Cup of Joe – August 12, 2022

“Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday,“ the Washington Post reports.

“Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into to the wrong hands.”

NBC News: Trump allies say he declassified Mar-a-Lago documents. Experts say it’s unclear if that will hold up.

The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago was part of an effort to account for documents said to relate to some of the most highly classified U.S. programs, the New York Times reports.

“Investigators had been concerned about material from what the government calls ‘special access programs,’ a designation typically reserved for extremely sensitive operations carried out by the United States abroad.”

“Government officials have expressed concern that allowing highly classified materials to remain at Mr. Trump’s home could leave them vulnerable to efforts by foreign adversaries to acquire them.”

“Anything short of finding the nuclear codes at Mar-a-Lago is going to hugely backfire on the Biden administration.” — GOP operative Alice Stewart, on CNN just two days ago.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will move to unseal the warrant used by the FBI to search Donald Trump’s home and office at Mar-a-Lago.

He said he personally approved the search warrant and “the department does not take such a decision lightly.”

Garland also defended the FBI from criticism from Trump supporters, saying he won’t stand by silently amid the “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”

Since Trump can oppose the release of the warrant, Garland is essentially calling his bluff.

“The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago this week came months after federal investigators served an earlier grand jury subpoena and took away sensitive national security documents from former President Donald Trump’s property during a June meeting,” CNN reports.

“Investigators executed Monday’s search in part because they had developed evidence, including from at least one witness, that there were potentially classified documents still remaining at the Palm Beach, Florida, property months after the National Archives arranged for the retrieval of 15 boxes of documents that included classified information in January of this year.”

“Authorities also believed the documents remaining at Mar-a-Lago had national security implications.”

New York Times: Subpoena preceded search warrant to retrieve material from Trump.

That suggests the material withheld was intentionally withheld.

Donald Trump posted this to his social network just after Attorney General Merrick Garland asked a judge to unseal the search warrant:

“I continue to ask, what happened to the 33 Million pages of documents taken to Chicago by President Obama? The Fake News Media refuses to talk about that. They want it CANCELED!”

This is of course, a lie. All of Obama’s records were sent to and then vetted by the National Archives and then sent to a storage facility in Chicago for use at his Presidential Library. Obama followed the law. Trump did not.

Federal judge orders DOJ to confer with Trump lawyers and report to him by 3 PM tomorrow about how to proceed on releasing the warrant and related documents.

New York Times: “Some senior Republicans have been warned by allies of Mr. Trump not to continue to be aggressive in criticizing the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the matter because it is possible that more damaging information about Mr. Trump related to the search will eventually become public.”

An explanation for why Fox & Friends changed their tune this morning.

The Wall Street Journal confirms earlier reports that an informant told the FBI about classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

“Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property.”

Playbook: “And not only was Trump lying about retaining additional classified materials, according to the informant, this Trump insider knew precisely where they were.”

A federal law enforcement source told Fox News that probable cause for the search warrant for Donald Trump’s home “very likely” came from a Secret Service member.

A Florida man paid $1,800 to fly a banner reading “ha ha ha ha ha ha” over Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after an FBI raid of the property.

“Far-right extremists on pro-Donald Trump message boards and social networks are making violent, antisemitic threats against the judge who reportedly signed the warrant that allowed the FBI to search the former president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida,” Vice News reports. “Multiple members of these toxic online communities are even posting what appears to be Judge Bruce Reinhart’s home address, phone numbers, and names of his family members alongside threats of extreme violence.”

Fox News and other right-wing media have been smearing Reinhart as an anti-Trump hack and, uh, lover of Golden Oreos.

Cincinnati Enquirer: “The Clinton County Emergency Management Agency said law enforcement engaged in a firefight with a male in a gray shirt and body armor who fled from an area FBI field office. In a tweet, the FBI said an armed subject attempted to breach the visitor screening facility at the bureau’s field office in Cincinnati.”

The suspect who attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati has been killed by law enforcement, according to two officials familiar with the matter. His name is Ricky Walter Shiffer. He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. This was a Trump Terrorist Attack.

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart is facing a political firestorm — including death threats — after signing the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, the Palm Beach Post reports.

“Those who worked with Reinhart during the decade he worked as a federal prosecutor in West Palm Beach said they are stunned by the misinformation and the malice being heaped on a magistrate who was simply doing his job.”

The ex-president is anxious that there’s a “rat” in his inner circle feeding intel on him to the feds and that people, including Republicans visiting his clubs, are wearing a wire around him, according to Rolling Stone. Trump has been privately expressing his fears since May, even before the Mar-a-Lago raid on Monday, per Rolling Stone. Trump’s also reportedly worried that his phones are tapped “by Biden,” in his own words.

But the former president apparently isn’t wrong to be freaking out about a potential mole: Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal report that the FBI was tipped off about the classified documents Trump had stashed at Mar-a-Lago, leading to the raid.

Key analysis: “Citizen Trump may have broken a law that President Trump made a felony” – The Washington Post

“A wave of concern and even paranoia is gripping parts of Trump world as federal investigators tighten their grip on the former president and his inner circle,” Politico reports.

“In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.”

Said former Trump aide Monica Crowley: “There are no coincidences when it comes to the Deep State. They could have done this raid a couple of days before or tomorrow, but they chose Aug. 8 for a reason.”

Donald Trump signed a bill into law in January 2018 “that included a provision increasing the punishment for knowingly removing classified materials with the intent to retain them at an ‘unauthorized location,’” the HuffPost reports.

“Previously, someone found guilty of this crime could face up to one year in prison… Now, a person convicted of violating this law can face up to five years in prison ― making it a felony-level offense to mishandle classified documents under 18 U.S.C. 1924.”

Eric Trump told the Daily Mail that the FBI did not leave a warrant or manifest when they searched Mar-a-Lago — seemingly contradicting Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, who told the New York Times that she got a copy of the warrant.

Garrett Graff: “If this was about some run-of-the-mill classified documents accidentally swept up in the president’s hasty exit from the White House, surely the FBI wouldn’t care. Likewise, if these documents weren’t really that sensitive—as it turned out with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 email scandal—it’s hard to imagine the Justice Department going to these lengths.”

“Ironically (again), the Justice Department’s 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her sloppy handling of classified materials as secretary of state raises the bar for any prosecution stemming from Trump’s handling of classified documents. DOJ prosecutors are heavily driven by precedent and similar past cases, which means that in order to pursue this Trump investigation, there would have to be more serious (and criminal) concerns than there were in the investigation of Clinton.”

“Thus, we’re left with the big question the FBI is ultimately trying to investigate right now: Who would have benefited from Trump taking home these particular documents—and why?”

Philip Bump: “The first minutes after Donald Trump announced that his Florida estate had been searched by FBI agents went better than the former president could have imagined. His years-long effort to cast the bureau as inherently biased against him quickly prompted even Trump-skeptical Republicans to side with him against the devious Deep State. The wagon-circling reportedly pleased Trump, whose team saw a new breath of unity with Trump as its focus.”

“That this reaction was based on claims of political bias within the FBI that have no basis in the available evidence was beside the point. The point was that the FBI became the opposition, just as Trump would have hoped.”

“But it turns out that this wasn’t enough. Baseless assertions of impropriety and bias by the FBI have now been kicked up a notch with multiple figures on the right claiming — again without evidence, much less justification — that maybe the feds planted evidence as they combed through Mar-a-Lago. Because, it seems, any opponent of Trump’s must be cast in the most nefarious terms possible.” […]

Philip Klein: “There was a time when having one’s home searched by federal law enforcement would trigger talk about the end of somebody’s political career. But it is a testament to what a bizarre moment in American history we are in that it may very well mark the informal launch of a presidential candidacy.”

Tim Alberta: “If Donald Trump committed crimes on his way out of the White House, he should be subject to the same treatment as any other alleged criminal. The reason for this is simple: Ours is a government of laws, not of men, as John Adams once observed. Nobody, not even a president, is above those laws.”

“So why did I feel nauseous yesterday, watching coverage of the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate?”

“Because this country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary. Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power, typically Democrats weaponizing agencies of the state to target their political opponents. I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.”

New York Times: “Throughout his four years in the White House, Mr. Trump tried to turn the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes. Now as the F.B.I. under Mr. Wray has executed an unprecedented search warrant at the former president’s Florida home, Mr. Trump is accusing the nation’s justice system of being exactly what he tried to turn it into: a political weapon for a president, just not for him.”

“There is, in fact, no evidence that President Biden has had any role in the investigation. Mr. Biden has not publicly demanded that the Justice Department lock up Mr. Trump the way Mr. Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department lock up Mr. Biden and other Democrats. Nor has anyone knowledgeably contradicted the White House statement that it was not even informed about the search at Mar-a-Lago beforehand, much less involved in ordering it. But Mr. Trump has a long history of accusing adversaries of doing what he himself does or would do in the same situation.”

“President Joe Biden arrived in South Carolina on Wednesday to begin what is expected to be at least a seven-day vacation with members of his family outside of Washington,” the AP reports.  “The first couple was planning to be in Kiawah Island, noted for its private beach and golf resort, through Tuesday.”

“President Biden paused last week, during one of the busiest stretches of his presidency, for a nearly two-hour private history lesson from a group of academics who raised alarms about the dire condition of democracy at home and abroad,” the Washington Post reports.

“The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance.”

“Comparisons were made to the years before the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln warned that a ‘house divided against itself cannot stand’ and the lead-up to the 1940 election, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt battled rising domestic sympathy for European fascism and resistance to the United States joining World War II.”

“White House officials plan to meet this week with student debt activists and advocacy groups ahead of President Joe Biden’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31 for deciding whether to approve broad-based debt relief for millions of Americans,” Politico reports.

“The virtual meeting, scheduled for Thursday, is the latest sign that the White House is seriously considering canceling some amount of student loan debt as Biden advisers weigh the election-year political consequences of such a decision.”

David Leonhardt: “Joe Manchin has spent much of the past year as the villain of liberal America, receiving the kind of criticism that’s usually reserved for Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or a conservative Supreme Court justice.”

“Activists aggressively protested against Manchin, some in kayaks outside his houseboat in Washington, others surrounding his car and chanting a vulgarity at him. One Democratic House member called him “anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant,” while others called him untrustworthy. Bernie Sanders accused Manchin of “intentionally sabotaging the president’s agenda” and suggested that Manchin’s wealthy donors were the reason. Other critics called him a shill for the energy industry, noting that he personally owns a coal company.”

“And then Manchin made it possible for the Senate to pass the most aggressive climate bill in American history.”

The ex-president has made it clear that he was going to keep trying to stonewall New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) civil probe into the Trump Organization by invoking the Fifth Amendment in his deposition yesterday.

From about 9:30 a.m. ET to about 3 p.m., Trump’s only response was “same answer” to James’ questions, his lawyer told the New York Times.

“Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 440 times Wednesday in refusing to answer questions at a deposition by lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the Trump Organization’s business practices,” NBC News reports. “Trump answered just one question — his name — and then cited the Fifth on every other question he was asked during the deposition.”

Trump flashback: “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the 5th Amendment??”

“Hours after his deposition Wednesday in Manhattan, former President Donald Trump returned to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., to host a fund-raiser for Representative Jeff Van Drew, a onetime Democrat who joined the Republican Party in 2019 after pledging his ‘undying support’ to Mr. Trump,” the New York Times reports.

Mr. Trump addressed the small group of about 50 supporters for roughly 30 minutes — and then took questions, according to an attendee, Elizabeth Nader.

Said Nader: “Everyone to a person was thanking him for his sacrifices, for all he’s done for our country… He needed that. I think he enjoys being around his supporters.”

Oliver Darcy: “In private this year … Murdoch has gone so far as to tell people that he believes if Trump were to run again, it would be bad for the country, I’m told. But, the sources added, Murdoch has also noted that the Fox News audience continues to support Trump.”

“Scott Perry, who said this week that the FBI had seized his cell phone, has publicly tied the agency’s actions to its search of Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago. There’s no evidence the two are directly connected — and more details suggest they’re part of two separate investigations,” Politico reports.

“The FBI’s handling of the Pennsylvania Republican represents a rare step against a sitting member of Congress. But the seizure follows months of growing evidence of Perry’s deep involvement in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election — just as investigators are taking more overt steps to investigate Trump allies’ efforts to deploy the Justice Department in service of disrupting the transition of power.”

“Federal investigators delivered subpoenas or paid visits to several House and Senate Republican offices in the Pennsylvania Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday,” the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports.

“At least some of the individuals receiving subpoenas were told they were not targets of an investigation… but that they may have information of interest to the FBI. All of the sources had been briefed on the investigative moves in some way, but demanded anonymity in order to discuss them.”

“The information being requested centered around U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and the effort to seek alternate electors as part of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in office after the 2020 election.”

A New York City police officer accused of moonlighting as a bodyguard for Roger Stone during the January 6th insurrection has been terminated, the Gothamist  reports.

Donald Trump is fighting a number of battles all at the same time: the Mar-a-Lago raid, trouble with the Trump Organization, Fulton County, tossed-out NDAs, his tax returns, and the January 6 panel, the Daily Beast reports.

New York Times: “In the nearly two years since former President Donald Trump catapulted false claims of widespread voter fraud from the political fringes to the conservative mainstream, a constellation of his supporters have drifted from one theory to another in a frantic but unsuccessful search for evidence.”

“Many are now focused on ballot drop boxes — where people can deposit their votes into secure and locked containers — under the unfounded belief that mysterious operatives, or so-called ballot mules, are stuffing them with fake ballots or otherwise tampering with them. And they are recruiting observers to monitor countless drop boxes across the country, tapping the millions of Americans who have been swayed by bogus election claims.”

“Wholesale prices fell in July for the first time in two years as a plunge in energy prices slowed the pace of inflation,” CNBC reports.

“The producer price index, which gauges the prices received for final demand products, fell 0.5% from June, the first month-over-month decrease since April 2020, the month after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting an increase of 0.2%.”

New York Times: “As to when Mr. Trump might announce a 2024 campaign, there is some new disagreement among his inner circle about when he should do so. While some on his team were eager for him to fly down to Mar-a-Lago this week and begin his bid in the wake of the F.B.I. search, others view the recent legal developments as reason to hold off.”

“Mr. Trump has considered an early announcement, at least partly in order to scare off any other high-profile Republican challengers.”

“But the F.B.I. search had the effect of uniting the party behind him. Fox News, which hadn’t interviewed Mr. Trump in months, has featured extensive coverage of the search, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and former Vice President Mike Pence — both viewed as potential rivals in 2024 — each offered supportive statements of the president.”

“In January 2020, Glenn Youngkin, now the Republican governor of Virginia, got some welcome news. A complex corporate transaction had gone through at the Carlyle Group, the powerful private equity company that Youngkin led as co-chief executive. Under the deal, approved by the Carlyle board and code-named ‘Project Phoenix,’ he began receiving $8.5 million worth of Carlyle stock, tax-free, according to court documents,” NBC News reports.

“The Project Phoenix payout came on top of $54 million in compensation Youngkin had received from Carlyle during the previous two years, regulatory records show. Youngkin retired from Carlyle on Sept. 30, 2020; he won the governor’s election in November 2021.”

“Now, that transaction is under attack by a Carlyle shareholder in Delaware Chancery Court. The suit, filed last week by the city of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund, says the $344 million deal harmed Carlyle’s stockholders, who received nothing in return when they funded the payday.”

“China has withdrawn a promise not to send troops or administrators to Taiwan if it takes control of the island, an official document showed on Wednesday, signalling a decision by President Xi Jinping to grant less autonomy than previously offered,” Reuters reports.

“Former President Donald Trump has retained Drew Findling as his attorney to represent him in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Fulton County special purpose grand jury examining what happened in Georgia after the 2020 presidential election,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“Findling is a highly regarded criminal defense attorney who has represented numerous notable clients.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “did not show up to his scheduled appearance on Wednesday at the Fulton County courthouse,” WGCL reports.

“Graham was subpoenaed to testify to a special grand jury that’s investigating whether Trump and others broke any laws when they tried to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in 2020.”

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) fights a Georgia grand jury subpoena, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office has indicated in court that it’s looking to dig into whatever coordinated effort the GOP senator may have had with Trump’s 2020 campaign in trying to overturn the election results in Georgia.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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