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…

HALDEMAN:  Yeah…

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.

BY [REDACTED]

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.

BY [REDACTED]

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 RNC.com 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.

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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: https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/c/January6thCmte

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page: https://www.c-span.org/video/?523473-1/ninth-hearing-capitol-attack

C-SPAN’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4DLxPesIRk

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: https://www.pbs.org/ (see upper right corner)

PBS Newshour stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mhhCNqsrcI

Twitter is expected to carry multiple live streams (NBC, PBS, Washington Post, Reuters, CSPAN, Bloomberg): https://twitter.com/i/events/1580554323045457920

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: https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1580606914505080834

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos: https://twitter.com/Brandi_Buchman/status/1580496105858793474

Scott MacFarlane-CBS: https://twitter.com/MacFarlaneNews/status/1580592602776498177

Laura Rozen: https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/1580604915868524544

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.

~ ~ ~

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.

Three Questions at the Start of an Intelligence Review

Why? Why? Why not?

There’s been a lot of focus on the narrow legal battles over the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, but sometimes stepping back to look at the big picture helps bring the conflict into focus. As a legal matter and a political matter, Trump, his lawyers, and his apologists are trying to make the claim that this is just a dispute about documents, like overdue library books. The passion with which the DOJ went after them since receiving the referral from NARA last February, especially the ferocity of the legal arguments and filings over the last two weeks, demonstrates how wrong the DOJ believes that framing to be.

I agree with the DOJ.

The documents are not really what is being fought over — the battle is over the damage  (hypothetical or actual) done to our intelligence services, our national defense, and our broader foreign policy by Trump’s possession of these documents at Mar-a-Lago. The documents are the first puzzle pieces the intelligence community [IC] has to put together, to fill in the whole picture and plan a way forward.

To understand why, let’s parse out what an intelligence review might look like. What follows is not based on any insider sources at the DOJ, ODNI, or any other federal agencies, but on my own experience (long ago) with classified materials and the general experiences of others I know with deeper and more recent work in classified matters, as well as analyzing other cases where classified materials were stolen from the government and passed along to foreign governments.

An intelligence review is designed to look at three things: what got exposed, to whom, and what dangers does that pose to intelligence sources, methods, and broader foreign policy objectives? These are all backwards-looking questions, to understand how this could have happened in the first place. They also serve as the starting point for forward-looking actions, as we and our allies pivot our overt and covert foreign policy approaches in a new context. Think of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who passed US and British nuclear secrets to the USSR in the 1940s. A backwards looking intelligence review ultimately identified him as the spy and spotted the flaws in our security procedures, and a forward looking review pivoted the US and British policy toward a world with nuclear powers who opposed each other.

In the current case, the IC review begins with three interrelated questions:

  1. Why did Trump take government documents to Mar-a-Lago in the first place?
  2. Why these documents?
  3. Why not those other documents?

The second and third questions begin to move toward an answer to the first question, so let’s start there. Broadly speaking, I see five possible answers, each of which poses different dangers.

1: Vanity

If this is the answer to that first question, we would expect to find that Trump took documents that made him look good, that pointed to actions that he believed he could claim credit for, or that simply let him feel powerful because he knows stuff very few others know. Think of these as Extreme Presidential Souvenirs. These would be documents that shout to the world, “Look at how great Trump is . . .”

Danger: Simply having documents like this in his possession would likely not be enough for Trump’s ego. Trump’s ego would demand that he show them to others, so that they would know how great Trump is. The level and kind of danger depends on who the “others” are, and who they might have spoken to about what Trump showed them.

2: Fear

In this scenario, the IC review would see that Trump took documents that would help cover up his failures and/or possible crimes, such as a full transcript of the “Perfect Phone Call” with Zelenskyy. These would be documents that whisper in Trump’s ear, “This could get you into trouble. You better hide this . . .”

Danger: These are the documents least likely to be shared by Trump, so in that respect they are safe. On the other hand, they become prime material for blackmail if unfriendly parties realize he has them. Trump’s nightmare is getting a phone call about these documents, threatening to expose the documents to the “wrong” people. “I’d like you to do me a favor, though . . .”

3: Greed

Given Trump’s proclivity to monetize anything he can for his own personal gain, it is hard to imagine that Trump would not be looking at anything that crossed his desk to see how he might make money on it. (“Hmmm . . . I’m doing some traveling? OK, which of my properties are closest, and how much can I charge the Secret Service for staying there?”) Documents that showed him something that would let him make money would be particularly tempting to Trump. Think of this as corporate espionage, or a twisted form of insider trading. Perhaps he received knowledge of foreign government’s as yet unannounced plans to develop certain properties overseas, and figured he could jump in, buy the property first, and then get bought out for a profit. Or maybe he would buy the property next to the future development and cash in when the government project became public and went forward, driving up the value of what he purchased. Perhaps these were not projects led by foreign governments, but by US corporations acting abroad whose plans were picked up as part of a signals intelligence surveillance program aimed at less-than-friendly nations. Documents like this would be calling out to his wallet, telling him “Hey, you can really use this . . .”

Danger: Suppose Trump acts on this information in some way, and the foreign government in question starts wondering “Did Trump merely get lucky in choosing to invest right where our project was going in, or did US spies give him the information?” Questions like that might lead to the exposure of human assets (sources) and signals intelligence capabilities (methods), which in turn could lead to those sources being shut down/arrested/killed, those signals intelligence methods being countered, or either the sources or methods being turned and used to feed false information to the US.

4: Corruption

As bad as #3 is, this scenario is the IC nightmare: Trump took documents that he knows other foreign governments, perhaps some of our greatest enemies, would love to have, and then deliberately passed them along to those governments. It might be to get revenge on Biden and the Dems for beating him in 2020. It might be to sabotage the work of the current administration and cause great public political problems for the Dems, to enable his return to the White House in 2024. It might be that some foreign adversary has compromising information about Trump or holds a private loan to Trump, his family, or his Trump Organization, and that country demanded classified information from Trump in exchange for not revealing the compromising information they hold or for not calling in the loan he could not immediately repay.

Danger: Beyond the damage done to sources, methods, and US foreign policy objectives created by disclosing the classified information in these documents, this scenario is worse. It weakens our relationships with our allies and harms our position in the world, simply by indicating we can’t keep secrets and by making us weaker through whatever is revealed. Should Trump have provided classified intelligence deliberately, it only gives those folks more leverage over Trump, which they would use to push for more information and more favors. Once you’ve turned over classified information to a hostile power, those folks own you forever. “Nice resort you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that foreign governments might lean on Trump to use his family to further their goals. “You need to have Jared talk to his friends in the Middle East, and convince them to . . . “

5: Some/all of the above

Trump might have taken some documents to feed his ego, others to hide them, and still others to try to monetize their contents. He might have taken some for his own reasons, and others because he was pressured to do so by hostile powers. The permutations are . . . troubling.

Danger: some/all of the above.

HOW BAD IS ALL THIS? DON’T ANSWER YET . . .

On top of these five possible explanations of Trump’s motives, one other thing is absolutely certain. Documents like those that were seized by the DOJ would have been catnip for the intelligence agencies of other nations. Once word got out that Trump had taken highly classified documents out of the WH (or once folks even suspected he had done so), all manner of foreign spies no doubt became very interested in Mar-a-Lago – much more than they had been during the Trump administration itself. It’s hard as hell to get into the WH and take classified materials, or to plant electronic surveillance devices inside the WH. Mar-a-Lago, on the other hand, is a relative sieve, especially after Trump left office and the security around Trump was much more directed to protecting his person rather than protecting all the stuff around a sitting president. At Mar-a-Lago these days, you pay your membership fee, and walk right in for a grand tour. Whatever the reason Trump chose to take these documents, even if he simply wanted to hold onto them as presidential souvenirs and he does nothing with them otherwise, should foreign agents copy them or steal them from Mar-a-Lago, that’s almost as bad it as it gets for the US.

Danger: Exposing whatever classified information to the prying eyes of our adversaries not only exposes sources and methods of our intelligence services, but provides our adversaries with insight into our strengths and weaknesses, depending on what the intelligence said. It also opens Trump to blackmail, as noted above in scenarios #2 and 4. “Well look what we found at your home. It sure would be terrible if the FBI were to discover that you were so sloppy with security that we were able to waltz right in and take them.”

To sort out the likelihood of each of these scenarios and the specific dangers posed, those conducting the IC review will do a couple of things. First, the leaders of the intelligence agencies are likely going back to the original creators of these documents, to tell them they were found in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago, and therefore (a) the creators need to assess what the specific danger would be if this particular document were to be exposed, and (b) the creators should look around to see if they have any signs that these documents had been shared already. The former is to measure the hypothetical damage, while the latter is to assess the likelihood that this is not hypothetical. Did spies suddenly go quiet, or did the quality of their information suddenly become different? Did satellites that used to provide good, regular photos of intelligence targets begin to provide much less good intelligence? All the while, the IC reviewers know that this is likely even worse.

EVEN WORSE? HOW CAN THIS BE EVEN WORSE?

If any of this information came to the US IC through our partnerships with other friendly nations (like Five Eyes or NATO), that means going to the intelligence folks in those countries who trusted us with their secrets and telling them that their trust was misplaced, at least while Trump was in office. They are the folks who need to assess the danger that exposure of this information would create, and who would have to see if there were signs that this information had already been shared. Of course we would promise to do whatever we could to assist them in that analysis, but that’s like telling a shopkeeper that you will help sweep up the shards of all the broken crystal after your kid threw a bowling ball into the display case.

Danger: It’s bad enough if our secrets get exposed, but if we let their secrets get exposed, that’s going to make them less likely to trust us in the future. As I said before, this is why having career diplomat William Burns as head of the CIA was a stroke of genius by Biden, and why Burns and the rest of the IC is no doubt bending over backwards to help Garland get this right, and bending farther over backwards to help our allies get this fixed.

SO HOW MIGHT THIS REVIEW WORK?

This is why the analysis of what was taken and trying to determine Trump’s motive(s) is the starting place. It leads to other critical questions like these:

  • What does Trump’s selection of documents — classified and unclassified — tell us about what is going on?
  • Were the documents tucked away by Trump over a long period of time, or did they all get tucked away in a specific, relatively short time period?
  • And what else was tucked in the drawers, file folders, and boxes next to these classified documents? Are there notes or letters that appear to have been written based on the content of the classified materials?

Depending on what this initial analysis reveals, the reviewers will begin to talk to the counterintelligence people in their agencies, especially if there is some concentration of subject matters or particular time frames involved.

  • Have you noticed any unusual behavior in known foreign agents around those time frames?
  • Was there any unusual signals traffic between foreign agents here and their bosses back home?
  • Were there any new agents who arrived here, who have a particular focus to their work that meshes with the subject matters of the documents Trump took? What actions have they taken?

To dig into all this, the analysts will be looking at other information and also be in contact with the folks in the field who are managing the human sources or electronic surveillance methods, to see what insights they might have. They know that decisions will need to be made about protecting or extracting sources who might be in danger, shutting down electronic surveillance already in place (pull out/relocate bugs and cameras if possible, re-direct satellite orbits, change communications frequencies, reprogramming software, etc.), and otherwise working to replace these sources and methods in some way to avoid further exposure. They hope to restore secrecy to the people and programs, and restore quality to the intelligence that might have been harmed through exposure.

While all this covert review work is going on, the FBI will no doubt be doing an ordinary shoe-leather investigation into the folks who have been going in and out of Mar-a-Lago over the last 18 months after the security of the resort was scaled back to simply protect the former president. They will be looking at guests and staff alike, trying to see what can be learned from videos, logs of visits, work schedules, and in some cases interviews. They will be looking at the White House document handling, especially after December 18, 2020 when the head of the White House Office of the Staff Secretary resigned and no one was named to take his place — even in an acting capacity — until January 20, 2021. They will be doing deeper domestic investigations of any new foreign agents that were identifies by the IC analysts.

And then there’s the investigation that NARA is probably already trying to complete: what other documents from the Trump White House were not turned over?

This is all very time consuming and expensive. You don’t want to do this if it isn’t necessary, but you absolutely have to do it if these sources and methods are likely to have been (or actually were) blown. Only when the Why?, Why?, and Why not? questions have been answered can the forward looking work really begin in earnest.

There’s a lot more that can be inferred about what an intelligence review would contain, but one thing is certain. The panel of judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Special Master Raymond Dearie are focused on what Judge Cannon does not want to recognize: this is not a case about misfiled documents, but a national security case in which documents hold the key to assessing the dangers posed and actual damage done to our nation, so that the current government can begin to address it.

What Family Rifts at Funerals can Teach Us About Pardoning Presidents

Exhibit A of Step Two Behavior

Watching the coverage of the death of Elizabeth II, two questions seem to be on a constant loop. The first is political: “How will Charles change the monarchy?” The second is personal: “Will the funeral heal the rift between Harry and William/Charles/the rest of the family?” The discussions that follow, between television anchors, reporters, and “royal watchers” have provided me with great amusement. “Oh look: Charles said something nice about Harry and Meghan in his first broadcast after the Queen’s death! Perhaps all is well again!!” The wishfulness of the discussion — “Surely the funeral of their beloved mother/grandmother will bring the family together, and they can heal from the past unpleasantness” — says much more about the hopes that these media folks have and much less about the reality of how a family torn apart acts as a family funeral approaches.

As a pastor for more than three decades, I’ve never done a royal funeral, but I’ve done plenty of regular funerals, including those of matriarchs who had presided over a divided family. Most of the time, what I’ve seen is that either (a) the family members manage to sit on their frustrations with one another for a week or so as the funeral goes forward, and then they return to their earlier fighting, or (b) the funeral intensifies the fighting, as they argue about the decisions made around the funeral itself. Occasionally, the funeral does help to begin a healing process, as folks who have not seen “those monsters” in years are now in the same room for the first time again, and they realize that these other folks aren’t the monsters they have seen them to be in the past. It doesn’t happen five minutes after the burial, but with a willingness to work on both sides, healing is possible. But it sure isn’t the magic “If only Harry and William can sit next to each other at the funeral, everything will be fixed!” that so many commentators are looking for.

Which brings me to the other crazy question I’ve seen popping up more and more often between anchors, reporters, and political pundits. This is the question posed by Chuck Todd that NBC chose to highlight as they tease the Meet The Press interview with VP Kamala Harris that airs in full tomorrow:

Let me try to go to 60,000 feet. What do you say to the argument that it would be too divisive to the country to prosecute a former president?

Earth to Chuck Todd, and anyone else who asks this question: the country *is* deeply divided already.

Giving Trump a pass to “avoid division” is like that scenario (a) at the family funeral, except you are betting that everyone can sit on their frustrations not for a week but forever. Turning the question around — “Would it be too divisive to the country to give a former president a pass for illegal behavior?” — ought to make it clear how silly both questions are.

Step One in dealing with divisions — either at a family funeral or in national politics — is admitting your family/nation is already divided.

As an interim pastor, I work with congregations whose previous pastor has left. Maybe that pastor retired, died, took a new call elsewhere, or was run out of town on a rail. One of the things I often have to help the congregation deal with is conflict, either between the old pastor and the members, or between the members themselves. Whenever I hear “Yes, we had divisions, but now that the old pastor is gone, everything is just fine now” I have to figure out how get them to pull their heads out of the sand. “What’s going to happen when you disagree with your next pastor?” I ask them, knowing that for the immediate future, I am that next pastor. “What do you have to say to the folks around here who loved that old pastor and blame you for running that pastor off?”

Within the House of Windsor, simply coming up with the right seating chart at the funeral for Elizabeth will not wash away the pain that led the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to withdraw from royal duties and decamp to the US. Similarly, pardoning Trump, either by choosing not to prosecute or by an act of President Biden, will not heal the nation either.

What *will* help both the House of Windsor and the United States is to admit that divisions already exist.

Step Two in dealing with divisions, then, is to explore that divided reality. What, specifically, does that painful divided reality look like? What are the presenting issues, that anyone can see at the surface? What are the underlying issues, that lie deeper down, at the heart of the trouble? What are the triggers, that bring all that buried pain out into the open again? How is everyone being hurt by these divisions?

Looking at all that is not easy. It requires a willingness to dig into a painful past, to admit to past bad behavior (your own as well as that of others), and to accept just how bad things have gotten for everyone involved. Until you do that, all you are doing is papering over division and pretending things aren’t that bad.

In the US, the arguments about race and the causes of the Civil War are a perfect illustration of this. So long as a non-trivial part of the country denies that the Civil War was about slavery (“it was the war of Northern Aggression, fought over state’s rights”), our country will never be able to fully deal with how race continues to divide our country today. If you don’t think racism divides our country today, please go back to step one and try again.

Only when the divided congregation or family or nation has done the hard work of examining its own ugly past are they ready to move to Step Three.

Step Three is to look at what you’d like the future to be. What would a healthy House of Windsor look like? How would members treat one another, in ways that are different than what caused the fractures in the past? What would a healthy United States of America look like? How would those with different political views treat one another, in ways that are different from what caused the fractures in the past?

Step Four, then, is to figure out how to get to that future. That’s a conversation about rules, roles, and responsibilities, with unstated assumptions put out in the open and mixed expectations clarified. It’s about crafting behavior that rebuild trust, dignity, and belonging for everyone involved.

The big lesson in all of this is that THERE IS NO SHORTCUT.

You can’t just jump to step four, without doing all the work of the other three steps. You can try, but you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La la la – I can’t hear you.” You don’t need to take my word for this. Just look at the House of Windsor.

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were leaving their royal roles behind, that was Step One behavior. “Our family is painfully divided.” No more smiling masks, no more pretending all is well, and no more trying to ignore the pain.

When they sat down for their interview with Oprah, that was Step Two behavior. “Here’s what happened, at least from our point of view.”

Ever since then, the royal family had various private conversations to sort things out further, including such things as whether Harry and Meghan would be part of the Platinum Jubilee celebration last summer. (The answers at that time were that they were included in small family gatherings, but not the big public ones.) Now they are having similar conversations around the Queen’s funeral and the coming coronation ceremony that will follow in a few months. This is all Step Three and Step Four behavior.

To the extent that things are getting better for the House of Windsor, it’s because they’ve been working hard at Steps One through Three, not that they simply came together magically at a funeral and jumped to Step Four.

The US political press and political actors could learn a lot from the House of Windsor. Those who worry about prosecuting a past president need to recognize that this doesn’t cause division, but is a step along the way to healing – part of the hard work of Step Two that explores the divided reality in all its painful, ugly depth. The work of the January 6 Committee in the House of Representatives is Step Two behavior, and so is the work of the DOJ to investigate possible criminal behavior of the former president and his minions.

Until we as a nation are willing to honestly look at our ugly reality, we will never heal.

 

That Bratt-I-Am, That Bratt-I-Am, I Do Not Like That Bratt-I-Am

Red Docs, Blue Docs . . .

In the far-away land of Mar-A-Lago
sits a once-vaunted leader, now brought very low.
His voice, once ubiquitous, lordly, and loud
has become but a whimper, no longer so proud.
The cameras have vanished, the crowds have all shrunk,
as he scrambles for donors, this fallen-down punk.

And then come his lawyers, with news of a guest,
A visit un-looked for, unwelcome, unblessed.

“That Bratt-I-Am, that Bratt-I-Am,
I do not like that Bratt-I-Am.”

“You must return those stolen docs.
You must return them, yes, every box.”

“I do not have a box of docs,
and they are mine, you lying fox.”

But then they came and then they found
docs aplenty, all around . . .

One doc, two docs
red docs, blue docs
Docs TOPSECRET/SCI
Docs with pictures from on high
Docs with covers, docs with stamps,
Docs in files marked “terror camps”
Docs from spies and docs from techs
Docs ’bout planes on navy decks
Docs on armies, docs on friends
Docs on missiles, docs on end!

“I do not like you, Bratt-I-Am!
I do not like your little scam.
You only fight ’cause I am so strong!
You only fight ’cause Biden is wrong!
Besides, I don’t have the docs that you seek
or, if I do, they’re mine, free to keep!”

A pause, then that voice so quietly speaks
pricking his bubble; his vanity leaks.

“There’s only one president, you see,
and you are not it, quite obviously.
You’ve filed lots of lawsuits and lost every one
and Biden, not you, is the one who has won.

“The law is quite clear: these docs are ours.
You have no magic pixie dust powers.
You cannot claim them, nor take them home;
they belong to us, not you alone.
You must return those stolen docs.
You must return them, yes, every box.

“These classified docs are not like cheap porn
They’re CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET, ORCON, and NOFORN.
They’re stuff you can’t look at outside of a SCIF.
There are but a few even granted a sniff.
They should be under watch, behind guarded doors,
not left in a closet or stashed into drawers.
They must be sent back, each one of these docs
They must be returned, yes, every last box.

“We’ll come to you, or you to us.
You can return them on a bus.
You can return them on a train.
You can return them on a plane.
You can return them at your house.
You can return them with a mouse.
You must return those stolen docs.
You must return them, yes, every box.”

“But I *want* them, because they are mine!
and you cannot have them – don’t cross that line!”

“Have you read this warrant, here?
Do you not see? Is it not clear?
The judge agrees – you have no choice.
You must comply, so please, no more noise.
You must return those stolen docs
You must return them, yes, every box.”

“That Bratt-I-Am, that Bratt-I-Am,
I do not like that Bratt-I-Am!”

“Boxes of documents, boxes of pics,
Boxes of letters – be sure there’re no tricks!
We’ll carefully pack them and give you a list
(It *will* be redacted, but we’ll give you the gist)
We’ll guard them as well as the law says we must.
We’ll guard them much better than you have, we trust.

“For crimes have been crimed, as we have deducted:
espionage, theft, and justice obstructed.
The proof, we believe, will emerge box by box
from rooms where you’ve kept them without any locks.
The charges will follow, and names will be named
and soon the guilty in court will be blamed.

“Justice is coming,” says Bratt-I-Am,
and that once-vaunted leader can only say . . .
“Damn.”

Other Possible Classified Materials in Trump’s Safe

[NB: As always, check the byline. Thanks. /~Rayne]

I’ve been sitting on this since last November. I had pieces I couldn’t quite pull together. But now that the FBI has executed a warrant on Trump at Mar-a-Lago to seize stolen presidential records and classified materials, those disparate pieces may be coming together.

While this is nowhere near as exciting as missing nuclear documents, is it possible there were other crimes in progress at the time Trump left office — ones which might have happened under our noses and may have posed national security threats then and now?

Please also note this post is partially speculative as well.

~ ~ ~

In late 2020, something happened in Morocco which might offer hints at whatever crimes might have been cooked up elsewhere.

There was little mainstream news coverage in the U.S.; we were too preoccupied with election-related coverage to pay much attention.

In exchange for recognizing Morocco’s illegitimate occupancy of Western Sahara – violating West Saharan Sahrawi people’s human rights to self determination – the Trump administration sold nearly a billion dollars in weapons to Morocco.

The deal was characterized as part of a process of restoring Morocco’s relationship with Israel. Morocco’s land grab was first recognized on Thursday, December 10, 2020 in a tweet by Trump. The arms deal was reported on Friday, December 11.

In other words, the arms deal portion of the negotiations was buried in the news dump zone, while much of the U.S. was watching Team Trump’s election theatrics.

The arms deal could have been another quid pro quo. As late as it happened in Trump’s term, as hushed and hurried as it was, with as little support as it had among Republicans, something about the deal still reeks to high heaven.

The United Nations didn’t see eye to eye with the Trump administration about this new disposition of West Sahara; it had been blindsided by what it saw as an abrupt reversal of US policy.

The UN continued to recognize West Saharan Sahrawi people’s human rights to autonomy though West Sahara remains a non-self governing territory.

What a coincidence, though, that Morocco issued a one billion euro bond in September 2020 before the US election. It had been toying with issuing a two billion euro bond at least as early as the first week of August, thought this may have been an expansion of a two-bond program announced in March 2019 with a one billion euro bond sold out in November 2019.

It’s also a coincidence that Morocco finished building a new base in summer of 2020, with plans to build or expand another for a large number of F-16 fighters and Apache helicopters it agreed to buy from the US in 2019.

Finally, it could be a hat trick that Morocco hosted Ukrainian national guard members for training early this year at that brand new base, before Russia’s attack on Ukraine began in late February. Was this part of the earlier negotiations?

Timeline:

March 25, 2019 — Morocco agreed to purchase 25 F-16s from US

November 2019 — Sale of 24 Apache helicopters to Morocco approved

April 2020 — Sale of 10 Harpoon air-to-sea missiles to Morocco approved

June 1, 2020 — Construction of a military base completed in Morocco

August 9, 2020 — Morocco considered 2 billion euro bond

September XX, 2020 — Morocco issued 1 billion euro bond

November 3, 2020 — US Election Day

November 9, 2020 — Trump fired SecDef Mark Esper over Twitter, replacing him with Acting SecDef Christopher Miller; Moroccan news noted this change.

December 10, 2020 — Trump reversed US policy over Western Sahara when Trump tweeted recognition of Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara

December 11, 2020 — Arms deal announced

~ ~ ~

Back in 2020, journalist Zack Kopplin of the Government Accountability Project had gotten a tip:


It’s a long thread written over several days which includes links to reporting Kopplin did.

At the heart of this story, though, is a war crime.

Remember when Trump said “We’re keeping the oil” from Syria in October 2019? That.

Trump openly expressed a desire to commit a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the 1907 Hague Laws and Customs of War on Land, and 18 U.S. Code 2441 War crimes, for starters. There may be more applicable laws which could have been broken.

Trump also knew the value of the oil in question — $45 million a month.

Kopplin was tipped to the basics about the company which was supposed to begin development in the northeast region of Syria, but the ultimate owner of this entity and development process wasn’t clear.

Following Kopplin’s reporting, some names pop up as connected by role (like then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), or rumored as connected by other relationships (like Erik Prince who funded a business tangentially related to Delta Crescent).

There’s also the frustrating interrelation between Syria, Russia, Iraq, the Kurdistan region, Turkey, Iran, and the UN’s humanitarian aid for displaced Syrians. The aid became leverage in negotiations which have been fairly opaque in US news.

The status of the oil, too, isn’t particularly clear, with Delta Crescent’s development running into policy changes with Biden’s administration, terminating its sanctions waiver.

Add to the picture the fluid challenge of trying to keep Turkey on board with US during increasing Black Sea tensions, as well as Iran in JCPOA negotiations, thwarting Russia in more than Syria, while trying to assure both humanitarian aid along with global grain shipments.

It’s a damned complex mess through which oil may or may not be smuggled through Iraq by a Kurdish political family, sanctioned or not sanctioned depending on how the Biden administration is trying to leverage the situation for humanitarian aid access, improved relations in the Levant, or decreased oil prices.

What’s really unclear is whether there were any kickbacks offered in 2019-2020 for “keeping the oil” and if any, who received or receives them.

~ ~ ~

Since his testimony before the House Oversight Committee in May 2021, I’ve not been persuaded former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller is on the up and up, along with his former chief of staff Kash Patel — one of two guys Trump is known to have named his representatives to the National Archives.

The timing of Miller’s placement as Acting SecDef in tandem with the election may seem like an obvious effort to pre-plan for January 6, but Trump is a crook. We need to look at the situation through a crook’s eyes.

What if January 6 wasn’t just about an attempt to obstruct the certification of the vote, but an effort to buy time to deal with illicit profiteering like oil obtained through a war crime?

American troops were supposed to guard the area in which Delta Crescent would develop the oil Trump was intent on keeping. Wouldn’t the Secretary of Defense need to go along with this long enough for a supply chain to be established from the oil wells to distribution?

Is this why Miller, a former Director for Special Operations and Irregular Warfare who worked during the Trump administration in counterterrorism involved in operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, ended up Acting SecDef in the last days of the Trump administration?

What does Christopher Miller know? What of his sidekick Kash Patel — the one who knew the contents of Trump’s classified documents cache?

~ ~ ~

Marcy wrote about some very strong candidates for classified documents Trump might have had at Mar-a-Lago. I think both the circumstances surrounding the rushed Morocco arms deal and the Syrian oil development are two more candidates, especially since both matters may have tentacles reaching into ongoing national security concerns.

But I also have a feeling we’re scratching the surface with the boxes of paper seized this week.

I hadn’t even gotten around to the Kurdish link to Miami, Florida or illegal drug trade.

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