December 2, 2022 / by 

 

11th Circuit to Trump: You’re Not Special

The 11th Circuit has, as expected, vacated Aileen Cannon’s order enjoining the government from investigating Donald Trump, remanding it with an order to dismiss the suit. (Though they gave Trump seven days to appeal before the order goes into effect.)

The opinion’s key point is that, were they to rule for Trump, it would create an impossible precedent, either halting much pre-indictment access to seized material, or creating an exception only for former Presidents.

In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.

[snip]

The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be  a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations. Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.

Much of the opinion is an Richey analysis–the analysis Cannon worked so hard to manufacture. It’s not all that interesting. The key point is that, as Jay Bratt told Judge Cannon on August 30, the precedent in the circuit is clear.

But in conducting a Richey analysis, which it ultimately called a “sideshow,” the opinion took repeated swipes at the efforts Cannon went to make shit up to benefit Trump.

The district court was undeterred by this lack of information. It said that “based on the volume and nature of the seized material, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff has an interest in and need for at least a portion of it,” though it cited only the government’s filings and not Plaintiff’s. But that is not enough. Courts that have authorized equitable jurisdiction have emphasized the importance of identifying “specific” documents and explaining the harm from their “seizure and retention.” See, e.g., Harbor Healthcare Sys., L.P. v. United States, 5 F.4th 593, 600 (5th Cir. 2021) (Harbor did “far more than assert vague allegations” by pointing to “thousands” of privileged documents that the government retained for four years). Neither the district court nor Plaintiff has offered such specifics.

The opinion was even more scathing, though, in dismissing the notion that leaking classified information would harm Trump.

Plaintiff has adopted two of the district court’s arguments, dedicating a single page of his brief to discussing the first and third theories of harm. On the first argument, Plaintiff echoes the district court and asserts that he faces an “unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public.” It is not clear whether Plaintiff and the district court mean classified information or information that is sensitive to Plaintiff personally. If the former, permitting the United States to review classified documents does not suggest that they will be released. Any official who makes an improper disclosure of classified material risks her own criminal liability. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 798. What’s more, any leak of classified material would be properly characterized as a harm to the United States and its citizens—not as a personal injury to Plaintiff.

The only thing specific to Trump’s status as an ex-President, besides the opinion’s repeated reminder that he is not special, is the way with which the opinion twice dismissed Trump’s claim that if he had designated these documents his personal property under the Presidential Records Act, it would allow him to keep it. That’s nonsense, of course, because warrants authorize the seizure of personal property as a general rule.

Indeed, Plaintiff does not press the district court’s theory on appeal. Instead, he argues that the Presidential Records Act gives him a possessory interest in the seized documents. This argument is unresponsive. Even if Plaintiff’s statutory interpretation were correct (a proposition that we neither consider nor endorse), personal interest in or ownership of a seized document is not synonymous with the need for its return.3 In most search warrants, the government seizes property that unambiguously belongs to the subject of a search. That cannot be enough to support equitable jurisdiction.

[snip]

Plaintiff’s alternative framing of his grievance is that he needs a special master and an injunction to protect documents that he designated as personal under the Presidential Records Act. But as we have said, the status of a document as personal or presidential does not alter the authority of the government to seize it under a warrant supported by probable cause; search warrants authorize the seizure of personal records as a matter of course. The Department of Justice has the documents because they were seized with a search warrant, not because of their status under the Presidential Records Act.

3 During discussion of this factor at oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel noted that the seized items included “golf shirts” and “pictures of Celine Dion.” The government concedes that Plaintiff “may have a property interest in his personal effects.” While Plaintiff may have an interest in these items and others like them, we do not see the need for their immediate return after seizure under a presumptively lawful search warrant.

Here, Jim Trusty’s wails about Celine Dion really served to demonstrate how absurd the grievance was. Ultimately, Trump’s Celine Dion picture was not a sufficiently urgent piece of property to hold up a search warrant.

A very conservative panel, including two Trump appointees, just confirmed that he’s not special anymore.


Skull and Bones: The Proud Boys’ Non-Conspiratorial Secret Society?

The morning of January 5, according to the government sentencing memo for him, Proud Boy Nicholas Ochs texted Ethan Nordean to say that, in light of the arrest of Enrique Tarrio the day before, he and Nordean were, “senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung.”

Following Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs messaged Nordean the morning of January 5. He said, “I guess we’re senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung. I’ll be in today or tonight. Lemmie know anything relevant.” Nordean replied, “Ok will do,” and they traded cell phone numbers.

Och’s own sentencing memo addresses that comment, but doesn’t explain it.

[T]he government relies extensively on a single message by Mr. Ochs, where he offhandedly referred to himself as a leader, Dkt. 94, pg. 9, and a tasteless message in which Mr. Ochs states he is “pro-violence,” id., at 4, the government is unable to point to a single actual instance wherein Mr. Ochs actually performed the duties of a leader or acted out in violence during the January 6th riots.

He doesn’t explain what became of the message, if anything (there’s no mention of any calls between Ochs and Nordean, and Nordean’s phone was not operational during the riot).

At least on the surface, it looks like Nordean blew Ochs off.

Instead, and before that comment, Ochs makes a very strained comment — limited to before attending the rally and discussion about their planned activities for the day –about what he said to other Proud Boys on the day of January 6, while he and Nicholas DeCarlo were attending the Trump speech and most of the other the other Proud Boys were marching around DC.

On the morning on January 6, Mr. Ochs and DeCarlo went to the rally where the President was addressing the crowd. Mr. Ochs was dressed in normal civilian clothing and did not wear any special military or other riot gear—unlike the many others who attended the rally, dressed in military/assault garb, signaling their violent intentions. Mr. Ochs was armed only with a smartphone.

Before attending the rally, Mr. Ochs did not communicate with any other Proud Boy members regarding their planned activities for the day. Indeed, at no point during the rally or the resulting assault on the Capitol, did Mr. Ochs coordinate with other Proud Boy members. As is stated in the Statement of Facts, though Mr. Ochs did come across other Proud Boy members in Washington, these were chance encounters and not the result of any prior planning. During the rally itself, Mr. Ochs was unable to live stream the event because the local cellular system was overwhelmed, and given his physical location, he was unable to hear the president’s speech.

At the conclusion of the rally, after the President finished speaking on the Ellipse, Mr. Ochs began seeking out the larger crowd which had begun moving towards the Capitol building—the first of many bad decisions that day. [my emphasis]

Given the evidence, that’s a credible claim.

What’s not covered by Och’s narrow (albeit for sentencing, critical) denials was Ochs’ participation in some small member chat groups, including one, called Skull and Bones, that included Nordean and Enrique Tarrio.

Leading up to January 6, 2021, Ochs participated in several Proud Boys chats on an encrypted messaging application, including one called “Official Presidents’ Chat” and one called “Skull and Bones.” Skull and Bones consisted of a small group (approximately twelve) of the Proud Boys’ Elders, including Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean, both of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes for their roles leading the Proud Boys on January 6. See United States v. Nordean et al., 21-cr-175 (TJK). Some of these chats ended and then were reconstituted (because of concerns about being “compromised”) in the days leading up to January 6.

Of some interest: while the Proud Boy Leaders prosecution used Och’s November 2020 advocacy to wait before embracing violence as a way to show the Proud Boys ratcheted up their willingness to embrace violence.

[A]s the defendants, their co-conspirators, and their tools got further from the election and closer to Inauguration, the language they used to discuss the transfer of power became more desperate and more reflective of a willingness to take matters into their own hands. See Ex. 1 (proposed trial exhibit referenced at 11/18 hearing, with Proud Boys “elder” counseling: “I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.”).

Here, the focus is on Ochs’ attempts to persuade others to await the Supreme Court, which he was sure would deliver victory to Trump.

In Skull and Bones, on November 7, 2020, the group reacted to Biden being declared the winner of the election. Tarrio said, “Dark times if it isn’t reversed…and if it’s reversed…civil war.” Another user commented, “It’s civil war either way.”

Ochs disagreed: “It’s really not. The odds are with us because of the Supreme Court boys. I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.” He continued, “Not to be an anti-murder buzzkill but I really think this ISN’T fucked. Once it is, let’s go wild.” Ochs advised the group, “Bush/gore ruling took till December…Trump has a MUCH stronger case.” Ochs said, “Americans are weak and don’t want to fight. Them more so than us, but what’s really going to matter to the common man is what the Supreme Court says. And it will say.”

Another member noted, “Interesting that Trump got that woman through just before this huh. Could be the ace up his sleeve.” Ochs agreed and reiterated his belief that the Supreme Court was the best option to overturn the election: “Don’t fuck up the ruling. It’s a better chance than fighting.” He advised the group not to turn violent yet: “Not till the law enforcement institutions [are] weakened or more on our side. We lose right now.” But he told the group: “I’ll still chimp out if I’m wrong about the Supreme Court tho…we just have to TIME IT RIGHT and DO IT SMART.” Another member proposed that “veterans with combat experience” should “form militias.”

Ochs also expressed optimism in Parler posts that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results, including an image of Justice Thomas as a video game character:

Tarrio and others discussed a conference call on December 19 after Trump announced the rally.

Ochs’ prediction that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results did not come true. Instead, courts rejected dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results. On December 19, 2020, then-President Trump invited his followers to Washington, D.C. for a “wild” protest. The Proud Boys’ chats soon filled with talk of what they would do there. The same day as Trump’s December 19 tweet, in the small-group Skull and Bones chat, one member said, “Trump is calling for proud boys to show up on the 6th.” Ochs, Tarrio, and others then discussed arranging a conference call.

But Ochs is only described as a participant in the larger 50 and 35 person Ministry of Self Defense chats leading up to the riot. His top-level access seems to have remained that Skull and Bones chat.

After cooperating witness Charles Donohoe — though he is not named — is described as attempting to reconstitute the main MOSD list after Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs suggests doing so on the Skull and Bones list (and elsewhere it says it was reconstructed).

At 7:11 p.m., [Donohoe] posted a message in the MOSD Main chat, which read, “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” The member then wrote, “Stop everything immediately” and then “This comes from the top.”

[snip]

Ochs asked if the Skull and Bones chat, which included Tarrio, should be deleted. Another user responded, “I did tell him to delete telegram off his phone right before he was arrested, so I’m hoping he listened to me.” Ochs sent two responses: “Yep. Smacc it off your phone if there’s trouble. Can always redownload no problem” and “*Fed has joined the chat*”

The sentencing memo describes Ochs getting the message to show up at the Washington Monument twice, on the Main MOSD chat and another unnamed one.

On January 5, in in a reconstituted version of the Main MOSD chat created the evening of January 4, another user sent a message with instructions for the next day: “Everyone needs to meet at the Washington Monument at 10am tomorrow morning! Do not be late! Do not wear colors! Details will be laid out at the pre meeting! Come out []as patriot!”6 ”

6 Ochs received a similar message in another Proud Boys encrypted chat involving approximately 33 members.

But he didn’t follow those directions; he went to the Ellipse speech with Nicholas DeCarlo instead.

But by 4:18PM, when the riot was still very much ongoing, Ochs was back on Skull and Bones in chats in which Tarrio also participated — including someone instructing Tarrio to tell Don Jr to stop condemning the violence.

In the Skull and Bones chat, at 4:18 p.m., another member reposted a photograph of Ochs and DeCarlo smoking cigarettes in the Crypt, and asked, “@Nick_Ochs you inside? Lol.” Ochs replied, “Yeehaw.” Soon after, one member said, “So what now,” and another (whose username indicated he was from the United Kingdom) said, “from our end it looks like Trump ain’t going peacefully.” Tarrio responded, “They’ll fear us doing it again…” When asked, “So what do we do now?” Tarrio replied, “Do it again.” Another user told Tarrio to “text your boy Don jr and tell him to stfu. This is PB country now.”

One explanation for this is that Ochs might have liked to be a more central player in the Proud Boys. But was not, and so he didn’t take part in the Nordean (and Joe Biggs-run) operation on the day of the riot.

And Nicholas DeCarlo joined him in not taking part.

DeCarlo goes even further attempting to distance himself from the Proud Boys — and the “nihilistic” behavior of those who were insufficiently insouciant while rioting.

As the Court can readily determine from both the agreed upon Statement of Facts in this case, as well as the photographic and video evidence, the defendant did not travel to the Capitol as a member of the Proud Boys, a group that he resigned from in 2019. He did not wear their distinctive clothing; he did not coordinate with other Proud Boy members (other than his co-defendant) prior to coming to Washington D.C.; and more importantly, he did not participate in any of the organized violence attributed to the group. In addition, while the Government argues that Mr. DeCarlo acted with “glee” during the riot, that adverb misapprehends the defendant’s intent. While Mr. DeCarlo’s insouciant/sarcastic nature and comments before, during, and after the events are blameworthy, he did not evince the angry, nihilistic demeanor displayed by a significant number of the other January 6 defendants.

The claim he wore no distinctive clothing is irrelevant, as that was what Proud Boys were ordered to do that day. And his complaint that he still bears a Proud Boy tattoo raises questions why he hasn’t removed it to limit the “lifelong” consequences of once having belonged to the group.

The defendant acknowledges that he became a member of the Proud Boys Dallas Fort Worth Chapter in in 2017, but he is adamant that resigned from the organization in 2019 because it was becoming “too political.” Mr. DeCarlo is well aware that his prior membership in the Proud Boys will have lifelong consequences; if nothing else, he had the words Proud Boys” tattooed on his left arm. The defendant is emphatic, however, that he left the Proud Boys in 2019 and the Government’s effort to connect him to the group thereafter is based upon nothing more than conjecture, suspicion, and innuendo and ought to be rejected by this Court. 1

And when disavowing the import of December calls with Tarrio and Gavin McInnes, DeCarlo doesn’t name McInnes.

1 The Government notes that the defendant stated he was “in contact” with Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys, in December 2019. The Government has no idea whether the two men actually spoke and if so, what was the topic of conversation. Similarly, the prosecution states that based upon data collected from his cellular phone, Mr. DeCarlo “called” another Proud Boy leader the day that the former President announced that he would be speaking on the Mall on January 6, 2021. Again, the Government does not state if the data reveals the two men actually spoke and the prosecution makes no representation as to the nature of any such conversation. [my emphasis]

Here’s how DOJ described those claimed and real contacts.

DeCarlo flew from Texas and met with Ochs in Virginia, where they shared a hotel room. That night, DeCarlo posted a 15 minute “selfie” video stream titled BlackVill’d: Twas the Night Before Revolution!!! to the Murder the Media/ThunderdomeTV Facebook page. DeCarlo said he spoke to “Enrique,” “who isn’t even allowed in D.C.,” referring to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who had been arrested the day before and ordered to stay out of Washington, D.C. 3 DeCarlo stated that they would be getting a “nice early interview” with Enrique the next day. He also said that he had “a lot of shit planned for tomorrow.”

[snip]

Evidence recovered from DeCarlo’s phone indicates that, on December 19, 2020, the same day that then-President Trump announced plans for a “wild” rally in Washington, D.C., DeCarlo called Gavin McInness, the founder of the Proud Boys.

There’s a lot unsaid here, and it goes further than DOJ’s choice not to name Donohoe and DeCarlo’s choice not to name McInnes. It may suggest a factionalism in the Proud Boys that has since grown more acute.

Remember, too, that after doing the mandatory FBI interview with Ochs, the government chose not to do one with DeCarlo. So on October 4, DeCarlo went and did one with the January 6 Committee instead (and is trying to claim credit for that).

October 4, 2022, the defendant participated in a virtual interview with staff members of the House Select Committee for several hours. Mr. DeCarlo gave them a narrative of the events that led to his presence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and responded to the Committee’s questions. He also voluntarily provided them with access to the contents of his electronic devices.

Again, there’s a lot that has been said and left unsaid.


Elmer Stewart Rhodes Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy

The verdicts are starting to come in on the Oath Keepers verdicts. The topline verdict: the jury found Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs guilty on the seditious conspiracy count. The other three defendants — Ken Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty on that charge.

All five defendants were found guilty of some kind of obstruction, though not always as part of a conspiracy.

Here’s a thread with the verdicts from the superb Brandi Buchman.

Here’s a table of the verdicts from Jordan Fischer.


How Richard Barnett Could Delay Resourcing of the Trump Investigation

In the rush to have something to say about what Special Counsel Jack Smith will do going forward, the chattering class has glommed onto this letter, signed by US Attorney for Southern Florida Juan Gonzalez under Jack Smith’s name, responding to a letter Jim Trusty sent to the 11th Circuit a day earlier. Trusty had claimed that the Special Master appointed to review the contents of Rudy Giuliani’s phones was a precedent for an instance where a judge used equitable jurisdiction to enjoin an investigation pending review by a Special Master.

The question raised was whether a court has previously asserted equitable jurisdiction to enjoin the government from using seized materials in an investigation pending review by a special master. The answer is yes. The United States agreed to this approach – and the existence of jurisdiction – in In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 28, 2021, No. 21-MC-425-JPO (S.D.N.Y.) (involving property seized from Hon. Rudolph W. Giuliani) – and, under mutual agreement of the parties, no materials were utilized in the investigation until the special master process was completed. 1 See, e.g., Exhibit A. The process worked. On November 14, 2022, the United States filed a letter brief notifying the District Court that criminal charges were not forthcoming and requested the termination of the appointment of the special master. See Exhibit B. On November 16, 2022, the matter was closed. See Exhibit C.

As the government noted, none of what Trusty claimed was true: the government itself had sought a Special Master in Rudy’s case and Judge Paul Oetken had long been assigned the criminal case.

That is incorrect. As plaintiff recognizes, the court did not “enjoin the government,” id.; instead, the government itself volunteered that approach. Moreover, the records there were seized from an attorney’s office, the review was conducted on a rolling basis, and the case did not involve a separate civil proceeding invoking a district court’s anomalous jurisdiction. Cf. In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018, No. 18-mj-3161 (S.D.N.Y.) (involving similar circumstances). None of those is true here.

The government could have gone further than it did. The big difference between the Special Master appointed for Rudy and this one is that Aileen Cannon interfered in an ongoing investigation even though there was no cause shown even for a Special Master review, and indeed all the things that would normally be covered by such a review (the attorney-client privileged documents) were handled in the way the government was planning to handle them in the first place.

Josh Gerstein had first pointed to the letter to note that both Gonzalez, the US Attorney, and Smith, the Special Counsel, had submitted a document on Thanksgiving. The claim made by others that this letter showed particular toughness — or that that toughness was a sign of Smith’s approach — was pure silliness. DOJ has been debunking false claims made about the Special Master reviews of Trump’s lawyers since August. That they continue to do so is a continuation of what has gone before, not any new direction from Smith. Indeed, the most interesting thing about the letter, in my opinion, is that a US Attorney signed a letter under the authority of a Special Counsel, the equivalent of a US Attorney in seniority. If anything, it’s a testament that DOJ has not yet decided where such a case would be prosecuted, which would leave the decision to Smith.

A more useful place to look for tea leaves for Jack Smith’s approach going forward is in Mary Dohrmann’s workload — and overnight decisions about it.

Thomas Windom is the prosecutor usually cited when tracking the multiple strands of investigation into Trump’s culpability for January 6. But at least since the John Eastman warrant in August, Dohrmann has also been overtly involved. She’s been involved even as she continued to work on a bunch of other cases.

With two other prosecutors, for example, she tried Michael Riley, the Capitol Police cop convicted on one count of obstructing the investigation into January 6. In addition to Jacob Hiles (the January 6 defendant tied to Riley’s case), she has prosecuted a range of other January 6 defendants, ranging in apparent levels of import:

She has also been involved in several non-January 6 prosecutions:

In other words, on the day Smith was appointed, Dorhman was prosecuting several January 6 defendants for trespassing, several for assault, and a cop convicted of obstructing the investigation, even as she was investigating the former President. Though she hasn’t been involved in any of the conspiracy cases, Dohrmann’s view of January 6 must look dramatically different than what you’ll see reported on cable news.

As laid out above, Dorhmann has been juggling cases since January 6; this is typical of the resource allocation that DOJ has had to do on virtually all January 6 cases. That makes it hard to tell when she started handing off cases to free up time for the Trump investigation. That said, there have been more signs she’s handing off cases — both the Vaughn Gordon and Sean McHugh cases — in the days since Smith was named.

But something that happened in the Richard Barnett case revealed how her reassignments on account of Smith’s appointment have been going day-to-day.

Back on November 21 — three days after Garland appointed Jack Smith — Richard Barnett’s attorneys filed a motion asking to delay his trial, currently scheduled for December 12. Their reasons were largely specious. They want to delay until after the DC Circuit decides whether to reverse Carl Nichols’ outlier decision that threw out obstruction charges in the context of January 6; even Nichols hasn’t allowed defendants awaiting that decision to entirely delay their prosecution. They also want to delay in hopes the conspiracy theories that the incoming Republican House majority will chase provide some basis to challenge Barnett’s prosecution.

On November 4, 2022, a Congressional report from members of the House Judiciary Committee released a one thousand page report based on whistleblowers documenting the politicization and anti-conservative bias in the FBI and the Department of Justice. This historic report will no doubt serve as a road map for probes of the agencies now that the Republicans have gained control of the House of Representatives. Included among the many allegations is the recent revelation that the FBI fabricated schemes to entrap American citizens as false flag operations for political purposes. This devastating report was compounded ten days later on November 14, 2022, by revelations that the FBI was involved in infiltrating other groups of January 6th defendants.

As a third reason, Barrnett’s team noted that one of his lawyers, Joseph McBride (who famously said he didn’t “give a shit about being wrong” when floating conspiracy theories about January 6) had to reschedule a medical procedure for the day of the pretrial conference.

Mr. Barnett’s attorney, Mr. Joseph McBride, was scheduled to have a necessary medical procedure on November 17, 2022, but due to unforeseen complication, the procedure could not be performed and must be rescheduled for December 9, 2022, the day of the pretrial conference and a few days before trial.

Per Barnett’s filing, the government objected to the delay.

Counsel for the Government stated that they will oppose this motion, however, they agreed to stay the deadline for Exhibits, due Monday November 21, 2022, until this motion is resolved. The Government also requested that a status conference be scheduled for that purpose.

According to the government response, Barnett’s attorneys first requested this delay on November 17, the day before Smith was appointed. That’s the day Barnett’s team asked the government whether they objected to a delay.

The government has diligently been preparing for trial. Under the Court’s Amended Pretrial Order, the parties were due to exchange exhibit lists on November 21, 2022. ECF No. 63. On November 17, 2022, however, defense counsel Gross contacted the government to state that the defense again wanted to continue the trial. Defense counsel also indicated that the defense was not prepared to exchange exhibit lists on November 21.

By the time the government filed their response on November 22, four days after Smiths’ appointment, DOJ had changed its mind. DOJ still thinks Barnett’s reasons for delay are bullshit (and they are). But the government cited an imminent change in the prosecution team and suggested a trial a month or so out.

As reflected in the Defendant’s motion, the government initially opposed the Defendant’s request for a continuance. Def.’s Mot. at 1. As discussed below, the government maintains that certain of the Defendant’s proffered reasons do not support a continuance of the trial. Nevertheless, the government has considered all the attendant circumstances and no longer opposes the motion. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, the government submits that the Defendant’s motion should be granted without a hearing, the trial date vacated, and a status hearing set to discuss new trial dates.

[snip]

Finally, the government notes that while it is diligently preparing for trial, an imminent change in government counsel is anticipated. Thus, given the government’s strong interest in ensuring continuity in its trial team, coupled with the defendant’s lack of readiness, the government, in good faith, will not oppose the defendant’s continuance. Under such unique time constraints, the government therefore requests that the Court vacate the trial date, without need for a hearing, and set a new trial date and extend the remaining pretrial deadlines by 30 to 45 days. [my emphasis]

The judge in the case, Christopher Cooper, ruled on Wednesday that he will only delay the trial if both sides can fit in his schedule. In his order, he mostly trashed the defense excuses. But he noted that the government, too, should have planned prosecutorial changes accordingly.

The Court will reserve judgment on the Defendant’s 88 Motion to Continue the December 12, 2022 trial date pending receipt of a joint notice, to be filed by November 28, 2022, indicating specific dates on which the parties would be available for trial following a brief continuance. If the parties cannot offer a date that also conforms with the Court’s schedule, the Court will deny the motion and proceed with the scheduled trial. The Court finds that none of the reasons advanced in the Defendant’s motion are grounds for a continuance. This case was charged nearly two years ago, one trial date has already been vacated at the defense’s request, and the present date was set over four months ago. Defense counsel, which now number at least three, have had more than ample time to prepare for trial. The defense has not identified any material evidence that it is lacking, either from the government’s voluminous production of both case-specific and global discovery, or from other public sources. Nor is the pendency of the appeal in U.S. v. Miller an impediment to trial. This and other courts have proceeded with numerous January 6th trials involving the charge at issue in Miller. If the Circuit decides the issue in the defense’s favor, then Mr. Barnett will receive the benefit of that ruling. There is no good reason to halt the trial in the meantime. As for any anticipated change in government trial counsel, the government has been aware of the current trial date for months and should have planned accordingly. That said, the Court would be willing to exercise its discretion and grant a brief continuance should a mutually agreeable date be available. The Court notes, however, that it has a busy docket of both January 6th cases and other matters and therefore may not be able to accommodate the parties’ request. [my emphasis]

Unless and until Dorhmann spins off all her other cases, it won’t be clear whether a change in Barnett’s case indicated she expected to focus more time on Trump or that DOJ wanted to create single reporting lines through Smith (or even whether the change in prosecutorial team involved one of several other prosecutors assigned to the case).

Lisa Monaco has been micro-managing the approach to January 6 from the moment she was confirmed in April 2021. Sure, it’s certainly possible that DOJ didn’t make the final decision on whether to appoint a Special Counsel, and if so, whom, until after Trump announced he was running or until after the GOP won the House. Maybe they delayed any resource discussions until after finalizing a pick.

But depending on the reasons why DOJ changed its mind on Barnett’s case, it’s possible that his still-scheduled December 12 trial could delay the time until Smith has his team in place, by several weeks. It’s also possible DOJ will just go to trial, a high profile one that poses some evidentiary complexities, with the two other prosecutors.

As I’ve suggested above, managing the workload created by the January 6 attack has been unbelievably complex, with rolling reassignments among virtually all prosecution teams from the start. Dohrmann’s caseload is of interest only because the mix of cases she has carried range from trespassers to the former President.

But at this moment, as Smith decides how he’ll staff the investigation he is now overseeing, that caseload may create some avoidable complexities and potentially even a short delay, one that could have been avoided.

Update: In a filing not signed by Mary Dohrmann, the two sides offered January 9 as a possible trial date.


Litigating “‘Normies’ Smash[ing] Some Pigs to Dust” in the Proud Boy Leader Conspiracy

Ten months ago, I wrote a post describing how the Proud Boys were a key part of the overall assault on the Capitol, because they took “normies” and made sure they were deployed to maximal advantage, including having them do the dangerous job of “smash[ing] some pigs to dust.”

The plan required six types of participants to make it work:

  • People (Trump, Rudy, and Mo Brooks) to rile up large numbers of normies
  • Someone (Alex Jones) to guide the normies to the Capitol, probably while communicating with the Proud Boys as they kicked off the riot
  • People at the Capitol (Proud Boys and associates) to tactically deploy the normies as a weapon, both to occupy the Capitol and to create a very real risk to the members of Congress
  • Members of Congress (Paul Gosar and others) willing to create conflict that could be exploited in any of a number of ways
  • Masses and masses of people who, starting even before the election, had been led to believe false claims that their country was under threat; those masses did two things:
    • Enter the Capitol, with a varied level of vocal enthusiasm for the mayhem occurring, and make it far more difficult for cops to put down the assault
    • “Smash some pigs to dust”

Whether or not that conception is true — and just as importantly, whether DOJ can introduce the evidence to prove it at trial — has been the subject of recent pretrial litigation in the Proud Boy Leader case that may determine the outcome of the trial:

As I’ve been saying for 14 months, whether this approach succeeds at the Proud Boy trial will determine the degree to which higher ranking people who were conspiring with Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio can be implicated in a conspiracy with those who attacked the Capitol, as opposed to an incitement or aid and abet theory of criminal exposure. And whether it succeeds is neither an easy legal question nor, for a jury assessing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, evidentiary one.

The opening filing in this dispute argues that even if the subordinate Proud Boys and affiliates who marched on the Capitol didn’t know all the plans and objectives of the conspiracy, they were still part of it. As DOJ describes, the Proud Boy leaders, including John Stewart (Person 3), who secretly entered into a plea deal, probably in June, intentionally aimed to get lower ranking Proud Boys to obey unthinkingly.

It is important to note that it does not matter whether all these members of the conspiracy understood and “agreed on the details” of the scheme, so long as they agreed on the “essential nature of the plan.” United States v. Gatling, 96 F.3d 1511, 1518 (D.C. Cir. 1996); cf. ECF 71 at 46 (Court’s ruling on Nordean and Biggs detention, explaining that “even if someone who was a part of the conspiracy expressed surprise at the way events unfolded that day or what the ultimate outcome was . . . that does not necessarily mean there wasn’t a conspiracy of the kind alleged.”). And in fact, the evidence will show that the conspiracy’s leaders purposefully kept subordinates in the dark about the precise details, urging them to “turn off [their] brains” and “follow the . . . guys you’re with.” ECF 475 at 15 (Statements Motion, quoting statement from Person 3 to MOSD members). In assembling their group of foot soldiers, the leader defendants sought loyal followers, not co-equal partners. Cf. United States v. Mahdi, 598 F.3d 883, 891 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (finding that evidence of defendant exercising “organization control” to keep “the worker bees in line” was intrinsic evidence of conspiracy). Willing followers all, the fact that each may not have been fully privy to the entire plan in no way negates their being co-conspirators.1 Co-conspirators need not share all of the charged criminal objectives of the conspiracy, so long as they formed some agreement with the defendants. Hypothetically, if a particular member of the marching group lacked sufficient understanding of what was happening in Congress to make him part of a conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, he could still be part of a conspiracy to use force to oppose the lawful transfer of Presidential power in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2384 or a conspiracy to forcibly prevent law enforcement officers from discharging their duties in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 372. His conduct is relevant regardless. [my emphasis]

Based on that logic, the filing argues that the tactically important violence of a number of Proud Boys (plus Robert Geiswein, who is being prosecuted by Proud Boy prosecutor Erik Kenerson) was part of the conspiracy.

  • Daniel Lyons Scott, aka “Milkshake,” a Proud Boy, led a crowd in shoving a line of officers to force their way up a set of steps leading to the Capitol.3
  • Alan Fischer and Zachary Johnson, both Proud Boys, were part of a crowd trying to force its way through a line of officers defending an entrance to the Capitol building known as the “tunnel” on the Lower West Terrace. Johnson passed weapons up to rioters on the front line of the crowd, including a sledgehammer and a can of chemical spray.4
  • Edward George, a Proud Boy, engaged in a shoving match with an officer while trying to force his way into the Capitol through the Senate Carriage Door.5
  • Steven Miles, a Proud Boy, shoved and threw punches at officers in an altercation at the west front of the Capitol, and used a plank of wood resembling a two-byfour to break a window to make entry into the Capitol building.6
  • Christopher Worrell, a Proud Boy, sprayed a chemical irritant while in the restricted area of the Capitol grounds.7
  • Robert Gieswein, who is not a Proud Boy but who joined the marching group and wore orange masking tape as insignia showing affiliation with the marching group, sprayed officers with chemical irritant at multiple times and places inside the Capitol.8

Note, I believe all of these defendants are still awaiting trial (though Milkshake was for a time plea-curious), and thus far, only Milkshake and Worrell have been charged with conspiracy, with each other. All the rest, and their co-defendants, could well be superseded with conspiracy charges if this structure succeeds at trial.

Also of note, this government argument preceded (and to some degree explains) the leak about Proud Boy informants who had no knowledge of a plan to attack the Capitol. The defendants want to argue that if Proud Boys didn’t know of the plan to attack the Capitol, there must have been no conspiracy to do so. DOJ argues that, particularly given the hierarchy and the planned close hold on the plan imposed in advance, it doesn’t matter if they knew the overall plan and in fact the ignorance of lower level Proud Boys was actually part of the plan.

But the government is not relying just on the actions of Proud Boys and affiliates. It argues that the Proud Boys “harnessed” others who were at the attack.

Evidence of the conspiracy is not bound by the actions of the co-conspirators. As the evidence will show, on January 6, the defendants sought to harness the actions of others to achieve their objective of forcibly opposing the lawful transfer of Presidential power. In so doing, the defendants used these individuals as “tools.”

That the government is arguing this is unsurprising. As I’ve noted repeatedly, senior Proud Boys discussed doing this explicitly the morning of the attack.

UCC-1: I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today

Person-2: Would be epic

UCC-1: The state is the enemy of the people

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

Person-3: God let it happen . . . I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

Person-3 It’s going to happen. These normiecons have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs

But the two sentence paragraph, above, is all that the opening motion describes with respect to “harnessing” “normies.”

Nordean’s short response on this point notes that the government had not yet proven the bulleted list of defendants were co-conspirators, much less provided any precedent to introduce the actions of people not alleged to be co-conspirators as evidence of the conspiracy.

Even more inappropriate is the government’s attempt to show the jury countless actions by nondefendants on January 6 who the government concedes are not “co-conspirators” even under its relaxed standards. Gov’t Mot., pp. 6-7. Although the government has no evidence that these protesters joined the charged conspiracies, it says their actions are somehow admissible because they are “tools” of the conspiracy. The government cites no rule or case law holding that the criminal actions of nondefendant “tools” of a conspiracy—conceded nonmembers—can be admitted against defendants in their criminal case. There is none. The government’s novel “tools” concept has no discernable limiting principle.

This argument accompanies Nordean (and Zach Rehl’s) First Amendment argument that the poor Proud Boys were simply engaged in a non-violent protest outside the Capitol when a bunch of unaffiliated people showed up and violently attacked the Capitol.

After which the Proud Boys took credit for what those purportedly unaffiliated people had done.

(Nordean’s filing also anticipated the extended sealed argument about a bunch of informant materials that he would later claim to be surprised by.)

In reply, the government uses analogies for other types of crime. This interlocking conspiracy, DOJ argues, is like a complex drug scheme where someone might be involved in delivering the drugs but not the money laundering.

An analogy illustrates the fallacy of Nordean’s argument. Imagine a defendant charged with one count of conspiring to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and one count of laundering the proceeds of that drug trafficking. Imagine that an uncharged co-conspirator transported narcotics on the defendant’s behalf but had no involvement in, or knowledge about, the laundering of the money. On Nordean’s reasoning, the co-conspirator’s conduct would be excluded at trial because it was only related to “a conspiracy” to traffic drugs and not “the conspiracy” to commit both object offenses. ECF 505 at 2 (emphasis Nordean’s). See Joint Proposed Jury Instructions (submitted to the Court on 11/2/2022), at 18 (“To have guilty knowledge, the defendant need not know the full extent of the conspiracy or all of the activities of all of its participants. It is not necessary for the defendant to know every other member of the conspiracy.”).

Before DOJ describes how the “normies” “harnessed” in the attack are like “money mules” in a financial transaction, it cites the discussion in advance of inciting the “normies” or leading them as the tip of a spear.

Contrary to Nordean’s telling, though, there is nothing novel about the principle that the actions of third parties can advance a conspiracy even if those parties are not full members of the conspiracy. The notion that the conspiracy could operationalize other individuals as a force multiplier is not an invention of the government; to the contrary, the conspirators expressly discussed it. See, e.g., ECF 440-1 at 20 (Transcript of MOSD meeting where Bertino explains: “[T]hey’re gonna follow us now because, you know, we’re the tip of the spear.”); ECF 111-1 at 4 (discussion on morning of January 6 about hopes that “normies burn that city to ash today” and “smash some pigs to dust,” which was “going to happen” because normies “have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs.”).

Indeed, for example, it is common for financial schemes to involve the use of “money mules” who knowingly conduct transactions at the perpetrators’ direction while remaining unwitting to the essential nature of the arrangement. See, e.g., United States v. Thomas, 999 F.3d 723, 727-28 (D.C. Cir. 2021). The conduct of those “money mules” is relevant evidence of the financial scheming defendant’s criminal intent and unlawful conduct. This case is factually different, but the basic theory is the same. The limiting principle is whether, on the evidence at trial, a jury could reasonably find a factual nexus between the actions of the conspirators and the actions of the tools. See Fed. R. Evid. 104(b) (“When the relevance of evidence depends on whether a fact exists, proof must be introduced sufficient to support a finding that the fact does exist.”). [my emphasis]

There was a hearing on all this on November 18 at which the government introduced a new angle to its argument about “harnessing” the “normies” (it was live so there was no call-in). Joe Biggs (whose lawyers are representing few other January 6 defendants, and so many not appreciate how many January 6 defendants — whether trespassers or assailants — claim they just got “caught up,” including a bunch who cited the Proud Boys as inspiration) describes the argument this way:

The Government asserted at argument that what guns were to the Oath Keepers on January 6, non-party protestors were to the Proud Boys. It further attempted to explain what it meant by this clumsy analogy when it asserted that the Proud Boys “weaponized” third parties.

[snip]

Perhaps mindful of the difficulties its arguments presented, the Government asserted that the defendants had “weaponized” third parties, either fellow members of the Proud Boys, members of other groups, or so-called “normies” unaffilated with any group, to engage in acts of violence. The Government did not argue just how percipient agents were transformed into little more than zombies, or tools, at the disposal of the defendants.

[snip]

The analogy to “mules” in narcotics cases in unavailing. In the case of passive mules, that is a party unknowingly carrying a prohibited item from one location to another, the mule lacks knowledge and intent to commit a crime. They are used as a transportation device. They are agents acting on purposes all their own but used by others to accomplish unlawful aims The Government is unclear whether it seriously intends to argue that protestors on January 6, 2021, were used without their knowledge, forced, somehow, to carry on as foreign objects the ideas of another. One suspects the Government cannot mean this, otherwise why would they prosecute the nearly 1,000 individuals charged with crimes requiring intent?

Nordean, whose lawyers do represent a slew of other defendants (though usually those who had more culpability themselves), responds this way.

[T]he government proposes to show the jury the criminal actions of individuals on January 6 who are (a) nondefendants, (b) not members of the charged conspiracies, (c) not members of the Proud Boys, and (d) not linked to the Defendants through a recognized principle of liability such as conspiracy, aiding and abetting, solicitation, or “willfully causing an act to be done.” ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. The government describes the relevance of such evidence as follows: “the ‘tools’ of the conspiracy [were] deployed by the defendants in furtherance of their criminal objectives.” Id., p. 3 (emphasis added). “These ‘tools’ served as instruments of the defendants to carry out their criminal objective. While unwitting to the criminal objective, they were employed to take action on behalf of and in furtherance of the criminal objective.” Id. (emphasis added). According to the government, this group includes all “normies” whom the Defendants “sought to ‘let [] loose’ on January 6.” Id. Although the government does not say it in plain English, its “tools” argument aims to show the jury any and all criminal acts by any actor on January 6 on the contradictory relevance theory that these Defendants caused all of those acts and yet, at the same time, are not “criminally liable” for any of them. ECF No. 494, p. 7.

In the November 18 hearing, the Court indicated that the “tools” evidence might satisfy the test of relevance even if the government could not establish that the Defendants are legally responsible for the “tools’” actions under a recognized theory of liability.2 The Court suggested that relevance may lie in the following argument: the government alleges that the Defendants conspired to use “normies” to further their conspiratorial aims and thus the “jury should be permitted to see” what Defendants “achieved by mobilizing the crowd.” ECF No. 494, p. 4.

However, embedded in the government’s argument is a factual premise failing which the test of relevance cannot be satisfied. Whether acts of violence on January 6 by “normies” were caused or “mobilized” by the Defendants is a fact question. If those acts were not caused by the Defendants’ “mobilization,” they are not relevant under the government’s novel argument. A counterfactual shows this to be the case. Suppose Normies 1-4 rushed past barriers, ran into the Capitol, and assaulted police officers. They have never heard of the Proud Boys, nor did they see or hear the Defendants on January 6. Displaying their actions to the jury cannot demonstrate the “manner and means of the defendants’ conspiracy,” ECF No. 494, p. 3, as there is no causal relationship to speak of.

In response, the government will try to contend that even absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and those of “normies,” the latter are relevant inasmuch as the Defendants allegedly dreamed of being or aspired to be an instigator of the normies on January 6. But while Defendants’ alleged pre-January 6 comments about riling up the normies may in that case still hold relevance as to the nature/scope of the alleged criminal agreement, the actions of the normies themselves would not be relevant. Absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and the normies’ criminal acts, the latter can logically show neither that the conspiracy “succeeded” nor that the Defendants’ alleged agreement somehow “planned” the normies’ actions even where unilaterally undertaken without knowledge of Defendants’ desires.

[snip]

Here, the government has adduced no evidence to show that the actions of the “normies” or other nondefendants were caused by the Defendants’ actions. ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. None exists. The government has not adduced the statement of any “normie” or other nondefendant to the effect that their acts were “caused” by the Defendants. [my emphasis]

The bolded language may be the only place in the papers where the Proud Boy defendants address the repeated explicit reference in their Telegram threads to riling up “the normies.” But Nordean gets at a critical issue: The government has proof that the Proud Boys intended to “harness” the “normies.” He’s arguing they don’t have proof, perhaps in the form of witness testimony, that hundreds of other January 6 defendants did what they did because of actions of the Proud Boys. (If pressed, the government could come up with at least a dozen witnesses who did talk about following the Proud Boys, but I trust from Nordean’s claim that they haven’t committed to doing so, and one subtext of this fight is the aborted effort by DOJ to get Ryan Samsel to enter a cooperation agreement in which he would testify about what Biggs told him before Samsel set off the entire attack.)

The government, partly because Nordean is also challenging the reliance on earlier evidence and events at the two earlier MAGA Marches, describes first how the Proud Boy Leaders cultivated a certain kind of recruit leading up to the attack, using comms to show senior Proud Boy leaders picked members who had embraced violence to be part of MOSD and anticipated needing a lot of bail money.

The escalation of both violence and violent rhetoric among the Proud Boys from November through January is not only highly probative to the charged conspiracy, it cannot be separated therefrom. After the Ministry of Self Defense was approved as a chapter, the defendants in leadership set about hand-selecting other individuals to join the group. In deciding who to admit, the defendants drew on their knowledge and experience with them at prior rallies. The fact that some of the recruits came into the chat and nearly immediately made references to violence, without rebuke by Nordean or any other leader, is additional evidence both (1) why they were chosen for MOSD, and (2) what they had come to understand about MOSD’s purpose based on  their prior communications with the defendants and other leaders of the conspiracy.4 See Ex. 3 (proposed trial exhibits comprising messages from MOSD recruits upon joining group, expressing (1) willingness to “log into Minecraft”; (2) shared experience of previous “seek and destroy” mission in DC “where we had a target which was Black Lives Matter plaza”; (3) expectation that members were going to need “a lot of bail money”; (4) understanding that “protest time” means “punch ‘em in the face”; and (5) appreciation that “to be in this group, you need to . . . be able to fucking kick ass if you need to kick the fuck ass.”).

It responds to the complaints about the government’s theory of “riling the normies” by pointing to specific moments when the Proud Boys opened the way through which hordes would swarm.

To be clear, the government does not plan to argue that every member of the crowd on January 6 was a tool of the defendants’ conspiracy. The tools will consist primarily of those Proud Boys members and affiliates whom the defendants recruited and led to the Capitol as part of their marching group. As the government explained, many of these individuals would also qualify as co-conspirators who shared a criminal objective with the defendants (even if, as far as the followers understood, that objective was only to commit assault). See 11/18/22 Tr. at 66 (“[W]e would argue, first, that these people are co-conspirators.”); 119 (“[P]art of what the tools theory does is says, even if these people were just signed up to commit violence without knowing why or against whom it would be directed, that’s still relevant.”). In some other instances, of course, the tools will be apparent strangers whose conduct nonetheless has a causal relationship with the defendants. For example, video evidence at trial will show that numerous rioters surged toward the Capitol as a result of Nordean, Biggs, and others destroying a black metal fence that was obstructing the crowds’ progress. Video will likewise show that many rioters entered the Capitol through a window that Pezzola smashed. All these facts lend credence to Tarrio’s own evaluation of the causal relationship at work: “Make no mistake, we did this.”

Stated thusly, it is a more modest argument than the government could have made and may one day make. There’s no reference to Alex Jones delivering the mob created by Donald Trump to his allies (and former employee, in the case of Biggs) in the Proud Boys, for example. Instead, the government seems to be looking barrier by barrier to show that the Proud Boys created the breach through which thousands ran.

I’ve been expecting an argument like this for months. But I admit it’s a close legal call.

I keep thinking about two things as I read this: First, a chilling line in cooperating witness Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, where he likened the moment on January 6 when things turned from peaceful to violent to his time in Afghanistan.

Greene noticed that during and following the chanting, the mood in the crowd changed, and it reminded him of his time in Afghanistan while stationed there with the U.S. Army, when protests changed from peaceful to violent.

While I don’t know the military experiences of Joe Biggs or other Proud Boy veterans, what Greene was describing was the Proud Boys deliberately stoking an insurgency the likes of which many of the men present (both Proud Boys and others) had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these guys know how to incite an insurgency because they fought them for so long overseas.

The other thing that’s not clear is who DOJ will have as witnesses. I don’t think Pezzola’s lawyers have submitted an active filing for weeks or months, a possible sign Pezzola is close to or has already flipped; given that he literally breached the Capitol, making way for everyone else, if he were a cooperating witness at trial it would be far easier to make this argument. And while the very first filing in this series described Aaron Whallon-Wolkind (Person 2) as part of the core conspiracy…

Specifically, the jury will be called upon to evaluate whether the defendants and their co-conspirators – including Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Charles Donohoe, Jeremy Bertino, Persons 2 and 3, and Dominic Pezzola – entered into an agreement to accomplish an unlawful objective. The defendant’s own words, and those of their co-conspirators, reveal (1) their motive to stop the lawful transfer of power; (2) their agreement to use force to do so, including against law enforcement and elected officials; (3) their efforts to recruit individuals to carry out the criminal objective of the conspiracy; 1 and (4) their efforts to encourage other individuals present on January 6 to use force to achieve their objective.

… unlike Bertino (who formally pled guilty the day before this filing) and John “Blackbeard” Stewart (Person 3), who pled guilty in June, it’s unclear what AWW’s status is. That’s important because he was part of the plan to, “see thousands of normies burn that city to ash” on January 6.

The status of Ron Loehrke, another former Marine who played a key role in directing the attention of the rioters, is also unclear. A year ago, he was arrested on civil disorder and trespassing charges — but not obstruction or conspiracy — with co-defendant Jimmy Haffner (Haffner was also charged with a tactically important assault, at the East Door), but AUSA Kenerson has gotten three pre-indictment continuances of their case, through January 10, probably right in the middle of the Proud Boy Leader trial.

In other words, DOJ’s arguments about the way the Proud Boys deployed “normies” to carry out the bulk of the attack on the Capitol make a ton of sense given the evidence from the attack. This approach also helps to explain a lot of the oddities and apparent delays about the larger Proud Boy prosecution.

What’s unclear is whether DOJ will succeed in introducing it as evidence at trial.


Trump Finally Describes How FBI Injured Him: By Taking his Celine Dion Picture

The most important part of the hearing in the stolen document case before the 11th Circuit Tuesday came when Chief Judge William Pryor asked what the 11th Circuit should do if they find for DOJ.

It seemed to me that because this is an appeal from an injunction for purposes of appellate jurisdiction, what we would do if you’re right we would vacate the injunction, vacate this order on the ground that there is a lack of equitable jurisdiction. But that would be it. What we would have jurisdiction over is not the entire case. We would have jurisdiction, if we have jurisdiction, it’s over that order, granting an injunction. Isn’t that right, technically, instead of reverse and remand, with instructions, it’s really just vacate.

If Pryor’s original view was right, it would allow DOJ to use the documents in a prosecution of Trump, but would leave Judge Aileen Cannon with the authority to still meddle in the case.

Sopan Joshi, arguing for DOJ, disagreed and walked Judge Pryor through a SCOTUS precedent that says that the Court would necessarily have the authority to reverse the decision entirely.

Joshi must have persuaded, to some degree, because Pryor decided,

If you’re right, what we’re really talking about is a middle position, that is, I was right about vacate but you’re right about the authority to remand with instructions to dismiss. Ordinarily if a District Court lacks jurisdiction, that’s what we do. We vacate and remand with instructions to dismiss.

Joshi replied, “Fair enough, and I’m not going to fight you too hard on it.

Judge Britt Grant then piped in to ask Joshi whether,

We, in your view, if we decide there was not equitable jurisdiction in the first place we wouldn’t need to go through the bases of jurisdiction for the injunction and Special Master or anything like that. The lack of jurisdiction as it was brought would resolve all the questions in your mind. Is that right?

Joshi was pretty happy with that too. “I think that’s right.”

This technical debate, which took up about a quarter of the hearing, not only betrays that at least two of the 11th Circuit Court judges are thinking of how to give DOJ what it wants, but how to do so procedurally. And they seemed persuaded, ultimately, that they should just vacate the entire Special Master appointment altogether, ending the entire Special Master process.

Things didn’t go so well for Jim Trusty, Trump’s lawyer. Just as he started to get going on claims about Biden ordering a search on a political candidate’s home (a lie), Grant interrupted and corrected his use of raid: “Do you think ‘raid’ is the right word for execution of a warrant?”

When Trusty tried to claim that this warrant had been a general warrant, Pryor scolded, “but you didn’t establish that it was a general warrant,” the first of multiple times when the judges reminded Trusty he had not made the arguments he presented today before, not before any court. Grant pointed out that Trusty was misstating what their purported goal was, which was originally to review for privilege.

Then, as Trusty reeled off the things FBI seized that, he said, were incredibly personal, Grant asked, “Do you think it’s rare for the target of a warrant to think it’s overreaching?”

Mic drop!

She was back again, a few minutes later, as Trusty tried to argue what he thought the binding precedent should be, rather than what it was. Grant got to the core issue, which was that Trusty was asking for special treatment.

If you set aside, which I understand that you won’t want to do, but if you do for the purposes of this question, set aside the fact that the target of the search warrant was a former president, are there any arguments that would be different than any defendant, any target of a warrant who wished to challenge a warrant before an indictment.

Trusty tried to reframe her question. “We’re not looking for special treatment for President Trump. We are recognizing there is a context here where no President–”

Pryor interrupted.

I don’t know that that’s particularly responsive. The question was, set aside the fact that the subject of the warrant is the President. What’s to distinguish this from any other subject of a criminal investigation?

When Trusty tried to raise the concerns that he claimed Trump had had all along, Pryor responded, “I don’t see where that case has been made.” Again, Trump didn’t make the arguments he needed to, in September, to get the relief he is demanding now.

That’s when Pryor laid out the real practical problem with Trusty’s claims.

We have to determine when it’s proper for a District Court to do this in the first place, which is what we’re looking at now. And the last question was one posed that makes clear that basically, other than the fact that this involves a former President, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant. And we’ve got to be concerned about the precedent that we would create that would allow any target of a federal criminal investigation to go into a district court and to have a district court entertain this kind of petition, exercise equitable jurisdiction, and interfere with the Executive Branch’s ongoing investigation.

After Trusty started wailing more about personal documents, Pryor described,

You’ve talked about all these other records and property that were seized. The problem is the search warrant was for classified documents and boxes and other items that are intermingled with that. I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.

That’s when Trusty revealed that FBI took a picture of Celine Dion.

Dion, remember, refused Trump’s request to play his inauguration.

Now Trump’s grave injury all begins to make sense! FBI hurt him by taking his Celine Dion picture. All the wailing and screaming since August now begin to make sense.

Trusty went on blathering, claiming — for example — that the injunction hadn’t harmed the government because they had months before and after the seizure to conduct their investigation. When Trusty claimed the injunction was overblown, Pryor invited,

Think of the extraordinary nature from our perspective of an injunction against the Executive Branch in a pre-indictment situation. Under the separation of powers, the judiciary doesn’t interfere with those kinds of prosecutorial and investigatory decisions. Right? That’s the whole nature of this kind of jurisdiction.

After Pryor asked about a new argument Trusty was making, Joshi reeled off the five different arguments that Trump has advanced.

Joshi closed with the practical fear Pryor had raised: If Trump has his way, every “defendant” will demand pre-indictment intervention.

This emphasizes how anomalous and extraordinary what the district court did her was. And I heard Mr. Trusty agree that there was no difference between this and other defendants. And I think that just emphasizes how the anomalous could become commonplace. And we think the court should reverse.

Andrew Brasher seemed more sympathetic to Trusty’s arguments, at one point asking how much more of a delay this would cause, as if he might let this all play out (and that’s what would happen if the 11th didn’t entirely vacate Cannon’s order.

But ultimately, Trump was treated as if not a defendant, then at least someone who could create untenable rights for other defendants, which sounded like something neither Pryor nor Grant were willing to do.


Ransacked! 120 Minutes before 11th Circuit Hearing, Trump Attempts to Create a Fourth Amendment Injury

Less than two hours before the 11th Circuit hearing that may result in Judge Aileen Cannon being reversed for intervening in the Trump investigation, Trump’s attorneys (notably excluding Chris Kise) filed a motion for access to the affidavit for his search.

That this is a transparent attempt to give Judge Cannon some basis to intervene in both the Special Master review and the 11th Circuit appeal has not stopped reporters from treating it as a reasonable request.

It’s not.

Even if all the claims made in it were true, it still wouldn’t provide basis to give Trump the affidavit that (among other things) identifies who he could retaliate against for cooperating with investigators.

One of the most important paragraphs (and footnote) is this one.

Moreover, Plaintiff’s counsel has reviewed most of the seized materials over the last several weeks. The fact the Government took a huge volume of personal and family photographs, newspapers, thank-you notes, campaign materials, books, and golf shirts demonstrates that this search and seizure was nothing more than a general ransacking. 7 This raises serious questions about how the affiant characterized his or her assertion of probable cause and the justification for seizing thousands of personal and private items. Plaintiff must have an opportunity to review the affidavit and determine whether the Fourth Amendment was respected, intentionally subverted, or recklessly violated by a DOJ bent on getting its nose under the Mar-a-Lago tent.

7 A general rummaging through the belongings of President Trump is a particularly ominous moment in law enforcement history. With DOJ and some state officials engaging in various efforts to investigate President Trump, the search smacks of pretextual conduct with hopes of feeding personal documents to prosecutors or agents who might find use for them in unrelated pursuits. Authorization to seize “any other containers/boxes that are collectively stored or found together with the aforementioned documents and containers/boxes” is an invitation to “rummage,” which every court has recognized as barred under the Fourth Amendment. See Andresen v. Maryland, 427 U.S. 463, 480 (1976) (quoting Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 467 (1971)). [my emphasis]

Start with the books and sweaty golf shirts. According to a part of the affidavit that Trump has not contested (the highlighted items below are the ones that changed with an updated inventory), the FBI seized a total of 33 books in the search on August 8, across 33 items seized; the bulk, 23, were all in one box together. That box was likely close to another that had multiple Top Secret documents, as well as a book. Those books got seized because they were next to stolen Top Secret documents. There was likewise a piece of clothing or a gift the box with stolen Top Secret documents. And altogether, there were just 19 gifts or pieces of clothing seized.

That’s what Trump wants you to think amounts to a ransacking.

Many of the other items are actually things about which there is an active dispute before Raymond Dearie (as noted in this filing).

For purposes of the yellow-highlighted Disputes, the Special Master will see that three issues account for the overwhelming majority of disputes. From the government’s perspective, the three conceptual issues are:

1. Annotations. – Books, magazine articles, and newspaper clippings with markings are original Presidential records.

2. Thank you notes for presidential acts or events. – Thank you notes reflecting gratitude for acts taken in the course of official duties are Presidential records.

3. Briefing book compilations with indexes. – Briefing material and other work product prepared by presidential staff for the President are Presidential records.

Trump wants to claim press clippings on which he made annotations are personal; the Presidential Records Act says otherwise. Trump wants to claim that thank you notes sent to him in his role as President are personal; the Presidential Records Act says otherwise.

Among the campaign materials taken were several letters written by Kurt Hilbert about stealing the election in Georgia, as well as something written by Cleta Mitchell. Sure, those are campaign materials. They are also evidence of a crime. They were also returned already, and could have been returned earlier had Judge Cannon not intervened.

Trump’s claim that it is unusual for the FBI to seize personal materials as part of a search warrant (bolded above) is particularly ridiculous, not least because Plain View doctrine clearly says that DOJ can refer items seized with a warrant for prosecution.

But it’s particularly notable given this language in the order appointing Jack Smith.

The Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation ofthese matters. The Special Counsel is also authorized to refer to the appropriate United States Attorney discrete prosecutions that may arise from the Special Counsel’s investigation.

It permits Smith to refer things for further prosecution, including (presumably) any evidence of a crime he sees in the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago.

At this late hour, after being reversed once already, Judge Cannon is unlikely to get further over her skis.

But it likely will come up in the hearing starting in (now) 45 minutes, so Jim Trusty can claim, for the first time, that there has been a Fourth Amendment violation that merits Judge Cannon’s intervention under Richey.

Update: Even though improper to do so procedurally, Trusty did raise this argument, over and over at the hearing (he even complained that the FBI had taken Trump’s Celine Dion photo). That led both William Pryor and Britt Grant to observe that Trump’s argument kept changing over the course of the litigation before the 11th Circuit. Sopan Joshi, arguing for DOJ, laid out five such changes.

More importantly, the Chief Judge of the 11th Circuit noted that the reason so many personal items were seized is because Trump chose to store stolen classified records with his personal belongings.

You’ve talked about all these other records and property that were seized. The problem is the search warrant was for classified documents and boxes and other items that are intermingled with that. I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.

I don’t think Judge Cannon will be in a position to act on this motion for very long, but I think this comment from Pryor would give her pause before she did so anyway.


11th Circuit Showdown: The Fight to Get the Documents to Charge against Trump

A 2PM Eastern today, an 11th Circuit panel including William Pryor, Britt Grant, and Andrew Brasher will consider DOJ’s expedited motion to overturn Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to appoint a Special Master. Oral arguments should be available here. The briefs are here:

Grant and Brasher were on the panel that already held that Cannon erred in intervening given that there was no evidence of callous disregard for Trump’s rights, so I fancy DOJ’s chances. That said, there’s no predicting how Pryor would rule, and if he were to support Trump’s support for Tom Fitton’s erroneous theory that there was no basis to question a President’s designations of something as a personal document, it might cause difficulties for an eventual prosecution.

For the reasons I laid out here, the decision the 11th Circuit makes, and how quickly they make it, will dictate how quickly DOJ could charge the stolen document case. DOJ likely has already discussed what documents they could charge without creating more national security damage. But particularly for any document that mixes classified documents with unclassified ones, DOJ first has to ensure possession of the documents they would charge before indicting (or even using the documents in interviews with Trump’s associates).

Two documents that are likely to be charged also include unclassified information:

  • The 11-page document compiling a confidential document, a secret document, messages (all post-dating Trump’s presidency) from a pollster, a religious leader, and a book author, as well as a document over which Trump has claimed privilege. This document would show that someone in Trump’s office accessed classified documents after leaving the White House and may show Trump using classified documents for his own benefit. The document was stored in a desk drawer in Trump’s office.
  • The packet including clemency for Roger Stone, which includes a one-page and a two-page document, one of which (presumably the information on the French President) is classified secret. This was also stored in a drawer in Trump’s office, though not necessarily the same one as the compilation. There’s no reason for Trump to include an official pardon in his desk drawer, but the tie between the Stone clemency and Macron may well explain why he did so. Given how Stone insinuated he would harm Trump if he wasn’t pardoned, the reasons Trump kept the document close at hand are likely to be quite interesting.

Trump’s team has been aggressively trying to prevent DOJ from keeping possession of these documents, by claiming that the first packet is both personal, attorney-client, and Executive privileged, and by claiming that other pardon packets can be Trump’s personal possession. It’s highly likely that Raymond Dearie will rule for DOJ on both those disputes. But if and when he does, Trump would object and Aileen Cannon would get to consider it anew.

That would make these documents unavailable for investigative purposes until after the new year. Whereas, if the 11th Circuit rules for DOJ, the government would be able to present these to a grand jury within weeks (assuming a quick decision and SCOTUS declining to review the decision, as happened with the last decision).


The Curiosity of Norm Pattis’ Third January 6 Client’s Delayed Arrest

On Wednesday (the time on the screen cap is Irish time), Norm Pattis — the Connecticut lawyer who fucked up and sent texts from his client Alex Jones, along with highly personal discovery from the CT Sandy Hook plaintiffs, to the TX Sandy Hook plaintiffs — tweeted that a head lawyer in CT wants him to serve a six month suspension for that ethical violation.

On Thursday, for a second straight time, the pre-trial hearing in the Proud Boy Leader case, in which Pattis represents Joe Biggs, was sealed to the public. One thing that has been a pressing discussion in that case that might merit sealing is the potential conflict of Biggs’ other lawyer, Daniel Hull, because he briefly represented co-defendant Enrique Tarrio in one of the civil suits against the Proud Boys.

If both Biggs’ lawyers had conflict problems, it might seriously roil the schedule of the trial, which is currently due to start next month. When Jonathan Moseley’s license was suspended, for example, the prosecution of his then-client, Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, was halted until Meggs found a new attorney.

Meanwhile, Pattis’ other January 6 client, Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer, is supposed to decide by the end of the month whether he’ll take a plea or take his chances with getting superseded with others.

All of which makes it weird that Pattis took on a third January 6 defendant last week. Or perhaps we only learned that Pattis has long been representing one: The defendant is a guy named Douglas Wyatt, who was arrested for assault, civil disorder, and trespassing on the same day as his stepson, Jacob Therres.

It turns out Wyatt has been lawyered up and waiting for arrest since shortly after the attack. As his arrest affidavit describes, there were tips streaming in to the FBI about him starting the day after the attack, with a tip received on January 7, two tips on January 8, and two more tips on January 12, based in part on his social media postings.

The FBI interviewed him at his home in a suburb of Baltimore on January 29, 2021; while he admitted he was at the attack, he managed to get rid of the FBI before he said much more.

By April 2021, Wyatt was represented by some lawyer — Attorney-1 — who basically did DOJ the favor of calling a prosecutor to confirm that his client was the guy identified in one of the FBI’s wanted posters, BOLO 277.

On January 29, 2021, the FBI interviewed WYATT at his residence in Fallston, MD. WYATT admitted he had been present on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol, which he referred to as “the People’s House,” and felt he had the right to protest. However, WYATT claimed he did not have time to talk but took a business card and agreed to call the FBI in the future. WYATT later retained counsel (“Attorney-1”) and was not interviewed further. On or about April 6, 2021, Attorney-1 sent an email to an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The email stated in relevant part (with emphasis added):

“Mr. Wyatt did not go into the Capital building on January 6, did not assault a law enforcement officer, nor anyone else that day, and was not engaged in the destruction of any property. . . He had no intention nor desire to, nor caused any trouble and is not a member of any group which was involved in causing trouble on January 6. I am sending you this email because I noticed yesterday that my client’s picture is one of the several hundred pictures on the FBI website. That came as a surprise because the FBI has known who he is since early February.” [emphasis original]

The posting of pictures of Wyatt on FBI’s BOLO site, on March 26, 2021, could not have been a surprise, to Attorney-1 or to Wyatt. By February 2021, shortly after the interview, Wyatt had started searching the FBI’s site full of January 6 BOLO posters.

WYATT conducted several searches on Facebook in February 2021 regarding “fbi most wanted capitol riots.”

Wyatt may have been searching FBI’s most wanted Capitol Riot site in February because, on February 2, 2021, FBI had posted pictures of Wyatt’s stepson, Therres, BOLO 180. Therres is alleged to have thrown a plank that hit a cop in the head and did real injury.

So Wyatt was monitoring whether the FBI was onto him in February 2021. Yet it wasn’t until November 14, 2022 when these two men were arrested.

You’ve got to wonder why the government took 21 months to arrest these guys, living an hour away in Maryland, after almost immediately confirming Wyatt’s ID. Especially given Therres’ recent arrest record (Therres’ own detention response says this may not be entirely accurate).

In this case, at least as described by the timeline laid out in the arrest affidavit (which I’ve laid out below), FBI got immediate notice of Wyatt’s participation. But they may not have looked too closely — they may have believed Attorney-1’s denials — until they first started confirming Therres’ identity, with his familial tie to Wyatt, starting in August 2021.

That still doesn’t explain the delay since April, when the FBI had solid IDs on both father and stepson.

Which brings me to a few of the reasons I started looking at this arrest more closely.

His arrest affidavit describes how Wyatt successfully wrestled the Gadsden flag of another rioter away from a cop.

WYATT also helped pull away a protestor’s flag, shouting “get the fuck off that” as an officer attempted to grab the flag away from the protestor:

It also describes how, after the cops on the West Terrace are first overwhelmed he filmed that. That’s interesting because for an hour of the insurrection, he parked himself on an enormous Trump flag (see the significance here) and at times appears to make hand signals.

It’s almost like he was providing others feedback, though Therres’ detention memo says, “there is currently a lack of evidence concerning coordination with others before January 6,” at least regarding Therres. If FBI delayed the arrest to try to see if Wyatt had coordinated with others — besides handing Therres the plank he threw — they may yet to have found evidence before searches done with their arrest.

Which brings me back to Norm Pattis.

When the Sedition Hunters first started focusing on Wyatt’s activities months and months ago, they gave him a hashtag like they do everyone else.

They named him #InfoSprayer, based on his use of spray against cops, and his hat: An InfoWars hat. (Therres was dubbed #NelsonPostThrower.)

I’ve emailed Pattis to see if he would say whether he was the Lawyer-1 described in the affidavit; I have yet to get a response. If he was, though, it would mean around the time Wyatt was given an InfoWars moniker, Wyatt was lawyering up with Alex Jones’ lawyer, a Maryland guy counterintuitively hiring a Connecticut lawyer for legal troubles in DC.

It’s weird enough that Norm Pattis filed as Wyatt’s lawyer last week.

It would be more interesting still if Wyatt hired Pattis back when the FBI first started investigating him.

Update: Hmmm. DOJ charged Therres by himself. Wyatt has, separately waived the preliminary hearing.

Timeline

January 7, 2021: First tip on Wyatt submitted: “Check out his Facebook, too. He has posted videos as well.”

January 7: Wyatt comments on Facebook that “I was there.”

January 8: Wyatt comments on Facebook that Ashli Babbit “was in the wrong for breaking the window” … “I did not enter the capital or engage the police.”

January 8: Second tip on Wyatt: “Pictures of Douglas Wyatt at/in the Capitol on the day in question.”

January 8: Third tip on Wyatt: “I’m simply reporting a former FB friend for his part in the terrorist acts in Washington D.C. on January 6th.”

January 12: Fourth tip on Wyatt: “Saw Suspicious FB comment and checked his page. These were associated with a ‘profile’ attached. Douglas Wyatt lives in Fallston, MD…”

January 12: Fifth tip on Wyatt: “Made suspicious comments on FB post which led me to snoop his profile. Found this and wanted to share. FB pick is from previous ‘protest’ but comments he will be there on Wednesday.”

January 29: FBI interview of Wyatt.

February 2: Therres’ picture posted as BOLO 180.

February: Wyatt searches for “fbi most wanted capitol riots.”

March 26: Wyatt’s photo posted as BOLO 277.

April 6: Attorney contacts DOJ about Wyatt.

August 5: First tip on Therres.

September 20: FBI matches Therres BOLO to Maryland ID.

Late October: FBI searches for now-deleted Facebook content of Wyatt.

October 29: FBI accesses Facebook account for Wyatt’s spouse, matches gloves used at attack.

November 5: Therres’ probation officers confirm BOLO ID.

November 23: FBI reviews video of Therres throwing plank.

November 29: FBI reviews video of Therres’ alleged assaults (this may have been the first that FBI realized Wyatt’s interactions with Therres at the attack, including that he handed Therres the plank with which Therres allegedly injured an officer; thus far Wyatt is not charged with abetting the assault causing injury charged against his stepson.

December 14: Second tip on Therres, reporting he tasered 4 police officers.

April 5, 2022: Close contact of Therres IDs his BOLO, relays that Therres was “very vocal” in social circle about “inflicting violence on police officers, with potentially a taser.”

April 6: FBI access previously obtained Wyatt’s Meta content showing contemporaneous posts about his participation.

April 19: FBI agent who interviewed Wyatt confirms ID.


What If the Special Counsel Is about Scott Perry, not Just Donald Trump?

When he announced the appointment of a Special Counsel yesterday, Merrick Garland described that “recent developments,” plural, led him to conclude that he should appoint Jack Smith as Special Counsel to oversee the investigations into Donald Trump.

The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution.

Based on recent developments, including the former President’s announcement that he is a candidate for President in the next election, and the sitting President’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a Special Counsel.

The recent developments he focused on were presidential: Trump’s announcement he’d run again and Joe Biden’s stated plan to run for reelection. But he also described the basis for the appointment not as a conflict (as Republicans and Trump are describing the investigation by a Biden appointee by his chief rival), but as an extraordinary circumstance.

Unsurprisingly, Garland never named Trump as the reason for the appointment. The only time he referenced Trump, he referred to him as the former President. That’s DOJ policy.

When he described the subjects of the January 6 investigation, he included both “any person” but also any “entity” that interfered in the transfer of power.

The first, as described in court filings in the District of Columbia, is the investigation into whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021.

The scope of the January 6 investigation that Smith will oversee is far broader than Trump and will almost certainly lead to the indictment of multiple people in addition to Trump, if it does include Trump — people like Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, possibly Mark Meadows.

But if we assume that everyone who has had their phone seized in that investigation is a subject of it, then Scott Perry, the Chair of the House Freedom [sic] Caucus, would also be included. Perry was the one who suggested that Trump replace Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark so DOJ would endorse Trump’s challenges to the election outcome. He pushed a number of conspiracy theories at the White House and DOJ (including the whack Italian one). Along with Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Perry was putting together plans for Trump to come to the Capitol on January 6. After one meeting with Perry, Meadows burned some papers.

Perry isn’t even the only one who was closely involved in the plot to steal the election. Jim Jordan, the incoming Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was closely involved as well and is very close to likely subject Mark Meadows.

Indeed, if you include all the members of Congress who discussed or asked for pardons, the number grows longer, in addition to Perry, including at least Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Jordan, Perry, Gaetz, Biggs, Gohmert, and Marge would amount to most of the probable seven person majority in the House.

Marge, as it turns out, is already dreaming up ways to defund this investigation (the means by which she wants to do this, the Holman Rule, probably wouldn’t work; I believe there’s a preauthorized fund from which Special Counsel expenses come from).

To be clear, thus far, Perry is the only one whose actions have overtly been the focus of legal process, when the FBI seized his phone back in August. It’s certainly possible DOJ did so only to get content, such as Signal texts, that implicate someone else, like Clark.

But given how close the majority in Congress is, any prosecution of a Republican member would threaten to disrupt that majority. Which means any investigation into Republican members of Congress would pose a more immediate threat to the current status quo than a Trump prosecution would.

Jack Smith’s background — including a stint heading DOJ’s Public Integrity Division during the period when Congressman Rick Renzi was prosecuted — is more suited for the January 6 investigation than the stolen document one. Including, as it turns out, the difficulties of prosecuting someone protected by the Speech and Debate clause.

Copyright © 2022 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2020-presidential-election/