Cup of Joe – September 21, 2022

“The senior federal judge tasked with reviewing the materials seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate sharply questioned the former president’s attorneys Tuesday during their first hearing before his courtroom,” Politico reports.

“Judge Raymond Dearie pushed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.”

The Daily Beast reports that if Trump’s lawyers don’t officially counter whether the documents are classified, then Dearie will side with the DOJ: “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

Trump’s legal team on Monday night wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, who has been appointed as the special master to sift through the documents Trump stashed at Mar-a-Lago, saying that it doesn’t want to disclose whether Trump declassified the seized documents–despite Trump repeatedly claiming (out of court) that he declassified them.

The lawyers’ argument admits the possibility that the Mar-a-Lago investigation could lead to criminal charges, saying that disclosing whether Trump declassified the documents would force him to “fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.”

Shorter Trump: I want a peek at the government’s evidence pre-indictment, but don’t make me disclose anything this soon!

Judge Raymond Dearie, the “special master” appointed to review the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago, asked Donald Trump’s legal team yesterday to “disclose details about any materials he claims to have declassified before calling them his property,” Politico reports.

Former prosecutor Andrew Weissmann explains why this is a problem for Trump: “Why won’t Trump lawyers tell Judge Dearie whether Trump declassified the docs? It’s because the lawyers don’t want to lie and be disbarred and subject their client to a criminal false statement charge.”

Furthermore, Trump presumably wanted a special master to slow down the Justice Department’s investigation. But he’s now worried that Dearie is moving too fast. Dearie’s draft timeline for review “compresses the entirety of the inspection and labeling process to be completed by October 7, 2022.”

Whoever on Trump’s legal team came up with the idea of a special master apparently didn’t think it through.

“A onetime White House lawyer under President Donald Trump warned him late last year that Mr. Trump could face legal liability if he did not return government materials he had taken with him when he left office,“ the New York Times reports.

“The lawyer, Eric Herschmann, sought to impress upon Mr. Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for investigations and legal exposure if he did not return the documents, particularly any classified material.”

“The account of the conversation is the latest evidence that Mr. Trump had been informed of the legal perils of holding onto material that is now at the heart of a Justice Department criminal investigation into his handling of the documents and the possibility that he or his aides engaged in obstruction.”

Marcy Wheeler: “If there were lawyers concerned about principles of justice participating in his defense, they’d be stridently advising him to work on a plea deal admitting guilt to 18 USC 2071, removing government documents, maybe even agreeing to the probably unconstitutional part of the law that would prohibit him from running for President again, in exchange for removing the more serious 18 USC 793 and 1519 charges from consideration. Such a plea deal is never going to happen.”

“Win or lose, Trump is pursuing power, not adjudication under the law, not even recognition of the law.”

“Donald Trump’s legal team has acknowledged the possibility that the former president could be indicted amid the investigation into his retention of government secrets at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida,” The Guardian reports.

“Despite claiming days earlier that Trump couldn’t imagine being charged, his lawyers made the stark admission in a court filing on Monday proposing how to conduct an outside review of documents that were seized by the FBI in August.”

The migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard from Texas were given a misleading brochure that dangled false aid opportunities, Popular Information reports.

“The brochure, which is crudely designed to resemble a government document, does not explain that these benefits described are only available to specially designated refugees.”

With Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) behind the stunt, the New York Times reports it “suggests that he believes his re-election effort is operating from such a position of strength that he can afford to potentially repel some moderates in his state.”

Here’s a copy of the brochure obtained by Popular Information author Judd Legum, who got it from a Boston-based legal group that represents some of the migrants:

The migrants have said that they were tricked into boarding DeSantis’ planes with bogus promises of jobs and housing, and that they weren’t told they were being taken to Martha’s Vineyard.

Another piece of the hoax allegedly involved a woman who baited the migrants in Texas into accepting the flights and identified herself as “Perla.” 

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas announced on Monday evening that it had opened an investigation into DeSantis’ scheme.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “doubled down on his message from earlier this week on Saturday morning by busing around 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants, including a one-month-old baby, to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home at the United States Naval Observatory,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Donald Trump is fuming after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) flew roughly 50 migrants by plane to Martha’s Vineyard last week, claiming the Florida governor stole his idea, Rolling Stone reports.

Trump also “complained” DeSantis is “attempting to take the national news cycle away from him” and believes the “credit” for the Martha’s Vineyard stunt “should be his.”

Authorities in Texas have opened a criminal investigation into Gov. Ron DeSantis’ operation to fly roughly 50 Venezuela migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week, the Miami Herald reports.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar (San Antonio) opened a criminal investigation into DeSantis/Martha’s Vineyard flights. He says he’s working with the lawyers representing the migrants who were shipped to Martha’s Vineyard. “I believe there is some criminal activity involved here, but at present, we are trying to keep an open mind and we are going to investigate to find out and to determine what laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case,” Salazar said in a press conference Monday.

House Jan. 6 Committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) and committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on Monday officially introduced the panel’s proposed legislation on adding safeguards to keep Trump and other would-be authoritarians from overturning an election. The bill’s title is the “Presidential Election Reform Act” (PERA).

Some of what the bill does: ensures that the vice president’s role in the electoral vote count process is purely ministerial, limits how easily congressional lawmakers can challenge the results during the count, and blocks governors from withholding election results from Congress.

The legislation would direct challenges to state elections to courts and limit the vice president’s role in electoral vote-counting as ‘ministerial.’”

“It also would raise the bar to challenge a state’s electors to one-third of both the House and Senate. Currently, if one member of Congress from each chamber objects to a presidential election during the arcane certification process, the chambers have to debate and hold a vote on the objection, as was done in 2021.”

Cheney and Lofgren had previewed the measure on Sunday in a joint Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The legislation is similar to the Senate’s bipartisan proposed reforms to the Electoral Count Act, though the Jan. 6 committee’s bill includes more specifics.

Adnan Syed, who was featured in the hit podcast “Serial,” was released on Monday after a judge in Baltimore vacated his murder conviction.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to drop the charges against Syed.

Syed spent 23 years in prison for the murder of his high school ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999.

Donald Ayer: “Bill Barr has received approving nods recently for finally publicly turning against his former boss, rejecting Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud in testimony before the January 6 committee and repeatedly condemning on Fox News both Trump’s theft of classified government documents and the bizarre court decision letting a special master consider Trump’s absurd claims. While some have noted that this recent turn does not make up for his gross mishandling of his office over the 22 months he served as attorney general, most people give Barr credit for his recent dalliance with the truth.”

“Credit for moving the public discussion closer to reality is one thing, but no one should think that Barr is having second thoughts about the awful things he did in office. To the contrary, Barr’s recent trashing of Trump in a manner likely to greatly impair his presidential prospects makes perfect sense when one understands the driving convictions and objectives that have guided him throughout his adult life.”

“Conflicting lower court rulings about removing controversial material from social media platforms point toward a landmark Supreme Court decision on whether the First Amendment protects Big Tech’s editorial discretion or forbids its censorship of unpopular views,” the Washington Post reports.

“The stakes are high not just for government and the companies, but because of the increasingly dominant role platforms such as Twitter and Facebook play in American democracy and elections. Social media posts have the potential to amplify disinformation or hateful speech, but removal of controversial viewpoints can stifle public discourse about important political issues.”

“President Biden’s assertion that the pandemic is over is rankling both Republicans and some public health leaders who say it is premature to announce victory over Covid-19 and that the declaration could undermine the administration’s efforts to secure more funding from Congress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York Times: “The word from the White House on Monday was that the president was simply expressing what many Americans were already feeling and seeing and what Mr. Biden had been saying all along — that the nation has vaccines and treatments to fight the coronavirus and that for most people, it is not a death sentence.”

Playbook: “The remarks also did nothing to convince Republicans to back an administration request for $22 billion in new Covid relief funding, a fight that will come to a head in the coming days.”

“President Joe Biden has further stoked U.S.-China tensions by unambiguously pledging a U.S. military response if China tries to invade Taiwan,” Political reports.

Henry Olsen: “China clearly is building its capability to invade Taiwan sometime in the near future. That effort will succeed unless the United States stands firmly behind the island’s rulers. Biden is right to put us in that position, and he should act firmly now to end the uncertainty his aides are sowing.”

David Atkins: “What’s behind the Democratic comeback summer? Chalk it up to voters seeing Republicans overturn Roe and Democrats making big moves on issues like climate change.

Interestingly, it turns out that when both Republicans and Democrats get real substantive things they want, voters are impressed by Democrats and repulsed by Republicans. Back in March, Democrats were trailing by at least four points on the generic congressional ballot, per reputable pollsters. Today, Democrats are leading by four points. While nothing is assured and much can change between now and Election Day, Democrats are increasingly confident in their ability to hold the U.S. Senate and even dare to hope that they might hold on to the House.”

David Leonhardt: “The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election…”

“The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.”

Rusty Bowers (R), the outgoing Republican speaker of the Arizona House, told CNN that Trump-backed GOP candidates might send the country “back into the dark ages” if they win key midterm races and help enact laws to make it easier to overturn elections – which he said was tantamount to “fascism.”

Ex-Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, the so-called “auditor” of his state’s 2020 election results, argued during a local GOP event on Sept. 9 that “revolution” was “the only way to keep an honest government.”

There was an unmistakable hint of violence in Gableman’s declaration, with the ex-justice claiming that “Thomas Jefferson said that the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of revolution in every generation.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Gableman lamented.

Danny Westneat says the story of the praying Bremerton coach keeps getting more surreal.  ““The record is clear that Coach Kennedy was fired for that midfield prayer,” lawyer Paul Clement told the nine justices in the first 15 seconds of the oral arguments of the case in April. The words “fired,” “fire” or “firing” were used 16 times in the hour and a half session.  It wasn’t true though. The district’s lawyers tried to correct the record, to no avail.”

“You can’t sue them for failing to rehire you if you didn’t apply,” one lawyer, Mercer Island’s Michael Tierney, argued during a lower court session. “The District didn’t get an application from him, had four positions to fill and filled them with people who had applied. It didn’t fail to rehire him.”

The Supreme Court simply ignored this inconvenient fact — along with a host of others. At one point during oral arguments, as a different school district attorney was saying the narrative that had been spun didn’t fit with the facts — that the coach’s prayers were neither silent nor solitary, nor was he fired — Justice Samuel Alito interrupted him, saying “I know that you want to make this very complicated.”

“The Pentagon has ordered a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare after major social media companies identified and took offline fake accounts suspected of being run by the U.S. military in violation of the platforms’ rules,” the Washington Post reports.

“Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, last week instructed the military commands that engage in psychological operations online to provide a full accounting of their activities by next month after the White House and some federal agencies expressed mounting concerns over the Defense Department’s attempted manipulation of audiences overseas.”

“Senate Republicans say Joe Manchin can’t count on them to save his energy permitting deal with Democratic leaders, potentially upending efforts to attach the centrist’s proposal to a must-pass government funding bill,” Politico reports.

“With progressives already balking, several Republicans said Monday night that they might not provide the votes needed to break a filibuster of permitting reform, a key cog of this summer’s Democratic climate, health care and tax deal. Though easing construction of energy projects is a longstanding core GOP goal, the party’s senators said they were under no obligation to cough up perhaps a dozen or more votes that Democrats need to get Manchin’s vision done.”

“The Fed is expected at its latest meeting to raise its key short-term rate by a substantial three-quarters of a point for the third consecutive time. Another hike that large would lift its benchmark rate — which affects many consumer and business loans — to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level in 14 years,” the Associated Press reports.

Wall Street Journal: “The moment underscores the Fed chairman’s rapid about-face during one of the most tumultuous periods for the economy and central bank since the 1970s. After championing an aggressive stimulus campaign just 12 months ago, he has this year led the most rapid tightening of monetary policy since the early 1980s.”

More than 30 Senate Republicans asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to give the federal prosecutor who has been investigating Hunter Biden for several years “special counsel protections and authorities,” CNBC reports.

“The group, which includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, wrote in a letter to Garland that the move is warranted because the criminal investigation involves President Joe Biden’s son.”

“Republicans plan to launch a variety of investigations into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many of its largest member corporations if they retake the majority in the House of Representatives this November,” The Intercept reports.

“The probes, said a GOP member of Congress and multiple Republican operatives who requested anonymity to discuss plans that have yet to be made public, will marry Republicans’ newly formed hostility to the Chamber with the party’s mission to undermine the growth of the ESG investment sector.”

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

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