“The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to conclude that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result,” the New York Times reports.
“In a court filing in a civil case in California, the committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president.”
“They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.”
Trump’s criminal culpability, according to the committee, includes: (i) obstruction of an official proceeding, (ii) conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and (iii) common law fraud.
Why now? Some context: The committee is trying to obtain documents (mainly emails) from John Eastman, the lawyer who advised Trump on the scheme to get Pence to refuse to count electoral votes when Congress convened on Jan. 6.
Eastman filed suit in federal court in California, asserting attorney-client privilege and work-product privilege in refusing to comply with the committee subpoena.
One of the committee’s arguments (it has many) is that if you’re using the attorney-client relationship to commit crimes, the attorney-client privilege evaporates. To support that argument, the committee had to lay out which crimes it alleges were committed. It did so in last night’s filing.
It’s very big news, but there are some caveats:
- There’s no guarantee Congress will ultimately make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.
- There’s no guarantee the Justice Department will present the case to a grand jury.
- There’s no guarantee the grand jury will indict Trump.
Nonetheless, as former acting solicitor general Neil Katyal pointed out last night, the House is accusing a former president — in a federal court filing — of committing felonies. This isn’t loose talk, it is a solemn court document, subject to all sorts of sanctions for misrepresentations, and backed by evidence they have uncovered.
It’s worth noting that no former U.S. president has ever been charged with a crime. As a legal matter, we’re still a long way from seeing Trump on trial in a federal court. Trump is a master at delaying legal proceedings. But as a political matter, this is starting to get interesting.
The Select Committee plans public hearings to begin in April, with an interim report expected by June. The select committee’s final report would come later in the fall, but before the midterm elections.
That guarantees major pushback by Trump and his Republican allies. It will put GOP lawmakers who voted against the formation of the House committee on the defensive.
And no matter which party controls Congress after the midterms, the ball will likely be passed to Attorney General Merrick Garland who will need to decide what to do before the 2024 presidential election — when Trump himself may be a candidate.
“The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is on fire, according to Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby town of Energodar,” CNN reports.
Washington Post: “Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, warned on Twitter that the fallout could be worse than the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl if the flames aren’t extinguished.”
“A government official also told the Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation were already being detected near the site.”
“Ukraine and Russia say they have agreed to temporary local cease-fires to create ‘humanitarian corridors’ so civilians can be evacuated and food and medicine can be delivered,” the Washington Post reports.
“Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine earlier this week,” the AP reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to carry on his war in Ukraine against “neo-Nazis” in a meeting with his Security Council, the Washington Post reports.
As reports indicated Russian military difficulties in advancing and taking over cities, Putin said the invasion was “going according to plan and in full compliance with the timetable. All tasks set during the special operation in Ukraine are being accomplished successfully.”
A 90-minute conversation between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to deliver a diplomatic breakthrough, and a senior French official said it left Macron convinced that “the worst is yet to come” and that Putin aims to take control of all of Ukraine, the Washington Post reports.
New York Times: “The call, which the French presidency said came at the Kremlin’s request, was the third discussion between the two leaders since the start of the war.”
“Russian operations in northern Ukraine appeared to be stalled for a third day as the Kremlin sent more troops into the country, adding that Ukrainian forces may be attacking a convoy of Russian forces attempting to take the major northern cities of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv,” the New York Times reports.
“Seven days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies are coming under increasing pressure to do more to help Ukraine, even as they face diminishing options for doing so,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “As Russia continues its push to capture urban areas, one of the more drastic options discussed publicly has been a no-fly zone, which would stop Russian aircraft from launching strikes over Ukraine, eliminating a key military tactic. But the idea has been dismissed by the U.S. and NATO countries.”
“More than 1 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, in the swiftest refugee exodus this century, the United Nations said Thursday, as Moscow said it was ready for more talks to end fighting even as its forces pressed their assaults on the country’s second-largest city and two strategic seaports,” the AP reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday he believed some foreign leaders were preparing for war against Russia and that Moscow would press on with its military operation in Ukraine until “the end,” Reuters reports.
“The international financial sanctions against Russia are driving the country toward a credit crisis, as restrictions on Moscow’s access to foreign currency stoke concerns about defaults on external debt,” Nikkei Asia reports.
New York Times: “On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry for the first time announced a death toll for Russian servicemen in the conflict. While casualty figures in wartime are notoriously unreliable — and Ukraine has put the total of Russian dead in the thousands — the 498 Moscow acknowledged in the seven days of fighting is the largest in any of its military operations since the war in Chechnya, which marked the beginning of President Vladimir Putin’s tenure in 1999.”
“Russians who long avoided engaging with politics are now realizing that their country is fighting a deadly conflict, even as the Kremlin gets ever more aggressive in trying to shape the narrative. Its slow-motion crackdown on freedoms has become a whirlwind of repression of late, as the last vestiges of a free press faced extinction.”
Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro didn’t show up for his scheduled deposition with the House Jan. 6 committee yesterday, claiming that he is an Executive Privileged Boi who won’t let the committee “bully” him with its subpoena, no sir!
Navarro claimed that Biden’s refusal to grant him executive privilege is “illegitimate” and has “exposed the weak underbelly” of the committee’s investigation.
He’s very confident that “that unconstitutional dog won’t hunt at the Supreme Court,” which has already shot down two of Trump’s attempts to block the committee’s investigation.
Navarro plotted a coup that totally wasn’t a coup with Steve Bannon on Jan. 6.
“A member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group has become the first to admit to engaging in seditious conspiracy to keep President Biden from taking office on Jan. 6, 2021,” the Washington Post reports.
“Joshua James pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington on Wednesday to helping lead a group that prosecutors say sent two tactically equipped teams into the Capitol and organized a cache of weapons in a hotel just outside the city. He also pleaded to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, and he may face the stiffest sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant so far.”
“As part of his plea, James agreed to cooperate with federal investigators, including testifying in front of a grand jury.”
French authorities announced that they seized a 280-foot yacht owned by Russian energy oligarch Igor Sechin, Axios reports.
“The Justice Department announced the creation of a task force to go after billionaire oligarchs who have aided President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, part of an effort by the United States to seize and freeze the assets of those who have violated sanctions,” the New York Times reports.
“The task force will marshal the resources of various federal agencies to enforce the sweeping economic measures that the United States has imposed as Russia continues its unprovoked assault on Ukraine.”
“President Joe Biden is poised to impose sanctions on a number of Russian oligarchs and their families on Thursday, as the U.S. and its allies seek to exert further pressure on the wealthy businessmen around President Vladimir Putin in response to the invasion of Ukraine,” Bloomberg reports.
“The sanctions will be in keeping with measures the European Union imposed on Feb. 28… But the U.S. restrictions will be broader, prohibiting the tycoons’ travel to the U.S. and also targeting their families to prevent them from transferring assets to spouses or children, a tactic that’s been used in the past to evade sanctions.”
“A growing number of superyachts belonging to Russian tycoons have made their way to the Indian Ocean, cruising around the Maldives and Seychelles just as sanctions are imposed on their homeland following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Anonymous ‘hactivist’ collective has messed with the call sign of a superyacht said to be owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Insider reports. “The group claimed credit for the hack, which involved changing the call sign of the vessel — named Graceful — to FCKPTN and altering the craft’s destination to ‘hell.’”
Alex Pareene: “Western Europe and the United States are currently waging economic war on Russia. Russia, for its part, is currently waging regular war on Ukraine, which is reliably a faster way to kill the most people, but the scope of the economic warfare against Russia is noteworthy. The U.S. and E.U. (and other allied nations) are not merely trying to punish Russia with sanctions; they are actively blowing up its economy…”
“The logic of economic sanctions is that they allow you to punish a country without going to war with it, which is largely why they have become ‘Washington’s go-to foreign policy tool.’ But there is one pipeline-sized loophole in this campaign to destroy the Russian economy. Europe—and especially Germany, Western Europe’s Main Character—is utterly dependent on Russia for fossil fuels, and the sanctions regime is intentionally designed to protect that market.”
Max Boot: “I’m not a praying man, but if I were, I would be on my hands and knees thanking the Almighty that during the worst crisis in Europe since 1945, the United States is led by Joe Biden, not Donald Trump.”
“Biden has been as masterful in his handling of the Ukraine war as he was ham-handed in his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal. For months he has been warning that Russia would invade and predicting that this would trigger a ‘swift and severe’ response. He even laid out details of Russian plans to stage false flag operations and to install a puppet regime in Kyiv.”
New York Times: “Now Eastern European countries fear a catastrophe of their own could be in the making, as Mr. Putin seeks to turn back the clock and reclaim Russia’s lost sphere of influence, perilously close to their frontiers. Even leaders in the region who have long supported Mr. Putin are sounding the alarm.”
“Warnings about Moscow’s intentions, often dismissed until last Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine as ‘Russophobia’ by those without experience of living in proximity to Russia, are now widely accepted as prescient.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made his frustration with face masks known when he scolded a group of students who were wearing them, WFLA reports. Said DeSantis: “You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this Covid theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”
“Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he would propose a quarter-percentage point rate increase in the central bank’s meeting in two weeks amid high inflation, strong economic demand and a tight labor market,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“U.S. private employers hired more workers than expected in February and data for the prior month was revised sharply higher to show strong job gains instead of losses, aligning with other reports that have painted an upbeat picture of the labor market,” Reuters reports.
“Initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 215,000, the lowest total since the beginning of the year and less than Wall Street estimates,” CNBC reports.
“Three dozen Republican senators told the White House on Wednesday that they may be unwilling to approve new coronavirus aid until they first learn how much money the U.S. government has already spent,” the Washington Post reports. “The early warning arrived in a letter led by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), just days after the Biden administration asked Congress to approve $30 billion to boost public health as part of a still-forming deal to fund the government and stave off a shutdown at the end of next week.”
“A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing,” the New York Times reports. “The report indicates that senior Chinese officials had some level of knowledge about Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week.”
“The ‘most advanced piece of malware’ that China-linked hackers have ever been known to use was revealed today. Dubbed Daxin, the stealthy back door was used in espionage operations against governments around the world for a decade before it was caught,” MIT Technology Review reports.
“But the newly discovered malware is no one-off. It’s yet another sign that a decade-long quest to become a cyber superpower is paying off for China.”
“Mexican smuggling gangs have sawed through new segments of border wall 3,272 times over the past three years,” the Washington Post reports. “The government spent $2.6 million to repair the breaches during the 2019 to 2021 fiscal years… While the agency has acknowledged that smugglers are able to hack through the new barriers built by the Trump administration, the maintenance records show damage has been more widespread than previously known, pointing to the structure’s limitations as an impediment to illegal crossings.”
“Smuggling gangs typically cut the barrier with inexpensive power tools widely available at retail hardware stores, including angle grinders and demolition saws.”
The GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate censured state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R), one of the lawmakers who went to the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) this past weekend, on Tuesday for making threats against fellow Republicans online and calling for her enemies to be hanged. The censure didn’t say anything about the fact that she went to a white nationalist rally, or her many ties to white nationalism in general, or her racist and anti-Semitic posts online. The original draft of the resolution, which Rogers posted on social media, condemned her for “inciting general racial and religious discrimination.” That part got taken out.
Rogers didn’t bother defending her comments on Tuesday during the censure vote, according to the Arizona Mirror.
Emmanuel Macron is set to confirm this week that he will be a candidate in next month’s French presidential election, with polls and political commentators suggesting that the war in Ukraine has boosted his status as favorite to win and secure another five-year term,” the Financial Times reports. “With some rival candidates facing scrutiny over their previous sympathy for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, Macron is benefiting from his prominence in western efforts to deter Russia and resolve the conflict.”
“The Pentagon has postponed a scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile test, in an effort to reduce the chances that it would be ‘misconstrued’ by Moscow just days after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin raised the alert level for his nuclear forces,” the Financial Times reports,