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Bennie Thompson to Ivanka: Come In from the Conspiracy

Even though you read this site, you may not recognize the names Brad Smith or Marshall Neefe. Even though I’ve focused some attention to his case, you may not remember the significance of Ronnie Sandlin. You might not even remember that the Oath Keeper conspiracy was named after retired Navy officer Thomas Caldwell before he was spun off into the sedition conspiracy named after Stewart Rhodes.

But those are all references of import to understand this footnote in the letter Bennie Thompson sent to Ivanka Trump, inviting her to testify voluntarily.

The Select Committee is aware of the motivation of many of the violent rioters from their posts on social media, from their contemporaneous statements on video, and from the hundreds of filings in federal court.11

11 For example, many defendants in pending criminal cases identified President Trump’s allegations about the “stolen election” as a motivation for their activities at the Capitol; a number also specifically cited President Trump’s tweets asking that supporters come to Washington, D.C. on January 6th. See, e.g., United States of America v. Ronald L. Sandlin https://www.justice.gov/opa/page/file/1362396/download: “I’m going to be there to show support for our president and to do my part to stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.” United States of America v. Marshall Neefe and Charles Bradford Smith https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1432686/download: “Trump is literally calling people to DC in a show of force. Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.” United States of America v. Caldwell et al. https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1369071/download: “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!! ! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your shit!!”

The Select Committee could have chosen any number of individual defendants to support the claim that Trump was the motivating force for the participants of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

It did not.

Instead, without saying that it had, it cited three conspiracy indictments: a conspiracy that involved totally random guys who met online coming armed to DC and assaulting officers to break open the East doors and break into the Senate chamber, a conspiracy where guys armed themselves to come to DC based on a motivation that, “Why shouldn’t we be the ones” to kick off war, and a conspiracy that has now officially been charged as sedition.

What the Select Committee just said to Ivanka, very subtly (and without the hotlinks to these court filings to make it easy) is that multiple organizers across multiple conspiracies — all involving arming themselves before traveling to DC — acted on Trump’s comments in December and January as instructions.

What the Select Committee has laid out in this footnote is that key members of conspiracies that led to violent assaults on January 6 entered into an agreement with Donald Trump to engage in violence.

Other coverage of this letter has focused on the many other scathing details included in it:

  • Proof that Trump knew he was making an illegal request of Mike Pence (and that Ivanka knew such pressure was wrong)
  • Proof that multiple people attempted to get Trump to call off the violence (and that staffers repeatedly asked Ivanka to intercede to get him to do so)
  • Proof that advisors including Kaleigh McEnany and Sean Hannity attempted to get Trump to disavow these efforts

In response to the letter, Ivanka issued a statement making it clear that on January 6 she disavowed the violence caused by her father.

Ivanka Trump just learned that the Jan. 6 Committee issued a public letter asking her to appear. As the Committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally. As she publicly stated that day at 3:15pm, “any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.”

But that doesn’t account for another detail of the letter that has gotten far less attention than the eye-popping new details about Trump’s actions: Chairman Thompson reminded Ivanka (in a paragraph that seemingly addresses another topic) not just of the requirements of the Presidential Records Act, but also that she got formal notice of those requirements in 2017.

The Select Committee would like to discuss this effort after January 6th to persuade President Trump not to associate himself with certain people, and to avoid further discussion regarding election fraud allegations. We also wish to share with you a memorandum from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn (attached), regarding the legal requirements on White House personnel to turn over to the National Archives any work-related messages from personal devices. We wish to be certain that former White House staff are fully aware of these obligations.

Ivanka, of course, is not just the former President’s daughter. She’s also someone legally obliged to share all the communications conducted while performing whatever role it is she played in the White House — up to and including begging her Daddy to call off a violent mob — with the National Archives.

Thompson would not have mentioned this if the committee had been able to obtain Ivanka’s side of many of these communications from the Archives (or at least seen them in documents Trump was attempting to claim privilege over). Thompson seems to know that Ivanka is not in compliance with the Presidential Records Act specifically as it pertains to her role on January 6.

Here’s the thing about conspiracies. Once you join them, you’re in them — you’re on the hook for what all other co-conspirators do, from acquiring weapons to bring to DC, to assaulting cops, to planning to overthrow the government — unless you make an affirmative effort to leave the conspiracy.

Ivanka might well point to that comment in her statement — The violence must stop immediately — as an effort to leave a conspiracy.

Except if she is covering up some of the things she knows by withholding records from the Archives, she’s going to have a hard time arguing that she didn’t remain in the conspiracy with all those people plotting violence by helping to cover it up.

January 6 Deconfliction: “This Is Part of a Much Bigger Conspiracy”

In a Detroit Free Press article on the forged electoral certificate presented from Michigan, the state’s awesome Attorney General Dana Nessel explained why, after investigating for almost a year, she is now referring the matter to the Grand Rapids US Attorney’s Office.

Nessel told Maddow that her office has been evaluating charges for almost a year but decided Thursday to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan.

“We think this is a matter that is best investigated and potentially prosecuted by the feds,” Nessel said.

The signatories of the failed attempt to award Michigan’s Electoral College votes to Trump include Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, national Republican committeewoman Kathy Berden and Michigan GOP grassroots vice chair Marian Sheridan, among other pro-Trump activists in the party.

The decision does not preclude possible charges against the Republicans who falsely claimed that they cast Michigan’s Electoral College votes for Trump, Nessel said. And her office might still bring charges, she added.

“Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense,” Nessel said.

“But, obviously, this is part of a much bigger conspiracy and our hope is that the federal authorities and the Department of Justice and United States Attorney General Merrick Garland will take this in coordination with all the other information they’ve received and make an evaluation as to what charges these individuals might (face),” she said.

Consider what happened to lead to this federal criminal referral. After electors sent fake certifications to the National Archives, NARA then sent them to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

Vice President Mike Pence the winners of both Michigan and Arizona and their electors after the 2020 election. Public records requests show the secretaries of state for those states sent those certificates to the Jan. 6 panel, along with correspondence between the National Archives and state officials about the documents.

Spokespeople for the Michigan and Arizona secretaries of state declined to comment on the documents. The offices confirmed that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, both Democrats, and their staff met with the panel in November.

“They mostly discussed election administration in Arizona, the 2020 elections, threats/harassment directed toward the office, and the Cyber Ninja’s partisan ballot review,” said Hobbs’ spokesperson C. Murphy Hebert.

Benson and her staff took questions from the committee on the 2020 election and events leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, according to Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Benson.

The National Archives sent emails to the Arizona secretary of state on Dec. 11, 2020, passing along the forged certificates “for your awareness” and informing the state officials the Archives would not accept them.

Arizona then took legal action against at least one of the groups who sent in the fake documents, sending a cease and desist letter to a pro-Trump “sovereign citizen” group telling them to stop using the state seal and referring the matter to the state attorney general.

“By affixing the state seal to documents containing false and misleading information about the results of Arizona’s November 3, 2020 General Election, you undermine the confidence in our democratic institutions,” Hobbs wrote to one of the pro-Trump groups.

Arizona took immediate action; given Nessel’s comments, Benson appears to have referred the matter to Nessel. Some of these details were made public last March after American Oversight obtained them. But after the January 6 Committee put them all in context and focused renewed attention to how the fake certificates fit into a larger effort, it led Nessel to hold off on pursuing potential 14-year charges against some of the most powerful Republicans in the state, and instead to formally refer the investigation to the Feds, based on the logic that the obviously coordinated effort to forge fake electoral certificates is part of a larger whole.

This is not dissimilar from how legal action from Florida’s charity regulator led to state action as well as a grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting.

For months, a federal investigation running out of Washington, D.C., has been demanding documents and asking potential witnesses questions about Powell, according to three people familiar with the matter. Similarly, a separate investigation into Powell’s anti-democratic activities took place in the Sunshine State earlier this year—and has already produced results, and punished Powell and her far-right group.

The federal probe, which has not been previously reported, is examining the finances of Defending the Republic, an organization founded by Powell to fund her “Kraken” lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, the sources said.According to two of the people familiar with the matter, a grand jury was empaneled, and subpoenas and documents requests have gone out to multiple individuals as recently as September.

Defending the Republic’s finances have already prompted an investigation and a settlement with Florida’s charity regulator. The group paid a $10,000 fine in September as part of a settlement agreement related to its solicitation of contributions and failure to register as a charitable organization in the state.

[snip]

Defending the Republic’s finances first attracted the scrutiny of regulators in Florida shortly after Powell founded the group in November 2020 when authorities received a complaint and subsequently issued a subpoena to internet hosting service GoDaddy for information about the group’s website.

In a June press conference, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Defending the Republic was “found to be soliciting contributions from the State of Florida or from persons within the State of Florida” on the internet “without having filed in the State of Florida” as a charitable organization.”

On Aug. 24, Defending the Republic paid a $10,000 fine as part of a settlement agreement with Florida authorities over its fundraising.

As part of that agreement, Powell’s group agreed to register as a charity in Florida and submitted a projected budget of over $7 million. The settlement agreement also required Defending the Republic to submit an audited financial statement for the group’s operations between December 2020 and July 2021 by Nov. 30, including a balance sheet and a list of expenses and revenue.

Meanwhile, Fulton County’s DA, Fani Willis, has been investigating Trump’s call to pressure Brad Raffensperger to cheat and will reportedly make a prosecutorial decision in the months ahead.

The prosecutor weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory said a decision on whether to bring charges could come as early as the first half of this year.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that her team is making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation.

“I believe in 2022 a decision will be made in that case,” Willis said. “I certainly think that in the first half of the year that decisions will be made.”

[snip]

Willis declined to speak about the specifics, but she confirmed that the investigation’s scope includes — but is not limited to — a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.

Regardless of what Willis decides, she can also refer actions to the Feds because it, like the forged electoral certifications, “is part of a much bigger conspiracy.”

The point is (besides that we should be grateful that Democrats elected a lot of smart, fearless women in recent years) that there are lots of moving parts to this “much bigger conspiracy.” And all those moving parts have, as an option, referring their investigative findings to DOJ to drop it into the “much bigger conspiracy.”

So during the year when DOJ has been laying what Merrick Garland called “the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases,” states and local authorities have been conducting investigations that can be joined to that evidentiary foundation.

These are all parts of a much bigger conspiracy.

All these moving parts require coordination, however, or “deconfliction,” both in an effort to maximize cross-fertilization between the investigations and to ensure no investigation screws up the criminal investigations that might lead to real consequences. While there has been no reporting on how this is being done at DOJ, we can be sure it is, not least because DOJ and the Committee are muddling through the Executive Privilege questions in tandem.

Robert Mueller, for example, had his own congressional liaison, and referrals from the Senate Intelligence Committee led directly to plea deals with Sam Patten and Michael Cohen that, in turn, led to information both (and in the latter case, Trump’s lawyers) had shielded from the Committees.

Adam Schiff, now a member on the Select Committee, knows well that Mueller also used a House Intelligence Committee interview with Roger Stone as a basis for an obstruction prosecution against Trump’s rat-fucker. While the details are less clear, I also suspect that Steve Bannon’s interviews with HPSCI served to tee up the fruitful grand jury appearance for him in January 2019 about which Stone is still furious.

Liz Cheney brings a different knowledge base to the challenge of deconfliction. Her dad played a central role in screwing up the Special Prosecutor investigation into Iran-Contra by offering key witnesses immunity. He’s one reason why congressional committees hoping to preserve criminal investigations tread carefully. Hopefully, Congresswoman Cheney can apply lessons learned from her evil genius father to the forces of good on the Select Committee. She has the most to lose if this Committee doesn’t succeed.

As noted above, the most visible sign of this deconfliction has come on privilege reviews. In July, at the same time that DOJ established their contact policy fire-walling President Biden from learning about any ongoing investigations, DOJ got privilege waivers for former DOJ personnel to appear before Congress. After that, when the Select Committee, as an independent branch of government that is also fire-walled from the criminal investigation, asked for investigative materials from the Archives, Biden conducted privilege reviews of that material and waived privilege over much, but not all, of it. If and when that material is released, however, it would be available to anyone with a need, including DOJ.

In fact, the back and forth between the Committee and DOJ has likely already made investigative materials available to DOJ. That’s because, after the Select Committee made it clear Mark Meadows had violated the Presidential Records Act with regards to some of the materials he shared with the committee, Meadows undertook efforts to fix that. To the extent he is able to provide his personal emails and Signal texts to NARA (some of the latter are likely are unavailable), that material would become available to DOJ without subpoenaing Meadows. And to the extent this process reveals that materials of investigative interest to a grand jury were deleted when Meadows obtained a new phone, it will give DOJ reason to use legal process to either hold Meadows accountable for obstruction, or reason to get it from others, like Jim Jordan. To say nothing of the fact that Meadows can’t prevent DOJ from subpoenaing the call records that led him to renege on efforts to cooperate with the January 6 Committee. That’s why I doubt DOJ will hold Meadows in criminal contempt, because they would be better served to get that information — and coerce cooperation, if he chooses that route — via their own legal process. Effectively, then, Bennie Thompson wrote a rough draft of a warrant affidavit for the FBI.

It’s in the subpoenas for witnesses, however, that I’m most curious about with regards to deconfliction between the DOJ and Select Committee investigation. Consider: There are two Trump associates who were key in sowing the Big Lie, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who are known to be under criminal investigation right now. That’s a topic the Select Committee is focusing closely on. But in spite of the fact that Bennie Thompson has expressed an interest in interviewing Rudy, thus far Thompson remains coy about how he’ll reach out to get Rudy’s testimony. There has been no public mention of getting Powell’s testimony or, for that matter, Lin Wood or Patrick Byrne, who — based on public reports — are part of that grifting investigation as well (and Byrne would be interesting of his own accord because he was honey-potted by a Russian spy). And for that matter, at least by the time he sued the committee, Mike Flynn’s call records hadn’t been subpoenaed either.

I’m equally interested in the timing of the Stewart Rhodes subpoena: November 23. That was after DOJ obtained an arrest warrant for James Beeks, the last member of The Stack, on November 18, but the day before they arrested him. By that point (probably long before), DOJ had to have known they were going to pursue sedition charges against him. But for some reason, they held off on the sedition charges when they superseded the Oath Keepers indictment on December 1 (before they otherwise would have needed to charge Beeks) to include him and tweak the Civil Disorder language in the indictment. There may be very good reasons they needed to wait: They needed to find Rhodes; they needed to finish exploiting his phone; they needed to resolve how they were going to treat the field commander, Mike Simmons, whose status in the investigation changed pretty dramatically between the December indictment and the Sedition one. But in that period while they held off, the Select Committee tested whether Rhodes wanted to go lie under oath to Congress. He declined.

It was worth a shot!

I find it equally curious that the Select Committee chose to target colleagues who played a more ambivalent role in the insurrection on January 6, rather than people like Paul Gosar or Mo Brooks, who have clear ties to organizers and other insurrectionists.

Similarly, I share Justin Hendrix’s curiosity why — especially in the wake of his article showing that The Donald isn’t being used in FBI affidavits — the Select Committee isn’t pursuing the role of the post-Reddit social media site in the insurrection, even while they expand their prior requests on more traditional social media.

In short, DOJ and the Select Committee are necessarily deconflicting their efforts, even if the Committee remains fire-walled from what DOJ has planned in the weeks ahead. But understanding that raises interesting questions about the Select Committee choices.

These pieces are all parts of a much bigger conspiracy. And until we see all those pieces we won’t see how they all work together.

But there are increasing signs that others are putting those pieces together.

Update: On January 18, the committee subpoenaed Rudy, Sidney Powell, and two others.

Select Committee Witness Requests

Easy Cases: Why Austin Sarat’s Argument That Trump Should Not Be Prosecuted Is Wrong

Randolph Moss, serving as Assistant Attorney General for OLC in 2000, famously wrote the following:

Our view remains that a sitting President is constitutionally immune from indictment and criminal prosecution.

Less famously, however, the first 11 pages of that more famous memo rely on this earlier OLC memo from Moss:

We conclude that the Constitution permits a former President to be criminally prosecuted for the same offenses for which he was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate while in office.

Even less famous are words Moss released last Tuesday, now presiding as a judge over a January 6 prosecution, ruling that obstruction, 18 USC 1512(c)(2), clearly applies to the official Congressional proceeding to certify the vote count on January 6, 2021.

Hard cases may make bad law. But easy cases ought not.

For these reasons, the Court rejects Defendants’ contention that the joint session of Congress convened to certify the electoral vote is not a “proceeding before the Congress.”

Those legal documents are all useful background to my response to this Austin Sarat op-ed, opining that DOJ should not prosecute Trump for his actions related to January 6.

I worry that going forward with even a well-grounded prosecution of Trump would almost certainly turn him into a martyr, fuel a furious attack on the Biden Justice Department for using prosecution as a political weapon, spur violent outbursts, and plunge this country ever closer to the abyss which it seems to be fast approaching.

“An investigation and potential indictment and trial of Mr. Trump,” Eric Posner warns, “would give the circus of the Trumpian presidency a central place in American politics for the next several years, sucking the air out of the Biden administration and feeding into Mr. Trump’s politically potent claims to martyrdom. Mr. Trump will portray the prosecution as revenge by the ‘deep state’ and corrupt Democrats.”

This difficult judgment does not mean that Attorney General Garland should do nothing.

He can serve justice by building on the work of the House committee and helping to fully develop the facts of what Trump did in the lead up to and on January 6. Garland should present those facts clearly, logically, and with irrefutable documentation. And he should do what McConnell and Graham suggested in February by citing chapter and verse the numerous federal criminal laws that Trump violated.

First, some background.

Unless you went to Amherst College, you may never have heard of Sarat. He created a Law and Society program there and has served as a Dean. I’ve had conversations a number of prominent and not-so prominent lawyers who graduated from Amherst during Sarat’s tenure — some you’ve heard of!! — who have spoken of the great influence the professor has had on their career. And while I’m not a lawyer, like many of those lawyers, I first learned to read a legal document from Sarat.

Over thirty years ago in a class on how the state regulates sexuality, Sarat assigned me to read Griswold v Connecticut and Roe v Wade alongside Tolstoy and Kiss of the Spider Woman, the latter of which I taught on my own right and included in my dissertation years later. Sarat taught me critical skills you may benefit from at this site.

My complaint with Sarat’s argument is that he violates the rule he taught me so many years ago: He didn’t read the relevant legal documents before writing this op-ed. The sources he links in his op-ed are:

  • Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks’ MSNBC appearance addressing the issue
  • A column on a June 2021 Rachel Maddow appearance in which she suggested the House could send a criminal referral to DOJ
  • An article about a bunch of people responding to Liz Cheney’s invocation of obstruction (the same statute Moss ruled on), which itself betrays that those people quoted in the article missed how obstruction was already being used in DOJ’s prosecution
  • Lawrence Tribe’s column that is riddled with factual errors that make it clear Tribe is unfamiliar with the public record
  • Mitch McConnell’s speech, justifying why he was voting against impeaching Trump, noting that he could be criminally prosecuted
  • Lindsey Graham’s comments making the same argument: that Trump should not be impeached but could be prosecuted
  • A report on DC District Attorney Karl Racine’s comments that Trump could be charged with a misdemeanor
  • A BoGlo op-ed that calls for prosecution but envisions Trump’s vulnerability with regards to January 6 to pertain to incitement
  • A NY Mag piece that includes obstruction among the possible laws Trump may have broken, but claims that DOJ, “seems to be pursuing misdemeanor trespass cases at the Capitol more aggressively than potential felony charges for Trump,” which misunderstands how DOJ appears to be using misdemeanor arrests (and indeed, how those witnesses would be necessary to any Trump prosecution)
  • A Ryan Cooper piece that states as fact that Garland’s DOJ, “is enabling Republican lawlessness through its pathetic unwillingness to prosecute Trump and all his cronies for their crimes against democracy;” Cooper makes no mention of the Tom Barrack prosecution, and while he invokes Rudy Giuliani he doesn’t mention the decision — seemingly made in Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s first days — to seize Rudy Giuliani’s phones and spend 8 months getting a privilege review on the contents of Rudy’s phones right through April 2021
  • A law review article on prosecutorial discretion
  • Robert Jackson’s seminal text about the role of a Federal prosecutor
  • The Bordenkircher precedent on plea negotiations that upholds prosecutorial discretion
  • The quip, “hard cases make bad law”
  • An Eric Posner op-ed published before Trump attempted a coup

Some of these things — the Bordenkircher opinion, McConnell and Graham’s comments suggesting Trump could be prosecuted, and Robert Jackson — are important primary sources. But most of the rest are secondary sources, and many of them — notably Tribe and Cooper — are demonstrably wrong on the facts because they didn’t consult available primary sources.

And as a result of consulting erroneous sources like Tribe, Sarat misunderstands the case before him.

For example, many of Sarat’s sources imagine that Trump’s biggest criminal exposure is in incitement and not the same obstruction charge with which well over 200 insurrectionists have already been charged and to which at least a dozen people have already pled guilty (most of them even before Moss and his colleagues upheld the application in recent weeks). Nine pled guilty to obstruction as part of cooperation agreements and several of those cooperators interacted with Roger Stone in the days and hours leading up to the assault on the Capitol.

Many of Sarat’s sources assume that DOJ couldn’t get to Trump except for the work the January 6 Committee is doing.

In spite of Garland’s repeated claims that his DOJ would pursue the January 6 investigation wherever the evidence leads — including at an appearance where he discussed that famous Moss memo that relies so heavily on that less famous Moss memo — Sarat suggests that Garland would have to launch an investigation, one entirely separate from the investigation already in progress, anew. “Based on what we now know, there appears to be ample reason for Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a criminal probe of Trump.” That is, Sarat treats the question before him as whether Merrick Garland should take to a podium and announce, “we are investigating the former President,” and not whether DOJ should continue the investigation(s) that it already has in progress, working to prosecute organizer-inciters like Alex Jones’ side-kick Owen Shroyer (who helped lure mobsters to the Capitol) and flipping low-level conspirators to build the case against more senior conspirators, conspirators whose ties to Trump associates like Jones and Stone have already been raised in court documents.

The question is not whether DOJ should open an investigation into Donald Trump. The question is whether, if and when DOJ accumulates enough evidence — surely helped by Select Committee efforts but in no way relying entirely on them — to show probable cause that Trump conspired with others to prevent Congress from certifying the vote on January 6, 2021, to charge him like DOJ has already charged hundreds of others.

And that question is significantly a question about equity.

The question is whether, if Paul Hodgkins has to serve eight months in prison for occupying the Senate while waving a Donald Trump flag around (Hodgkins is already three months into that sentence), Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Jacob Chansley has to serve 41 months in prison (Chansley has been in jail since January 9, 2021) for occupying the Senate dais, in defiance of orders from a cop, with a spear and a blowhorn and leaving a message for Mike Pence reading, “It’s Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!,” Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Kevin Fairlamb has to serve 41 months in prison (Fairlamb has been in jail since January 22, 2021) for punching one of the cops protecting the Capitol “with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion,” Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Gina Bisignano faces 41 months for traveling to DC boasting, “The insurrection begins,” marching to the Capitol while narrating her actions — “we are marching to the Capitol to put some pressure on Mike Pence” and “I’m going to break into the Capitol” — and then helping to break a window to get into the Capitol, Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Matthew Greene faces 41 months in prison for — months after Trump instructed the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” — joining the Proud Boys in an orchestrated assault on the Capitol in hopes, “that his actions and those of his co-conspirators would cause legislators and the Vice President to act differently during the course of the certification of the Electoral College Vote than they would have otherwise,” Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well. Greene has been in jail since April 21, 2021.

The question is whether, if Jon Schaffer faces 41 months for, after learning “that Vice President Pence planned to go forward with the Electoral College vote certification,” forcibly storming the Capitol armed with bear spray, Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Josiah Colt faces 51 months because, after he, “learned that the Vice President had not intervened to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote,” he stormed the Capitol, broke into the Senate, and then occupied Pence’s chair, Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well.

The question is whether, if Graydon Young faces 63 months because he barged into the Capitol as part of a stack of kitted out militia members with the purpose of “intimidating and coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting” the vote certification, Donald Trump should be prosecuted as well.

At this point, there’s no way to avoid the things Sarat would like to avoid by merely talking about Trump’s crimes rather than prosecuting them, to say nothing of the way that would violate DOJ rules prohibiting doing so. That’s true, in large part, because Trump is claiming martyrdom for those who did his dirty work. Between right wing lawyers swooping in to push defendants to renege on their guilty pleas, continued efforts by defendants’ co-conspirators to claim they were all set up by the Deep State, and schemes to profit off continued propaganda in support of Trump, every one of these cases involves some of the things that Sarat fears would occur if Trump, too, were prosecuted. Trump has a press conference scheduled for January 6 that will undoubtedly do some of the things Sarat would like to stave off. That din will only get louder as trials start in February. The claims of martyrdom are already baked into this investigation, and so would be better addressed by a direct debunking rather than a belated attempt at avoidance, not least because white terrorists have a history of undermining prosecutions by claiming martyrdom.

But there’s another reason, besides equity, that demands that DOJ prosecute Trump if prosecutors can collect the evidence to do so.

All five of the opinions (Dabney Friedrich, Amit Mehta, Tim Kelly, James Boasberg, plus Moss) upholding the application of obstruction to the vote certification have some discussion of what separates “corrupt” efforts to obstruct the vote count from political lobbying or civil disobedience. The discussion entails whether corruption requires an attempt to corrupt someone else, or whether it only involves corruptness in one’s own actions. A number of these opinions take an easy route, stating simply that the defendants in question are alleged to have broken the law in other ways in their efforts to obstruct the vote count, which gets past corruptness in one’s own actions, so a further analysis of whether legal actions might amount to obstruction is unnecessary as applied to those defendants. That’s an intransitive understanding of the corrupt purpose necessary to obstruction.

All stop short of where James Pearce, the prosecutor guiding this adoption of 1512(c)(2), went in responding to a question from Trump appointee Carl Nichols; Pearce stated that one way an unnamed person just like Trump might act corruptly would be by asking someone else to violate their duty: If that person, “calls Vice President Pence to seek to have him adjudge the certification in a particular way … knowing it is not an available argument [and is] asking the vice president to do something the individual knows is wrongful … one of the definitions of ‘corruptly’ is trying to get someone to violate a legal duty.” That’s a transitive kind of corruption, an attempt to get someone else to violate their oath. Even some of the confessed obstructors listed here (most notably, the first Proud Boy to plead guilty) were knowingly doing that.

But there’s a third option. In his opinion on the application of 1512(c)(2), somewhat uniquely among the five opinions upholding the application thus far, former OLC head Judge Moss ruled that if the use of illegal activity to interrupt the vote count weren’t enough to distinguish between normal protests and obstruction, then the court could turn to whether the defendants (whom, in this case, you’ve likely never heard of) were attempting to obtain an improper benefit for themselves … or someone else.

To the extent any additional guardrail is necessary, other recognized definitions of the term “corruptly” both fit the context of the obstruction of a congressional proceeding and provide additional guidance. In his separate opinion in Aguilar, for example, Justice Scalia quoted with approval the jury instruction given by the district court in that case: “An act is done corruptly if it’s done voluntarily and intentionally to bring about an unlawful result or a lawful result by some unlawful method, with a hope or expectation of . . . [a] benefit to oneself or a benefit to another person.” 515 U.S. at 616–17 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Because the Aguilar majority ruled on other grounds, it did not opine on the meaning of “corruptly.” Id. at 598–603. But there is no reason to doubt Justice Scalia’s observation that formulations of this type are “longstanding and well-accepted,” id. at 616, and, indeed, the D.C. Circuit cited to a similar definition—“a person acts ‘corruptly’ when taking action ‘with the intent to obtain an improper advantage for [one]self or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others’”—in United States v. Pasha, 797 F.3d 1122, 1132 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. North, 910 F.2d 843, 882 (D.C. Cir. 1990), opinion withdrawn and superseded in other part on reh’g, 920 F.2d 940 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). In the garden-variety disruption or parading case, in contrast, the government need not prove that the defendant sought unlawfully to obtain a benefit for himself or another person in the proceeding itself. But, because the Court is persuaded that Defendants’ vagueness argument fails even without this refinement, and because the Court has yet to hear from the parties on the proper jury instructions, the Court will leave for another day the question whether this formulation—or a slightly different formulation—will best guide the jury.

This language likely came out of some ill-advised claims from the defense attorneys in question, who claimed there would be no injustice that could result from obstructing the certification of Joe Biden’s vote. The claim was ridiculous. It suggested that nullifying the votes of 81 million people and depriving Biden of his legal victory would create no victims.

But the comment brought the briefing before Moss to where it didn’t go (except to a limited degree before Kelly) in the other challenges.

The obstruction of the vote count on January 6, 2021 was corrupt because people put on body armor, broke into the locked Capitol, and beat up cops in an attempt to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory — the intransitive corruption of the people who broke other laws to carry it out. It was corrupt because those who carried it out sought to intimidate people like Mike Pence to do what he otherwise refused to. But it was corrupt because the entire goal, shared by all the people charged with obstruction, was to declare Trump the victor in an election he didn’t win.

DOJ should not back off prosecuting Trump along with all those others charged in the same crime, some of whom (I believe DOJ will ultimately be able to prove) are co-conspirators with Trump in a large networked conspiracy, for the crime of trying to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s win. Judges, defense attorneys, and defendants themselves — including many of the trespassers — keep insisting that Donald Trump was the key participant in the crime they’re all pleading guilty to.

His improper advantage was undoubtedly the goal.

“What every prosecutor is practically required to do is to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain,” Jackson told America’s US Attorneys in the famous speech Sarat cited. Those watching the DOJ investigation rather than just the Select Committee or some often ill-informed TV lawyers have raised real questions about whether DOJ has honored that advice, because so many hapless Trump dupes are being prosecuted for their role in attempting to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power (as I have laid out, there appear to be investigative reasons why DOJ has prosecuted the misdemeanants they have). But about one thing, Jackson had no doubt: “In the enforcement of laws that protect our national integrity and existence, we should prosecute any and every act of violation.”

As noted above, DOJ has thus far accused 275 people of obstructing the certification of Joe Biden’s victory (a good number of those have been permitted to plead down to a misdemeanor). DOJ has already decided that it will treat obstruction of the vote certification as a crime that endangers our national integrity. Charging Trump with obstruction would amount to holding the guy who stood to benefit to the same standard as those whose corrupt actions attempted to steal for him an improper advantage.

The question is not, as so many commentators who discovered the obstruction application only when Liz Cheney called their attention to it, whether to open an investigation into Trump. 700 people have already been charged in the investigation that might one day charge Trump. The question is whether to hold Trump to the same standard as the hundreds who have gone before him.

Prosecuting Trump may be the only way to confirm that Chansley and Bisignano and Colt and Young aren’t martyrs to Trump’s losing cause.

Other Posts

Because new readers are coming to this site via this post, I wanted to include some other overview posts about January 6 that may be helpful:

A Taxonomy of the [Visible] January 6 “Crime Scene” Investigation: This post explains what I understand the DOJ investigation to have accomplished in a year.

The Pied Piper of Insurrection, and Other Challenges in Charging the January 6 Organizer-Inciters: The 700 arrests thus far have been relatively easy, because everyone arrested was — at a minimum — trespassing on January 6. The next step of the investigation — arresting the organizer-inciters who themselves implemented Trump’s plans — is where DOJ will have to have more evidence of conspiracy or other corrupt mens rea supporting obstruction. This post looks at several of them.

Ten Things TV Lawyers Can Do Rather than Whinging about Merrick Garland: I can’t promise you DOJ will prosecute Trump or even Rudy Giuliani and Alex Jones. I can promise that if they were to charge Trump, it wouldn’t be before midterms. Complex investigations of very powerful people simply don’t work that fast. For that reason, among others, those spending their time whinging about Merrick Garland’s purported inaction would be better served finding some other way to save democracy. This post provides ten ways to do that.

The Trump to Willard War Room to Militia Connection

The name Roger Stone does not appear in the Guardian story reporting that the January 6 Committee will soon seek more information on Trump’s calls to the Willard Hotel late on January 5 and on January 6, as he faced the prospect that Mike Pence would not violate his oath and fail to certify the legitimate winner of the election.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, has said the panel will open an inquiry into Donald Trump’s phone call seeking to stop Joe Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January hours before the insurrection.

The chairman said the select committee intended to scrutinize the phone call – revealed last month by the Guardian – should they prevail in their legal effort to obtain Trump White House records over the former president’s objections of executive privilege.

“That’s right,” Thompson said when asked by the Guardian whether the select committee would look into Trump’s phone call, and suggested House investigators had already started to consider ways to investigate Trump’s demand that Biden not be certified as president on 6 January.

Thompson said the select committee could not ask the National Archives for records about specific calls, but noted “if we say we want all White House calls made on January 5 and 6, if he made it on a White House phone, then obviously we would look at it there.”

Instead, the story lists a bunch of people who have been even less cooperative with the Jan 6 investigation than Stone.

The former president’s remarks came as part of wider discussions he had with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification, the sources said.

The story also mentions that the Jan 6 Committee is finally considering a subpoena to Rudy Giuliani — a subpoena that will hit just as debates over crime-fraud excepted conversations start to appear on the SDNY docket.

A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment about what else such a line of inquiry might involve. But a subpoena to Giuliani, the lead Trump lawyer at the Willard, is understood to be in the offing, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The underlying Guardian story had noted that the calls to the Willard proved a direct tie between the White House and the war room.

Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard.

The reason I raise Stone is that the repeated reports from Joshua James to Oath Keeper field commander Mike Simmons about a VIP disgruntled about his shoddy treatment — a VIP that is almost certainly Stone — show there was a direct tie from the Willard to one of several militias who were instrumental in breaching the Capitol from multiple points.

Particularly given the confirmation that the government believes he was lying, I’d like to point to some redacted references to a VIP that Joshua James was guarding who was bitching that he wasn’t getting VIP treatment.

This is likely Roger Stone. That’s true because — as Dan Friedman reported — James was “guarding” Stone that day (and Simmons guarded Stone the previous day), the name seems to fit, and Stone has publicly complained about his treatment that day.

While exchanging calls with Simmons, James traveled from the Willard Hotel, in downtown Washington—where he had been leading a security detail guarding Stone—to the Capitol.

What appears to be the first reference to this person also seems to fit the name, which would be the full name, Roger Stone, on first reference. Roberto Minuta, Jonathan Walden, and the now-cooperating Mark Grods were also guarding Stone.

Which brings us to the middle reference. Simmons claims that James called him every time his VIP moved.

Only, if that VIP was Roger Stone, he didn’t move. By his own account he stayed at the Willard before taking his bruised ego and leaving town.

If that’s right, it means Simmons was trying to explain multiple calls with James, and to do so, he offered the bullshit excuse that Stone, who by his own account never left the Willard, kept moving.

These reports in on said VIP’s non-movement would have taken place the morning before the assault on the Capitol, during the same period when, the Guardian reports, Trump alerted the Willard war room that Pence was likely going to put his duty to the Constitution over his fealty to Donald Trump.

The Guardian reports that Thompson may go this route to increase pressure on the people who were privy to the contents of those calls. That pressure could work in multiple directions. If it coughed up evidence from a less-damning non-privileged call, it might help SDNY in battles to access such materials from Rudy’s phones. It might increase pressure on John Eastman, a lawyer who has only inconsistently claimed privilege for his conversations with Trump. Or it might cause one or another of Trump’s bottom-feeders — Stone and Steve Bannon — to take the other out.

Even just identifying the times of such calls, though, would provide a way to understand how White House input into the Willard intersected with Willard communications with the Oath Keepers, Willard directions to Congress, and White House pressure on Congress intersected.

Finally, Everyone Is Talking about Trump’s Obstruction on January 6

Twice in the last 24 hours, Liz Cheney has read from texts that Mark Meadows already turned over to the January 6 Committee, showing that everyone from Sean Hannity to Don Jr were desperately contacting Meadows begging him to get Trump to do something to halt the assault on the Capitol.

After reading the names of all the people who’ve protected Trump since, Cheney then described that Meadows’ testimony is necessary to determine whether Trump, “through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes.”

Hours passed without necessary action by the President. These privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes?

With her forceful comments Cheney was, as TV lawyers have finally discovered, invoking the clause of the obstruction statute that DOJ has used to charge hundreds of the most serious January 6 rioters. Liz Cheney was stating that Trump’s actions on January 6 may demonstrate that he, along with hundreds of people he incited, had deliberately attempted to prevent the vote count.

Even as she was doing that a second time today, the judge presiding over most of the Proud Boys cases, Tim Kelly joined his colleague Dabney Friedrich in rejecting the challenge that Ethan Nordean had taken to that same application.*

Again, this issue is not over. There are 2 other ripe challenges to the application, and plenty more pending.

But for the moment, it seems that all three branches of government — prosecutors charging obstruction, judges affirming the viability of the application, and senior members of Congress invoking it as part of the January 6 investigation — agree that the events of the day may amount to obstruction.

Back when I begged TV lawyers to start focusing on this application, I laid out the things that Trump had or may have done, that might be proof of obstruction.

  • Agreeing (and ordering subordinates) to plan and participate in an effort to obstruct the vote certification
  • Encouraging the Proud Boys to believe they are his army
  • Personally sowing the Big Lie about voter fraud to lead supporters to believe Trump has been robbed of his rightful election win
  • Asking subordinates and Republican politicians to lie about the vote to encourage supporters to feel they were robbed
  • Encouraging surrogates and campaign staffers to fund buses to make travel to DC easier
  • Using the January 6 rally to encourage as many people as possible to come to DC
  • Applauding violence in advance of January 6 and tacitly encouraging it on the day
  • Recruiting members of Congress to raise challenges to the vote count
  • Asking members of Congress to delay evacuation even as the rioters entered the building, heightening the chance of direct physical threat (and likely contributing to Ashli Babbitt’s death)
  • Asking Mike Pence to do something unconstitutional, then targeting him after he refused, virtually ensuring he would be personally threatened
  • Possibly muddling the line of command on which civilian agency would coordinate response, ensuring there would be none
  • Possibly taking steps to delay any Guard response at the Capitol
  • Possibly ignoring immediate requests from help from leaders of Congress

The January 6 Committee has already collected evidence demonstrating many of these issues, for example, the efforts to sow the Big Lie, including coordination with Congress, reveling in the collecting mobs, directing Guard deployment in ways that would support the insurrection, the unbelievable pressure on Mike Pence to violate his oath to the Constitution. In the interim four months, the press and Committee have identified other potential means of obstruction, such as ordering Alex Jones to bring his mob to the Capitol.

This is not a guarantee that Trump will be prosecuted. But all three branches of government now agree on the framework with which he might be held accountable.

*As I now understand it, Kelly announced yesterday that he will be denying the motion to dismiss later this week. He has not done so formally yet, but announced it yesterday in conjunction with his denial of renewed bail motions from three defendants.

Bennie Thompson Will Need to Bill FBI for the Affidavits He’s Writing for Them

Before Mark Meadows decided to renege on his partial cooperation with the January 6 Committee, according to a letter Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote his lawyer, George Terwilliger, Meadows had already turned over the following:

  • A number of emails sent from Meadows’ personal email account, as well as a privilege log withholding “several hundred” documents from his email account citing Executive, Attorney-Client, or other privileges. Those emails include:
    • A November 7, 2020 email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a “direct and collateral attack” after the election
    • A January 5, 2021 email about a 38-page PowerPoint briefing entitled, “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference, & Options for 6 JAN” that was to be shared “on the hill”
    • A January 5, 2021 email about having the National Guard on standby
  • Some text messages Meadows retained before he got rid of his personal phone while a criminal investigation was pending, as well as a privilege log invoking Executive, Attorney-Client, and other privileges withholding over 1,000 texts. The texts turned over include:
    • A November 6, 2020 text with a Member of Congress about appointing alternate electors as part of a plan that the Member acknowledged would be “highly controversial” about which, Meadows said, “I love it”
    • A January 2021 text message with an organizer of the January 6 rally at the Ellipse
    • Text messages about the need for the former President to issue a public statement that could have stopped the January 6th attack on the Capitol

According to Thompson, having turned over some fairly damning stuff, Meadows reneged on cooperating for two reasons: First, because the Committee intended to force him to invoke individualized privilege claims in response to questions. And perhaps even moreso, because the Committee filed a subpoena with Meadows’ cell phone carrier for “call data records.”

Indeed, a lawsuit Meadows filed after negotiations broke down yesterday is particularly concerned about the subpoena to Verizon, which he describes this way:

The Verizon subpoena, issued by the Select Committee on November 22, 2021, instructs Verizon to produce subscriber information and cell phone data associated with Mr. Meadows’s personal cell phone number. The subscriber information requested includes subscriber names and contact information, authorized users, time of service provided, account changes, associated IP addresses, and other metadata. The cell phone data requested could include all calls, text messages, and other records of communications associated with that phone number. This data can be used for historic cell site analysis. The Verizon subpoena requested all Mr. Meadows’ personal cell phone data for four months: from October 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021.

Meadows says that, given his provision of texts and a privilege log, the only thing that Verizon subpoena would show is his IP logins.

The Verizon subpoena seeks Mr. Meadows’ cell phone metadata, despite the fact that he has already provided the Select Committee with his responsive text messages, emails, and the metadata attached thereto.

The only additional information that could be gleaned by the Verizon subpoena is either privileged or concerns Mr. Meadows’ internet protocol and data-connection detail records.

It’s only true that the Verizon subpoena would show nothing other than what Meadows provided if Meadows included all his communications, either handed over or in the privilege log. But if he deliberately left stuff out, the subpoena would make that clear.

Meadows goes on at length in his lawsuit about how subpoenas from the January 6 Committee are invalid and how their refusal to accept a former President’s invocation of Executive Privilege for things his Chief of Staff wrote about in a book and on his personal cell phone.

So, as a result of that, Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney have announced, they’re still going to go ahead and refer Meadows to DOJ for criminal contempt.

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that DOJ will not charge Meadows for contempt. But it’s not for the reason you think.

It’s because, first of all, DOJ has just gotten a record of enough suspicious behavior that they will use it (if they haven’t already) to get the very same call records Meadows is desperate to withhold from Congress. DOJ only needs to show relevance to their investigation to obtain those records, and Verizon will and has been, for other subjects of the January 6 investigation, gag the request to protect the ongoing investigation.

And by the time the Committee and Congress approve of a full report supporting contempt — Steve Bannon’s report was 26 pages — DOJ would have analyzed those call records to see which other January 6 suspects Meadows was in contact with, undoubtedly one of the things he was attempting to hide with his partial compliance and the replacement of his phone during a criminal investigation. And that would provide some evidence to support probable cause warrants for the content Thompson has just explained is available at Verizon and Google. The materials Meadows did turn over — particularly any gaps not covered by Meadows’ privilege logs — would provide further basis to support probable cause warrants. The apparent fact that Meadows was conducting official business on his phone and his Gmail account — but his emails!!! — would be further basis for probable cause. The likelihood, raised by Thompson, that Meadows failed to turn over records to the National Archives that he is now claiming to be covered by Executive Privilege, in violation of the Presidential Records Act, would be further basis for probable cause. And the circumstances of Meadows’ book publication — including any failures to undergo a full prepublication review, something that Trump attempted to prosecute John Bolton for — would be more.

Meadows’ actions thus far have provided a good deal of evidence that DOJ could use to obtain probable cause warrants for his phone and Gmail content, as well as (if they were prepared to do an overt search) the backed up material they know he retained from his old phone. They would have a privilege log for a filter team (though DOJ would be better served by asking a Special Master to check those privilege claims, because they’re probably bogus). And since Biden has already waived privilege over anything covered by the Committee request, DOJ would not have to worry about getting a separate Executive Privilege waiver for any content they obtained.

Thompson and Cheney may well refer Meadows for contempt. But by the time that happens, what Thompson has already made public will give DOJ plenty to kickstart an investigation into why Meadows is so obviously covering up some of his actions relating to January 6.

Rinse, repeat. The obstruction of John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark will likewise go some way to giving DOJ what they need to advance their investigation (though with Clark, DOJ may already have that from the DOJ IG Report). Similarly, once Ali Alexander finishes telling lies that DOJ has already debunked, it will provide DOJ ample cause (on top of what might be probable cause of wire fraud) to advance the investigation into him.

The collective wail from Meadows and Eastman that Congress might get their call records only makes it more likely that DOJ will get those very same call records, for which they need show only relevance. And Bennie Thompson’s transparency about that certainly makes FBI’s job easier.


Because it’s interesting, I’m going to include the list of things (per the lawsuit) that the January 6 Committee asserts could in no way be privileged.

  1. Messaging to or from the White House, Trump reelection campaign, party officials, and others about purported fraud, irregularities, or malfeasance in the November 2020 election. This includes, but is not limited to, Mr. Trump’s and others frequent use of the “Stop the Steal” slogan, even after lawsuits, investigations, public reporting, discussions with agency heads, and internally created documents revealed that there had not been widespread election fraud
  2. White House officials’ understanding of purported election-related fraud, irregularities, or malfeasance in the November 2020 election.
  3. Efforts to pressure federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, to take actions to challenge the results of the presidential election, advance allegations of voter fraud, interfere with Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, or otherwise overturn President Biden’s certified victory. This includes, but is not limited to, Mr. Trump’s and others’ efforts to use the Department of Justice to investigate alleged election-related conduct, file lawsuits, propose that state legislatures take election-related actions, or replace senior leadership. It also includes similar efforts at other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and, among others, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  4. Efforts to pressure state and local officials and entities, including state attorneys general, state legislators, and state legislatures, to take actions to challenge the results of the presidential election, advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, interfere with Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, de-certify state election results, appoint alternate slates of electors, or otherwise overturn President Biden’s certified victory. This includes, but is not limited to, an Oval Office meeting with legislators from Michigan, as well as a January 2, 2021 call with, among others, state officials, members of Congress, Mr. Trump, and Mr. Meadows.
  5. Theories and strategies regarding Congress and the Vice President’s (as President of the Senate) roles and responsibilities when counting the Electoral College vote. This includes, but is not limited to, the theories and/or understandings of John Eastman, Mark Martin, former Vice President Pence, and others.
  6. Efforts to pressure former Vice President Pence, members of his staff, and members of Congress to delay or prevent certification of the Electoral College vote. This includes, but is not limited to, meetings between, or including, the former Vice President, Mr. Trump, aides, John Eastman, members of Congress, and others.
  7. Campaign-related activities, including efforts to count, not count, or audit votes, as well as discussions about election-related matters with state and local officials. This includes, but is not limited to, Mr. Meadows’ travel to Georgia to observe vote counting, as well as his or Mr. Trump’s communications with officials and employees in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. This also includes similar activities related to state and local officials in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.
  8. Meetings or other communications involving people who did not work for the United States government. This includes, but is not limited to, an Oval Office meeting on December 18, at which Mr. Trump, Michael Flynn, Patrick Byrne, and others discussed campaign-related steps that Mr. Trump purportedly could take to change the outcome of the November 2020 election and remain in office for a second term, such as seizing voting machines, litigating, and appointing a special counsel. It also includes communications with organizers of the January 6 rally like Amy Kremer of Women for America First.
  9. Communications and meetings with members of Congress about the November 2020 election, purported election fraud, actual or proposed election-related litigation, and election-related rallies and/or protests. This includes, but is not limited to, a December 21, 2021 meeting involving Mr. Trump, members of his legal team, and members of the House and Senate, during which attendees discussed objecting to the November 2020 election’s certified electoral college votes as part of an apparent fight “against mounting evidence of voter fraud.”
  10. Efforts by federal officials, including White House staff, Mr. Trump, the Trump reelection campaign, and members of Congress to plan or organize rallies and/or protests in Washington, D.C. related to the election, including, but not limited to, the January 6 rally on the Ellipse.
  11. Advance knowledge of, and any preparations for, the possibility of violence during election-related rallies and/or protests in Washington, D.C.
  12. Events in the days leading up to, and including, January 6. This includes, but is not limited to, campaign-related planning and activities at the Willard Hotel, planning and preparation for Mr. Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, Mr. Trump and other White House officials’ actions during and after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and contact with members of Congress, law enforcement, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to address or respond to the attack.
  13. The possibility of invoking martial law, the Insurrection Act, or the 25th Amendment based on election-related issues or the events in the days leading up to, and including, January 6.
  14. The preservation or destruction of any information relating to the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the attack of January 6th, including any such information that may have been stored, generated, or destroyed on personal electronic devices.
  15. Documents and information, including the location of such documents and information, that are responsive to the Select Committee’s subpoena. This includes, but is not limited to, information stored on electronic devices that Mr. Meadows uses and has used.
  16. Topics about which Mr. Meadows has already spoken publicly. This includes, but is not limited to, Mr. Meadows’ February 11, 2021, appearance on the Ingraham Angle show to discuss the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Trump’s reactions to the attack, and the National Guard.

Donald Trump Would Withhold Evidence about Whether Enrique Tarrio Really Did Visit the White House Last December

One of the most dramatic events of 9/11 came when Dick Cheney authorized the shootdown of United flight 93, and only afterwards contacted President Bush to confirm the order.

At some time between 10:10 and 10:15, a military aide told the Vice President and others that the aircraft was 80 miles out.Vice President Cheney was asked for authority to engage the aircraft.218 His reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, “in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing.” The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the inbound plane. He told us he based this authorization on his earlier conversation with the President.The military aide returned a few minutes later, probably between 10:12 and 10:18, and said the aircraft was 60 miles out. He again asked for authorization to engage.TheVice President again said yes.219

At the conference room table was White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Bolten watched the exchanges and, after what he called “a quiet moment,”suggested that theVice President get in touch with the President and confirm the engage order. Bolten told us he wanted to make sure the President was told that the Vice President had executed the order. He said he had not heard any prior discussion on the subject with the President.220

The Vice President was logged calling the President at 10:18 for a two-minute conversation that obtained the confirmation. On Air Force One, the President’s press secretary was taking notes; Ari Fleischer recorded that at 10:20, the President told him that he had authorized a shootdown of aircraft if necessary.221

The revelation was an early warning about Cheney’s willingness to assume the power of the President. But identifying it also allowed the government to consider tweaking presidential authorities and improving communications for such moments of crisis.

We know this happened, as laid out in the 9/11 Report, based on Switchboard Logs that recorded Cheney’s call to Bush, the Presidential Daily Diary recounting the President’s and Vice President’s actions, and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s notes.

218.White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001.

219. For Libby’s characterization, see White House transcript, Scooter Libby interview with Newsweek, Nov. 2001. For the Vice President’s statement, see President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004). For the second authorization, see White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001.

220. Joshua Bolten meeting (Mar. 18, 2004); see also White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001 (“10:15–18:Aircraft 60 miles out,confirmed as hijack—engage?VP:Yes.JB [Joshua Bolten]:Get President and confirm engage order”).

221. For the Vice President’s call, see White House record, Secure Switchboard Log,Sept.11,2001; White House record, President’s Daily Diary, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001. Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority. See White House notes, Ari Fleischer notes, Sept.11,2001; see also Ari Fleischer interview (Apr. 22, 2004).

These are precisely the kinds of records that, according to a declaration from the White House Liaison with the National Archive, Donald Trump wants to withhold from the January 6 Select Committee, including from Committee Co-Chair Liz Cheney. The declaration was submitted in support of a filing opposing Trump’s effort to invoke privilege over such files. Politico first reported on the filing.

According to NARA’s Liaison John Laster, Trump is attempting to invoke privilege over precisely the analogous records from during the January 6 terrorist attack: presidential diaries, switchboard records, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s records.

32. First Notification: The First Notification includes 136 pages of records transferred to NARA from (i) the files of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, (ii) the files of Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller, (iii) the files of Deputy Counsel to the President Patrick Philbin, (iv) the White House Daily Diary, which is a chronological record of the President’s movements, phone calls, trips, briefings, meetings, and activities, (v) the White House Office of Records Management, and (vi) the files of Brian de Guzman, Director of White House Information Services.

31. President Trump made particularized assertions of executive privilege over 46 of these 136 pages of records (including seven pages of records that, as noted above, had been removed as non-responsive). He asserted privilege over: (i) daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls to the President and Vice President, all specifically for or encompassing January 6, 2021 (30 pages); (ii) drafts of speeches, remarks, and correspondence concerning the events of January 6, 2021 (13 pages); and (iii) three handwritten notes concerning the events of January 6 from Mr. Meadows’ files (3 pages).

32. Second Notification: The Second Notification includes 742 pages of records transferred to NARA from: (i) the files of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; (ii) the White House Office of the Executive Clerk; (iii) files from the White House Oval Office Operations; (iv) the files of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany; and (v) Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller.

33. President Trump made particularized assertions of executive privilege over 656 of these 742 pages of records. He asserted privilege over: (i) pages from multiple binders containing proposed talking points for the Press Secretary, interspersed with a relatively small number of related statements and documents, principally relating to allegations of voter fraud, election security, and other topics concerning the 2020 election (629 pages); (ii) presidential activity calendars and a related handwritten note for January 6, 2021, and for January 2021 generally, including January 6 (11 pages); (iii) draft text of a presidential speech for the January 6, 2021, Save America March (10 pages); (iv) a handwritten note from former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ files listing potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning the January 6 certification and other election issues (2 pages); and (v) a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages).

34. Third Notification: The Third Notification includes 146 pages of records transferred to NARA from (i) the White House Office of the Executive Clerk and (ii) the files of Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin.

35. President Trump made particularized assertions of executive privilege over 68 of these 146 pages of records. He asserted privilege over: (i) a draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and deceased officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and related emails from the files of the Office of the Executive Clerk (53 pages); and (ii) records from the files of Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin, including a memorandum apparently originating outside the White House regarding a potential lawsuit by the United States against several states President Biden won (4 pages), an email chain originating from a state official regarding election-related issues (3 pages), talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county (3 pages), a document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 presidential election and ordering various actions (3 pages), and notes apparently indicating from whom some of the foregoing were sent (2 pages). [my emphasis]

While the (very good) DOJ filing describes that Trump is withholding documents that prior Presidents had shared, it doesn’t provide examples of the how useful this information had been in understanding past terrorist attacks.

And these documents aren’t even the potentially most damning documents, either.

Because the committee request asks for communications referring to the Proud Boys’ and election results and includes Enrique Tarrio on a list of enumerated individuals covered by the request, the response from NARA might reveal whether the Proud Boys’ leader was telling the truth when he claimed to visit the White House on December 12, or whether the White House truthfully reported that he had simply joined a tour of the building.

All documents and communications referring or relating to QAnon, the Proud Boys, Stop the Steal, Oath Keepers, or Three Percenters concerning the 2020 election results, or the counting of the electoral college vote on January 6, 2021.

From April 1, 2020, through January 20, 2021, all documents and communications concerning the 2020 election and relating to the following individuals:

[snip]

Enrique Tarrio,

[h/t miladysmama for this observation]

The attempt to withhold basic White House documents about who showed up when is not, just, an obvious attempt by Donald Trump to cover up his own crimes. It’s not just an attempt to hide how, in contrast to Dick Cheney, he did nothing as the nation’s capital was attacked.

It’s also an attempt to hide whether Trump invited the terrorists inside the White House to plot the event.

 

Why I Agreed to Stop Calling Liz Cheney “BabyDick”

I made a vow on Twitter one of these days that I would no longer refer to Liz Cheney as “BabyDick” if she voted for impeachment.

She is going to vote for impeachment — the second Republican House member to announce their vote.

So I’m on my last legs using the term that invokes her protection of her own father for torture. But this seems like an obviously smart strategic position, as I laid out in this thread;

  • Dems need to realize the GOP wants to be purged of Trumpism
  • After Trump lost, Mitch McConnell thought he could make demands as the senior elected GOP
  • That didn’t happen
  • Then Trump lost the GA vote
  • Then Trump almost got Mitch killed
  • That gives Dems an opportunity to demand the purge of insurrectionists like Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Boebert, Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Tommy Tuberville
  • That means institutional Republicans — like “BabyDick” and McConnell — actually have an incentive to use impeachment to cleanse their party

It’s a small ask for the GOP, because they’d like to get their corporatist party back, thank you.

Liz “BabyDick” Cheney and I will never be friends. But she will have served a key leadership role in this troubled time in providing another path for the Republican party by voting to impeach an authoritarian.

May she help others feel safe in rejecting this scourge.

9/11: A Story of Attacks, Horror, Victims, Heroes and Jingoistic Shame

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-54-38-amSeptember 11, 2001 is now 15 years in the mirror of life. Like the two Kennedy assassinations, the Moonshot and a few other events in life, it is one of those “yeah I remember where I was when…” moments. Personally, being on west coast time, I was just waking up thinking all I had was a normal morning court calendar. When my wife, who gets up far earlier than I, shouted at me to rub out the cobwebs and watch the TV because something was seriously wrong in New York City. She was right. It was a hell of a day, one of unspeakable tragedy and indescribable heroism. It was truly all there in one compact day, unlike any other, save maybe December 7, 1941.

2,996 people lost their lives, and their families and history were forever altered in the course of hours on an otherwise clear and beautiful day in Manhattan. Most were simply innocent victims, but many were the epitome of heroes who charged into a hellscape to try to salvage any life they could. There were other heroes that altered their lives in response, and either died or were forever changed as a result. One was a friend of mine from South Tempe, Pat Tillman.

No one can speak for Pat Tillman, and, save for his family, those who claim to only prove they never met the man. All I can say is, I wish he were here today. The one thing that is certain is he would not give the prepackaged trite partisan reaches you are likely to hear today. It would be unfiltered truth. Which the US did not get from its leaders after September 11, 2001, and is still missing today.

Instead of rallying and solidifying the oneness of the American citizenry that was extant immediately after September 11, 2001, the Bush/Cheney Administration and GOP told us to go shopping and that we needed to invade Iraq, who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. It was a fools, if not devil’s, errand and a move that threw away an opportunity for greatness from the country and exploited it in favor of war crimes and raw political power expansion and consolidation.

Instead of gelling the United States to make ourselves better as the “Greatest Generation” did sixty years before, America was wholesale sold a bill of goods by a determined group of unreformed and craven Neo-Con war criminals left over from the Vietnam era, and we were led down the path to a war of aggression that was an unmitigated disaster we have not only not recovered from today, but are still compounding.

The 2000’s will prove to be a decade of American shame when history is written decades from now. Not from the attacks, but from our craven response thereto. So, pardon me if I join Colin Kaepernick and choose not to join, every Sunday, just because the Madison Avenue revenue generating NFL of Roger Goodell cravenly exploits it, the jingoistic bullshit of rote dedication to a racist National Anthem. Also, too, shame on opportunistic and Constitutionally ignorant whiny police unions who scold free speech and threaten to abandon their jobs in the face of it.

powell_un_anthraxBut that is all over now surely. Taking the United States, nee the world, to a forever war on the wings of a craven lie is universally recognized, condemned and scorned, right?

No. The Neo-Cons are unrepentant and still trying to advance themselves on the lie that their once and forever war justifies more than their prosecution and conviction in The Hague. Here is a belligerent and unrepentant Dick Cheney passing the torch of evil to his spawn Liz Cheney in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal:

We are no longer interrogating terrorists in part because we are no longer capturing terrorists. Since taking office, the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us. Until recently, the head of recruitment for ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a former Guantanamo detainee, as is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in the Arabian Peninsula.

As he released terrorists to return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy “ending wars.” Most reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.

Times may change, but the bottomless pit of Cheney lies and evil do not. As Charlie Savage pointed out on Twitter, the two terrorists the Cheneys refer to were actually released back to the “field of battle” by Bush and Cheney, not Obama. Was Obama involved in the story? Yes, he would be the one who actually tracked them down and killed them.

And then there is the failure to learn the lessons of the failed torture regime Bush and Cheney instituted as the hallmark of the “War on Terror”. Our friend, and former colleague, Spencer Ackerman has a must read three part series over the last three days in The Guardian (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) detailing how the CIA rolled the Obama Administration and prevented any of the necessary exposure, accountability and reform that was desperately needed in the aftermath of the torture regime and war of aggression in Iraq. It will take a while, but read all three parts. It is exasperating and maddening. It is also journalism at its finest.

And so, as we glide through the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, what are we left with from our response to the attacks? A destabilized world, an ingraining of hideous mistakes and a domestic scene more notable for jingoism and faux patriotism than dedication to the founding principles that America should stand for.

That is not what the real heroes, not only of 9/11 but the totality of American history, died to support and protect. In fact, it is an insult to their efforts and lives. If America wants to win the “War on Terror”, we need to get our heads out of our asses, quit listening to the neocons, war mongers, and military industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, and act intelligently. This requires a cessation of adherence to jingoistic and inane propaganda and thought, and a focus on the principles we are supposed to stand for.

PapaDick and BabyDick Try to Sustain the Terror Industry

PapaDick and BabyDick Cheney are at it again. They’ve got a piece in the Weekly Standard trying to renew the magic power of terrorterrorterror.

The intelligence claims they make are so batshit crazy they’re even being debunked in the WSJ (by a 9/11 Commission staffer).

But as with the other PapaDick/BabyDick interventions, I’m interested in certain of their detailed plans, which they hide after all their batshit intelligence lies.

The goal here, first of all, is to “get back on offense in the war on terror.”

As we work to defeat ISIS in Iraq and prevent the growth of a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, we must also move globally to get back on offense in the war on terror. This means, first, recognizing and admitting the size and scope of the threat we face. Al Qaeda is not “diminished,” nor is “the tide of war receding.” We remain at war, and law enforcement mechanisms will not keep us safe.

Part of that requires spending more than we already do on defense — which hints at one of the clients they’re working for here.

Second, we need to reverse the dramatic decline in defense spending we’ve seen in the last six years. A nation at war cannot hope to prevail if only 4 of its 42 Army brigades are combat ready. We need to make restoration of our military and a reversal of the disastrous defense budget cuts one of our top priorities.

We must occupy Afghanistan even if they don’t want us.

Third, we need to halt the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan. The tragedy, terror, and chaos in Iraq will be repeated in Afghanistan if we abandon the fight there. Pulling out all U.S. troops without regard to conditions on the ground or the recommendations of our commanders will ensure a victory for America’s enemies.

As with PapaDick and BabyDick’s earlier recent eruptions, they’re serving our “friends and allies in the Middle East,” not necessary the American people.

Fourth, we need to reassure our friends and allies in the Middle East that America will not abandon them. We need to demonstrate through increased intelligence cooperation, military assistance, training, joint exercises, and economic support that we know they are on the front lines of the war on terror.

This apparently includes the military coup government in Egypt, and serving them requires even more arms.

We should immediately provide the Apache helicopters and other military support the government of Egypt needs to fight the al Qaeda insurgency in the Sinai.

And we must ignore all precedent on nukes just for Iran, because it threatens nuclear armed Israel.

Fifth, we should be clear that we recognize a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel and to other nations in the region, as well. We should refuse to accept any “deal” with the Iranians that allows them to continue to spin centrifuges and enrich uranium. In the cauldron of the Middle East today, accepting a false deal—as the Obama administration seems inclined to do—will only ensure Iran attains a nuclear weapon and spark a nuclear arms race across the region. The Iranians should know without a doubt that we will not allow that to happen, and that we will take military action if necessary to stop it.

We must renew our imperial push, even while screaming terrorterrorterror, because our puppet masters in the Middle East require it.

That, and more Apache helicopters.