King John Would Like a Word with Justice Alito

The Magna Carta Monument, Runnymede England

I am annoyed by folks who claim to love history and are blind to it. I am disgusted by folks who claim to love history, are willfully blind to it, and in their willful blindness try to use their power to inflict damage on others.

Why yes, I *did* listen to the oral arguments at SCOTUS today. Why do you ask?


Here’s an exchange between Justice Alito and Michael Dreeben, speaking for the government:

JUSTICE ALITO: Mr. Dreeben, you dispute the proposition that a former president has some form of immunity.

MR. DREEBEN: Mm-hmm.

JUSTICE ALITO: But, as I understand your argument, you do recognize that a former president has a form of special protection, namely, that statutes that are applicable to everybody must be interpreted differently under some circumstances when they are applied to a former president.

Isn’t that true?

MR. DREEBEN: It is true because, Justice Alito, of the general principle that courts construe statutes to avoid serious constitutional questions. And that has been the longstanding practice of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice.

JUSTICE ALITO: All right. So this is more, I think, than just a — a quarrel about terminology, whether what the former president gets is some form of immunity or some form of special protection because it involves this difference which I’m sure you’re very well aware of.

If it’s just a form of special protection, in other words, statutes will be interpreted differently as applied to a former president, then that is something that has to be litigated at trial. The — the former president can make a motion to dismiss and may cite OLC opinions, and the district court may say: Well, that’s fine, I’m not bound by OLC and I interpret it differently, so let’s go to trial.

And then there has to be a trial, and that may involve great expense and it may take up a lot of time, and during the trial, the — the former president may be unable to engage in other activities that the former president would want to engage in. And then the outcome is dependent on the jury, the instructions to the jury and how the jury returns a verdict, and then it has to be taken up on appeal.

So the protection is greatly diluted if you take the form — if it takes the form that you have proposed. Now why is that better?

MR. DREEBEN: It’s better because it’s more balanced. The — the blanket immunity that Petitioner is arguing for just means that criminal prosecution is off the table, unless he says that impeachment and conviction have occurred.

Oh, the horrors of forcing a former president to defend himself in a trial! So sayeth Justice Alito, he who cites a 17th century English witchburner of a jurist (who also invented the marital rape exception), in order to justify denying women bodily autonomy.

If Justice Alito is fond of citing old English judicial writings, let me walk him back another 4 centuries and introduce him to John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou.

Once upon a time — long before a bunch of rabble-rousing colonial insurrectionists said that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” — there was a little dustup between John, by the grace of God King of England etc., and a bunch of his barons, as well as various bishops and archbishops. The barons and clergy, distressed at what seemed to them to be very ill treatment at the hand of their king, expressed their frustrations in a manner that could not be ignored.

In June 1215, John and the barons negotiated an agreement. In it, after an introduction and 60 separate clauses in which King John agreed to various reforms and promised to make specific restitution in various particular cases that were demanded by his barons, the 1215 version of the Magna Carta ends like this:

* (61) SINCE WE [ed: John] HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:

The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us – or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice – to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.

Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.

If one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were.

In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear.

The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power.

We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.

* (62) We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects, whether clergy or laymen, since the beginning of the dispute. We have in addition remitted fully, and for our own part have also pardoned, to all clergy and laymen any offences committed as a result of the said dispute between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215) and the restoration of peace.

In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf.

* (63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever.

Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the abovementioned people and many others.

Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215: the new regnal year began on 28 May).

Note the third paragraph, that begins “If we, our chief justice, . . .” In that paragraph, King John, by the grace of God King of England etc., is agreeing that he and his administration are not immune from accountability.

John and the barons agreed on a process for adjudicating disputes. They agreed on a panel that could both bring charges and judge them.  They agreed on how the panel should be chosen, and how the panel should select new members at the death of old ones. They agreed on how many members of the panel needed to agree in order for a judgment to be final. They agreed on a time frame for restitution. Most importantly, should John be found to have violated the terms of this document and yet refuse restitution, John, by the grace of God King of England etc., agreed that his castles and lands could be seized under order of the panel to make restitution for what he had done, or his officials had done on his behalf.

To be fair, the Magna Carta was changed and altered in the years and centuries that followed. But the original text of the original version makes it clear that even the King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou does not enjoy absolute immunity.

Trump may wish to be a monarch with absolute immunity and not a president.

Alito may wish to treat him as a monarch with absolute immunity and not a president.

But in a meadow at Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, said no. That’s not how even a divinely appointed monarch is to be treated.

Expected Response Is Expected, Redux: Trump, Post-Arraignment

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Two days after a warrant was served on Mar-a-Lago last August, I wrote this:

We could have seen it coming after all this time. They’re reliably predictable, no crystal ball required.

Trump appears to be in trouble: The FBI serves a warrant on Mar-a-Lago, seizing papers.

There’s a moment of hesitation or pause: Trump delivers a ranty statement some time after the FBI leaves.

The coordinated response is generated: Trump’s lawyers make a false claim about evidence being planted by FBI.

The zone is flooded: The right-wing’s proxies and media repeat ad nauseam the same false claim.

The media dutifully picks up and repeats: the zone is further flooded, amplifying the false claim.

This is a cycle we’ve seen repeated over and over again. The only additional step not included here is the final one in which some pundit will opine about this situation being bad for Democrats and Joe Biden though it has nothing to do with them whatsoever.

I noted then that the media responded reflexively to this cycle. Breaking out of their sycophantic role has happened but very rarely, and I say that only because I can’t think of a good example off the top of my head when a media outlet didn’t just regurgitate Trump’s DARVO, thereby poisoning understanding by those who aren’t media literate/skeptical and those who are themselves stuck in the same loop as MAGA GOP.

Trump will once again Deny the Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender, a behavior pattern typical of abusers, and the media will enable it thereby becoming the abuser’s weapon — once again wielded against the public.

After this afternoon’s arraignment, I expect we’ll be swamped once again by the same DARVO cycle. Trump will repeat everything he said after he was told he was a target, after he was told an indictment was imminent. He raged on his own version of Twitter, he raged again on video; he’ll do this all again, perhaps with some additional flourishes in a live venue.

I’m an innocent man,” he claimed over and over, though the timeline of events, the photos taken, the refusal to fully cooperate with the National Archives and the Department of Justice all indicate otherwise.

After his arraignment in Manhattan NY this April for charges of falsified business records, Trump fulminated.

He called Smith a “lunatic,” and also claimed the judge presiding over his case in Manhattan is a “Trump-hating judge.”

… Trump cast the indictment as Democrats’ latest attempt to kneecap him, citing previous “fraudulent investigations” related to Russia and Ukraine, and “impeachment hoax one” and “impeachment hoax two.” Trump said his opponents have “really stepped up their efforts by indicting the 45th president of the United States.”

And of course he claimed he was the victim of an injustice, “I never thought anything like this could happen in America … Never thought it could happen. The only crime that I’ve committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”

Defending our nation looks a lot like unlawfully retained classified documents carelessly dumped from a box in a storeroom near a resort’s pool.

Today’s arraignment might produce slightly different results as Trump might not wish to insult Trump-friendly Judge Cannon. However he will surely insult Special Counsel Smith, casting Smith once again as a villain of the deep-state apparatus seeking to harm poor little old Trump.

~ ~ ~

Few to none of the media outlets will note that none of this had to happen. Trump could have turned over everything — presidential records, classified documents, defense information — when NARA asked in May 2021.

He could have tried to comply again in February 2022 when NARA said it was still missing documents.

Trump could have done more to comply between February and June 2022 — heck, up to the search warrant’s execution in August — but instead he and his minions obstructed.

The arraignment today is a choice that Trump made. He has no one to blame but himself.

But because this is his lifelong practice, he will blame everyone else but himself. He will depict himself as a victim.

And the media will likely repeat his bullshit rather than noting the real victim is this nation and its Constitution, because the documents Trump has steadfastly refused to relinquish belong to our executive office.

Watch closely now for the DARVO and media’s complacency. It’s just a matter of time — tick-tock.

~ ~ ~

This is an open thread. Bring all your non-Trump stuff here rather than clutter Marcy’s threads.

Three Things: Turf’s Up

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Some of this content may be speculative. /~Rayne]

Last week Thursday, LIV Golf was mentioned in The New York Time’s article, Justice Dept. Intensifying Efforts to Determine if Trump Hid Documents. It’s the new professional golf tour funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

We’ve had a little fun with the new LIV Golf tour and the game of golf in comments. We should spend a little more time on this subject if Special Counsel Jack Smith thought Trump’s LIV-related business was subpoena worthy. Three Trump golf courses — Trump National-Bedminster NJ, Trump National-Sterling VA, Trump National-Doral FL — will host three of LIV Golf tour’s 14 events this season. Trump’s Bedminster and Doral courses hosted LIV during its inaugural season.

For those who are unfamiliar with the history of LIV Golf, here’s a timeline of its history along with some key points in U.S.-Saudi and Saudi-tangential events.

1994 — Aussie pro golfer Greg Norman tried to establish an alternative tour competing with the PGA with financial assist from Rupert Murdoch.

The idea of a breakaway circuit from the PGA Tour is far from a novel idea; the PGA Tour itself came to pass after players split from the PGA of America in 1967 to form the Tournament Players Division. More recently, former World No. 1 Greg Norman and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch attempted to create a “World Golf Tour” in the mid-1990s featuring the top players competing in an eight-event series. A television contract with Murdoch’s Fox Sports was even secured. But the endeavor was squashed as then-PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem flexed both the tour’s legal chops and standing in the game. Other iterations of a world tour have come and gone without much fanfare.

November 2016 — U.S. general election won by Donald Trump, Republicans take Congress.

February 3, 2017 — Using the Congressional Review Act to fast track their effort, Senate passes a joint resolution already approved by the house, disproving the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Rule 13q-1, which implemented Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Section 1504 and SEC rule 13q-1 enacted the U.S.’ participation in the EITI’s anti-corruption effort.

February 13, 2017 — Trump signed the disproving resolution. (Probably just another coincidence that Michael Flynn resigned this day as National Security Adviser.)

September 2017 — Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi became a columnist for the Washington Post.

October 25, 2017 — Jared Kushner departed for an unpublicized meeting with government officials in Saudi Arabia.

October 25, 2017 — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker traveled separately from Kushner to participate in bilateral discussions, which included the memorandum of understanding with the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC). The U.S. and Saudi Arabia chair the TFTC while Gulf States form its membership.

October 30, 2017 — Jared Kushner met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, discussing strategy until 4:00 am. News reports didn’t indicate when exactly Kushner arrived or when discussions began. (Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopolous were indicted this day, but not Kushner; good thing “excellent guy” Papadopolous as a former Trump campaign “energy and oil consultant” wasn’t involved in Kushner’s work with Saudi Arabia, that we knew of at that time.)

November 4, 2017 — At 7:49 am EDT, Trump tweeted,

“Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. Important to the United States!”

November 4, 2017 — (approximately 5:00 pm EDT, midnight Riyadh local time) At least 10 Saudi princes and dozens of government ministers were arrested and detained under what has been reported as an anti-corruption initiative. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a critic of Trump and a tech industry investor of note, was among those arrested this weekend.

November 4, 2017 — At 11:12 pm EDT Reuters reported Trump said he had spoken with King Salman bin Abdulaziz about listing Saudi Aramco on the NYSE. The IPO is expected to be the largest offering ever.

October 2, 2018 — Jamal Khashoggi assassinated by dismemberment at the order of KSA’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.

November 6, 2018 — U.S. mid-term elections swings control of Congress with blue wave.

2019 — Greg Norman pursued again the development and launch of a PGA alternative including the Premier Golf League.

August 29, 2019 — Trump tweeted a classified satellite image of the failed Safir rocket launch in Iran.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about the image to the White House, which declined to comment.

“We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” the president told reporters late Friday.

January 3, 2020 — Trump authorized assassination of Iran’s major general Qasem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq.

November 2020 — U.S. general election won by Biden, Democrats take Congress.

January 20, 2021 — Trump departs White House as his term ends.

October 29, 2021 — Greg Norman named CEO of LIV — a subset of KSA’s Public Investment Fund — which said it would make $200 million investment in an Asian tour with tourneys across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

May 2022: Amos Hochstein and Brett McGurk believe they make a deal for a two-part increase of production

June 2, 2022: OPEC announces the first part of production increases and Biden announces his Saudi trip

June 3, 2022: Trump travels from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster for Saudi golf tournament

June 7, 2022: Adam Schiff and others send Biden a letter warning about Saudi Arabia

Prior to July 15, 2022: Briefings for Intelligence Committees on secret plan

July 15, 2022: Biden meets with Mohammed bin Salman

August 3, 2022: Saudis announce half of production increase promised (“the first public warning”)

September 5, 2022: OPEC announced production cuts

Late September 2022: US officials begin hearing of deep production cuts on October 5

September 24, 2022: MbS says there will be no production cuts

September 27, 2022: Abdulaziz argues cuts would impede diversification plans

September 28, 2022: Saudis inform the US they will announce production cuts

October 26 2022: Jared Kushner speaks at Saudi investment summit

Note the items in italics – they’re from Marcy’s timeline in her post The Intelligence Gaps Where the Saudis Hid Their October Surprise which she published last October.

Diversification of cash earned from oil into non-fossil fuel investments is what the PIF does; LIV Golf is one of the many diverse investments, and Trump along with the Trump organization is a beneficiary of that investment — and possibly an investment as well.

~ 3 ~

The LIV Golf league is in competition with the U.S.-based Pro Golfers Association Tour (PGA) for talent as well as media coverage even though it is not as focused on U.S. courses as the PGA. Golfers are required by the PGA to choose between tours — they must commit to the PGA or the other. They can’t play for both since doing so would create conflicts in timing and in contracts with TV/cable networks carrying golf events.

(Much of this conflict sounds very familiar to those who remember Trump’s first foray into sports with the USFL. His demand that USFL play in the fall and not the spring, putting the new league in direct conflict with the NFL, ultimately caused the demise of the USFL. Trump tried multiple times to get into the sports industry between the USFL and LIV Golf.)

Greg Norman has been open for the last three decades about his motivation for creating a new league and tour. While he claims he wants to promote golf, he’s simply in it for the money.

Golf has been and remains a sport for the wealthy. Equipment is expensive, membership at a course is expensive, the amount of time required to practice and become proficient to make the sport enjoyable requires considerable freedom from financial encumbrances. If Norman was really trying to promote the sport, he’d find ways to make it more accessible, but no. He just wants players including himself to make more money.

This makes Norman the perfect tool for sportswashing — he has no moral qualms about focusing on more money for golf, without regard for the reasons why sponsors are so ready with cash.

Never mind the little problem of a Saudi journalist working for an American news outlet being sawn into pieces because they expressed dissent. As Norman sees it, “We’ve all made mistakes.

His callousness is breathtaking, openly taking blood money and blowing off a gruesome murder because golf. The tour will just blow by the inconvenience of working for a murderer, wash away the taint with enough bankable green and enough manicured greens.

If the CEO of LIV Golf is this indifferent to the kind of people from which he takes money, one has to wonder just how deeply this insensitivity goes into the tour’s operations.

No wonder, then, Trump and his courses are engaged with LIV — they’re equally tactless and hard-hearted fit.

No wonder these business connections have been subpoenaed.

It would be nice to know if Trump’s creepy Victorian doll of a son-in-law Kushner negotiated the postmortem tacit approval of Khashoggi’s assassination and the delivery of Soleimani’s death in exchange for future support to both Kushner in the form of a massive $2 billion payout and Trump’s participation in LIV Golf as a key money and image laundering vehicle golf course host for the tour.

~ 2 ~

One of our long-time community members, WilliamOckham, went through last Thursday’s NYT article looking for sourcing. The article was focused on the Department of Justice’s subpoena of surveillance videotape at Mar-a-Lago in relation to classified documents in Trump’s possession after he left office.  It looked like Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran (or Corcoran’s attorney(s)) was the possible sole source for the NYT’s multi-contributor piece.

What seemed odd was the mention of LIV Golf toward the middle of the article, in these two grafs — the 11th and 12th of 30 total paragraphs:

One of the previously unreported subpoenas to the Trump Organization sought records pertaining to Mr. Trump’s dealings with a Saudi-backed professional golf venture known as LIV Golf, which is holding tournaments at some of Mr. Trump’s golf resorts.

It is unclear what bearing Mr. Trump’s relationship with LIV Golf has on the broader investigation, but it suggests that the prosecutors are examining certain elements of Mr. Trump’s family business.

These two grafs are immaculately conceived and virgin birthed. There’s no source mentioned.

Yet  the NYT felt its readers would want to know now that the Special Counsel was looking into Trump’s LIV Golf business.

Or was it not that the public needed to know, but that the source felt others needed to know who had not known about this subpoena just as the public hadn’t known?

What are the chances this subpoena has been quiet not only for diplomatic reasons, but for counterintelligence reasons?

What are the chances other Trump courses have also been subpoenaed by the Special Counsel — those which have not been involved so far in LIV Golf?

~ 1 ~

NYT included a link to a graphic-centric report published in mid-December — Inside Mar-a-Lago, Where Thousands Partied Near Secret Files.

I admit to missing this piece at the time; it was published just as the news media enters its annual doldrums. Because the public is generally busy wrapping up both the end of the year and wrapping holiday presents, news readership falls off. Evergreen stuff is published, like ever popular year-end listicles – quick and easy to produce, keeps for a while, pure fluffy filler.

A graphic piece without a corresponding news peg fits this time period well and might have been a way to clean the NYT’s desk of a piece it couldn’t offer earlier. The interactive graphic report on Mar-a-Lago and the location of the presidential records and classified documents in the 20-acre facility ended up buried at the front end of the holiday dump zone.

But like other evergreen work, this piece kept well and suited the NYT’s article as an interstitial adder.

What puzzles me, though, is what the NYT’s team working on this piece — including Maggie Haberman — didn’t notice or didn’t point out there had been recent and obvious grounds work on the compound.

Note the yellow highlight I’ve added to this graphic:

As reported, there are two doors off the pool area which allow access to the hallway leading to the storage beneath Mar-a-Lago’s main floor – they’re highlighted in yellow.

I’ve also highlighted Trump’s personal office in the building to the right. It’s been noted there are stairs to the office which have not had a barrier to prevent access, except on rare occasions when a cordon has been strung across the first steps.

I suspect there’s an elevator in the building somewhere which hasn’t been mentioned because Trump’s physical condition (and possibly his neurological condition) makes it unlikely he climbs up nearly three flights of stairs on the regular.

Lastly, I’ve highlighted in the upper right the entrance to an underground tunnel. I know we’ve discussed it here before that there was at least one tunnel beneath Mar-a-Lago’s grounds, but unfortunately it was in comments and not in the body of a post. The tunnel I highlighted travels under the public roadway to the Mar-a-Lago beachhouse property on the other side of S. Ocean Boulevard. Anyone coming off the beach at the beachhouse can access this tunnel based on photos available across the internet.

Here are examples of photos on the internet showing the Mar-a-Lago property on both sides of the roadway.

This one is a Google Maps snapshot taken by Google as it scanned the road in February 2021 (gee, I wonder why the flag was at half mast).

On the left hidden behind greens and a low stucco wall is a stairwell to the tunnel beneath the roadway. On the right behind the greens is the tunnel’s other entrance leading to a walkway which traverses the lawn diagonally toward the buildings.

Here is a screen capture from an overhead video taken by drone, dated August 2022; I’ve circled the approximate entrances to the tunnels in orange. No idea the exact date this was taken, whether before or after the FBI served a warrant on Mar-a-Lago.

And here is another Google Maps snapshot taken by Google as it scanned the road in October 2022, before the NYT article but after the FBI served the warrant.

Note the wall at the corner over the tunnel, hiding the entrance from the road and any pedestrians on foot. The NYT’s interactive graphics piece shows this wall but makes no observation that work has been done at this corner.

Go a little further around the bend and you’ll not only see the grounds work in progress but at least one rental container within car lengths of the tunnel’s location.

Trump has owned Mar-a-Lago since 1985 and lived there on site when in Florida.

After all this time — at least eight years by the Google Street View photos available online — why was this amount of grounds work along this wall near the tunnel needed last year?

~ 0 ~

Like Trump’s disgusting habit of cheating at golf and like he cheats on his wives, his relationship with LIV Golf is all kinds of awkward and revolting.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has had to play nicely with KSA this past month because of KSA’s role in helping get Americans out of Sudan.

They had to make all kinds of nice noises about this in spite of KSA fucking over Biden about oil production.

I can’t rule out there are even more awkward bits out there, like KSA’s new friendliness with Iran which may have been shaped by Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani, or China’s overtures with KSA and Iran which are likely efforts to smooth the way for China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Nor have I forgotten the possibility that Trump’s war crime committed to obtain Syrian oil may begun with help and for the benefit of KSA. It crossed my mind when there were recent attacks in Syria on Americans that this matter may still be in play in spite of Biden administration’s change in sanctions for development of that Syrian oil — especially since the drone attack in al-Hasakah which killed an American contractor just happened to be in Block 26 in eastern Syria where Trump permitted oil development for his war crime.

We shouldn’t expect to hear much about the subpoena of LIV Golf business. There’s more likely to be news about specific Trump courses like Bedminster – the parent corporation already having been convicted of fraud.

But we can watch for geopolitical disturbances in tandem with the dates Trump courses host LIV Golf events.

Fri, May 26 – Sun, May 28
Trump National Golf Club Washington DC, Sterling, VA

Fri, Aug 11 – Sun, Aug 13
Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, Bedminster, NJ

Fri, Oct 20 – Sun, Oct 22
Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, FL

The Other Albanian Stuff

[NB: check the byline, thanks. This post contains some speculative content. /~Rayne]

Albania is a tiny country. Its population is a little smaller than that of Kansas, all living in a land mass the size of Massachusetts or Hawaii. The U.S. has six counties which are larger in area, and six which are larger in population.

It seems rather odd that two different stories related to Rudy Giuliani happened to involve Albania given its relative size.

While Giuliani was politicking an exiled Iranian dissident/terrorist group each year, often in Albania where the exiles waited regime change, an FBI special agent was schmoozing Albanians about oil drilling rights among other things.

What are the chances these two story arcs are wholly unrelated?

Items in the following timeline related to Charles McGonigal including some related to Russia are in italics; Albanian-specific items are noted in boldface.

– – –

2014-2019 — Giuliani met with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK) at least once each year; he never registered under FARA, appearing at MEK-related events in Poland, Albania, Paris and Washington (NBC News, Oct 2019)

– – –

April 2017 — Approximate time relationship between then-Special Agent Charles McGonigal and Allison Guerriero began (earliest date of requested documents from Nov. 2021 subpoena)

Spring 2017 — Giuliani and ally Michael Mukasey met with Iranian dissident group MEK.

01-JUL-2017 — John Bolton met with MEK members in Paris, advocating Trump admin push for regime change in Iran.

17-JUL-2017 — John Bolton tweeted, “Withdrawing from the Iran #NuclearDeal should be a top @realDonaldTrump administration priority.”

05-SEP-2017 — Date given in the DC District indictment for second count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2), related to filing of an FD-772b for travel beginning two days later.

07-SEP-2017 — McGonigal met with Person A and negotiated terms of compensation; he traveled by air with Person A to Albania, met Person B and other foreign nationals.

09-SEP-2017 — McGonigal met with Person B and Albania‘s Prime Minister, during which McGonigal lobbied against Albania awarding oil field drilling licenses to Russian front companies. Person A and Person B both had financial interests in Albania‘s award decision.

September 2017 — While in Albania, Person A introduced McGonigal to an Albanian businessperson/politician who asked McGonigal to launch an investigation into an alleged plot to kill the Albanian businessperson/politician.

10-SEP-2017 — McGonigal traveled with Person A and others, from Albania to Kosovo. He met a Kosovar politician. McGonigal then returned to the US with Person A, traveling together.

September 2017 — McGonigal continued a relationship with Albania‘s prime minister after returning from Albania.

Fall 2017 — McGonigal received cash from Person A at Person A’s residence in separate payments of $80,000 and $65,000. McGonigal told Person A the money would be paid back.

05-OCT-2017 — Allison Guerriero saw “a bag full of cash” in FBI’s SA Charles McGonigal’s Park Slope apartment.

16-OCT-2017 — Date given for third count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2), related to filing of an FD-772b.

15-NOV-2017Date given for fourth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). McGonigal submitted a false FD-772 in advance of “official” travel to Austria. He did not disclose Person A was traveling with him; he did not indicate travel expenses would be covered by another party; he did not indicate he would be traveling to Albania as well as Austria; he did not disclose any other expected foreign contacts.

17-NOV-2017 — McGonigal flew to Austria.

18-NOV-2017 — With Person A acting as an interpreter, McGonigal along with a DOJ prosecutor (?!) interviewed the Albanian businessperson/politician McGonigal met in September. McGonigal did not submit paperwork for authorization of interpreter services or their payment, nor was an official FBI record filed of the interview.

18-NOV-2017 — McGonigal and Person A traveled from Austria to Albania after the interview, meeting again with the Albanian businessperson/politician. No DOJ prosecutor was present. The Albanian businessperson/politician discussed business opportunities with McGonigal and Person A.

21-NOV-2017 — McGonigal flew from Albania to Austria and then the US. Neither McGonigal nor the FBI paid for his lodging during his stay in Albania.

24-NOV-2017 — McGonigal received information from Person B about a US citizen registered to lobby on behalf of a Albanian political party in opposition to the Albanian PM’s party.

25-NOV-2017 — McGonigal informed the DOJ prosecutor involved in the November 18 interview of a potential new criminal investigation involving the US citizen who was a lobbyist for an Albanian opposition party.

December 2017 — Washington DC: McGonigal dined with Person A and Albanian government officials. New York City: McGonigal dined with Person A and Albania‘s PM.

– – –

04-JAN-2018 — McGonigal received information from Person A about the Albanian opposition party’s US citizen-lobbyist. He forwarded the information to another FBI NY special agent on 05-JAN-2018.

22-JAN-2018 — Date given for fifth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). McGonigal filed a false FD-772b about the November trip to Austria. He did not report his trip to Albania; he did not report his meeting with Person B or Albania‘s PM; he did not report he had disclosed his FBI employment to foreign nationals on non-FBI business.

21-FEB-2018 — Through 24-FEB, McGonigal traveled with Person A to Albania without reporting the trip on FD-772 or FD-772b forms.

26-FEB-2018 — FBI-NY opened a criminal investigation into the Albanian opposition party’s US citizen-lobbyist at McGonigal’s request. FBI-NY later identified Person A as a confidential human source for the investigation; Person A provided information during the investigation. At a later date, Person B helped facilitate a meeting between FBI-NY and witnesses in Europe, including paying for witness travel expenses. McGonigal did not report his relationship with Person A, nor did he report contacts with Person B on form FD-981 as required.

04-MAR-2018 — McGonigal shared a meal with Person A, Albania‘s PM, a former FBI special agent who then worked at an international professional services firm and others in Washington DC.

20-MAR-2018 — Giuliani met with MEK leader Rajavi at MEK event in Tirana, Albania.

22-MAR-2018 — Trump announced by tweet that John Bolton would become National Security Adviser.

06-APR-2018 — Treasury Dept. identifies Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (SDN) subject to sanctions.

09-APR-2018 — John Bolton began as National Security Adviser.

26-APR-2018 — Through May 2, McGonigal traveled with Person A to Europe including Albania; he did not report the travel on FD-772 or FD-772b forms.

27-APR-2018 — McGonigal met with Person C (a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Person D (a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina) in Germany. C and D asked to meet with the US Ambassador to the United Nations or another high-level US govt. official to request US support for a political purpose affecting Bosnia and Herzegovina.

08-MAY-2018 — McGonigal asked FBI’s liaison to UN for assistance arranging a meeting requested by Person C and Person D.

08-MAY-2018 — Trump unilaterally exited the P5+1 JCPOA agreement with Iran.

09-MAY-2018 — US to reimpose sanctions on Iran — 180-day countdown to implementation began.

Spring-Summer 2018 — Deripaska’s connection, former translator for Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Shestakov, asks McGonigal to help Agent-1 obtain an internship for Agent-1’s daughter in counterterror/intel/international relations. McGonigal agreed.

10-JUN-2018 — Date given for sixth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). Until May 2019, McGonigal created and submitted a false OGE-278 report which failed to include $225,000 in payments from Person A. An eighth count was charged under 18 USC 1519 for falsification of a record or document.

25-JUN-2018 — McGonigal proposed to Person A that Person A and Company A contract with Person D and Person D’s pharma company, by which Company A would be paid $500,000 by Person D and their pharma company (located in Bosnia and Herzegovina) in exchange for arranging a meeting between Person D’s pharmaco and a US delegation rep to the UN.

28/30-JUN-2018 — German, French and Belgian police broke up an assassination/terror plot to set off an explosive device at an MEK gathering in Paris. Iranian intelligence (MOIS) was believed to be behind the plot; Giuliani had been in attendance at the event. Four Iranians were eventually arrested including Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian intelligence officer assigned to Vienna under diplomatic cover.

01-JUL-2018 — McGonigal sent electronic message to Person A confirming he resent proposed contract, asking Person A to protect his name.

03-JUL-2018 — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Switzerland and Austria to attempt to salvage the JCPOA.

18-JUL-2018 — Person A proposed the contract to Person D as described on 25-JUN.

26-JUL-2018 — McGonigal provided to FBI’s UN liaison dates proposed for a meeting requested by Persons C and D.

06-AUG-2018 — First series of sanctions reengaged and next 180-day countdown began.

13-AUG-2018 — During a meeting, McGonigal provided information to a senior official for US delegation to UN about the meeting request by Persons C and D. McGonigal didn’t disclose Person A’s financial interest or McGonigal’s financial relationship with Person A.

22-AUG-2018 — Giuliani lobbied Romania on behalf of Freeh Group; Freeh’s client was not specified. Giuliani’s letter was in opposition to U.S. State Dept. policy on Romanian anticorruption efforts.[1]

September 2018 — Charles McGonigal left FBI and began working as Senior VP at Brookfield Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management which is owned in part by Qatar. Brookfield signed a 99-year lease on Jared Kushner’s 666 5th Avenue building in August 2018.

04-NOV-2018 — Second series of sanctions reengaged including purchasing fossil fuels from Iranian oil companies.

Late 2018 — McGonigal broke up with Guerriero. “A few months later” she ratted on McGonigal to William Sweeney, FBI-NY office.

– – –

2019 — Shestakov and McGonigal introduced Agent-1 to an international law firm so that Agent-1 could work to have Deripaska delisted as an SDN, lifting sanctions. Throughout the year, McGonigal traveled to meet Deripaska in London and Vienna at Deripaska’s residences. The law firm was to pay McGonigal $25,000 out of $175,000 it received for its services to Agent-1.

XX-FEB-2019 — Trump discussed replacements for DNI.

06-MAY-2019 — Date given for first count against McGonigal, for concealment of material facts under 18 USC 1001(a)(1) for filing false forms FD-772, FD-772b, FD-981, and OGE-278 which did not include information about his travel, compensation for travel-related expenses, relationships with foreign nationals, and the $225,000 received from Person A. The OGE-278 filed after his retirement was submitted this date for which a seventh count was charged under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). A ninth count was charged under 18 USC 1519 for falsification of a record or document.

20-JUN-2019 — In retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, Trump approved strikes on Iran which were abruptly aborted.

11-JUL-2019 — Giuliani spoke to MEK in Albania and met with its leader Maryam Rajavi.

28-JUL-2019 — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ departure and John Ratcliffe nominated as replacement announced by Trump via Twitter. (Ratcliffe later removed himself from consideration.)

08-AUG-2019 — Primary Deputy Director DNI Sue Gordon resigned effective 15-AUG-2019, without additional prior notice, as ordered. Resignation letter without handwritten note.

15-AUG-2019 — Coats’ last day as DNI.

30-AUG-2019 — Trump tweeted a high-resolution satellite image of Iran’s failed Safir SLV launch while claiming the U.S. was not involved. The image may have been classified and ‘insta-declassified’ by Trump.

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

10-SEP-2019 — Bolton tells Fox’s Brian Kilmeade by text that he quit.

11-SEP-2019 — Bloomberg reported Bolton pushed back Monday-Tuesday at Trump over Iran sanctions; Bolton wanted maximum pressure while Trump wanted to encourage a meeting with Iran’s Rouhani later in September.

20-SEP-2019 — Mukasey registers as representative for MEK, claiming no compensation for this work; Giuliani remains unregistered.

27-DEC-2019 — K1 military base in/near Kirkuk, Iraq attacked by Kataib Hezbollah, a group linked to Iran. The group denied responsibility. A US contractor was killed and US soldiers wounded.

29-DEC-2019 — Trump ordered retaliatory airstrikes in western Iraq and eastern Syria targeting Kataib Hezbollah’s locations.

30-DEC-2019 — While golfing, Trump told Sen. Lindsey Graham about a plan to assassinate Iran’s Gen. Soleimani.

31-DEC-2019 — US Embassy-Baghdad stormed by Kataib Hezbollah. Sen. Graham tweets about meeting with Trump regarding the embassy.

31-DEC-2019 — Trump threatens Iran by tweet.

– – –

02-JAN-2020 — Trump authorizes assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani by missile strike.

March 2020 — Law firm and McGonigal’s work on behalf of Agent-1 ended.

– – –

Spring 2021 — Agent-1 negotiated with Shestakov and McGonigal to work directly for Deripaska on sanctioned matters, bypassing the law firm.

August 2021 — McGonigal, Shestakov, and Agent-1 drafted a contract for business intelligence services paid to an intermediary corporation owned by McGonigal’s “friend” who then paid McGonigal.

November 2021DOJ investigation of McGonigal underway; Guerriero received a subpoena.

– – –

Early Jan 2022 — McGonigal left employment at Brookfield.

Mid-July 2022 — Albania suffered a serious cyberattack for which it blamed Iranian groups.

07-SEP-2022 — Albania severed diplomatic ties with Iran over the cyberattacks; it had considered invoking Article 5 as a member of NATO.

– – –

I couldn’t help think of the relationship between Albania and Iran during the last week of January when an Iranian military industrial facility located in Isfahan province was attacked by drones which appeared to be under Israeli control.

The possibility crossed my mind that all of this effort with McGonigal working for Russians and Albanian opposition, and Giuliani and Bolton propping up MEK against Iran was intended to squeeze Albania between larger geopolitical players, possibly spreading destabilization to other neighboring countries. Montenegro, for one, has been under various forms of pressure for years by Russia because of its accession to NATO against which Russia pushed back.

Nor could I help but think of crude oil and gas market price fluctuations[2], and the threat to the EU due to Russia’s war on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia.


Where Albania fits into that picture along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with Romania, is the Southern Gas Corridor running from Azerbaijan through Turkey and finally through Albania, with a leg to the north from Turkey through Bulgaria and Romania to Ukraine.

Have Giuliani and McGonigal been used to increase instability in Albania in order to disrupt gas distribution to NATO member states in EU?

Have both of these corrupt hacks been used to increase instability in Albania to put pressure on a couple of the smallest NATO members, including Albania’s neighbor Montenegro which also plays a role in gas pipelines to EU states?


[1] This item added because it seems like such an odd item. Tirana, Albania is a four-hour flight from Bucharest, Romania, though.

[2] This is a guesstimated amount Putin/Russian oil companies lost after Obama eased sanctions on Iranian oil during P5+1 JCPOA negotiations until the eventual implementation of the JCPOA. It does not include the amount lost after implementation.

8614.21 BBL/D/1K x 7 days x 73 weeks x -$45/BBL =

(8614.21 x 1000) x (511 days) x -$45/BBL =

-$198,083,758,950 lost

Based on average daily production 1992-2022 (see: and at one-half the difference between WTI’s highest price in June 2014 and its price in January 2016.

When Your Lawyer is Acting Like H.R. Haldeman, It’s Time to Get a New Lawyer

President Richard Nixon and his Chief of Staff HR Haldeman, before Nixon resigned in disgrace and Haldeman went to prison for 18 months after being convicted of perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

When Cassidy Hutchinson’s September 14, 2022 testimony to the J6 committee first came out, I remember being struck by three sentences in bold below (emphasis added) as I read it (from p. 48):

Ms. Hutchinson. And then just, at the end of that meeting, we had — because I had asked him about doing the, like, mock question preparation, and he said, “No.” So said, “Well, do you recommend anything that I can do to prepare for next week?” He’s like, “Get a good night’s sleep,” like, a few wishy-washy things.

And he said, “Don’t read anything about this on the internet.” He said, “Again, Cass, like, just trust me on this. I’m your lawyer. I know what’s best for you. The less you remember, the better. Don’t read anything to try to jog your memory. Don’t try to put together timelines.”

And he was like, “Especially if you put together timelines, we have to give those over to the committee. So anything you produce we have to give over to the committee. So l really” — he was like, “You can have things in front of you, but really don’t want you to, because we have to give that to the committee.”

So now I’m like, oh now I’m kind of scared. — Like, what if I want notes in front of me and he gets mad at me because I have to give them to the committee now? I didn’t know I would have to give them to the committee, but he told me I did, and he was my lawyer, so I was trying to trust him.

This wasn’t the only place in the transcript where words like these were used – they were almost a refrain. “Where have I heard this before?” I asked myself, then kept reading. Over this past weekend, while helping my mom clean out some old magazines, the penny dropped.

The date was March 21, 1974 1973 [corrected] – two days before the scheduled sentencing of the convicted Watergate burglars. At the White House, things were tense, as the scandal was growing and the coverup was in the process of unraveling. President Nixon, Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, and White House Counsel John Dean met for almost two hours, taking stock of the mess and looking for possible routes forward. They discussed additional payments to keep people quiet (noting that earlier payments had bought them silence through the 1972 election), and tried to figure out how to sideline the recently formed Senate Watergate committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC).

Toward the end of the meeting, Nixon brought up a suggestion from his Domestic Policy Advisor  (and former White House Counsel) John Ehrlichman: instead of letting the Ervin committee run riot in public, announce that all this was going to a new grand jury. From the transcript of the Nixon tapes (with all the typos, punctuation, etc. in the original, but with emphasis added):

PRESIDENT:    John Ehrlichman, of course, has raised the point of another grand jury. I just don’t know how you’re going to do it. On what basis. I, I could call for it, but I…

DEAN:              That would be, I would think, uh…

PRESIDENT:    The President takes the leadership and says, Now, in view of all this, uh, stripped land and so forth, I understand this, but I, I think I want another grand jury proceeding and, and we’ll have the White House appear before them.” Is that right John?

p. 89 [sic, should be 88]

DEAN:              Uh huh.

PRESIDENT:    That’s the point you see. That would make the difference. (Noise banging on desk) I want everybody in the White House called. And that, that gives you the, a reason not to have to go up before the (unintelligible) Committee. It puts it in a, in an executive session in a sense.

HALDEMAN:   Right.

PRESIDENT:    Right.

DEAN:              Uh, well…

HALDEMAN: And there’d be some rules of evidence. aren’t there?

DEAN:              There are rules of evidence.

PRESIDENT:    Both evidence and you have lawyers a

HALDEMAN: So you are in a hell of a lot better position than you are up there.

DEAN:              No, you can’t have a lawyer before a grand jury.

PRESIDENT:    Oh, no. That’s right.

DEAN:              You can’t have a lawyer before a grand Jury.

HALDEMAN: Okay, but you, but you, you do have rules of evidence. You can refuse to talk.

DEAN:              You can take the Fifth Amendment.

PRESIDENT:    That’s right. That’s right.

HALDEMAN: You can say you forgot, too, can’t you?

DEAN:              Sure. –

PRESIDENT:    That’s right.

p. 89

DEAN:              But you can’t…you’re…very high risk in perjury situation.

PRESIDENT:    That’s right. Just be damned sure you say I don’t…


PRESIDENT:    remember; I can’t recall, I can’t give any honest, an answer to that that I can recall. But that’s it.

Hutchinson is too young to have lived through Watergate, but she clearly recognized that Stefan Passantino was acting more like he was more worried about someone else’s legal issues and not her own. It took her a while, but she eventually punted him and found a legal team who agreed to work on her behalf.

Passantino was clearly channeling his inner Haldeman when he told Cassidy Hutchinson “The less you remember, the better.”

Maybe this is a new entry in the DC book of Proverbs: “When your lawyer is acting like H.R. Haldeman, it’s time to get a new lawyer.”

Michigan’s Fake Electors’ Transcripts Limn Black Holes into January 6

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Back in January this year I looked at Michigan’s fake electors who signed a false certification of election claiming Trump won in November 2020.

All of the signatories were key members of the Michigan GOP. Two in particular were subpoenaed by the House January 6 Committee for documents and testimony: Kathy Berden, who at the time was MIGOP’s national committee person to the Republican National Committee, and Mayra Rodriguez, then MIGOP’s 14th District chair for Grosse Pointe Farms.

Among the documents the J6 Committee released earlier this week were the transcripts for these two individuals’ testimony.

Rodriguez took the Fifth Amendment more than 20 times, refusing to answer questions put to her.

Berden pled the Fifth Amendment more than 70 times.

While pleading the Fifth Amendment means only that one does not wish to incriminate themselves, refusing to provide answers in any way related to rather simple questions which might be answered by others or by other evidence can only cast doubt on one’s credibility.

The number of times each witness pled the Fifth may not be indicative of a specific problem with one witness over the other, but one might wonder if Rodriguez’s earlier testimony affected questioning of Berden a few weeks later.

The transcript for Rodriguez’s testimony was 31 pages. Berden’s testimony came in at 28 pages.

Pleading the Fifth more often may have shortened the volume of material transcribed for Berden.

Here’s a comparison of the two MIGOP fake electors’ testimony — limited to and focusing on one question in particular — which may hint at directions in which the J6 Committee was headed.

Witness: Mayra Rodriguez

Witness: Kathy Berden

Subpoenaed January 28, 2022

Subpoenaed January 28, 2022

Testified February 22, 2022 – total 28 pages

Testified March 11, 2022 – total 31 pages

Question regarding compliance with subpoena for documents

Q: Okay. So did you search for documents? Did you look in your email, for example, for any documents that are responsive to the select committee’s subpoena?

A: Yes. I looked through my emails. I couldn’t find anything.

Q: Okay. And did you look through text messages that you may have had to look for documents responsive to the subpoena?

A: I would not have received a text. So did not look through my texts.

Q: Okay. Not even a text about, like, planning or organizing or showing up at a certain date or time?

A: I don’t believe that I received a text.

Q: Okay. What about saved documents, hard copy documents, if you had any, did you look for those?

A: Yeah. I received nothing.

Question regarding compliance with subpoena for documents

Q: Okay. Part of the subpoena asks you to produce documents to the select committee that were responsive to a schedule, a number of requests that accompanied the subpoena. Did you search for documents or provide documents to your attorneys to search and produce to the select committee?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. And did that include documents, if any, that would’ve come from your email accounts?

A: Yes.

Q: All right. I understand you have an email account that involves your name as well as [email protected]. Was that one of the email accounts you provided your attorneys with access or searched for responsive documents?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. And I understand you have a phone number ending in [redacted]?

A: I do.

Q: Okay.

A: I’m sorry.

Q: Did you — that’s quite all right. Nope. Thank you, Ms. Berden.

Did you look at the phone that uses that number for any responsive documents or messages to provide to the select committee?

A: Hmmm?

Mr. Columbo: May we take a moment for just a second, [redacted]

[redacted] Yes, of course.

Mr. Columbo: Ms. Berden is about to explain that, you know, we conducted a forensic examination on her behalf. So you can go ahead, but, you know, you’re getting into maybe things that are technical that happened with her permission and on her behalf.


Q: Okay. Understood. Was the phone that uses that phone number, did you provide that or allow this examination that Mr. Columbo just mentioned?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. Very well. And how about any hard copy documents? Did you review or look for any hard copy documents that you may have that could be responsive to the select committee’s subpoena?

A: I can’t think of what a hard copy is.

Mr. Columbo: Thing like papers.

The Witness: Oh, I — yes.

Mr. Columbo: I guess, do you want to ask for clarification?

The Witness: Clarification, please.

[redacted] Yeah, of course.

Mr. Columbo: She wants to know what you meant by hard copy.


Q: Yeah, sure. I guess, I’ll — the best way to do this would be by providing an example. So we’re going to be talking about several electoral college vote certificates that you signed. I imagine a hard copy of that, of actual paper, physical copy exists somewhere in the world. So did you look to see whether you had any physical copies of documents or physical documents that would be responsive to the select committee’s subpoena?

A: I provided whatever they asked.

Q: Okay. Excellent. And we did receive one audio voicemail and one image of an address label from your attorneys, and I’ll plan to go over those with you today.

There are two things in this brief partial comparison which stand out to me.

— Rodriguez was direct and concise; she is an attorney, which may have helped her form her responses. She was interviewed before Berden, which may have shaped Berden’s later interview, but not by much.

— Berden was far from direct and concise; it’s not clear if she was deliberately waffling or if she was truly as unclear about the nature of the materials the subpoena requested. The format of the hearing over Webex may have contributed to the sense she wasn’t responding directly. A lack of instruction and guidance by her attorney may have been another factor, as it makes no sense she did not understand what she was supposed have furnished since the attorney’s office did the forensic examination of her devices and other materials for her.

— Rodriguez was asked about Berden specifically, where Berden was asked about Rodriguez in the aggregate along with other electors (transcript p. 10, 18). Rodriguez didn’t take the Fifth in relation to questions asked about Berden, but did plead the Fifth about other persons.

The big takeaway for me from these transcripts was an email address. Rodriguez wasn’t asked about a specific email address, understandably since she wasn’t the MIGOP’s national committee woman.

However, Berden had an [email protected] account based on the inquiry by the committee.

Why was Berden using a Gmail address instead of an domain email address?

~ ~ ~

One other topic which caught my eye was the difference in communications. Some of this difference could be related to their different roles in the MIGOP, could also be related to age and expectations of how they communicate, or it could reflect a difference in what investigators already knew about communications within the conspiracy and these fake electors.

The investigators asked Rodriguez about text messages.

Q: Okay. And did you look through text messages that you may have had to look for documents responsive to the subpoena?

A: I would not have received a text. So I did not look through my texts.

Q: Okay. Not even a text about, like, planning or organizing or showing up at a certain date or time?

A: I don’t believe that I received a text.

Q: Okay. What about saved documents, hard copy documents, if you had any, did you look for those?

A: Yeah. I received nothing.

Q: All right. And as we go through this, I’ll ask you certain planning or organizing that happened. And if you do think of anything, like you have an email or a text message that you can recall as we’re going through this, I would just ask that you let us know about that. And then we can work with Mr. Blake to get any responsive documents that you end up having.

And I would ask, to the extent that you haven’t already looked through your text messages for any responsive documents, that you do so there as well.

The certainty with which Rodriguez answers is odd and interesting since the investigators asked Berden about all documents but not about text messages in the way they did Rodriguez.

Further, there’s an immaculate handoff of the fake election certificate.

Investigators didn’t nail down in her deposition how Rodriguez was notified and by whom that a fake slate of electors would sign a fake certification. She had nothing in her documents, nothing by text. She doesn’t need plead the Fifth about how she came to be involved; she only pleads when it comes to the reason she was supposed to participate. She doesn’t know any key persons and doesn’t have to take the Fifth as to whether she knows them, but she was still somehow in the loop to participate in the fake slate.

Rodriguez knows there are no-shows for the fake elector slate, but knows nothing of why — we don’t learn from her why two intended electors including the former secretary of state Terri Lynn Land aren’t part of the fake slate. She does plead the Fifth when it comes to who arranged for their replacements though she knows nothing of who organized the December 14 meeting place and time for the meeting of fake electors.

Rodriguez pled the Fifth when asked if she had “any paperwork that you brought with you, namely electoral college vote certificates or affidavits?” The implication is that she has papers at this point, but she had nothing responsive later to the committee’s subpoena whether hard copy or digital.

Again, this is an implication since she refused to confirm this, but it looks as if Rodriguez had documents at the signing on December 14. Was her problem with this question that she doesn’t want to reveal she had them on arrival, or that she received them from others for her signature that day, or something else?

On page 14 Rodriguez says she didn’t “didn’t speak with anyone from out of state.” Yet on page 15 she says she was told to leave her phone in her car on December 14, she says when asked who instructed her, “It would have been a MIGOP staff member.” She volunteers the name Tony Zammit when asked which MIGOP staffer it might have been. This person may have been MIGOP’s Communications Director at the time. (Their identity needs to be solidified because there is a Tony Zammit who ran for a Wisconsin state assembly seat in 2016.)*

Rodriguez then takes the Fifth when asked if Zammit had the documents for the fake electors’ certification.

Okay, then.

There was a consciousness about phones in relation to the day the electors both fake and genuine signed their respective fake and real certification of election. As indicated above, Rodriguez had to leave her phone in the car.

Berden, however, isn’t asked about her phone’s location on December 14. She’s asked instead about a photograph of a mailing address which was found on her phone, produced and submitted to the committee the day before her testimony; Berden takes the Fifth as to why she took the photo.

The context of this question about the photo followed questions about the fake certification mailed to the National Archivist with Berden’s mailing address on it. She’d taken the Fifth about that as well.

Berden’s memory goes fuzzy about a voicemail she received from her sister-in-law who’d called to say, “I have a couple that’s very interested in going to the meeting in Washington, D.C, on January 6th.” She doesn’t recall what that was about but she recalls she didn’t “didn’t answer — re-answer her phone message.” And of course she takes the Fifth as to whether she knew about anything going on in D.C. on January 6.

Berden’s attorney mentions the investigators have the information as to when Berden received that call from her sister-in-law because they’d furnished metadata to the committee “via the electronic vendor.”

It felt like Berden’s attorney was trying to dig his client out of a hole at that point. It was pretty deep after she knew so little, pled the Fifth so much, with the little nits like the voicemail and photo proving she knew far more.

~ ~ ~

In spite of the immaculate handoff and all the stringent avoidance of self incrimination, these two witnesses and likely targets did offer up some details about the conspiracy, while the transcript gives us a peek at a bread crumb trail to find and follow the documents.

Does an [email protected] account explain consistencies and inconsistencies between the states which attempted to field fake electors, and why there are few responsive documents in hard or digital copy?

Does the same [email protected] account suggest communications between conspirators may have been conducted through foldering in a shared account?

Did the MIGOP’s office itself play a larger role — in other words this was not a rogue program run by crackpot party members but the entirety of the state party was involved in some way with only a few lone holdouts?


* Sentence in parentheses added after publication; it had been dropped during editing.

House January 6 Committee: Introductory Material to the Final Report

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This is a working post and thread dedicated to the introductory material of the final report prepared by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Under the terms of its authorization, the House January 6 committee’s 18-month investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol must culminate in a report, specifically:

… issue a final report to the House containing such findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures described in subsection (c) as it may deem necessary. …

The report is not yet complete; after it has been submitted the committee will disband within 30 days.

More content will follow here shortly.

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Please take all unrelated content to one of the most recent threads related to Twitter.

A Counter Perspective: On the House January 6 Committee’s Impending Referrals

[NB: it’s an absolute must to check this byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

We don’t all agree here at emptywheel all the time. Our reactions to the news about the House January 6 Committee’s intent to issue criminal referrals is one of those occasions.

You can read bmaz’s take at this link. If you’ve been reading the site’s comment threads since the first posts here about the January 6 Committee’s work, you already had a pretty good idea what bmaz’s sentiments have been as he’s been quite clear.

In essence bmaz found Tuesday’s news about the Committee’s expected criminal referrals

– attention seeking (“media whores,” “preening,” “infomercial”);
– the referrals an activity which “means absolutely nothing” because the Department of Justice will prosecute on their own.

One point of contention between us has been the nature of the Committee’s work. bmaz has called it political, referring to the committee negatively as a “political body” and the criminal referrals “useless and meaningless political gestures.”

Yes, it is political. That’s how governance happens, through politics.

From Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1 a: the art or science of government
b: the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
c: the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

2: political actions, practices, or policies

3 a: political affairs or business
especially: competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)
b: political life especially as a principal activity or profession
c: political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices

From Cambridge Dictionary:

the activities of the government, members of law-making organizations, or people who try to influence the way a country is governed

From Macmillan Dictionary:

the activities and affairs involved in managing a state or a government

the profession devoted to governing and to political affairs

social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power

the opinion you hold with respect to political questions

the study of government of states and other political units

In the simplest, bluntest terms, politics is how shit gets done by groups who are not all of the same mind at the same time. Governance in a democracy is politics, it is political activity.

Congress is inherently a political body, its activities are political, and the government it legislates to execute laws is a function of politics at work.

~ ~ ~

There is nothing wrong with politics except when it denies the rights of individuals to exist, stripping them of agency and autonomy for the purposes of an exercise in partisan ideology and/or autocratic power, and/or personal venality rather than to achieve the aims of our shared social contract, the Constitution.

It is particularly egregious when the persons aiding and abetting an attack on the Constitution are those who have not only participated in politics for the purposes of serving as an elected representative and then sworn an oath to defend the Constitution and its aims:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What happened on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. was the furthest thing from a more perfect Union. The acts of thousands sought to undermine the domestic tranquility of millions to the personal benefit of one man.

This was not politics but its antithesis, an attempted smash-and-grab intended to deny liberty and justice obtained through political activities, by obstructing government operations in the transition and transfer of a democracy’s leadership.

~ ~ ~

The Constitution to Article I, Section 1 confers upon Congress “All legislative Powers” – this is the legitimization of a political body to effect the nation’s governance.

Congress’s Powers under Article I, Section 8 include:

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

as well as

To make Rules for the Government

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings;-And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

[bold mine]

Without exercising these powers Congress cannot assure its obligations under the Constitution are completed.

In the specific case of January 6, Congress was attacked in its own seat of power, its election-related proceedings obstructed by domestic terrorists engaged in seditious conspiracy. Americans died, both attackers and defenders. Public property was destroyed.

Response by law enforcement and other security forces like its militia — the National Guard — was not satisfactory leading up to and during the January 6 attack. The risk of domestic terror remained high even after that date.

The person who stood to benefit most from the terror and the obstruction wrought was the head of the executive branch, whose function as executive is subject to legislation and oversight by Congress. That same person may have abused his office to further his personal interests.

It is wholly natural to expect the House to investigate the terror attack on Congress’s offices and its proceedings; it’s part of Congress’s job.

The attack aimed to stop the activities essential to the republic. To that end the House established the January 6 Committee and the mission which the committee was to fulfill.

The mission included releasing a final report of findings to the public, with interim reports as necessary, with the ultimate goal specification of corrective measures to remedy failings and improve the security posture of the Capitol and the nation, without regard to the political party helming either house of Congress or the executive branch.

All of that is politics. All of that is political. That is the nature of government in a democracy.

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With regard to the complaint the January 6 Committee acted like “media whores,” this site’s comments certainly didn’t reflect that.

The number of comments published every week about when the public would hear or see something from the Committee in the way of action whether subpoenas or hearings or reports or referrals could be annoying – as annoying and frustrating as the complaints about when the Department of Justice was going to do something, anything.

The number of tweets the Committee has published to date are 627, its press releases which may duplicate tweet content amount to less than 90 over 14 months time — hardly an attention seeking volume.

Marcy wrote a number of posts about the DOJ doing something right under everyone’s noses while pundits complained on television and in social media nothing was being done.

While the DOJ was crunching away on the largest investigation it has every conducted, the J6 Committee did likewise while trying to avoid further obstruction by members of Congress as well as persons who continued to support Trump and his Big Lie.

If anything the American public didn’t hear enough about what the Committee was doing. As of late October, the Committee had issued at least 100 subpoenas; the media reported in any detail only on the most intransigent subjects like former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

If the Committee had been media whoring, we would have had every jot and tittle crammed in our faces daily and weekly about the subpoenas and consequent testimony – but we saw very little, save for nine hearings taking less than 40 hours time.

What we did see was distilled for a contemporary audience flooded with other media, an audience which wouldn’t have the patience to deal with thousands of hours of testimony and evidence.

It’s quite possible the opposite is true, that the Committee didn’t do enough to share its work in progress with media. Had it done more earlier to release testimony and evidence, perhaps the GOP would have had to counter these reports instead of sowing manufactured fear, uncertainty, and doubt about inflation and the economy’s direction during the mid-term elections.

Perhaps control of the House might not have gone to the GOP if the Committee had been more open about the partisan nature of the attack on the Capitol.

You can be certain had the shoe been on the other foot, with the GOP leading an investigation, it would have been another pointless circus like the Benghazi hearings which GOP congresspersons admitted were purely partisan stunts intended to suppress approval of Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election.

The Benghazi hearings were politics without governance, not one passed bill as a result of all the hot air.

That 2015 committee’s work “means absolutely nothing” even seven years later, except as a cautionary tale about partisan hackery in lieu of governance.

~ ~ ~

Again, not all the team here at emptywheel will agree about the J6 Committee’s work, particularly the anticipated criminal referrals.

Marcy mentioned in comments,

… If it’s a referral on 1512 grounds for Trump, I’m not all that interested. If it’s a means to refer the witness tampering for specific witnesses that would not have been replicated before DOJ, by all means refer.

By “1512” she means Title 18 U.S. Code 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant – I’m not certain which subsection(s) she means.

The Committee will likely refer whatever it found, though, without regard to the DOJ’s progress so far. (The Committee should not know much about the DOJ’s investigative efforts.)

If there is to be corrective action recommended and corresponding legislation drafted, submitted, debated, and passed, there must be a documented need for the change.

We should expect to see some duplication between J6 Committee and DOJ for this reason: they have different objectives.

Because of the Constitution’s Article I, Section 6 Rights and Disabilities, the Committee has more power and latitude to question and demand accountability of its own members within its own chambers, should its investigation have uncovered evidence of criminal behavior by congresspersons who supported Trump’s Big Lie efforts.

Further, the J6 Committee has an obligation to history and not just its legislative duties. It needs to document what crimes it found had been committed against it, the political body which acts as the representative of the people in its creation of laws to create a more perfect Union.

It’s not enough to report a crime has been committed against the people’s representatives. The people must demand with criminal referrals that the highest law enforcement body investigate and prosecute who attacked our democratic republic, even if DOJ has already begun this effort.

As Ben Franklin said in 1787 in response when asked what form of government the Constitution Convention had established: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The J6 Committee’s “political gestures” are some of the means to do so.

House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Day 9 [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

This post and comment thread are dedicated to the House January 6 Committee hearing scheduled to begin Thursday, October 13, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Please take all comments unrelated to the hearings to a different thread; all comments unrelated to a recent post should go to the last open thread.

The hearings will stream on:

House J6 Committee’s website:

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page:

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page:

C-SPAN’s YouTube page:

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: (see upper right corner)

PBS Newshour stream:

Twitter is expected to carry multiple live streams (NBC, PBS, Washington Post, Reuters, CSPAN, Bloomberg):

Broadcast and cable network coverage TBD, check your local broadcast affiliate or cable provider’s lineup.

Twitter accounts live tweeting the hearing:

Marcy’s Twitter thread:

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos:

Scott MacFarlane-CBS:

Laura Rozen:

If you know of any other credible source tweeting the coverage, please share a link in comments.

There are no pre-identified witnesses scheduled to testify in person for today’s hearing.

There may be some witnesses whose testimony may be presented only as video clips.

All of the committee members are expected to make a presentation today during the course of the hearing.

Today’s hearing is expected to focus on Donald Trump’s frame of mind and his interaction with persons key to the January 6 insurrection.

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Any updates will appear at the bottom of this post; please bear with any content burps as this page may be edited as the hearing progresses.

Again, this post is dedicated to the House January 6 Committee  and topics addressed in testimony and evidence produced during the hearing.

All other discussion should be in threads under the appropriate post with open discussion under the most recent Trash Talk.

To new readers and commenters: welcome to emptywheel. New commenters, please use a unique name containing at least 8 letters minimum to differentiate yourself; use the same username each time you comment.

Comment policy

Community guidelines

If you are leaving a comment, please be concise; 100 words is the optimum length.

If you are sharing active links your comment may be delayed by auto-moderation.

If contributors and moderators seem slow, it’s because they’re dealing with higher than usual volume of comments including trolling.

Caution: moderators will have much lower tolerance for trolling.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 7:00 PM ET —

By now most of our community members know that the House January 6 Committee wrapped its public hearing today with a vote on a resolution to request a subpoena to Donald Trump for testimony and documents to be presented before the committee.

Committee co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney has asked for a recorded vote to put everyone on record.

You will note from exchanges in the comment thread below there’s a divide between those who believe this subpoena is necessary and those who don’t (and say so in unconstrained terms).

Three past presidents have been subpoenaed before — Jefferson, Nixon, and Clinton — but all three were still serving in office at the time, and all three were served subpoenas under very different circumstances.

Trump managed to avoid being subpoenaed during his term in office. The outcome of a subpoena by the Special Counsel’s investigation, for example, may have been more like Nixon’s in which Nixon was forced to turn over tapes to Congress after a unanimous Supreme Court decision, but the possibility Trump might have been subpoenaed by a grand jury was ultimately put to rest by a confluence of circumstances including the replacement of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Bill Barr and the rejiggering of the Supreme Court.

Barr’s gross misrepresentation to the public of the Special Counsel report served to suppress public interest in pursuing any further investigation into Russian election interference to ensure Trump’s 2016 election and obstruction of justice by Trump. The rushed nomination by Trump and approval by a GOP majority Senate of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court made it far less likely that another unanimous Supreme Court would decide against Trump in favor of either the Special Counsel and Justice Department or any Congressional committee so long as Trump was in office.

However Trump is no longer in office. He can no longer argue that he must be protected from investigations by either the House January 6 Committee or the Department of Justice by virtue of his former office. While it’s important that Trump is afforded the opportunity to make his own case and offer his own testimony and documentation to defend his action/inaction while president, it is his current standing which should encourage a subpoena.

Trump is now a private citizen, and no private citizen is above the law.

No, not even a candidate for office is above the law. The US has prosecuted enough of those.

Execute the subpoena. Trump will likely engage in contempt of Congress. Make a criminal referral to the DOJ just as it has for other private citizens like Steve Bannon and Pete Navarro. Then allow DOJ to prosecute Trump for contempt of Congress, just like other private citizens who have likewise refused to respect the law.

If you’d like to read more about the history of subpoenas served on seated presidents, see Congressional Research Service’s Compelling Presidential Compliance with a Judicial Subpoena from May 2018, published back when Trump was fretting about being subpoenaed by the Special Counsel’s investigation.

House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Pending

PSYCH! Got you!

Seriously though, I had this post scheduled for last Wednesday September 28, then rescheduled it to this Wednesday thinking perhaps we’d have a hearing one week later.

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

And then I forgot the automated post scheduled for today. Oops, sorry about that.

That’s not to say we don’t have January 6 related material to discuss. Use this thread to do so.

What’s your guess as to what the House J6 Committee will tackle in the next hearing, which may be next Thursday October 13?

Will it be the final hearing, or will there be more before the end of this congressional term?

Do you think the next hearing will include material Justice Clarence Thomas’ spouse Ginni Thomas shared last week with the committee?

And what the hell is up with her weird response to journalists after her testimony? She acts like she’s still programmed.

Treat this as an open thread.