Mark Meadows’ Proffer

I continue to dig through the document dump Judge Aileen Cannon finally released the other day.

The dump included 70 exhibits (some FOIAed documents) submitted in conjunction with Trump’s motion to compel discovery and a few exhibits submitted with the government’s response.

The most titillating of the latter set is a November 2022 interview with Person 16 (whom I suspect to be Eric Herschmann, in part because Herschmann relishes giving titillating interviews in which he calls other lawyers morons).

But for the moment, I want to look at Person 27’s December 2022 proffer.

While the government is coy about the identity of Person 16, they’re not hiding Person 27’s identity: It is Mark Meadows.

The passages below, matched to the corresponding exhibits, makes it clear that Person 27 is Trump’s former Chief of Staff. Said Chief of Staff briefly got involved in the document recovery effort after NARA first threatened to make a referral to DOJ, then threatened to deem the boxes Trump had taken destroyed. Said Chief of Staff traveled to Mar-a-Lago in October 2021 (at a time when discussing the January 6 investigation would have been fruitful) and while there asked if Trump wanted help searching boxes, only to be told that Trump didn’t need help returning documents he wanted to keep.

A succession of Trump PRA representatives corresponded with NARA without ever resolving any of NARA’s concerns about the boxes of Presidential records that had been identified as missing in January 2021. By the end of June 2021, NARA had still received no update on the boxes, despite repeated inquiries, and it informed the PRA representatives that the Archivist had directed NARA personnel to seek assistance from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), “which is the necessary recourse when we are unable to obtain the return of improperly removed government records that belong in our custody.” Exhibit B at USA-00383980; see 44 U.S.C. § 2905(a) (providing for the Archivist to request the Attorney General to institute an action for the recovery of records). That message precipitated the involvement of Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff, who engaged the Archivist directly at the end of July. See Exhibit 4 Additional weeks passed with no results, and by the end of August 2021, NARA still had received nothing from Trump or his PRA representatives. Id. Independently, the House of Representatives had requested Presidential records from NARA, further heightening the urgency of NARA obtaining access to the missing boxes. Id. On August 30, the Archivist notified Trump’s former Chief of Staff that he would assume the boxes had been destroyed and would be obligated to report that fact to Congress, DOJ, and the White House. Id. The former Chief of Staff promptly requested a phone call with the Archivist. Id.


Fall passes with little progress in retrieving the missing records. In September 2021, one of Trump’s PRA representatives expressed puzzlement over the suggestion that there were 24 boxes missing, asserting that only 12 boxes had been found in Florida. Exhibit 7 at USA00383682, USA-00383684. In an effort to resolve “the dispute over whether there are 12 or 24 boxes,” NARA officials discussed with Su the possibility of convening a meeting with two of Trump’s PRA representatives—the former Chief of Staff and the former Deputy White House Counsel—and “possibly” Trump’s former White House Staff Secretary. Id. at USA-00383682. On October 19, 2021, a call took place among WHORM Official 1, another WHORM employee, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, the former Deputy White House Counsel, and Su about the continued failure to produce Presidential records, but the call did not lead to a resolution. See Exhibit A at USA-00815672. Again, there was no complaint from either of Trump’s PRA representatives about Su’s participation in the call. Later in October, the former Chief of Staff traveled to the Mar-a-Lago Club to meet with Trump for another reason, but while there brought up the missing records to Trump and offered to help look for or review any that were there. Exhibit C at USA-00820510. Trump, however, was not interested in any assistance. Id. On November 21, 2021, another former member of Trump’s Administration traveled to Mar-a-Lago to speak with him about the boxes. Exhibit D at USA-00818227–USA-00818228. That individual warned Trump that he faced possible criminal exposure if he failed to return his records to NARA. Id

[my emphasis, links added]

These passages, collectively, serve to rebut Trump’s claim that the involvement of Biden White House attorney Jonathan Su was in any way investigative or improper; the passage shows that Patrick Philbin involved Su, his successor as White House Deputy Counsel, and the White House had to further intervene when Meadows tried to reach out to a White House Office of Records and Management person, Person 40, directly.

This ABC story describing Meadows’ testimony, describing offering to help but being rebuffed, further corroborates that Person 27 is Meadows.

The former chief of staff also told investigators that shortly after the National Archives first requested the return of the official documents taken to Mar-a-Lago in 2021, he offered to Trump that he would go through the former president’s boxes to retrieve the official records and send them back to Washington. Meadows told investigators Trump did not accept his offer, according to sources.

So Government Exhibit C is a December 6, 2022 proffer from Mark Meadows.

I’m not so much interested in the content of that proffer. As ABC has reported, Meadows’ testimony was iterative, slowly evolving over at least three interviews as he was presented with more evidence of details that Jack Smith knew. Aside from a mostly redacted reference to Trump’s delegation of declassification authority (which may relate to the effort to declassify the Crossfire Hurricane binder and which might not be entirely true), the description of his trip to Mar-a-Lago to offer to help is the most interesting bit in this proffer.

But that’s the thing about proffers, offered by one of the best attorneys representing any Trumpster, George Terwilliger, offered before Beryl Howell overruled any Executive Privilege claims, and offered before the Georgia indictment made Meadows’ operative January 6 story told in DC less sustainable.

Proffers are the story you want to tell, not the full story.

As I wrote last August, after the first of ABC’s big scoops,

[T]his is not the testimony of a cooperating witness. It is the testimony of someone prosecutors have coaxed to tell the truth by collecting so much evidence there’s no longer room to do otherwise.

There are a number of things to which Meadows eventually testify, per ABC’s reporting, that are not in this proffer. The most notable pertains to his ghost writers, on which topic his testimony evolved to accept that they were probably right that Trump was sharing classified documents in 2021.

“On the couch in front of the President’s desk, there’s a four-page report typed up by Mark Milley himself,” the draft reads. “It shows the general’s own plan to attack Iran, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency. … When President Trump found this plan in his old files this morning, he pointed out that if he had been able to make this declassified, it would probably ‘win his case.'”

Sources told ABC News that Meadows was questioned by Smith’s investigators about the changes made to the language in the draft, and Meadows claimed, according to the sources, that he personally edited it out because he didn’t believe at the time that Trump would have possessed a document like that at Bedminster.

Meadows also said that if it were true Trump did indeed have such a document, it would be “problematic” and “concerning,” sources familiar with the exchange said. Meadows said his perspective changed on whether his ghostwriter’s recollection could have been accurate, given the later revelations about the classified materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago in the months since his book was published, the sources said.

According to ABC, where Meadows’ other testimony would evolve to is that he would have been more diligent than Trump returning stolen documents.

Meadows also told investigators that he would have responded differently than Trump when the National Archives first asked Trump to return all remaining presidential records in his possession, and would have been very diligent in his handling of the initial search for documents to return to NARA, sources familiar with the matter said.

It’s unclear if there’s an “if” involved in this conditional statement, such as “if he knew Trump was stealing classified documents.”

That’s interesting, because in that proffer, Meadows claimed not to believe Trump had Presidential Records at all.

In July 2021, [Philbin] informed [Meadows] that NARA had contacted [Philbin] regarding missing boxes of documents. [Meadows] was already planning to travel to Mar-a-Lago for an unrelated meeting and offered to look for the missing boxes while [he] was there. [Meadows] was skeptical there were any presidential records as [he] believed, based on [his] experience with FPOTUS at the White House, that the boxes likely only contained newspapers.

Again, there’s a pretty big chance that this particular claim evolved, just like Meadows’ explanation for why he edited a really damning description from his ghost writers. The proffer is a baseline, a place from which prosecutors could slowly coax testimony closer to the truth, all the while locking in useful testimony to rebut Trump’s most outlandish claims. In this case, after all, the testimony is critical to rebutting Trump’s complaints about the involvement of Su, whether or not the testimony was entirely forthcoming, even while not giving anything away.

And I’m interested in it for that reason as well.

This proffer doesn’t tell us how Meadows would later testify. It doesn’t give anything away.

Robert Mueller’s team tried to flip witnesses against Trump, only to find that Trump bought them off with pardons — something that Person 16 describes already got promised to Walt Nauta. Here, there’s a far larger cast of characters, including people like Meadows who are central to all of Trump’s suspected crimes and also likely to welcome an offer of a pardon in exchange for loyalty. This slow squeeze is a different approach.

And along the way, Jack Smith got useful testimony — testimony that will give him what he needs to go to trial — but testimony that also can be used to inch closer to the truth.

Ball of Thread: Trump’s Narcissism Makes Him Easy to Trigger

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

Discussions of Trump’s cultivation by Russia (and other authoritarian countries) always founder on discussions of his formal recruitment.

There is abundant evidence that Russia, like other countries, did at least attempt to recruit Trump. Craig Unger has written two good books on the subject.

But many attempts to describe why and whether that happened, particularly in the hands of pundits, are easily discredited. That’s true, in significant part, because people imagine recruitment is an either/or thing: that people come fully recruited spies one day and from that point forward they are puppets of their handlers. The reality, as I understand it, is a gradual process of creating the preconditions via which people can be persuaded to act in ways that benefit another country.

On top of being an all around annoyance, for example, Jonathan Chait’s consideration of whether Trump had long been recruited was sloppy and made the entire Russian investigation easier to discredit.

And the thing is, such efforts are unnecessary.

All you need to explain Trump’s actions (and all I’ll rely on for this series) is Trump’s narcissism. Trump is such an epic narcissist, and narcissists’ reactiveness and paranoia and pathological need to feed their own ego are so predictable, that the only explanation you need for how Trump could be manipulated is that narcissism. So long as you could reliably trigger Trump’s narcissism, you could fairly reliably trigger a predictable narcissistic response to a given trigger.

Trump’s habit of releasing highly classified documents is a great example. Trump almost blew the Vault 7 investigation by revealing details that made it clear FBI considered Josh Schulte as the prime suspect to Tucker Carlson the day of his first search; Trump did so to try to blame Obama for the compromise. Trump burned an Israeli counterterrorism program by giving it to Russia, which he did to show off. Trump burned the satellite imagery targeting Iran, which he did so to dickwag Iran. Trump attempted to release all the backup materials to the Russian investigation because some dopey advisor convinced him that it would help to disprove his critics. Trump shared details of DOD’s plans to attack Iran with Mark Meadows’ ghost writer because he thought it would help him discredit Mark Milley. A master spy might have asked Trump to release all this intelligence for him. Maybe one day we’ll learn the documents that went missing from Mar-a-Lago were specifically requested. But you don’t even need that master spy request (and if there were a master spy, he might not ask for documents in the form of a request): because all it takes to get Trump to release highly classified documents is to suggest that in some way doing so will harm his detractors.

The Trump Tower Moscow deal — or really, any deal — is another example. It is not important whether the Trump Tower Moscow deal pitched to Michael Cohen (or any of the several other Russian Trump Tower deals) to be real, or plausible. Russia could, with great certainty, dangle offers for free money and the biggest tower in Russia, and Trump was bound to act irresponsibly, as he did.

There certainly could be more: but there doesn’t have to be. All you need to manipulate Donald Trump is to trigger his narcissism.

11th Circuit Adopts DC Logic that Mark Meadows and Trump’s Campaigning Is Not an Official Act

The 11th Circuit just ruled that Mark Meadows cannot remove his prosecution in the Georgia case to Federal court. The primary basis for the ruling is a technicality: That removal only applies to current federal officials, not former ones.

But the court, in an opinion by Chief Judge William Pryor, also explained that they wouldn’t have approved the removal in any case because Meadows (and by extension, Trump) had no authority over state elections and electioneering of Meadows (and by extension, Trump) was not in their official duties.

This passage, for example, adopts the logic of Amit Mehta’s opinion in Thompson, which was in turn adopted in Sri Srinivasan’s opinion in Blassingame, but does so to the criminal context.

Electioneering on behalf of a political campaign is incontrovertibly political activity prohibited by the Hatch Act. Campaigning for a specific candidate is not official conduct because the office of the President is disinterested in who holds it. See Thomspson, 590 F. Suppl. 3d at 82. Indeed, the political branches themselves recognize that electioneering is not an official federal function.

Elsewhere, Pryor’s opinion solidly debunks Meadows argument — adopted by Trump’s in his own filings — that the Take Care Clause gave him basis to intervene.

Meadows argues that the Take Care Clause, U.S. CONST. art. II, §3, empowers the President with broad authority to “ensure that federal voting laws are enforced.” But he concedes that the President has no “direct control” over the indidviduals — members of Congress and state officials — who conduct federal elections. And tellingly, he cites no legal authority for the proposition that the President’s power extends to “assess[ing] the conduct of state officials.” We are aware of no authority suggesting the Take Care Clause empowers federal executive interference with state election procedures based solely on the federal executive’s own initiative, and not in relation to another branch’s constitutionally-authorized act.

These are precisely the issues that the DC Circuit or, if it accepts Jack Smith’s appeal, SCOTUS, will be reviewing in weeks ahead. And by the time whoever reviews it does so, a very conservative judge will have backed the same logic coming out of DC.

Alex Cannon and the Missing Russian Binder

CNN reports that the classified version of the Russian binder Trump tried, but failed, to release before leaving office has not been found.

A binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, raising alarms among intelligence officials that some of the most closely guarded national security secrets from the US and its allies could be exposed, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

Its disappearance, which has not been previously reported, was so concerning that intelligence officials briefed Senate Intelligence Committee leaders last year about the missing materials and the government’s efforts to retrieve them, the sources said.

In the two-plus years since Trump left office, the missing intelligence does not appear to have been found. [my emphasis]

I would contest that the disappearance of the binder is entirely new. It is consistent with Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, on which this story explicitly relies.

What is new in this story is that “last year” (so, 2022) Intelligence Community leaders briefed SSCI; the story is silent about whether the spooks briefed HPSCI, whence much of the materials came.

What is also new is that, according to a single US official, which is a moniker often used to describe members of Congress or their staffers, the binder was not among the things found at Mar-a-Lago last year.

The binder was not among the classified items found in last year’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a US official familiar with the matter, who said the FBI was not looking specifically for intelligence related to Russia when it obtained a search warrant for the former president’s residence last year.

The Intelligence Committees got briefed on what was seized from MAL. It’s not entirely clear that they got briefed on what was returned in the first and second tranches.

That’s important because Alex Cannon — who was the key lawyer involved in the first set of boxes returned to NARA in 2022 — asked NARA for a copy of the declassified materials in 2021. In a response sent on September 27, 2021 (and later resent to John Solomon), NARA explained that NARA didn’t have the binder because when Meadows sent it to DOJ for the privacy review, it became a federal record, and what remained at the White House was not a binder but 2,700 disorganized pages the intended classification markings of which conflicted.

That’s because NARA General Counsel Gary Stern provided Kash and Solomon with the explanation of what happened with the attempted declassification over and over and over. First, Trump didn’t declassify the documents. He ordered the binder of Crossfire Hurricane documents be sent to the Attorney General, who would implement the final declassifications, then send the document back to the White House.

I have directed the Attorney General to implement the redactions proposed in the FBI’s January 17 submission and return to the White House an appropriately redacted copy.

Then the next day, January 20, 2021, Mark Meadows sent all that to the Attorney General to conduct a Privacy Act review before releasing anything.

As Stern explained to Kash and Solomon, what remained at the White House at that point was a collection of 2,700 “undifferentiated pages,” a cursory review of which revealed conflicting redactions and some documents lacking the requisite declassification stamp. The stuff that got sent to DOJ was a Federal Record, not a Presidential Record, and by the time Kash and Solomon started this process, it was already being processed as part of a Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit (the first two releases in which — onetwo — recently came out).

In other words, Trump and Mark Meadows fucked this up. NARA didn’t. Trump did.

Shortly after getting this response, Cannon oversaw the attempt to return Trump’s documents, with the now-indicted Walt Nauta and the now-cooperating Molly Michael juggling boxes back and forth from the storage room so Trump could hand-curate what would be returned.

After it became public that a bunch of those documents were classified, Kash invented the story that Trump had declassified everything, focusing on the Russian documents, though not exclusively.

Then, in the weeks after Trump returned a folder of documents on June 3, 2022, Kash Patel and John Solomon made a panicked effort to find out what was at NARA. Evan Corcoran, only recently brought in to serve as fall guy for the document handover, was closely involved in that process.

During that same period, Trump made several unexpected trips back to Mar-a-Lago.

And the government and Stan Woodward apparently agree that the government still doesn’t know where all the boxes hidden from Evan Corcoran’s search on June 2 ended up.

All of Trump’s stolen classified documents aren’t accounted for. And the Russian binder may be only part of what’s missing.

Update: I did a post on what was known to be in Trump’s “dumbass Russian binder.” It’s quite the cherry pick.

Donald Trump Says He Can Only Work Over Christmas If He’s Planning a Coup

There’s a passage of Trump’s opposition to fast-tracking the DC Circuit review of Judge Tanya Chutkan’s opinion holding he is not immune from criminal prosecution that has gotten a lot of attention: Where he accuses Jack Smith of being a mean old Grinch.

Even if the Court grants expedited consideration—which it should not do—it should not adopt the prosecution’s proposed schedule, which is facially unreasonable. The prosecution “requests that the Court require the defendant’s opening brief be due no later than ten days from the entry of a briefing order,” Mot. 5-6—which, assuming the Court rules promptly on the motion to expedite after the close of briefing, would make President Trump’s opening brief due the day after Christmas. This proposed schedule would require attorneys and support staff to work round-the-clock through the holidays, inevitably disrupting family and travel plans. It is as if the Special Counsel “growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, ‘I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming. … But how?’” DR. SEUSS, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (Random House 1957).

Trump shouldn’t have to reschedule his holidays to make his argument that he is above the law, he says.

The argument is obnoxious on its face. All the more so because Trump has been known to work over Christmas.

Indeed, Donald Trump worked his ass off — as did many of his closest aides and his lawyers — over Christmas 2020.

On December 18, Trump had the famous meeting to discuss seizing the voting machines. On December 19, he tweeted out the “Will be wild” announcement, kicking off efforts around the country to travel to DC for the rally. On December 21, he had a planning call with members of the Freedom Caucus. On December 22, Trump approved an ad buy to pressure governors. On December 22, Trump met with Scott Perry and Jeffrey Clark. On December 22, Mark Meadows attempted to enter the counting area in Cobb County, GA. On December 22, Trump gave a speech in which he defamed Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. On December 23, Trump called Georgia investigator Frances Watson and suggested that he she showed him winning by hundreds of thousands, “you’ll be praised.” On December 23, Trump accused Georgian election officials of being “Terrible people.” On December 23, Trump had an Oval Office meeting with Doug Mastriano and other Pennsylvania State Senators. On December 23, John Eastman fine-tuned his scheme to have Vice President Pence pick and choose which votes to count. On December 23, Trump tweeted out about Operation PENCE Card. On Christmas Day, Trump called Rusty Bowers and asked him to support the fake elector scheme. Also on Christmas, Trump tried to persuade Pence to reject Biden votes. On December 26 and 27, Scott Perry developed his plan to have Jeffrey Clark intefere at DOJ. On December 27, Trump harangued Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue for two hours in an attempt to get them to support his false claims of fraud, before he suggested he might install Clark. On December 27, he spoke with Roger Stone about plans for January 6, including his own plan to speak. On December 27, Trump started getting more involved in planning the event, beginning to discuss a march to the Capitol. On December 27, Trump boosted January 6 again. On December 28, Rudy’s team finalized their Strategic Communications Plan they’d been working on for weeks.

This is a non-exclusive list. Trump worked his ass off over the Christmas holiday in 2020.

So it’s not that Trump (or his lawyers) are averse to working through the holidays.

They’re only willing to do so, though, when planning a coup.

Lurid Realities: Trump Implies That Selling Nuclear Secrets Is Treason

In this post, I noted that two passages from DOJ’s response to Trump’s Motion to Dismiss for Absolute Immunity — one pertaining to exchanging pardons as part of a quid pro quo, another describing otherwise official acts that would clearly be illegal — actually described things that may have or likely happened under Trump.

Here’s the latter discussion:

The same is true of an even splashier passage. A paragraph describing the implications of Trump’s claim to absolute immunity lays out what some commentators have taken as hyperbolic scenarios of presidential corruption.

The implications of the defendant’s unbounded immunity theory are startling. It would grant absolute immunity from criminal prosecution to a president who accepts a bribe in exchange for a lucrative government contract for a family member; a president who instructs his FBI Director to plant incriminating evidence on a political enemy; a president who orders the National Guard to murder his most prominent critics; or a president who sells nuclear secrets to a foreign adversary. After all, in each of these scenarios, the president could assert that he was simply executing the laws; or communicating with the Department of Justice; or discharging his powers as commander-in-chief; or engaging in foreign diplomacy—and his felonious purposes and motives, as the defendant repeatedly insists, would be completely irrelevant and could never even be aired at trial. In addition to the profoundly troubling implications for the rule of law and the inconsistency with the fundamental principle that no man is above the law, that novel approach to immunity in the criminal context, as explained above, has no basis in law or history.

These seemingly extreme cases of crimes a President might commit, crimes that everyone should agree would face prosecution, include (these are out of order):

  • A President ordering the National Guard to murder his critics
  • A President ordering an FBI agent to plant evidence on his political enemy
  • A bribe paid in exchange for a family member getting a lucrative contract
  • A President selling nuclear secrets to America’s adversaries

Like the pardon discussion above, these hypotheticals — as Commander-in-Chief, with the conduct of foreign policy, with the treatment of classified materials — invoke actions where DOJ typically argues that the President is at the zenith of his power.

We have no reason to believe that Trump ordered the National Guard, specifically, to murder his critics. But we do know that on January 3, 2021, Trump proposed calling out 10,000 members of the National Guard to “protect” his people and facilitate his own march on the Capitol.

And he just cut me off, and he goes, well, we should call in the National Guard.

And then I think it was Max who said something to the effect of, Well, we should only call in the Guard if we expect a problem. And then the President says, no, we should call in the Guard so that there aren’t – so that there isn’t a problem. You know, we need to make sure people are protected.

And he said – he looked over at Max, and I don’t know if somebody was standing behind him or not. He just looked the other way from me and says, you know,  want to call in 10,000 National Guard. And then  opened my folder and wrote down 10,000 National Guard, closed my folder again.

We know that days later Mark Meadows believed the Guard would be present and Proud Boy Charles Donohoe seemed to expect such protection.

Similarly, we don’t know of a specific instance where Trump ordered an FBI agent to plant information on his political enemy. But we do know that as part of a Bill Barr-directed effort to reverse the Mike Flynn prosecution in 2020, misleading dates got added to the notes of Trump’s political enemies, Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe.

Days after those misleading dates were made public via Sidney Powell, Trump used the misleading dates in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

We know of no instance where Trump accepted a bribe in response to which a family member got a US government contract. We do, however, know of an instance where the Trump Administration gave the Saudis something of value — at the least, cover for the execution of Jamal Khashoggi — which everyone seems to believe has a tie to Jared’s lucrative $2 billion contract with the Saudi government.

As to selling nuclear secrets to a foreign adversary? Well, we know Trump had some number of nuclear secrets in his gaudy bathroom and then in his leatherbound box. We have no fucking clue what happened to the secrets that Walt Nauta allegedly withheld from Evan Corcoran’s review that got flown to Bedminster just before a Saudi golf tournament, never to be seen again.

All of which is to say that these edge cases — examples of Presidential misconduct that some commentators have treated as strictly hypothetical — all have near analogues in Trump’s record. [my emphasis]

Trump’s reply to that response addresses this second passage — at least, two items from it — in what it deems to be “lurid hypotheticals.”

10 Ignoring actual lessons from history, the Government provides a list of lurid hypotheticals that have never happened—including treason and murder. Response, at 20 (speculating that a President might “murder his most prominent critics” or “sell[] nuclear secrets to a foreign adversary”). Some or all of these hypotheticals, depending on the facts, would likely involve purely private conduct, rendering them irrelevant here. See id. Yet even if such examples somehow were within the outer perimeter of a President’s duties, it is overwhelmingly likely the House impeach and the Senate would convict, and the offending President would then be subject to “Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment” by criminal prosecution. U.S. CONST. art. I, § 3, cl. 7. That is the process the Constitution provides, and the prosecution may not ignore it here. [my emphasis]

Since Trump doesn’t include the entire list, here are the four items in it:

  • A President ordering the National Guard to murder his critics
  • A President ordering an FBI agent to plant evidence on his political enemy
  • A bribe paid in exchange for a family member getting a lucrative contract
  • A President selling nuclear secrets to America’s adversaries

This footnote seems to suggest more than one and possibly all of these things — in a list including an order to the National Guard and an order to an FBI Agent — would be private acts.

That’s a consistent stance with the claim, in a footnote that concludes on this very same page, that Nixon’s suspected involvement in the DNC burglary as part of an attempt to win an election would also be a private act.

9 The Government relies on President Ford’s pardon of President Nixon, arguing that it presupposes that Nixon could have been prosecuted for acts he committed as President. Doc. 109, at 18. Not so. The fact that Nixon was never prosecuted—despite widespread public outrage and compelling evidence of wrongdoing—provides compelling evidence of the strength of the historical tradition against prosecuting former Presidents for their official acts, not its weakness. Moreover, this argument overlooks that much of the conduct at issue in the Watergate scandal—such as ordering the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters—may well have been purely private acts, not shielded by immunity at all, thus necessitating a pardon. (Both of these points apply equally to President Clinton’s admitted perjury in the Paula Jones litigation, for which he was never prosecuted. Response, at 19.)

FWIW, I agree with this reply’s argument that DOJ doesn’t aggressively lay out the extent to which Trump’s alleged acts in the January 6 indictment are private acts. But if Trump concedes that Nixon’s suspected role in the DNC break-in to win an election was a private act, then it seems to concede that Trump’s own actions to reverse the outcome of an election he lost would also be a private act.

And Trump’s extension of private acts to this list of four “lurid hypotheticals” would seem to swallow up the entire argument about Presidential immunity.

But it seems to do something else.

There is nothing on that list resembling treason.

Accepting a bribe from Saudi Arabia to win a $2 billion contract for your son-in-law? Not treason.

Ordering the FBI to alter records to gin up an investigation against Joe Biden? Not treason.

Ordering 10,000 National Guard members to protect your mob as it attacks Congress? Not treason — at least not until it kicks off Civil War.

The closest thing on that list to treason is selling nuclear secrets to America’s adversaries. Not treason.

But Trump’s lawyers, including two of the lawyers representing him in the stolen documents case, lawyers who had their first good look at the documents Trump is accused of stealing last week, seem to suggest it could be.

To be clear: Trump has never been accused of selling nuclear secrets to America’s adversaries.

He undoubtedly gave Israel’s counterterrorism secrets to Russia — why, and whether there was a quid pro quo involved, we still don’t know.

He is known to have Tweeted out highly sensitive satellite information to dick-wag Iran, with the result that Iran learned about the satellites targeting their country.

To spite Mark Milley, he showed a plan to attack Iran to Mark Meadows’ ghost writers.

Ongoing reporting, first from ABC and then from NYT, reveals that after Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt paid millions for access to Trump, Trump shared details of a conversation he had about a call he had with Iraq’s president after bombing Iraq, described his perfect phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and provided sensitive details of America’s nuclear subs.

And he is accused of leaving nuclear documents — documents that Trump’s lawyers may have reviewed for the first time last week — in unsecure ways at his beach resort, possibly even in his gaudy bathroom.

So, no. Trump has not (yet) been accused of selling nuclear secrets, to adversaries or anyone else. Though he did give away what he claimed to be nuclear secrets to a businessman from an allied nation after the guy paid a lot of money for access to Trump.

But as I noted, we don’t yet know what happened to some of the secret documents that Trump snuck away from Mar-a-Lago after hiding them from Evan Corcoran in June 2022, documents he took with him to host a golf tournament the Saudis paid an undisclosed sum to host at Bedminster.

Those documents have never been located.

Just so long as Trump didn’t sell any of these nuclear documents, but instead gave them away, I’m sure we’re all good.

Cautions on ABC’s Huge Mark Meadows Scoop

For more than six months, access journalists in DC have been trying to confirm how much Mark Meadows cooperated with Jack Smith.

Today, ABC has a huge scoop reporting that Meadows testified at least three times, one time — before a grand jury — with immunity.

Former President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows, has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Click through to read the details — ABC has earned the clicks.

But I caution against concluding too much about what the testimony means. Most importantly, there’s no hint that Meadows has flipped. Meadows has testified (which a past ABC scoop made clear). But giving immunized testimony is not flipping, and the two ABC stories raise far more questions about the story Meadows has told.

I say that for several reasons. First, ABC doesn’t describe the dates for any of his interviews. I’ll return to that, but it’s important that ABC doesn’t reveal whether Meadows’ testimony to Jack Smith precedes or postdates the Georgia indictment and subsequent failure to get the Georgia indictment removed to Federal courts. An earlier big ABC scoop describes April grand jury testimony, and it’s not clear that this would be a different time frame or grand jury appearance.

I offer cautions, as well, because virtually all of ABC’s reporting says that Meadows was asked not about what Trump did on a given day, but whether Meadows believed what Meadows had said publicly. Here’s an example.

Sources told ABC News that Smith’s investigators were keenly interested in questioning Meadows about election-related conversations he had with Trump during his final months in office, and whether Meadows actually believed some of the claims he included in a book he published after Trump left office — a book that promised to “correct the record” on Trump.

Again, click through to see how much of the rest is of the same sort.

As I noted in my post on that prior big ABC scoop, there are still loads of details — especially about January 6 — missing from the public timeline that Meadows surely knows.

There’s a lot that’s missing here — most notably Meadows’ coordination with Congress and any efforts to coordinate with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone’s efforts more closely tied to the insurrection and abandoned efforts to deploy the National Guard to protect Trump’s mob as it walked to congress. Unless those actions get added to charges quickly, Meadows will be able to argue, in Georgia, that his actions complied with federal law without having to address them. If and when they do get charged in DC, I’m sure Meadows’ attorneys hope, his criminal exposure in Georgia will be resolved.

Importantly, that earlier ABC scoop served to signal co-conspirators how Meadows changed his testimony after prosecutors obtained proof his claims about his ghost-writers — the same ghost-writers whose book remains at the center of ABC’s scoop! — were proven wrong by further evidence.

That story suggested Meadows was only going to be as truthful as evidence presented to him required him to be.

And this story is of the same type. It describes how, as he did in the stolen documents case, Meadows said he didn’t believe what he wrote when it was legally necessary.

Finally, that post also lays out that the narrative told in the DC indictment, while useful for Jack Smith, is different than the narrative told by Fani Willis, where Mark Meadows has not given cooperative testimony. The right column (his story to Jack Smith) in this table is helpful for Jack Smith, but probably not true; the left column (where he didn’t cooperate) is more damning.

Meadows team recites the alleged Georgia acts as Judge Jones has characterized them on page 19 and then directly quotes the references to Meadows in the federal indictment on page 26. It helps to read them a table together:

There’s an arc here. The early acts in both indictments might be deemed legal information gathering. After that, in early December, Meadows takes two actions, one alleged in Georgia and the other federally, both of which put him clearly in the role of a conspirator, neither of which explicitly involves Trump as charged in the Georgia indictment. Meadows:

  • Asks Johnny McEntee for a memo on how to obstruct the vote certification
  • Orders the campaign to ensure someone is coordinating the fake electors

The events on December 22 and 23, across the two indictments, are telling. Meadows flies to Georgia and, per the Georgia indictment, attempts to but fails to access restricted areas. Then he flies back to DC and, per the federal indictment, tells Trump everything is being done diligently. Then Meadows arranges and participates in another call. Both in a tweet on December 22 and a call on December 23, Trump pressures Georgia officials again. For DOJ’s purposes, the Tweet is going to be more important, whereas for Georgia’s purposes, the call is more important. But with regards his argument for removal and dismissal, Meadows would argue that he used his close access to advise Trump that Georgia was proceeding diligently.

On December 27, Meadows calls and offers to use campaign funds to ensure the signature validation is done by January 6. This was not Meadows arranging a call so Trump could make the offer himself, it was Meadows doing it himself, likely on behalf of Trump, doing something for the campaign, not the country.

On January 2, Meadows participates in the Raffensperger call, first setting it up then intervening to try to find agreement, but then ultimately pressuring state officials not so much to just give Trump the votes he needs, which was Trump’s ask, but to turn over state data.

Meadows: Mr. President. This is Mark. It sounds like we’ve got two different sides agreeing that we can look at these areas ands I assume that we can do that within the next 24 to 48 hours to go ahead and get that reconciled so that we can look at the two claims and making sure that we get the access to the secretary of state’s data to either validate or invalidate the claims that have been made. Is that correct?

Germany: No, that’s not what I said. I’m happy to have our lawyers sit down with Kurt and the lawyers on that side and explain to my him, here’s, based on what we’ve looked at so far, here’s how we know this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.

Meadows: So what you’re saying, Ryan, let me let me make sure … so what you’re saying is you really don’t want to give access to the data. You just want to make another case on why the lawsuit is wrong?

Meadows was pressuring a Georgia official, sure, but to do something other than what Trump was pressuring Raffensperger to do. His single lie (he was charged for lying on the call separately from the RICO charge), one Willis might prove by pointing to the overt act from the federal indictment on December 3, when Jason Miller told Meadows that the number of dead voters was not 10,000, but twelve, is his promise that Georgia’s investigation has not found all the dead voters.

I can tell you say they were only two dead people who would vote. I can promise you there were more than that. And that may be what your investigation shows, but I can promise you there were more than that.

But even there, two is not twelve. Meadows will be able to challenge the claim that he lied, as opposed to facilitated, as Chief of Staff, Trump’s lies.

Finally, in an overt act not included in the Georgia indictment, Meadows is among the people on January 6 who (the federal indictment alleges) attempted to convince Trump to call off the mob.

There’s a lot that’s missing here — most notably Meadows’ coordination with Congress and any efforts to coordinate with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone’s efforts more closely tied to the insurrection and abandoned efforts to deploy the National Guard to protect Trump’s mob as it walked to congress. Unless those actions get added to charges quickly, Meadows will be able to argue, in Georgia, that his actions complied with federal law without having to address them. If and when they do get charged in DC, I’m sure Meadows’ attorneys hope, his criminal exposure in Georgia will be resolved.

Of what’s included here, those early December actions — the instruction to Johnny McEntee to find some way to obstruct the January 6 vote certification and the order that someone coordinate fake electors — are most damning. That, plus the offer to use campaign funds to accelerate the signature match, all involve doing campaign work in his role as Chief of Staff. For the federal actions, Jack Smith might just slap Meadows with a Hatch Act charge and end the removal question — but that might not help him, Jack Smith, make his case, because several parts of his indictment rely on exchanges Meadows had privately with Trump, and Meadows is a better witness if he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Aside from those, Meadows might argue — indeed, his lawyers may well have argued to Jack Smith to avoid being named as a co-conspirator — that his efforts consistently entailed collecting data which he used to try to persuade the then-President, using his access as a close advisor, to adopt other methods to pursue his electoral challenges. Meadows’ lawyers may well have argued that several things marked his affirmative effort to leave the federally-charged conspiracies. In this removal proceeding, I expect Meadows will argue that his actions on the Raffensperger call were an attempt, like several others, to collect more data to use his close access as an advisor to better persuade the then-President to drop the means by which he was challenging the vote outcome.

The point being, that before Fani Willis indicted Mark Meadows, Meadows had found a story that was going to work. And now, that story doesn’t work anymore.

Which is why the timing of Meadows’ immunized testimony to a grand jury and the timing of this scoop matters. His January 6 testimony seems to conflict with what Willis knows. This paragraph, from today’s big ABC scoop, is even less credible than stuff in the indictments.

However, according to what Meadows told investigators, Trump seemed to grow increasingly concerned as he learned more about what was transpiring at the Capitol, and Trump was visibly shaken when he heard that someone had been shot there, sources said.

If the two versions of Meadows story have started to obviously conflict, he’s may be doing some soul searching about whether he wants to go the way of Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro and Jenna Ellis, who sent 350 texts with Meadows.

And before he does that soul searching, he’s going to want to signal to others what he has said, to test how valuable it is for him to continue to say it.

The Holding Pattern on the Non-Trump January 6 Charges

There were two reports yesterday that relate to something I’ve been thinking about: The likelihood that most, if not all, of any more Trump-related January 6 charges will be delayed, at least until after his trial next year.

The first is a WaPo report that Jack Smith’s office withdrew a subpoena for records and testimony relating to Save America PAC — the fundraising Trump did off of false claims about voter fraud, which he has since used to pay lawyers and other things unrelated to the claims he made in raising the money.

The withdrawal of the subpoena earlier this month indicates Smith is scaling back at least part of his inquiry into the political fundraising work that fed and benefited from unfounded claims that the election was stolen, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation.

Save America was still working to gather all of the records sought in the subpoena when it was notified by Smith’s office that the demand for information had been withdrawn, two of the people familiar with the matter said.


Broadly, the subpoenas and related interviews by Smith’s investigators sought information about the post-election, pro-Trump fundraising, and what people inside Save America and other groups knew about the veracity of the claims they were making to raise money, the people familiar with the matter said.


While interviewing potential witnesses associated with Trump, Smith’s prosecutors have asked pointed questions about who is paying for their lawyers and why, people familiar with the questions have said. Trump advisers have said the Save America PAC, which raises most of its money through small-dollar contributions by Trump supporters across the country, is footing the legal bills for almost anyone drawn into the Trump investigations who requests help from the former president and his advisers.


Four people with knowledge of the investigation said prosecutors had not asked questions about fundraising in recent months, after several subpoenas and witness interviews on that topic earlier in 2023.

Relatedly, while Jack Smith’s team had raised Stan Woodward’s payment arrangement when they first raised his conflicts with Chief Judge James Boasberg in June, it has not come up in the conflict review before Judge Cannon in Florida (the follow-up hearing to which is scheduled for Friday).

It’s certainly possible that something about the stage of the election has led DOJ to back off this focus. It’s equally possible DOJ has reviewed the advice given by Trump’s campaign finance lawyers, Jones Day, in 2020 and decided that advice of counsel would make charges unsustainable.

Then there’s this fascinating Bloomberg discussion, featuring abundant quotes from Zach Terwilliger, the son of George Terwilliger, Mark Meadows’ lawyer, about frustration among defense attorneys in the case regarding Smith’s uncertain instructions regarding whether witnesses are just that — witnesses — or also subjects of the investigation.

Three defense lawyers representing people sought for voluntary interviews say they’re frustrated that special counsel Jack Smith’s team insists on labeling their clients subjects without providing additional detail as to where they fit in the case or whether they could become a target. They’ve asked to remain anonymous to discuss sensitive matters.

Justice Department guidance doesn’t define what a witness is and prosecutors prefer the flexibility of the broad subject label, which covers anyone within the scope of a grand jury investigation.

Yet Smith’s search for corroborating witnesses aimed at proving the 2020 election case against the former president pressures prosecutors to incentivize people to talk, but without exposing themselves to counterattacks from defense lawyers and Trump supporters. How they navigate that balancing act could help shape the legal fate of Trump and his allies.

“It is an exercise in understandable murkiness. And it’s more complicated here,” said Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a criminal defense attorney. “Anyone in the Trump administration has at least potential liability if they helped him form strategy about his election loss.”

By sticking strictly to the subject designation, Smith’s team retains the ability to charge individuals who appear innocent but later turn out to have liability, while protecting itself from accusations they baited people into talking. At the same time, they’d risk undercutting their mission of expediting the Trump trial, as defense lawyers insist on negotiating drawn-out immunity deals before an interview. [my emphasis]

While the Bloomberg piece referes to a “mission of expediting the Trump trial,” neither of these articles mentions something that, to me at least, seems obvious: Whether or not a jury convicts Trump next spring, if Trump wins the presidential election, none of this may matter. The criminal exposure of Trump’s associates won’t matter, because any that remained loyal would just be pardoned, as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos and Steve Bannon were pardoned during Trump’s first term.

While I could imagine DOJ charging a handful of people who linked the crime scene to Trump before the election, most everything else would simply expose parts of the investigation that would otherwise be better kept quiet.

Which adds yet another reason why we can’t expect to understand the steps Jack Smith may still be taking: because on top of all the other reasons prosecuting a former and potentially future President is unprecedented, the likelihood that he would just pardon himself out of any further mess is part of it.

No one seems to care anymore: but there are a good many Trump associates — not just his unindicted co-conspirators — who bear some responsibility for what happened on January 6, 2021. But DOJ may have decided it makes not sense to prosecute any of them until there’s certainty, at the very least, about Trump’s fate.

The Federalism that Mark Meadows Wants the 11th Circuit to Reverse

Mark Meadows immediately appealed the decision Judge Steve Jones issued Friday not to remove the Georgia prosecution of the former White House Chief of Staff to federal court, so the decision will not be final until at least one right wing court has had a chance to reverse it.

The most important decision from the 11th Circuit and SCOTUS in the meantime will be whether to stay the proceedings in Georgia as this appeal goes forward, which is not supposed to happen under removal, but the appeals courts may view the appeal as something different procedurally.

For now, then, I want to map out how Jones unwound the difficult issues of federalism and separation of powers to get to his decision, because they lie at the core of both January 6-related prosecutions of Trump. This is a decision that weighs the supremacy of federalism over the state, the reservation to states to conduct elections, and the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative. Meadows’ appeal is likely to be the second or third time SCOTUS gets to weigh in on Trump’s conduct on January 6 (the first being his attempt to use Executive Privilege to prevent the Archives from sharing documents with the January 6 Committee, another being appeals of the civil lawsuits out of DC), so the logic Jones applied here may influence later criminal proceedings against Trump and others.

After laying out that 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) is one exception to the precedent that the federal government does not intervene in state prosecutions, Judge Jones noted that the standard for removal is low. Meadows doesn’t need to prove his case; he needs to prove that the prosecution is “closely connected with” his role as a federal officer.

The Supreme Court has cautioned that “an airtight case on the merits in order to show the required causal connection” is not required and that courts are to “credit” the movant’s “theory of the case” for the elements of the jurisdictional inquiry.5 Jefferson Cnty. v. Acker, 527 U.S. 423, 432 (1999). “The point is only that the officer should have to identify as the gravamen of the suit an act that was, if not required by, at least closely connected with, the performance of his official duties.” Id. at 447 (Scalia, J., dissenting).

Having acknowledged the standard is low, Jones nevertheless found that Meadows had not met that bar, because the actions he is accused of taking as part of the RICO conspiracy served the ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures on behalf of the Trump campaign.

The Court concludes that Meadows has not met even the “quite low” threshold for removal. Again, what the Court must decide for purposes of federal officer removal is whether the actions Meadows took as a participant in the alleged enterprise (the charged conduct) were related to his federal role as White House Chief of Staff. The evidence adduced at the hearing establishes that the actions at the heart of the State’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures. Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of a White House Chief of Staff. Hearing Tr. 113:2–6.

Based on this formula — that Meadows’ activities were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with the goal of affecting state election activities — Jones distinguished Meadows’ activities from his job as Chief of Staff in two ways.

First, while Meadows made expansive claims about his role as Chief of Staff that he attempted to use to claim he had to set up the meetings Trump had with Georgia (and other state) officials, Jones noted that both sides agreed the Hatch Act prohibited White House employees, including Meadows, from using his official position to engage in election activity.

Meadows also testified that as White House Chief of Staff he was bound by the Hatch Act11 and he could not engage in political activity. Hearing Tr. 39:7– 25; 135:21–136:5. As discussed more fully below, the Hatch Act prohibits “an employee” from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the result of an election.” 5 U.S.C. § 2732(a)(1). This includes, “[u]sing his or her official title while participating in political activity.” 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(b)(2). And political activity is defined as, “activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.” Id. § 734.101.

The Court finds that the color of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff did not include working with or working for the Trump campaign, except for simply coordinating the President’s schedule, traveling with the President to his campaign events, and redirecting communications to the campaign. Thus, consistent with his testimony and the federal statutes and regulations, engaging in political activities is exceeds the outer limits of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.


When questioned about the scope of his authority, Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority, other than his inability to stump for the President or work onbehalf of the campaign. Hearing Tr. 111:12–113:6. The Court finds that Meadows did not adequately convey the outer limits of his authority, and thus, the Court gives that testimony less weight.12

12 In this case, Meadows was the main witness presenting testimony for his case. Thus, the Court must determine the appropriate amount of weight to assign to his testimony when evaluating it, the same as it does any other witness in an evidentiary hearing. However, given the nature of the motion, and the pending criminal proceedings the Court makes these decisions with great caution. The determinations here do not go to Meadows’s propensity to be truthful as a general matter. However, the Court cannot undertake the task assigned by 28 U.S.C. § 1455(b)(5) without assigning the appropriate weight to the testimony.


The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing] [their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election[.]” 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(1). The federal regulation governing political activities of federal employees prohibits the same. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(a). The regulation, moreover, broadly defines “political activity” to be “activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.” Id. § 734.101. The types of behaviors that Meadows is alleged to be involved in included post-election activities and election outcomes in various States pertaining to a particular candidate for office. If these potentially political activities indeed come against the Hatch Act, its regulations limit such efforts. These prohibitions on executive branch employees (including the White House Chief of Staff) reinforce the Court’s conclusion that Meadows has not shown how his actions relate to the scope of his federal executive branch office. Federal officer removal is thereby inapposite. [my emphasis]

Meadows had tried to argue that the overt acts accuse him of nothing more than those permitted activities, organizing Trump’s schedule and redirecting communications to the campaign. But Jones only bought that argument in the context of one of the overt acts attributed to Meadows (getting a phone number from Scott Perry). For the rest, Jones ruled that Meadows was engaged in activities for the campaign.

The Hatch Act doesn’t apply to the President and Vice President. So if Jones’ ruling relied exclusively on the application of the Hatch Act, it would have no relevance for Trump.

But Jones also relied on the Elections Clause of the Constitution that reserves the conduct of elections to the states.

The Constitution does not provide any basis for executive branch involvement with State election and post-election procedures. The Elections Clause expressly reserves the “Times, Places, and Manner” of elections to state legislatures. U.S. Const. art. I, § 4, cl. 1; see also Shelby Cnty. v. Holder 570 U.S. 529, 543 (2013) (“[T]he Framers of the Constitution intended the States to keep for themselves, as provided in the Tenth Amendment, the power to regulate elections.” (quoting Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 461–62 (1991)); U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 833–34 (1995) (“[T]he Framers understood the Elections Clause as a grant of authority [to state legislatures] to issue procedural regulations, and not as a source of power to dictate electoral outcomes, to favor or disfavor a class of candidates, or to evade important constitutional restraints.”). States have been tasked under the Elections Clause to “provide a complete code” for elections which ought to include “regulations ‘relat[ing] to . . . prevention of fraud and corrupt practices [and] counting of votes . . . .’” Moore v. Harper, 600 U.S. —-, 143 S. Ct. 2065, 2085 (2023) (quoting Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, 366 (1932)). This is not a power incident to a State’s police powers but “derives from an express grant in the Constitution.” Fish v. Kobach, 840 F.3d 710, 727 (10th Cir. 2016).


Thus, the executive branch cannot claim power to involve itself in States’ election procedures when the Constitution clearly grants the States the power to manage elections under the Elections Clause. [my emphasis]

Note that Jones relied on both Shelby County (rejecting part of the Voting Rights Act) and Moore v. Harper (rejecting the Independent State Legislature theory) in this passage, both opinions authored by Chief Justice Roberts and the more recent one joined by Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett. There’s nothing controversial or surprising about this. But in both cases, there’s fierce Republican support at SCOTUS for the states’ authority in conducting their own elections — on paper, at least, even more fiercely among SCOTUS’ more radical right wing members.

Meadows’ appeal will have to argue positions directly the reverse of those that the Trump campaign floated during the campaign.

Meadows had tried to invoke two other bases for the White House Chief of Staff to butt into state elections: the Take Care Clause and the executive’s ability to offer advice to Congress.

13 The only potential constitutional authority, the Take Care Clause, does not enable the type of election oversight to which the State’s Indictment pertains. See U.S. Const. art. II, § 3 (“[The President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed[.]”). Yet, executive authority under the Take Care Clause “does not extend to government officials over whom [the Executive] has no power or control.” Thompson v. Trump, 590 F. Supp. 3d 46, 78 (D.D.C. 2022). The Court accordingly rejects Meadows’s suggestion that the Take Care Clause provides a basis for finding executive authority over state election procedures. Doc. No. [45], 9–10.

The Court is also unpersuaded by Meadows’s contention that his acts involving state election procedures are within executive power to advise Congress. Doc. No. [45], 10. It would be inconsistent with federalism and the separation of powers, to find that activities which are delegated to the states are also within the scope of executive power because the executive branch may advise Congress. Cf. Fish, 840 F.3d at 725–26 (“The [Elections] Clause is a default provision; it invests the States with responsibility for the mechanics of congressional elections, but only so far as Congress declines to preempt state legislative choices.” (quoting Foster, 522 U.S. at 69). The Court will not find that the executive branch has some advisory authority in this space in light of the express constitutional grant over elections to the States.

But here, too, Jones noted that the executive simply had no role here.

Here’s how this analysis works in practice, as Jones applied it to Meadows’ visit to Cobb County to monitor the vote count.

Similarly, Overt Act 92 alleges that Meadows traveled to Cobb County, Georgia where he “attempted to observe the signature match audit being performed there by law enforcement officers from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Office of the Georgia Secretary of State.” Doc. No. [1-1], 44. Meadows testified that his actions with respect to this allegation were:

in line with [his duties], because what I did was go to the Cobb County convention center to look at the process that they were going through. And in doing so was trying to, again, check that box to say, all right, everything is being done right here, and so if there’s allegations of fraud, we need to move on to something else.

Hearing Tr. 152:4–17. The Court factually finds that Meadows overseeing State election recount processes related to President Trump’s reelection campaign. Meadows failed to provide sufficient evidence that these actions related to any legitimate purpose of the executive branch. Accordingly, the Court finds Meadows has not met his burden in establishing that Overt Act 92 is related to scope of the Office of White House Chief of Staff.

The executive has no role in such vote counts. And so the only purpose for Meadows to observe the count was on behalf of Trump’s campaign.

As Trump’s federal prosecution proceeds, there will be (and has been, in appellate consideration of the application of the 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to the vote certification) similar analysis about the Electoral College Act that reserves certain roles to Congress, not the executive. In his post-election activities, Trump (and Meadows) were simply intervening in one of the few areas where, thus far, judges have ruled that the executive has no role.

The analysis will be different for Jeffrey Clark because DOJ — but not its civil division — does have a role in investigating any federal election crime. Georgia has focused their response to Clark’s bid to remove his prosecution by presenting the testimony of the people who were in charge at DOJ, who slapped down Clark’s intervention.

But as to Meadows, Judge Jones has found that the things he did to intervene in Georgia’s elections on Trump’s behalf had no valid federal purpose.

Update: Meadows has asked Judge Jones for a stay, not (yet) the 11th Circuit.

The Comings and Goings of Insurrection

I suppose I should have warned you all I’d be on a bit of a holiday for two weeks, and so would have little detailed coverage of Trump’s various travails. This will just be a quick update.

The two big developments from yesterday were the status hearing in Trump’s case — where Judge Tanya Chutkan set a May 4, 2024 trial date — and the Mark Meadows removal hearing in Georgia, where he took the stand for a number of hours.

In the former, Trump’s attorney John Lauro engaged in a good deal of theatrics, wailing about how a man’s life is at stake and laying the groundwork for an appeal on assistance of counsel grounds (which would be after the trial). In the wake of that, Trump claimed he was going to appeal the trial date, which he can’t do.

It seems. to be lost on people that these arguments not only serve the normal legal purposes, in which case some of Lauro’s theatrics were over the top. But a lot of them are for the benefit of Trump’s cult. They need to believe both that he’s in control and that his return to the presidency is inevitable.

As noted, in Georgia Meadows took the stand for hours. Keep an eye out for Anna Bowers’ report over on Lawfare, which she promises will be “excruciatingly detailed.” In her Twitter account, however, it sounded like prosecutors made a bunch of good legal points about the scope of electoral duties. Judge Steve Jones sounds like he focused on the exclusion of the President from electoral duties reserved to the states. But he apparently also noted that the bar for removal is quite low.

There are two issues at stake for Meadows — first removal, but then a bid to dismiss the case. The former is more likely to happen than the latter.

Finally, unless anyone objects, on September 8, Judge McBurney will release the report from the Special Grand Jury in Georgia.