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.

Why Reality TV Star Donald Trump Is More Trusted than Most News Outlets

Today, Donald Trump is attending the first day of the fraud trial that he already substantially lost.

Depending on who you believe, he is either attending because he’s using his attendance to delay a deposition in his own lawsuit against Michael Cohen (who will also be a key witness in this fraud trial).

He cited this as his excuse for skipping out on 2 deposition days in his federal case against ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

If he didn’t show up, he’d be in contempt of court.

Or, he’s using it as a way to affect the outcome — the outcome that was already substantially determined by Judge Engoron’s ruling last week, a ruling addressed in passing, without explaining how he can affect something that has already occurred.

For Mr. Trump, his attendance at trial is far more personal than political, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The former president is enraged by the fraud charges and furious with both the judge and the attorney general. And Mr. Trump, who is a control enthusiast, believes that trials have gone poorly for him when he hasn’t been present, and he hopes to affect the outcome this time, according to the person.

In his courthouse remarks, Mr. Trump lashed out at the judge’s earlier fraud ruling on his property valuations. “I didn’t even put in my best asset, which is the brand,” he said.

I think Trump is attending to spin a judgment that has already been issued as, instead, an outcome he predicted.


Days after the ruling.

Here’s how it works. On the way into the trial, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made a public statement in which he told his cult followers that the judge that the judge was rogue and the prosecutor was racist. He renewed his claim that Judge Engoron erred by using Palm Beach’s valuation (the one they made in 2011, not in 2021) rather than his boast that Mar-a-Lago is worth a billion dollars.

Few outlets reported that 77-year old Reality TV Star Donald Trump had slurred his words.

No one asked why his spouse hadn’t accompanied him to this trial. (Though this time, one of his co-defendant sons accompanied him to the courthouse.)

Few outlets reported Tish James’ comments about how no one is above the law.

Many outlets were so busy reporting on Reality TV Star Donald Trump’s statements that they didn’t explain that Trump’s Parking Garage Lawyer, Alina Habba, didn’t even try to push for a jury trial, something Judge Engoron confirmed as the trial started.

At least some of the outlets that reported Chris Kise’s arguments about valuation did not explain that those issues were already decided, in a ruling last week.

Most outlets reported that Reality TV Star Donald Trump glared at The Black Woman Prosecutor on his way out for lunch. Some also reported that she laughed that off.

On the way back in the courthouse, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made even more incendiary comments about the judge who already did and will decide his fate. Reality TV Star Donald Trump told his followers that the judge presiding over a trial that might lead him to lose his iconic Trump Tower should be prosecuted and was guilty of election interference.

Many observers clucked that such a stunt would lead the judge — the one who already ruled against Trump — to rule against him.

Trump is going to lose this trial. Know how I know? Judge Engoron already ruled against him!

But most of Trump’s followers don’t know that. Most of Trump’s followers believe that Chris Kise’s comments about valuation were still at issue. Most cult members will see Trump’s comments today — it won’t be hard, because every outlet is carrying them — and remember that before the trial, Trump “predicted” that The Corrupt Judge and The Black Woman Prosecutor would gang up on him.

Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump used his presence at the trial to create a reality in which he will have correctly predicted a loss that was baked in last week. Because he “predicted” such an outcome, his millions of cult followers will not only treat him as more trustworthy than the journalists playing some role in Trump’s Reality TV Show, cluck-clucking about his attacks on justice without focusing on the fraud and the more fraud and the already adjudged fraud.

Not only will Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump have “predicted” the outcome, leading his followers to renew their faith in his reliability, but they will implicitly trust his explanation: that he lost the trial not because he is, and has always been, a fraud, but instead because Corrupt Judges and Black Prosecutors continue to gang up on him.

And in the process, Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump will have continued the big con, the very same fraud of which he has already been adjuged. He will have once again distracted from his own fantasy self-worth and instead led people to report on his golden brand.

When you let Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump to set the stage, as journalists, you are yet more actors in his Reality TV creation.

It’s not that journalists are bad or biased or corrupt (though some of their editors are). It’s just that Trump already cast them in a role and they’re playing it to a T.

Remember: DOJ May Still Suspect Trump Is Hoarding Classified Documents

When I wrote up initial reports of Christina Bobb’s first interview with investigators in the stolen documents case, I noted,

Bobb’s testimony will clarify for DOJ, I guess, about how broadly they need to get Beryl Howell to scope the crime-fraud exception.

Here we are five months later, and Beryl Howell has indeed, very predictably, scoped out the crime-fraud exception for Evan Corcoran’s testimony and the DC Circuit has refused Trump’s request of a stay to fight that ruling.

In fact, ABC reported a list of the things that Judge Howell ruled Evan Corcoran must share with Jack Smith’s prosecutors, the scope I predicted she’d draw up five months ago.

As you read it, keep in mind that DOJ likely suspects that Trump still is hoarding classified documents. I say keep that in mind, because these questions will help to pinpoint the extent to which Trump or Boris Epshteyn masterminded efforts last June to hide classified documents, which may help DOJ to understand whether someone has masterminded efforts to hide remaining classified documents since.

The six things Corcoran has been ordered to testify about, per ABC, are:

  1. “[T]he steps [Corcoran] took to determine where documents responsive to DOJ’s May subpoena may have been located”
  2. Why Corcoran “believed all documents with classification markings were held in Mar-a-Lago’s storage room”
  3. “[T]he people involved in choosing Bobb as the designated custodian of records for documents that Trump took with him after leaving the White House, and any communications he exchanged with Bobb in connection with her selection”
  4. “[W]hether Trump or anyone else in his employ was aware of the signed certification that was drafted by Corcoran and signed by Trump attorney Christina Bobb then submitted in response to the May 11 subpoena from the DOJ seeking all remaining documents with classified markings in Trump’s possession”
  5. “[W]hether Trump was aware of the statements in the certification, which claimed a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago had been conducted, and if Trump approved of it being provided to the government”
  6. What Corcoran “discussed with Trump in a June 24 phone call on the same day that the Trump Organization received a second grand jury subpoena demanding surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago that would show whether anyone moved boxes in and out of the storage room

Questions 1 and 2 are a test of whether Corcoran wrote the declaration that Christina Bobb signed on June 3 in good faith. Given the fact that boxes were moved out of the storage room, it’s quite plausible that Corcoran did do a good faith search of the remaining boxes. So the answer to question 2 — why did he think all the classified documents were in that room? — will help pinpoint who has criminal liability for that obstructive act. Someone told him only to search the storage room and he took Jay Bratt to that storage room on June 3 and falsely (but likely unwittingly) told them that’s where all the classified documents would have been stored. Who told him that was true?

Questions 4 and 5 go to Trump’s awareness of the attempt to mislead DOJ on June 3. Did he know about the signed certification, and if so was Trump aware that Corcoran and Bobb had, between them, claimed the search of a storage room out of which boxes had been moved amounted to a diligent search? Since he reportedly ordered Walt Nauta to move boxes out of there, does that mean he knew the declaration was false?

Question 3 is more interesting though: The fact that Corcoran wouldn’t sign the certification himself is testament that he had doubts about the search he did himself or, at least, that someone knew enough to protect him. Per reporting from after she spoke to investigators the first time (see this post), Boris Epshteyn contacted Bobb the night before the search to serve the role she played.

She told them that another Trump lawyer, Boris Epshteyn, contacted her the night before she signed the attestation and connected her with Mr. Corcoran. Ms. Bobb, who was living in Florida, was told that she needed to go to Mar-a-Lago the next day to deal with an unspecified legal matter for Mr. Trump.

When she showed up the next day, Bobb complained that she didn’t know Corcoran, which is one of the reasons she wisely caveated the document before signing it.

“Wait a minute — I don’t know you,” Ms. Bobb replied to Mr. Corcoran’s request, according to a person to whom she later recounted the episode. She later complained that she did not have a full grasp of what was going on around her when she signed the document, according to two people who have heard her account.

And Bobb wasn’t the custodian of records. Someone decided to have someone unaffiliated with the Office of the Former President sign as custodian of records, thereby protecting Trump’s legal entity — the one served with the subpoena — from liability for the inadequate response.

She was, however, someone who — like Boris Epshteyn — likely has significant exposure for January 6, and even (per her testimony to January 6 Committee) witnessed Trump’s call to Brad Raffensperger.

But either Corcoran knew or suspected his own search was inadequate, or someone built in plausible deniability for him. DOJ may find out which it was on Friday.

As noted, this may help DOJ understand what has happened since Bobb’s initial testimony. Reports of her testimony came in the same days as initial reports that DOJ had told Trump they believed he still had classified records. Both Bloomberg and NYT described the tensions that arose among Trump’s lawyers as a result, with some objecting to any further certification.

Christopher M. Kise, who suggested hiring a forensic firm to search for additional documents, according to the people briefed on the matter.

But other lawyers in Mr. Trump’s circle — who have argued for taking a more adversarial posture in dealing with the Justice Department — disagreed with Mr. Kise’s approach. They talked Mr. Trump out of the idea and have encouraged him to maintain an aggressive stance toward the authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That was in October. In November, Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith. In late November, Trump hired Tim Parlatore to do the search Kise had recommended over a month earlier. The search found, and returned to DOJ, two documents with classification markings found in a separate storage facility.

But even as Trump lawyers were dribbling out details of the result of that search, they were hiding at least two more details: that a Trump aide had been carting around — and had uploaded via the cloud — White House schedules that included once-classified information. And, Parlatore’s searchers had discovered, there was another empty classified folder on Trump’s bedside table that hadn’t been discovered in the August search. Whether willful or not, both likely show that additional documents with classification markers were brought back to Mar-a-Lago after the August search.

Since the time in December DOJ tried to hold Trump in contempt for refusing to comply with the May subpoena, they have chased down the box of schedules and the computer to which they were uploaded and subpoenaed the extra empty classified folder. They have interviewed the people who did the search, as well as the lawyers that Boris Epshteyn was giving orders. Significantly, they also interviewed Alina Habba, whose own search of Mar-a-Lago for documents responsive to Tish James’ subpoena had obvious gaps, most notably the storage closet full of documents where a bunch of classified documents were being stored. And finally, after five months, they will answer the questions first made obvious after Bobb’s initial interview in October: what Trump told Corcoran to get him to do an inadequate search.

Which brings me to Question 6: What Trump said to Corcoran after he received a subpoena for security footage that Trump knew — but Corcoran may not have known — showed Walt Nauta moving boxes that would thereby be excluded from the search Corcoran had done in May and June. Since this was a call, it may well be one of the things about which Corcoran took notes or even a recording that he later transcribed. Also recall that there was a discrepancy as to the date of the subpoena (as well as whether Trump greeted Jay Bratt and others when they were at MAL) when the search was originally revealed last year, a discrepancy that led me to suspect DOJ first served a subpoena on Trump’s office and only then served a subpoena on Trump Organization. June 24 may have been the first date that Corcoran became aware that his representations about the search for documents was incomplete.

Here’s the point, though. Trump played a shell game in advance of the search that Corcoran did last summer. Alina Habba’s declaration, on its face, reflects a shell game. There’s reason to believe — given the box containing additional documents marked classified and the empty classified folder — that Trump played another shell game when Parlatore’s investigators searched in November and December. And Howell reportedly also approved a crime-fraud waiver for Jennifer Little, a lawyer representing Trump in conjunction with the Georgia investigation.

If Corcoran does testify tomorrow, it may crystalize DOJ’s understanding of that shell game, at least. Not only will that help DOJ understand if another shell game, one involving Parlatore, managed to hide still more documents in November and December. But it may help to understand any other shell games Trump engaged in in NY and GA.

It may also finally provide the basis to hold Trump in contempt for withholding further documents.

Where Alina Habba Didn’t Personally Search

Given the news that Alina Habba appeared before the grand jury investigating Trump’s stolen documents, I wanted to go back to the declaration she submitted in the NY State investigation pertaining to diligent searches for documents in that investigation back in May 2022.

Politico reported on it before the public release about details of the stolen classified documents, and as such was taken as a claim that Habba conducted a search of the locations where documents were known to have been stored.

But it wasn’t.

Obviously, that’s true because (as Habba made a big deal of pointing out just after the original Politico report) the May 2022 searches were just for documents responsive to Tish James’ subpoena focused on the valuation of various properties, not for classified records.

But that’s also true because Habba did not search all the locations known to have stored Trump’s stolen documents.

The certifications involved include a nested certification, on Trump’s behalf, to the diligence of the search. Trump personally signed an affidavit, but he relied on the diligence of searches done by others, including the physical searches of three properties by lawyers.

5. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution and in accordance with the Order, I authorized the additional, follow-up searches to be performed on my private residences:

a. On May 4, 2022, I authorized my attorney, Alina Habba, to search my private residence and personal office located at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena.

b. On May 5, 2022, I authorized Alina Habba to search my private residence and personal office located at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena.

c. On May 5, 2022, I authorized Alan Garten, General Counsel for the Trump Organization, to search my private apartment located in Trump Tower in New York, New York for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena


It is my understanding that searches of the above-listed locations have been performed by my attorneys, the Trump Organization Legal Department, the Trump Organization IT Department, and others.

Habba was not involved in the searches of business locations in Trump Tower or Trump’s residence there. Alan Garten was.

Garten was similarly responsible for compliance with subpoenas in conjunction with the various Russian investigations, and there are what SSCI called, “known deficiencies in the Trump Organization’s document responses,” including the email between Michael Cohen and Dmitri Peskov’s assistant, among others.

Garten did not submit a declaration in this package. Instead, Habba vouched for the diligence of Garten’s search.

f. On May 5, 2022, I coordinated and communicated with Alan Garten via telephone with regard to his search of Respondent’s private residence in Trump Tower including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, and similar locations likely to house files or documents. The search did not identify any documents responsive to the Subpoena.

So in this filing, Trump relied on the searches done by Habba and Garten, but Garten relied on Habba to attest to the diligence of the search.

And no one searched the storage facility in Florida at which some of Trump’s White House papers were stored, where two classified documents were discovered in follow-up searches by Trump’s lawyers in November.

But even the two properties Habba did search include gaps.

b. On May 4, 2022, I diligently searched each and every room of Respondent’s private residence located at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, including all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.

c. On May 4, 2022, I diligently searched Respondent’s personal office located at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.

d. On May 5, 2022, I diligently searched each and every room of Respondent’s private residence located at Mar-a-Lago, including all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.

e. On May 5, 2022, I diligently searched Respondent’s personal office located at Mara-Lago, including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.

It’s hard to see how a one day search of these facilities, May 4 at Bedminster and then May 5 at Mar-a-Lago, could be that thorough, in any case.

But on May 5, when Habba was searching MAL, the bulk of the documents that were later seized were probably still in the storage closet from which they were moved in advance of Evan Corcoran’s search leading up to June 3. That’s neither the residence nor Trump’s office.

While there were likely classified documents in the drawers she searched at the time she searched them — a Secret document attached to Roger Stone clemency paperwork, and a Secret and a Confidential document attached to post-Administration messages from others — it’s not clear where the leatherbound box that held the most sensitive documents would have been stored in May 2022 (which was ultimately found in the office). And it’s still not clear where the classified documents in a box with Trump’s White House schedules was when the FBI conducted its search in August.

But there’s no way Habba would have found most documents, because most documents were still in that storage room.

They are understood to have been moved out of the storage room into the residence after the May 11 subpoena, days after Habba’s search.

Habba’s testimony would have been useful for showing that when asked to do a diligent search, Trump specifically hid from her one of the locations where he stored documents. She also would have added testimony about the absence of boxes in the residence when she searched it.

“Classified Evening Briefing:” Mishandled and Stolen Documents Update

There has been a bunch of news in the various investigations into various constitutional officers who took documents home. Here’s my updated handy table.


On February 1, the FBI did a consensual search of President Biden’s Rehoboth home. No additional documents with classified marks were found, though the FBI did take some notes from Biden’s time as Vice President. Those kinds of notes are what I include among potential “trophy” documents, because they may reflect mementos.

NARA released information relating to Biden’s initial turnover of documents under FOIA. I assume they would have had to get DOJ’s permission to do so.


Mike Pence’s team announced that, after a consensual search of his Carmel, IN home, the FBI found one additional document with classification markings and six additional pages.

The FBI discovered an additional classified document at former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home Friday during a voluntary five-hour search of the house, a Pence adviser said in a statement.

The adviser, Devin O’Malley, said “the Department of Justice completed a thorough and unrestricted search of five hours and removed one document with classified markings and six additional pages without such markings that were not discovered in the initial review by the vice president’s counsel.”

“The vice president has directed his legal team to continue its cooperation with appropriate authorities and to be fully transparent through the conclusion of this matter,” O’Malley said. He also noted that Pence and his legal team had “agreed to a consensual search of his residence that took place today.”

A source familiar with the search said DOJ was given unrestricted access to Pence’s home, and a member of his legal team was present through its duration.

The scope of the search included looking for documents that DOJ believed might be considered original documents that should have been sent to the National Archives, the source said, which could explain the six pages of additional material that were taken.

Given those six pages, I’ve changed the table to reflect possible “trophy” documents, things taken as keepsakes.

Pence has another weekend home in IN that has not been searched.


Trump may have used the news of Pence’s classified document as an opportunity to dump more news of his own. Multiple outlets reported that he had turned over:

  • An empty folder marked “Classified Evening Briefing”
  • Some additional classified files
  • The laptop and thumb drive onto which digital versions of those files were copied

Here’s how ABC described the new materials:

The folder with classification markings was discovered in a box with additional papers, the sources said. A copy of the box’s contents was made electronically, raising the question about the existence of any additional electronic records that may be relevant to the special counsel’s investigation.

ABC News has also learned that after the information was recovered, federal agents retrieved the laptop from the aide. The laptop was not retrieved on the Mar-a-Lago grounds, the sources said.

Given the position of the person reportedly involved — who works for Trump’s PAC — it is possible that this person is the one who did a “compilation” of messages from a pollster, a faith leader, a book author, with two classified documents, one Secret and one Confidential.

Separately, there have been reports of at least three witnesses who have testified in the stolen document case:

  • In the second week of January, Evan Corcoran appeared before the grand jury. He’s the one who did the search that happened not to find the 100 documents Trump had hidden.
  • Late last year DOJ reached out to Alina Habba (she is represented by the same lawyer who had represented Christina Bobb). Habba filed a declaration in a NYS case claiming to have done a diligent search of Trump’s property for subpoenaed documents.
  • On February 2, Tom Fitton appeared before the grand jury. Fitton, who is not a lawyer, gave Trump catastrophically stupid advice saying that a suit he filed against Bill Clinton that was unrelated meant Trump could just determine what documents he could keep.
  • Robert O’Brien was subpoenaed in both the stolen documents and the attempted stolen election case and is asserting Executive Privilege over some matters. O’Brien would know the circumstances by which Trump was briefed, so this could be a follow-up to items more recently turned over to DOJ.

Judge Sanctions Alina Habba for Misrepresenting Igor Danchenko Indictment

There are a number of reasons why Judge Donald Middlebrook sanctioned Alina Habba and Peter Ticktin for the frivolous claims they made against Chuck Dolan in the omnibus lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and a bunch of other people.

In reverse order, Middlebrook found that the lawsuit was filed for improper purpose: to advance a political grievance.

Every claim was frivolous, most barred by settled, well-established existing law. These were political grievances masquerading as legal claims. This cannot be attributed to incompetent lawyering. It was a deliberate use of the judicial system to pursue a political agenda.


The rule of law is undermined by the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees, reckless and factually untrue statements by lawyers at rallies and in the media, and efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory.

He ruled that it’s not RICO, it’s never RICO (or any of the other conspiracies Habba alleged, either).

In the RICO count of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff realleged the previous 619 paragraphs, and it was a mystery who he intended to sue. In the caption to Count II, he named 22 defendants but in the prayer for relief for that count 28 were named. Added were HF ACC, Inc., the DNC Services Corporations, James Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Andrew McCabe. (Am. Compl. ¶ 633). Whoever he intended to sue, Plaintiff alleged that each of them “knew about and agreed to facilitate the Enterprise’s scheme to harm the Plaintiff’s political career, tarnish his electability, and undermine his ability to effectively govern as the President of the United States . . . . ” (Am. Compl. ¶ 627).

The RICO conspiracy claims were entirely conclusory. Moreover, there is no standing to bring a RICO conspiracy claim unless injury resulted from violation of a substantive provision of RICO.

Of greatest interest to me, however, to substantiate a finding that the lawsuit’s allegations against Chuck Dolan lacked any reasonable factual basis, Judge Middlebrook laid out how Habba misrepresented the Igor Danchenko indictment to include Dolan in her conspiracy theories. Middlebrook focused closely on Habba’s claims that the pee tape allegation in the Steele dossier “was derived from Dolan.” He rejected Habba’s defense of the allegations against Dolan by pointing to stuff she left out.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers claim “nearly all” of the allegations against Mr. Dolan were sourced directly from the Indictment brought against Igor Danchenko by special counsel John Durham. (DE 270-2 at 6). But this is simply not so. As was the practice throughout the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff cherry-picked portions which supported his narrative while ignoring those that undermined or contradicted it.1 Mr. Trump’s lawyers persisted in this misrepresentation after being warned by the sanctions motion, and they doubled down on this falsehood in their response to the motion.


Even more telling are the portions of the Indictment ignored by Plaintiff. The Indictment alleges that Mr. Dolan and others were planning a business conference to be held in Moscow on behalf of businessmen seeking to explore investments in Russia. (DE 270-2 ¶ 21). Mr. Danchenko was introduced to Mr. Dolan in connection with business activities. (Id. ¶ 18).

Significantly the Indictment alleges two other facts relevant to and, if true, fatal to Plaintiff’s claim of conspiracy.

According to [Mr. Dolan], individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign did not direct, and were not aware of, the aforementioned meetings and activities with Danchenko and other Russian nationals.


According to [Mr. Dolan], he [Mr. Dolan] was not aware at the time of the specifics of Danchenko’s ‘project against Trump,’ or that Danchenko’s reporting would be provided to the FBI.

And with regard to the allegation about sexual activity, the Indictment alleges that Mr. Dolan and another individual were given a tour of a Moscow hotel in June 2016, told that Mr. Trump had previously stayed in the Presidential suite, and according to both Mr. Dolan and the other individual, the staff member who gave the tour did not mention any sexual or salacious activity. (Id. ¶¶ 60-61). The Indictment does not allege that the information concerning sexual activity was provided by Mr. Dolan.

The May 31, 2022 warning letter told the Trump lawyers that Mr. Dolan had been questioned by the FBI on multiple occasions, that the Danchenko Indictment detailed his contacts with Mr. Danchenko but did not indicate he “discussed any sexual rumors with Mr. Danchenko — because he did not.” (DE 268-1 at 2). The Indictment confirms that Mr. Dolan spoke to the FBI, and not only was he not charged with any falsehood, but his statements are included within the Indictment. The Indictment contradicts rather than supports Plaintiff’s allegations against Mr. Dolan. Far from being “sourced directly” and cited “word-for-word,” (DE 270 at 5), Plaintiff’s use of the Indictment is nothing short of a deliberate disregard of the truth or falsity of their claims. This is a textbook example of sanctionable conduct under Rule 11.

Rather than express any regret, Plaintiff doubled down on his claims: “Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendant was the source of the salacious sexual activity rumor has a legitimate factual basis and is based upon a well-reasoned theory that may well be proven correct during the [Office of Special Counsel’s] upcoming trial of Danchenko.” (DE 270 at 10).

It was never to be. In the Danchenko trial, Mr. Dolan was called as a witness by the government about matters unrelated to the Ritz Carlton rumors. The government never alleged that Mr. Dolan was a source for the Ritz Carlton story. See Order, United States v. Igor Y. Danchenko, Case No. 21-cr-00245-AJT at 5 (Oct. 4, 2022). And Mr. Danchenko was ultimately acquitted by the jury.

1 The “sourced directly” claim is untrue. For example, the Indictment says: “In or about April 2016, Danchenko and [Mr. Dolan] engaged in discussions regarding potential business collaboration between PR Firm-1 and UK Investigative Firm-1 on issues related to Russia.” (DE 270-2 ¶ 23). The Amended Complaint, however, states: “In late April 2016 Danchenko began having discussions with Dolan about a potential business collaboration between Orbis Ltd. and Kglobal to create a ‘dossier’ to smear Donald J. Trump and to disseminate the false accusations to the media.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 96(c)).

The order as a whole generated a lot of attention on the failed birdsite. But there was no self-awareness that the exercise that Habba engaged in with respect to Dolan and the Danchenko prosecution was similar to what a number of journalists (and a great number of right wingers and other frothers) themselves did, when the Danchenko indictment was rolled out last year.

For example, here’s what the WaPo claimed in a still-uncorrected report last year:

Durham says Danchenko [1] made up a conversation [2] he claimed was the source of one of the dossier’s most salacious claims, that Trump paid prostitutes at a Moscow hotel room to urinate on a bed in which President Barack Obama had once slept. The dossier also suggested Russian intelligence agencies had secretly recorded that event as potential blackmail material. Trump has denied any such encounter.

The indictment [3] suggests that story came from Dolan, who in June 2016 toured a suite at a hotel in Moscow that was once occupied by Trump. According to the indictment, Danchenko [4] falsely told Steele and the FBI that the information came from the president of the U.S. Russian-American Chamber of Commerce at the time.

All four of the above claims are not supported by the indictment, much less Danchenko’s published interviews with the FBI, which attributed the pee tape claim to someone else — though it is definitely the case that Durham encouraged such unsupported inferences.

Jonathan Swan condensed the same kinds of claims that Habba just got sanctioned for in one tweet.

Just one “rumor” was attributed to Dolan in the Danchenko indictment, the most provably true one (because it came from media coverage), and one about which — as the trial established — the FBI never once asked Danchenko, in significant part because it had nothing to do with Russia.

And while Middlebrook notes that Danchenko was acquitted, he doesn’t note that Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed the single Dolan count because the allegedly false statement Danchenko made about Dolan was “literally true.” That should not have been a surprising judgment. I noted problems with that charge exactly a year ago, when I catalogued all the sloppy reporting on the Danchenko indictment.

Middlebrook’s order makes for great reading. It’s fun to laugh at Habba getting called out.

But it should bring some reflection from the journalists who made the same kind of logical jumps that Habba did, but who cannot be sanctioned for professional failures.

Middlebrook may not be done. The other defendants have asked for sanctions, as well (though without doing the same preparation in advance to ask for Rule 11 sanctions). So Donald Trump’s lawyers may yet have the privilege of paying Peter Strzok and Hillary Clinton for the privilege of having sued them.

Update: Corrected Middlebrook’s name.