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Cup of Joe – August 16, 2022

Wall Street Journal: “Investigators are now pursuing the next steps of the department’s criminal investigation into the handling of national security material and presidential records, a process that may take many months to play out, and will be shaped by several factors.”

“They include what specifically investigators find in the seized documents; why they ended up at Mar-a-Lago; who accessed them at the Florida resort; and the actions of Mr. Trump and his lawyers as the two sides negotiated for months in the spring for the return of the records.”

“While the investigation moves ahead inside the Justice Department, the political ramifications of the unprecedented search of a former president’s home last Monday are likely to reverberate in the public debate in Washington and beyond.”

Department of Justice filing this morning indicates that the “other” search warrant signed by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on August 5 is not related to the search of Mar-a-Lago.

New York Times: “Shortly before Mr. Garland made the announcement, a person close to Mr. Trump reached out to a Justice Department official to pass along a message from the former president to the attorney general. Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Garland to know that he had been checking in with people around the country and found them to be enraged by the search.”

The message Trump wanted conveyed, according to a person familiar with the exchange, was: “People are so angry at what is taking place. Whatever we can do to help — because the temperature has to be brought down in the country.”

He added: “If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”

Washington Post: “Immediately after the search, Trump seemed to believe the FBI had played into his hands. Instead of exhibiting any concern, two people who spoke to him Monday evening both reported that Trump was ‘upbeat,’ convinced the Justice Department had overreached and would cause Republicans to rally to his cause and help him regain the presidency in 2024.”

Said one friend: “He feels it’s a political coup for him.”

“By Friday, however, the unsealed court records showed agents had seized 11 sets of classified documents, among other things. Republicans’ howls of protest became somewhat more muted, and people around Trump said his buoyant mood at times turned dark.”

Former President Trump called on the FBI to return the documents seized from his estate in Mar-a-Lago, claiming some of them to be privileged, attorney-client material, The Hill reports.  There is no indication that agents seized any non-governmental documents.

Daniel Dale: “Responding to FBI search, Trump and allies return to his familiar strategy: flood the zone with nonsense.”

Donald Trump claimed his passports were “stolen” in the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago last week — which would mean he could not leave the country. However, passports were not listed on the property receipt left by the FBI after their search.

Former national security adviser John Bolton told the New York Times that Donald Trump is “almost certainly” lying about why he had classified material at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Bolton said there was no “standing order” to declassify materials that Trump took: “I was never briefed on any such order, procedure, policy when I came in. If he were to say something like that, you would have to memorialize that, so that people would know it existed.”

Said Bolton: “When somebody begins to concoct lies like this, it shows a real level of desperation.”

New York Times: “Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that former President Barack Obama also mishandled documents (an allegation quickly dismissed as false by the National Archives); that the judge who signed the warrant authorizing the search must have been biased; that the F.B.I. might have planted evidence; that the documents were covered by attorney-client or executive privilege; and that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents.”

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Oversight and Reform Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sent a request to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Saturday pushing for an “immediate review and damage assessment” after it was discovered that Trump was keeping classified records at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Schiff on Sunday bluntly rejected Trump’s “absurd” claim to have retroactively declassified the documents (which definitely isn’t a thing).

“One of the main reasons the Democrats were put in power is because the American people wanted accountability and justice. We don’t have it yet. If Donald Trump is not punished for his crimes, then this country is done for.”

— Former GOP strategist Cheri Jacobus, in an interview with Salon.

Timothy O’Brien: “Reason One seems relatively harmless. Trump is a seven-year-old grown old, and he liked some of the cool doodads you get your hands on as president… Among the disputed documents at Mar-a-Lago was a meteorological map of Hurricane Dorian that he had infamously marked up with a black Sharpie. Who knows why that map was so important to him? Who cares?”

“The second and third reasons aren’t harmless at all. They’re deeply damaging and troubling.”

“So, Reason Two: Money. Unfettered greed has motivated Trump his entire life… Recall that Trump’s businesses have been in difficult straits. When Trump left the White House, his operations were saddled with about $1 billion in debt, $900 million of which comes due relatively soon. He personally guaranteed repayment of about $421 million of that debt.”

“Reason Three: Reputational damage… it’s not unreasonable to worry that his communications with foreign leaders — and anything disreputable or possibly illegal that took place in connection with those — could have been something he felt compelled to hide.”

New York Times: “Mr. Trump and his allies have cast the search as a partisan assault while amplifying conflicting arguments about the handling of sensitive documents and failing to answer a question at the center of the federal investigation: Why was he keeping documents, some still marked classified, at an unsecured Florida resort when officials had sought for a year to retrieve them?”

“The often contradictory and unsupported defenses perpetuated by Mr. Trump and his team since the F.B.I. search follow a familiar playbook of the former president’s. He has used it over decades but most visibly when he was faced with the investigation into whether his campaign in 2016 conspired with Russians and during his first impeachment trial.”

“In both instances, he claimed victimization and mixed some facts with a blizzard of misleading statements or falsehoods. His lawyers denied that he had tied his administration’s withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine to Mr. Trump’s desire for investigations into Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suddenly wants to repeal the Espionage Act.

Wall Street Journal: “At 12:50 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2021, his last day in office, he issued a list of 143 pardons and commutations, generating more presidential records required to be turned over to the National Archives. The result was a rushed and chaotic exit from the White House that is now at the center of a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents and other presidential material after leaving office.”

Said a former aide: “If you only start packing with two days left to go, you’re just running low on time. … And if he’s the one just throwing things in boxes, who knows what could happen?”

A “senior source” close to Donald Trump told The Guardian the former president “has to” announce a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 in the next two weeks if he wants to head off being indicted under the Espionage Act after the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago last week.

The source indicated Trump needed to announce because politically it would be harder for the US Department of Justice to indict a candidate for office than a former president out of the electoral running.

“Lawyers for Rudy Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald Trump and his advisers,” the New York Times reports.

“Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative panels in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupted voting machines.”

“A federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack has subpoenaed Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann for documents and testimony,” Politico reports.

“A federal judge in Georgia denied Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bid to avoid testifying before a Atlanta-area grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election, rejecting the Trump ally’s claim that he was shielded from such scrutiny by legislative privilege,” USA Today reports.

“The South Carolina Republican had asserted that he was engaging in legitimate inquiries as a lawmaker under the Constitution’s speech and debate clause when he contacted Georgia officials following the 2020 election.”

Associated Press: “Prosecutors have indicated they want to ask Graham about phone calls they say he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks following the election.”

“The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued an unclassified joint intelligence bulletin warning of a spike in threats to federal law enforcement officials since the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago club in Florida,” NBC News reports.

“In the days since the warrant was executed, the FBI and DHS have seen an increase in ‘violent threats’ against law enforcement, judiciary and government personnel, including a particular threat to ‘place a so-called D irty Bomb in front of FBI headquarters.’”

Politico: “To the surprise of few, the Taliban has been unable to stabilize Afghanistan’s economy and the nature of the Taliban’s draconian rule has scared off both foreign aid and potential investors. Taliban leaders remain under sanctions and, while they have experience commanding an insurgency, know little about financial markets or the trappings of managing a modern economy. Afghanistan’s nearly 40 million people are at risk of falling below the poverty line.”

Axios: Afghanistan withdrawal began Biden’s political slide.

“The Biden administration has decided it won’t release any of the roughly $7 billion in foreign assets held by Afghanistan’s central bank on U.S. soil and has suspended talks with the Taliban over the funds after the killing of al Qaeda’s leader in Kabul,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The decision reverses early indications of progress in talks between the U.S. and the Taliban and deals a blow to hopes of an economic recovery in Afghanistan as millions face starvation a year into the group’s rule.”

“Kansas’ elections director says the state will go along with a request for a hand recount of votes from every county after last week’s decisive statewide vote affirming abortion rights, even though there was a 165,000-vote difference and a recount won’t change the result,” the AP reports.

The woman who requested the recount will have to cover its entire cost.

“A team of computer experts directed by lawyers allied with President Donald Trump copied sensitive data from election systems in Georgia as part of a secretive, multistate effort to access voting equipment that was broader, more organized and more successful than previously reported,” the Washington Post reports.

“As they worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat, the lawyers asked a forensic data firm to access county election systems in at least three battleground states… The firm charged an upfront retainer fee for each job, which in one case was $26,000.”

Washington Post: “In states across the country, including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia, attempts to inappropriately access voting machines have spurred investigations. They have also sparked concern among election authorities that, while voting systems are broadly secure, breaches by those looking for evidence of fraud could themselves compromise the integrity of the process and undermine confidence in the vote.”

“In Michigan, the efforts to access the machines jumped into public view this month when the state attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.”

“Hosts on Russia’s state-owned Russia-1 television channel said that officials in Moscow have already been ‘studying’ top secret and other classified documents the FBI sought through a search warrant of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home,” Newsweek reports.

“Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner have filed an appeal of her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported Monday, amid talks between the U.S. and Russia that could lead to a high-profile prisoner swap,” the Washington Post reports.

“The possibility of a rogue juror has been discovered in the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnap retrial, but the judge is handling the issue privately in his chambers and the defense is crying foul, according to a now-sealed court filing by the defense,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

The filing states that a juror in the case told co-workers that the person was hoping to be selected for the jury in the Whitmer kidnapping case, and “had already decided the case and intended to ensure a particular result at the conclusion of the trial.”

Responding to the horrific stabbing of novelist Salman Rushdie, the Iranian government on Monday denied accusations of being behind the attack, and blamed it on Rushdie himself and his supporters.

Rushdie has been taken off the ventilator and is now able to speak, the author’s agent said on Sunday.

The suspected assailant, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault on Saturday.

“China announced more military drills around Taiwan as the self-governing island’s president met with members of a new U.S. congressional delegation on Monday, threatening to renew tensions between Beijing and Washington just days after a similar visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi angered China,” the AP reports.

Financial Times: China ratchets up pressure on Taiwan.

“Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles,” the AP reports.

“A Nevada man jailed on riot charges asked his mother to contact publishers for a book he was writing about ‘the Capitol incident.’ A rioter from Washington state helped his father hawk clothes and other merchandise bearing slogans such as ‘Our House’ and images of the Capitol building. A Virginia man released a rap album with riot-themed songs and a cover photograph of him sitting on a police vehicle outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”

New York Times: “Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent jump in readership for its abortion-related stories.”

“And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its abortion rights coverage increased nearly threefold in June compared with the previous month.”

John Harwood on the sudden success of the Biden Presidency: “It has not happened because of a strategy shift or staff shakeup, though at low points allies wanted him to take those ritual steps. It’s been a combination of good luck, skill and persistence by a president and Democratic Party determined to act unilaterally where Republicans wouldn’t and strike compromises where Republicans would.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said his relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “is going to require some repair,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

“Regulators in the United Kingdom on Monday approved a COVID-19 booster for adults that targets both the original virus and the Omicron variant,” Axios reports.

“I believe that white men are the most persecuted identity in America.” — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), on a podcast.

A new study reveals the emergence of an “extreme heat belt” from Texas to Illinois, where the heat index could reach 125°F at least one day a year by 2053, Axios reports.

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

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