Down a Mouse Hole with Bill Clinton’s Cat, Socks

When I first read this WaPo article yesterday, I was struck by two things: first, the revelation that when Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton appeared before a Jack Smith grand jury early this year, he was asked both about his central role in convincing Donald Trump he could rely on a case he, Fitton, lost, to justify stealing thousands of government documents (that’s the testimony we knew about), but also his role in January 6.

Fitton, who appeared before the grand jury and was questioned about his role in both the Mar-a-Lago documents case and the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, acknowledged he gave the advice to Trump but declined to discuss the details of their conversations.

I wasn’t aware that Fitton had much of a role in January 6.

I was also shocked that, in the spite of the grave damage Fitton’s crackpot advice had already done to Donald Trump’s future, he was nevertheless permitted to be there with the accused felon Monday night, dining on what was undoubtedly overcooked filet mignon, as Trump and his supporters discussed his plans for beating the rap.

In an interview Wednesday, Fitton said he dined with Trump on Monday night at his club, eating filet mignon with the former president one day before his first court appearance on the document charges. “I saw him last night; he’s in a good mood. He’s serious and ready to fight under the law.”

On top of the sheer stupidity of letting Fitton anywhere close to Trump in the wake of his indictment, Fitton’s presence presumably would breach any privilege claim lawyers present could make in the future.

The report that Fitton has been chatting with Trump this week explains some of the insanely stupid things Trump has said on his failing social media site, not to mention Trump’s deceit in claiming he would see everything presented to the grand jury, much less have already seen it before any protective order is signed and discovery is provided.

By invoking Clinton’s Socks, his term for Fitton’s failed lawsuit, Trump was falsely claiming to have inside knowledge of something that would have legal merit, presumably so his followers would believe Trump had some viable defense (that they would send him money to fund).

I was not, however, surprised by the sheer stupidity of the opinions Fitton expressed to WaPo.

“I think what is lacking is the lawyers saying, ‘I took this to be obstruction,’” said Fitton. “Where is the conspiracy? I don’t understand any of it. I think this is a trap. They had no business asking for the records … and they’ve manufactured an obstruction charge out of that. There are core constitutional issues that the indictment avoids, and the obstruction charge seems weak to me.”

Several other Trump advisers blamed Fitton for convincing Trump that he could keep the documents and repeatedly mentioning the “Clinton socks case” — a reference to tapes Bill Clinton stored in his sock drawer of his secret interviews with historian Taylor Branch that served as the basis of Branch’s 2009 book documenting the Clinton presidency.

Judicial Watch lost a lawsuit in 2012 that demanded the audio recordings be designated as presidential records and that the National Archives take custody of the recordings. A court opinion issued at the time stated that there was no legal mechanism for the Archives to force Clinton to turn over the recordings.

For his part, Fitton said Trump’s lawyers “should have been more aggressive in fighting the subpoenas and fighting for Trump.”

It’s not just that Fitton was allowed to share these legally incorrect opinions with Trump. It’s that he badly misunderstands how his own advice about the “Clinton Socks” case might be viewed as an agreement with Trump to enter into a conspiracy to withhold classified documents.

Remember, after Trump fucked up releasing the Crossfire Hurricane documents, Fitton went after them himself, only to reveal that the collection was just one dumbass binder.

Anyway, after puzzling through what role Tom Fitton might have had on January 6, I started reading through a motion to compel that Ruby Freeman’s attorneys served on pardoned felon Bernie Kerik last week. Bernie was the guy who mailed a key strategy document to Mark Meadows on December 28, 2020. In addition to making clear that Bernie was sharing the document to “move legislators,” not win court cases, it included exhibits laying out the claims about Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss that Rudy Giuliani would subsequently make publicly — that Freeman counted suitcases of votes multiple times after kicking out poll watchers, using a false claim of a water main break as the excuse — claims that Freeman alleges amount to defamation.

To be clear: those claims about Freeman are false, as is the claim she was arrested for her actions. Thus the lawsuit.

Freeman’s lawyers filed a motion to compel because when Kerik first responded to their subpoena last year, his attorney — Tim Parlatore — simply provided a link to the stuff that Kerik had provided to the January 6 Committee. Since then, Freeman’s lawyers argue, Rudy has disclaimed any work privilege claim over materials prepared for legislatures, as opposed to lawsuits. But when Freeman’s lawyers have gone back to Kerik to get the materials he withheld from J6C under a work product privilege claim that (they argue) Rudy has since waived, Parlatore explained there had been a “technical glitch” that creates some difficulties in consulting with Rudy’s attorney on the issue.

Relations between Parlatore and Freeman’s team have been sour for some time. Around the same time in December when Parlatore was telling a DC grand jury that he had done a diligent search of Bedminster — where at least two and probably a bunch of classified records have been sent, never to be seen again — he was telling Freeman’s team that Kerik didn’t have some documents that Freeman had obtained from other sources.

After Plaintiffs spent months negotiating with Mr. Kerik’s counsel and made more than a dozen unsuccessful attempts to effectuate personal service on Mr. Kerik,5 counsel for Mr. Kerik accepted service of the First Kerik Subpoena on November 14, 2022. (See Houghton-Larsen Decl. ¶ 4.) On November 21, 2022, Plaintiffs agreed to narrow the requests and provided examples of emails produced during discovery that were sent to Mr. Kerik but were not present in his production to the Select Committee. (See id. ¶ 5.) On December 21, 2022, Mr. Parlatore responded that “Mr. Kerik has looked and we do not seem to have any additional responsive documents to provide.” (See id. ¶ 6.) Mr. Kerik has never explained why he does “not seem to have” any of the example communications Plaintiffs provided to him, on which he was copied, and which have been produced by other parties.

By the time former Trump attorney Parlatore claimed a “technical glitch” was creating delays on June 7, the day before Trump was indicted, he also explained that, “there are other more pressing matters that have taken priority.”

The motion to compel includes fragments of both Rudy’s and Kerik’s March depositions in this case. In Kerik’s, Parlatore made a series of dickish responses to Freeman attorney Annie Houghton-Larsen’s questions that Parlatore deemed to ask for work product information, precisely the privilege claim that has since started to collapse.

In Rudy’s, there are a slew of hilarious responses showing how dissolute Rudy has gotten, such as when, struggling to come up with Sidney Powell’s name, he called her the Wicked Witch of the East.

Q. I’ll ask you about who was on it, but the team that was assembled at that point in time, is that the team that Ms. Bobb is referring to as the “Giuliani legal team”?

A. Correct.

Q. Now you can tell me, who was on this team?

A. It was myself, Jenna Ellis, Victoria Toensing, Joe DiGenova, Boris Epshteyn, originally.

We added Christina after about two weeks, and we added — oh my goodness, of course, her name will escape me.

Come on guys, help me. The wicked witch of the east.

Q. It’s — really, in this forum, I’m interested in what you remember.

A. Oh, I remember who it is. I just can’t remember the name. I block it out.

Q. We can come back to it.

A. On purpose. Everybody knows who it is.

Q. We can come back to it.

Anyone else aside apart this —

A. Sidney.

Q. Sidney?

A. It was Sidney.

Q. Sidney who?

MR COSTELLO: How could you forget that?

Q. Are you referring to Sidney Powell?

A. Sidney Powell, yeah.

Both men, however, struggled when asked about this passage of the strategy document, showing who, on December 28, its author considered key members of their team (Freedom Caucus members make the list on the following page), both struggled to remember who some of the members were.

There was little doubt that BK was Kerik and both ultimately decided that BE was Epshteyn.

But both simply couldn’t imagine what close Boris associate “SB” might be. Here’s Kerik’s epic struggle with the question:

Q. Okay. This might help you. Can we please turn to page 6.

Okay. So about two-thirds down the page it says, “Key team members. Rudy Giuliani.”

And then, “BK.” I’m assuming that’s you.

A. That’s probably me.

Q. Okay. “KF.” Do you know who that is?

A. Katherine Friess.

Q. And then, “Media advisors. SB.” Who do you think that is?

A. No idea. Well, I went through this before.

THE WITNESS: Who did I do this with? J6?

MR. PARLATORE: Probably.

THE WITNESS: Yeah. Boris Epshteyn would have been the BE. SB, I have no idea what that  is.


Q. Okay.

Sadly, Rudy dodged the TF question altogether and the excerpt cut off before Kerik was quizzed about the same question.

So we will have to wait to learn whether Tom Fitton is the TF who did influencer outreach on the effort to steal the election.

But it might help to explain why he was still welcome in the Boris Epshteyn-led effort to pursue political grievance rather than a sound legal defense.

37 replies
  1. Critter7 says:

    Concerning Strategic Comms Plan media advisors: Is there any doubt that SB = Steve Bannon?

    He and Epshteyn were in frequent communication throughout Nov 3 – Jan 6, including late-night phone calls; their public communications on Bannon’s War Room podcasts make that clear. And Rudy was also a frequent guest on War Room (20 appearances during that critical period).

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. Both “both mischief and heroism”, and you never know what is on the offer. It is the nature of the beast.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Bannon is probably correct as our guy, and the reason why Kerik ‘wouldn’t know him’ is doubtless fishy. Bannon is unrepentant as well as sleazy and sadly a former USN officer so he has no excuse for his actions.

  2. harpie says:

    I am so glad you wrote about SOCKS, because I’ve been transcribing TRUMP’s Post-Arraignment Comments at Bedminster, and he went on an extended rant about it…I had no idea!

    I just got a paragraph in when I was reminded again that of the two prongs Smith is appointed to investigate, the first is not just about 1/6/21:

    The first is the investigation, as described in court filings in the District of Columbia, 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 second is the ongoing investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records, as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation, referenced and described in court filings submitted in a pending matter in the Southern District of Florida. […]

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      I’m guessing it was the “Socks” decision, as relayed to her by Tom Fitton, that was on MTG’s mind when she posted: “Innocent President Trump is being arraigned today for fake charges about documents he is legally allowed to possess”.

      • Shadowalker says:

        Who knows why she does what she does? I really haven’t paid any attention to her since she was trying to make a big deal about a taped ball of dirt that was buried in “no man’s land” at the border. At least she had enough sense to reveal a Controlled Unclassified Document that didn’t impinge on any statute that I can determine.

  3. BobBobCon says:

    “Wicked Witch of the East” is an odd choice, because she’s nothing but a pair of legs under the edge of the house when she appears in The Wizard of Oz.

    I’m awfully curious if this is a hint that someone like Toensing was known in Rudy’s circles as the Wicked Witch of the West.

    • CovariantTensor says:

      Yes, it is curious that her nickname was after someone who was killed near the beginning of the story by Dorothy’s house.

      Frank Baum’s original story is sometimes interpreted as an allegory for the Republican Party, saying it can get back home again, after the progressive TR years. Now the GOP has lunged way too far in the opposite direction. I honestly hope it can find its way back home this time. We need at least two political parties, where one of them isn’t batshit crazy.

      Funny, I sometimes have the same mental block against Sydney Powell’s name.

      • EuroTark says:

        We need at least two political parties, where one of them isn’t batshit crazy.

        Hailing from an European nation that currently has 10 parties represented in parliament, of which two of them govern in minority, I sincerely hope the US adopts proportional representation to allow several parties to grow forth. I’ll just add that from an European perspective, there’s plenty of room to the left of the Democratic party.

  4. CovariantTensor says:

    So Clinton’s cat has been immortalized by a legal case? Reminds me a lot of my tuxie cat.

  5. Ian_23JAN2019_2249h says:

    If memory serves, Tom Fitton isn’t a lawyer, is he? Or am I thinking of someone else?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. THIRD REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short (and common, as previously noted) it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. Failure to comply may result in auto-moderation. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It won’t be long before Trump explicitly campaigns on Vote for Me, Keep Me Out of Prison and in Your White House. He doesn’t have much of a legal defense, and much of this information will bleed into other likely cases.

  7. Rugger_9 says:

    In full snark mode, ‘SB’ could refer to ‘stupid bastard’ which merely applies to about 20 or so associates or perhaps just Jared. Dougie Feith was already out of government.

    With that said, this is a multiprong conspiracy that involved a lot of GOP leadership, Roger Stone, Erik Prince and a whole host of unsavory characters, so missing someone like Fitton is understandable. Was Fitton part of the crew of motleys that Garrett Zeigler let into the Oval Office on 05 JAN 2021?

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    I’ve suspected that Tom Fitton was one of the chief planners of the coup plot. I’m very heartened to hear he’s being questioned.

    You might remember a guest post I did about the fake electors scheme ( I started off with a quote from a great article by Barton Gelman published in September 2020

    According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.

    If the feds are talking to Fitton, I think that means that they came to the same conclusion I did. That the scheme was hashed out at the August 2020 meeting of the Council for National Policy. Donald Trump, Sidney Powell, Jenny Beth Martin, Simone Gold, Charlie Kirk, Brent Bozell III, Cleta Mitchell, and the Conservative Action Project were all on the agenda at that meeting. Tom Fitton led two sessions on “Election Integrity”. A Washington Post reporter who had access to video from that meeting described one comment from Fitton:

    Expressing concern about voter fraud and disenfranchisement, Fitton called on the audience to find a way to prevent mail-in ballots from being sent to voters. “We need to stop those ballots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do,” said Fitton, whose organization is a tax-exempt charity. “But this is a crisis that we’re not prepared for. I mean, our side is not prepared for.”

  9. LeeNLP941 says:

    It seems pretty clear that Rudy is in cognitive decline, possibly early dementia. This is actually pretty sad.

    • Kope a Pia says:

      Rudy is 79 years old so that cognitive decline could just be dementia, the term early onset is reserved to describe those starting Alzheimers symptoms before age 65.

      From my point of view Rudy has been a sad asshole all of his adult life.

  10. vigetnovus says:

    Researchers: SP and CR

    Dare I say Sydney Powell and Chuck Ross? I mean I never knew that Chuck Ross might’ve been on the payroll, but I know he and Sidney are tight, so who knows?

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think it’s Chuck Ross. But Sidney did come up in Kerik’s interview. He suggested the timing might be off.

    • harpie says:


      We Have 10 Days To Execute This Plan & Certify President Trump!

      GOAL: Nationwide communications outreach campaign to educate the public on the fraud numbers, and inspire citizens to call upon legislators and Members of Congress to disregard the fraudulent vote count and certify the duly-elected President Trump
      TIMELINE: Dec 27th – Jan 6th
      […] Research Team – CR and SP […]

      Compiled by Christos Makridis and Soula Parassidis [pdf 16-17] […]

      ^^^^^ Maybe these people?

      • Rayne says:

        Hmm. It’s possible CR is a typo and Christos Makridis was the intended name.

        What about Chris Rufo and his spouse Suphatra Paravichai? I don’t know what they were doing in 2020. Rufo appears to be a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, but he’s also been with the Discovery Institute, the Claremont Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (which is definitely not against intolerance and racism).

        EDIT: that last group formed at the beginning of 2021, so it’s not the group Rufo would have been with to do research.

        • harpie says:

          That does sound more likely. I don’t know anything about them…will have to look.

          Looking for this made me realize I typed the whole thing out, but never posted it in a comment…not that it seems necessary at this point. [shrug]

          • Rayne says:

            I’ll be interested in whatever you might dig up. I’m drawing a blank but Rufo has been places which are suspect and managed to become a figurehead since early 2021 because of CRT.

            Which makes me wonder if he was encouraged to promulgate the stupid and racist CRT moral panic to redirect attention and hide right-wing operations?

            The New Yorker says he was on Tucker Carlson’s show Sept 2, 2020, and on the phone the next morning with Mark Meadows. Did Rufo and his spouse end up working on messaging for Team Trump after that point, I wonder.

            Still, CR could be a typo referring to Makridis.

        • harpie says:

          Critical race theory, and Trump’s war on it, explained Trump has attacked diversity training, critical race theory, the 1619 project, and anything that reckons with America’s racist past. 9/24/20

          The administration’s war against “race-based ideologies” — code for theories and practices that examine the racism in American history and institutions — started on September 4 when Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Russell Vought, at Trump’s behest, released a memo […]

          the OMB memo cites press reports as factors in Trump’s decision. In July, Fox News began airing segments featuring conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo, who in mid-August told Tucker Carlson that he was “declaring a one-man war against critical race theory in the federal government, and I’m not going to stop these investigations until we can abolish it within our public institutions.” He tweeted on August 20, “My goal is simple: to persuade the President of the United States to issue an executive order abolishing critical race theory in the federal government.”

        • harpie says:

          [I’m reiterating this comment which is in moderation, and can just stay there…besides, this way, I can correct a typo :-)]

          Anti-civil rights activist Chris Rufo has extensive ties to Christian nationalist-led Center for Renewing America CRA is a MAGA-aligned think tank with grand plans to decimate elements of the federal government
 4/3/23 [RUSSEL VOUGHT et al]

          More on CRA:

        • harpie says:

          Rayne, I’ve tried twice to get the same comment through, but the system doesn’t like it, for some reason. [The second attempt is better than the first] It’s about Rufo and Center for Renewing America [CRA]- ie: VOUGHT, etc]

          I haven’t found anything about his wife, yet.

          [6:45 pm — I just released one you attempted at 5:57 pm ET — think it was held up by the active links. If they don’t go through on first attempt, try adding spaces to URLs to “break” the links to see if they clear. Sorry and thanks. /~Rayne]

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