Cup of Joe – August 19, 2022

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the government to redact and ultimately release a version of the highly sensitive warrant affidavit that was used to justify a search by the FBI last week of former President Donald Trump’s private home and club, the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “The entire affidavit is unlikely to be unsealed, with lawyers for the media organizations seeking its release saying they understood that some material, including witness identities, should remain secret.”

“In June of this year, seven weeks before the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in search of classified materials, former Defense Department appointee and outspoken Trump loyalist Kash Patel vowed to retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and publish them on his website,” ABC News reports.

“Trump had just issued a letter instructing the National Archives to grant Patel and conservative journalist John Solomon access to nonpublic administration records.”

Just Security: “If that scheme involved Trump himself and the Mar-a-Lago documents, it could have significant legal implications for the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation. Any plan to release the documents could potentially trigger specific elements of the Espionage Act and other criminal statutes designed with the core purpose of preventing unlawful dissemination of classified and other sensitive government documents.”

It’s worth expanding on an earlier ABC News report that former President Donald Trump’s associate Kash Patel sought to retrieve classified documents and publish them.

The Washington Post reports that Trump went so far as to write a letter instructing the National Archives to grant Patel, along with conservative journalist John Solomon, access to his administration’s nonpublic records.

Solomon told Politico that the intent was that he write a history of the Russia investigation. Patel told Breitbart that Trump had actually declassified the information in advance — though it’s not at all clear he did.

But Ryan Goodman explains why it’s important: “Several federal criminal statutes make it illegal to remove, retain, or exercise gross negligence in storing government documents. However, the more serious crimes include deliberately planning to transmit classified or other highly sensitive materials to the public. The Espionage Act, for example, makes it a crime for anyone who “attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted” closely held national defense information “to any person not entitled to receive it.”

A prison sentence of up to 10 years can be imposed for violations of the statute.

One reason Attorney General Merrick Garland may have authorized the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago may be that they feared Trump or Patel was going to publish classified information that Trump took from the White House illegally.

Previous reports suggest it was something the FBI saw on subpoenaed Mar-a-Lago surveillance tapes that “alarmed them.” Perhaps it was Patel or Soloman handling the documents in question?

“In the days since the FBI seized classified and top secret documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the former President and his allies have claimed that Trump had a ‘standing order’ to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence,” CNN reports.

“But 18 former top Trump administration officials tell CNN they never heard any such order issued during their time working for Trump, and that they believe the claim to be patently false.”

“Several officials laughed at the notion. One senior administration official called it ‘bullshit.’ Two of Trump’s former chiefs of staff went on the record to knock down the claim.”

A top Justice Department official said Thursday that the investigation into the handling of classified records housed at former President Donald Trump’s private residence is “in its early stages,” suggesting a long road ahead for the explosive probe, Politico reports.

The official argued that releasing the underlying FBI affidavit justifying the search could jeopardize “several witnesses” whose accounts were specific enough that the sources for them might be easily identified.

New York Times: “Although Trump White House officials were warned about the proper handling of sensitive material, aides said Mr. Trump had little interest in the security of government documents or protocols to keep them protected.”

“Early on, Mr. Trump became known among his staff as a hoarder who threw all manner of paper — sensitive material, news clips and various other items — into cardboard boxes that a valet or other personal aide would cart around with him wherever he went.”

“Mr. Trump repeatedly had material sent up to the White House residence, and it was not always clear what happened to it. He sometimes asked to keep material after his intelligence briefings, but aides said he was so uninterested in the paperwork during the briefings themselves that they never understood what he wanted it for.”

New York Times: “As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Mr. Pence’s senior aides — Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel — indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work. Mr. Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him.”

The Guardian: “According to multiple sources close to Trump, suspicions initially centered on Nicholas Luna, the longtime Trump body-man who stepped back from his duties around March, and Molly Michael, the former Trump White House Oval Office operations chief, who remains on payroll but is due to soon depart.”

“Luna was subpoenaed by the congressional investigation into the January 6 Capitol attack but has not spoken to the FBI about this case, one of the sources said. And although Michael is slated to also leave Trump’s orbit, the source said, her departure – like Luna’s – is not acrimonious.”

“The focus in the middle of the week shifted to Mar-a-Lago employees and other staff at the members-only resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the sources said, seemingly in part because the FBI knew exactly which rooms and where in the rooms they needed to search.”

“But towards the weekend, and following the revelation that the FBI removed a leather-bound box from the property and already knew the location of Trump’s safe, scrutiny shifted once more to anyone else who had not yet been suspected – including members of Trump’s family.”

“Some allies of former President Donald Trump are urging him to publicly release surveillance footage of FBI agents executing a search warrant on his Mar-a-Lago residence, a proposal that has drawn mixed reaction inside his orbit,” CNN reports.

“The CCTV footage has been so closely held that aides to the former President aren’t sure if he has seen it in full himself.”

“Hundreds of federal judges face the same task every day: review an affidavit submitted by federal agents and approve requests for a search warrant. But for U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the fallout from his decision to approve a search warrant has been far from routine,” the AP reports.

“He has faced a storm of death threats since his signature earlier this month cleared the way for the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of a probe into whether he inappropriately removed sensitive materials from the White House. Reinhart’s home address was posted on right-wing sites, along with antisemitic slurs. The South Florida synagogue he attends canceled its Friday night Shabbat services in the wake of the uproar.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) Republican primary opponent Mark Lombardo (R) suggested in a new attack ad that the incumbent congressman is the possible informant involved in the FBI’s raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Insider reports.

From the ad: “When Donald Trump really endorses someone, he goes big. You’ve seen none of that for lying Matt Gaetz… What does Trump know?”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden agreed with Edward Luce’s contention that the modern Republican Party is the worst political force he’s seen in the democratic world.

Nothing is “more nihilistic, dangerous and contemptible.”

“No other president has lived in a hotel.” — Former national security adviser John Bolton, quoted by the New York Times, on why Donald Trump keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago represented a security risk.

New York congressional candidate Carl Paladino (R) said on a radio show that Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed” following the raid of Donald Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago, the Buffalo News reports.

When asked about his comment, Paladino quickly backtracked: “I’m just being facetious. The man should be removed from office. He shows his incompetence, he wants to get his face in front of the people and show he’s got some mettle to him, but his choice of issues and choice of methodology is very sad.”

Ron Brownstein: “The general feeling among Republicans I spoke with this week is that the RNC would go to almost absurd lengths to avoid allowing Cheney to appear on the same debate stage as Trump.”

Aaron Blake: “Imagine Cheney pressing the case against Trump not just in Jan. 6 committee hearings, but also doing it to his face.”

Tom Nichols: “Cheney’s defeat was no surprise, but it is an especially bitter pill to swallow for the Never Trump former Republicans (as Charlie Sykes and I discussed in a podcast today) who saw Cheney as the last outpost of the party they once knew. Cheney nodded to the GOP’s free fall in her concession speech.”

Said Cheney: “I believe deeply in the principles and the ideals on which my party was founded. I love its history, and I love what our party has stood for, but I love my country more.”

“Notice the use of the past tense there. The remarkable thing about Cheney’s speech is that it was aimed squarely at the voters. It was certainly not aimed at Trump; Cheney, as well as anyone, knows the pointlessness of addressing Trump in anything like an adult conversation. It wasn’t even really directed at the institutional Republican Party, which is beyond repair at this point. Instead, Cheney grabbed Republican voters by the lapels and told them to snap out of their Trump-induced trance.”

The idea that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) will run for president to block Donald Trump could work — but not if she runs as a Republican.

As noted earlier, there’s little chance the RNC — or the Trump campaign — would even let the two share the same debate stage.

But more importantly, it’s unlikely that Cheney would have the anti-Trump lane in a Republican primary to herself.

In fact, it might be very crowded. Former Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) are preparing to launch presidential campaigns. And even former Vice President Mike Pence — who stood loyally beside Trump until January 6, 2021 — could win over some of the anti-Trump voters left in the Republican party.

Cheney has the star power and fundraising ability to wage a national race. But it would be wasted in a Republican primary. And most important, she would fail to achieve her goal of blocking Trump.

Cheney’s best bet is to run for president as an independent, spoiler candidate.

But she would have to be very careful to position herself as a pro-life, conservative Republican so her candidacy would attract more Republican votes than Democratic ones.

“Donald Trump is securing his grip on the Republican Party less than three months before the midterms, with GOP primary voters surging to the polls in Wyoming to oust his most vocal GOP critic, scores of nominees for state and federal offices amplifying his false claims and bellicose rhetoric, and many prominent party figures echoing his evidence-free attacks about the FBI search of his home,” the Washington Post reports.

“One of Donald Trump’s most trusted executives stood before a judge on Thursday and pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, admitting that he conspired with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out a scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish perks — even while refusing to implicate the former president himself,” the New York Times reports.

“As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the executive, Allen Weisselberg, is required to testify at the company’s trial if prosecutors choose to call on him, and to admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out the tax scheme. That testimony could tilt the scales against the company, the Trump Organization, as it prepares for an October trial related to the same accusations.”

“Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg is expected to receive a five-month jail term, and with time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve about 100 days. Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to decide their own stances on abortion access has led 16 states to cease nearly all services. An economic fallout may come next,” ABC News reports.

“Abortion rights advocates have said that the lack of access to reproductive care can lead to poverty or debt and pregnancy can be expensive… Abortion restrictions also disproportionately affect women of color… That study also declared that ‘currently employed women aged 15 to 44 would gain $101.8 billion in higher earnings annually if all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated.’”

“A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina’s general ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy can be enforced, following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to restrict abortion,” the Raleigh News and Observer reports.

“Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro asked a federal judge to dismiss the criminal contempt of Congress case that was brought against him after he did not comply with a House January 6 Committee subpoena,” CNN  reports.

“Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he had ‘satisfied his obligation’ after facing hours of questioning Wednesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta as a target of an investigation into attempts by former President Donald Trump and others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia,” the AP reports.

“Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry,” the New York Times reports.

“The subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for ‘all materials, in whatever form’ that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.”

“Asking the National Archives for any White House documents pertaining to the events surrounding Jan. 6 was one of the first major steps the House panel took in its investigation. And the grand jury subpoena suggests that the Justice Department has not only been following the committee’s lead in pursuing its inquiry, but also that prosecutors believe evidence of a crime may exist in the White House documents the archives turned over to the House panel.”

“Democrats passed their landmark legislation in time for the midterms. Now they need to sell it to voters — and the first phase of that effort is taking shape,” Politico reports.

“A trio of Democratic groups — Climate Power, the League of Conservation Voters and Future Forward USA Action, a nonprofit backed by several major Democratic donors — is dropping $10 million on a national TV ad campaign to define the legislation in the minds of voters. It’s the largest paid ad effort to bolster the legislation so far, as an array of Democratic groups and candidates kick off a 90-day sprint to promote the package and defy a brutal electoral environment for the party.”

“President Joe Biden and his allies hope big recent wins on climate, health care and more will at least temporarily tamp down questions among top Democrats about whether he will run for reelection,” the AP reports.

“That optimism may be short lived, at risk if and when former President Donald Trump announces another White House campaign. But for now, the ‘Will he or won’t he’ Washington parlor game appears to be on hold.”

“Federal Reserve officials viewed their efforts to tame inflation as beginning to have an effect, according to the minutes of their meeting in July, but they also remained committed to further raising interest rates as prices stay too high for comfort,” the New York Times reports.

“A long-simmering clash between two branches of Georgia government exploded into public view on Wednesday, when an attorney for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) moved to kill a subpoena seeking the Republican’s testimony before the Fulton County special grand jury studying potential criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“Kemp’s lawyer acknowledged for the first time that a sworn video statement that the governor was scheduled to record late last month was cancelled.”

“The Biden administration has created a plan to bring 7.5 million Americans in default on their federal student loans back into good standing, restoring their eligibility for financial aid and removing the incident from their credit history,” the Washington Post reports.

“Anyone now in default on a federal loan made directly by the department, Perkins loans held by the agency and old bank-based debt held by the department or private companies, is eligible for the program. Their eligibility for federal Pell grants, work-study and loans will be reinstated.”

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, now 85 years old, “is likely to be the kingmaker in the election on September 25, buying him another five years of relevance,” Politico reports.

“His image was tarnished by the so-called bunga bunga scandal, in which witnesses described orgies at his lavish villa outside Milan. In 2011, a surging national debt crisis and fears that Italy could default forced him to hand power to technocrat Mario Monti. He faced numerous prosecutions, before being finally ejected from the senate after a tax fraud conviction in 2013.”

“But the unexpected surge of nationalist populism over the past decade provided an opportunity for Berlusconi to carve out a role as a responsible pro-EU, moderate.”

Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has formally launched his campaign to reclaim the presidency with a ferocious broadside against his rival, Jair Bolsonaro, who he claimed was “possessed by the devil,” The Guardian reports.

“North Korea fired two cruise missiles on Wednesday morning, returning to weapons activity for the first time in two months after having recently declared victory over its Covid-19 outbreak,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday delivered a sweeping rebuke of her agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had failed to respond quickly enough and needed to be overhauled,” the New York Times reports.

“In a meeting with senior staff, Dr. Walensky outlined in broad terms a plan to reorganize the agency’s structure to prioritize public health needs and efforts to curb continuing outbreaks, and to put less emphasis on publication of scientific papers about rare diseases.”

“An elected Florida prosecutor who was removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) because of his positions on abortion and transgender rights filed suit Wednesday to get his job back, saying the Republican leader violated his First Amendment rights,” the AP reports.

“A well-known businessman living in exile in the US after criticizing Russia’s Vladimir Putin was found dead outside his apartment building in an upscale neighborhood of Washington,” the New York Post reports.

“The Biden administration said on Wednesday that it would begin formal trade negotiations with Taiwan this fall, after several weeks of rising tensions over the island democracy that China claims as its own,” the New York Times reports.

“The announcement marks a step toward a pact that would deepen economic and technological ties between the United States and Taiwan, after initial talks were announced in June. But relations between the United States and China have markedly deteriorated since then, on the heels of visits by two delegations of U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan this month, including by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

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

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