February 24, 2024 / by 

 

Donald Trump Has Chosen to Pay Millions to Trash Rule of Law

I have a standing complaint that reporters serially fall into Donald Trump’s trap of reporting on his courtroom tantrums rather than the evidence of his fraud and crime presented therein. But I’m going to do just that, because I believe reporters are misunderstanding the way in which Donald Trump is approaching the second E. Jean Carroll trial and what it bodes for his attack on democracy ahead.

It started with a series of requests to delay the trial so Trump could attend the funeral of Melania’s mother.

The funeral was a ruse: even as he made the requests, Trump continued to obviously and publicly plan campaign events in New Hampshire for the period of potential delay. After initial denials, Alina Habba renewed the request to the famously irascible Judge Lewis Kaplan. That drew a predictable rebuke, in response to which Habba mouthed off to the judge.

Earlier Wednesday, Kaplan told Habba to sit down after she tried yet again to get Kaplan to postpone the trial on Thursday so Trump could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral.

“I will hear no further argument on it. None. Do you understand that word? None. Please sit down,” Kaplan said.

“I don’t like to be spoken to that way,” Habba responded.

Habba had to have know this would go over poorly. She attended Trump’s first rape trial. Plus, even a parking garage lawyer from New Jersey would know of Kaplan’s strict decorum in his court.

Habba invited follow-on rebukes by failing other basic rules of trial decorum.

Over the course of the day, Trump’s attorneys asked Kaplan first to recuse, then for a mistrial, just as they repeatedly did with Judge Arthur Engoron in Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Then Carroll took the stand. Throughout, Trump audibly fumed, leading Carroll’s lawyer to ask Judge Kaplan to quiet him. That led, again predictably, to a clash between him and Kaplan.

“Mr. Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited, and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which is what has been reported to me,” the judge said.

Kaplan then spoke directly to Trump, who was seated at the defense table. “Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” he said. “I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that.”

At that point, Trump threw up his hands, saying, “I would love it. I would love it.”

“I know you would. I know you would,” Kaplan replied. “You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently.”

Trump shot back: “You can’t either.”

Again, all this was predictable. And commentators are probably correct in guessing that they’ll lead the jury to boost the award.

But two things about this reality theater make me convinced it is also entirely planned.

First, something led Joe Tacopina to drop off the team the day before trial. In the past, other lawyers have dropped when they had a conflict with Boris Epshteyn, who continues to run the reality TV show that substitutes for Trump’s legal defenses. And Epshteyn even attempted to speak up, before Judge Kaplan told him, as he has told Habba repeatedly, to take a seat.

The other indication that this has all been carefully scripted are Trump’s posts, rolling out even as he sits in the courtroom without his phone, defaming Carroll again over and over, or bitching about Kaplan. Either Trump drafted those posts in advance, or granted a staffer license to defame and attack on his behalf.

This one attacking Judge Kaplan, for example, suggests that his (male) lawyer asked him not to attend his last rape trial, but now he is attending to witness what Trump falsely claims is bias and unfairness.

Trump is attending this trial, which will almost certainly result in much larger award for Carroll than she would otherwise get, in order to delegitimize it.

And Trump has decided it is worth millions to do that.

Given that he’s a notorious cheapskate who stiffs his lawyers, that ought to give commentators pause. Does he simply plan to not pay, setting up further confrontation and ultimately a contempt fight? What then? A call to violence?

This ploy comes at a key time,  too. After the Iowa caucus, with its anemic turnout signaling Trump’s expected victory may shrink the GOP so badly it will lose races up and down the ballot, political journalism instead turned to treating the results themselves as news. WaPo paid almost 20 journalists to write 10 stories the day after the caucus! Political journalists want to pretend everything is normal.

Yet Trump has not been running a campaign. He has been running an effort to consolidate the party to him, increasingly committed to his attack on rule of law.

Within days (hopefully), the DC Circuit will rule that he is not immune (and therefore Joe Biden can’t assassinate him with impunity), which will finally set up a test of SCOTUS’ willingness to rule against him criminally.

His other court filings are similarly descending into louder and louder wails.

At the same time, even before joining Mike Roman’s challenge to Fani Willis in Georgia, he has started working her into court filings in other cases, as in this motion to compel in the Florida case.

A January 12, 2024 congressional inquiry and other sources indicate that such materials exist. See Ex. 63. Specifically, Congress sent a letter to “Attorney Consultant” and “Special Assistant District Attorney” Nathan Wade regarding documents suggesting that Wade helped coordinate with the Biden Administration in 2022. One of Wade’s invoices indicates that he devoted eight hours to a “conf. with White House Counsel” on May 23, 2022. Id. at 2. The meeting occurred within weeks of the New York Times reporting on President Biden’s leaked statement that President Trump “should be prosecuted,” Ex. 62 at 1, and around the same time that Jonathan Su, from the White House Counsel’s Office, was working with NARA to manipulate the PRA in an effort to disclose records to the FBI and the January 6th Committee.

Willis will not formally respond until early February, after responding to Nathan Wade’s divorce, leaving a vacuum where any explanation should be. And while I think this report gets ahead of the verified facts, it’s a good warning of where the challenge to Willis may go. Until that is resolved, Trump will try to taint every single legal case against him with a tie to Willis.

Plus, it’s not just Trump whose legal woes are coming to a head. Peter Navarro is set to be sentenced January 25, and there have been sealed filings in DOJ’s civil suit to recover encrypted comms from him that should have been provided under the President Records Act. Steve Bannon’s New York trial is set for May.

Roger Stone is even back under investigation (even beyond the January 6 investigation) for his reported discussions of assassinating Jerry Nadler or Eric Swalwell.

Trump’s entire fascist cohort would, in a normal world, be facing up to the possibility of consequences for their acts.

But that’s not how this crowd rolls. They would rather bring down rule of law in the US than face consequences themselves. Indeed, it’s such a central part of their plan that Trump’s actually willing to spend money — or invite contempt, followed by whatever incitement with which he responds.

It is a category error to view Trump’s trial tantrums within the rubric of normal legal consequences, even in Kaplan’s entirely predictable courtroom. They are, instead, part of a concerted effort to take down rule of law. For years, Trump has been training his cult to loathe rule of law, and his latest theater is all part of that process.

Even as Trump is ensuring he will be the GOP’s only possibly choice in November, he is also guaranteeing that the entire party will need his attack on rule of law to succeed.

Trump’s fascist mouthpiece, Stephen Miller, has even already started a campaign claiming that Joe Biden is causing the chaos that Trump is about to unleash.

It’s all part of the plan.


The Coke-in-Gun Actually Harms David Weiss’ Case

As prosecutors are wont to do, David Weiss’ prosecution team used its response to Hunter Biden’s selective and vindictive prosecution claim to air embarrassing dirt.

As dick pic sniffing scribes are wont to do, most outlets glommed onto those details — one in particular — rather than discussing Weiss’ legal arguments. NYPost, CNN, AP, WaPo all presented the following detail without any consideration of whether it helps — or hurts — David Weiss’ case against Hunter.

In 2023, FBI investigators pulled sealed evidence from the state police vault to take photographs of the defendant’s firearm. After opening the evidence, FBI investigators observed a white powdery substance on the defendant’s brown leather pouch that had held the defendant’s firearm in October 2018. Based on their training and experience, investigators believed that this substance was likely cocaine and that this evidence would corroborate the messages that investigators had obtained which showed the defendant buying and using drugs in October 2018. An FBI chemist subsequently analyzed the residue and determined that it was cocaine. To be clear, investigators literally found drugs on the pouch where the defendant had kept his gun.

At the very least, the incident betrays the lack of certain kinds of evidence that Weiss may need to defeat the filing in question — and arguably, helps to prove Hunter’s argument that Weiss only considered gun charges after Republicans started ratcheting up political pressure to do so.

As noted, this is a response to Hunter’s motion to dismiss on selective and vindictive prosecution grounds, in which he argued that:

  • DOJ would not charge other people based on the same set of facts — and indeed had guidelines advising against it
  • In response to political pressure, including but not limited to Republican Members of Congress and Trump, David Weiss reneged on a plea deal and decided to charge Hunter with three felonies rather than respect a diversion agreement
  • Congress forced this issue by demanding Weiss prosecute more harshly

Weiss’ response — written by Derek Hines, the same AUSA who simply did not address some of the evidence of politicization Hunter cited — spent over half the filing addressing Hunter’s selective prosecution claim, in spite of the fact that that’s the easiest claim to rebut. He simply repeated, as all such responses do, that Hunter hasn’t found someone similarly situated who wasn’t charged (the argument surely invites Abbe Lowell to raise Don Jr’s apparent impairment or Trump’s temporary possession of a gun after having been charged with dozens of felonies). There are weaknesses in that section — he ignores DOJ’s guidance, rather than addressing Hunter’s assertion that the charge is used in conjunction with other crimes, he instead uses data on straw purchases (which this was not) to claim Hunter’s lie was itself an aggravating factor.

With this chart, Hines is, at best, misleadingly presenting Hunter’s alleged false statement as a different, far more premeditated false statement than Hunter is accused of.

Abbe Lowell will have plenty of meat to respond to in that section, but as I have said repeatedly, Hunter probably doesn’t offer as much as he’d need to to win a selective prosecution claim.

A vindictive prosecution claim is something else. Hines admits that Hunter describes a right he exercised that was the reason for the vindictive prosecution, but complains that merely being the sole surviving son of Donald Trump’s opponent is not a constitutionally protected right.

The defendant does not attempt to show causal linkage between a legal right exercised by him and his prosecution. In his motion, the defendant appears generally to identify one legal right that he claims he exercised which he alleges caused his indictment: “engaging in constitutionally protected speech and political activity.” ECF 63 at 49. But he fails to identify with any specificity what his constitutionally protected speech or his political activity was. For example, he does not contend that he made a public political statement, nor does he identify which statement caused prosecutors to have animus. His failure to identify facts that support any actual legal right that he exercised should prevent this court from moving forward to even analyze his vindictive prosecution claim because no court has recognized a derivative vindictive prosecution claim based on a family member’s exercise of rights. [emphasis original]

Hines pretty much lies about how much Weiss ratcheted up the potential punishment against Hunter, which is the proof that prosecutors took vindictive action against Hunter for exercising his rights.

What Hines does not do — not in the least — is address Lowell’s map of how, as political pressure from Republicans ratcheted up, David Weiss reneged on the specific terms in a plea agreement. The latest communication from the ones submitted to the record that he cites was dated May 23, 2023, before the political pressure started ratcheting up.

For example, in an email to defense counsel dated May 18, 2023, about “a potential nontrial resolution,” Document 60-6 at p. 2, the AUSA stated, “As I said during our call, the below list is preliminary in nature and subject to change. We have not discussed or obtained approval for these terms, but are presenting them in an attempt to advance our discussions about a potential non-trial resolution . . .” The following week, in an email to defense counsel dated May 23, 2023, Document 60-9 at p. 3, the AUSA stated, “As we indicated in our emails and discussions we did not have approval for a pre-trial diversion agreement. As you know, that authority rests with the US Attorney who ultimately did not approve continued discussions for diversion related to the tax charges.” [emphasis original]

Hines ignores that, according to Chris Clark’s declaration and a great deal of back-up submitted with it, David Weiss was personally involved in language crafted two weeks after that May 23 email.

Later that afternoon, on June 6, 2023, I spoke directly with U.S. Attorney Weiss. During that call, I conveyed to U.S. Attorney Weiss that the Agreement’s immunity provision must ensure Mr. Biden that there would be finality and closure of this investigation, as I had conveyed repeatedly to AUSA Wolf during our negotiations. I further conveyed to U.S. Attorney Weiss that this provision was a deal-breaker. I noted that U.S. Attorney Weiss had changed the deal several times heretofore, and that I simply could not have this issue be yet another one which Mr. Biden had to compromise. The U.S. Attorney asked me what the problem was with the proposed language, and I explained that the immunity provision must protect Mr. Biden from any future prosecution by a new U.S. Attorney in a different administration. The U.S. Attorney considered the proposal and stated that he would get back to me promptly.

29. Later that same evening on June 6, 2023, at or around 5:47 PM EST, AUSA Wolf emailed me proposed language for the immunity provision that read: “How about this- The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, for any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day.” (Emphasis in original.) After speaking with Mr. Biden, I responded to AUSA Wolf that the language she sent me “works” and is suitable for Mr. Biden as well, at which point the Parties had a deal. A true and correct and correct copy of AUSA Wolf’s June 6, 2023, email to Chris Clark is attached hereto as Exhibit K.

30. On June 7, 2023, AUSA Wolf emailed me a revised draft of the Diversion Agreement that incorporated the language she had proposed in her June 6 email to me. In that draft, the revised Paragraph 15 provided that “The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, for any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day.” (Emphasis added.) A true and correct copy of AUSA Wolf’s June 7, 2023, email and redlined Diversion Agreement to Chris Clark is attached hereto as Exhibit L. [emphasis original]

That is, as late as June 6 — the day before that the pressure on Weiss started to publicly ratchet up — David Weiss had personally sanctioned a misdemeanor plea with a gun diversion. That was long after, importantly, the agreement to treat the gun charges via diversion.

That is, Derek Hines simply doesn’t address the abundant evidence that Weiss reneged on a commitment he had personally committed to after coming under political pressure.

As I have laid out, normally these kinds of vindictive prosecution claims are almost as easy to rebut as selective prosecution claims. I described what you might expect in a case arguing that a prosecutor decided to ratchet up charges in response to improper influence: Some kind of language addressing what changed to justify ratcheting up the charges.

You can see how this works in the case of Hatchet Speed, based on facts — involving felony gun charges in one district and the addition of a felony charge to a misdemeanor in another — not dissimilar from Hunter’s case. On January 6, Speed was an NRO contractor with TS/SCI clearance and a Naval reservist still training at Andrews Air Force Base. He had ties to the Proud Boys and expressed a fondness for Hitler. He went on a $50,000 weapon buying spree after January 6, including devices that — prosecutors successfully argued in a second trial — qualified as silencers under federal law. He was charged for unregistered silencers in EDVA and, at first, misdemeanor trespassing charges for his actions on January 6. Between the time his first EDVA trial ended in mistrial and a guilty verdict in his retrial, DOJ added a felony obstruction charge in DC, which his excellent FPD attorneys argued was retaliation for the mistrial. But DOJ responded with an explanation of the process leading to the addition of the felony obstruction charge: they added a second prosecutor, got better at prosecuting obstruction for January 6, found some more damning video of Speed at the Capitol, and came to recognize how Speed’s comments about the attack would prove the corrupt intent required for obstruction charges. They were pretty honest that they regarded Speed as a dangerous dude that they wanted to put away, too.

The same process might well happen if Lowell files a vindictive prosecution claim. Under Goodwin, Weiss might have to do little more than say there was a societal interest in jailing Hunter Biden to affirm the import of the gun laws his father continues to champion.

Normally, prosecutors simply point to some evidence obtained after an initial prosecution decision that changed prosecutors mind about charging.

But Hines doesn’t assert to have any of that in this filing!! Not even the argument I expected — that it’s important that Joe Biden’s kid be subject to the same gun laws that his father champions with everyone else.

What he has (as noted by the timeline below) are a series of dates — including for the discovery of the cocaine residue in the pouch — that Hines obscures.

Rather than a specific explanation of what changed to merit the three gun felonies instead of a diversion, there’s this patently dishonest claim about when the prosecution got evidence in this case.

First, the defendant claims, “DOJ obtained the facts underlying this case years ago and was satisfied the case did not warrant prosecution.” ECF 63 at 50. This is inaccurate. Many of the incriminating facts were discovered years after the conduct when prosecutors had received the defendant’s Apple messages and when the defendant released his incriminating book. There is no evidence that the DOJ decided that this case did not warrant prosecution “years ago.”

The thing about investigations into events that happened five years ago is that prosecutors can have obtained evidence “years ago” that they nevertheless obtained “years after” the alleged crime. Hines is playing word games: The indictment relies heavily on Hunter’s 272-page book, which had been out over two years before David Weiss personally blessed a diversion for the charges.

What prosecutors don’t say — what they would have to say to explain how new evidence led them to change their minds about charging — is that they obtained that evidence between the day David Weiss blessed a diversion agreement — well before June 6 — and the date he decided to charge felonies that Hines argues, while reserving the right to ask for a bunch of enhancements, expose Hunter to 15-21 months’ imprisonment.

Instead, Derek Hines hides what date prosecutors obtained that coke residue evidence. If I’m right that the warrant to search Hunter’s iCloud content was obtained in December — after indicting this crime — then it would be the opposite of proof (again, I’ve asked Weiss’ office for clarity on this point, because I can’t believe they’d only obtain that warrant after indicting). But that is consistent with the discovery motion that described the first batch of discovery only amounted to 350 pages of evidence (which, if it included the whole book would only include 78 additional pages of evidence).

On October 12, 2023, the government provided to the defendant a production of materials consisting of over 350 pages of documents as well as additional electronic evidence from the defendant’s Apple iCloud account and a copy of data from the defendant’s laptop. This production included search warrants related to evidence the government may use in its case-inchief in the gun case, statements of the defendant including his admissions that he was addicted to crack cocaine and possessed a firearm in 2018, and law enforcement reports related to the gun investigation.

More importantly is what this motion doesn’t say. First of all, in spite of falsely treating Hunter’s false statement as if it were a straw purchase to claim an aggravating factor, it provides zero evidence that Hunter had the intent of deceiving on that form. It provides evidence, instead, that Hunter was paranoid and trying to find a way to protect himself and totally out of his mind, the opposite of what you need to prove a willful lie.

Worse still, what the motion literally shows is the reverse of what Hines’ dick-wag in the paragraph all the dick pic sniffers have picked up on. Yes, “to be clear, investigators literally found drugs on the pouch where the defendant had kept his gun.” That impressed the hell out of the dick pic sniffers. But to be clearer, investigators literally didn’t look for drug residue on the gun until five years, possibly longer, after law enforcement seized the gun. 

Even if that drug residue had been found between July 26 and September 14, it’d still be proof that prosecutors never took basic steps towards charging gun crimes until after Republicans brought their heat. If it happened before June 20 in 2023, it’d be even further proof that that Devlin Barrett story did what it was designed to do: to politicize this case. If it happened in December, then it’s a sign of real negligence and dishonesty.

Whatever it is, it proved more useful for impressing the dick pic sniffers than it will in defeating Hunter’s vindictive prosecution claim.

Update: Weiss’ spox declines to comment beyond the court filings.

Update: Fixed the grammar in vindictive action.

Timeline

October 2018: The gun, ammunition, and speed loader were placed in evidence

August 2019: The tax and foreign influence peddling iCloud warrant Weiss claims to be relying on obtained

December 2019: When Weiss obtained the laptop, but he doesn’t provide the exact date or discuss the provenance problems of it

August 2020: An iCloud warrant, probably the fruit of the laptop and almost definitely also limited to tax and influence peddling crimes, that Weiss mentions in a footnote but doesn’t acknowledge in the text

April 6, 2021: Publication date of Hunter’s book, which specific date Weiss does not include in the filing.

March 2022: Prosecutors first inform Chris Clark they are considering gun charges.

October 6, 2022: Politicized leak to Devlin Barrett designed to pressure David Weiss into charging gun charges.

October 31, 2022: Chris Clark notes that prosecutors didn’t tell him of potential gun crimes until March 2022.

Since December 2020, nearly all of our meetings, phone calls, and correspondence with your Office have related to the Government’s investigation of Mr. Biden for possible tax offenses. It was not until a phone call in March 2022—over a year into our cooperative dialogue—that your Office disclosed a potential investigation of Mr. Biden for possible firearms offenses (the “Firearm Investigation”).

September 14, 2023: Weiss obtains gun indictment just before speedy trial clock expires.

ND: Prosecutors obtain a warrant, listed as 23-507M, to “to search the defendant’s electronic evidence for evidence of federal firearms violations and to seize such data.” The filing does not provide a date for this warrant, but 23-mj-504 was an arrest warrant obtained on November 30 and 23-mj-508 was an arrest warrant obtained on December 4, 2023. I have asked Weiss’ office for clarification on whether this warrant could possibly have been obtained in December, almost three months after the indictment.

ND: Sometime in 2023, date not given, but by description after the gun-related warrant, prosecutors access the gun that has been in storage for over 5 years and “notice” it has cocaine residue on it, which is when they first sent it for FBI analysis.


David Weiss Buries Bill Barr Right Alongside Tony Bobulinski

For a second time, David Weiss’ Special Counsel team has buried an inconvenient (some)body to avoid accounting for the politicization of the investigation they claim is not political.

This time, it’s Bill Barr.

Across three responses pertaining to political influence submitted yesterday — request for discovery, immunity through diversion agreement, and selective and vindictive prosecution — the prosecutors used a variety of tactics to simply avoid dealing with inconvenient evidence.

In the discovery response, after describing discovery production to date — 500,000 pages of which came on January 9 — Derek Hines argued that under Armstrong, Hunter Biden hadn’t reached the threshold for discovery, primarily addressing selective prosecution rather than vindictive (as I’ll show, Hines ignores much of Hunter’s vindictive prosecution argument). In claiming there’s no evidence to support discovery, his discovery response doesn’t address a single piece of evidence that Hunter showed to support his argument. Instead, it paraphrases Hunter’s two discovery requests (one, two) this way:

  • Emails, documents, and information reflecting deliberative processes and decision-making of DOJ concerning the investigation and its decision to bring charges against the defendant. ECF 65 at ¶¶ E, G
  • Emails, documents, and information concerning communications with Congress and “any person at the U.S. Department of Justice” “concerning the investigation or prosecution of Mr. Biden, including the decision to bring any particular charges.” ECF 65 at ¶ H
  • “All documents and records reflecting communications from January 20, 2017 to the present (the “Relevant Time Period”) to, from, between, or among Donald J. Trump, William P. Barr, Geoffrey Berman, Scott W. Brady, Richard Donoghue, or Jeffrey A. Rosen relating to or discussing any formal or informal investigation or prosecution of Hunter Biden, or a request thereof” ECF 66 at ¶ 1
  • “All documents and records reflecting communications from the Relevant Time Period to, from, between, or among Donald J. Trump, William P. Barr, Geoffrey Berman, Scott W. Brady, Richard Donoghue, or Jeffrey A. Rosen and any Executive Branch official, political appointee, Department of Justice official, government agency, government official or staff person, cabinet member, or attorney for President Trump (personal or other) discussing or concerning Hunter Biden.” ECF 66 at ¶ 2

The paraphrase ignores items in Hunter’s first request pertaining to John Paul Mac Isaac (yesterday’s filings reference the laptop without describing its provenance or whether and how follow-on warrants relied on it), to disciplinary investigations, leak investigations, and other communication with the press (one of which Hines specifically relies on in his responses), as well as draft 302s and FD-1023s like the one recording an unreliable Tony Bobulinski interview made after being hosted by Donald Trump (which, as I noted, Weiss distorted the facts to exclude from the tax indictment, just as he distorts the facts regarding Barr’s involvement) or an informant report obtained via a dedicated channel for Rudy Giuliani’s dirt.

That is, Hines simply ignores a number of items in Hunter’s request that prove Trump’s personal and ongoing tampering in this investigation.

The discovery response likewise ignores Hunter’s request for subpoenas for materials in the possession of Trump and others, including Barr, which was cited in Hunter’s own discovery motion, even though Hines dealt with comments Trump made on Truth Social this way, in his selective and vindictive response:

The next statements by Trump cited by the defendant in support of his argument (ECF 63 at 31) occurred in 2023, now on a website called “Truth Social.” After the defendant filed his motion, undersigned counsel have tried to gain access to the website to verify the authenticity of the “Truth Social” messages cited by the defendant, but the site apparently is not functional:

Accordingly, while the government has not verified the accuracy of the messages or been able to assess any surrounding context that the defendant may have omitted, it is still clear that these supposed messages do not advance the defendant’s claim.

“Let me subpoena all the threats made by Donald Trump on his social media site,” Hunter asked. And after Leo Wise claimed that’s not necessary, Hines professed to be utterly incompetent to be able to find those threats, including at least one targeting David Weiss personally, published publicly. That, even though other parts of DOJ have proven perfectly capable of accessing Truth Social — for example, after Taylor Taranto used the address for Barack Obama that Trump posted there to start stalking the Kalorama neighborhood of Trump’s predecessor. DOJ knows how to find threats Trump elicits on Truth Social, but poor Derek Hines claims he doesn’t have any way of doing that.

You know how you might get those posts, Derek Hines? A subpoena.

But it is in Bill Barr’s role where this response is most telling (particularly given Hines’ paraphrase ignoring FD-1023s).

Here’s how, in the selective and vindictive response, he addressed Hunter’s request for information from Bill Barr.

Even the contents of most of the tweets cited by the defendant contradict his claim that he is being selectively and vindictively prosecuted. For example, according to the defendant, on December 12, 2020, former President Trump complained that then-Attorney General Barr did not “reveal the truth” to the public before the election about Hunter Biden. ECF 63 at 29. If the DOJ was acting to pursue a political agenda, wouldn’t DOJ have done the opposite? The defendant says President Trump tweeted, “I have NOTHING to do with the potential prosecution of Hunter Biden, or the Biden family. . . ” Id. That claim of non-involvement does not support his claim. According to the defendant, in his book, Attorney General Barr stated he was asked by President Trump about the investigation of Hunter Biden, and Attorney General Barr refused to tell him about it. Id. at 30. This withholding of information does not support his argument.

And here’s how Hines dodged any discussion of the Deputy Attorney General’s role in channeling Russian disinformation — as well as an FD-1023 obtained via a dedicated channel from Trump’s personal lawyer — into the investigation of the son of Trump’s campaign opponent.

In this same section of his brief, the defendant cites testimony of an IRS employee who stated that DOJ made the decision not to take overt investigative steps that could influence the 2020 election. Id. The problematic conduct that the defendant complains of is that the Deputy Attorney General’s office during the Trump Administration was aware of and involved in some specific investigatory decisions in the most banal fashion possible—by waiting to take specific investigative steps at certain times out of caution so that that investigation would not influence a Presidential election. If the defendant’s vindictiveness allegations were true, wouldn’t DOJ prosecutors have done the opposite and permitted investigators to take overt steps that could have influenced the election? These claims show only that career DOJ prosecutors and DOJ leadership acted appropriately when investigating the son of a candidate for President. Moreover, against this backdrop, U.S. Attorney Weiss was then asked to remain U.S. Attorney during the Biden Administration, which further underscores the lack of discriminatory intent.

As Wise did in the filing claiming to need no subpoena, Hines did here: both completely ignored that Hunter has pointed to official records, which are in no way deliberative, showing that months after Donald Trump asked Volodymyr Zelenskyy to provide campaign dirt to Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr, days after (per Chuck Grassley) shutting down an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, the former Attorney General set up a channel dedicated to ingesting dirt from Rudy, including from Zlochevsky and known agents of Russia, to be laundered into the investigation of Hunter Biden.

That response ignores several aspects — either implicit or explicit — of Hunter’s request:

  • Joseph Ziegler initially claimed (he subsequently backed off this claim) that Bill Barr personally decided to put the investigation in Delaware, an appropriate venue to investigate Joe Biden, but not for Hunter’s suspected tax crimes
  • Bill Barr set up a back channel to receive Rudy Giuliani’s dirt targeting Hunter and Joe Biden, including dirt obtained from Mykola Zlochevsky and known Russian agent Andrii Derkach
  • Days after Trump harangued Bill Barr personally (described in his book as a response to the initial NY Post story published on October 14), Richard Donoghue ordered Weiss’ team to accept a briefing on the FD-1023 (which happened on October 23 — the same day Bobulinski met with the FBI)
  • Bill Barr told Margot Cleveland, for a story published just as David Weiss started reneging on a plea deal in June, that he was personally involved in sharing the FD-1023 with Weiss’ office

And if Weiss responded to Hunter’s request for “communications with Congress,” he would have to provide the following:

  • Discussions Barr had with Lindsey Graham about the dedicated channel he was setting up to target Hunter Biden
  • The correspondence via which DOJ told Jerry Nadler about the dedicated channel for Rudy’s dirt
  • The July 10 letter from Weiss to Lindsey Graham stating that the FD-1023 produced by that dedicated channel was still being investigated, crucial evidence of what I called the FARA headfake inventing a reason to reopen the investigation
  • Chuck Grassley’s October 23 letter to Merrick Garland describing that days before Barr set up that dedicated channel and around the time when Zlochevsky made unprecedented claims of having bribed Joe Biden, Bill Barr’s DOJ shut down a corruption investigation whence the FD-1023 would be reverse engineered via Barr’s dedicated channel
  • Scott Brady’s testimony describing:
    • The dedicated channel to launder dirt into the Hunter Biden investigation involved 5 prosecutors in Brady’s office (including him), plus some number of FBI people
    • Between January and October 2020, Brady spoke to Weiss every four to six weeks about this dedicated channel
    • Brady demanded — and after some “colorful” language with Weiss, got — interrogatories regarding the scope of Weiss’ investigation
    • In his initial explanation, Brady said his team found that lead via asking the FBI to search on “Hunter Biden” and “Burisma,” precisely the request Trump had made of Volodymyr Zlochevsky
    • The reinterview of the Zlochevsky informant came at Brady’s direction
    • Brady’s claimed vetting of the Zlochevsky lead included checking travel records (the dates of which were not included on the FD-1023) but did not include comparing Zlochevsky’s claims against the materials from impeachment or even public reporting that conflicted with it
    • He “reminded” Weiss of the obligation to investigate leads
    • He provided a report to Donoghue in September 2020 that would in no way be deliberative
    • He got Donoghue to intervene when Weiss’ team showed reluctance to accept his laundered dirt
    • Brady personally kept Bill Barr informed of his efforts
  • David Weiss’ testimony describing:
    • He never spoke with Joe Biden about remaining on as US Attorney, has not been supervised by any political appointee since 2022, and has never once spoken to his boss, Lisa Monaco
    • He did speak with Bill Barr about remaining on as US Attorney
    • He has never had direct communication with Merrick Garland save the written communication in which he asked to be made Special Counsel
    • The discussion he had with LA US Attorney Martin Estrada goes to the merits of the case that Estrada said would not be worth charging that Weiss has since charged
    • He always intended to continue the investigation into Hunter, a claim that materially conflicts with something that Chris Clark says Weiss’ First AUSA told him
    • He believes Leslie Wolf, whom he removed from the Hunter Biden team, is a person of integrity
    • The information laundered through Brady was still ongoing as of November 7
    • His office has been targeted by threats and harassment — and he himself raised concerns about intimidation
    • He still remembers Gary Shapley’s body language in response to Weiss’ comment about the merits of the case
  • Thomas Sobocinski’s testimony describing:
    • After Gary Shapley’s claims went public, threats to personnel on the team “absolutely increased”
    • He “definitely” had discussions with David Weiss about how Shapley’s claims would affect the case
    • After Shapley’s claims, the children of people on the team started getting followed
    • Leslie Wolf has concerns for her safety
  • Martin Estrada’s description of three reports he received, which convinced him it was not worth dedicating resources to prosecuting Hunter Biden for tax crimes in Los Angeles

In short, Hines simply refuses to deal with the evidence — some laid out explicitly in Hunter’s filing — that would substantiate how Bill Barr went to great lengths to let Trump’s personal attorney launder dirt into this investigation, and then continued to politicize this investigation during the period when Weiss’ team was subjected to increased threats.

The record already shows that Trump demanded an investigation, DOJ set one up in the way most likely to implicate Joe as opposed to Hunter, in the wake of pressure from Trump and during the campaign season, DOJ ordered Weiss to accept an informant report reflecting a suspect relationship between Zlochevsky and Trump’s attorney, and that back channel continues to be one of the ways Republicans have provably pressured David Weiss to prosecute Hunter more harshly, after which pressure Weiss did just that.

But by refusing to address the substance of the evidence Hunter laid out showing this investigation was politicized, Hines simply buried all that.


For Almost a Year, “Jim Jordan” Has Been Saying Hunter Biden Didn’t Need to Testify

I came to the Hunter Biden beat a bit late — only after I read Gary Shapley’s testimony. And so when Democrats mentioned that Abbe Lowell had sent Congress six letters in last week’s circus hearing — only two of which were cited in the contempt referral — I realized I hadn’t read them all.

I posted them all below.

It turns out, the two earliest ones — the ones I hadn’t read, ones which were sent to James Comer but not Jim Jordan — Abbe Lowell cited Jordan to lay out the impropriety of the requests for information from Hunter.

We know, from the Steve Bannon prosecution, that were the House to refer Hunter Biden for contempt, the first thing DOJ would do is ask for paperwork from both sides. On the January 6 Committee side, that all went through senior staffers. On Bannon’s side, Robert Costello claimed to have certain representations from Trump, but when asked, he admitted he didn’t have anything to backup that claim (Peter Navarro had still less since he didn’t lawyer up until after being charged). DOJ went so far as to get Costello’s call records to make sure there weren’t communications they didn’t know about.

Here, the first thing Abbe Lowell would do if Hunter were referred to contempt would be to share the six letters he had sent, documenting the authority on which he was relying for asking for further accommodations. The Oversight contempt referral — and even the letter issued Sunday moving toward setting up a deposition — made no mention of the earlier letters. As I noted, when DOJ asked the staffers in charge of the contempt referral what had happened, that hapless person would have to explain why the Committee withheld relevant documents from its contempt referral.

But as I also noted, even when relying on just the more recent letter, Jordan has said enough about the authority of subpoenas that he risked being a witness in any contempt investigation and then trial, something Bennie Thompson studiously avoided by letting staffers manage the guts of the legal issues.

That may explain why Jordan, whose chief counsel Steve Castor is bad faith but a good lawyer, saw the wisdom of issuing a new subpoena.

There’s still a conflict here. Lowell suggested hybrid accommodation in his letter from last week.

You have not explained why you are not interested in transparency and having the American people witness the full and complete testimony of Mr. Biden at a public hearing. If you issue a new proper subpoena, now that there is a duly authorized impeachment inquiry, Mr. Biden will comply for a hearing or deposition. 33 We will accept such a subpoena on Mr. Biden’s behalf.

33 During the January 10, 2024, Judiciary Committee markup, Representative Glenn Ivey suggested a procedure for a hybrid process—a public deposition/hearing with alternating rounds of questions for Republicans and Democrats, and with similar rules (e.g., role of counsel in questioning), as is done in a closed-door deposition. Four Republicans actually voted in committee in support of this process. Perhaps that could be the basis for our discussion.

In Sunday’s letter, Jordan and Comer rejected that, falsely claiming that the rules prohibit it (and ignoring Comer’s offer of public testimony in the past, something that came up in the contempt hearing).

While we welcome Mr. Biden’s public testimony at the appropriate time, he must appear for a deposition that conforms to the House Rules and the rules and practices of the Committees, just like every other witness before the Committees.26

26 For this reason, the Committees cannot accept the so-called “hybrid process” you propose. See January 12 Letter, supra note 1, at 8 n.33

I would not be surprised if Lowell did what Jim Comey did back in 2018, when House Republicans were conducting a similarly politicized non-public investigation into the Russian investigation. He sued to quash the subpoena, largely in an attempt to get some means of preventing Members from making false claims while hiding the transcript. That ended with an agreement that the House would release the transcript a day after the testimony.

The letter Lowell sent Mike Johnson on November 8 already extensively documented the false claims that Republicans had made about Hunter. There are some interesting false claims in the HJC report on the Hunter investigation that would not only further substantiate the need for transparency, but would also bolster Hunter’s claim — made in a motion to dismiss — that the House is unconstitutionally trying to conduct a prosecution of him.

Plus, there are other details of Jordan’s investigation — most notably the threats, which Becca Balint laid out during the contempt hearing last week. It is absolutely critical to Hunter Biden’s legal case that US Attorneys David Weiss and Martin Estrada as well as FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski testified that threats were made in conjunction with this investigation, threats that in Delaware’s case preceded a radical reversal on the prosecutorial decision. Yet Jordan is sitting on that testimony.

Most people, myself included, think it’d be insane for someone fighting two indictments to appear before a hostile committee, much less without some means of acquiring his own record. But at the same time, Jordan keeps providing Lowell more evidence that the House, not DOJ, is the branch of government driving that prosecution.


1. February 9, 2023: Re request for documents [Comer]

[T]hen Ranking Member Jim Jordan (who sat next to you at your February 8th hearing) stated that a subpoena of President Trump and his family’s personal records was “an unprecedented abuse of the Committee’s subpoena authority[.]”1 Mr. Jordan described the subpoena for financial and business records as an “irresponsible and gravely dangerous course of conduct in a singular obsession of attacking President Trump and his family for political gain.”2 Mr. Jordan feared that Chairman Cummings would selectively release information gained from the subpoena “in a misleading fashion to create a false narrative for partisan political gain.”3

[snip]

Representative Jordan, citing Watkins, even emphasized that private persons have a limited place in Committee investigations: “[t]he Supreme Court has cautioned that Congress does not have ‘general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of the Congress.’”4

2. June 14, 2023: Re records from art dealer Georges Bergès [Comer]

I am sure you will remember that it was now Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, in his hollering about the subpoena issued to the Presidents’ accounting firm, citing to the same Waikins case, who stated that private persons have a limited place in Committee investigations: “[t]he Supreme Court has cautioned that Congress does not have ‘general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of the Congress. ™

[snip]

Let me remind you what then-Ranking Member Jim Jordan stated: that a subpoena of President Trump and his family’s personal records was “an unprecedented abuse of the Committee’s subpoena authority[.]”* (emphasis added). Mr. Jordan described the subpoena for financial and business records as an “irresponsible and gravely dangerous course of conduct in a singular obsession of attacking President Trump and his family for political gain.” (emphasis added). 1 explained in February that Mr. Jordan stated he feared that Chairman Elijah Cummings ‘would selectively release information gained from the subpoena “in a misleading fashion to create a false narrative for partisan political gain.”

[snip]

No sooner did You obtain these financial records then, as admitted in you letter, you released them to the public in your “First Bank Records Memorandum.” In so doing, you decided to ignore the warning of your colleague Chairman Jordan, who cautioned that Democrats would selectively release information gained from the subpoena “in a misleading fashion to create a false namative for partisan political gain.” Oh, what a difference a few years and a change in leadership has made.

3. September 13, 2023: Re Newsmax appearance [Comer]

I write on behalf of our client regarding your statement this morning, September 13, on Newsmax, in which you stated, “We’re headed to court, more than likely. We’ve requested bank records from Hunter Biden and Jim Biden early on, and obviously we never got a response back. We will re-request those this week; if they do not comply with our request, then we will subpoena and no doubt, undoubtedly head to court.”1 Your statement was surprising as it ignores our prior exchanges.

[snip]

We ask that you correct what you said, but more importantly, we remain available to have the discussion that I suggested some seven months ago.

4. November 8, 2023, to Mike Johnson: On false claims made by Republicans [Comer, Jordan, and Smith]

Chairman Jordan, for his part, used his airtime on November 1 to spew false, recycled, and debunked claims about Hunter’s time serving on the board of directors of Burisma, wielding it as an excuse to justify his obsession with pursuing an “impeachment inquiry” into President Biden when he declared: “Hunter Biden gets put on the Board of Burisma, fact number one. Fact number two, he’s not qualified to be on the Board of Burisma. Fact number three, the head of Burisma asks Hunter Biden, ‘can you help us relieve the pressure we are under from the Ukrainian prosecutor?’ Fact number four, Joe Biden does just that.” 9

[snip]

As to Chairman Jordan’s made-up, nonsensical claim that “the head of Burisma ask[ed] Hunter Biden, ‘can you help us relieve the pressure we are under from the Ukrainian prosecutor?,’” I simply would ask Chairman Jordan: what evidence do you have and when is it coming? The answer is “none” and “never.” For all the hours, months, and years Chairman Jordan and others (e.g., Senators Grassley and Johnson) have spent trying to invent a scheme in which Hunter assisted Burisma in any illicit or inappropriate way to “relieve the pressure” stemming from a Ukrainian corruption investigation, while his father was Vice President, they have produced an alarmingly scant amount of proof to show for their claims. Opposite evidence abounds.

5. November 28, 2023: In response to Comer’s Newsmax appearance [Comer and Jordan]

Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer. Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but— rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process—he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing. To quote your November 8, 2023, letter accompanying the subpoena, “Given your client’s willingness to address this investigation publicly up to this point, we would expect him to be willing to testify before Congress.”6 He is, Mr. Chairman. A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements.

December 6, 2023: Public testimony [Comer and Jordan]

As indicated in my November 28, 2023, letter, Mr. Biden has offered to appear at a hearing on the December 13, 2023, date you have reserved, or another date this month, to answer any question pertinent and relevant to the subject matter stated in your November 8, 2023, letter. He is making this choice because the Committee has demonstrated time and again it uses closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort, the facts and misinform the American public—a hearing would ensure transparency and truth in these proceeding

January 12, 2024: After contempt [Comer and Jordan]

And you, Chairman Jordan, during a House Republican leadership press conference immediately after the actual impeachment inquiry resolution vote finally occurred,stated: “I want you all to think about something. This morning, I was in an impeachment deposition, but then had to leave that to come to the floor for a vote on the rules for impeachment. That [] says it all about this entire process. And it is a sad day.” 11

[snip]

You noticed an impeachment deposition a month before an impeachment inquiry vote was held to authorize such a deposition. Astonishingly, the sequence of events was the same as 2019. Almost four years to the day that Speaker Pelosi made her statement authorizing impeachment-based subpoenas before a House resolution authorized them, it was now Speaker Kevin McCarthy who, despite criticizing his predecessor for trying to do the same thing, did the same thing. On September 12, 2023, Speaker McCarthy said: “These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption. And they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives. That’s why today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.” 12 Chairman Jordan, you should be similarly saddened by your own use of pre–impeachment inquiry subpoenas against Mr. Biden.

[snip]

Thus, “Resolution 660’s direction, however, was entirely prospective. . . . Accordingly, the pre-October 31 subpoenas, which had not been authorized by the House, continued to lack compulsory force.”19 As Resolution 660 was ineffective in 2019, so is Resolution 917 now. To quote you, Chairman Jordan, during the first impeachment of former President Trump, “[c]odifying a sham process halfway through doesn’t make it any less of a sham process.”

[snip]

Still further, on December 13, 2023, you issued a joint statement directly tying Mr. Biden’s subpoenasto the still yet-to-be-authorized impeachment inquiry: “Today, the House will vote on an impeachment inquiry resolution to strengthen our legal case in the courts as we face obstruction from the White House and witnesses. Today’s obstruction by Hunter Biden reinforces the need for a formal vote. President Biden and his family must be held accountable for their corruption and obstruction. And we will provide that to the American people.”27


The Non-Visible Networks behind the More Visible Networks of Fascism

There’s an RT posted at the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account in 2016 that has always puzzled me: a stupid meme, posted on Labor Day, about what unemployed people do on Labor Day.

Virtually all Guccifer 2.0’s other public Tweets served to sustain a cover story about the hack-and-leak operation and its tie to WikiLeaks, disseminate stolen documents, or network with those who might be used to disseminate stolen documents. This RT does not do that — at least not obviously — and it deviates from the BernieBro culture adopted by the Guccifer persona up to that point. It suggests either there was an unseen tie to far right meme culture, or that someone had access to this account who was part of it.

The RT is especially interesting given that three different GRU indictments (DNC, Anti-Doping, Macron Leaks) adopt different approaches in discussing the dissemination of the documents stolen by GRU, which I’ve addressed here and here. In 2016, the Guccifer persona cultivated ties with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and released select files (on Black Lives Matter) to then-Breitbart, future-Sputnik writer Lee Stranahan. By the time of the Macron Leaks in May 2017, Jack Posobiec played an even more central, overt role in the leak part of the operation, via still unidentified Latvian account. But this meme suggests some other tie in real time.

Keep this RT in mind as you read the following discussion, about the extent to which much of what we visibly see in the Republican slide to fascism is just the public manifestation of a far more instrumental and far uglier infrastructure that exists in chat rooms.

Some of what we know about the 2016 state of that infrastructure comes from exhibits introduced at the Douglass Mackey trial. On the very same day Guccifer 2.0 RTed that meme, for example, the trolls in the Madman Twitter DM list were pushing memes to push a narrative, one picked up from Trump, that Hillary Clinton was unwell and might not make the election — a narrative about a Democrat replicated, with far greater success, in this election.

White nationalists plotted in private about how to get minorities to turn on Democrats. They explicitly focused on ways to affect turnout in ways that could swing the election.

As I’ve written here and here, the far right efforts to set a narrative that would (and did) help Trump win the presidency started over a year before the election. Both Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer — the webmaster for Daily Stormer — and Microchip worked hard in early months to professionalize the effort. They planned campaigns that would bridge from reddit, 4Chan, and The Donald onto Twitter, including efforts that started at Daily Stormer. This effort was transnational: the trolls reached back to efforts made during Brexit and looked ahead to EU elections, and planned to build a bigger bot army. They complained about Twitter’s shoddy efforts to moderate and plotted ways to defeat any moderation.

The effort by far right trolls to hijack the virality of Twitter to get mainstream journalists to echo their far right themes had at least two direct ties to Trump’s campaign. Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet, whom Microchip alerted when the FBI first came calling, claimed to be part of a Trump campaign Slack, to which he invited others.

More importantly, Don Jr has confessed he was part of this network (curiously, when the Mackey took the stand at trial, he claimed to know nothing about the identities of his unindicted co-conspirators. As I have noted, there’s a troll in that channel who used the moniker P0TUSTrump and whom other trolls called Donald that was pushing hashtags pushing stolen documents on the same days Don Jr was doing so on his eponymous Twitter account. From there, trolls like Microchip made them go viral. If P0TUSTrump is Don Jr, then, it shows that he was a key channel between WikiLeaks through this far right channel to make things go viral.

Between 2016 and 2020, people associated with this far right group orchestrated PizzaGate, may have had a hand in QAnon, and helped disseminated documents stolen by GRU from Emmanuel Macron. PizzaGate and QAnon served as powerful recruiting narratives. I’ve shown how Doug Jensen, the QAnoner who chased Officer Eugene Goodman up the Senate stairs on January 6, went from a lifelong union Democrat to hating Hillary to throwing away his life in QAnon to attacking the Capitol via that process of radicalization. Early prosecutions, at least, suggested that QAnon was actually more successful at getting bodies where they could obstruct the vote certification than the militias.

But even as that cult narrative of QAnon was radicalizing people from all walks of life, the same network was replicating networks of more overtly partisan, paramilitary mobilization.

I suppose I or someone else should draw a network map of this.

But we know that Roger Stone had a Signal list call Friends of Stone, which included among its 47 members Stewart Rhodes, Enrique Tarrio, Ali Alexander, and Owen Shroyer, along with anti-vaxxers, Bundyists, Mike Flynn associate Ivan Raiklin, and longtime aides Jacobs Engels and Tyler Ziolkowski (who, along with Tarrio, were both implicated in the meme targeting Amy Berman Jackson during Stone’s prosecution).

Both Rhodes and Tarrio ran parallel sets of communication leading up to the insurrection — more public, accessible communications, and more select lists (on Signal in Rhodes’ case and on Telegram in Tarrio’s) that planned for the operation. Unlike Twitter, Signal and Telegram would only be accessible to law enforcement after exploiting the phones on which they were used, and only then if the comms hadn’t been successfully deleted.

Tarrio would also be networked into the Latinos for Trump group, along with Bianca Gracia and Oath Keeper Kellye SoRelle, with whom he visited the White House in December 2020 and both of whom were present for the parking garage meeting Tarrio had with Rhodes on January 5, 2021. One court filing submitted in advance of the trial of the cop who allegedly tipped off Tarrio to his arrest shows Tarrio also has a “Christian Nationalist” group that officer Shane Lamond joined on November 9, 2020. Another filing shows how Lamond warned Tarrio about investigations into Harry’s Bar and the Proud Boys organizing on Parler.

Ali Alexander and Brandon Straka provided the January 6 Committee (entirely unreliable) descriptions of the all-important Stop the Steal threads on which Alexander organized — first — early mob scenes at state capitols and then events around January 6 itself (though unlike Alexander, who fully attributed getting the brand from Roger Stone, Straka disclaimed knowledge of all that). Straka did acknowledge that Paul Gosar had ties to the Stop the Steal effort. The sentencing memorandum for Alan Hostetter, a key player in the SoCal anti-vax community with ties to 3Percenters, actually contacted Alexander on December 16, 2020, to suggest Stop the Steal organize a rally for January 6, though it’s not clear via what channel he knew him. While the leaders of the Stop the Steal effort were on Twitter until a late move to Signal (again, if we can believe unreliable J6C testimony), it spawned a massive viral effort on other platforms, including Facebook.

In addition to being the big draw for the donation from Publix heir Julie Fancelli, Alex Jones has his own media infrastructure. Organizers claim some percentage — a fifth or a third — of those at the Capitol were there for Jones, not Trump. Like Alexander, he also mobilized the earlier mobs in the states.

It’s not entire clear how Baked Alaska continues to fit into this network. But in order to avoid felony charges (as Straka had earlier), he reportedly agreed to share the kind of network information that would further elucidate these networks.

And that network of lists and threads maps onto this one, the list of people who, in 2020, were the most effective at spreading disinformation on Twitter.

We just don’t know via what chat rooms and threads they map, who else is in that map, and what international ties they have.

What kind of chat rooms did Don Jr inhabit, four years after he networked with Douglass Mackey, that helped him direct a broader network to make false claims go viral? Today, as Ric Grenell — Trump’s troll turned Ambassador to Germany turned Acting Director of National Intelligence — returns from supporting a coup attempt in Guatemala, what international networks was he mobilizing?

I’m always most fascinated by the role of Mike Roman on this list, punching well above his modest Twitter following of 29,610 people. Roman, a charged co-conspirator in Trump’s Georgia indictment, is claiming Fani Willis has a conflict arising from a personal relationship with one of the prosecutors she brought in for the case. He’s often thought of someone who ferried documents from fake electors around, but before that he was a kind of internal intelligence service for Trump targeting Republicans, and before that, the Kochs. Like Grenell, he has branched out to push far right policies internationally, in Canada. None of those activities, however, explain what chat rooms he was in that allowed him to help spread the Big Lie in 2020. They must exist, and yet they’re not yet visible.

Mike Roman is one of the Trump associates whose phone DOJ seized before Jack Smith was appointed. To the extent he didn’t delete them, that should disclose his networks to prosecutors.

As I noted above, increasingly, these networks have moved to platforms, especially Telegram and Signal, that are harder to investigate, particularly without advance notice. It took years (starting before January 6, with the seizure of Tarrio’s phone, which nevertheless took a full year to exploit) before the government had collected at least three sets of the Friends of Stone list.

That’s true even though some network effect — whether including anyone named here or not — likely explains a swatting campaign that has targeted:

While not all targets are seen as adversaries of Trump, or even Democrats, his top adversaries have been targeted. The swatting campaign is, at a minimum, terrorism (and could be part of a campaign to do real violence).

And there’s a non-zero chance that behind it is the same kind of non-visible infrastructure the far right has been professionalizing for a decade.

My effort to describe how Trump trained the Republican party to hate rule of law will describe the visible aspects of that effort. But behind it all, these non-visible networks form an integral part of the effort.

Update: Took out reference to Pepe.

This post is part of a Ball of Thread I’m putting together before I attempt to explain how Trump trained Republicans to hate rule of law. See this post for an explanation of my Ball of Thread.


Scott Perry Explains How Trump, Fox, and Russian Propaganda Made Him Hate Rule of Law

This exchange, between Scott Perry and Dan Goldman, is one of the best depictions of why and how Republicans have come to hate rule of law.

Jared Moskowitz had just called out Republicans for their utter lack of curiosity about Jared Kushner’s $2 billion windfall for monetizing his role overseeing Middle East policy.

Then Scott Perry — who earlier in the hearing had been brutally criticized for his role in a coup attempt — decided to explain what “galls, or troubles us on this side of the aisle.” He claimed that witnesses in the first impeachment lied in their depositions. “Many of us — I was one of them — sat in a SCIF … for an impeachment [calls out Dan Goldman] … knew there were lies being told to compel the impeachment. … abject straight up lies.”

Then Perry turned to the Russian investigation.

Not to mention the fact that, for years, the other side of the aisle pursued the then-duly elected President of the United States based on pure hyperbole about some Russian hoax that has now turned into, you know, it’s the same old thing from the 1930s in Germany and the 1940s. If you tell a lie enough times it becomes the truth. We sat and watched you dismantle the country and the presidency and any agenda that the American people had voted for based on that.

Then he complained that Hillary Clinton sat for a deposition instead of a grand jury appearance.

Look. Secretary Clinton got away with it. She was allowed to be deposed, not under oath, and her deposition on a Saturday, on a holiday weekend. She got to do that. That galls the rest of America who says, when the FBI or the local magistrate or some law enforcement agency comes knocking on my door and says you’re going to appear, you’ve been served.

In response, Dan Goldman spoke about what distinguished the first Trump impeachment from this GOP inquiry: Fact witnesses. But before he got very far into that, Scott Perry had walked out.

It’s tempting to laugh at this, at the hypocrisy of Perry, who blew off a subpoena himself, and then invoked privileges to withhold evidence of an insurrection from prosecutors, to complain that Hillary also got accommodations from prosecutors. It’s even more tempting to laugh that Perry is so stupid he doesn’t realize neither Trump nor his failson — the latter, a private citizen — did even that in the Mueller investigation; he doesn’t realize that Donald Trump couldn’t even manage what Hillary did. It’s even more tempting to guffaw that Perry has forgotten Hillary’s famous 11-hour Congressional appearance during the Benghazi stunt.

It’s tempting to mock Scott Perry for his belief that the Russian investigation was a hoax, even after five top Trump associates were found, via guilty verdict or judge’s ruling, to have lied to cover up Trump’s ties to Russia. Trump’s campaign manager, coffee boy, his National Security Advisor, his personal lawyer, and his rat-fucker — all of them lied to cover up Trump’s ties to Russia in the year before becoming President.

And I have no idea what he’s referring to when he says witnesses in the first Trump impeachment lied. Perhaps it’s a dispute about Alex Vindman’s testimony that Trump’s White House took out a mention of Burisma in Trump’s perfect phone call with Volodymyr Zelenkyy (though ultimately, even Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams testified the word Burisma had been uttered). Perhaps he’s adopting the renewed Republican belief — based off what Mykola Zlochevsky told an FBI informant around the time that Bill Barr’s DOJ shut down a corruption investigation into him, that he had bribed Joe Biden — that Biden got Viktor Shokin fired to help Burisma, not to reverse corruption.

It’s tempting to dismiss this rank hypocrisy from one of the key figures in an attack on democracy in 2021.

But it’s important to recognize that Scott Perry believes this. Scott Perry actually believes that Hillary Clinton got better treatment than Donald Trump got. Scott Perry actually believes that the Russian investigation revealed no egregious wrong-doing, including strong evidence that both Trump’s campaign manager and his rat-fucker helped the attack by Russian spies, whether wittingly or not. Scott Perry actually believes that Trump didn’t violate Congress’ appropriation authority to try to extort campaign assistance from a foreign leader.

Sure, those beliefs are ridiculous, and easily factually disproven. But as Perry demonstrated by walking out as Goldman spoke, he’s not going to stick around to be exposed to any facts.

One reason Scott Perry believes all these ridiculous things are because he lives in a right wing media bubble, and the default position for those who live in that media bubble is to believe these false claims. If you consume Fox News, you would have no way of learning that these are all false beliefs. None.

Another reason that Scott Perry believes these things is because he was easily, gleefully manipulated by one of the best con mans of all time, Donald Trump. Scott Perry is so gullible he even believed some of the most whack election conspiracy claims in 2020.

He’s an easy mark, Scott Perry is.

And finally, Scott Perry believes these things because he has become susceptible to Russian propaganda, propaganda designed to make easy marks like Scott Perry hate rule of law, prefer his party, “his guy,” over the Constitution.

Scott Perry attacked his country and he did so — he told us at length on Wednesday — because he came to believe a series of false claims, believe them so deeply that rule of law galls him.

It’s tempting to laugh that someone can be so easily manipulated as Scott Perry has been. But Scott Perry succinctly explained why he attacked the country, why he helped Donald Trump attack democracy. And until we come to grips with the series of things that came to make Scott Perry believe absurd things, we will never convince Trump’s believers to adhere to rule of law.

Update: In a recent post on Elise Stefanik, in which I argued that she adopts Trump’s fascism out of naked ambition, I included a rubric I’ve increasingly used to try to understand why Republicans adopt Trump’s fascism. Because folks in comments are discussing similar ideas, I thought I’d include it.

  1. Cowards afraid of his retaliation
  2. People conned by his grift
  3. Utilitarians who believe he’s the only way GOP wins
  4. Adherents of fascism
  5. Christian nationalists

This post argues that Perry believes a bunch of obviously false things, which would put him into the con category. But he has definitely parroted ideologies that would put him into one of the latter two categories.


Abbe Lowell Invites James Comer to Send a Valid Subpoena, Now That He Has Authority

Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell sent James Comer and Jim Jordan a letter today that has gotten all the journalists who treat James Comer as a credible human being confused.

Effectively, the letter says:

  • Whatever subpoenas you claim to have sent were invalid because you had no authority to issue an impeachment subpoena
  • Now that you have authority to issue an impeachment subpoena, if you issue one, Hunter is willing to appear at a hearing or sit for a deposition

Much of the rest of the 8-page letter is a legal discussion. There may come a time when a prosecutor or judge will weigh whether Abbe Lowell’s argument was sufficiently sound to mean that any contempt referral against Hunter Biden is garbage.

For the purposes of journalists who’ve believed that James Comer is a credible human being, though, this may be the most important detail: quoting Comer and Jordan asserting, on December 13, that the House needed to vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry “to strengthen our legal case” to subpoena Hunter Biden.

Still further, on December 13, 2023, you issued a joint statement directly tying Mr. Biden’s subpoenas to the still yet-to-be-authorized impeachment inquiry: “Today, the House will vote on an impeachment inquiry resolution to strengthen our legal case in the courts as we face obstruction from the White House and witnesses. Today’s obstruction by Hunter Biden reinforces the need for a formal vote. President Biden and his family must be held accountable for their corruption and obstruction. And we will provide that to the American people.”

If you believe James Comer is a credible human being, then you should take Comer at his word that until the House voted to authorize an impeachment inquiry on December 13, Comer and Jordan didn’t have a very good legal case to enforce an impeachment subpoena to Hunter Biden.

Abbe Lowell may well have had the better legal argument in any case. In his letter, he cites some of the earlier letters he sent that didn’t make the contempt referrals. Those earlier letters are quite central to the legal argument, and the fact that Oversight and Judiciary didn’t mention them in the contempt referrals is going to make things awkward for whatever staffer is going to have to testify about this contempt referral before prosecutors, much less a jury.

And Lowell cites things that Jordan has said himself about the standards for subpoenas. If Lowell is lucky, those past statements will give him a way to call Jordan to the stand, something Bennie Thompson avoided in both the Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro cases.

But for the purpose of journalists who treat James Comer as a credible human being, the important takeaway is this: If Lowell is right — or even if Lowell is just sufficiently right to keep Hunter out of jail for this — then it means everything that came up to this point involved Comer and Jordan deceiving you about what was going on; Comer and Jordan deceiving you, and you believing them, and misleading your readers or viewers about what was really going on.

All those stories about how Hunter Biden “defied” a subpoena? Retract them, or issue a correction and say, “my bad, there was no subpoena. Hunter wasn’t defying anyone.”

All those stories about Hunter refusing to respond to a subpoena requiring a non-public deposition? Retract those too, because there may be no valid subpoena. Up until there’s a clearly valid subpoena, Hunter had every right to seek accommodations, as others have. That’s probably why Lowell says that if Comer and Jordan issue a valid subpoena, Hunter may even be willing to sit for a closed door deposition. That is, it’s not the preference for publicity, it’s the deference to an actually legal subpoena.

You might even do a piece that says, “Wow. That was a really dumbass thing for Comer to do, to issue a subpoena that wasn’t legally valid, because he gave Hunter Biden two opportunities to make him look like a dumbass. If only I were savvy enough to understand that’s what was going on.”

Because, ultimately, if you’ve been treating Comer as if he is a credible human being, you’re not very savvy and you owe your readers an apology.

But, honestly, if you believed any of this was real, then you’re the dumbass. If you believe that Comer and Jordan really are concerned about influence peddling from family members of Presidents, you’re the dumbass. If you believe that Comer and Jordan are primarily interested in Hunter’s testimony, then you’re the dumbass. If you believe there was an accommodation that was going to meet Comer and Jordan’s demands, then you’re the dumbass — indeed, that’s surely why Comer retracted his generous offer to let Hunter testify in public.

There’s a some reason to believe that Comer and Jordan fucked up the accommodation process so badly because they want to ensure that DC USAO or David Weiss — whoever gets any contempt referral they send — decides this contempt referral is legally garbage. Because, they have already admitted in one of the few statements that has been true, they are only looking for something — anything!! — they can use to rationalize an impeachment.

The subpoena was designed, from the start, to fail. That’s because Comer and Jordan know you’re such a dumbass that when it does, you won’t report that the failure is their own damned fault.

Update: Comer and Jordan say they’ll issue a valid subpoena. Congratulations Hill reporters, you’ve spent three months chasing a con.


The David Weiss and Leo Wise Inconsistencies Left Out of Hunter Biden Arraignment Coverage

In testimony given to the House Judiciary Committee on November 7, 2023, David Weiss told Steve Castor and then Jim Jordan that the investigation into Hunter Biden was continuing, even after the plea deal filed on June 20 (here’s Politico’s coverage).

Q One of the big questions I think a lot of our members have is that, as of last July, you know, heading into July 26th, you know, we saw the plea agreement and the pre-trial diversion agreement; you know, we thought this matter was coming to a close, and then it didn’t.

How do you address the fact that this was on the verge of being completely over and wrapped up on July 26th and then, boom, in August, you have to request Special Counsel status, now you’re standing up a whole new office, and we’ve got an investigation that could go on for some time?

A Yeah. I understand the question and the members’ curiosity.

Q Uh-huh.

A Because I’ve got ongoing litigation in Delaware, I’m not at liberty to discuss it. But —

Q Uh-huh.

A — I can say that at no time was it coming to a close. I think, as I stated in the one statement I made at the time —

Q Uh-huh.

A — the investigation was continuing. So it wasn’t ending there in any event.

Chairman Jordan. When the judge would’ve accepted the agreement, it wasn’t over?

Mr. Weiss. Our efforts were not concluded; that’s correct.

According to a declaration, made under penalty of perjury, submitted last month by former Hunter Biden attorney Chris Clark, that Weiss claim — made under penalty of prosecution — conflicts with what Weiss’ First AUSA Shannon Hanson told him on June 19, 2023.

35. On June 19, 2023, at 2:53 PM EST, after I had a phone call with AUSA Hanson indicating I would do so, I emailed AUSA Hanson a proposed press statement to accompany the public release of both Informations that read, in part, “I can confirm that the five-year long, extensive federal investigation into my client, Hunter Biden, has been concluded through agreements with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware.” (Emphases added.) A true and correct copy of Chris Clark’s June 19, 2023, email to AUSA Hanson is attached hereto as Exhibit P.

36. Shortly after that email, I had another phone call with AUSA Hanson, during which AUSA Hanson requested that the language of Mr. Biden’s press statement be slightly revised. She proposed saying that the investigation would be “resolved” rather than “concluded.” I then asked her directly whether there was any other open or pending investigation of Mr. Biden overseen by the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office, and she responded there was not another open or pending investigation. Thereafter, at 4:18 PM EST that day, I sent AUSA Hanson a revised statement that read: “With the announcement of two agreements between my client, Hunter Biden, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved.” (Emphases added.) The new statement revised the language from “concluded” to “resolved,” a stylistic change that meant the same thing. A true and correct copy of Chris Clark’s June 19, 2023, email to AUSA Hanson is attached hereto as Exhibit Q [Clark’s italics, my bold]

I’ve seen no coverage of Hunter Biden’s arraignment from yesterday — not the decent stories from NYT and ABC and not the typically shoddy story from WaPo — that mentions this discrepancy. And yet even though most stories on the arraignment described that the plea deal fell apart last July, none reported that Clark claims Weiss’ office assured Hunter there was no ongoing investigation on June 19 but then claimed on June 20 that there was an ongoing investigation.

This is absolutely crucial background to ABC’s report of how the plea deal was discussed yesterday.

The parties also again discussed the failed plea deal that led to the tax indictment last month. At one point during the 30-minute hearing, an attorney for Hunter Biden stood to express frustration with the plea deal falling apart, saying “we had a resolution of this case in 2023 and then things happened.”

The government pushed back, saying: “pleas fall apart all the time.”

Plea deals fall apart all the time. But government lawyers do not tell defendants one thing in June and then tell members of Congress something entirely different in November, as Hunter’s team alleges occurred.

And there’s another discrepancy in what prosecutors are saying, something that underscores the ethical problem with the tax indictment against Hunter (and the shoddy reporting of many outlets, including WaPo).

On July 26, 2023, Leo Wise stood as an officer of the court and made this representation to Judge Maryanne Noreika.

Approximately a year-and-a-half later, on or about October 18th, 2021, a third party paid the Internal Revenue Service $955,800 to cover Biden’s self-assessed individual tax liability with interest and penalties for tax year 2017 and $956,632 to cover Biden’s self-assessed individual tax liability with interest and penalties for tax  year 2018.

In addition, in or around February of 2020, Biden’s California accountants discovered that Biden’s 2016 Form 1040 had not been filed. The return was originally prepared in or around October 2017 and showed $15,520 in taxes due and owing. Though it was delivered to Biden at Biden’s office, this return was not filed with the Internal Revenue Service. After learning in 2020 that the Form 1040 for 2016 remained unfiled, Biden filed a Form 1040 on June 12, 2020. For tax year 2016, Biden reported $1,580,283 12 in total income and self-assessed tax due of $492,895, of which $447,234 was timely paid, leaving a balance due and owing of $45,661. Biden did not include a payment with this return. On or about October 18, 2021, this liability, plus accrued interest and penalties, was also fully paid by a third party.

Finally, after seeking an extension, Biden timely filed his 2019 Form 1040 on or about October 15th, 2020. He did not, however, pay his estimated tax due when filing for an extension as required by law. For tax year 2019, Biden reported $1,045,850 in total income and a self-assessed tax due and owing of $197,372. On October 18, 2021, this liability, plus accrued interest and penalties, was also fully paid by the same third party

[snip]

THE COURT: All right. In Exhibit 1, there are references to taxes paid by a third party on Mr. Biden’s behalf of $955,800, and $956,632, as well as $492,000 in 2016 and $197,000 for 2019. Just looking at 2017 and 2018 which are the subject of this case, those numbers add up to more than $1.9 million. Can you help me square that with the relevant conduct.

MR. WISE: So the amount that was paid by the third party includes significant penalties and interests which we have not included in the loss stipulation that’s in paragraph 5A. The paragraph 5A is the taxes and there is a dispute as to what the taxes were based on the business deductions and that’s something that the parties will address in their sentencing memorandum, but this number is loss without inclusion of the penalties and interest.

Nevertheless, the indictment signed by Leo Wise obtained on December 7 doesn’t mention that the taxes were paid.

Indeed, there’s no record that the grand jury ever learned that, while there’s still a dispute about 2018, the taxes have been paid, with penalties and interest.

This is what led dull-witted scribes like Devlin Barrett to state, as fact, that prosecutors alleged that Hunter failed to pay his taxes, even though their own stories claim to know what happened in July, when that very same prosecutor said Hunter did pay the taxes.

Federal prosecutors alleged in a 56-page indictment filed last month that Hunter Biden, who moved to Los Angeles in 2018, failed to pay at least $1.4 million in federal taxes from 2016 through 2019. The charges include failing to file and pay taxes, tax evasion and filing false tax returns. Three of the charges are felonies and six are misdemeanors.

And it also lies at the core of the debate over whether anyone normally would be charged for such a fact set. Which is why the conflict between what Leo Wise said in July and what Leo Wise said in December should be a central part of the story.

In June, at least according to Chris Clark, David Weiss’ top AUSA said there was no ongoing investigation. In November, under pressure from Congress, David Weiss said there was.

In July, Leo Wise said that (aside from the dispute about 2018), the taxes have been paid, with interest. In December, Leo Wise told a grand jury — along with credulous journalists — they had not been.

One cannot report, with certainty, on what has happened until you account for those two incompatible claims from Hunter Biden’s prosecutors. One cannot make any claims about how this will end up until one determines whether David Weiss lied to Congress or Chris Clark lied in his sworn declaration.

And yet none of that appeared in the arraignment coverage yesterday.


Ball of Thread: Introduction

In my post on Elise Stefanik’s decline into fascism, I described that I’ve been meaning to lay out how Trump used his legal cases to train Republicans to hate rule of law, which has been a key part of how the Republican party has come to embrace fascism. I’ve been dreading and therefore putting off writing that, in large part because it’ll involve rehashing the Russian investigation, and the counter-propaganda to the Russian investigation has been so effective that even addressing the reality of the Russian investigation at this point is always a real chore.

One other reason I’ve been putting it off is because there are a lot of things I want to have in the background — what I’ll call a Ball of Thread. These are not so much related points. Rather, they’re just things that I want to have in the background so I can pull on one or another thread without distracting from the main argument.

So I’m going to first try to write those up fairly quickly, so they’re out there, my Ball of Thread. Some of these posts will be more observation than detailed collection of facts. Others will not show my proof to the extent I normally do. Some will update things I’ve already said. Still others would not normally merit their own post, but I want to have it out there, as part of my Ball of Thread.

Plus, I’m going to try to do this while continuing to cover two Trump prosecutions, multiple Hunter Biden dick pic sniffing campaigns, 1,200 January 6 cases, and some other things that will come up. You know? My day job. All while learning to walk again, after foot surgery.

Happy New Year!

As of now, I anticipate that my Ball of Thread will include:

These will hopefully be quick; they may be sloppy; they likely will not be in this order. But hopefully I can spin my Ball of Thread then move onto the larger task.

On the image: The featured image for this post comes from the Library of Congress’ Farm Services Administration set. 


The (Il)Logic of Elise Stefanik’s Hostage Video

I read a column recently by someone who argued that DOJ had failed because Trump and his top deputies are not yet in prison.

It was the expression of someone who always had unrealistic expectations about how long white collar investigations take, even ignoring the delays overtly attributable in this case to Executive Privilege claims (which stretched from June 2022 to April 2023), other privilege fights (9 months for Rudy’s devices, longer for John Eastman’s, and still longer for Scott Perry’s, with a total of 25 witnesses invoking some kind of privilege), and litigation that would be inevitable when prosecuting the first former President (three months so far on the immunity claim).

Where the column made a decent point, though, is in the ethical response to Trump’s prosecution. Normally, if a politician were charged with 91 felonies on top of the several personally damning civil suits and two trials involving your eponymous corporation, it would be sheer insanity for any politician to have anything to do with the scoundrel.

Republicans don’t give a fuck anymore.

And until we can solve that problem, we will always be fighting an uphill battle against fascism, because Republicans simply do not give a shit about rule of law anymore.

As I hope to write up one of these days, Trump has spent the last 8 years training Republicans to loathe rule of law. At first, he trained Republicans to adhere to him over rule of law. Now, opposing rule of law is an explicit litmus test for politicians in the Republican Party, who as a result join Donald Trump as he assaults rule of law at every turn.

Which is important background to Elise Stefanik’s appearance on Meet the Press today. Along with refusing to commit to certifying the election, Elise called those prosecuted for their crimes on January 6 “hostages” (much of the transcript is below).

In context, I don’t think Elise was explicitly comparing the Jan6ers to hostages held by Hamas, as many took her comment to be.

Rather, and perhaps more damning, I believe this was defensiveness. I believe she was, instead, defensively responding to the clip Kristen Welker had shown of Trump adopting the term, a term Trump has adopted from the culture of martyrdom that right wing supporters of terrorism adopted (as right wing terrorists always do) long before October 7. Elise was also defensively responding to a clip Welker showed of Elise herself, condemning the violence that Trump has now embraced.

Before I look at what Elise said, let’s talk about why.

In response to a great post on January 6 and fascism the other day, I attempted to write a taxonomy of the reasons why Republicans are waltzing along with Trump towards fascism. This is evolving, but I came up with:

  1. Cowards afraid of his retaliation
  2. People conned by his grift
  3. Utilitarians who believe he’s the only way GOP wins
  4. Adherents of fascism
  5. Christian nationalists

I have no doubt that Elise worries that defending her past statements might elicit retaliation from Trump, item 1. But for her, this is about ambition, utility, item 3.

In a profile that describes friends explaining that Elise wasn’t radicalized to Trump’s radical beliefs, she just sold out to her ambition, Nicholas Confessore described her gradual transformation into one of the most ardent MAGAts. With Elise it’s all about naked ambition, the conviction that by yoking her own destiny to Donald Trump’s she will gain power herself.

But according to current and former friends, she felt increasingly frustrated and lost in the House, horrified by the behavior of her harder-right colleagues and unsure of her place. As Mr. Trump’s presidency unfolded, it was becoming more difficult to play the middle. Some of the high-profile issues on which she had positioned herself as a bipartisan leader — climate action, immigration — had little traction in the Trump era. The president’s base wanted revenge, not high-minded ideas; Mr. Trump set policy by tweet, not white paper. As the 2018 midterms approached, Ms. Stefanik’s campaign took on a grim, joyless air. According to friends and advisers, she seemed brittle and unhappy. No longer a novice candidate, she dictated a hyperlocal campaign, emphasizing her bipartisanship and focus on regional issues. Though Democrats took the House that fall, Ms. Stefanik won the largest margin of any Republican in New York, a seeming validation of her carefully calibrated approach. But it was bittersweet. She was a promising young lawmaker with a seat at no particular table, respected by her party’s fractured establishment but viewed with suspicion by its ascendant Trump wing.

Still, the campaign had given Ms. Stefanik a glimpse of an alternate path. That August, she had appeared with Mr. Trump at Fort Drum, a major military base in her district, to mark the signing of that year’s defense bill. With a Democratic wave approaching, Ms. Stefanik had fretted for weeks over whether and how she wanted him to appear, but ultimately lobbied hard for Mr. Trump’s visit, according to a former White House official involved in the planning. At Fort Drum, Mr. Trump mispronounced her name — calling her “STEF-a-nik,” not for the last time — and offered backhanded praise. “She called me so many times” that he had dodged her calls, Mr. Trump told the audience. Ms. Stefanik gave a brief speech from behind the presidential lectern, lit for television as she cited the bill’s pay increase for soldiers and provisions she had written providing support for military spouses.

The day made a powerful impression, according to people who know or have worked with her. The cheering crowd was “a taste of being Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows for a day,” said the former White House official, referring to two of Mr. Trump’s staunchest House allies. More important, she had successfully maneuvered the power of the presidency — even if it was his presidency — behind a piece of her own agenda. It was a taste of the influence she had always imagined having.

[snip]

Virtually no one who knows her believes she has any genuine attachment to Trump-style populism — unlike Mr. Trump’s earliest supporters, for example, or media figures like the Fox host Tucker Carlson. Indeed, over dozens of interviews, former aides, advisers and friends going back to Ms. Stefanik’s Harvard days struggled to identify any of her deeply held political beliefs at all. Most recalled, instead, her generic loyalty to the Republican Party, her intense competitiveness and her unerring ability to absorb what she thought people around her wanted and to reflect it back at them. Eager to advance, skilled at impressing more powerful figures with her intelligence and work ethic, she has spent years embedding herself wherever the action seems to be at the time.

Today’s appearance was, as everything will be for the next six months, an audition by Elise to be Trump’s running mate.

And that dictated her pitch perfect — from a Trumpian sense — answers to Welker’s questions.

Watch how she did it (I’m paraphrasing the transcript below. Direct quotes are marked. Trump keywords are in pink):

Welker: Do you still stand by your criticism of violence from January 6?

Elise: You cut my defense of “election integrity“! Plus, I also condemned BLM violence. And did you know that [we are claiming without evidence] Joe Biden coordinated with Hunter Biden, who blew off our subpoena, which makes Joe Biden the most corrupt President ever?

Welker: Well, the White House refutes your claim, but Trump lost fair and square. Do you think insurrectionists should be held accountable?

Elise: Hostages! Prisoners! “I believe that we’re seeing the weaponization of the federal government against not just President Trump, but we’re seeing it against conservatives.” Weaponization. Two sets of rules. “If your last name is Clinton or it’s Biden, you get to live by a different set of rules.” Condemn the violence. Election integrity. “if we don’t have [election integrity], we do not have a democracy.” “[T]he real threat to our democracy is these baseless witch hunt investigations and lawsuits against President Trump.” Witch hunt. Tish James. DC Circuit. Undemocratic. Shredding our Constitution. “[Y]ou know who agrees with me, Kristen? The American people. That’s why President Trump is winning in poll after poll against Joe Biden.”

Welker: But DOJ indicted top-name Democrats, including the president’s son, twice

Elise [Interrupts] “[T]he American people are very smart. They know that they tried to give Hunter Biden a sweetheart deal. We’ve heard from multiple IRS blowers” [sic] [sic]

Welker: “He’s been indicted twice, Congresswoman –”

Elise: “A judge that threw out a sweetheart deal that was negotiated on Joe Biden’s behalf. Joe Biden and the Department of Justice have been withheld from going after the Biden crime family, which Joe Biden sits atop of.”

Welker: “Other top Democrats have been indicted, as well. But we have a lot to get to, so I want to stay on track.”

Elise is as good at this kind of word salad filibuster as Jim Jordan, and she cleans up a lot better.

It wasn’t (just) that Elise adopted the word “hostages” for Jan6ers, adopting the term Trump used to turn Jan6ers into martyrs. Much of the rest of her response consisted of blurting the key words she knows Trump wants to see on TV.

This is not meant to be a rational response. Trump is not in the business of fielding rational responses. This was a brilliant performance of Trump’s own degradation of rational response, with many of the required key words included.

Hunter Biden. Dick Pics. Hunter Biden. Dick Pics.

Elise’s response was an overt rejection of rule of law — excuses made for the terrorists who assaulted her work place. It was a defense of Nazis just weeks after her success at accusing liberals of anti-semitism. But it was also a willful rejection of rational argument, in favor of blurting the key words she knows will win her favor from Trump.

It was, most of all, an assault on rationality and truth itself: a refusal to engage in Welker’s futile attempt to get Stefanik to abide by her own words, much less adhere to rational defense of her, much less Trump’s, actions.

I’m not really sure what to do with these exchanges, short of big outlets like Meet the Press refusing to invite insurrectionists. At the very least, people who chant fascist slogans to please Trump need to pay a price. But where? How?

But the press needs to understand that interviews with Trump’s people are not, for him, designed to be a defense of his beliefs — or lack thereof. They are designed to throw out as many key words as possible to blur matters of truth.

Which task Elise performed spectacularly today.


KRISTEN WELKER:

In terms of what we’re hearing today, former President Trump has referred to January 6th as a, quote, “beautiful day.” Just this weekend, he referred to some of those who are serving time for having stormed the Capitol as, quote, “hostages.” Do you still feel as though that day was tragic and that those who were responsible should be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law?

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

Well, first of all, Kristen, as typical for NBC and the biased media, you played one excerpt of my speech. I stand by my comments that I made on the House floor. I stood up for election integrity, and I challenged and objected to the certification of the state of Pennsylvania because of the unconstitutional overreach. So, I absolutely stand by my floor speech. I am proud to support President Trump. And I want to correct another statement you made that there is no coordination with Joe Biden and the Department of Justice in prosecutions against President Trump. We just saw Hunter Biden defy a congressional subpoena and the White House admitting it was in coordination with Joe Biden the morning of. That is coordination, and I believe that Joe Biden will be found to be the most corrupt president in our nation’s history. And that’s why all of the investigative work that we’re doing is so, so important, because the American people, they deserve transparency and accountability.

KRISTEN WELKER:

A lot to unpack there. Of course, the White House has said that Hunter Biden is acting unilaterally. On the issue of election integrity, though, as you know, Trump took his case to court more than 60 times that there was fraud. He didn’t win. But I want to get back to this key question. Do you still think it was a tragic day? Do you think that the people who stormed the Capitol should be held responsible to the full extent of the law –

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

I have concerns about the treatment of January 6th hostages. I have concerns – we have a role in Congress of oversight over our treatments of prisoners. And I believe that we’re seeing the weaponization of the federal government against not just President Trump, but we’re seeing it against conservatives. We’re seeing it against Catholics. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud to serve in the Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Government, because the American people want answers. They want transparency. And they understand that, as you look across this country, there seems to be two sets of rules. If your last name is Clinton or it’s Biden, you get to live by a different set of rules than if you’re an everyday, patriotic American. I’ve been clear, Kristen. If you go back and play the full speech I gave on the House floor, I condemn the violence just like I condemned the violence of the BLM riots. But I also, importantly, stood for election integrity and security of our elections, which, if we don’t have that, we do not have a democracy. So, the real threat to our democracy is these baseless witch hunt investigations and lawsuits against President Trump, whether it’s Tish James or whether we see in the DC Circuit Court. And that is undemocratic, and it’s shredding our Constitution. And you know who agrees with me, Kristen? The American people. That’s why President Trump is winning in poll after poll against Joe Biden.

KRISTEN WELKER:

The Justice Department has indicted a number of top-name Democrats, as well, including the president’s son, twice. So, I mean, a lot of critics would argue that undercuts your argument there are two systems of justice.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

If you want to try to –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me – can I follow up with you –

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

I want to answer that. If you want to – if you want to make that case, the American people are very smart. They know that they tried to give Hunter Biden a sweetheart deal. We’ve heard from multiple IRS blowers –

KRISTEN WELKER:

He’s been indicted twice, Congresswoman –

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

But it was because of a judge that threw out a sweetheart deal that was negotiated on Joe Biden’s behalf. Joe Biden and the Department of Justice have been withheld from going after the Biden crime family, which Joe Biden sits atop of.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Other – other – other top Democrats have been indicted, as well. But we have a lot to get to, so I want to stay on track.

Copyright © 2024 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2024-presidential-election/page/6/