Cup of Joe – August 13, 2022

Reports are flowing in Friday that former President Donald Trump is reportedly under investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act after he removed a number of classified and presidential records from the White House and stored them at his Mar-a-Lago resort.  If proven, it would officially mean that Donald Trump is a traitor to the United States. The penalty is 10 years in jail for each violation (i.e. each classified document is a violation) and disqualification from office forever.

The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, NBC, Fox, Politico, and others said the warrant showed agents cited three criminal statutes in order to conduct the search: 18 U.S.C. § § 793, 2071, and 1519.


The warrant was first leaked simultaneously to the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Breitbart, CNN reports. So we can assume Trump leaked it to the right wing media. Breitbart published the names of the FBI agents who conducted the search, which potentially opens them up to threats and harassment.

18 U.S.C. 793 is the Espionage Act. Specifically, it references the willful or grossly negligent removal of information related to the national defense. 18 U.S.C. 2071 is related to the concealment, removal, or mutilation of documents, and 18 U.S.C. 1519 is related to the destruction, alteration, or falsification of documents that are part of a federal investigation.

If accurate, this would make Trump the first former president, or president period, under investigation for espionage by the United States Justice Department.

Donald Trump is now arguing that he used his authority to declassify the material seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago before he left office.

But the New York Times reports none of the three criminal laws cited in the search warrant “turn on whether information was deemed to be unclassified.”

“FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home Monday removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took around 20 boxes of items, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump’s ally Roger Stone, a list of items removed from the property shows.”

“Also included in the list was information about the ‘President of France.’”

“The list includes references to one set of documents marked as ‘Various classified/TS/SCI documents,’ an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents.”

“Former President Donald Trump Friday denied a report from the Washington Post that said FBI agents were looking for classified documents related to nuclear weapons, among other items, when they searched his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this week,” NBC News reports. Said Trump: “Nuclear weapons is a hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax.”

“Details of documents sought by the FBI, such as whether the nuclear weapons in question were tied to the United States or another country, were not immediately clear. Nor was it known if the agency found the documents it was seeking.”

Trump suggests without any evidence that any nuclear documents were planted by the FBI during their search of Mar-a-Lago earlier this week. Which is an admission that nuclear documents were found at his private home, which is a crime of Rosenberg-level Treason.

Playbook: “Trump and his family watched the FBI search from New York via feeds from the security cameras at Mar-a-Lago.” So if they saw someone planting evidence, they would have a tape of it. Release the tapes, Trump!

New York Times: “If former President Donald Trump reverses what he said late Thursday about encouraging the release of the search warrant executed at his Mar-a-Lago residence, and decides to object, the document and the redacted inventory of items taken from his home are unlikely to come out on Friday.”

“If Mr. Trump maintains no objection to the Justice Department’s move to make the documents public, Judge Bruce Reinhart, the federal magistrate judge who approved the warrant, could issue an order unsealing them. Judge Reinhart has given the Justice Department a 3 p.m. Eastern deadline to report back with Mr. Trump’s position.”

“And there is an important wild card: Mr. Trump has been free all along to release the documents without any redactions. But so far he has been choosing not to do so, despite the fact that he called for their disclosure.”

My guess is that it will be like his tax returns. He says he wants to release them, but his lawyers won’t let him.

Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Trump was given a copy of the warrant and a list of items that were taken during the search and his aides had previously declined requests to release them.”

Associated Press: “It’s unclear at this point how much information would be included in the documents, if made public, or if they would encompass an FBI affidavit that would presumably lay out a detailed factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant as well as a property receipt listing the items that were seized, along with two unspecified attachments.”

Washington Post: “The warrant would probably reveal a general description of what material agents were seeking at Mar-a-Lago and what crimes they could be connected to. A list of the inventory that agents took from the property would also be released. Details could be limited, however, particularly if the material collected includes classified documents.”

Donald Trump attempts to deflect in a new statement: “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” First, Obama first submitted all his documents to the National Archives for security review and vetting. That vetting and review was completed, and then the unclassified documents were released to a storage facility in Chicago. Obama compiled with the law. Trump did not. Second, this is an admission by Trump that he had classified and top secret nuclear documents.

Philip Rotner: “Although many crucial details have yet to become public, based on what we already know it seems highly likely that the FBI found incriminating evidence—not just regular presidential records that belonged in the National Archives under the terms of the Presidential Records Act, but also classified documents—when it executed the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. This seems a safe bet not just because of the Post’s report about what the FBI was looking for, but because of how Trump and his defenders reacted to the search.”

“If Trump didn’t know that the FBI had caught him with documents he shouldn’t have, he wouldn’t be asserting the O.J. Defense.”

David Brooks: “America absolutely needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, America absolutely needs to make sure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the former makes the latter more likely? I have no clue how to get out of this potential conflict between our legal and political realities.”

“We’re living in a crisis of legitimacy, during which distrust of established power is so virulent that actions by elite actors tend to backfire, no matter how well founded they are.”

“My impression is that the F.B.I. had legitimate reasons to do what it did. My guess is it will find some damning documents that will do nothing to weaken Trump’s support. I’m also convinced that, at least for now, it has unintentionally improved Trump’s re-election chances. It has unintentionally made life harder for Trump’s potential primary challengers and motivated his base.”

“It feels as though we’re walking toward some sort of storm and there’s no honorable way to alter our course.”

Edward Luce: Trump versus the rule of law in 2024.

Washington Post: “Republicans around Trump initially thought the raid could help him politically, but they are now bracing for revelations that could be damaging.”

Even Ari Fleischer is puzzled: “One thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back?”

“Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.”

“Republicans who days ago united in preemptive defense of Donald Trump are struggling to stay on the same page following new questions about documents that the former president was holding at his Florida residence,” Politico reports.

“The FBI’s daylong search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this week, personally approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland, sparked near-universal GOP outrage and allegations of a politicized Justice Department. In the wake of reports that the search was tied to concerns Trump may have improperly taken highly classified White House documents related to nuclear weapons and so-called special access operations, however, Republicans are politically diverging.”

“Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, suggested Friday that it was possible that former president Donald Trump had in his possession documents related to nuclear weapons that were technically classified but not ‘truly classified,’” the Washington Post reports.

Said Turner: “I can tell you that there are a number of things that are classified that fall under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, but that are not necessarily things that are truly classified. Many of them you can find on your own phone as we stand here.”

“It doesn’t seem like that’s something he would be doing.”— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), quoted by the Washington Post, dismissing reports that Donald Trump had classified nuclear-related documents.

“I would be shocked if they were nonconsequential classified records. There’s a reason why those boxes were taken.” — John W. Carlin, who led the National Archives for a decade during the Clinton and Bush administrations, telling the Daily Beast that the Justice Department was right to become “much more aggressive” with Donald Trump.

New York Times: “The White House approach is part of a concerted effort to make sure the law enforcement operation is not seen as partisan.”

“The House was poised on Friday to pass major components of President Biden’s domestic agenda, capping Democrats’ effort to push into law a climate, tax and health care package that appeared dead just weeks ago,” the New York Times reports.

“Lawmakers are set to return from their scheduled summer recess for one day to vote on the legislation, which faces unanimous Republican opposition. Mr. Biden is expected to sign the measure soon after. The Senate approved it on Sunday.”

Punchbowl News: “We’ve gotten every indication that this package will pass. House Democratic leaders are convinced they’ll be able to limit their ‘no’ votes to four or fewer. Sending this bill to Biden’s desk will cap off a very successful two-month run for the president and Democratic congressional leaders.”

“Investigators are looking into whether the man who tried to breach the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati on Thursday had ties to extremist groups, including one that participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol,” the New York Times reports.

“The suspect, identified by the officials as Ricky Shiffer, 42, seems to have appeared in a video posted on Facebook on Jan. 5, 2021, showing him attending a pro-Trump rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington the night before the Capitol was stormed.”

“The armed man who attempted to breach the Cincinnati FBI building in Sycamore Township Thursday was shot and killed by police after a chase and a prolonged standoff, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Jamie Dupree: “I checked the Twitter accounts of all GOP lawmakers from Ohio in Congress, as well as the Governor, Lt. Gov., and state Attorney General. No comments at all about the Cincinnati incident. No thank you notes for law enforcement. It was like nothing happened.”

“In the minutes after an armed man in body armor tried to breach an FBI field office in Cincinnati, an account with the suspect’s name, Ricky Shiffer, posted to former president Donald Trump’s social network, Truth Social: ‘If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the FBI, the New York Times reports.

“The Shiffer account appeared to be one of Truth Social’s most prolific posters, writing 374 messages there in the past eight days — mostly to echo Trump’s lies about election fraud and, in the hours after FBI agents searched Trump’s Florida home, calling for all-out war.”

The House Jan. 6 Committee has recently had an interview with Elaine Chao, Trump’s former Transportation secretary and the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), according to CNN, yet more testimony from an ex-Trump Cabinet official.

It is also in talks with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as well as former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, CNN reports.

It comes after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the panel on Tuesday. The 25th Amendment was a topic of focus during Pompeo’s meeting.

The panel’s been digging into alleged discussions the then-Cabinet members had about invoking the 25th Amendment to oust Trump after the Capitol attack.

The committee has already spoken to six other former Cabinet members who were still part of the Trump administration on Jan. 6: 

  • Ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Ex-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
  • Ex-acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf
  • Ex-Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia
  • Ex-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller 
  • Ex-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen

“The Department of Justice has requested the personal cell phone numbers of more than 2,000 U.S. Secret Service employees as part of their investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot,” Fox News reports.

“The DOJ’s request is not limited to those who were in the vicinity of the protests, as it includes employees who were neither at the Ellipse where then-President Donald Trump held a rally nor on the street.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is leading an effort by some Republican lawmakers to scale back an investigation into the Secret Service’s missing January 6 texts, the Washington Post reports.

Chinese officials are making plans for Xi Jinping to visit Southeast Asia and meet face-to-face with President Biden in November, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

It would mark the Chinese leader’s first international trip in nearly three years.

“Four days before U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese leader Xi Jinping got on the phone with President Biden and delivered a message: Now isn’t the time for a full-blown crisis,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Xi—who views bringing Taiwan under Beijing’s control as central to his vision of Chinese national revival—was frustrated that months of diplomatic efforts had failed to stop Mrs. Pelosi’s planned trip.”

Amid rumors about her deteriorating health, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) hasn’t been seen in a week and her office refuses to say where she is, reports. columnist Kyle Whitmire reported yesterday that sources had told him last week that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who had struggled with lung cancer three years ago, was ill. But when Whitmire reached out to Ivey’s office last Thursday–and then for an entire week–to confirm whether or not the governor was sick, he didn’t get any response.

Whitmire reported that Ivey’s spokesperson only got back to him yesterday after his column on the governor’s disappearance went up earlier in the day. Before then, he and a colleague repeatedly tried to get in contact with Ivey’s office to no avail.

After a week of radio silence, Ivey’s spokesperson put out a statement saying the governor was “doing great” and staying “healthy and cancer-free.”

Whitmire noted that this isn’t the first time Ivey’s office has clammed up over her health status: Three years ago, her reps had initially claimed she was fine, then admitted weeks later that she had been diagnosed with cancer, according to the columnist.  

The Bulwark: “The trial on damages ended last week, with a jury finding Jones should pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to two parents, followed by a separate award of punitive damages (called “exemplary” damages in Texas) in the amount of $45.2 million.”

“Maybe this sounds low to you, based on what a pile of human garbage Jones is. But the truth is actually worse. Jones will never pay that $45.2 million. Because of tort reform caps, those punitive damages are going get pared back to a meager $750,000.”

“To understand how that will play out, you need to understand the laws that govern these sorts of proceedings in Texas.”

Susan Glasser: “American politics remains trapped in the story of Trump, Trump, Trump. Biden, of course, is not irrelevant. Much of his bad polling can be attributed to the sour mood of Democrats and independents who have been cheering for him to do more. Maybe now they will rally around their leader. Maybe some of his recent accomplishments will matter when voters go to the polls in November.”

“But, with the Republican Party still in thrall to its defeated former President, the achievements of Biden, no matter how considerable, are subordinate to the country’s larger crisis: the collapse of the Republican Party into a cult of personality. This has been reinforced, to the extent it needed reinforcing, by the week’s dramatic Trump happenings.”

The CDC relaxed its Covid-19 guidelines, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person, the AP reports. The agency also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

The changes are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected.

“A Virginia police officer who prosecutors say lied about his actions before, during and after the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, including his military service and his marriage, was sentenced Thursday to 87 months in prison,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Judge Christopher Cooper: “You were not some bystander who just got swept up in the crowd. It really seems as though you think of partisan politics as war and that you continue to believe these conspiracy theories.”

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton told MSNBC that Donald Trump pulled his Secret Service detail “within hours” of resigning.  When asked if that was normal, Bolton replied: “No, it’s not normal. Well, it’s normal for Donald Trump.”

The Economist: “In 2020, even though the number of passengers flying in America fell by 60% compared with 2019, the number of guns found decreased by only 27%. This might suggest that quieter airports enabled agents to catch a higher share—so in normal times, a worrying number of guns may be making it onto planes. In 2021 the number of guns caught at airport checks hit a record just shy of 6,000, more than twice as many as in 2015.”

“Salt Lake County Council member Dave Alvord (R) says fetuses are not part of a mother’s body because the umbilical cord and placenta do not connect directly to the woman,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Said Alvord, in a tweet response to Vice President Kamala Harris: “The baby is not part of the body of a woman. The umbilical cord and placenta do not directly connect to the woman. The baby floats inside the woman. It is not about the woman’s body, it’s to kill then remove the baby’s body.”

“Are they going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s… ready to shoot some small business person in Iowa?” — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speculating on what the IRS will do with their increase in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Wall Street Journal: “European Union diplomats trying to break a deadlock in talks over an Iran nuclear accord have proposed a significant new concession to Tehran aimed at speedily ending a U.N. investigation into the Islamic Republic’s past atomic activities.”

“A Manhattan state court judge on Friday declined to throw out the criminal case against Donald Trump’s family business and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, clearing the way for a trial in the case scheduled for the fall,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision marked the latest legal blow to Donald Trump in a week full of them.”

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

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