Cup of Joe – September 1, 2022

“Prosecutors obtained a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after receiving evidence that there was “likely” an effort to conceal classified documents there in defiance of a grand jury subpoena,” Politico  reports.

“The 36-page filing was the department’s most detailed account yet of its evidence of obstruction of justice, raising concerns that Trump and his attorneys sought to mislead investigators about the sincerity and thoroughness of their effort to identify and return highly sensitive records to the government.”

“The much-anticipated court filing includes a startling photo of some of the apparently classified files recovered from the so-called ‘45 Office’ at Mar-a-Lago, spread across a carpet.”

NBC News: “The Justice Department said it could not trust information that came from Trump’s orbit ahead of the Florida search and that a representative for the former president falsely asserted that classified documents had been turned over to the government.”

New York Times: “The department’s decision to use a court filing as a vehicle to provide a more extensive explanation of the government’s actions — and a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s rotating roster of legal representatives — evolved over the last few days and lawyers wrangled over small details until moments before it was filed.”

Donald Trump’s attempt to ask for a Special Master to review the documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago was a huge political misstep.

As George Conway explained on CNN: “It’s insane. Basically, they asked for the Justice Department to punch them in the face. And that’s what the Justice Department did in this brief.”

The brief, filed just before the midnight deadline, disclosed incredibly damning proof of a series of crimes — including what seems a clear cut case of obstruction of justice — which it would not have been able to do publicly had Trump himself not sought this move. The court filing notes that “the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform.”

Perhaps most interesting, the government notes that “certain personal effects were commingled with classified material in the Seized Evidence, and they remain in the custody of the United States because of their evidentiary value.”

Some of these personal effects were Trump’s own passports: “The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information; nonetheless, the government decided to return those passports in its discretion.”

The passports and their location are solid evidence that Trump himself illegally retained top secret information. The filing even included a photo taken during the August 8 search showing reams of top secret information — weeks after Trump’s own lawyers signed a letter certifying all classified materials had been returned.

None of this information would have been released had Trump not sought to slow down the investigation by asking for a Special Master. He probably thought he was being clever, but it looks like a massive unforced error. Importantly, he’s made it significantly harder for his Republican allies to defend his actions.

As George Conway noted: “Ironic that Trump has done to himself exactly what so many people have been urging him to do to himself for years.”

Josh Marshall: “We know that really all of Trump’s after-the-fact explanations and justifications are nonsense, his magical carte blanche declassifications, empty claims of executive privilege and more. But there’s something a bit more specific that is worth drawing out. One of the points the government makes in its filing last night is that Trump and his representatives never made any of these claims during the long tug-of-war that got him to this point. One of their points was that in many cases the clock already ran out on his ability to make such claims. It’s too late for that.

That crystallized for me an essential point. Over the last 18 months Trump consistently resisted engaging in any of the statutory processes designed to deal with disputes of this kind. He and his representatives didn’t make a case that he was entitled or allowed to possess these documents. He tried to hide the fact that he had them at all. This usually amounted to denial and delay but sometimes escalated to comical games of cat and mouse.

It gets very hard to make sense of just what Trump’s aims or goals were with all of this, especially because a lot of this seems more instinctive than considered. Having the stuff is the power and he wants to be powerful. So he keeps it. And he hides it from whoever comes looking for it and whoever might take it from him. It’s on par with reported instances of his taking documents from briefers and refusing to give them back or tearing up documents and flushing them down the toilet.

The upshot of this is that he didn’t want to make claims or engage in a process because there weren’t any claims he could make. He just wanted to keep what he had. The process dragged out because the people in government are not or were not really equipped to deal with a former President refusing to relinquish or even admit having highly classified documents that are the property of the US government.

“Some of the documents retrieved by FBI agents in their raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate were so classified that agents needed special permission to view them, according to Justice Department court documents filed Tuesday,” Insider reports.

Michael Cohen said on TikTok that he thinks Donald Trump may have given away top-secret information while traveling around the world as president.

Said Cohen: “Donald doesn’t take boxes of material around the world for no reason at all. He took it for nefarious reasons.”

He added: “I stand firm when I say that Donald wants to use this in order to hold the country hostage. That’s his goal. His goal, because he knows his ass is in the grinder right now.”

Politico: “The 36-page filing was the department’s most detailed account yet of its evidence of obstruction of justice, raising concerns that Trump and his attorneys sought to mislead investigators about the sincerity and thoroughness of their effort to identify and return highly sensitive records to the government.”

NYT: “The filing on Tuesday made clear that prosecutors are now unmistakably focused on the possibility that Mr. Trump and those around him took criminal steps to obstruct their investigation.”

WaPo: “The filing traces the extraordinary saga of government officials’ repeated efforts to recover sensitive national security papers from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club, centered on a storage room where prosecutors came to suspect that ‘government records were likely concealed and removed … and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.’”

AP: “The filing offers yet another indication of the sheer volume of classified records retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. It shows how investigators conducting a criminal probe have focused not just on why the records were improperly stored there, but also on the question of whether the Trump team intentionally misled them about the continued, and unlawful, presence of the top secret documents.”

The DOJ filing breaks the federal investigation into two main thrusts:

  • Trump’s improper retention of government documents, including classified material
  • Potential obstruction of the investigation

As to thrust 1, the government’s most compelling evidence is of course actually finding classified material at Mar-a-Lago during the FBI’s search, as demonstrated by that damning photo. But there was also the earlier retrieval of the 15 boxes of documents that included some classified material.

As to Thrust 2 (obstruction), the Justice Department told the court there was “likely” an effort to conceal classified documents at Mar-a-Lago in defiance of a grand jury subpoena: “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”

Donald Trump on Truth Social: “Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”

George Conway: “Not a parody. Evidence of guilt, and of a highly disordered personality.”

The RNC is declining to pay for Trump’s legal fees incurred from the Mar-a-Lago raid.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told MSNBC that two of Donald Trump’s attorneys who were involved in the former president’s failure to hand over classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate should probably “stop talking” and “best defense counsel you can possibly get.”

Just six days before the Justice Department subpoenaed to recover highly sensitive documents housed at Mar-a-Lago, one of Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys scoured the estate searching for records in response to a separate legal matter, Politico reports.

“The attorney, Alina Habba, told a New York State court that on May 5, she conducted a search of Trump’s private residence and office at Mar-a-Lago that was so ‘diligent’ it included ‘all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc.’ She was looking for records in response to a subpoena issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating matters related to the Trump Organization.”

“The filing submitted to the New York AG’s office raises key questions in relation to the separate Mar-a-Lago probe, chiefly, whether Habba ended up handling any of the documents that DOJ later discovered at Trump’s club; and, if so, whether she has the clearance to have done so.”

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union before its dissolution, has died in Moscow at the age of 92, CNN reports.

Washington Post: “For the sheer improbability of his actions and their impact on the late 20th century, Mr. Gorbachev ranks as a towering figure. In 1985, he was chosen to lead a country mired in socialism and stultifying ideology. In six years of cajoling, improvised tactics and increasingly bold risks, Mr. Gorbachev unleashed immense changes that eventually demolished the pillars of the state.”

“The Soviet collapse was not Mr. Gorbachev’s goal, but it may be his greatest legacy. It brought to an end a seven-decade experiment born of Utopian idealism that led to some of the bloodiest human suffering of the century.”

New York Times: “Few leaders in the 20th century, indeed in any century, have had such a profound effect on their time.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland banned political appointees at the Department of Justice from participating in campaign events in any form.

Wrote Garland in a memo: “We must do all we can to maintain public trust and ensure that politics — both in fact and appearance — does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work.”

The Hill: “Previous policy allowed political appointees to sometimes attend partisan events in their personal capacities if they participated passively and obtained approval, but Garland on Tuesday barred those individuals from participating in partisan political events in any capacity, even if the event is private.”

“For months, President Biden has tried to blunt attacks that he is soft on crime by distancing himself from progressive calls to defund police departments. In a speech in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Mr. Biden is expected to take a page from his opponents’ playbook and accuse Republicans of no longer being the party of law and order,” the New York Times reports.

“During a visit to Wilkes-Barre, Mr. Biden will say he has made available billions of dollars to invest in law enforcement agencies, according to a White House official. He will highlight a bipartisan gun bill intended to prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms, a nod to one of his recent legislative accomplishments ahead of the congressional elections in November.”

Politico: “It’s part of a blitz of upcoming travel, with aides wanting Biden to hit the road two or three times a week. Already, three stops have been planned for Pennsylvania alone, showcasing the importance of the battleground state for Democrats in both their 2022 state house and Senate bids, as well as in 2024 for, potentially, Biden’s own.”

“It will culminate in what has become a totem for the president: the Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. Biden marched there twice before when presidential speculation swirled around him, in 2015 and 2018. His appearance Monday, aides concede, will be closely watched for any possible hints about one last campaign.”

“Ukraine may be outgunned but in the latest sign it is not yet outfoxed, a fleet of decoys resembling advanced U.S. rocket systems has tricked Russian forces into wasting expensive long-range cruise missiles on dummy targets,” the Washington Post reports.

“The Ukrainian decoys are made out of wood but can be indistinguishable from an artillery battery through the lens of Russian drones, which transmit their locations to naval cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea.”

“The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the first redesign of coronavirus vaccines since they were rolled out in late 2020, setting up millions of Americans to receive new booster doses targeting Omicron subvariants as soon as next week,” the New York Times reports.

“The agency cleared two options aimed at the BA.5 variant of Omicron that is now dominant: one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for use in people as young as 12, and the other by Moderna, for those 18 and older.”

Meanwhile, a new New York Times poll finds Americans on the left end of the political spectrum have become less anxious about Covid.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley seemingly threatened the New York Attorney General’s office for leaking to the press a list of donors to her conservative nonprofit, Fox News reports.

Said Haley: “The idea that New York State Attorney General can violate state law, can turn around and violate federal tax law, I mean, there is no excuse whatsoever for this lawlessness, and that’s what we are seeing coming out of these liberal government entities that decide they’ll decide who needs to be blown up and who doesn’t.”

She added: “Well, you know, we are not going to throw cotton balls at them, we’re going to throw a grenade and we’re going to make sure they know enough is enough.”

“The uncrewed Artemis I mission will get another attempt at launching on a journey around the moon on Saturday,” CNN reports. “After the launch was scrubbed Monday morning, the launch team spent the remainder of the day evaluating data gathered during the attempt.“

“The South Carolina House on Tuesday approved a bill that outlaws abortion except in the cases of pregnancies caused by rape or incest,” the AP reports.  “The chamber initially rejected the bill without the exceptions by eight votes. But once Republicans saw the outcome, they quickly went through a number of complex procedures and votes to bring the bill back from the brink of failure.”

The Economist: “In his new book, The Crux, Richard Rumelt, a professor of business strategy, writes about a conversation he once had with an air-force colonel. What, Mr Rumelt asked, is the perfect fighter jet? The colonel replied: ‘The perfect design would have contractors in each state and a part made in each congressional district.’ The tale is told after Mr Rumelt has described the waste and incoherence of NASA’s Space Shuttle program—something he blames squarely on Congress.”

“Alas, Congress never learns. On August 29th or soon after, more than a decade after the shuttle program came to an end, NASA will test its newest rocket for the first time. The Space Launch System (SLS) is the first step in the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to take humans back to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars. SLS is the successor to the Space Shuttle and heir to the legendary Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon.”

“It is also a colossal boondoggle. The conception and execution of the project has been a near-perfect example of pork-barrel politics. The result is a rocket that privately built models will probably outclass soon after its maiden launch. Don’t blame the scientists and engineers at NASA for the debacle, though. The fault lies, once again, with Congress.”

“Lin Wood, a trial lawyer and an ardent supporter of Donald Trump who pushed a number of falsehoods about election fraud after the 2020 presidential contest, has been asked to give testimony in the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the Georgia election,” the New York Times reports.

“Maria Bartiromo will be the next Fox News star to appear for a deposition in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against the network over its airing of false claims made about the company during 2020 presidential election coverage,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“For decades, the students at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York have walked beneath a panel of three bronze plaques mounted at the entrance of Bartlett Hall Science Center that includes an image of a hooded figure and the words ‘Ku Klux Klan’ written below it, according to findings in a report released by a congressional panel on Monday,” the New York Times reports.

“Former President Donald Trump spent Tuesday morning feverishly sharing content from supporters on his social media platform Truth Social, posting or re-posting more than 60 times since early Tuesday morning, including content from QAnon accounts and the far-right message board 4chan,” Rolling Stone reports.

These are not the posts of someone running for office. They are designed to rile up his supporters.

“The state of Texas has spent more than $12 million busing migrants to Washington, DC, and New York who crossed into the state from Mexico,” CNN reports.

The Syracuse University Board of Trustees might revoke Rudy Giuliani’s honorary doctorate, the Daily Orange reports.

CNN: “The number of shootings involving automatic weapons in the US has skyrocketed in recent years, suggesting a troubling resurgence in the use of machine guns by criminals.”

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

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