Cup of Joe – June 10, 2023

Federal charges against Donald Trump were made public in case involving his handling of classified information.

Key takaway: “The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”

The 49-page indictment against Donald Trump which was unsealed today is definitely worth reading in full. It’s extraordinarily damning.

But here are the highlights:

1. Trump had documents with highly-classified nuclear and military secrets.

“The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”

“The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”

2. Trump wanted his lawyers to help him hide classified documents.

The indictment recounts how, according to his lawyer’s words, Trump made a “plucking motion” that implied, “why don’t you take them with you to your hotel room and if there’s anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out.”

Trump also told his lawyers: “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”

3. Trump showed sensitive documents to others without proper clearance.

One instance was a meeting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, NJ when Trump showed a writer and two members of his staff what he described as a U.S. military “plan of attack” that Trump said was prepared for him by the Pentagon. The meeting’s audio was recorded.

A second instance was also at Bedminster when Trump showed “a classified map related to a military operation” to an unnamed person who works for his political action committee.

4. Documents were stored all over Mar-a-Lago.

“The Mar-a-Lago Club was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents. Nevertheless, Trump stored his boxes containing classified documents in various locations at The Mar-a-Lago-Club—including in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.”

The Washington Post has amazing photos.

Overall, Trump faces 37 felony counts related to retaining classified information, obstructing justice and making false statements.

Donald Trump acknowledged on tape in a 2021 meeting that he had retained “secret” military information that he had not declassified, CNN reports. Said Trump: “As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t.”

The transcript also suggests Trump is showing the document to those in the room, saying: “Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. This was done by the military and given to me.”

That’s it. That’s a conviction for espionage right there.

A few excerpts from the CNN report: “As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump says, according to the transcript.

“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.”

Several sources have told CNN the recording captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document.

A former White House official told federal prosecutors that Donald Trump knew about the proper declassification process and followed it while in office, CNN reports.

Two sources briefed on the seven federal charges against Donald Trump told NBC News they include false statements and conspiracy to obstruct related to retaining classified documents. One source noted that seven charges don’t necessarily mean seven counts — multiple counts can be associated with each charge.

Walt Nauta, who was former President Donald Trump’s body man, was also indicted in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the mishandling of classified documents, CNN reports.

Donald Trump said on Truth Social that two lawyers who have represented him during the investigation, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, are no longer on his legal team.

CNN reports the two lawyers resigned.

Trump says he will now be represented by Todd Blanche and “a firm to be named later.”

Hillary Clinton reacted to Donald Trump’s federal indictment by making a pitch for her “But Her Emails” merchandise.

Playbook: “We’ve become anesthetized by years of his outlandish reality, such that actions that would be the end of almost any other American politician — hush money payments to an adult film actress, anyone? — go by with hardly the batting of an eye.”

“But try, for a moment, to consider the genuinely undiscovered terrain we’ve entered as a country in the last 24 hours.”

“For the first time in American history, a former president has been indicted by a U.S. Department of Justice that, less than 900 days ago, was housed in the executive branch he controlled. He could face years in prison if found guilty.”

Washington Post: “The seven-count indictment has the potential to land Trump in prison for years if he is found guilty. He has denied any wrongdoing.”

Said former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann to MSNBC: “There are people in jail who’ve done far less than what Trump’s charged with.”

New York Times: “Mr. Trump was charged with a total of seven counts, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and an obstruction of justice conspiracy.”

NBC News: “One of the sources noted that seven charges may not equal seven counts; multiple counts can be connected to each charge.”

Semafor: “The White House had no advanced notice of the Trump indictment in Florida and found out from media reports.”

Norman Eisen, Andrew Weissmann and Joyce Vance: The Four Hurdles to Overcome for a Trump Conviction

Harry Litman: Why Donald Trump’s federal indictment is as breathtaking as it was inevitable

The criminal case report for the Southern District of Florida shows five sealed cases, one of which is probably the United States vs. Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is expected to surrender to the federal authorities in Miami at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday. At that point, the charges against him will be unsealed.  Over the next few weeks, prosecutors will share their evidence with defense attorneys. Trump’s attorneys are likely to ask the presiding judge to dismiss the case on various legal grounds.

But Trump is famous for using tactics to delay legal proceedings.  That means a trial may not be scheduled for months. Both sides will argue over the merits of the case and what evidence can be presented to a jury.  It wouldn’t be surprising if a trial isn’t scheduled until late spring or summer of 2024.

But keep in mind that Trump is already facing criminal charges in Manhattan beginning next March. Trump could face further criminal charges in investigations brought by state prosecutors in Georgia. And special counsel Jack Smith may also charge Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.  He has a legal right to have the time to prepare his defense in these cases.

Trump will push to have the trial as late as possible — perhaps even after the November 5 election. Prosecutors will want to wrap up the case well before then. That may be why they proceeded on only seven charges.  Ultimately, the scheduling will depend on the federal judge assigned the case.  If Trump can push the trial until after the election — and if he can win the election — he would have the power to dismiss the charges as soon as he takes office.

Washington Post: “For many months, Justice Department prosecutors questioned witnesses before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., about former president Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving the White House…”

“In early May, the parade of witnesses to that grand jury appeared to stop. It turns out, however, that witnesses were still being called — to a federal courthouse a thousand miles south, in Miami. That courthouse is much closer to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club, where most of the alleged conduct under scrutiny took place…”

“The switch comes amid clear signs that the investigation is nearly completed and that Trump could face criminal charges. Former prosecutors said it reflects an effort by the Justice Department to prevent Trump’s lawyers from challenging an indictment by saying it had been filed in the wrong place — a legal line of attack that could delay or even derail a trial.”

“Trump’s apparent indictment on multiple charges arising from his retention of classified materials is another affirmation of the rule of law. For four years, he acted like he was above the law. But he should be treated like any other lawbreaker. And today, he has been.”— Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), on Twitter.

“I can’t believe I’ve been indicted.”— Donald Trump, quoted by his lawyer, Jim Trusty, in a CNN interview.

Semafor: “Federal prosecutions almost always end in conviction, and defending against them can be all-consuming. Defendants sometimes face travel restrictions. Can Trump really run for president at the same time?”

Politico: “There are no legal obstacles to running for president as a convicted felon or even from behind bars. And if Trump finds himself in that predicament, he’ll be following in the footsteps of another rabble-rousing populist and frequent presidential candidate: the avowed socialist Eugene V. Debs, who received nearly a million votes while in prison a century ago.”

“Debs is far from the only person who has sought the highest office in the land while in prison, but he was the most successful. In 1920, he became the Socialist Party nominee while serving a 10-year federal sentence for urging people to resist the World War I draft.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy falsely claimed that Donald Trump had been indicted by President Biden and pledged on Twitter that House Republicans would “hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

New York Times: “Members of Congress have no power to stop criminal charges, but they can attempt to interfere with prosecutors through their legislative powers, such as issuing subpoenas, demanding witness interviews or documents, restricting Justice Department funding and using the platform of their offices to attempt to publicly influence the case.”

“Several Republicans who are closely allied with Mr. Trump said, without evidence, that the indictment was an attempt to distract from their investigation into President Biden’s family, including his son Hunter’s business dealings. They made clear that they would target federal law enforcement in retaliation.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) was interviewed by Dana Bash on CNN about Donald Trump:

BASH: Would Republicans be better off with a candidate who is not facing multiple criminal investigations?

BUCK: I think that the multiple investigations and civil lawsuits… almost give this presidential candidate and former president credibility.

Semafor: “For all the ink spilled on this case so far in the press and in court as well as the many thousands of words Trump has devoted to his defense, it’s still not entirely clear why he even wanted to keep the documents in the first place (and why he went to such lengths to do so when the National Archives came calling). Are we going to find out?”

Peter Baker: “There was a time, not that long ago really, when Donald Trump said he cared about the sanctity of classified information. That, of course, was when his opponent was accused of jeopardizing it and it was a useful political weapon for Mr. Trump.”

“Throughout 2016, he castigated Hillary Clinton for using a private email server instead of a secure government one. ‘I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information,’ he declared. ‘No one will be above the law.’ Mrs. Clinton’s cavalier handling of the sensitive information, he said, ‘disqualifies her from the presidency.’”

“Seven years later, Mr. Trump faces criminal charges for endangering national security by taking classified documents when he left the White House and refusing to return all of them even after being subpoenaed. Even in the what-goes-around-comes-around department of American politics, it is rather remarkable that the issue that helped propel Mr. Trump to the White House in the first place now threatens to ruin his chances of getting back there.”

“Former president Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, removed more than a thousand pages of classified documents from the White House late at night on the final evening of Trump’s presidency,” Murray Waas reports.

“A former top aide to Meadows has told investigators that they witnessed Meadows removing the records.”

“Meadows removed the records from the White House on the orders of Donald Trump, and occurred despite advice from White House attorneys that making public the records would circumvent the long established and official procedures in place for declassifying them.”

At least politically, Donald Trump seems to have weathered the 33 criminal charges brought against him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. He may or may not be convicted in a trial scheduled for early next year, but the indictments didn’t derail his presidential campaign.  In fact, they probably helped solidify his support among Republican primary voters.

That’s because the charges — that he paid off a porn star to keep quiet about their affair — stem from Trump’s personal conduct before he was elected president.  No one is surprised Trump paid off a porn star. That’s who he is.  As a result, it’s easier for conflicted voters to dismiss that particular indictment as mere politics.

Violating the Espionage Act by stealing military secrets and then showing them to others is a much more serious offense.  It’s a crime that hurts the country. And it appears much of it was recorded on audio tape. 

Trump’s sycophants will stick by him no matter what comes out. Some GOP lawmakers who instantly defended him last night may change their tune as the facts are clearer.  But swing voters — to the extent that they matter in a general election — are going to take these charges far more seriously.

“The summons sent to former President Donald Trump and his legal team late Thursday indicates that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will be assigned to oversee his case, at least initially,” ABC News reports.

“Cannon’s apparent assignment would add yet another unprecedented wrinkle to a case involving the first federal charges against a former president: Trump appointed Cannon to the federal bench in 2019, meaning that, if Trump is ultimately convicted, she would be responsible for determining the sentence – which may include prison time – for the man who elevated her to the role.”

Punchbowl News: “We wanted to take a moment this morning to put the current strife among House Republicans into a wider context.”

“Even after Speaker Kevin McCarthy resolves the current House stalemate, he has a lot more work to do.”

“Conventional wisdom holds that the debt-limit fight was the apex of high-stakes legislating for the 118th Congress. But that’s not exactly right.”

“Congress has a host of major legislative deadlines looming on Sept. 30, creating a big policy cliff that will require focus from Hill leaders and flexibility from the rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties — if that’s possible.”

“George Santos, the lying and indicted GOP congressman from Queens, New York, has steadfastly refused to say where he was on January 6, 2021, while pro-Trump rioters were attacking the US Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory,” Mother Jones reports.

“He was filmed that day in the VIP section for the Donald Trump rally at the Ellipse that preceded the assault, but his post-rally whereabouts remain a mystery.”

“Yet newly uncovered photos and video footage of January 6 show that his attorney, Joseph Murray, was in the angry pro-Trump mob that trespassed on Capitol grounds.”

Former drag performer Rep. George Santos (R-NY) flew into a foul-mouthed diatribe: “I don’t usually swear but… The ‘Drag nuns’ can FUCK ALL THE WAY OFF! The mockery they cast on the Catholic faith is DAMN offensive and WRONG!”

“Fox News Wednesday notified Tucker Carlson’s lawyers that the former prime-time anchor violated his contract with the network when he launched his own Twitter show on Tuesday,” Axios reports.

“A breach of contract claim sets Fox News up to explore potential legal action against Carlson, a move that would intensify the already thorny public battle between the two parties.”

Washington Post: “Carlson picked up some of his usual, conspiracy-theory-tinged topics and sympathies to the Russian government in the video, calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ‘sweaty and rat-like’ and suggesting without evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the destruction of a major dam on its territory.”

“He also accused mainstream media outlets of suppressing a claim from a former military officer that the U.S. government has secret knowledge of alien spacecraft.”

“Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has asked for more time to file annual financial disclosures following criticism that he failed to report luxury travel and real estate deals with a Texas billionaire and Republican donor,” the Washington Post reports.

“Thomas’s request for an extension was made public Wednesday, along with disclosure reports filed by his court colleagues. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. also asked for an extension as he has done in previous years.”

Will Leitch: “The PGA Tour’s merger with LIV Golf, announced out of the blue on Tuesday morning, could be called a betrayal of every principle the PGA ever espoused. But you can only say that if you were ever enough of a sucker to believe the PGA had any in the first place.”

“China and Russia are rejecting a U.S. offer to hold ‘unconditional’ nuclear arms control talks, a move that risks further fueling global proliferation,” Semafor reports.

“U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned in a major address last Friday that the post-Cold War agreements guarding against global nuclear proliferation were fraying and invited Beijing and Moscow to resume direct discussions on the issue.”

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit China in the coming weeks for talks with top officials, possibly including President Xi Jinping, as the US looks to resume high-level communication despite continued tensions,” Bloomberg reports.

“The Pentagon is set to announce as early as Friday a long-term arms package for Ukraine heavy on air defense munitions valued at more than $2 billion,” Bloomberg reports.

“The money, to be awarded under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, will bankroll the purchase of Hawk missile launchers and missiles and two types of advanced Patriot air defense missiles.”

Fortune: “With a two-thirds female leadership triad, CNN joins every other major U.S. news organization as being woman-led. The presidents of all major networks are women; Kimberly Godwin helms ABC News, Rashida Jones heads MSNBC, Rebecca Blumenstein leads NBC News, Wendy McMahon leads CBS News, and Suzanne Scott leads Fox News.”

“The tides have long been turning in the media. The New York Times’ CEO is a woman (Meredith Kopit Levien), and women are currently editors-in-chief at the Washington Post (Sally Buzbee), the Wall Street Journal (Emma Tucker), Reuters (Alessandra Galloni), McClatchy (Robyn Tomlin), and, yes, Fortune (Alyson Shontell).”

“Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would restrict gun ownership — a daunting and likely quixotic response to the deadliest wave of mass shootings in U.S. history that would nonetheless position California as the most aggressive state in the union on gun control,” Politico reports.

“Newsom outlined his plan Thursday to pursue the amendment, seeded with cash left over from his landslide 2022 reelection, fueled by frustration over the country’s failure to adopt restrictions that polls show most Americans broadly support and a conservative Supreme Court that has rolled back gun laws.”

“White House officials on Thursday hailed the unclogging of supply chains and suggested that further easing of bottlenecks will help cool inflation,” CNN reports.

“The one-two punch of the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought fragile supply chains to the breaking point. That supply stress sent consumer prices surging, left some store shelves nearly empty and severely delayed online shipping orders.”

“Now, many metrics show supply chains have largely recovered from recent shocks.”

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) “issued a proclamation late Tuesday night calling on the Legislature to convene Wednesday morning for a second consecutive special session to discuss a $380 million public financing package to help fund a proposed Las Vegas stadium project for the Oakland A’s,” the Nevada Independent reports.

“Lombardo’s proclamation essentially calls upon lawmakers to reconsider SB509 — which proposed capping public funding at $380 million for the $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark sought by the A’s — after the bill failed to advance in the final hours of the regular legislative session Monday night.”

“China and Cuba have reached a secret agreement for China to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island, in a brash new geopolitical challenge by Beijing to the U.S.,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“An eavesdropping facility in Cuba, roughly 100 miles from Florida, would allow Chinese intelligence services to scoop up electronic communications throughout the southeastern U.S., where many military bases are located, and monitor U.S. ship traffic.”

“Last fall, President Biden vowed to impose ‘consequences’ on Saudi Arabia for its decision to slash oil production amid high energy prices and fast-approaching elections in the United States,” the Washington Post reports.

“In public, the Saudi government defended its actions politely via diplomatic statements. But in private, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts.”

“In late April, a fictional Netflix drama about Taiwanese politics went viral on the island with a story line about sexual-assault allegations that convulse the ruling party,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “A little more than a month later, the plot has crossed over into the real world, with potential ramifications for political forces that the U.S. relies on to keep pressure on China.”

The House Ethics Committee is relaunching its probe into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) over allegations that he was involved in a sex trafficking scheme, Punchbowl News reports.

“President Joe Biden [held] the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history on Thursday, in a deliberate contrast to a cascade of Republican legislation and other attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people,” Reuters reports.

A source familiar with the FBI document reviewed by House Oversight Committee members today told Fox News: “To be clear, the document does not say Joe Biden received any payments.”

“Newly released documents reveal that Donald Trump’s businesses charged his Department of Defense $976,000 during the first three years of his presidency, an amount that appears far greater than previously reported,” Forbes reports.

“Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called on the Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog to resign after he admitted this week to deleting text messages from his government-issued iPhone,” the Washington Post reports.

“WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has lost the latest attempt to appeal his extradition to the US to face criminal spying charges, removing one of the last barriers to his removal from the UK,” Bloomberg reports.

“Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 czar, will be leaving his post next week in the latest sign the Biden administration is confident the country is on stronger footing in its fight against the virus,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

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

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