; National ban on abortion looms, with no exceptions likely; debt ceiling and threat of default to be used to extort genocidal austerity cuts vs Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and other vital programs; revenge against Trump foes to be paramount; Freak show in committees starting with power-mad thespian Marjorie Taylor Green;

Trump subpoenaed by House January 6 committee to testify on damning list of possible charges, starting mid-November; Bannon gets four months in the hoosegow for contempt of Congress; Appeals court orders Lindsey Graham to appear before Atlanta grand jury in Trump vote extortion attempt; CA Judge David Carter tells Eastman to deliver his emails with Trump to House committee since attorney-client privilege is voided by crime-fraud exception; Trump insisted on fake numbers despite warnings from attorneys, removing ”advice of counsel” defense; Trump aide Kashyap Patel appears before MaL documents grand jury; Special Master phase moves toward close; Trump takes Fifth in E. Jean Carroll defamation case;

Truss forced out as British Premier by City and Bank of England after attempted orgy of ”pro-growth” tax cuts for the rich and corporations paid for by borrowing; Her supply side agenda thought to resemble McCarthy’s doomed plans for hoped-for GOP House; Top-down Tory leadership contest underway;
Meloni takes over in Italy after 86-year old Berlusconi signals his support for Putin against Ukraine; Salvini denied police ministry;

Election personnel across US hit by death threats and harassment from MAGAt fascist hooligans; Time for priggish Merrick Garland to protect poll workers by indicting anti-election bigwigs!

”Federalist” columnist opines that western civilization is dead, so conservatives should style themselves radicals and counter-revolutionaries –against 1776 and 1865?

Biden sees inflection point of world history, approximating Schiller’s celebrated punctum saliens.

Mobilize without stint from now through November 8 to prevent MAGAt dictatorship!

ny times logoNew York Times, Democratic Secretary of State Candidates Struggle Against Election Deniers, Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats are outspending Republicans 57-to-1 on television ads for their secretary of state candidates. It still may not be enough.

in 2022, after secretaries of state helped thwart Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat, races for the post have taken on new urgency. Facing off against Republican candidates who spread lies about the 2020 election, Democrats have poured tens of millions into the contests, casting them as battles for the future of American democracy.

If only they could get voters to see it that way. Instead, voters remain focused on rising inflation, economic woes, education and other issues that are outside the purview of the official duties of a secretary of state. And while a vast majority of Americans view democracy as under threat, a striking few see it as a top issue, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll.

 

lindsey graham npr washington post logoWashington Post, Graham asks Supreme Court to block his Georgia 2020 election testimony, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). South Carolina Republican was summoned for grand jury questioning on attempts to overturn results in that state.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asked the Supreme Court on Friday to block his required appearance before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by President Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Thursday turned down Graham’s attempt to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), in which the lawmaker claimed a sitting senator is shielded from testifying in such investigations.

A district court judge had said Graham must appear, but narrowed the range of questions that prosecutors can ask.

Without a stay of the lower courts’ rulings, Graham’s lawyer, Donald F. McGahn, told the Supreme Court, “Sen. Graham will suffer the precise injury he is appealing to prevent: being questioned in state court about his legislative activity and official acts.”

McGahn, a former counsel to Trump, asked Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice designated to hear emergency requests from the 11th Circuit, for at least a temporary stay. He said Graham could be required to testify “in less than a month.”

Thomas could act on the request on his own or refer the matter to the entire court.

Mar-a-Lago classified papers had sensitive secrets about Iran, China

The Atlanta grand jury investigating alleged 2020 presidential election interference has already heard testimony from several Trump lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Boris Epshteyn. Willis also wants to question former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Graham would be asked to testify about calls he made to Georgia election officials soon after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” about the Trump campaign and the “multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results” of the election in Georgia and elsewhere.

washington post logoWashington Post, Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for contempt of Congress in Jan. 6 probe, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The Trump strategist displayed ‘defiance and contempt’ rather than cooperate, prosecutors said, after the House committee asked about Bannon’s advance knowledge of events.

Stephen K. Bannon, a right-wing podcaster and longtime adviser to former president Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon is set to become the first person incarcerated for defying a congressional subpoena in more than half a century under a statute that is rarely prosecuted. The judge said he would stay imposition of the penalty pending Bannon’s expected appeal.

Bannon’s case probably won’t be the final clash involving the work of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot and preceding events, as lawmakers Friday issued a subpoena to Trump himself.

“Flouting congressional subpoenas betrays a lack of respect for the legislative branch, which exercises the will of the people of the United States,” U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols said. Bannon “has expressed no remorse” and “has not taken responsibility for his refusal to comply with his subpoena.”

Bannon was convicted at trial in July on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to respond to the Jan. 6 committee’s request for testimony and documents. Both misdemeanors are punishable by at least 30 days and up to one year in jail. But Bannon has said he plans to appeal his conviction because Nichols ruled that Bannon could not argue at trial that he relied on his lawyer’s advice or believed his cooperation was barred by Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

Prosecutors asked for six months in jail and the maximum $200,000 fine, saying in a court filing that Bannon showed “a total disregard for government processes and the law” in ignoring the congressional subpoena, while smearing the House investigation and the justice system with “rhetoric that risks inspiring violence.” Bannon asked for probation, saying a mandatory-minimum jail sentence would be unlawful because his intent was not criminal or “willful.”

Bannon declined to speak in court Friday, saying only, “My lawyers have spoken for me, your honor.”

But in a raucous sidewalk appearance outside afterward, the bombastic Bannon claimed he would be vindicated by American voters next month if Republicans, as predicted, take control of the House of Representatives, and he said that Attorney General Merrick Garland would be impeached and “removed from office.”

“Today was my judgment day by the judge,” Bannon said as demonstrators called him a traitor. But, he added, “on November 8, the American people will weigh judgment, and we will prove the Biden administration ends [that] evening.”

Bannon is one of a half-dozen Trump associates to be convicted of federal crimes including fraud, making false statements and foreign influence-peddling, although Trump pardoned most of those who remained loyal before leaving office. More are now in legal jeopardy in investigations of attempts to subvert the 2020 election results as well as the storage of classified information at Trump’s Florida residence. M. Evan Corcoran, who is representing Bannon, has been counseled by colleagues to hire a criminal defense lawyer because he told the Justice Department that Trump had handed over all classified information at Mar-a-Lago before an FBI raid found more.

The committee had wanted to ask Bannon about his role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers into refusing to affirm the 2020 election results, culminating in the mob assault on the Capitol. Lawmakers in their subpoena noted that Bannon was involved in Trump supporters’ strategy meetings the day before the riot and that he predicted “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump subpoena from Jan. 6 committee sets deadlines for testimony, documents, Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). It is not clear whether Trump will comply with the subpoena, which could set off a protracted legal debate.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena Friday for testimony and documents from former president Donald Trump, setting off a potentially prolonged legal battle with little historic precedent.

The committee requested that Trump testify under oath on or about Nov. 14, as well as any documents by Nov. 4 related to the former president’s sweeping efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of presidential power.

While the subpoena was anticipated, it is a remarkable escalation in the investigation into whether the deadly violence on Jan. 6 was the direct result of Trump’s actions in the weeks after he lost his bid for reelection.

“As demonstrated in our hearings, we have assembled overwhelming evidence, including from dozens of your former appointees and staff, that you personally orchestrated and oversaw a multipart effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transition of power,” Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a statement, part of a 10-page letter to Trump.

 

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Could Harness Unresolved Legal Issues to Resist Jan. 6 Panel’s Subpoena, Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer, Oct. 22, 2022. If former President Trump turns down the drama of testifying, his legal team could mount several constitutional and procedural arguments in court.

If former President Donald J. Trump decides to fight the subpoena issued to him on Friday by the House committee investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his lawyers are likely to muster a battery of constitutional and procedural arguments for why a court should allow him not to testify.

In the most basic sense, any legal arguments seeking to get Mr. Trump off the hook would merely need to be weighty enough to produce two and a half months of litigation. If Republicans pick up enough seats in the midterm elections to take over the House in January, as polls suggest is likely, they are virtually certain to shut down the Jan. 6 committee, a move that would invalidate the subpoena.

The issues raised by the extraordinary subpoena, which the panel announced at a hearing last week, are too complex to be definitively resolved before a potential change of power in the House, said Mark J. Rozell, a George Mason University professor and author of “Executive Privilege: Presidential Power, Secrecy and Accountability.”

“We are in a constitutional gray area here where there is no clear guidance as to exactly what should happen,” Mr. Rozell said. “That gives the former president some leeway to put forward various creative legal arguments and ultimately delay the process until it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Emptywheel, Trump Subpoena: The Revolution Will Not Be Signaled, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right), Oct. 22, 2022. The January 6 Committee has marcy wheelerreleased the subpoena it sent to the former President.

It requires document production by November 4 and a deposition starting on November 14. Notably, the first deadline is before the election.

It focuses not just on Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, summon mobsters, and raise money off of it. There are several questions focused on obstruction: both document destruction and witness tampering.

The witness tampering one reads:

The subpoena mentions Signal at least 13 times. Which strongly suggests the President was in direct communication with some of the coup plotters via the mobile app.

The subpoena also asks the former President for all communications devices he used between November 3, 2020 and January 20, 2021. In the Stone trial, there were about nine devices identified on which he may have received a call during the 2016 election, and there are several others — such as that of his then bodyguard Keith Schiller — who weren’t discussed in the trial. Tony Ornato also receives a close focus in this subpoena; I wonder if he was receiving calls for the then-President on the Secret Service phone that has since been wiped.

washington post logoWashington Post, In middle of Jan. 6 riot, Oath Keepers chief reached out to Proud Boys, prosecutors say, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors gave a blow-by-blow of the actions in and around the Capitol of five charged with seditious conspiracy.

Fifteen minutes after rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol building’s west side on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court testimony, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes sent a brief message to an encrypted chat group that included Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio.

“Back door of the Capitol,” Rhodes wrote.

He then called Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs, who immediately began leading a group toward the doors on the Capitol’s east side.

The third week of the government’s case in the seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes, Meggs and three other associates culminated in a minute-by-minute account of the Oath Keepers’ actions on Jan. 6 that prosecutors say shows how the group’s leaders plotted “rebellion” beforehand, greenlit violence while at the Capitol and appeared to coordinate their actions with other figures pushing to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Whitney Drew, a former FBI counterterrorism special agent with experience in Army intelligence, testified as prosecutors deployed audio, video and computers animations to give jurors an immersive path through the defendants’ actions that day.

Prosecutors mined material from Kellye SoRelle, described in court as both an Oath Keepers attorney and Rhodes’s girlfriend. SoRelle, who was recently charged with obstructing the vote count, started a four-minute long Facebook livestream at the east side of the Capitol at 2:12 p.m. just as a crowd began moving up the steps. Proud Boys simultaneously broke into the building on the west side, according to court records, and some moved to the east.

“This is what happens when the people are pissed and when they rise up,” SoRelle told followers in a video played for jurors. “That’s how you take your government back. You literally take it back.”

One minute after SoRelle’s video ended, a group of Oath Keepers led by Meggs arrived near where SoRelle was standing, Drew testified. Rhodes was also approaching, after telling an encrypted Oath Keepers leadership chat that it was Trump supporters, not leftist agitators, responsible for the action. He likened the crowd of “pissed off patriots” to “the Sons of Liberty,” American colonists who carried out the Boston Tea Party.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol rioter gets 34-month term for assaulting police and journalist, Paul Duggan, Oct. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A former carpenter from Pennsylvania who pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers and a photojournalist during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced Friday to 34 months in prison after apologizing in court for his actions and saying he behaved like “an antagonistic jerk” on the day of the siege.

“Regretfully, I let my emotions get the best of me, and I’m very disappointed,” the defendant, Alan W. Byerly, 55, told Judge Randolph D. Moss in U.S. District Court in Washington. “But make no mistake: This was no excuse for me to put my hands on anyone. … I was being an antagonistic jerk, and I still can’t understand why I was like that.”

Byerly, a divorced father and grandfather who had lost his carpentry job during the pandemic, said he was experiencing “depression, frustration and isolation” when he traveled to Washington to attend President Donald Trump’s incendiary rally Jan. 6 on the Ellipse, at which Trump repeated his debunked claim that rampant voter fraud had led to his defeat in the 2020 election.

Carrying an electric stun device “for protection,” Byerly said, he then joined thousands of Trump supporters as the mob stormed the Capitol while Congress was meeting to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. Later, in the months before his July 2021 arrest, Byerly said, “I felt so bad” about the riot that “I wouldn’t even tell the closest people in my life about January 6th.”

In court filings, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington said Byerly, who was not accused of entering the Capitol, was present on the building’s Lower West Terrace when rioters accosted an Associated Press photographer and hauled him down a flight of stairs.

“At the bottom of the stairs, [Byerly] and three other individuals grabbed the journalist and pushed, shoved and dragged him,” the office said in a statement. “Byerly grabbed the journalist with both hands and pushed him backward. He then continued to push and drag him away from the stairs.”

Emptywheel, Bill Barr Complains That His Special Counsel Was Unable To Match Robert Mueller’s Record Of Success, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Oct. 22, 2022. Even marcy wheelerbefore the Igor Danchenko trial, Billy Barr declared victory in defeat — arguing that if John Durham could just “fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” the inevitable acquittal would still give Durham an opportunity to spin fairy tales about what Durham imagines happened.

“What these cases show is that these are difficult cases to win,” Barr said. “There’s a reason it takes so long, and you have to build up the evidence because at the end of the day, you’re going before these juries that aren’t going to be disposed to side with the people they view as supporting Trump.”

But despite Durham’s limited success in the courtroom, Barr defended the investigation he ordered, saying the courtroom was allowing Durham to establish a record of what had occurred with the so-called Russiagate investigation.

Durham’s entire project is a continuation of Barr’s unprecedented politicization of DOJ, one that not only places Republicans attempting to secretly work for hostile nations above the law, but that has made the country far less safe in many other ways.

It’s not just Durham prosecuted two men without any real hope of winning conviction, all to expose things that aren’t crimes. It’s that Billy Barr hired him to do so.

Oct. 20

Politico, Judge: Trump signed court document that knowingly included false voter fraud stats, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Oct. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump signed legal documents describing evidence of election fraud that he knew were false, a federal judge indicated Wednesday.

politico CustomU.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion that emails from attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump’s last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, needed to be turned over to the Jan. 6 select committee. Those emails, Carter wrote, “show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.”

djt frown newThe emails are among the files that Eastman had been declining to turn over to the committee, citing attorney-client privilege. While Carter concluded that some of the materials fell under that privilege, he ruled that Eastman must disclose four emails to congressional investigators because they are evidence of a likely crime.

“The Court finds that these four documents are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime,” wrote Carter, who is based in California.

david carterAccording to Carter, left,Trump and his attorneys alleged in a Dec. 4 filing in Georgia state court that Fulton County had improperly counted more than 10,000 votes of dead people, felons and unregistered voters. They then moved that proceeding to federal court and discussed whether to use the same statistics in that filing. In private correspondence, Trump’s lawyers noted that the then-president had resisted signing documents containing “specific numbers.” On Dec. 31, Eastman emailed other Trump lawyers that the numbers filed in state court were not accurate.

“Although the President signed a verification for [the state court filing] back on Dec. 1, he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate,” Eastman wrote in an email to colleagues. “For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate.”

However, Trump and his lawyers opted to file the federal complaint using the same numbers that Eastman conceded were inaccurate.

“President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers ‘are true and correct’ or ‘believed to be true and correct’ to the best of his knowledge and belief,” added Carter, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. “The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities in the 2016 era.  U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that marks the culmination of a Durham probe that began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

Newsweek, Durham Blasted by Experts After New Acquittal: 'Laughed Out of Court Twice,' Aila Slisco, Week of Oct. 18, 2022. Former Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to investigate possible misconduct in the FBI's probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While Trump and his allies claimed that Durham's investigation would uncover evidence of a massive "deep state" conspiracy against the former president, it has failed to do so.

newsweek logoInstead, the investigation has only resulted in three indictments that do not include any allegations of a conspiracy against Trump. In addition, the only two indictments that Durham took to trial resulted in full acquittals. Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to the 2016 presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was also acquitted this year of lying to the FBI.

Durham said in a statement that he was "disappointed in the outcome" of the trial on Tuesday but had "respect" for the jury's decision, according to the Associated Press.

Laurence Tribe, professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard University, told Newsweek that the acquittal was evidence Durham's "groundless mission has now failed yet again, putting yet another dismal marker on William Barr's shameful record as Trump's henchman and the worst Attorney General in our nation's history."

Analysts and other experts also denounced Durham's investigation and mocked his latest failure on social media.

"John Durham racks up another acquittal, this time on a case he tried personally," legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig tweeted. "His investigation will go down as a shameful abuse of prosecutorial power in service of political vengeance. Juries - our most basic civilian bulwark - have firmly rebuked this abuse of power."

"I remember distinctly being told over and over how the Durham probe was going to indict half the Beltway and send all kinds of evil Trump haters to jail," tweeted national security lawyer Bradley P. Moss. "Durham couldn't convict a ham sandwich."

"Poor John Durham," Moss added in a subsequent tweet. "Leads investigation into CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes. Brings no charges. Leads investigation into CIA enhanced interrogation techniques. Brings no charges. Leads the 'make Trump feel better' investigation. Gets laughed out of court twice."

"The John Durham investigation is a disgrace and a fiasco," attorney and former CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted. "Two acquittals at trial in a system where the feds win 95% of their cases. Trump and Barr said Durham would prove the Russia investigation unjustified. He's proven the opposite.

"Now it's time to see if John Durham's 'investigation' was legally conducted, if he behaved ethically, and if he and others remaining from Trump's DOJ should be prosecuted," tweeted former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.

Trump told Fox News this year that the Durham probe would uncover evidence of "the crime of the century," while predicting that the investigation was "just the beginning."

The former president had not weighed in on the acquittal as of Tuesday evening, although he did claim that his administration had "fully" uncovered "'Deep State' corruption" in a Truth Social post earlier in the day.

Newsweek has reached out to Trump's office for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: John Durham’s investigation proved Trump wrong, not right, Editorial Board, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). At what might be the end of his tenure as Justice Department special counsel, John Durham has failed to fulfill former president Donald Trump’s prediction that he would unveil “the crime of the century” in his investigation into the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe. Instead, the lawyer mostly confirmed, as others had already concluded, that there was no crime of the century at all.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The three-year effort to undercut the Russia probe comes up dry, Philip Bump, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). A few months after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appeared on Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers’ questions about the investigation he led into Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 election, the Justice Department inspector general released a much-anticipated follow-up. It didn’t consider the question of whether Donald Trump or people in his campaign had aided or been linked to Russia, as Mueller had. Instead, the inspector general’s report released in December 2019 considered whether the probe that Mueller inherited from the FBI had itself been legitimate.

For two years, Trump had insisted that it wasn’t. He took to calling the Russia investigation a hoax or a witch hunt well before anyone had any sense of what was being investigated, much less any likely conclusions. He and his allies hoped that the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz would provide them ammunition — particularly given that the impeachment investigation was just heating up.

But there was already another effort underway to undercut the Russia investigation. In May 2019, Attorney General William P. Barr — confirmed to that position a few months prior — appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to conduct a broader review of the Russia investigation. Barr was clearly antagonistic to Mueller’s effort, masterfully releasing an aggressively Trump-friendly version of Mueller’s findings before a redacted version of the full report became public. Much of the sense that Mueller’s investigation came up empty depends on Barr’s framing and a pro-Trump audience primed for that frame.

Barr didn’t have similar control over Horowitz’s report, so when it came out, he was reactive. He released a lengthy statement mostly restating the Trumpworld view of the investigation. And then, unexpectedly, Durham also weighed in, producing a statement that had the effect of blowing on the dying embers of Trump’s hope that Mueller and the FBI would be exposed as biased partisans.

“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.,” it read. “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

The implication? Both shoes had not yet dropped.

This week, the second one did. Durham’s probe — now more than three years in duration, nearly twice as long as the period between Mueller’s appointment as special counsel and the conclusion of his team’s work — had obtained an indictment against Igor Danchenko, a key source of information for the infamous dossier of reports alleging links between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But the prosecutorial effort failed, and a jury on Tuesday found him not guilty on the charges.

It was the second not-guilty verdict in a row for Durham’s team. He had similarly obtained an indictment against a lawyer who worked for a law firm hired by Clinton’s 2016 campaign, but he failed to prove his case to a jury’s satisfaction. The only criminal charge successfully resolved by Durham’s team was the one against that FBI official who had altered the document — a charge stemming from Horowitz’s work, not Durham’s. Contrast that with Mueller, who obtained dozens of indictments and a battery of guilty pleas.

Barr and Durham got into this from the outset with the apparent belief that the FBI had acted rashly and without proper grounds for doing so. They spent months working together on evaluating the case, including flying to Europe to test alternate theories about the probe’s genesis. But, despite that belief and that effort, they weren’t able to make the case they sought. “Russia hoax” proponents like Solomon were left championing as Durham victories things like Clinton using Trump’s ties to Russia to help her campaign.

In other words, Durham spent three years and $4.5 million to advance the ball little further than Horowitz did. As has long been apparent, the “hoax” wasn’t the Russia investigation. The hoax was trying to present the Russia probe as a hoax.

Other Durham coverage includes:

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump deposed at Mar-a-Lago in case brought by sexual assault accuser, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump was questioned under oath Wednesday in Florida by attorneys for an author who in 2019 went public with an accusation that he raped her in a department-store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

e jean carrollThe author, E. Jean Carroll, right, has a pending defamation lawsuit against Trump.

Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, confirmed that the deposition happened Wednesday as scheduled. The lawyer declined to comment further.

Trump attorney Alina Habba did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. Trump and his attorneys have adamantly denied his having any encounter with Carroll, who has said she was assaulted by Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room.

Judge clears way for Trump to be deposed in defamation case

When Carroll went public with the sexual assault allegation, Trump, then in office, called Carroll a liar and suggested he would not have been interested in her sexually because she wasn’t his “type.”

Oct. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know as Trump Is Deposed in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Suit, Benjamin Weiser, Oct. 19, 2022. The former president on Wednesday will be asked questions under oath in a defamation case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her in a dressing room.

e jean carrollThree years after the writer E. Jean Carroll sued Donald J. Trump for defamation in New York, the former president is scheduled to submit to a sworn deposition on Wednesday. It is expected to take place at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s residence and private club in Florida.

Ms. Carroll, right, in a 2019 book and excerpt in New York magazine, accused Mr. Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s at the department store Bergdorf Goodman. She said that he pushed her against a dressing room wall, pulled down her tights, opened his pants and forced himself upon her.

Mr. Trump said he had never met Ms. Carroll, that she was “totally lying” and that she was not his “type.”

In her suit, Ms. Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, said Mr. Trump’s statements had harmed her reputation.

Oct. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, In Documents Review, Special Master Tells Trump Team to Back Up Claims, Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer, Oct. 18, 2022. “What’s the expression — ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef,” the arbiter said in a conference call about the claims that some documents were privileged.

raymond dearie gregory mangoThe special master reviewing materials seized by the F.B.I. from former President Donald J. Trump’s compound in Florida expressed skepticism on Tuesday about early claims by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that certain documents were privileged and thus could be withheld from a Justice Department investigation.

In a phone conference, the special master, Judge Raymond J. Dearie of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, complained that the log of an initial batch of documents over which Mr. Trump is seeking to claim privilege lacked sufficient information to determine whether the arguments were valid.

Judge Dearie encouraged Mr. Trump’s lawyers to give him a better sense of why they believed the documents could be lawfully shielded from the Justice Department’s inquiry into whether Mr. Trump unlawfully kept classified records at his estate and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.

“It’s a little perplexing as I go through the log,” Judge Dearie said. “What’s the expression — ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef.”

The hearing was the latest step in the review process that began last month when Judge Dearie was named special master by one of Mr. Trump’s appointees, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the Southern District of Florida.

 

capitol riot rather

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The House Jan. 6 Panel Has Tried to Show Criminality, a High Bar, Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The committee has yet to decide on making criminal referrals. But its decision to subpoena former President Trump is in keeping with its prosecutorial style.

In the final moments of what will most likely be the last hearing for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, its vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, returned to a theme that has run through the committee’s work: criminality.

Without naming names or providing any specifics, Ms. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, asserted that the committee now has “sufficient information to consider criminal referrals for multiple individuals” to the Justice Department for prosecution.

It is not clear whether the committee will follow through and take the largely symbolic step of issuing a criminal referral for former President Donald J. Trump or anyone who worked with him to overturn the election and encourage the mob of his supporters who entered the Capitol seeking to block or delay certification of his defeat.

But throughout its investigation and hearings, the committee has operated with a prosecutorial style, using the possibility of criminality like a cudgel in extraordinary ways. It has penetrated Mr. Trump’s inner circle, surfaced considerable new evidence and laid out a detailed narrative that could be useful to the Justice Department in deciding whether to bring charges.

The panel is expected to issue a subpoena as soon as Tuesday seeking to compel Mr. Trump to testify before it wraps up its investigation and issues a final report.

The committee’s effects on related criminal investigations are clear to see. Federal prosecutors and authorities conducting a local investigation in Georgia have found themselves interviewing some of the same witnesses already interviewed by the committee and issuing subpoenas for some of the same evidence already obtained by Congress.

But in suggesting that its goal is to spur criminal charges, the committee is setting a standard for success that is beyond its power to carry out — and one that could risk overshadowing the work it has done in documenting Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in power and marshal his supporters to help him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hotels Charged Secret Service Exorbitant Rates, David A. Fahrenthold and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 18, 2022 (print ed.). House Inquiry Finds, Records obtained by the House Oversight Committee show the former president’s properties charged more than $1.4 million to agents protecting him and his family.

The Trump Organization charged the Secret Service up to $1,185 per night for hotel rooms used by agents protecting former President Donald J. Trump and his family, according to documents released on Monday by the House Oversight Committee, forcing a federal agency to pay well above government rates.

The committee released Secret Service records showing more than $1.4 million in payments by the department to Trump properties since Mr. Trump took office in 2017. The committee said that the accounting was incomplete, however, because it did not include payments to Mr. Trump’s foreign properties — where agents accompanied his family repeatedly — and because the records stopped in September 2021.

The records the panel obtained provided new details about an arrangement in which Mr. Trump and his family effectively turned the Secret Service into a captive customer of their business — by visiting their properties hundreds of times, and then charging the government rates far above its usual spending limits.

The records also make clear that Mr. Trump’s son Eric — who ran the family business while his father was in office — provided a misleading account of what his company was charging.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oath Keepers Leader Bought Arsenal of Weapons Ahead of Jan. 6, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Oct. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The prosecution in the seditious conspiracy trial of Stewart Rhodes and other members of the militia introduced evidence that he spent as much as $20,000 on rifles, ammunition and other equipment.

In the days before a pro-Trump mob — including members of his own organization — broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, went on a cross-country weapon-buying spree.

Setting out for Washington from Texas, his home state, Mr. Rhodes stopped at least six times, bank records show, purchasing items like assault-style rifles, ammunition and scopes. Sometimes he dropped into gun shops and sometimes he conducted the transactions in parking lots with private sellers he met online.

By the time he reached his destination, prosecutors said on Monday at the trial of Mr. Rhodes and four of his subordinates on seditious conspiracy charges, the Oath Keepers leader had spent as much as $20,000 on what amounted to a small arsenal that included at least three rifles and an Israeli-made semiautomatic shotgun.

Prosecutors have not yet told the jury precisely what Mr. Rhodes did with the weapons he amassed as he and a lawyer for the Oath Keepers, Kellye SoRelle, made their way from Texas, through Mississippi and Tennessee, to the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna, Va., where they stayed on Jan. 6.

steve bannon exlarge

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Recommends Bannon Be Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison, Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Stephen Bannon, above, who is set to be sentenced on Friday, deserved a penalty harsher than the minimum term, prosecutors said.

Related Headlines

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities in the 2016 era.  U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that marks the culmination of a Durham probe that began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

Oct. 17

 

 

capitol riot rather

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The House Jan. 6 Panel Has Tried to Show Criminality, a High Bar, Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 17, 2022. The committee has yet to decide on making criminal referrals. But its decision to subpoena former President Trump is in keeping with its prosecutorial style.

In the final moments of what will most likely be the last hearing for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, its vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, returned to a theme that has run through the committee’s work: criminality.

Without naming names or providing any specifics, Ms. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, asserted that the committee now has “sufficient information to consider criminal referrals for multiple individuals” to the Justice Department for prosecution.

It is not clear whether the committee will follow through and take the largely symbolic step of issuing a criminal referral for former President Donald J. Trump or anyone who worked with him to overturn the election and encourage the mob of his supporters who entered the Capitol seeking to block or delay certification of his defeat.

But throughout its investigation and hearings, the committee has operated with a prosecutorial style, using the possibility of criminality like a cudgel in extraordinary ways. It has penetrated Mr. Trump’s inner circle, surfaced considerable new evidence and laid out a detailed narrative that could be useful to the Justice Department in deciding whether to bring charges.

The panel is expected to issue a subpoena as soon as Tuesday seeking to compel Mr. Trump to testify before it wraps up its investigation and issues a final report.

The committee’s effects on related criminal investigations are clear to see. Federal prosecutors and authorities conducting a local investigation in Georgia have found themselves interviewing some of the same witnesses already interviewed by the committee and issuing subpoenas for some of the same evidence already obtained by Congress.

But in suggesting that its goal is to spur criminal charges, the committee is setting a standard for success that is beyond its power to carry out — and one that could risk overshadowing the work it has done in documenting Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in power and marshal his supporters to help him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hotels Charged Secret Service Exorbitant Rates, David A. Fahrenthold and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 17, 2022. House Inquiry Finds, Records obtained by the House Oversight Committee show the former president’s properties charged more than $1.4 million to agents protecting him and his family.

The Trump Organization charged the Secret Service up to $1,185 per night for hotel rooms used by agents protecting former President Donald J. Trump and his family, according to documents released on Monday by the House Oversight Committee, forcing a federal agency to pay well above government rates.

The committee released Secret Service records showing more than $1.4 million in payments by the department to Trump properties since Mr. Trump took office in 2017. The committee said that the accounting was incomplete, however, because it did not include payments to Mr. Trump’s foreign properties — where agents accompanied his family repeatedly — and because the records stopped in September 2021.

The records the panel obtained provided new details about an arrangement in which Mr. Trump and his family effectively turned the Secret Service into a captive customer of their business — by visiting their properties hundreds of times, and then charging the government rates far above its usual spending limits.

The records also make clear that Mr. Trump’s son Eric — who ran the family business while his father was in office — provided a misleading account of what his company was charging.

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities in the 2016 era.  U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that marks the culmination of a Durham probe that began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jury begins deliberating in case of Steele dossier source, Salvador Rizzo, Oct. 17, 2022. A jury on Monday began deliberating the case of Igor Danchenko, a private researcher who was a primary source for a 2016 dossier of allegations about former president Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and who was later accused of lying to the FBI about where he got his information.

The trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., is a major test for special counsel John Durham, who lost his only other case that had gone to trial as part of his nearly 3½-year examination of the FBI’s 2016 probe of the Trump campaign.

Trump predicted Durham would uncover vast corruption inside the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies that investigated his campaign’s links to Russia. So far, no one charged by the special counsel has gone to prison, and only one government employee has been accused of criminal wrongdoing. In both trials this year, Durham has argued that people lied to manipulate the FBI, not that investigators corruptly targeted Trump.

In May, a jury in D.C. federal court acquitted cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, who also was accused by the special counsel of lying to the FBI. A former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, was sentenced to one year of probation after admitting in a 2020 plea deal with Durham that he had altered a government email used to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

A grand jury that Durham was using in Alexandria is now inactive, people familiar with the matter have told The Washington Post. It is unclear whether a grand jury the special counsel was using in D.C. is still active. Barr directed Durham to write a report, and it will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to decide how much of it, if any, to release to the public.

A longtime federal prosecutor who served as U.S. attorney in Connecticut during the Trump administration, Durham personally argued much of the government’s case against Danchenko. Prosecutors said Danchenko misled the FBI officials asking for the identity of his sources in 2017, after the agency determined the researcher was the source behind some of the most explosive allegations about Trump in reports compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

 

 

Igor Danchenko in 2021. A jury will now decide whether Mr. Danchenko is guilty of lying to the F.B.I. about one of his sources for information in the so-called Steele dossier (Photo by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images).

Igor Danchenko in 2021. A jury will now decide whether Mr. Danchenko is guilty of lying to the F.B.I. about one of his sources for information in the so-called Steele dossier (Photo by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Deliberates in Trial of Analyst Who Gathered Steele Dossier Claims, Linda Qiu and Charlie Savage, Oct. 17, 2022. A Trump-era special prosecutor and a defense lawyer delivered starkly clashing views in closing arguments on Monday about the motives of Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who was a key contributor to the so-called Steele dossier.

A jury will now decide whether Mr. Danchenko is guilty of lying to the F.B.I. about one of his sources for information in the Steele dossier, a compendium of unsubstantiated assertions that Donald J. Trump and his 2016 campaign were colluding with Russia.

The case is a major test of the special counsel, John H. Durham, who was appointed in 2019 to investigate the origins of the F.B.I.’s inquiry into the nature of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. An earlier indictment brought by Mr. Durham ended with an acquittal in May, and the trial appears to be his last chance to obtain a conviction in a case he developed.

In the closing arguments, a prosecutor working for Mr. Durham asserted that Mr. Danchenko had clearly lied to the F.B.I. and that his false assertions had a material effect. He pointed to part of the dossier that the F.B.I. cited to bolster applications to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia.

“This defendant’s lies caused intensive surveillance on a U.S. citizen,” said Michael Keilty, an assistant special counsel.

In his own remarks, Mr. Durham sought to broaden the case, telling jurors that “the whole house of cards of the dossier crumbles” under the weight of the evidence.

But the defense said the government’s own evidence showed that Mr. Danchenko did not lie. The lawyer, Stuart A. Sears, characterized Mr. Danchenko as a valuable and honest asset to the F.B.I. who unwittingly became embroiled in a politically charged investigation. Mr. Durham, he said, was intent on proving crimes “at any cost” and presumed Mr. Danchenko guilty from the start.

“He’s trying to help the F.B.I., and now they’re indicting him for it,” Mr. Sears said.

After BuzzFeed published the dossier in 2017, public suspicions of Mr. Trump escalated, but it has since been discredited — in part because Mr. Danchenko told the F.B.I. that its author, the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, had exaggerated gossip that Mr. Danchenko had gathered for him.

Mr. Trump and his supporters have falsely sought to conflate the dossier with the official investigation into Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, but the F.B.I. did not open the inquiry based on the dossier and the final report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, did not cite anything in it as evidence.

The F.B.I. pointed to part of the dossier in applying to wiretap the former Trump campaign adviser. An inspector general’s investigation uncovered that the bureau had continued to do so after talking to Mr. Danchenko without informing a surveillance court that there was reason to doubt the dossier’s credibility.

The dossier was political opposition research indirectly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee. They paid a law firm, which paid a research firm, which in turn subcontracted to a company run by Mr. Steele. Mr. Steele hired Mr. Danchenko to canvass contacts in Russia and Europe about Mr. Trump’s business dealings in Russia.

Mr. Danchenko verbally conveyed rumors that Mr. Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia and that Russia had a blackmail tape of Mr. Trump with prostitutes in a hotel room in Moscow. But during an interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Danchenko said that he first saw the dossier when BuzzFeed published it and that Mr. Steele had exaggerated his statements, portraying uncorroborated gossip and speculation as fact.

The F.B.I. made Mr. Danchenko a paid confidential source and he disclosed his sourcing for the rumors. While he did not provide information substantiating the dossier, the trial has shown that the bureau found his network of contacts valuable for identifying unrelated Russian influence operations in the United States.

Emptywheel, John Durham’s Missing Signals (And Facetime And Whatsapp And Ipad), Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), right, Oct. 16-17, 2022. As is common, the case agent marcy wheelerfor the Durham investigation against Igor Danchenko, Ryan James, was the last witness on Friday. Case agents are often used to summarize the case against a defendant and introduce boring communications records that the prosecution will rely on in the closing arguments.

By description, he’s the single current or former FBI employee of five who testified at the trial (the others being Brian Auten, Kevin Helson, Amy Anderson, and Brittany Hertzog) who described no expertise in Russian counterintelligence.

James’ job was to introduce a bunch of travel and communications records that — Durham will claim on Monday — rule out the possibility that Igor Sergei Millian (shown in a screenshot from ABC-TV).Danchenko got a call from an anonymous caller, probably around July 24 or 25, 2016, someone Danchenko claimed to believe was Sergei Millian, left. This is the burden Durham chose to take on when he charged Danchenko with four counts — the four remaining after Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed the fifth on Friday — about whether Danchenko was lying on four different occasions in 2017 when he described what he had believed in July 2016.

[snip]

Whether you find Danchenko’s stories credible or not, the fact of the matter is that Durham charged Danchenko with lying in these conversations in spite of the fact that his primary witnesses both attested, sometimes under oath, that they believed him.

There’s no telling what the jury will do. Durham will use testimony from a validation review to suggest that at least one person at the FBI, someone who didn’t have a personal investment in Danchenko’s success, suspected he was a GRU spy. Durham will likely argue that Auten and Helson only believe Danchenko because they’re incompetent.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Oath Keepers Leader Bought Arsenal of Weapons Ahead of Jan. 6, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Oct. 17, 2022. The prosecution in the seditious conspiracy trial of Stewart Rhodes and other members of the militia introduced evidence that he spent as much as $20,000 on rifles, ammunition and other equipment.

In the days before a pro-Trump mob — including members of his own organization — broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, went on a cross-country weapon-buying spree.

Setting out for Washington from Texas, his home state, Mr. Rhodes stopped at least six times, bank records show, purchasing items like assault-style rifles, ammunition and scopes. Sometimes he dropped into gun shops and sometimes he conducted the transactions in parking lots with private sellers he met online.

By the time he reached his destination, prosecutors said on Monday at the trial of Mr. Rhodes and four of his subordinates on seditious conspiracy charges, the Oath Keepers leader had spent as much as $20,000 on what amounted to a small arsenal that included at least three rifles and an Israeli-made semiautomatic shotgun.

Prosecutors have not yet told the jury precisely what Mr. Rhodes did with the weapons he amassed as he and a lawyer for the Oath Keepers, Kellye SoRelle, made their way from Texas, through Mississippi and Tennessee, to the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna, Va., where they stayed on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Recommends Bannon Be Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison, Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 17, 2022. Stephen Bannon, who is set to be sentenced on Friday, deserved a penalty harsher than the minimum term, prosecutors said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Steve Bannon is being sentenced to prison this week – and that’s just the half of it, Bill Palmer, Oct. 17, 2022. This week, career bill palmercriminal Steve Bannon will be sentenced in federal court for the pair of contempt of Congress charges he was convicted on earlier this year.

Due to the staggered manner in which criminal charges have been brought against Bannon at various levels of government, Bannon’s prison sentence for contempt is likely to be rather short. This is likely to set off widespread confusion, and a fair amount of mistaken “they’re getting away with it all” sentiment. So let’s make sure we’re all caught up on what’s actually happening to Bannon.

bill palmer report logo headerBannon’s sentencing this week will be solely for the contempt charges. Bannon could realistically get anything from a month to two years in prison. This particular crime gives a lot of latitude to the judge on sentencing, and the judge will have to decide whether or not to take Bannon’s prior pardoned charges into account, along with Bannon’s ongoing inappropriate public remarks about his trial.

Justice Department log circularBut whatever prison sentence Bannon ends up with this week, it’ll be just the half of it. Actually it’ll be a lot less than half of it, because contempt is the least severe charge that Bannon is facing. Bannon is separately set to stand trial next month on New York state-level charges of fraud – and if he’s convicted, that’ll likely come with a far longer prison sentence than whatever he ends up getting this week for contempt.

In addition, we’re still waiting to see if the DOJ ends up bringing additional January 6th related charges against Steve Bannon, which would also likely come with a more severe prison sentence than the current contempt charge.

But when Bannon is sentenced this week, the thing to keep in mind is that contempt of Congress is considered a fairly minor crime, which is why it comes with a shorter prison sentence. Bannon’s state-level fraud trial next month puts him in far greater jeopardy of spending a long time in prison. Bannon’s prison sentence for contempt will just be round one of his worsening legal troubles.

Emptywheel, On Steve Bannon’s Epically Bad Faith, Emptywheel, right,Oct. 17, 2022. The government’s sentencing memo for Steve Bannon, which asks Judge Carl Nichols to sentence Bannon to six marcy wheelermonths in prison for blowing off the January 6 Committee subpoena, mentions his bad faith thirteen times (and his failure to make any good faith effort once).

From the moment that the Defendant, Stephen K. Bannon, accepted service of a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (“the Committee”), he has pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt.

[snip]

It also describes how Bannon refused to tell the Probation office how much money he had; DOJ used that refusal to ask for a $200,000 fine as a result.

Even now that he is facing sentencing, the Defendant has continued to show his disdain for the lawful processes of our government system, refusing to provide financial information to the Probation Office so that it can properly evaluate his ability to pay a fine. Rather than disclose his financial records, a requirement with which every other defendant found guilty of a crime is expected to comply, the Defendant informed Probation that he would prefer instead to pay the maximum fine. So be it. This Court should require the Defendant to comply with the bargain he proposed when he refused to answer standard questions about his financial condition. The Court should impose a $100,000 fine on both counts—the exact amount suggested by the Defendant.

Oct. 15

HuffPost, Chilling Memo To FBI Official Warned Of Sympathy In Bureau For Jan. 6 Rioters, Mary Papenfuss, Oct. 15-16, 2022. A "sizable percentage of the employee population felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol,” a person wrote in an email to Paul Abbate.

huffington post logoA recently released email written by someone familiar with FBI operations warned a bureau official just days after last year’s insurrection of sympathy within the FBI for the Jan. 6 rioters.

 The memo sent via email to now FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate — first revealed by NBC News — is the latest ominous sign of increasing politicization of policing organizations that are supposed to enforce the law without partisan bias.

FBI logo“There’s no good way to say it, so I’ll just be direct: from my first-hand and second-hand information from conversations since Jan. 6, there is, at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol,” the email reads.

The sender’s name has been redacted, which was part of a trove of documents released this week by the FBI in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The message is marked “external email” but may have been written by a current or former agent or official on a personal computer. The writer refers to a past FBI “unit” and talking with agents. Abbate, who was then associate deputy director of the bureau, personally responded to the writer with a thank you for sharing the information. The sender addressed Abbate by his first name.

In the message, the sender referred to an unnamed retired senior FBI analyst who had packed his Facebook page with “Stop the Steal” propaganda, referring to former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election he lost was rigged.

djt maga hatThe email noted that several agents insisted the violence at the Capitol was little different than Black Lives Matter protests. Still, Capitol rioters were being singled out because of “political correctness.”

Violence was far more significant at the Capitol riot that apparently involved a bid to disrupt the U.S. government. Nearly 900 people have been arrested and charged with crimes for involvement in the insurrection.

The writer recounted “literally” having to “explain” to a fellow agent the difference between “opportunists burning and looting during [Black Lives Matter] protests that stemmed [from] legitimate grievance to police brutality vs. an insurgent mob whose purpose was to the execution of democratic processes at the behest of a sitting president. One is a smattering of criminals; the other is an organized group of domestic terrorists,” the message added.

The divide on law and order enforcement — often impacted by racism — is so pronounced in the bureau that the email author claimed Black agents were afraid to join SWAT teams for fear their co-workers would not protect them.

 

truth social logo

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

 washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Co-founder of Trump’s media company details Truth Social’s bitter infighting, Drew Harwell, Oct. 15, 2022. A whistleblower has provided The Post and the SEC with hundreds of previously unreported company messages, documents, photos and audio recordings that reveal a stunning portrait of the animosity that has built up inside Trump Media since its high-profile debut last year.

Will Wilkerson, then an executive at former president Donald Trump’s start-up Trump Media & Technology Group, was at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., coffee shop with company co-founder Andy Litinsky last October when Trump called Litinsky with a question: Would he give up some of his shares to Trump’s wife, Melania?

Trump Media, the owner of the fledgling social network Truth Social, had just been boosted by a huge merger agreement and a flood of investment that had made the stake worth millions of dollars. Trump had already been given 90 percent of the company’s shares in exchange for the use of his name and some minor involvement, leaving everyone else to split the rest.

Litinsky tried to brush it off, telling Trump “the gift would have meant a huge tax bill he couldn’t pay,” Wilkerson said in an interview. “Trump didn’t care. He said, ‘Do whatever you need to do.’ ”

Five months later, Litinsky, who first met Trump in 2004 as a contestant on the TV show “The Apprentice,” was abruptly removed from the company’s board. Wilkerson said he believes it was payback for his refusal to turn over a small fortune to the former president’s wife. Litinsky thought so, too, according to an email Wilkerson and his attorneys shared with The Washington Post and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that email, Litinsky complained that Trump was “retaliating against me” by threatening to “ ‘blow up the company’ if his demands are not met.”

Litinsky did not respond to emails and phone messages. It is unknown whether he still retains his shares.
Trump Media & Technology Group co-founder Andy Litinsky said in a March email that he believed former president Donald Trump was “retaliating” against him for not giving some of his company equity to Trump's wife, Melania. Will Wilkerson, as an administrator of the company's email system, retained a copy of the message, which he provided to The Post and the SEC. (Will Wilkerson)

The email — one of hundreds of previously unreported company messages, documents, photos and audio recordings that Wilkerson has provided to the SEC in connection with a whistleblower submission — reveals a stunning portrait of the animosity that has built up inside Trump Media since its high-profile debut last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jan. 6 committee hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise, Ashley Parker, Oct. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The evidence portrays an American president who embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to cede power regardless of the election results; The latest: Judge orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury; Analysis: What the Jan. 6 hearings accomplished — and what they didn’t; Take a look: Why the Jan. 6 committee voted to subpoena Trump and other takeaways.

The likely final hearing of the Jan. 6 panel painted a portrait of an American president who, with the help from a cabal of right-wing allies, embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to cede power regardless of the election results and who — despite privately acknowledging that he’d lost to Biden — ultimately executed that plan to deadly effect on Jan. 6, 2021.

“All of this demonstrates President Trump’s personal and substantial role in the plot to overturn the election,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). “He was intimately involved. He was the central player.”

Before voting unanimously to subpoena Trump, the panel made a case against Trump as relentless as it was damning: In the days and weeks before he encouraged a frenzied mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, close advisers and others had repeatedly told Trump he had lost the election — and Trump himself had privately acknowledged the defeat.

Through roughly 2.5 hours of pretaped testimony, riot footage, stark lawmaker statements and incriminating text messages, the committee argued that despite Trump’s immense capacity for self-deception and dishonesty, the former president fully understood he had lost the election — and yet continued to contest the results anyway.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Nancy Pelosi held it together, Monica Hesse, Oct. 15, 2022 (print ed.). In footage taken by her daughter during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Pelosi appeared calm, focused and pragmatic under unthinkable circumstances.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The latest Mar-a-Lago ruling underscores the frivolousness of Trump’s complaints, Editorial Board, Oct. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court has dismissed Donald Trump in a single sentence.

With no note of dissent, the justices Thursday rejected the former president’s request to intervene in litigation over documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate this summer. This outcome only underscores the outrageous frivolity of the contentions his team has lodged in courts of law and public opinion.

The Supreme Court shouldn’t even have entertained the petition to reconsider part of an appeals court order allowing the Justice Department to continue to review classified documents as a special master looks over other materials for claims of attorney-client or executive privilege. Yet the outcome of Justice Clarence Thomas’s referring the case his colleagues’ way is just another reason to scoff at claims from Mr. Trump that the legal system is treating him unfairly. He has had the opportunity to use, and attempt to abuse, the courts all the way up to the highest in the land — three of whose justices he appointed. And nonetheless, they’ve rejected his arguments.

These rejections are the only possible answer to the numerous implausible claims made by Mr. Trump, including that while in office he could declassify documents “even by thinking about it.” The Mar-a-Lago case is now ensnared in multiple courts thanks to multiple filings from Mr. Trump. Nowhere has he succeeded in establishing any real injury caused to him by the FBI being allowed to proceed with its investigation into the trove of more than 11,000 documents, including 103 with classification markings, that he took with him from the Oval Office. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have ably described the injury that both an impeded investigation and the ability of an outside party to view highly sensitive materials would cause to the government. After all, these materials reportedly include information regarding nuclear capabilities of a foreign government and other secrets so closely held that the agents involved in the probe needed a special clearance to look at them.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: A century after Mussolini’s March on Rome, US voters must choose between 1922 and 1934, when FDR’s New Deal scored midterm webster tarpley 2007gains! Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and author, Oct. 15, 2022 (94:32 mins.). Time to purge federal agencies of Trump moles implicated in January 6 autogolpe! Latest January 6 hearings prove sabotage of Hill readiness by pro-Trump networks in FBI, Secret Service, Pentagon who left Congress undefended;

Film footage shows Pelosi, Schumer and Hoyer fighting to get police and Guard deployed to Capitol while Trump stooges stalled;

Supremes reject Don’s latest MaL motion, leaving early indictment as job one;

Corrupt television networks hide inflation decline of almost 1% from summer peak; Harping about Latinos and GOP, they forget that Hispanic jobless rate is down from 8.6% to an all-time record low of 3.8%;

Russia spews nuclear threats, mounts revenge attack on Ukraine with 100 missiles after Kerch bridge is crippled; G-7 nations pledge more support for Kiev, including air defense;

Beware GOP’s 2023 plans to destroy social safety net using debt ceiling to extort genocidal austerity; Yellen of Treasury must be ready to implement Fourteenth Amendment to prevent GOP default;

British pound sterling still on the brink of collapse as Truss fires Chancellor while rolling back wild tax cuts for rich; Italian neofascist coalition in crisis even before launch; Chinese Communists set for coronation of Xi, but Biden’s new semiconductor regs are ominous for Beijing; Pope condemns xenophobia and death penalty, posing problems for assorted fascist demagogues!

Oct. 14

 

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) ((Photo via NBC News).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Jan. 6 Panel Detailed the Attack. Accountability Is Another Matter, Peter Baker, right, Oct. 14, 2022. The peter baker twittercommittee has not moved the needle of public opinion of former President Trump. But it may have laid the groundwork for criminal prosecution.

If the goal was to essentially put former President Donald J. Trump on trial, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol succeeded in presenting a powerful case full of damning testimony mainly from the defendant’s own advisers, allies and even relatives.

But as the panel wrapped up what was likely the last of its evidentiary hearings on Thursday, it was not at all clear that it had persuaded the jury. Americans who already blamed the rampage on Mr. Trump came away from four months of sensational and at times jaw-dropping hearings with more evidence for their belief, while those who started out in his camp largely remained there.

The relatively little movement in public opinion since the hearings opened in June, at least as measured by an array of polls, underscored the calcification of American politics in recent years. Many voters have been locked into their viewpoints, seemingly immune to contrary information. Mr. Trump’s supporters for the most part have remained loyal to him, brushing off the congressional investigation as the partisan exercise he claims it to be.

As a result, a former president who tried to overturn a demonstrably free and fair election to hang onto power in defiance of the voters, the Constitution and nearly two and a half centuries of democratic tradition remains the dominant figure in his political party and the odds-on favorite to win its nomination to run again. While the committee extensively documented the plot for history’s sake, it could not enforce accountability for it.

“Our nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our Capitol,” said Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican serving as vice chair of the committee. “Those who planned to overturn our election and brought us to the point of violence must also be accountable.

“With every effort to excuse or justify the conduct of the former president,” she added, “we chip away at the foundation of our republic. Indefensible conduct is defended. Inexcusable conduct is excused. Without accountability, it all becomes normal and it will recur.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jan. 6 committee hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise, Ashley Parker, Oct. 14, 2022. The evidence portrays an American president who embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to cede power regardless of the election results; The latest: Judge orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury; Analysis: What the Jan. 6 hearings accomplished — and what they didn’t; Take a look: Why the Jan. 6 committee voted to subpoena Trump and other takeaways.

The likely final hearing of the Jan. 6 panel painted a portrait of an American president who, with the help from a cabal of right-wing allies, embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to cede power regardless of the election results and who — despite privately acknowledging that he’d lost to Biden — ultimately executed that plan to deadly effect on Jan. 6, 2021.

“All of this demonstrates President Trump’s personal and substantial role in the plot to overturn the election,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). “He was intimately involved. He was the central player.”

Before voting unanimously to subpoena Trump, the panel made a case against Trump as relentless as it was damning: In the days and weeks before he encouraged a frenzied mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, close advisers and others had repeatedly told Trump he had lost the election — and Trump himself had privately acknowledged the defeat.

Analysis: The case against Donald Trump

Through roughly 2.5 hours of pretaped testimony, riot footage, stark lawmaker statements and incriminating text messages, the committee argued that despite Trump’s immense capacity for self-deception and dishonesty, the former president fully understood he had lost the election — and yet continued to contest the results anyway.

washington post logoWashington Post, What does a Jan. 6 committee subpoena mean for Donald Trump? Perry Stein, Tom Hamburger and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 14, 2022. After the Jan. 6 House committee vote to subpoena Donald Trump, here’s what to know about congressional subpoenas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Nancy Pelosi held it together, Monica Hesse, Oct. 14, 2022. In footage taken by her daughter during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Pelosi appeared calm, focused and pragmatic under unthinkable circumstances

 

marc short white house file Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge bucks Trump, orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury, Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 14, 2022. A former top aide, shown above, to Vice President Mike Pence returned before a grand jury Thursday to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled President Donald Trump’s objections to the testimony, according to people familiar with the matter.

In a sealed decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. beryl howellDistrict Judge Beryl A. Howell, right, ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that was not available from other sources, one of those people said.

Trump appealed, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to postpone Short’s appearance while the litigation continues, the people said, signaling that attempts by Trump to invoke executive privilege to preserve the confidentiality of presidential decision-making were not likely to prevail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Trump Request to Intervene in Documents Case, Adam Liptak, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The court issued a one-sentence statement that amounted to a stinging rebuke to former President Trump, Adam Liptak, Oct. 13, 2022.

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from former President Donald J. Trump to intervene in the litigation over documents seized from his Florida estate.

The court’s order, which was a sentence long, was a stinging rebuke to Mr. Trump. There were no noted dissents, and the court gave no reasons, saying only: “The application to vacate the stay entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Sept. 21, 2022, presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the court is denied.”

Mr. Trump asked the court last week to step into the tangled case, saying that an appeals court had lacked jurisdiction to remove about 100 documents marked as classified from a review of the seized material. The Supreme Court’s action means that the special master in the case, and Mr. Trump’s legal team, will not have access to those documents.

In their filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not ask the Supreme Court to overturn a more important part of the appeals court’s ruling, which allowed the Justice Department to continue using the documents with classification markings in its criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of government records.

 

Trump-Related Trials, Probes, Election Deniers

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities in the 2016 era.  U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Loss of Steele Dossier Source Damaged National Security, F.B.I. Agent Says, Adam Goldman, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.).  The agent denounced the exposure by the Trump Justice Department of Igor Danchenko, who was an F.B.I. informant but is now on trial on charges of lying to investigators.

A veteran F.B.I. counterintelligence agent testified on Thursday that the Trump Justice Department’s decision in 2020 to release sensitive documents about a bureau informant to a Senate committee examining the bureau’s Russia investigation had damaged national security.

The agent told jurors at the trial of Igor Danchenko, who is charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about matters related to the anti-Trump Steele dossier, that Mr. Danchenko, a Russia analyst, had provided extraordinary assistance for years as a paid F.B.I. informant.

Internet sleuths managed to piece together Mr. Danchenko’s identity after Attorney General William P. Barr directed the F.B.I. to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Mr. Danchenko in 2017 and give it to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.

Kevin Helson, the agent, said Mr. Danchenko became a political target, adding that the “release of the document was dangerous.”

The testimony by Mr. Helson, a witness for the prosecution, seemed to be another setback for the special counsel investigation examining the origins of the F.B.I. inquiry into former President Donald J. Trump’s ties with Russia. The trial of Mr. Danchenko appears to be the last chance for the special counsel, John H. Durham, who Mr. Trump had said would expose a “deep state” conspiracy against him, to obtain a court conviction before his investigation winds down.

Politico, Durham brings in alleged Danchenko source as witness on trial’s third day, Kelly Hooper, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The government alleges that Charles Dolan, a public relations executive, was a primary source of the information that the Russian analyst Igor Danchenko contributed to the Steele dossier.

Special counsel John Durham’s team on Thursday morning called longtime Democratic operative Charles Dolan to the stand at the trial of Igor Danchenko, the Russian analyst who the government alleges lied about Dolan’s role as a source for his contributions to the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Danchenko is charged with five counts of lying to the FBI, all of which he’s pleaded not guilty to. The trial, which is in its third day in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va., is expected to be the final prosecution for Durham in his probe of the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

The government alleges that Dolan, a public relations executive, was a primary source of the information that Danchenko contributed to the Steele dossier — a collection of reports compiled by a former British spy containing now-debunked salacious rumors and allegations about former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Prosecutors called Dolan to the stand on Thursday as their second witness in the trial, and the Democratic operative answered questions surrounding the nature of his relationship with the defendant.

At one point during questioning, Dolan admitted to having lied to Danchenko in an email in the summer of 2016 about a “GOP friend” he claimed to have met with and who he said provided him with information about former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s resignation. Dolan told the jury that he had “embellished” that claim to Danchenko, and that he had actually obtained the information about Manafort’s resignation from watching cable news, not from a Republican friend.

“I thought I would just embellish a bit to make it seem like his contacts were good,” Dolan said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Durham says Steele dossier source lied. But the FBI long valued him, Salvador Rizzo, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.). As a confidential informant for the FBI, Igor Danchenko provided a stream of reliable information on Russian influence activities in the United States, before special counsel John Durham put him on trial for lying to the bureau, an FBI agent testified Thursday.

Special Agent Kevin Helson served as one of two “handlers” for Danchenko, a private researcher on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., as part of Durham’s investigation. The special counsel argues Danchenko deceived the FBI and hampered its investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. But the only two witnesses from the agency to testify so far have characterized Danchenko’s contributions to U.S. national security as valuable.

Danchenko was a primary source of information for Christopher Steele, a former British spy who compiled allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia in several 2016 reports that became known as the “Steele dossier.” Durham alleges that Danchenko lied to the FBI in interviews in 2017 about his own sources of information; his attorneys argue that Danchenko was truthful and that prosecutors were overreaching.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sidney Powell’s nonprofit raised $16 million as she spread election falsehoods, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown, Oct. 14, 2022. A nonprofit group run by pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell raised $16.4 million in the year following the 2020 election and spent less than half that money, according to the group’s tax filings.

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Aide Was Seen on Security Footage Moving Boxes at Mar-a-Lago, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The aide moved the boxes before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena demanding that former President Trump return all classified documents.

A long-serving aide to former President Donald J. Trump was captured on security camera footage moving boxes out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s residence in Florida, both before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The footage showed Walt Nauta, a former military aide who left the White House and then went to work for Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, moving boxes from a storage room that became a focus of the Justice Department’s investigation, according to the people briefed on the matter. The inquiry has centered on whether Mr. Trump improperly kept national security records after he left the White House and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to get them back.

As part of its investigation, the Justice Department has interviewed Mr. Nauta on several occasions, according to one of the people. Those interviews started before the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 and carted off more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 that bore classification markings. Mr. Nauta has answered questions but is not formally cooperating with the investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents.

His lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined to comment. Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, accused the Biden administration of “colluding with the media through targeted leaks in an overt and illegal act of intimidation and tampering.”

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Trump directed an employee who had been interviewed by the F.B.I. to move boxes at Mar-a-Lago. It is not clear whether that employee was Mr. Nauta, and a person familiar with the matter and with Mr. Trump’s orbit said it could be a different staff member.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Forms New Company, Drawing Scrutiny From N.Y. Attorney General, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The New York attorney general, Letitia James, who is suing the former president, questioned his motive for forming a new company, which will be known in the state as the Trump Organization II.

Days before the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit accusing Donald J. Trump and his company of fraud and seeking to shut down some of their business in the state, Mr. Trump’s lawyers created a new company in Delaware.

The new company’s name had a familiar ring to it: the Trump Organization, the same name as his old company, now threatened by the lawsuit. And on Sept. 21, the day the suit was filed, the new Delaware company filed paperwork in New York, seeking to be recognized there as the Trump Organization II.

Those maneuvers were detailed for the first time in a court filing on Thursday from the attorney general, Letitia James, who raised the prospect that Mr. Trump was seeking an end run around some of her lawsuit’s harshest potential punishments. By forming the new company, her filing said, the Trump Organization “now appears to be taking steps to restructure its business to avoid existing responsibilities under New York law,” raising concerns that the business might shift assets out of state.

But her filing acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s lawyers had explicitly said they had not taken any steps to avoid the potential consequences of the lawsuit. Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to the court filing, also offered to provide “assurances and advance notice” to address Ms. James’s concerns.

And because the new company was formed before the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Trump’s lawyers would not have known the specific consequences the attorney general was seeking.

Ms. James, however, remained concerned about the company’s motives and sought intervention from a judge. Her Thursday filing requested an order from the judge that would prohibit the Trump Organization from transferring its assets without court approval.

“Since we filed this sweeping lawsuit last month, Donald Trump and the Trump Organization have continued those same fraudulent practices and taken measures to evade responsibility,” Ms. James said in a statement. “Today, we are seeking an immediate stop to these actions because Mr. Trump should not get to play by different rules.”

Oct. 13

Politico, Trump secretly ordered troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia before 2020 election, Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney, Oct. 13, 2022. The revelation emerged during a Jan. 6 select panel hearing, billed as a “closing argument,” that's expected to be its last before the midterms.

politico CustomDonald Trump sent military leaders into a panic by secretly ordering all U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia days after losing reelection, the Jan. 6 select committee revealed Thursday.

The Jan. 6 panel showed testimony from Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describing Trump’s withdrawal move as “potentially dangerous” but said Trump suggested leaving the problem to “the next guy.” While the order was never implemented, Trump’s intent was to complete the withdrawal before Inauguration Day — and panel member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) argued that it was evidence that he knew “his term would shortly end.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Subpoena Trump, Luke Broadwater and staff colleagues, Oct. 13, 2022. “He is required to answer for his actions,” said the chairman of the committee investigating the Capitol attack. The panel revealed new video of congressional leaders desperately seeking help from the Trump administration and the National Guard as rioters stormed the building.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted unanimously Thursday to issue a subpoena to former President Donald J. Trump to question him about his role in events that led to the violence that consumed Congress

“He is required to answer for his actions,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, at the end of what was possibly the panel’s final public session. “He is required to answer to those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy.”

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack voted Thursday to subpoena former President Donald J. Trump, but has yet to settle on whether to enforce subpoenas issued to four key Republican members of Congress who have refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, did not comply with subpoenas to testify at depositions that were scheduled for May, despite 22 former Republican members of the House urging them to cooperate.

The panel wanted the lawmakers to answer questions about their communications in the run-up to the Capitol riot. For refusing to comply, the members could face charges of contempt of Congress or be referred to the Ethics Committee.

Mr. Jordan, Mr. Perry and Mr. Biggs sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation, and Mr. McCarthy filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas were illegitimate.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chairman if his party takes control of Congress after November’s midterms, wrote that participation in such a “political stunt” by House Republican leaders “would change the House for­ever.”

The committee was initially reluctant to issue subpoenas for information from sitting members of Congress, citing the deference and respect lawmakers in the chamber generally show one another, but ultimately concluded it was necessary.

There have already been consequences for failing to cooperate. Stephen K. Bannon, a Trump ally who was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress in July for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena, making him the first close aide to former President Donald J. Trump to be convicted as a result of one of the investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. (Mr. McCarthy filed a brief in support of Mr. Bannon.)

The committee has also previously laid out its case for a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows, the chief of staff to Mr. Trump, who refused to appear for a scheduled deposition or to turn over additional documents, citing Mr. Trump’s assertion of executive privilege.

Some witnesses who did offer testimony cited their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during questioning, including Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official; Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser; John Eastman, a conservative lawyer; and Roger Stone, a political operative.

“At some point, the Department of Justice may well unearth the facts that these and other witnesses are currently concealing,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming said at the hearing on Thursday, minutes before the panel unanimously voted to subpoena Mr. Trump.

Thompson tells reporters that the committee has no plans to subpoena former Vice President Mike Pence.

Chilling new footage shows congressional leaders scrambling to secure the Capitol.

New video shared by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol shows how top lawmakers scrambled to secure the building on Jan. 6.CreditCredit...House Select Committee, via Associated Press

Huddling with congressional leaders in a secure location as the Capitol was under siege, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was emphatic: There had to be a way to show the public that the government could function and the transfer of power could continue.

Was there a way to return to the Capitol and continue certifying the election, she asked.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Trump Request to Intervene in Documents Case, Adam Liptak, Oct. 13, 2022. The court issued a one-sentence statement that amounted to a stinging rebuke to former President Trump, Adam Liptak, Oct. 13, 2022.

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from former President Donald J. Trump to intervene in the litigation over documents seized from his Florida estate.

The court’s order, which was a sentence long, was a stinging rebuke to Mr. Trump. There were no noted dissents, and the court gave no reasons, saying only: “The application to vacate the stay entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Sept. 21, 2022, presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the court is denied.”

Mr. Trump asked the court last week to step into the tangled case, saying that an appeals court had lacked jurisdiction to remove about 100 documents marked as classified from a review of the seized material. The Supreme Court’s action means that the special master in the case, and Mr. Trump’s legal team, will not have access to those documents.

In their filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not ask the Supreme Court to overturn a more important part of the appeals court’s ruling, which allowed the Justice Department to continue using the documents with classification markings in its criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of government records.

  • Politico, Jan. 6 committee plans a Trump subpoena vote, Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney, Oct. 13, 2022. The revelation emerged during a hearing that also revealed the former president secretly ordered troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia before the 2020 election.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Supreme Court tells Donald Trump to take a hike, Bill Palmer, Oct. 13, 2022. The U.S. Supreme Court has just rejected Donald Trump’s request to intervene in the DOJ’s classified documents case against him. This always had a 100% chance of happening, and now here we are. Not only did Trump lose, this didn’t even delay the DOJ by a single day, as it’s been continuing to work on its case against Trump ever since the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in its favor.

bill palmer report logo headerThis means that the U.S. Court of Appeals now has de facto jurisdiction over this case, with the Supreme Court having refused to get involved. Thus far the Court of Appeals has already granted the DOJ access to the classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago. The DOJ has also asked the Court of Appeals to finish off what’s left of the Special Master debacle as well.

There is no word yet on whether any Supreme Court Justices took the other side and wanted to hear this case. But either way, it should be fairly clear to everyone by now that Clarence Thomas wasn’t going to be able to single handedly bail Trump out, even if Thomas wanted to, because that’s simply not how any of this is set up.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Stays Strong, Showing Stubbornly Rising U.S. Prices, Jeanna Smialek, Oct. 13, 2022. Consumer prices rose 8.2 percent in the year through September, in a report that dashes hopes that inflation in the U.S. may be slowing down.

Fresh inflation data released Thursday showed that the consumer prices climbed far more quickly than expected and a key measure climbed to a fresh 40-year high, bad news for the Federal Reserve as it tries to bring the most rapid price increases in four decades back under control.

Overall inflation climbed 8.2 percent in the year through September, more than what economists recently surveyed by Bloomberg expected, though a slight moderation from the 8.3 percent increase in the year through August. The rate remains extremely high.

Prices increased 6.6 percent after stripping out fuel and food — which tend to be volatile and are often removed from inflation readings to allow for a better sense of underlying trends — a notable re-acceleration in the so-called core index. That was a fresh peak for the index this year, and was the fastest pace of annual increase since 1982.

Right now, Fed officials and Wall Street analysts more closely watch the monthly figures, including what happened between August and September. While the annual numbers reflect what has happened cumulatively over the past 12 months, the monthly data give a clearer snapshot of how prices are evolving in real time.

And those monthly numbers offered even more pronounced reasons to worry. Overall inflation climbed 0.4 percent in September, much more than last month’s 0.1 percent reading. The core index climbed 0.6 percent, matching a big gain in the prior month. That pace is far too fast for the Fed. Because fast inflation has lingered for more than a year and half and has broadened to an array of goods and services — and because it is proving so relentlessly rapid — central bankers are likely to remain squarely focused on cooling off the economy and wrestling it lower. They have raised interest rates five times this year and have signaled that they expect to debate an increase of a half-point or three-quarters of a point at their upcoming meeting. The new figures will likely cement the case for the bigger increase.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Aide Was Seen on Security Footage Moving Boxes at Mar-a-Lago, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Oct. 13, 2022. The aide moved the boxes before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena demanding that former President Trump return all classified documents.

A long-serving aide to former President Donald J. Trump was captured on security camera footage moving boxes out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s residence in Florida, both before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The footage showed Walt Nauta, a former military aide who left the White House and then went to work for Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, moving boxes from a storage room that became a focus of the Justice Department’s investigation, according to the people briefed on the matter. The inquiry has centered on whether Mr. Trump improperly kept national security records after he left the White House and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to get them back.

As part of its investigation, the Justice Department has interviewed Mr. Nauta on several occasions, according to one of the people. Those interviews started before the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 and carted off more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 that bore classification markings. Mr. Nauta has answered questions but is not formally cooperating with the investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents.

His lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined to comment. Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, accused the Biden administration of “colluding with the media through targeted leaks in an overt and illegal act of intimidation and tampering.”

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Trump directed an employee who had been interviewed by the F.B.I. to move boxes at Mar-a-Lago. It is not clear whether that employee was Mr. Nauta, and a person familiar with the matter and with Mr. Trump’s orbit said it could be a different staff member.

 

 

joe biden black background resized serious filewashington post logoWashington Post, Biden says Supreme Court ‘more of an advocacy group’ than ‘evenhanded,’ John Wagner, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden is stepping up his criticism of the Supreme Court, calling it “more of an advocacy group” than “evenhanded” after the court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion.

USTR seal Custom 2Biden’s assessment came Tuesday night toward the end of remarks at a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) as he laid out what he sees at stake for Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

“So, I view this … off-year election as one of the most important elections that I’ve been engaged in, because a lot can change because the institutions have changed,” Biden said. “The Supreme Court is more of an advocacy group these days than it is … evenhanded.”

Biden has taken repeated shots at the court since June, when it overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision on abortion. The court now has a 6-to-3 conservative supermajority.

In public comments last month, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defended the authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution.

“You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is, and you don’t want public opinion to be the guide about what the appropriate decision is,” he said.

During his presidency, Donald Trump bristled over several of the court’s decisions, some regarding policy, others on his false claims about a rigged 2020 election. When the court in December 2020 rejected Trump’s legal challenge aimed at overturning the election, Trump tweeted: “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!”

Earlier in his remarks Tuesday night, Biden sought to frame the choices facing voters next month.

“We’re less than 30 days away from the midterms, and the stakes are clear,” he said. “The right to choose is on the ballot. Your Social Security you paid for your whole life is on the ballot. The safety of our kids and gun violence is on the ballot. Literally, the survival of the planet is … on the ballot. And your right to vote. And democracy itself is … on the ballot.”

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Must Pay Nearly $1 Billion to Sandy Hook Victims’ Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Alex Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, must pay close to $1 billion to the family members of eight victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and an F.B.I. agent who responded to the scene of the 2012 massacre, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.

Mr. Jones, who was not in court to hear the jury’s decision, had been found liable for defamation after he spent years falsely describing the shooting as a hoax and accusing the victims’ families of being actors complicit in the plot. As a result, the families were threatened in person and online. He used his Infowars platform to spread these lies.

Here’s what to know:

  • The jury’s decision divided the money among 15 plaintiffs: 14 relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims, and William Aldenberg, an F.B.I. agent targeted by conspiracy theorists. The plaintiffs were awarded varying amounts by the jurors, who considered their testimony and other evidence presented in court to gauge the damage done to their reputations, invasion of their privacy and other factors.
  • This case presented the greatest financial risk to Mr. Jones, because he was found liable of violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, by using lies about the shooting to sell products on Infowars. There is no cap on punitive damages under that law.
  • Mr. Jones’s assets are a matter of dispute. He has put Infowars’ parent company into bankruptcy, but the families have accused him of doing so to avoid paying the damages.
  • Mr. Jones has a third Sandy Hook damages trial pending stemming from a defamation suit he lost to Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner. An earlier trial, in the suit brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of Jesse Lewis, ended with Mr. Jones being ordered to pay $4 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to the Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 hearing to highlight new evidence Thursday that Trump was warned of brewing violence, Carol D. Leonnig and Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 12, 2022 (print ed.). The Jan. 6 select committee’s hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m. is expected to corroborate parts of the more-startling accounts of that day.

The probably final public hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to highlight newly obtained Secret Service records showing how President Donald Trump was repeatedly alerted to brewing violence that day, and he still sought to stoke the conflict, according to three people briefed on the records.

The committee plans to share in Thursday’s hearing new video footage and internal Secret Service emails that appear to corroborate parts of the most startling inside accounts of that day, said the people briefed, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal records. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Trump was briefed on Jan. 6 that some of his supporters were armed for battle, demanded they be allowed into his rally and insisted he wanted to lead them on their march to the Capitol.

Surveillance footage the committee plans to share was taken near the Ellipse that morning before Trump’s speech and shows throngs of his supporters clustered just outside the corralled area for his “Stop the Steal” rally. Secret Service officers screened those entering who sought to get closer to the stage. Law enforcement officials who were monitoring video that morning spotted Trump supporters with plastic shields, bulletproof vests and other paramilitary gear, and some in the Secret Service concluded they stayed outside the rally area to avoid having their weapons confiscated, according to people familiar with the new records.

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump worker told FBI about moving Mar-a-Lago boxes on ex-president’s orders, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The witness’s description is backed up by security camera footage, people familiar with the matter said, offering key evidence of the former president’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified government documents.

A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material.

The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida residence and private club, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling classified information.

The people familiar with the investigation said agents have gathered witness accounts indicating that, after Trump advisers received a subpoena in May for any classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told people to move boxes to his residence at the property. That description of events was corroborated by the security-camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to answer detailed questions for this article. “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” Budowich said in a statement. “Every other President has been given time and deference regarding the administration of documents, as the President has the ultimate authority to categorize records, and what materials should be classified.”

Budowich accused the Justice Department of a “continued effort to leak misleading and false information to partisan allies in the Fake News,” and said that to do so “is nothing more than dangerous political interference and unequal justice. Simply put, it’s un-American.”

In Trump White House, classified documents routinely mishandled, former aides say

The employee who was working at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been interviewed multiple times by federal agents.

Politico, DOJ to SCOTUS: Steer clear of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago case appeal, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Oct. 12, 2022 (print ed.). It is the latest in a winding legal drama that will likely carry on for months.

politico CustomThe Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to turn down former President Donald Trump’s bid to get a set of about 100 documents marked as classified back into the hands of an independent “special master” reviewing materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon that there’s no reason for the high court to step into the dispute over what role the court system should play, if any, in overseeing investigators’ access to the records the FBI recovered from Trump’s Florida home.

Trump is seeking to get the records with classified markings back into the special master review in what appears to be an attempt to raise arguments that he declassified the records while he was president or that he declared them to be personal files not subject to the Presidential Records Act.

“Applicant has never represented in any of his multiple legal filings in multiple courts that he in fact declassified any documents — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence,” Prelogar wrote in the 32-page brief.

Trump has repeatedly, and publicly, claimed to have declassified all of the items seized by the FBI that bear classification markings — including some which characterize the records as among the most sensitive, closely held secrets the government possesses. But his lawyers have repeatedly refused to echo those claims, saying they don’t want to commit themselves to possible defense theories like declassification before a potential indictment.

FBI logoIn several rounds of legal filings and oral argument — including Trump’s application to the Supreme Court last week — the former president’s attorneys have decidedly avoided the issue, saying only that Trump’s access to the records remains absolute, “whether classified or declassified.”

Trump has also not presented any evidence he designated any of the seized materials as personal records, and DOJ has argued that classified documents — which inherently bear on national security — could never fit the statutory definition of personal records, since they are likely to have value to an incumbent or future administration.

The initial special master order U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued at Trump’s request barred the government from using any of the seized records, including the potentially classified documents, for criminal investigation purposes until the special master process is complete.

The Justice Department appealed her ruling to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But it sought emergency relief only to restore access to the documents with classification markings, aiming to exclude them from the special master process. The appeals court sided with prosecutors on those issues last month in a 3-0 decision, although the broader appeal of Cannon’s ruling remains pending.

Trump’s bid for Supreme Court relief did not seek to restore the ban Cannon initially imposed on investigators accessing the documents with classified markings.

Trump’s request to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department’s response were technically submitted to Justice Clarence Thomas, because he oversees the 11th Circuit, which includes Florida. However, in high-profile cases, the individual justices almost always refer requests for emergency relief to the full court.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump tries desperate “Trump Organization II” stunt, but Letitia James is already all over it, Bill Palmer, Oct. 13, 2022. Each time the justice system cracks down on Donald Trump further, various silly ideas get kicked around on social media about how Trump will somehow magically “get away with it all.” Trump then invariably acts upon those dumb ideas, without realizing that they are in fact silly nonsense.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, once New York Attorney General Letitia James made initial moves to take the Trump Organization’s assets away, naive social media posts suggested that Trump could just shift the money to other entities and then magically keep it. But that’s not how asset seizures work; any assets you attempt to move around are still going to get taken.

Yet because Trump is naive enough to think that the most simplistic of ideas will actually work, the New York Times is reporting that he actually created a new company called “Trump Organization II” – no really, that’s the name – with the intent of shifting his assets to it.

But this morning Letitia James announced that she’s filing to block the move. Notably, Bloomberg is reporting that James is categorizing Trump Organization II as a “foreign” company, even though it’s been registered in Delaware.

In any case, this stunt is indicative of the desperate, naive, guaranteed-to-fail moves that people like Donald Trump resort to making once they’re cornered and out of actual options.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge clears way for Trump to be deposed in defamation case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). A federal judge has denied a request by former president Donald Trump to pause proceedings in a defamation case brought against him in 2019 by an author who said he raped her in a department store dressing room decades ago.

The decision clears the way for Trump, who denies the claim, to be deposed as scheduled next week.

e jean carrollIn the lawsuit brought against Trump by former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, right, Trump recently won a temporary reprieve from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which sent the case to the appeals court in D.C. to resolve whether Trump was a federal employee as defined by the law when he publicly rebutted Carroll’s story.

On Trump’s behalf, the Justice Department previously tried to intervene in the case on the grounds that he was technically an employee of the U.S. government when he occupied the White House and had legal protections from civil litigation because he was acting under the scope of his employment when he denied Carroll’s account and made disparaging comments about her.

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities in the 2016 era.  U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, right, is shown in a file photo with international consultant Igor Danchenko, defendant in a false statement prosecution that represents in a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday the culmination of a Durham probe began with his Trump administration appointment in 2019 to investigate Trump allegations that the president was being smeared by suspicions that Trump and his campaign team acted in cooperation with Russian interests and entities before the 2016 presidential election.

Raw Story, John Durham turns against his own witness in trial probing origins of Trump-Russia investigation, Travis Gettys, Oct. 13, 2022. John Durham turns against his own witness in trial probing origins of Trump-Russia investigation.

Special counsel John Durham lashed out at his own witness during the trial of a Russian-born businessman who was a key source in Christopher Steele's dossier.

Senior FBI intelligence analyst Brian Auten, who oversaw part of the bureau's early investigation into Donald Trump's ties to Russia, helped prosecutors by testifying that Igor Danchenko withheld information from investigators about his dossier sourcing that would have helped authorities, but things changed after defense lawyers cross-examined him, reported CNN.

Danchenko focused on the analyst's previous testimony years ago to the Justice Department inspector general and the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he told that he considered Danchenko "truthful" and helpful to the FBI's Russia probe, and he said securing him as a source was beneficial to the agency.

That contradicted the heart of Durham's indictment, which alleges that Danchenko repeatedly lied to the FBI and impeded investigators trying to corroborate the Steele dossier.

Auten testified that he stood by that previous testimony, and he also told the court that Durham misleadingly cherry-picked material that he wrote.

Durham returned for a final round of questioning of his own witness, but he sounded angry at times and elicited sometimes hostile testimony from Auten, who conceded that he had been recommended for suspension by the FBI's internal auditors -- which could undercut the credibility of the special counsel's witness.

He then admonished Auten for claiming that George Papadopoulos was a “high-level adviser” to Trump’s 2016 campaign, when in fact he was a low-level foreign policy aide.

Durham also tried but failed to get Auten to agree the FBI was more concerned about Papadopoulos' links to the Middle East than Russia, but the FBI analyst said they were worried about both.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump worker told FBI about moving Mar-a-Lago boxes on ex-president’s orders, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The witness’s description is backed up by security camera footage, people familiar with the matter said, offering key evidence of the former president’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified government documents.

A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material.

The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida residence and private club, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling classified information.

The people familiar with the investigation said agents have gathered witness accounts indicating that, after Trump advisers received a subpoena in May for any classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told people to move boxes to his residence at the property. That description of events was corroborated by the security-camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to answer detailed questions for this article. “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” Budowich said in a statement. “Every other President has been given time and deference regarding the administration of documents, as the President has the ultimate authority to categorize records, and what materials should be classified.”

Budowich accused the Justice Department of a “continued effort to leak misleading and false information to partisan allies in the Fake News,” and said that to do so “is nothing more than dangerous political interference and unequal justice. Simply put, it’s un-American.”

In Trump White House, classified documents routinely mishandled, former aides say

The employee who was working at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been interviewed multiple times by federal agents.

Politico, DOJ to SCOTUS: Steer clear of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago case appeal, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Oct. 12, 2022 (print ed.). It is the latest in a winding legal drama that will likely carry on for months.

politico CustomThe Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to turn down former President Donald Trump’s bid to get a set of about 100 documents marked as classified back into the hands of an independent “special master” reviewing materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon that there’s no reason for the high court to step into the dispute over what role the court system should play, if any, in overseeing investigators’ access to the records the FBI recovered from Trump’s Florida home.

Trump is seeking to get the records with classified markings back into the special master review in what appears to be an attempt to raise arguments that he declassified the records while he was president or that he declared them to be personal files not subject to the Presidential Records Act.

“Applicant has never represented in any of his multiple legal filings in multiple courts that he in fact declassified any documents — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence,” Prelogar wrote in the 32-page brief.

Trump has repeatedly, and publicly, claimed to have declassified all of the items seized by the FBI that bear classification markings — including some which characterize the records as among the most sensitive, closely held secrets the government possesses. But his lawyers have repeatedly refused to echo those claims, saying they don’t want to commit themselves to possible defense theories like declassification before a potential indictment.

In several rounds of legal filings and oral argument — including Trump’s application to the Supreme Court last week — the former president’s attorneys have decidedly avoided the issue, saying only that Trump’s access to the records remains absolute, “whether classified or declassified.”
Can we explain Trump’s reaction to the DOJ probe in 2 minutes? A POLITICO reporter tries (and fails, again)

Trump has also not presented any evidence he designated any of the seized materials as personal records, and DOJ has argued that classified documents — which inherently bear on national security — could never fit the statutory definition of personal records, since they are likely to have value to an incumbent or future administration.

The initial special master order U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued at Trump’s request barred the government from using any of the seized records, including the potentially classified documents, for criminal investigation purposes until the special master process is complete.

The Justice Department appealed her ruling to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But it sought emergency relief only to restore access to the documents with classification markings, aiming to exclude them from the special master process. The appeals court sided with prosecutors on those issues last month in a 3-0 decision, although the broader appeal of Cannon’s ruling remains pending.

Trump’s bid for Supreme Court relief did not seek to restore the ban Cannon initially imposed on investigators accessing the documents with classified markings.

Trump’s request to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department’s response were technically submitted to Justice Clarence Thomas, because he oversees the 11th Circuit, which includes Florida. However, in high-profile cases, the individual justices almost always refer requests for emergency relief to the full court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge clears way for Trump to be deposed in defamation case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). A federal judge has denied a request by former president Donald Trump to pause proceedings in a defamation case brought against him in 2019 by an author who said he raped her in a department store dressing room decades ago.

The decision clears the way for Trump, who denies the claim, to be deposed as scheduled next week.

e jean carrollIn the lawsuit brought against Trump by former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, right, Trump recently won a temporary reprieve from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which sent the case to the appeals court in D.C. to resolve whether Trump was a federal employee as defined by the law when he publicly rebutted Carroll’s story.

On Trump’s behalf, the Justice Department previously tried to intervene in the case on the grounds that he was technically an employee of the U.S. government when he occupied the White House and had legal protections from civil litigation because he was acting under the scope of his employment when he denied Carroll’s account and made disparaging comments about her.

Oct. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 hearing to highlight new evidence Thursday that Trump was warned of brewing violence, Carol D. Leonnig and Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 12, 2022 (print ed.). The Jan. 6 select committee’s hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m. is expected to corroborate parts of the more-startling accounts of that day.

The probably final public hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to highlight newly obtained Secret Service records showing how President Donald Trump was repeatedly alerted to brewing violence that day, and he still sought to stoke the conflict, according to three people briefed on the records.

The committee plans to share in Thursday’s hearing new video footage and internal Secret Service emails that appear to corroborate parts of the most startling inside accounts of that day, said the people briefed, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal records. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Trump was briefed on Jan. 6 that some of his supporters were armed for battle, demanded they be allowed into his rally and insisted he wanted to lead them on their march to the Capitol.

Surveillance footage the committee plans to share was taken near the Ellipse that morning before Trump’s speech and shows throngs of his supporters clustered just outside the corralled area for his “Stop the Steal” rally. Secret Service officers screened those entering who sought to get closer to the stage. Law enforcement officials who were monitoring video that morning spotted Trump supporters with plastic shields, bulletproof vests and other paramilitary gear, and some in the Secret Service concluded they stayed outside the rally area to avoid having their weapons confiscated, according to people familiar with the new records.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump worker told FBI about moving Mar-a-Lago boxes on ex-president’s orders, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 12, 2022. The witness’s description is backed up by security camera footage, people familiar with the matter said, offering key evidence of the former president’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified government documents.

A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material.

The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida residence and private club, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling classified information.

The people familiar with the investigation said agents have gathered witness accounts indicating that, after Trump advisers received a subpoena in May for any classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told people to move boxes to his residence at the property. That description of events was corroborated by the security-camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to answer detailed questions for this article. “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” Budowich said in a statement. “Every other President has been given time and deference regarding the administration of documents, as the President has the ultimate authority to categorize records, and what materials should be classified.”

Budowich accused the Justice Department of a “continued effort to leak misleading and false information to partisan allies in the Fake News,” and said that to do so “is nothing more than dangerous political interference and unequal justice. Simply put, it’s un-American.”

In Trump White House, classified documents routinely mishandled, former aides say

The employee who was working at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been interviewed multiple times by federal agents,

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge clears way for Trump to be deposed in defamation case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 12, 2022. A federal judge has denied a request by former president Donald Trump to pause proceedings in a defamation case brought against him in 2019 by an author who said he raped her in a department store dressing room decades ago.

The decision clears the way for Trump, who denies the claim, to be deposed as scheduled next week.

In the lawsuit brought against Trump by former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, Trump recently won a temporary reprieve from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which sent the case to the appeals court in D.C. to resolve whether Trump was a federal employee as defined by the law when he publicly rebutted Carroll’s story.

On Trump’s behalf, the Justice Department previously tried to intervene in the case on the grounds that he was technically an employee of the U.S. government when he occupied the White House and had legal protections from civil litigation because he was acting under the scope of his employment when he denied Carroll’s account and made disparaging comments about her.

Oct. 11

 

 

djt fbi evidence mar a lago

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

Politico, DOJ to SCOTUS: Steer clear of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago case appeal, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Oct. 11, 2022 It is the latest in a winding legal drama that will likely carry on for months.

politico CustomThe Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to turn down former President Donald Trump’s bid to get a set of about 100 documents marked as classified back into the hands of an independent “special master” reviewing materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon that there’s no reason for the high court to step into the dispute over what role the court system should play, if any, in overseeing investigators’ access to the records the FBI recovered from Trump’s Florida home.

Trump is seeking to get the records with classified markings back into the special master review in what appears to be an attempt to raise arguments that he declassified the records while he was president or that he declared them to be personal files not subject to the Presidential Records Act.

“Applicant has never represented in any of his multiple legal filings in multiple courts that he in fact declassified any documents — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence,” Prelogar wrote in the 32-page brief.

Trump has repeatedly, and publicly, claimed to have declassified all of the items seized by the FBI that bear classification markings — including some which characterize the records as among the most sensitive, closely held secrets the government possesses. But his lawyers have repeatedly refused to echo those claims, saying they don’t want to commit themselves to possible defense theories like declassification before a potential indictment.

In several rounds of legal filings and oral argument — including Trump’s application to the Supreme Court last week — the former president’s attorneys have decidedly avoided the issue, saying only that Trump’s access to the records remains absolute, “whether classified or declassified.”
Can we explain Trump’s reaction to the DOJ probe in 2 minutes? A POLITICO reporter tries (and fails, again)

Trump has also not presented any evidence he designated any of the seized materials as personal records, and DOJ has argued that classified documents — which inherently bear on national security — could never fit the statutory definition of personal records, since they are likely to have value to an incumbent or future administration.

The initial special master order U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued at Trump’s request barred the government from using any of the seized records, including the potentially classified documents, for criminal investigation purposes until the special master process is complete.

The Justice Department appealed her ruling to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But it sought emergency relief only to restore access to the documents with classification markings, aiming to exclude them from the special master process. The appeals court sided with prosecutors on those issues last month in a 3-0 decision, although the broader appeal of Cannon’s ruling remains pending.

Trump’s bid for Supreme Court relief did not seek to restore the ban Cannon initially imposed on investigators accessing the documents with classified markings.

Trump’s request to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department’s response were technically submitted to Justice Clarence Thomas, because he oversees the 11th Circuit, which includes Florida. However, in high-profile cases, the individual justices almost always refer requests for emergency relief to the full court.

Oct. 9

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Trump’s origins in a New York world of con men, mobsters and hustlers, Sean Wilentz, Oct. 9, 2022 (print ed.). In “Confidence Man,” Maggie Haberman puts special emphasis on Trump’s ascent in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Maggie Haberman hails from a New York City very different from Donald Trump’s dominion of glitz and criminality, but she knows that dominion well.

Raised in the household of a traditional shoe-leather New York Times reporter and a well-connected publicist, and now herself ensconced at the digitized Times, Haberman’s earliest assignments involved covering City Hall and its satellite ethical sinkholes for the New York Post and the Daily News. That singular education in New York corruption has stuck with her and sets her apart from her peers reporting on the Trump presidency and its seditious aftermath. It now distinguishes Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America as a uniquely illuminating portrait of our would-be maximum leader.

With a sharp eye for the backstory, Haberman places special emphasis on Trump’s ascent in a late 1970s and 1980s New York demimonde of hustlers, mobsters, political bosses, compliant prosecutors and tabloid scandalmongers. This bygone Manhattan that Tom Wolfe could only satirize in The Bonfire of the Vanities is the fundament to any understanding of what makes Trump tick.

“The dynamics that defined New York City in the 1980s,” Haberman observes, “stayed with Trump for decades; he often seemed frozen there.” Zombielike, he swaggers and struts and cons on the world’s largest stage, much as he did when gossip columnists fawned over him as The Donald; and he will continue his night of the living dead, with menacing success, until someone finally drives a metaphorical stake through his metaphorical heart.

The rote rap on Trump is that he was a bumptious, hyper-ambitious real estate developer from Queens who never earned the respect of the Manhattan society pooh-bahs and who vowed to beat them at their own game — a vow that eventually led him to the Oval Office, astonishing even Trump. That storyline appears in Confidence Man, but Haberman knows it is superficial.

Inside that cauldron of fakery, Trump, no rugged individualist, and padded with his father’s millions, gravitated to a specific milieu of arrivistes whom he equated with supreme power, class and ruthlessness. He held in especially high regard the bully George Steinbrenner, from the outer outer borough of Cleveland, and became a constant presence in the Boss’s Yankee Stadium box. (I’d not known until reading Haberman that Trump, a wimp when it came to sacking underlings, found his tag line for “The Apprentice” by impersonating Steinbrenner barking “You’re fired,” over and over, not least at the Yankees’ oft-discharged manager Billy Martin.)

djt roger stone CustomOff to one side there was the raffish schemer Roger Stone, left, a well-digger’s son from Norwalk, Conn., who got his start as one of the political saboteurs for Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign, and whose Washington lobbying mega-firm (with Paul Manafort as one of his co-partners) came to represent the Trump Organization’s interests. From the outermost borough of Adelaide, Australia, there was the unscrupulous media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who had already turned the liberal tabloid New York Post into a right-wing scandal sheet and who in 1985 completed the acquisition of 20th Century Fox that would eventually give the world Fox News, commanded by another member of the New York gang, Roger Ailes. There was also the high-profile, media-savvy U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani, from Brooklyn like Sharpton, and he and Trump would circle each other until they seriously hooked up some years later.

djt roy cohn fileTrump’s chief mentor, and a consigliere to most of the big shots named above, was the legendary underworld and overworld fixer Roy Cohn (shown with Trump at far right). The pampered son of a kingpin in Bronx Democratic politics, long notorious for his McCarthyite Red Scare grandstanding, Cohn, as Haberman details, connected Trump with Stone as well as with organized crime while giving him master classes in high-stakes con-man strategy and tactics. Whenever Trump today intimidates the press with threats of retaliation, whenever he defends his aggressions by claiming to be the victim, whenever he calls his accusers (especially if they represent the federal government) life-destroying, treasonous “scum,” he is channeling his mentor, Cohn.

Haberman offers plenty of material about how these men did it all with virtual impunity. Of course, there would be the occasional fines and sealed judgments — and Cohn was disbarred weeks before he died of AIDS, abandoned by Trump, who knew the score on being heartless. But as Haberman describes, Trump went to great lengths to square himself with a paragon of the city’s power elite, the longtime Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, including making generous donations to Morgenthau’s pet charity, the New York Police Athletic League, the one charity commitment, Morgenthau would joke warmly, that Trump could be counted on honoring. Not until Cyrus Vance Jr., who had a fine pedigree but was no crusader, succeeded Morgenthau in 2010 did Trump and his properties, after Vance backed off for years, finally face serious investigation by the D.A.’s office — and even then, prosecutors on the case quit in protest when Vance’s successor suddenly seemed to drop it.

Confidence Man likewise enlightens about the massive oversights by the press and the broader world of publishing, especially in New York, not simply in failing to expose the corruption that Haberman catalogues but in creating and then abetting Trump’s celebrity. There were certainly exceptional naysaying reporters, notably Jack Newfield’s protege at the Village Voice, Wayne Barrett, who, at Newfield’s urging, dug deep into Trump’s shady dealings. Barrett’s and the Voice’s condemnations sparked a brief aborted federal investigation, but they weren’t about to shake the inertia at the most influential outlets, topped by the New York Times. Neither did the late lamented Spy magazine’s bull’s-eye satirical shots at the “short-fingered vulgarian” provoke inquiries, although they did provoke Trump to threaten lawsuits and are said to anger him to this day.

Some of the episodes in Haberman’s later chapters on Trump’s presidency have already stirred controversy. Beneath the buzz, though, many of the richest storylines from the Trump White House, as reported in “Confidence Man” and elsewhere, have a distinctly New York ring. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Trump snapped in 2018, in anger at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the very conservative former senator from Alabama, who had recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whom Trump eventually ousted.

Before he was twice impeached, Trump found his man, yet another New York mouthpiece, William Barr, who as attorney general happily did Trump’s bidding in, among other things, lying about the damning Mueller report on the Russian interference — until Trump lost reelection and Barr, well-schooled in transactional loyalty and with his reputation as a supposed “institutionalist” tarnished, declined recruitment into Trump’s coup and at the last minute jumped from the sinking ship. The manic and often antic crimes of Stone, pardoned and unpardoned, add another layer of continuity, a louche link with the old Cohn-centered netherworld.

Haberman’s contribution in Confidence Man, though, is much larger than its arresting anecdotes. Later generations of historians will puzzle over Trump’s rise to national power.

Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding.”

Oct. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Deflected Demands for Documents, Enmeshing Aides, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Oct. 8, 2022. Former President Trump’s pattern of dissembling about the material he took from the White House has created legal risks for himself and his lawyers.

Late last year, as the National Archives ratcheted up the pressure on former President Donald J. Trump to return boxes of records he had taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago club, he came up with an idea to resolve the looming showdown: cut a deal.

djt golf shirt bloatedMr. Trump, still determined to show he had been wronged by the F.B.I. investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, was angry with the National Archives and Records Administration for its unwillingness to hand over a batch of sensitive documents that he thought proved his claims.

In exchange for those documents, Mr. Trump told advisers, he would return to the National Archives the boxes of material he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump’s aides never pursued the idea. But the episode is one in a series that demonstrates how Mr. Trump spent a year and a half deflecting, delaying and sometimes leading aides to dissemble when it came to demands from the National Archives and ultimately the Justice Department to return the material he had taken, interviews and documents show.

That pattern was strikingly similar to how Mr. Trump confronted inquiries into his conduct while in office: entertain or promote outlandish ideas, eschew the advice of lawyers and mislead them, then push lawyers and aides to impede investigators.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oath Keepers Leader Urged Donald Trump to Invoke the Insurrection Act, Alan Feuer, Oct. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The letter was shown to the jury at the seditious conspiracy trial of Stewart Rhodes and four subordinates. It showed the intensity of their efforts to stop the transfer of presidential power.

In December 2020, hours after the Electoral College cast its votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr., Stewart Rhodes, shown at right in a mug shot, the leader of the Oath stewart rhodes mugKeepers militia, posted a letter on his website urging President Donald J. Trump to undertake a series of unprecedented — and possibly illegal — moves to stay in office.

Telling Mr. Trump the country was at war with “Communist China” and a secret army of “willing American agents,” Mr. Rhodes beseeched the president to invoke the Insurrection Act, a more than two centuries-old law that he believed would give Mr. Trump the power to call up the National Guard and militias like his own to suppress the “coup” that was seeking to unseat him.

The open letter, which was shown on Friday to the jury at the trial of Mr. Rhodes and four of his subordinates on seditious conspiracy charges, demanded that Mr. Trump take more wild steps to maintain his grip on power.

Mr. Rhodes instructed the president to seize data from digital voting machines across the country that would purportedly prove the election had been rigged; declassify a trove of the nation’s secrets; and then perform a WikiLeaks-style “data dump,” exposing a supposed cabal of corrupt judges, law enforcement officers and state election officials.

All of this was followed by a threat of violence against Mr. Biden and Kamala Harris, his vice president-elect.

“If you fail to act while you are still in office,” Mr. Rhodes told Mr. Trump, “We the People will have to fight a bloody war against these two illegitimate Chinese puppets.”

The open letter — one of two missives Mr. Rhodes wrote to the president after the election — was posted publicly nearly two years ago, but it was used by prosecutors at the trial to show the lengths to which Mr. Rhodes was willing to go to stop Mr. Biden from entering the White House.

The letter also echoed some of the baseless arguments that advisers to Mr. Trump — including Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser — had used around that time in a failed bid to persuade him to use the military to seize some of the nation’s voting machines.

Oct. 7 

Former Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino at the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2020 (photo by Anthony Crider via Wikimedia Commons).Former Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino at the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2020 (photo by Anthony Crider via Wikimedia Commons).

Politico, Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy over Jan. 6 actions, Kyle Cheney, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). He's the first member of the group to admit to the charge stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Jeremy Bertino, a North Carolina leader of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy on Thursday, becoming the first member of the group to admit to the charge stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

politico CustomBertino appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly to enter his guilty plea, which also included a count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Bertino, who previously testified to the Jan. 6 select committee, was involved in key conversations and chats with other members of the group, including national chair Enrique Tarrio and other leaders facing seditious conspiracy charges in the weeks before Jan. 6.

Tarrio is set to go on trial in December, along with Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, who was the first member of the Jan. 6 mob to breach the Capitol when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a police riot shield.

Prosecutors say Tarrio and his allies developed a plan to besiege the Capitol, relying on — and in fact organizing and spurring on — members of the mob to help break through police lines and get inside the Capitol. It was part of an effort that prosecutors say was intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Kelly accepted Bertino’s plea after asking Bertino a series of standard questions to ensure, under oath, that Bertino entered it voluntarily and without being threatened or coerced.

The seditious conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys leaders are the gravest leveled by the Justice Department against any of the more than 850 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bertino was briefly featured during video testimony aired by the Jan. 6 select committee during its first public hearing in June. He described a surge in Proud Boys membership after then-President Donald Trump urged the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate against Joe Biden.

“Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?” an investigator asked.

“Exponentially. I’d say tripled probably,” Bertino replied.

Politico, Top ally in Trump’s 2020 election plot fights professional sanctions, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Jeffrey Clark has been the subject of a torrent of investigations since Trump left office.

politico CustomA former Justice Department lawyer who became a close ally in Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election is fighting to save his law license and stave off other professional discipline from the Washington, D.C. bar.

Jeffrey Clark appeared for a lengthy proceeding Thursday that is a prelude to a disciplinary hearing on claims he violated legal ethics in his persistent efforts to undercut the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The heart of the issue: Did Clark merely offer up unwise suggestions to his superiors — hardly the basis for disciplinary action — or did his persistence in the face of a lack of evidence of fraud render his conduct so inappropriate that he should be punished?

Phil Fox, chief of the D.C. Bar Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which brought the complaint against Clark earlier this year, agreed that “It is generally not a disciplinary violation to make a stupid suggestion.”

But Fox said Clark went further by repeatedly seeking to get the Justice Department to send a letter warning of significant signs of fraud and urging state legislatures to reconvene and consider appointing new presidential electors.

“He came back and used coercive methods or means to attempt to get the letter sent even though he had no additional information” about fraud, Fox said during the videoconference session.

Harry MacDougald, an attorney for Clark, pushed back.

“They’re saying it’s OK to make a suggestion, but it’s not OK to persist in a suggestion,” MacDougald said.

Merril Hirsh, a veteran D.C. lawyer who chairs a three-member panel to consider the bar complaint, emphasized that this is the key question he is considering as he begins to lay out the process for deciding Clark’s professional fate.

Clark was a central figure in Trump’s last-ditch bid to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. In December 2020, Clark pushed his superiors to issue a letter to state legislatures, encouraging them to convene in special sessions and consider whether to certify pro-Trump electors in multiple states won by Joe Biden. But top DOJ officials resisted, expressing alarm at Clark’s effort and emphasizing that there was simply no factual basis to suggest the election results were tainted by fraud.

Trump, who was introduced to Clark by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), came within an eyelash of appointing Clark as acting attorney general and casting out the band of officials standing in Clark’s way, but the president pulled back amid a mass resignation threat by other DOJ leaders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Is Said to Believe Trump Has More Documents, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). A top Justice Department official told former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers in recent weeks that the department believed he had not returned all the documents he took when he left the White House, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The outreach from the official, Jay I. Bratt, who leads the department’s counterintelligence operations, is the most concrete indication yet that investigators remain skeptical that Mr. Trump has been fully cooperative in their efforts to recover documents the former president was supposed to have turned over to the National Archives at the end of his term.

It is not clear what steps the Justice Department might take to retrieve any material it thinks Mr. Trump still holds.

And it is not known whether the Justice Department has gathered new evidence that Mr. Trump has held onto government material even after the court-authorized search in August of his private club and residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, and 18 months of previous efforts by the federal government to convince the former president to return what he had taken on leaving office.

Oct. 4

 

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors outline Oath Keepers’ alleged roles in seditious conspiracy case, Rachel Weiner, Tom Jackman and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Five members of the extremist group Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, above, face trial. Prosecutors will try to convince jurors that Rhodes and his group intentionally conspired to use force to prevent President Biden’s swearing-in. The trial is an important step in the wider probe, analysts say. Rhodes plans to testify, denies call to Trump: defense lawyer; Rhodes attorney corrected by judge as defense openings begin.

Opening statements occurred in the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members of the extremist group who face seditious conspiracy and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes and four co-defendants — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — have pleaded not guilty to felony charges alleging that they conspired for weeks after the 2020 presidential election to unleash political violence to oppose the lawful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

Rhodes, founder and leader of Oath Keepers, is charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 riot. He is accused of guiding a months-long effort to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the swearing-in of President Biden. Rhodes is the most high-profile person charged in the investigation so far.

The defendants came from Texas, Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and allegedly led a group that traveled to Washington and staged firearms nearby before forcing entry through the Capitol Rotunda doors in combat and tactical gear.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI agent resumes testimony in Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 4, 2022. An FBI agent who began investigating the Oath Keepers days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot continued testifying Tuesday morning as five associated with the far-right paramilitary group stand accused of conspiring to keep President Donald Trump in office by force.

FBI logoMichael Palian said he had not heard of the Oath Keepers before Jan. 6, 2021, and that he specialized in health-care fraud, not domestic terrorism. But after shepherding U.S. senators to safety that evening, he began investigating the people responsible. He quickly saw videos of people in camouflage gear entering the building together. It appeared “coordinated,” Palian testified. Their outfits bore the label “Oath Keepers.”

Nearly two years later, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is on trial, accused of seditious conspiracy and other felony charges alongside Florida auto dealer Kelly Meggs, Florida welder Kenneth Harrelson, Ohio bar owner Jessica Watkins and retired Navy intelligence officer Thomas Caldwell of Virginia.

“They said out loud and in writing what they intended to do,” prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in his opening statement in U.S. District Court in Washington. “In some ways, they planned their conspiracy in plain sight.”

As part of his testimony, Palian is going through hundreds of messages sent by Oath Keepers associates between the election and the inauguration discussing forceful resistance to a Biden presidency.

Defense attorneys told jurors that those messages were taken out of context.

“You may not like some of the things you see and hear ... but they did nothing illegal that day,” Phillip Linder, one of Rhodes’s attorneys, said in his opening statement.

David Fischer, who represents Caldwell, echoed him, telling jurors, “They selectively edit and they take the most outrageous statements that politically attuned and politically active people make.” He suggested his client said nothing worse than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has, one of several defense assertions Judge Amit P. Mehta asked the jury to ignore.

Who are the Oath Keepers going to trial on seditious conspiracy charges?

Only Jonathan Crisp, representing Watkins, acknowledged any of the defendants did anything wrong.

“I’m not going to say that what she did in going into that building was okay,” Crisp said. But, he said, “she was a rioter like everybody else” and guilty only of the felony “civil disorder” — not of involvement in a plan to overthrow the government.

“They are not the leaders of what happened that day,” he said, noting that the Oath Keepers got to the Capitol half an hour after others broke into the building. “They joined it in some respects. But they didn’t breach the Capitol.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Trump might want to pay attention to the Oath Keepers’ trial, Jennifer Rubin, Oct. 4, 2022. jennifer rubin new headshotProsecutors on Monday laid out their case against Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four of his associates, providing a detailed look at how a criminal trial for seditious conspiracy will play out.

Former president Donald Trump should pay close attention. The same legal theory under which Rhodes and his cohorts are being tried might apply to the man they wanted to keep in power in defiance of the election results.

Monday’s proceeding previewed an array of evidence that show Rhodes and his followers assembled an armed force, led them to the Capitol and, once there, helped direct the mob in a military-style o