January 27, 2023 / by 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Merrick Garland Names War Crimes Prosecutor Jack Smith to Oversee Trump Investigations

To my mind, the best part of appointing war crimes and public corruption prosecutor Jack Smith as Special Counsel to oversee the twin investigations into Donald Trump is that it will be a cinch, now, to subpoena Ginni Thomas.

Otherwise I have mixed feelings about the decision. I think the letter of DOJ guidelines requires it. But I don’t think it will change how much of a clusterfuck Trump makes of it.

It does have certain other advantages, other than making it easier to subpoena Ginni. It might even make it easy to subpoena Mike Pence.

First, this will make it very easy to refuse Jim Jordan’s demands for information about the investigation.

It will ensure the continuity of any prosecution after 2025, no matter who is elected (neither hypothetical Trump prosecution — the stolen documents or the coup attempt — would be done by then, even if it were indicted on December 15, the earliest possible date for either).

I don’t think this will create much of a delay. The stolen documents case, which is the first that could be prosecuted (assuming the 11th Circuit overturns Judge Aileen Cannon’s special master order) is fairly self-contained, so would only take a day to be briefed into. The coup attempt is far, far more complex, but I think there was no way Trump himself would be indicted before February or March anyway, probably longer.

The jurisdictional boundary is of interest: Anyone who crimed at the Capitol will be prosecuted by DC US Attorney Matthew Graves. Anyone who was not physically present at the Capitol would fall under Smith’s investigation.

It’s unclear where Alex Jones would fit in that schema. Roger Stone, though, would be moved under Smith.

My favorite part of the order appointing Smith is this part:

The language authorizing a Special Counsel to investigate anything that “might arise directly from this investigation” is standard Special Counsel language. It generally covers efforts to obstruct the investigation.

Only, usually, it only appears in the subjunctive, covering matters that might arise, in the future.

This authorizes Smith to investigate things that already have. Which would only be necessary if such matters had already arisen.

The order also authorizes Smith to spin off prosecutions.

Again, that’s not boilerplate. It may suggest Garland has already seen evidence of criminality that could and should be spun off.

Mostly, I think this is an “Eh” decision. It doesn’t change Garland’s role in the process. I don’t think it delays things. I think it carries certain advantages, two of those named Ginni and Jim.

But otherwise, the investigation continues with — as Garland said — urgency.

Update: Overnight I thought of this: Garland said there were recent developments, plural, that led to this decision. One could be the GOP taking over control of Congress. After all, Scott Perry, head of the Freedom Caucus, must be a subject of this investigation. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the incoming House Judiciary Committee Chair is too. And depending on the final split in Congress, it’s also not outside the realm of possibility that enough members are under investigation — with Perry, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Matt Gaetz — that it could, briefly anyway, alter the majority in Congress.


Aileen Cannon’s Special Master Review Helped DOJ Prepare for a Key Witness Interview

My impression of DOJ’s reply brief in their 11th Circuit appeal of Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to appoint a Special Master to review the files seized from Mar-a-Lago is that they’ve gotten whatever benefit they could get from the Special Master review and now that the election pause has passed, they’re really impatient for the injunction on their investigation to be lifted so they can interview the last few witnesses. That probably includes Trump assistant Molly Michael.

The reply repeats the arguments DOJ made in their opening brief: Judge Cannon abused her authority by getting involved in a case where there was no evidence of callous disregard for Trump’s rights.

But even before that, it calls out Trump for totally changing his tack, no longer arguing that some privilege merits withholding documents from the government, but instead the Tom Fitton theory that Trump could simply convert Presidential Records into his own property by packing it in a box and shipping it to Mar-a-Lago. Since this is a new argument, it’s not proper.

None of those three filings cited Judicial Watch v. National Archives and Records Administration, 845 F. Supp. 2d 288 (D.D.C. 2012), upon which Plaintiff now relies (incorrectly) in claiming authority to convert Presidential records into “personal” records by removing them from the White House. And nowhere in those filings did Plaintiff suggest that he had exercised that purported authority with regard to the seized records—much less why that would warrant an injunction and special-master review. Rather, Plaintiff asserted that the case “center[s] around [Plaintiff’s] possession . . . of his own Presidential records,” DE.58:2 (emphasis added); see also DE.127:8 (transcript) (“What we are talking about here, in the main, are Presidential records in the hands of the 45th President of the United States.”); DE.127:9 (similar). Unsurprisingly, the district court did not rely on this novel PRA theory in issuing its injunction and appointing a special master.1 Because this argument has been “raised for the first time on appeal,” In re Dukes, 909 F.3d at 1322, it need not be considered here.

Importantly, even if the Fitton theory were true, it’d be irrelevant. DOJ had a warrant to obtain these records. Warrants authorize the seizure of personal records all the time. If Trump is lucky, DOJ suggests, he might be able to get some of these records back after DOJ closes the investigation.

Even if Plaintiff could have designated the seized records as “personal” records, that would provide no basis for an injunction or special-master review. A document’s categorization as a “personal” record does not preclude the government from obtaining it through a search warrant or using it in a criminal investigation. Law enforcement officials routinely conduct judicially authorized searches to seize evidence of crimes, see Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(c)(1), and that evidence routinely consists of personal effects, including personal papers. Nothing in the law prohibits the government from using documents recovered in a search if they are “personal,” and the search warrant here authorized the government to seize materials stored collectively with records bearing classification markings regardless of their status as “personal” or Presidential records.

[snip]

Simply put, the government can review and use materials obtained in its judicially authorized search regardless of whether they are Presidential or “personal” records. At most, a record’s categorization under the PRA speaks to whether that record would be provided to NARA or returned to Plaintiff after the government’s investigation concludes.

DOJ also talks about all the ways that the Special Master process has already mooted any legitimate demand Trump might have had. DOJ returned to Trump any legitimately privileged documents, as they tried to do before Judge Cannon prevented them from doing so as to create a harm she needed to fix.

The government’s filter team has also now returned to Plaintiff a limited set of documents segregated by the filter team—as it sought to do at the very outset, see U.S. Br. 25—thus mooting any hypothetical disputes about attorney-client privilege as to those documents. See DE.138:2.

He has copies of all the non-classified documents, which would be the outcome of any successful Rule 41(g) fight.

Moreover, Plaintiff has now had an opportunity to review all of the seized records except those bearing classification markings, and the government has no objection to Plaintiff retaining copies.

Trump has conceded three potentially privileged documents found during the initial scoping were not privileged. (See this post where I explained how DOJ got Raymond Dearie to put this detail into the public record.)

The government’s opening brief noted three instances in which the investigative team, following the filter protocol and applying broad criteria, subsequently ceased review of a document and provided it to the filter team for further review. U.S. Br. 39-40. The filter team concluded that none of the three documents is privileged; and—as the public record now reflects—Plaintiff agrees. See DE.138:2 (Plaintiff not asserting privilege as to document referred to as B076); DE.158-1:1 and DE 162 (same, as to “Document 21” and “Document 22”); see also DE.148 (sealed filter team filing describing these documents).

That leaves just one fragment of a document over which Trump has claimed attorney-client privilege.

The sole remaining dispute pertains to one portion of a one-page document, see DE.182-1:1, 7 and the filter protocols originally directed by the magistrate judge provide a mechanism to resolve such disputes, see MJDE.125:31-32

[snip]

Finally, Plaintiff states that after the special-master review, he “will be entitled to return of some of the seized items,” including “not only [the] privileged materials but also [] the seized materials (i.e., personal records) unrelated to the investigation.” Br. 61. That assertion is wholly unsupported. At most, Plaintiff is entitled to a single page of a single document if he prevails on a disputed claim of attorney-client privilege.

7 That document was identified by the investigative team during the special-master review and, consistent with the filter protocol, it was referred to the filter team. The filter team has filed a sealed letter to the Special Master regarding its position. DE.186.

Effectively, the Special Master process has mooted any legal claim of injury Trump might have so even if Cannon had properly intervened, there’d be no point in continuing.

Which brings us to DOJ’s response to Trump’s claim that DOJ has presented no proof that the injunction on using the unclassified documents is causing harm. In its original brief, DOJ talked about the significance of the unclassified documents that are “intermingled” or “comingled” with classified documents to establish possession or timeline. This reply repeats the emphasis on “comingled” documents, but also discusses the import of when materials were “compiled.”

Second, although this Court’s stay mitigated the injunction’s most severe harms to the government and the public, the rest of the injunction has impeded the government’s investigation in other ways. The sole purpose for which the government has been permitted to review the seized unclassified records is to participate in a prolonged dispute with Plaintiff about their categorization. The government has been enjoined from using unclassified records comingled with records bearing classification markings to (for example) piece together timelines related to when these materials might have been compiled or accessed, or to question witnesses who may be familiar with these documents’ contents. Beyond that, the government cannot be expected to disclose to Plaintiff specific investigative steps that it would take absent the injunction. [my emphasis]

Which brings me to my suspicion that DOJ is anxious to interview Molly Michael with these unclassified documents.

Molly Michael was, at the end of Trump’s Administration, his Executive Assistant; she moved with him to Mar-a-Lago. Here she is, being interviewed by the January 6 Committee.

As Maggie Haberman noted days after the search, the FBI had reached out to Michael for an interview.

It’s highly likely that Michael either used or had access to the drawer in Trump’s office from which 144 items, for a total of 989 pages, were seized. All of those documents went through the privilege review and it’s likely that many of the 60-some potentially privileged documents were from that desk. Indeed, these two documents, treated as potentially privileged, are most likely from a desk that was in active use.

These two documents are ones over which Trump is making some of the most remarkable claims. According to an October 20 filing, DOJ had agreed with Trump that these were personal documents (even in spite of their reference to “POTUS), yet Trump was claiming Executive Privilege over them.

Given the Presidential Record Act rules that if a document has been shown to the President, it becomes a Presidential Record, by far the best explanation for the agreement these are personal documents over which Trump is trying to claim privilege — as I noted here — is that they reflect the Mar-a-Lago office running like his White House office used to, with his assistant, Molly, providing meeting requests and questions for Trump to review. The reference to “POTUS” cannot be a reflection of his position if and when he did review them, because if he were still POTUS, they would be Presidential Records. Rather, the moniker likely reflects that all the sycophants at Mar-a-Lago still call him POTUS.

Over the course of the privilege dispute, then, Trump provided compelling evidence that these two documents were created after he left office. He probably also confirmed that Molly Michael was the one accessing these documents.

Thanks Don!

That’s important for the document I’ve called a mini smoking gun: the document that includes a Secret document, a Confidential document, messages from a pollster, a religious leader, and a book author, as well as one page (SM_MAL_00001190) over which Trump is claiming attorney-client privilege.

One potentially privileged document that had been scanned was removed from the database (SM_MAL_00001185 to SM_MAL_00001195). That document – excluding the one potentially privileged page (SM_MAL_00001190) – is discussed in the next section about the Filter Materials Log. The potentially privileged page is the subject of a separate letter from the Filter Team to Your Honor, which is sent today.

[snip]

This document is a compilation that includes three documents that post-date Plaintiff’s term in office and two classified cover sheets, one SECRET and the other CONFIDENTIAL. Because Plaintiff can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as President, the entire mixed document is a Presidential record.

Besides the classified cover sheets, which were inserted by the FBI in lieu of the actual documents, none of the remaining communications in the document are confidential presidential communications that might be subject to a claim of executive privilege. Three communications are from a book author, a religious leader, and a pollster. The first two cannot be characterized as presidential advisers and all three are either dated or by content occurred after Plaintiff’s administration ended. [my emphasis]

This document as a whole is the one other one that Trump is trying to withhold entirely under an Executive Privilege claim over what he says is a personal document.

This is obviously a document Trump would badly like to claw back from the government — and for good reason: it is evidence that he was accessing classified records in conjunction with his business after leaving the White House.

Note the government calls it a “compilation,” the same word included in the Reply brief. The government wants to show unclassified documents to witnesses to find out when they might have been compiled.

If I’m right that this document comes from the same drawer as the Molly’s Questions for POTUS Approval documents, then she is likely the witness who can say when it was compiled. She would be the witness who could explain why Trump integrated a Secret document into his ongoing personal business. She might even testify that she saw the entire compilation, including the page over which Trump is claiming privilege, which would vitiate that privilege claim.

If I’m right, then the government is probably pretty anxious to put Molly Michael in front of a grand jury with these unclassified documents. They just need the 11th Circuit to proclaim all these Trump claims bullshit, as they’re likely to do after next week’s Tuesday hearing.

This would be a priority for another reason.

If the government is going to charge Trump, they need to find documents that are sufficiently damning to persuade the jury (and the public) that what Trump did was corrupt, but not so sensitive that agencies would refuse to declassify the documents for trial. This document, along with the Roger Stone clemency, is the sweet spot: They both include a Secret document. They both were stored in a readily accessible desk drawer. And they both reflect more personal business.

Indeed, the other most heated fight over designations, after this compilation document, pertains to a series of other clemency grants. Trump is trying to claim that documents that — by definition — could only exist in the context of his role as the President, are personal.

Filter Log Document 8 (portion) (A-023 to A-024) and

Filter Log Document 10 (A-031 to A-032)

Filter Log Document 12 (portion) (A-034 to A-035)

Filter Log Document 13 (portion) (A-041 to A-042)

The four bullet-pointed commutation analyses are Presidential records because they relate to the President’s “Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” U.S. CONST. Art. II, § 2, cl. 1. The four analyses were received by Plaintiff in his capacity as the official with authority to grant reprieves and pardons, not in his personal capacity. Plaintiff relies on Judicial Watch to “deem” the Presidential records to be personal records, but the dicta in that non-binding district court decision provide no authority to automagically recharacterize documents that are “Presidential records” within the meaning of the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. § 2201(2). See ECF 173, at 4-6 (global issues brief).

The four commutation analyses cannot be withheld from the Executive Branch on a claim of executive privilege because, among other reasons, Plaintiff may not assert the Executive Branch’s privilege to withhold documents from itself. See ECF 173, at 12-13 (global issues brief).

These are parts of the clemency packages for Ted Suhl, Rod Blagojevich, what are probably two Border Patrol agents convicted for shooting a drug smuggler, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, and Michael Behanna, a soldier courtmartialed for killing an Iraqi prisoner. While it’s certainly possible Trump may have had corrupt purpose to hide the internal deliberations over these pardons from prosecutors, meaning they’d be evidence of a crime — albeit a different crime — themselves, this fight may also be a proxy for a fight over the Stone clemency which, unlike these four documents, includes a document classified Secret.

Trump’s lawyers may have next to no experience on Espionage Act cases. But they’re not dummies. They can figure out which documents are most likely to get Trump charged. And the ones they’re fighting hardest to claw back are the clemency packages and the “compilation.”

In fact, they’ve just spent the last two months emphasizing to the government that they believe these are the most damning documents (at least thus far), going so far as confirming that several of them post-date the time when Trump (and maybe Molly Michael) would have legal access to classified documents.

When this Special Master process started, there was the possibility that Trump might confirm things that helped DOJ prosecute him, most notably by confirming the inventory (though DOJ has made another bid to get Dearie to force this issue or deem accuracy claims to be waived).

But they did get something: They got Trump to confirm certain details, including dates, about records that were likely in his desk drawer. Which means they’ve helped prepare DOJ to interview whoever had control of that desk drawer.


Devlin Barrett’s “People Familiar with the Matter”

As Devlin Barrett’s sources would have it, a man whose business ties to the Saudis include a $2 billion investment in his son-in-law, a golf partnership of undisclosed value, and a new hotel development in Oman would have no business interest in stealing highly sensitive documents describing Iran’s missile systems.

I’ll let you decide whether the claim, made in Barrett’s latest report on the stolen documents case, means the FBI is considering the issue very narrowly or Barrett’s sources are bullshitting him.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Barrett has a history of credulously repeating what right wing FBI agents feed him for their own political goals, which means it’s unclear how seriously to take this report. Particularly given several critical details Barrett’s story does not mention:

  • Trump’s efforts, orchestrated in part by investigation witness Kash Patel, to release documents about the Russian investigation specifically to serve a political objective
  • The report, from multiple outlets, that Jay Bratt told Trump’s lawyers that DOJ believes Trump still has classified documents
  • Details about classified documents interspersed with a Roger Stone grant of clemency and messages — dated after Trump left the White House — from a pollster, a book author, and a religious leader; both sets of interspersed classified documents were found in Trump’s office
  • The way Trump’s legal exposure would expand if people like Boris Epshteyn conspired to help him hoard the documents or others like Molly Michael accessed the classified records

To be sure: I think a good many of the documents Trump stole — including the most sensitive ones — were stolen as trophies. We know that’s why Trump stole his love letters with Kim Jong Un. And the visible contents of the FBI’s search photograph show that the most highly classified documents were stored along with Time Magazine covers.

But this report, from sources described as “people familiar with the matter,” bespeaks a partial view of the investigation, one Barrett hasn’t bothered to supplement (or challenge) with public records.

That description, “people familiar with the matter,” is the same one Barrett uses to remind readers that he got the scoop on the Iranian missile documents that his sources don’t think the Saudis would have any interest in, and his scoop that Trump stole documents about some country’s defense system (which, if the country is Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel, would be of acute interest to Trump’s golf partners, too).

The Washington Post has previously reported that among the most sensitive classified documents recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago were documents about Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said. The Post has also reported that some of the material focuses on the defense systems of a foreign country, including its nuclear capabilities.

There’s no guarantee that these “people familiar with the matter” are the same sources for both the information about the most sensitive documents Trump stole and the current understanding about Trump’s motive. It could be that Barrett is using the same vague description to protect his source(s).

But they could be the same sources. Indeed, the blind spots in Barrett’s reporting may stem from having sources familiar with the national security review of the documents, but not necessarily the ongoing investigation into it. Some of the WaPo’s past reporting on this story seems to come from people who’ve seen the unredacted affidavit, but not necessarily the investigative files.

And that’s interesting, among other reasons, because the leak to Barrett about the most sensitive documents has formed the primary harm claimed by Trump’s lawyers in filing after filing after filing, starting literally the day after Judge Aileen Cannon cited leaks in her original order enjoining the criminal investigation.

The Government is apparently not concerned with unauthorized leaks regarding the contents of the purported “classified records,” see, e.g., Devlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonnig, Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mara-Lago, WASH. POST (Sept. 6, 2022), https://www.washingtonpost.com/nationalsecurity/2022/09/06/trump-nuclear-documents/, and would presumably be prepared to share all such records publicly in any future jury trial. However, the Government advances the untenable position in its Motion that the secure review by a Court appointed and supervised special master under controlled access conditions is somehow problematic and poses a risk to national security.

Trump cites Barrett’s work right alongside EO 13526 as “Other Authorities” central to Trump’s argument:

In any case, given the precedent of Nghia Pho (which may still be the only 18 USC 793 case cited by DOJ in this proceeding), it may not matter if Trump stole all or only some of these documents because he’s a narcissist. Trump brought a stack of classified documents to a foreign intelligence target and left them unprotected as multiple suspect foreigners infiltrated his resort. He continued to hoard such documents even after it was publicly reported that he had brought classified documents home.

During Trump’s Administration two men were sent to prison because, by bringing highly classified documents home for motives that had nothing to do with leaking, they made the documents accessible to Russian-linked sources, actions that ultimately led to a devastating compromise of US intelligence resources. Under Donald Trump’s DOJ, Pho and Hal Martin were not given a pass because they were serving their own ego.

So there’s no reason Trump’s narcissism, alone, should be a basis not to charge him.


Government Asks Raymond Dearie to Recommend Judge Cannon Lift Injunction on 2,794 Documents

The global issues briefs from DOJ and Trump in the Special Master proceeding have been unsealed (DOJ, Trump).

The focus of both filings address what DOJ calls Trump’s gamesmanship but which is basically the kind of Calvinball that Judge Aileen Cannon appears to love. For many, if not most, of the 2,916 documents at issue, Trump’s argument appears to be:

  • If valuable then Tom Fitton (meaning, the misapplied argument that the President can designate anything “personal” and therefore effectively take possession of Presidential Records merely by sticking it in a box)
  • If not Tom Fitton, then Executive Privilege (meaning, if Raymond Dearie is not impressed by misapplied Tom Fitton logic, then he should allow Trump to withhold documents under a privilege claim)

DOJ provides a lot of reasons that’s nonsense, including that if Trump thinks something is personal then it obviously can’t be privileged.

A key part of the argument, however, is that even if Trump were able to invoke Executive Privilege against the government, DOJ would overcome that here because of the criminal investigation.

Plaintiff’s assertions of executive privilege fail under United States v. Nixon, because the government has a “demonstrated, specific need” for the seized records in its ongoing criminal investigation. 4

4 Because the government satisfies United States v. Nixon’s “demonstrated, specific need” test, which applies to a sitting President, the Court need not consider Plaintiff’s status as a former President for purposes of this analysis. [citations omitted]

Trump dodges addressing the Nixon standard by complaining that he hasn’t seen the unsealed affidavit that authorized the search, and so the government has failed to reach the Nixon standard.

Although crucial to the executive branch’s decision-making processes, executive privilege is neither absolute nor unqualified. Nixon, 418 U.S. at 706. Rather, the Supreme Court has recognized that the privilege must “yield to the demonstrated, specific needs for evidence in a pending criminal trial.” Id. at 713. In providing this standard, the Supreme Court clarified that in order to overcome an assertion of executive privilege, the party seeking the privileged material must “clear three hurdles: (1) relevancy; (2) admissibility; and (3) specificity.” Nixon, 418 U.S. at 700. The Supreme Court again affirmed this standard in Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for Dist. of Columbia, 542 U.S. 367, 386 (2004).

Currently, the affidavit in support of the search warrant which authorized the search of Mar-a-Lago is under seal, and, therefore, inaccessible to Plaintiff. Plaintiff is therefore unaware of the specific arguments relied upon by the Magistrate in issuing the warrant authorizing seizure of the documents at issue. Given that, Plaintiff must take the position that the Government has failed to clear the three hurdles articulated by the Court in Nixon.

In other words, in a civil challenge to a lawful warrant, Trump is saying he should be able to retain stuff by default until he has seen the warrant against him.

Which is one reason why something else the government does is so interesting. It asks Dearie to recommend that Judge Cannon lift the injunction on all the documents — 2,794 out of 2,916 — over which Trump has not invoked either Executive and/or Attorney-Client privilege.

Finally, as the government has noted previously, the categorization of the records at issue as Presidential or personal does not ultimately affect the government’s ability to use and review them for criminal investigative purposes. See D.E. 150 at 4 n.*. Plaintiff has asserted attorney-client privilege only as to one document out of 2,916 documents at issue here, and Plaintiff has asserted executive privilege as to only 121 documents. As to the remaining 2,794 documents, Plaintiff does not assert any privilege that would bar the government’s further review and use of these materials for purposes of the ongoing criminal investigation. Although Plaintiff and the government disagree as to the proper categorization of numerous records as “personal” or “Presidential” for the purposes of PRA, neither categorization would supply a basis to restrict the government’s review and use of those records. Indeed, personal records that are not Presidential records or government property are seized every day for use in criminal investigations. Thus, absent any specific justification from Plaintiff for continuing to restrict the government’s review and use of the 2,794 records for which Plaintiff has not asserted any privilege, there is no reason to maintain the Court’s injunction as those those records.

This takes Judge Cannon’s premise on its face, as if this is just a normal Special Master review to ensure that the government doesn’t access any privileged documents for an investigation. If that were the case, she would easily approve the sharing of all documents over which the plaintiff had not made any privilege claim.

It may or may not work. But if Dearie were to act on this request immediately, then Cannon would either have to override it or grant it before the 11th Circuit makes its final decision on the appeal. Judge Cannon’s intervention is inappropriate on its face. But if she refuses to release non-privileged documents to the government, it will become clear that she is doing nothing more than attempting to thwart the criminal investigation of Trump.


Merrick Garland Hasn’t Done the Specific Thing You Want because DOJ Has Been Busy Doing Things They Have to Do First

The passage of the election has set off the Merrick Garland whingers again, people who like displaying their ignorance by claiming there has been no sign of progress on the investigations into Trump when (often as not) there were signs of progress that the whingers are ignoring in the last few days.

Yes. It has been almost a week since the close of polls last Tuesday. No. Merrick Garland has not carted Trump away in a paddy wagon yet (nor would the FBI, if and when they ever did arrest him).

Yes. We actually know why Garland hasn’t done so — and it’s not for want of actions that might lead there.

There are still known steps that have to or probably will happen before Trump would be indicted in any of the known criminal investigations into him. For those demanding proof of life from the DOJ investigations into Trump, you need look no further than the public record to find that proof of life. The public record easily explains both what DOJ has been doing in the Trump investigations, and why there is likely to be at least a several month delay before any charges can be brought.

The reason is that DOJ is still pursuing the evidence they would need before charging a former President.

Here’s an update on the various investigations into Trump (I’ve bolded the two appellate deadlines below).

Stolen documents

The reason I’m particularly crabby about the Merrick Garland whinging is because people were accusing DOJ of inaction hours after DOJ’s most recent step in the investigation into Trump’s stolen documents. On November 3, for example, DOJ compelled Kash Patel to testify before a grand jury under grant of use immunity, testimony that would be necessary, one way or another, before charging Trump, because DOJ would need to rule out or at least account for any claim that Trump mass-declassified the documents he stole.

DOJ continues to fight to ensure it can keep the documents it seized on August 8, and to be permitted to use the unclassified documents it seized in the investigation. The most recent filings in that fight, as I wrote up here, were filings about the disputes Trump and DOJ have about the seized documents, which Special Master Raymond Dearie will use to rule on those designations by December 16. After Dearie does that, Trump will dispute some of Dearie’s decisions, and Judge Aileen Cannon will make her own decision de novo. She has not set her own deadline for how long that decision would take. But if the Special Master process is the means by which DOJ guarantees its access to the evidence against Trump, it won’t be resolved until after the New Year, even assuming DOJ won’t have to appeal some ridiculous Cannon ruling.

Short of doing a search on another Trump property, preferably in Virginia but possibly in New Jersey or New York, this case cannot be charged until DOJ can present documents the custody of which it has guaranteed to a grand jury. DOJ has to make sure they have the evidence they would use to charge Trump (though adjudicating these disputes now might make any prosecution quicker on the back end).

That said, DOJ may guarantee custody of the documents it seized in August more quickly, via its challenge to Cannon’s decision to appoint a Special Master in the first place, in the 11th Circuit. Trump’s response to that appeal, which he submitted on November 10, seemed desultory, as if Chris Kice knows they will lose this appeal (indeed, that seems likely given that both the 11th Circuit and SCOTUS have already declined to see the case in the way Trump would prefer). DOJ’s response is due on November 17. Because of the way the 11th Circuit has scheduled this appeal, the panel reviewing it will be prepared for oral argument on rather quick turnaround. Even so, DOJ is not likely to guarantee access to these documents via any favorable 11th Circuit decision (which Trump will undoubtedly appeal) before December 1, and it would take about a week to present any case to the grand jury. So the very earliest that DOJ could indict this case would be early- to mid- December.

Update: In a filing submitted on November 8 but only unsealed today, DOJ asked Raymond Dearie to recommend that Judge Cannon lift the injunction on the 2,794 out of 2,916 documents over which Trump is making no privilege claim.

Update: The 11th Circuit has set a hearing for November 22, so DOJ may actually have access to those files sooner than December 1, though not all that sooner.

January 6 investigation(s)

There are at least four ways that Trump might be charged in conjunction with January 6:

  • For asking Mike Pence to illegally overturn legal votes and then threatening him, including with violence, when he refused
  • For setting up fake electors to contest the election
  • For fundraising off false claims of voter fraud and using the money to benefit those who helped the attack
  • Via people like Roger Stone, in a networked conspiracy with those who attacked the Capitol

DOJ sent out subpoenas in the first three prongs of this just before the pre-election pause. This post summarizes who was included.

These are all (and have been) intersecting conspiracies (this CNN story describes how many areas the subpoenas cover). For example, since January, it has been clear that the top-down investigation most visible in the January 6 Committee work and the crime-scene investigation visible in ongoing prosecutions had converged on the pressure both Trump and the mob focused on Mike Pence. It’s unclear how DOJ will treat the intersection of these investigations, and whether DOJ will wait for all prongs to converge before charging.

The Mike Pence prong is where DOJ made its most obvious progress during the pre-election pause. On October 6, Mike Pence Counsel Greg Jacob testified before a grand jury. October 14, Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short testified. Also in October, DOJ asked Beryl Howell to compel Trump’s White House Counsels Pat Cipollone and Pat Philbin as well. I’m not aware of the status of appeals on that (or whether Judge Howell compelled testimony from the two Pats in the meantime). We know that all four men would describe the debates over the extent of Pence’s authority to reject lawful electors, including the recognition from people like John Eastman that their legal theories were unsupported by law. The two Pats would also testify about Trump’s reaction to the mob, as he watched the attack on the Capitol from inside the White House dining room, including the tweet that specifically targeted Pence. These are all very credible first-hand witnesses to Trump’s words and actions both in advance of and during the attack. Obtaining their testimony would be necessary before charging a former President. But DOJ’s efforts (and success) at obtaining their testimony reflects the seriousness of the investigation.

The publication of Pence’s book, which relays his version about exchanges with Trump, would seem to invite a demand from DOJ that he testify about the same topics to the grand jury as well, particularly given the way he spun the story in ways that might help Trump. If I were a prosecutor contemplating charging the former President, I would want that potentially exculpatory (to Trump) locked in under oath. And any claim from Pence that he can’t share these details because of Executive Privilege seem ridiculous in the face of a book tour. But if DOJ decided they needed Pence’s testimony it might result in delay.

It’s unclear how much progress DOJ has made on the subpoenas issued before the pause. None of those subpoenaed have been spotted at grand jury appearances at Prettyman (though that may change this week). In particular, there are a bunch of senior Republicans involved in the fake elector plots from whom I expect DOJ to try to lock in testimony.

But two things may cause delay in any case. First, as I wrote here, subpoenas (generally served on people who might be expected to comply) are easy, because they require the person who received the subpoena to do the search for the subpoenaed materials. But it takes time to exploit phones, all the more so if the phone was seized without some way to open it. Here’s how long the communications of various high profile people have taken to exploit:

This is not indolence. It is physics and due process: it just takes time to crack phones, to filter the content, and to scope what is responsive to a warrant.

Among the steps taken before the pause, in early September, DOJ seized the phones of Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman. While it’s possible DOJ will be able to accelerate the process of exploiting these phones (they have done so with Oath Keeper lawyer Kellye SoRelle’s phone, as last week DOJ submitted material that had gone through a filter review from the phone seized from her in early September in the sedition case), you should not assume they can fully exploit these phones (with whatever Signal content is on them) in less than six months, so March. In Epshteyn’s case, his claims to be playing a legal role in the stolen document case may cause further delays because of a filter review.

As someone involved in vote fraud efforts, Latinos for Trump, and the Oath Keepers, SoRelle is one of the pivots from the White House and Willard focused activities to the crime scene. DOJ seems closer to moving against others at that pivot point. Roger Stone, for example, has been mentioned over and over in the Oath Keeper trial. But that’s probably several months off. Alex Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer has been given until the end of the month to decide whether he wants to plead or take his chances on further charges. And I expect DOJ will wait until the verdict at least in the Oath Keeper case (they might not even get through all the defense witnesses this week), and possibly in the more complex Proud Boy case (which would be February barring likely unforeseen changes), before going too much further.

There’s one more thing that may delay any more spectacular charges in January 6. The oral argument for DOJ’s appeal of Carl Nichols’ outlier decision on the application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to the insurrection won’t happen until December 12. It drew a pretty unfavorable panel for that hearing (listed as Joseph Fischer here): Trump appointees Greg Katsas (like Nichols, a former Clarence Thomas clerk, who also worked as Deputy White House Counsel in 2017) and Justin Walker (who is close to Mitch McConnell), and Biden appointee Florence Pan (who presided over January 6 cases before being promoted to the Circuit Court). It’s possible, but by no means certain, that the Trump appointees will do something nutty, in which case, DOJ would surely appeal first to the full DC Circuit panel; if they overturn Nichols, Garret Miller and the other January 6 defendants who got their obstruction charges thrown out will presumably appeal to SCOTUS.

Nichols’ decision, which ruled that January 6 did count as an official proceeding but ruled that any obstruction had to involve some kind of documents, probably wouldn’t stall any charges relating to the fake electors, which were after all about using fraudulent documents to overturn the vote certification. But it might lead DOJ to pause for other charges until the legal application is unquestioned. 18 USC 1512 is the charge on which DOJ has built its set of interlocking conspiracy charges, and so this decision is pretty important going forward.

Unlike the stolen document case, I can’t give you a date that would be the soonest possible date to expect indictments. But for a variety of reasons laid out here, unless DOJ were to indict on charges specifically focused on Mike Pence (with the possibility of superseding later), it probably would not be until March or April at the earliest.

Georgia investigation

The Georgia investigation, like the Federal one, was paused for a period leading up to the election (it’s unclear whether the run-off between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker will further delay things). But during the pre-election period, DA Fani Willis won decisions for testimony from Lindsey Graham and Newt Gingrich. Those grand jury appearances were scheduled for the end of this month (though may be pushed back). In any case, Willis has indicated that any charges from this investigation may come before the end of the year.

To be clear, none of this is a guarantee that DOJ (or Willis) will indict Trump and/or his closest aides. It is, however, a summary of the reasons that are public that all these investigations have been taking steps that would have to happen before they could charge Trump, and that most have additional steps that would have to happen before prosecutors could even make a prosecutorial decision.


Andy McCarthy Gives Frothers Permission to Approve of a Trump Indictment

This column from Andy McCarthy is one of the most interesting GOP responses I’ve seem to the election on Tuesday.

It starts by saying the former President has jumped the shark because he attacked the two governors — Glenn Youngkin and Ron DeSantis — that in McCarthy’s estimation are the future of the Republican party.

After laying out the former President’s legal jeopardy — January 6, the stolen documents, the Georgia investigation — and getting details wrong throughout, Andy then lays out a conspiracy theory about how Democratic efforts to game the 2024 election would dictate the timing of a Trump investigation.

Still, for as long as it appeared that the Republican presidential primaries would end in Trump’s routing the field, or at least remaining competitive to the end, the Biden administration had an incentive to table any Trump indictment. If the DOJ were to charge Trump while the Republican primaries were ongoing, that would give Republicans — all but the most delusional Trump cultists — the final push they needed to abandon Trump and turn to a different candidate, who could (and probably would) defeat Biden (or some other Democrat) in November 2024. Of course, once Trump had the nomination sewn up, the Biden administration could indict him at any time, whether before or after defeating him in the general election.

Just as this calculus motivates the Justice Department to delay any indictment, it provides a powerful incentive for Trump to run — and, indeed, to launch a campaign early (maybe as early as next week) so he is positioned to claim that a likely future indictment is just a politicized weaponization of law enforcement aimed at taking out Biden’s arch-enemy.

Yet, again, all of these calculations have hinged on one thing: Trump’s remaining a plausible Republican nominee. And he’s not one anymore.

The idea is that Biden is controlling all the prosecutors at DOJ (and it’s not leaking) and all are working in concert to improve Biden’s chance of running against a damaged Trump by indicting Trump at the optimal time. And Trump, in turn, is running precisely to avoid prosecution. It doesn’t make any sense, mind you. It’s batshit crazypants, as Andy usually is these days.

After laying out the devious plots he claims the Democrats and Trump are involved with, Andy repeats, again, that the attacks on Youngkin and DeSantis mean Trump’s toast as a candidate.

Trump is toast after his unhinged tirades against DeSantis and Youngkin. Attacking such unpopular Republicans as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger is one thing, and attacking Mitch McConnell (or was it “Coco Chow”?) is just par for the course. But going after DeSantis and Youngkin, accomplished rising stars who give the disheartened GOP hope that better times may be around the corner, is just flat-out nuts. And nobody who’s not flat-out nuts wants any part of flat-out nuts.

None of that is any more true than Andy’s conspiracy theories about how Biden is directing the actions of about 50 AUSAs.

But then Andy’s insane rant gets interesting. He argues that if DOJ indicts Trump it won’t help Trump politically because, Andy says, the January 6 investigation and the stolen document investigation are meritorious, unlike (he says), “Russiagate” [sic].

[S]ome calculate that an indictment of Trump would revive him politically. There is a certain surface appeal to this view, but it is ultimately wrong. It would be right if we were talking about allegations akin to those at issue in Russiagate — a manufactured political narrative substituting for evidence. Such a baseless case would make Trump stronger, because it would be a patent abuse of prosecutorial power.

But here we are talking about actual, egregious misconduct. A January 6 prosecution of Trump might be a reach legally, but the country was repulsed by the Capitol riot — as compared to being bemused, then annoyed, by the fever dream of Trump–Russia “collusion.” As for the Mar-a-Lago probe, Trump has handed the Justice Department on a silver platter simple crimes that are serious and easy to understand. Beyond that, the DOJ also has a convincing story to tell: The government didn’t want to do it this way; National Archives officials pleaded with Trump to surrender the classified material voluntarily, asking for it back multiple times even after it became clear that he was hoarding it; the DOJ resorted to a search warrant only when Trump defied a grand-jury subpoena (with his lawyers’ falsely representing that there were no more classified documents in Trump’s possession other than the ones they’d returned); even then, prosecutors went through a judge to get the warrant rather than acting on their own; and even after the search, there remain significant concerns that classified information is still missing. Even someone initially sympathetic to Trump who did not want to see a former president get prosecuted would have to stop and ask, “What else were they supposed to do when he was being so lawlessly unreasonable, and when national security could be imperiled if classified intelligence falls into the wrong hands?”

The cases the DOJ is now investigating are nothing like Russiagate.

I don’t think it’s true that either January 6 or the stolen documents are easier to lay out than the actual Russian investigation, as opposed to what Andy calls “Russiagate” [sic]. I’m not much interested in arguing the point either. This whole column is full of shit.

Still.

Andy’s columns are consistently full of shit. But they are important shit, because great swaths of Republican activists look to him to be told what to think and say about legal issues. And in this column, Andy has given those activists a bunch of ways to attack Democrats (the wild conspiracy theory about Biden coordinating 50 AUSAs to weaken a Trump candidacy for 2024) at the same time as telling those activists that after bitching about Biden orchestrating all those AUSAs, the activists have his permission to be outraged about what Trump did on January 6 or, especially, about the stolen documents. What else was DOJ supposed to do but indict Trump, Andy asks, when Trump’s unreasonable lawlessness was imperiling national security.

The cases DOJ is now investigating are very much like “Russiagate” [sic], because Trump coddling up to Russia also was outrageously lawless and imperiled national security. But (as I hope to show before Tuesday), the Russian investigation was used — by Trump, by Russia, by key influencers like Andy — to instill tribalism among Republican activists.

And in this column, Andy is telling the activists who look to him for a script about legal issues that, as tribal Republicans, they can treat January 6 and stolen document indictments as meritorious, whereas as tribal activists, they were obliged to wail about Russiagate [sic] for years.

Andy has told these activists that they can — should even, for the good of the party — support a Trump indictment.

It’s just one column.

Still, it’s precisely the kind of thing I’ve been expecting might happen, as Trump continues to impose greater and greater costs on the Republican Party. For years, Trump used investigations into himself — first Russia, then coercing Ukraine, then attacking the Capitol — as a means to enforce loyalty, all the while ratcheting up his demands on Republicans.

He got the Republican Party, with just a handful of exceptions, to applaud an attack on their workplace, because he demanded they do it as a show of loyalty. That was how he enforced his power and by making Republicans debase themselves in his defense, he made the party his own.

It doesn’t help Trump that that enforcement mechanism — replacing Trump critics with increasingly rabid Trump supporters — just cost Republicans at least the WA-3 and MI-3 House seats, as Democrats beat the Republicans who took out members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump, and thus far two Senate seats (in Arizona and Pennsylvania, with Georgia still up in the air). The cost of these loyalty tests now bear the names of
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Hillary Scholten, Mark Kelly, and John Fetterman.

But even without that cost, the legal investigations into Trump are convenient, for Republicans, not only because they provide a way to get Trump out of the way for a Youngkin or DeSantis, but also because by supporting an investigation into Trump — by calling the stolen document investigation meritorious — Republicans have a way to separate themselves from the grave damage on the US they’ve already sanctioned.

By supporting indictments against Trump, now, Republicans can pretend they didn’t already do grave damage to the country because Trump told them to, and they can clear the way for Ron DeSantis to do the same kind of damage in the future.


Trump’s Secret Document, with the Post-Administration Pollster Communication, in His Desk Drawer

In Trump’s stolen document case, the two sides have submitted disputes to Special Master Raymond Dearie. Because some earlier documents remain sealed (because of the hurricane, DOJ says), the most descriptive document included is this one, laying out disputes.

The two sides are fighting over whether Trump’s notes on clippings and briefing books are presidential documents (both are squarely within the Presidential Records Act definition).

The most interesting description in the document pertains to one particular item over which the two sides are fighting: a “compilation” of two classified documents, with three communications that post-date when he left the White House.

This document is a compilation that includes three documents that post-date Plaintiff’s term in office and two classified cover sheets, one SECRET and the other CONFIDENTIAL. Because Plaintiff can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as President, the entire mixed document is a Presidential record.

Besides the classified cover sheets, which were inserted by the FBI in lieu of the actual documents, none of the remaining communications in the document are confidential presidential communications that might be subject to a claim of executive privilege. Three communications are from a book author, a religious leader, and a pollster. The first two cannot be characterized as presidential advisers and all three are either dated or by content occurred after Plaintiff’s administration ended.

This passage explains something I was wondering from the inventory: how DOJ accounted for the classified documents in the Bates numbers. The answer is that FBI included cover sheets to mark where the classified documents were, so they count in the running Bates count.

This particular document (or “compilation”) was in a desk drawer in Trump’s office. (We know that because the Bates number appears in Item 4, the box of stuff from the desk drawer, in the main inventory. Aside from the Roger Stone clemency, this was the only document outside of the leatherbound box with classified documents in Trump’s office.

The compilation, as found in the desk drawer, includes:

  • A Secret document
  • A Confidential document
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a book author
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a religious leader
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a pollster

The secrets involved here are nowhere near as sensitive as the stuff in Trump’s leatherbound box, which stored the most sensitive documents. Confidential documents like the one in this compilation are often State Department cables.

But in some ways this document is more damning: because it shows he was commingling stolen classified documents with his ongoing affairs after leaving the White House. It gets far closer to showing that Trump was using government secrets for his own personal affairs even after he left the White House.


Head of Republican Party Attempts to Stave Off Multiple Indictments by Announcing Candidacy Early

In the last week — in the last six months, really — the Trump-whisperers keep doing stories on Donald Trump’s plans to plan to announce he’s running in the 2024 election. Those stories include the claim that he wants to make it harder for DOJ to indict him by announcing he’s running for President in 2024.

Each time attention in the ousted President wanes, he toys with the press again.

Jonathan Swan kicked off the latest such frenzy, promising a November 14 announcement, or maybe not.

Former President Trump’s inner circle is discussing announcing the launch of a 2024 presidential campaign on Nov. 14 — with the official announcement possibly followed by a multi-day series of political events, according to three sources familiar with the sensitive discussions.

Why it matters: Trump and his top advisers have been signaling for weeks that a 2024 announcement is imminent. But those discussions have reached the point that allies are blocking off days in their calendars for the week after the midterms — and preparing to travel.

[snip]

A Trump spokesman declined to comment. The discussions are still fluid and could change depending on Tuesday’s results, especially if the Senate still hangs in the balance and the Georgia race between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock goes to a run-off.

Reality check: It’s Trump. So anything could happen — or not. He’s conflicted on the timing and nothing is ever certain. But people who have been close to him for many years are lacing up for the next race.

The Guardian picked it up — noting that Trump’s planning has “intensified” as DOJ has continued the investigation of Trump’s theft of documents and attempted theft of an election.

The plans for the anticipated presidential campaign have intensified as the justice department moves forward with several criminal investigations surrounding Trump, including over potential mishandling of national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, and over the January 6 attack.

Some advisers have told Trump that the timing could be positive since the combined effects of announcing a presidential run and daring the justice department to indict him as a candidate could drown out political messaging by congressional Democrats and the Joe Biden White House.

Then, one of Trump’s sycophants said that he was going to announce last night. After his belligerent rally (at which he attacked Nancy Pelosi), the press reconvened and, rather than talking about the likelihood he’ll incite more violence against the Speaker of the House, talked about his imminent announcement. Maggie Haberman observed, with no irony,

It’s sort of incredible how good he is at getting everybody to follow along with him when he does this game of, I’m thinking of doing it, and — to be clear Don, it’s hard to know sometimes whether it is a game, or whether he is working this out in his head, testing it with 800 different advisors, which is what he was doing.

[snip]

We all know what he’s talking about, we all know what’s coming. I’m personally of the view that it’s more interesting when he actually does something, because we will cover it. He’s running for President, he’s a front-runner in the polls, there’s legitimate reasons to cover it.

[snip]

I think he is extremely smart in terms of media coverage and what the media will chase.

Again, there was no irony in her extended explanation that when Trump actually makes news, they will cover it. None.

Then WaPo’s Mar-a-Lago stenographer teamed up with another Trump scribe to give the full tick-tock of how it didn’t happen. Again: how it did not happen. After a bunch of blather about the election law implications (Trump has committed a container ship’s worth of campaign finance violations in his short political life, but the FEC refuses to act on any of them), in paragraph 15, WaPo talks about making it harder to indict Trump.

Part of Trump’s urgency comes from wanting to get ahead of a potential indictment, the logic being that a declared candidacy makes a prosecution look more political. He is under investigation in two federal probes: one into the efforts to block certification of the 2020 electoral college results and another into the mishandling of classified documents brought to Mar-a-Lago. The Justice Department’s customary freeze on overt steps that could be seen as influencing an election expires when the polls close Tuesday.

Trump also faces an ongoing investigation from a prosecutor in Atlanta into his pressure on Georgia officials to override the state’s popular vote for president in 2020.

Apparently none of these people mind being treated like tools. They’re happy to keep reporting on stories they realize aren’t stories. And why not? Their career depends on leveraging all the access they’ve gotten by reporting on the gilt furnishings at Mar-a-Lago. Their job, until such time as Trump returns to the White House again, is ensuring he stays in the news.

As Maggie said, It’s sort of incredible how good he is at getting people like Maggie to follow along.

Imagine how this infantilization of journalism would change if every major outlet instead reported, factually, that the leader of the Republican Party may announce his candidacy early, in part, in hopes of staving off at least two federal and possibly a Georgia indictments?

Imagine if these people instead reported the news story they’re burying, that the political cycle of the Republican Party is now dictated, in part, by the suspected criminality of the guy whose legal bills the Republican Party has been subsidizing for years? Imagine if every time he played this game, the Trump beat reporters instead described the institutional support in the Republican Party for fraud and political violence?


Judge Raymond Dearie Prepares to Consult with the Archives

In his last act before today’s election, Special Master Raymond Dearie issued the following order:

I’ve added the new dates to the timeline below.

The December 1 status conference, which has attracted the most attention, is scheduled for such time as Dearie will have had a chance to review the two sides’ disputes. More importantly, it comes after the 11th Circuit will have this issue fully briefed — and could well have decided to stop the entire process. It will also come after most results of the election will have been decided. It will be public, so Trump will have to make his bid to claw back all the documents he stole before the press.

The notice that he will consult NARA is a bit more interesting. As Dearie notes, this was specifically permitted in Judge Aileen Cannon’s order of appointment. At the first status hearing, Dearie said he would alert Trump before making such consultation. This order serves primarily to tell Trump that this is his chance — while his team is writing their 11th Circuit response and drawing up their general document — to weigh in. But nothing will prevent Dearie from making this consultation.

Dearie knows a good deal about what NARA will say, because the Presidential Records Act is clear. Any document Trump saw as President is a Presidential record. Most of Trump’s claims so far are without merit, even ignoring that the documents were seized with a valid warrant and have evidentiary value.

But the order will ensure that Trump makes a three-page argument about how he is above the PRA. And it’ll provide another authority on which Dearie can rely to rule that Trump cannot convert government documents to his personal property by the mere act of stealing them.

Update: Tweaked timeline.

Timeline

October 13: DOJ provides materials to Trump

By October 14: DOJ provides notice of completion that Trump has received all seized documents

On or before October 14: DOJ revised deadline to 11th Circuit

October 18: Phone Special Master conference

October 20: Deadline for disputes about Executive Privilege and Presidential Records Act on filtered material

October 24: Date Trump unilaterally declares his deadline to comply with Dearie’s order

October 25: Trump rethinks and submits his version of disputes

October 26: Both sides agree to brief general issues; Dearie resolves the remaining privilege issues and accepts briefing dates

November 2 (21 days after notice of completion): Trump provides designations for all materials to DOJ

November 7: Dearie reveals he will consult with NARA

November 8: Election Day; Principal briefs due to Dearie

November 10, 2022: Trump revised deadline to 11th Circuit; deadline to complain about consultation with NARA

November 12 (10 days after November 2): Both sides provide disputes to Dearie; response briefs to Dearie

November 17: DOJ revised reply to 11th Circuit

December 1: Status conference

December 16: Dearie provides recommendations to Cannon

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/leak-investigations/page/3/