Author Archives: shiningseausa

Happy New Year? Marking Time

First, a happy and peaceful New Year to everyone. My primary wish for everyone is to remain safe from the implacable invisible and deadly virus(es) that continue to haunt our every move. New Year is, of course, not always an entirely happy occasion. It marks time in an odd way, just as we mark hours, days, weeks, and months but it reminds some of us of lost friends and family for the multitude of reasons that bring human lives to an end. And those battling illness of one kind or another. Perhaps it’s the inevitability of that end, always uncertain in timing, that leads so many to celebrate the New Year as if something real had occurred other than an artificial change in the calendar. One day it’s 2022 and the next day it’s 2023.

I for one am consciously grateful to still be here to reflect on this ritual and share every right-thinking person’s hopes that the future will be better than the past, especially the recent past. We are still scarred from our year of the pandemic in New York City. Maybe we always will be, but we also can choose to believe that better times do indeed lie in the future.

That’s true despite the war in Ukraine, the threat of climate change, and the fact that violence against people and the country continue largely unaddressed.

But enough of that. As I reflect on the absurdity of our excess enthusiasm for the “new year,” I also see the value of marking the time as a new beginning and not just an ending. And in doing that we do “start over” in some way and, I hope, commit to doing better, doing good, helping those who cannot help themselves, being kind and as generous as circumstances allow, recognizing the value of those who are simply different than us, respecting science, and reflecting always on the reality that each of us is finite and will not live forever. Time moves in one direction only and, once consumed, can never be recaptured or replayed.

So we should, we must, cherish the time we have, share with open hearts and, as the ending of a science fiction book, title lost to memory, that I read many years ago ended, “love one another.” There is no other way.

T’was the Night Before the Night Before

And all through the land, everything was frozen. Bear with me. This is a happy-ending story. It is not satire, however. Every word is true.

Undeterred by predictions of a weather Armageddon (a “bomb cyclone” predicted for the East Coast – plunging temperatures, rain, snow, rapid freezing of everything – great!), we see that the remarkable jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut is playing in DC at the Carlyle Room (not to be confused with the shuttered Carlyle Club in Alexandria which still appears on the internet as a live venue). We have seen Cyrus probably a dozen times over many years in New York, DC, Reston, and Maryland (a concert at his former high school). He remains one of the premier if not the best, living jazz improvisors in America.  https://www.cyruschestnut.net/about

We reserve tickets and amazingly the site lets us pick our table. We get Table 14 directly in front of the stage.

Seeing the food prices are somewhat high and there is a limited menu, we make the fateful decision to eat elsewhere. After making and canceling at least one reservation, we settle on a new place that looks great on the internet and is close to the music venue:

Dinner

Dine in a bright expansive warm filled space, where glam and modern design highlighted by bright color palettes with deep rich wood finishes.

Weather be dammed, we have a plan. I will not name the restaurant, however. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m feeling generous.

We should have known better by seeing this on the reservations portion of the website, following a long warning about the dress code (“Guests that arrive in t-shirts may not be allowed access into the venue and no refund or credits will be provided. Make sure to inform ALL guests!”) followed by this:

There will be a minimum $350.00 cleaning fee for tables/groups which require excessive cleaning due to the party’s inappropriate conduct such as, but not limited to, vomit, cake fights, intentional pouring of liquor on the table/carpet.

But as noted the place was very close to the Carlyle Room. How bad can it be?  We decide to go boldly where …. you know.

As predicted, the night is frigid beyond imagination and street parking is almost non-existent. We finally park several blocks away from the restaurant. Our new theory is that we walk to the restaurant, walk from there to the music venue, then walk back to the car. It immediately apparent that this plan is preposterous. The wind is blowing and temperatures are already in the mid-teens and falling. Nevertheless, we’re here and we’re going.

The restaurant is, well, noisy. Really really noisy, with multiple large TV screens everywhere. Evidently, this more night club than restaurant. But who wants to go out to a club, pay high prices for drinks and watch TV? Many people it seems. The place is packed. Everyone is talking loudly because they can’t otherwise be heard over the blaring music.

But I digress. We are told by the very polite gentleman tending the door that he will call the elevator to take us to the restaurant upstairs. I mention that I hope it’s not as noisy up there and he assures me not to worry, they will be happy to lower the volume of the music. Uh huh. We go up and … it’s just like downstairs. We order what turns out to be mediocre food, but it is promptly delivered by our very polite waitress. We eat. The bill comes.

I stare disbelievingly at the check where there is 20 percent “service charge” added. Since this is what I would have tipped anyway, I am only mildly alarmed, though still concerned whether this is a “forced tip” or something the restaurant planned to keep, hoping that we would tip the waitress independently.

We didn’t. The automatic surcharge was never disclosed on the restaurant website, so I decided this was indeed the substitute for the tip, notwithstanding that the charging bill arrived with a space for Tip to be added. I remain hopeful that the service charge” was given to the wait staff. I am assured by someone familiar with the DC bar scene that it is almost certain the charge did go to the staff. If so, good. If not, well, they should have disclosed the practice on the website.

We leave, hoofing back to the car in temperatures that now feel like single digits. I’ve been alive a long time but don’t recall anything like this. Nevertheless, we make it to the car, and after I stop shivering, drive around to the Carlyle Room to discover there is no valet parking. But then a Christmas miracle occurs.

There is parking space less than 50 feet from the front door. It has a confusing sign about a time-restricted loading zone, but this is not unusual for DC which is famous for bizarre and inexplicable parking signage.

We gamble and park there. We have an hour before the planned show time so the very polite lady at the door escorts us into the adjacent Brennan’s Bar, which is practically empty. Fine. We wait.

Finally, well after the 9:15 show time, we are admitted to the Room and our front table. This is what we see:

Now the second miracle occurs. Cyrus appears with his trio members, a female bass player and drummer. As with every other performance we have seen, Cyrus is a powerhouse on the piano, improvising tunes from Charlie Brown’s Christmas, throwing in Beethoven’s Für Elise (with the warning “this is not the Für Elise you’re expecting”—wasn’t) and generally making new music at every turn. His bandmates seem constantly bemused by what he is doing but they keep up. Overall, it is an extraordinary performance, as we have come to expect from Cyrus Chestnut. Sadly, it was witnessed by only a handful of people. The earlier show had been sold out, so we have to think the “weather is frightful” was largely responsible.

The Carlyle Room has no minimum beyond the ticket purchase which is highly unusual. The room is huge, more than 80 tables, widely separated, and as noted earlier you can pre-reserve where you want to sit, also very unusual. The Room has been open four months and with better promotion should have a permanent place in the DC entertainment scene, which could use another good jazz venue especially following the demise of Twins. We had dessert, a great chocolate cake slice — with whipped cream and raspberries. Keep an eye on this place. https://www.carlyleroom.com

All in all then, an extraordinary evening. We persevered through the weather, the noisy crowded restaurant/club with mediocre food and ended up front & center at a great jazz performance. A metaphor for the entire year. Don’t give up. Happy Holidays!!!!!

It’s Because He Was President

Members of the media continue to discuss how extraordinary it would be for the Department of Justice to indict a former President, and how disruptive it will be if he is indicted for the multiple crimes he was openly and repeatedly committed. Even while trumpeting (sorry) the line that no one in the United States is above the law.

I want to state that it is precisely because Donald Trump was president that he must be brought to justice, the same as any thug or other criminal. It may be unprecedented but being unusual or even one of-a-kind is no excuse for allowing a criminal to walk free. This is particularly true when that criminal continues to spread the same blatant lies that led to the January 6 insurrection. Trump repeats his falsehoods about the 2020 election multiple times a week. He actively endorses the candidacies of election deniers around the country.

Now he has gone the last mile. He has stated that the [false] claims of election fraud justify disregarding all the rules and regulations governing elections, including the Constitution itself. https://bit.ly/3iqMZkU and https://bit.ly/3HeSkGB and https://bit.ly/3ulG1QY

There can be no clearer indication that Trump is not an American patriot but is a self-interested traitor. He promises to continue promoting his lies about the 2020 election even as he runs in the 2024 presidential election. He literally wants to be “installed” as president, leading, obviously, to the removal of the elected President Biden, the replacement of the entire leadership of the federal government and, effectively, the collapse of American democracy. That is what Trump demands and that is why he should be indicted now.

The fact that most of Trump-endorsed election deniers were rejected in the 2022 midterms is irrelevant. That outcome may suggest that to a large extent the voters have had enough of election-denial, but the money keeps rolling in to finance Trump’s legal fees and his announced candidacy for President in 2024. Grotesquely unqualified candidates like Herschel Walker continue to be promoted by Trump and by the Republican Party and are considered serious threats against candidates like Rev. Warnock in Georgia.

Despite everything that has happened since Trump took office, MAGA Republicans and so-call Christian Fundamentalists continue their fanatical loyalty to him. They claim that the events that led to two impeachments (also unprecedented) and the insurrection were all fake. You can show them a video of the Capitol attack and they will say (1) it never happened, (2) it was staged by paid actors, (3) it was really antifa, not Trump supporters, or (4) they were just patriots fighting to correct the theft of the election (for which no evidence has ever been produced).

Trump’s supporters still say that his phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State demanding the “finding” of just enough votes, by exactly one, to give Trump the win was nothing to be concerned about. Same for his attempt to extort from the president of Ukraine an investigation of his political opponent in the 2020 election. And on and on.

Trump’s crimes are so numerous and his uses of the judicial system to stall and deflect so common and well-financed that a degree of indifference may have set in through the body politic. See MEDIAite at https://bit.ly/3Vt9Bjt  Whatever that may be, the fact remains that Donald Trump, while President of the United States, attempted to overthrow the government by preventing the transfer of power to his duly elected successor. His financial crimes and other abuses of power pale in comparison to that unprecedented attack on the very democratic process that elected him.

And that is the reason he must be prosecuted. Trump violated his oath of office, abused his power, and led an insurrection attempting to end democracy. If he had succeeded, it is likely we would never have seen another real election in this country.

So, members of the media, please just stop with the “OMG, it’s unprecedented that a former president would be indicted.” The lack of precedent simply highlights how grotesque Trump’s conduct was and is. I see now that some of his lawyers have testified before the criminal grand jury and that’s good, although we don’t know, and likely never will know the extent to which they avoided telling the truth by citing attorney-client and/or executive privilege. It is well-established law that such privileges cannot be used to shield communications involved in the planning and execution of crimes, but Trump has succeeded many times in deflecting and deferring consequences with similar claims.

There are some suggestions that Trump’s evasion of responsibility for his crimes is running out of legal room, but he still has allies in Congress and on the Supreme Court who may yet come to his aid. Whatever that future may hold, nothing should stand in the way of indictments for Trump’s many crimes. The most important, of course, is his instigation of the January 6 attack, but there are many others as well. The government should focus on the one or two that have the clearest evidentiary basis and that would certainly include the Capitol assault. Make clear to all future political leaders, in both parties, that crimes in office will not be tolerated. We are approaching the two-year anniversary of the Capitol attack.

It’s time. Past time. Indict him, arrest him, and try him.

Let’s Hear It For the Women

Any society that stagnates or retrogresses is unlikely to survive in a digitally unified world. Societies that are moving backward toward what is perceived as “better times back then” are almost certainly doomed in the long run. Cultural and ethnic diversification is a force that may be delayed for a while, even reversed, but not indefinitely. As it happens, one of the moving forces in this country, perhaps the only one that can save it in the long run, is the women. The women who marched for women’s rights, the women who went to work doing “men’s labor” during the last world war. Many of them never went back, mentally, to the “role that women are supposed to occupy.” While some men have not adapted to the new reality of equality, they face an unhappy and unproductive future. The tide of history cannot be stopped. The love affair of white men with male dominance is a mirage. Loss of status hurts. Get over it. Move on. Think of how exciting it is to know intelligent, thoughtful women who believe in themselves and what they can contribute. There is no going back.

Yesterday established that women will not be suppressed. Voters in all five states where there were ballot measures on abortion rights, the right of women to control their own bodies and health decisions, opted for freedom for women. The women have spoken, Republicans. Good for them. Good for all of us.

Georgia On My Mind

Not the famous song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930, made a hit by Ray Charles in 1960 and by Willie Nelson. No, I’m thinking, and profoundly troubled, by the Senate race in Georgia that will be decided in a few days. The choices for Georgia voters are Rev. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. Remarkably, even for these times, if you believe in poll data, the race is a practical dead heat. How is this possible, Georgia?

Walker’s “biography” on his campaign website is comprised of 530 total words, of which 319, or 60 percent, are related to athletics achievements. As great as those may be, they are not qualifications for serving as one of 100 in the United States Senate, considered by some as one of the great deliberative bodies in the world of politics. In an apparent effort to beef up his resume, Walker also notes that he “performed in the Fort Worth Ballet [one time], competed on The Apprentice, and won the Celebrity Cook-Off on the Food Network.” All of those are the gimmicky stunts of celebrities but provide nothing in qualifications for dealing with the serious business of a U.S. Senator. It is astonishing that a serious candidate for the U.S. Senate would offer such nonsense to prove his worth.

If Walker and Warnock share any other experiences, it is that both were raised in difficult circumstances in the backwaters of Georgia. But there the similarities end. Walker’s bio says little about his childhood, but he makes much of the fact that he suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) due to childhood traumas. This condition is described by the Cleveland Clinic this way:

People with DID have two or more separate identities. These personalities control their behavior at different times. Each identity has its own personal history, traits, likes and dislikes. DID can lead to gaps in memory and hallucinations (believing something is real when it isn’t).

Dissociative identity disorder used to be called multiple personality disorder or split personality disorder.  [https://cle.clinic/3fyU7uw]

People afflicted with this disorder are certainly worthy of empathy and support, but whether they should serve in the Senate is another matter. Walker claims to have written a book about his life with DID, but it seems certain that the real writing was done by the others listed as co-authors of the book. Listening to Walker speak suggests he is incapable of writing the often-sophisticated text in Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. [Note: I have only read excerpts from the book] It is admirable, if true, that Walker has devoted part of his adult life to helping others suffering with DID, but that is a slim reed on which to build a Senate-qualifying resume.

Some people may be offended by the idea that Walker’s mental health issues should be held against him in his quest for high political office. But those people would surely agree, I hope, that a person afflicted with, say, pathological lying disorder (see https://bit.ly/3DB1DNB; see also Donald J. Trump) should not be a U.S. Senator. But DID is far from the only issue with Hershel Walker so let’s not get too distracted (I am not referring to allegations related to abortions and related issues – I don’t know what the evidence shows and don’t consider it particularly relevant. The multiple lies/misrepresentations about achievements in his past are relevant, however, and very troubling).

Rev. Warnock grew up with a large family in public housing, had a mother who picked cotton and tobacco in the summer, yet managed to graduate from Morehouse College, earn a PhD and be ordained in the ministry. His brief biography notes that “For over 16 years, Senator Warnock has served as Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the youngest pastor selected to serve in that leadership role at the historic church.”

I have heard Warnock and can affirm that he is a gifted speaker, a man of serious thoughts and competent intellect. He was elected to the United States Senate in the January 5, 2021, in a special election runoff for the term ending January 3, 2023, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Johnny Isakson, a seat previously held by appointed (and disgraced) Senator Kelly Loeffler.

Senator Warnock serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as the Special Committee on Aging and the Joint Economic Committee. In his short time in the Senate, Warnock has sponsored this legislation:

            Affordable Electric Vehicles for America Act of 2022

            Housing Market Transparency Act

            Rent Relief Act of 2022

            Building More Housing for Servicemembers Act

            Increasing Home Ownership for Servicemembers Act

            Capping Drug Costs for Seniors Act of 2022

            Affordable Insulin Now Act

            Farm to Base Food Security Act

Capping Prescription Costs Act of 2021

Improving Care for Veterans Act

Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021

And many others.

Among the other stark differences with Walker, Warnock has experience in government. Walker has none, at any level. Walker was a gifted athlete, for sure. He has capitalized on his popularity as well as he can. Fine. Good for him. But can you imagine, after listening to him, that he could command the intellectual horsepower to deal with the array of complex legislative issues that Warnock has faced in his multiple committee assignments?

The question for Georgians is whether there is a remote possibility that Walker can function effectively in the cauldron that the Senate has become. Not a scintilla of evidence, suggests that he can. He will be manipulated by the Republican leadership that will see him as a willing supplicant for attention. He will embarrass himself and fail to represent Georgia in any meaningful way.

Worse yet, he will be unable to understand the complexity and seriousness of the issues that the Senate routinely faces. Anyone who has spent time, as I have, interacting with members of the Senate on complex legislative issues will know that this is no place for Herschel Walker. He cannot be successful for Georgia, and he cannot be successful for the United States. Senators, of course, represent their states, but they also bear allegiance to the country as a whole. Whatever Herschel Walker’s talents may be, he is completely unqualified to meet the challenges of being a U.S. Senator.

And, yes, I am aware that there are plenty of limited intellects serving in the Senate now. How will the United States be made better by adding another?

If you live in Georgia and haven’t voted yet, or have friends or family there who haven’t voted, you owe it to yourself and your country to vote on election day for the plainly superior candidate, the sitting Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock. The fate of American democracy hangs on a precipice. Don’t contribute to its fall by electing Herschel Walker to the Senate.

Judge in Trump’s Pocket Played Like a Fiddle

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men even when they exercise influence and not authority.”

So wrote John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer who lived from 1834 to 1902. No better contemporary example of Baron Acton’s statement exists than Donald Trump. The same Trump who having falsely promoted the Big Lie that he was denied re-election due to massive voter fraud. The same Trump who directed a failed attempt to overthrow the government and install himself as president-emperor. The same Trump who stole multiple classified government documents and removed them to an insecure facility in his Florida mansion.

In the same fashion that he has conducted his entire life, Trump is now fighting desperately to stop the Department of Justice from indicting him for that theft. He is using the courts, aided by a judge he appointed, and issuing threats of violence if he is held accountable for his actions.

Word is that Trump pre-paid millions of dollars to induce a lawyer to represent him, given his long history of refusing to pay lawyers and others who worked for him.

This saga has many parts. I will try to simplify them.

*****

Let’s be clear about a few things at the outset. Trump made no mere “mistake” in removing top secret and other classified documents from the White House during his last days there. He meant to take them, meant to keep them and, most likely, meant to use them for personal profit. The documents and folders are clearly marked with classifications. No person with reasonably normal vision could have mistaken the nature of those documents.

Second, there is no evidence that Trump declassified the documents while he was president. None. Zero. There are elaborate procedures for declassifying documents and an evidentiary record of such actions would have been created. That record has not been produced because it doesn’t exist. The declassification defense is just another Trumpian lie being used by Trump’s lawyers to obfuscate and delay. Remember this question of declassification as you read on. It is the punchline of Trump’s latest “joke’s on you.”

None of this should surprise anyone who has been paying attention for the past five years.

Trump has shown time and again that he lacks respect for American institutions and the checks and balances that preserve our democracy. Trump’s interests are entirely transactional and acquisitive. His conduct in office repeatedly showed a complete lack of concern for national security. He regarded the documents from his presidency as belonging to him – his private property notwithstanding the federal laws on preservation of records. Indeed, Trump clearly did not regard the law, any law, as applicable to him. As he famously said, “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Third, Trump is no longer the President of the United States. His lawyers are as confused about that reality as Trump himself. Forms of address matter and referring to Trump as “The President” or “President Trump” is misleading. Trump is not the president. His term ended January 20, 2021. Of that there is no doubt.

Fourth, and finally, one of the basic tenets of legal argument is that you should not try to prove too much. I will explain below how that principle undermines Trump’s position.

The Chronology

The timeline is well known:

January 6, 2021 – Donald Trump, unable to establish a legal basis for remaining in office, sends a violent mob to stop the government from certifying the election of Joe Biden

January 20, 2021 – Joe Biden inaugurated as 46th President of the United States – Trump leaves the White House with many boxes of materials

Months pass – some classified documents are returned, others are withheld, and their existence denied

August 5, 2022 – Search Warrant approved based on showing of probable cause to  believe multiple serious crimes committed

August 25 – Court order approving release of redacted search warrant affidavit

The Search Warrant Affidavit

The original affidavit for the search warrant makes clear:

(1) DOJ is conducting a “criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records;”

(2) after some boxes of documents were returned, it became clear that “there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the [Mar-a-Lago] in an unauthorized and insecure location. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at [Mar-a-Lago];”

(3) there was also “probable cause to believe that the locations to be searched at [Mar-a-Lago] contain evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violationof18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 1519, or 2071;”

(4) “Classified information of any designation may be shared only with persons determined by an appropriate United States Government official to be eligible for access, and who possess a “need to know;”

(5) “highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified;”

(6) repeated requests for return of classified documents were made for more than six months before the National Archives was informed that 12 additional boxes of records were found;

(7) the initial 15 boxes of documents contained 184 documents bearing classification marks;

(8) Trump’s lawyer told DOJ the former president “has absolute authority to declassify documents;” [but did not say that he had in fact declassified them]

(9) a Trump administration official publicly claimed, without proof, that Trump had declassified all the documents at Mar-a-Lago;

(10) DOJ thus concluded that “probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found at [Mar-a-Lago].”

The Less-Redacted Search Warrant Affidavit

Following more legal filings, a less-redacted version of the search warrant affidavit was filed and publicly released. After comparing the two versions, very few new facts were revealed:

(1) the June 3 release of documents to DOJ was by prior arrangement with Trump’s attorney who represented in writing that there were no more classified documents remaining at Mar-a Lago;

(2) the June 3 release contained an additional 38 documents with various levels of security classification;

(3) Trump’s lawyer did not claim that the documents had been declassified;

 (4) DOJ soon learned about, and obtained, security camera footage covering the storage room in Mar-a-Lago but the affidavit material discussing that footage remains redacted.

Note again that the Trump counsel letter asserting the president’s “absolute authority” to unilaterally declassify documents stops short of asserting that Trump actually declassified any of the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. One of the most illuminating aspects of the arguments made by Trump’s lawyers is how careful they are to avoid asserting as fact that he declassified any of the seized documents while in office. They make much of his presumed powers to declassify but never say he did so. [Hint: this will soon become one of the most blatant deceptions of a willing dupe, the Trump-appointed judge to whom the case was assigned]

The Raid on Mar-a-Lago

DOJ subsequently raided Mar-a-Lago and took possession of many additional classified documents that Trump’s representatives had claimed were not there.

In keeping with prior Trump practice, a lawsuit was filed to delay the criminal investigation of Trump by seeking appointment of a Special Master to review all the documents. A Trump-appointed judge agreed, over DOJ’s strong objections, to appoint the Special Master and ordered DOJ to stop its criminal investigation.

Trump’s Judge Issues Bizarre Decision to Delay Criminal Proceedings

The judge’s order that reads more like a political polemic than a sound judicial evaluation of the competing claims about the documents. But it’s worth noting some of the findings made by the judge:

  • “based on the volume and nature of the seized material, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff has an interest in and need for at least a portion of it”
  • Despite that statement, the court’s decision applied to all the seized documents
  • Trump would be “deprived of potentially significant personal documents, which alone creates a real harm”
  • Trump made no effort to show a particularized need for any of the seized personal materials that had been haphazardly stored in the Storage Room at Mar-a-Lago for many months, even after he knew DOJ was interested in them
  • Trump might suffer “unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public”
  • No evidence was cited by the judge as to what “sensitive information” of a personal nature was in the documents and Trump cited none
  • “[Trump] has claimed injury from the threat of future prosecution.” This finding is astonishing. Judge Cannon is completely off the rails here – the threat of criminal prosecution is present in every criminal investigation and is, indeed, the purpose of document discovery which in this case was being conducted pursuant to a grand jury subpoena. If this threat were grounds for a Special Master review, such a review would be automatic in every criminal investigation, and it’s not.
  • “As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own. A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude…. the Court takes into account the undeniably unprecedented nature of the search of a former President’s residence.”  Here the judge gives up all pretense and declares that Trump, as a former president, should have privileges accorded to no other citizen under criminal investigation.
  • This point is further established by the court’s later reliance on “[Trump’s] inability to examine the seized materials in formulating his arguments to date – the documents had been requested multiple times over many months during which Trump had ample opportunity to evaluate what he had. His failure to act should not confer an advantage in an argument about the equities of the situation.
  • The judge further cites “Trump’s stated reliance on the customary cooperation between former and incumbent administrations regarding the ownership and exchange of documents.” The judge claims to be unaware of the Fact that the Trump administration for an extended period refused to cooperate in the transition to the Biden administration. This cannot be true unless Judge Cannon has been living under a rock for the past few years. The refusal to cooperate was widely reported for an extended period.
  • Apparently determined to ignore the Fact of the classified markings on hundreds of seized documents, Judge Cannon treats everything as Trump’s personal material: “this is not a situation in which there is no room to doubt the immediately apparent incriminating nature of the seized material.”
  • Finally, the judge declares that the possibility of Trump’s having an interest in the comingled personal items seized is sufficient to warrant a Special Master for ALL the documents, including those marked classified! Trump’s decision to mingle the documents and later decline to examine them when demanded by DOJ is thus used as an excuse to give Trump a litigation advantage against the government.

This opinion will likely be the subject of law school examinations in future years as indicative of how judicial bias can undermine the rule of law. It almost certainly would receive a failing grade at any creditable law school if presented in answer to an exam question.

DOJ’s Motion for a Partial Stay

DOJ filed a motion for a stay of Judge Cannon’s order only as regards the classified documents and the ongoing criminal investigation related to the unlawful removal and improper storage of those documents. As to the seized classified documents, DOJ argued, among other points, that,

[Trump] does not and could not assert that he owns or has any possessory interest in classified records; that he has any right to have those government records returned to him; or that he can advance any plausible claims of attorney-client privilege as to such records that would bar the government from reviewing or using them.

[Trump], however, has no right to the “return” of classified records, which are not “his” property.… Classified records also are not “personal” to [Trump] and would not reveal any sensitive personal information.…. Accordingly, [Trump] has no cognizable “individual” interest in any classified records (or in having a special master review those records), and he cannot be “irreparably injured” if such records are not returned to him.

 Trump Claims Personal Ownership of Government Records

That should have been the end of it, but, as usual, Trump continued to argue. His response to DOJ’s motion for partial stay characterized the case as a “document storage dispute” in which “the Government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th President of his own Presidential and personal records.”

That utter nonsense stands right alongside Trump’s continued lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Trump’s lawyers then argued that Trump had the right, and by implication only [no evidence], had exercised the right to convert federal government classified documents into his personal documents:

 The [Presidential Records Act] accords any President extraordinary discretion to categorize all his or her records as either Presidential or personal records …. the former President has sole discretion to classify a record as personal or Presidential….

At best, the Government might ultimately be able to establish certain Presidential records should be returned to [the National Archive]. What is clear regarding all the seized materials is that they belong with either President Trump (as his personal property to be returned pursuant to Rule 41(g)) or with [the National Archive], but not with the Department of Justice.

Trump’s position at that point is that he simply cannot be criminally liable for mishandling documents of the highest secrecy classifications because … well, because he was president and well, he could, like he said, do whatever he wanted. Further, Trump’s argument is that the next president is powerless to uncover documents, including highly classified ones, that are evidence of a crime committed by the former president. That is not and cannot be the law.

If you’ve been following the “reasoning” closely, it has perhaps dawned on you that if Trump has the rights he claims to have – to convert secret government documents this personal property at will – then all other presidents must have had the same rights. Thus, for example, President Clinton could now assert personal ownership over documents that were classified during his presidency and compel their disclosure. Same for presidents Bush II, Carter, and Obama.

Trump’s argument, in addition to inconsistency with statutory and case law, proves too much and thereby violates a cardinal rule of advocacy. It should have been rejected outright.

Trump’s opposition to the DOJ motion for a partial stay also violates at least two other principles of advocacy. For example, he argues “the Government’s stance assumes that if a document has a classification marking, it remains classified irrespective of any actions taken during President Trump’s term in office.” But Trump’s team, following in the footsteps of the incompetents who failed in more than 60 attempts in the courts to change the outcome of the 2020 election, does not allege, yet alone prove, that he took any steps to declassify the seized documents while in the White House. Even if it were true that he had the powers he claims, he would have to show they were exercised. They weren’t and his lawyers know it. Their argument is pure sophistry.

The second, and closely related problem, is that Trump’s lawyers appear to believe he is still President of the United States. They refer to him in their legal papers as either the “former president” or as “President Trump,” whichever suits their claim of the moment. This is more sophistry. Trump is no longer president and has not been since January 20, 2021. He cannot, therefore, continue to exercise the powers granted to the president under the Constitution.

Consider for just a moment what the situation would be if Trump were right. President Biden would decide X policy as a matter of national security. Trump would countermand that policy, claiming he had the right to exercise the powers of the presidency indefinitely. Preposterous on its face.

Equally fatuous is Trump’s claim that he has the right to indefinitely restrict access to his “Presidential records” as defined in the Presidential Records Act. Putting aside that the statute cannot be construed to permit a president to conceal documentary evidence of a crime, the argument ignores 44 USC sec. 2202 that says, “The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records….

Whatever else Trump may be, he is not the United States.” And his claim that “there still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents” lacks even the rudiments of a viable argument. Matters are not “in dispute” just because one party, without factual basis, claims they are. We know that Trump has made a lifetime practice of bald-faced lying but his attorneys are subject to a higher standard, as is the judge.  They should be particularly sensitive to this because of the many failed attempts to overturn the 2020 election without evidence to support their outlandish claims.

Trump’s Judge Rejects DOJ’s Motion for Partial Stay

DOJ’s Reply In Support Of Its Motion To Stay Pending Appeal thoroughly eviscerates Trump’s claims that the Presidential Records in dispute are his personal property. Nonetheless, and unsurprisingly, Trump’s handpicked judge rejected DOJ’s position by giving full credence to Trump’s claim that “the record suggests ongoing factual and legal disputes as to precisely which materials constitute personal property and/or privileged materials …; and there are documented instances giving rise to concerns about the Government’s ability to properly categorize and screen materials.” The judge also continued to give controlling weight to Trump’s bootstrap argument that he “has not had a meaningful ability to concretize his position with respect to the seized materials.”

The judge should have said that Trump chose not to do so when the opportunity was readily available during the months of haggling with the government about whether he had classified documents and, if so, which ones. Instead, apparently because Trump is entitled to special treatment under the judge’s conception of the law, Judge Cannon simply gives Trump yet more opportunities to delay justice, opportunities no other citizen would have been granted.

The effect of Judge Cannon’s rejection is remarkable. He went to some lengths to describe the various investigative steps still open to DOJ while repeatedly foreclosing any reliance on the content of the seized classified documents. Worse, his decision means that the Special Master will have to decide whether the government properly classified the seized documents.

The decision gives no hint of how the Special Master is to make such determinations, but it seems certain this will require extensive inputs from the intelligence community, leading to further delays in the criminal investigation into which the judge has inserted the court. When the Special Master’s report becomes available, Trump will almost certainly challenge each adverse finding, leading to more opinions from the judge and appeals. Neither the Special Master nor the judge have any particular expertise in the decisions they will be making.

Among the on-going investigative actions permitted by the judge’s order are “as indicated in the September 5 Order, the temporary restraint does not prevent the Government from continuing “to review and use the materials seized for purposes of intelligence classification and national security assessments.” This logical inconsistency perfectly illustrates the travesty of the judge’s decision: the seized documents can somehow be used for further intelligence classification even as the Special Master, and eventually the judge himself, decide whether the documents were properly classified.

Another stunning misrepresentation by Judge Cannon resides in this remarkable statement:

“there has been no actual suggestion by the Government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from Plaintiff’s allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property. Instead, and unfortunately, the unwarranted disclosures that float in the background have been leaks to the media after the underlying seizure.”

The judge is more concerned about leaks from the government than about the national security implications of leaving the classified documents in Trump’s control.

In a final attempt to show his even-handedness, Judge Cannon notes:

Lastly, the Court agrees with the Government that “the public is best served by evenhanded adherence to established principles of civil and criminal procedure,” regardless of the personal identity of the parties involved …. It is also true, of course, that evenhanded procedure does not demand unquestioning trust in the determinations of the Department of Justice.

The problem here is that it is not the determination of the Department of Justice that are at issue. It is the determinations of the agencies that classified the documents in the first place. Rather than giving any presumption of validity to the government’s classifications, and without any attempt by Trump to show that the classifications were defective or overridden by an actual presidential decision, the judge has inserted the judiciary into a process it is incompetent to evaluate. The opinion reads like a sophisticated but unmistakable MAGA polemic on the evils of the federal government.

Hey, Judge – Fooled Ya!

Rather than spend more time analyzing the DOJ arguments against the judge’s bizarre and illogical decision, let’s leap ahead to the final step in which Trump, through his lawyers, springs the trap on Judge Cannon.

The judge’s order denying DOJ’s motion for a partial stay was issued September 15. The Special Master wasted no time thereafter. A letter from Trump’s lawyers states: “On September 16, 2022, Your Honor invited the parties to the above-captioned litigation to provide a docketed letter with suggestions regarding the agenda for tomorrow’s hearing.” Then this:

the Draft Plan [set out by the Special Master] requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government. We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property. Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff 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.

The appropriate response to this astounding claim should be:

claims regarding declassification have been waived and no further action regarding them is required. The stay is lifted as to the classified documents and DOJ is free to use them in its criminal investigation as it chooses. Trump’s counsel have been more than a little too cute in their attempt to manipulate and delay these proceedings and the pending criminal investigation. Neither the Special Master nor the court will countenance further obfuscation. The Special Master is relieved of any duty to consider the classification of the classified documents. At a later date the court will consider whether Trump’s counsel should be sanctioned for their attempt to manipulate this proceeding for purposes of delay.

Recall that the presence of classified documents in the materials removed by Trump was known as early as February of 2022. https://wapo.st/3BPYXMs It is now late-September and Trump’s lawyers have exposed their delay strategy in the starkest terms. They baited Trump’s appointed judge who took the bait. Now he looks like just another sucker who was played by Trump. Trump’s loyalists in the White House have been lying and dissembling about Trump’s theft of classified documents for more than a year. Last year they claimed the boxes contained nothing but newspaper clippings. https://wapo.st/3Sesd4u

It’s past time for either the district court judge and/or the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to declare an end to the Trump charade. It should not take long to confirm that the purloined classified documents are authentic and that, by itself, should be sufficient for the grand jury to indict Trump on multiple criminal counts.

A Special Place in Hell

On August 16, 2022, a United States Senator representing Florida published an “open letter” to “American Job Seeker.” The letter purports to address grievances about the planned hiring of 87,000 new employees for the Internal Revenue Service. In keeping with Scott’s general method of operation, the letter is replete with lies, distortions, and deflections. A U.S. Senator addressing the legislation he’s complaining about should know better. I believe he does and that his mendacity is deliberate. Donald Trump will be happy with him, though, so in Senator RIck Scott’s mind, he is fine with lying, distorting, and deflecting. Let’s have a closer look.

First, Scott decries the “labor participation rate” that he says the Biden administration has caused “to drop to historic lows.” That is a gross distortion at best and a bald-faced lie at worst.

The labor participation rate is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work. A casual look at Labor Department data would have shown Scott that the rate has remained within a percentage point or so of the level during Trump’s administration. https://bit.ly/3SZT71u Except, of course, for the big dip in 2020 caused by, you will recall, Trump’s grotesque mishandling of the pandemic. In July 2022 the rate was only .3 below the level when Biden was inaugurated. Oh, by the way, Florida, Scott’s state, ranks among the lowest states in LPR. Also, by the way, the national unemployment rate was 3.5% in July 2022, exactly where it was in February 2020, just before the pandemic struck. By most standards that unemployment rate is considered “full employment.”

Scott then says, “I write to you today to offer a few things for you to consider as you continue your job search.” Ah, job hunting advice from a professional politician from Florida, a man whom Wikipedia describes this way:

During his tenure as chief executive, the company [Columbia/HCA, then the largest private for-profit healthcare company] defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs. The Department of Justice ultimately fined the company $1.7 billion in what was at the time the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.

Scott has two messages: (1) expansion of the IRS workforce is a threat to Americans and when Republicans get control of Congress in the fall elections, they will remove the funding for these jobs; therefore, don’t waste your time applying; (2) the original job posting indicated the new IRS employees would be armed and one of their “major duties” was to be prepared to kill your neighbors and friends.

That deliberately misinformed and childish hysteria is plainly designed to frighten ordinary Americans. Scott goes on to refer to an “IRS super-police force” that will not only audit your taxes (that you are required by law to pay — remember, Scott is in the party of “law and order”) but directly suggests a mob of armed government employees will kill you if you don’t pay up.

This is the face of the modern Republican Party that uses the rhetoric of government running wild to frighten Americans into believing that a utopian and authoritarian solution is their only safeguard. The reality is quite different.

Lower taxes are, first, a lie. Republicans only lower taxes for the very wealthy. Ordinary Americans see little of the oft-promised tax cuts. Trump’s oft-toted big tax cut went almost entirely to the wealthy and increased the federal deficit by a huge amount. While promising to eviscerate the government, Republicans also promise stronger borders, a more powerful military, and more efficiency – all for less money! The Republican Party is the modern version of the snake oil salesman – buy my elixir and enjoy good health for life! Nothing to it. Something for nothing.

Let’s look more closely at Scott’s hysterical claims. He uses transparent techniques. All caps on “$80 BILLION.” He then compares the resulting IRS work force to the combined employment of four familiar federal agencies: Pentagon, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and the State Department.  If his original claim of doubling the size of the IRS was accurate, then this might be true even if totally pointless. But it is not. The IRS is not going to hire 87,000 new employees in one year. So, Scott’s workforce comparisons are just more distortions/lies.

The more important question is: what will the new employees be doing that is good for America? Senator Scott doesn’t want you to know about that. Here’s why.

The IRS’s budget has been cut by nearly 20 percent since 2010, impacting the agency’s ability to staff up and modernize half-century-old technology. In 2010, the IRS had about 94,000 employees. That number dipped to about 78,000 employees in 2021. Some of the agency’s computers still run on COBOL, a programming language that dates back to the 1960s. Since 2010, the agency’s enforcement staff has declined by 30 percent, according to IRS officials, and audit rates for the wealthiest taxpayers have seen the biggest declines because of years of underfunding. [https://bit.ly/3K8AzIp]

So, if you’re fine with wealthy tax cheats getting away with under-paying taxes, you’ll appreciate Senator Scott’s gross deception. Otherwise, well, you’ll recognize that you can’t run the government on thoughts and prayers Republicans like to send when your school children are slaughtered with AR-15’s they refuse to restrain.

Speaking of that, Senator Scott also wants you believe that the IRS auditors are going to shoot you. Another lie. Fewer than 3% of IRS employees are Special Agents who carry weapons. Why do they? Because they are law enforcement personnel in the IRS Criminal Investigation unit. They investigate criminal tax violations and other financial crimes such as money laundering, bank secrecy, national security, and national defense matters.

While we’re still on violence, Senator Scott should know that anti-government, anti-worker statements have inspired violent attacks on federal employees in the past. There are now reports of one Republican candidate advocating shooting federal employees, including IRS employees, “on sight.” When you add these incitements to violence against federal employees carrying out Congressionally mandated duties to Republican indifference to the slaughter of school children with automatic weapons they refuse to regulate, you have the perfect storm of a political party advocating violence against its opponents and the government.

Senator Scott’s letter is a dangerous collection of gross distortions and outright lies. This man cannot be trusted. Florida should send him packing (no pun) as soon as possible.

Answers to Senator Mike Lee’s 8 Stupid Questions

On August 10, U.S. Senator, and Trump sycophant, Mike Lee published an opinion piece on, where else, Fox News, entitled, Trump raid leaves me with 8 important questions as a Senate Judiciary Committee member.  I am here to help. For the record, note that Lee twice clerked for Justice Samuel Alito, who famously wrote the majority opinion imposing his religious views on the country while overturning Roe v Wade.

See also https://shiningseausa.com/2022/05/05/justice-alitos-masquerade/

After reminding us he was a federal prosecutor, Lee poses his eight questions.

  1. Did Attorney General Merrick Garland personally sign off on this action?

Answer: A modest effort by Lee would have told him the answer. It’s clear now that Garland did sign off, reflecting awareness on the part of DOJ that its investigation at Mar-a-Lago was singularly important.

  1. Why break into the safe at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home rather than seize it, take it into custody, and seek a warrant to open it?

Answer: It’s unclear why Lee cares about this, but most likely it’s just part of the “Trump as victim” narrative that Republican sycophants constantly promote to show their loyalty to Trump, as opposed, you know, to loyalty to the country they swore to protect and defend.  The warrant governing the entire search almost certainly permitted the FBI to “break into the safe” if that is in fact what they did. You would have thought that Trump, faced with the “raid,” would have just opened the safe. Maybe he did. Lee wasn’t there. Or Trump refused to open it, so he could add to his victimization ploy.

  1. Why execute a search warrant rather than seek the items through an informal process such as a subpoena?

Answer: Lee is either deliberately ignorant or just plain stupid. Trump would never have complied with a subpoena and Lee knows that. Pursuing a subpoena would just have delayed everything, alerted Trump to the target of the investigation, and likely resulted in destruction of or further secreting of the evidence. Trump refused to answer Special Counsel Mueller’s questions, has claimed that everything he did is forever protected by some form of privilege and in general declared himself immune from, and superior to, the law. If Lee has not learned any of this, his “opinion” is worth exactly nothing. He just going along to get along with the Republican narrative that the man who led the attempt to overthrow the government on January 6 did nothing wrong.

  1. If this is genuinely about presidential records, why would the former President — who was in charge of declassifying documents — be subject to prosecution for retaining custody of the same documents? It’s important to note that classification authority belongs to the president of the United States — NOT to bureaucrats at the National Archives.

Answer: Senator Lee knows a lot less about the classification of federal government documents than he would have you believe. For a short course introduction, see https://twitter.com/MarkHertling/status/1557911337468133377  If you want to look further into General Hertling’s military chops, look at this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hertling

  1. If this is the product of the growing political weaponization of federal law enforcement agencies, shouldn’t all Americans be outraged by the Democrats’ plan to hire an additional 87,000 federal agents?

Answer: Clever but no cigar. By characterizing this as a hypothetical, Lee leaves himself room to say, “I never said there was growing weaponization, etc.” But, of course, a claim of weaponization is exactly the message he intended to deliver.

Why he thinks the increased staffing for the Internal Revenue Service (that’s the 87,000 new employees) is relevant here will remain a mystery to all rational people. But if anyone wants to know, read this: https://wapo.st/3SOxMHZ And if weaponization is the allegation, perhaps Sen. Lee should do a little reading about the Trump administration, especially the last year or so. Might start with Betrayal, The Final Act of the Trump Show, by Jonathan Karl. Or these:

The Fourth Reich — It’s Them or Us https://bit.ly/3QIoCLy

Donald Trump — A Gangster in the White House https://bit.ly/3Po4kpB

Trump’s Documents – Trump’s Crimes https://bit.ly/3zMWik4

  1. How is this aggressive action defensible in light of the FBI’s and DOJ’s treatment of Hillary Clinton, who was never subjected to such an invasive intrusion of privacy, even though she mishandled classified material and destroyed evidence?

Answer: Sen. Lee should see a doctor about his memory loss. I will not waste time with this old, very old, line of Republican deflection, except to note that Secretary Clinton did not attempt to stage a coup to prevent the lawful and peaceful transfer of power. Oh, and DOJ’s (FBI’s Comey, remember him?) treatment of Hillary Clinton was likely to ultimate cause of her loss to Trump in the 2016 election.

  1. Why should we assume that the federal bureaucracy isn’t targeting Republicans when the FBI and DOJhave taken no action regarding flagrant violations of the law by pro-abortion extremists threatening Supreme Court justices at their homes?

Answer: Prosecutorial decisions about political protests are more than a little different than investigation of known crimes involving national security. And, just for the record, AG Barr’s records of using DOJ for Trump’s personal and political benefits is undeniable. We can match the good senator deflection for deflection, but it’s pointless. Trump removed documents from the White House that he knew had the highest security classification. Why? Republicans like Lee don’t care about the national security of their country. They are only interested in being seen by Trump as 100% loyal to him, just in case, you know, he becomes president again.

8. Did FBI Director Christopher Wray intentionally wait to carry out the raid until after his oversight hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee last week? I asked him whether he was concerned with warrantless “backdoor searches” under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He seemed unperturbed.

Answer: What if he did? Lee is a US Senator and can ask the FBI questions until he is blue (or is it red?) in the face.

Lee’s rant ends with his false hope that the FBI has been appropriately careful in handling the decision to raid Trump’s “home:”

If there’s something we don’t know, something that will clarify the reasons for the raid, then the FBI needs to articulate that justification soon as possible. If there isn’t, we’ve got problems at the FBI.

In this statement, Lee reveals his ignorance of how DOJ/FBI works OR, more likely, is just playing to the victimization/fears of the Trump base that somehow the federal government is out to get them. Senator Lee and most other people are not entitled to know every detail of criminal investigations, regardless of the target. Lee seems to forget, as he has forgotten his oath of office, that Trump is subject to the law the same as everyone else. The investigation of Trump is based on well-founded concerns of criminal behavior in a vast range precisely because, not instead of, his having been president. The reason is simple enough: if the president can commit crimes and not be called to account, the Constitution is meaningless and, as Benjamin Franklin feared, the republic is lost.

Prosecution of Donald Trump

People in media and elsewhere are falling all over themselves to influence the public’s understanding of Donald Trump’s guilt for multiple crimes while in office and thereafter. The nature of these “explanations” for the “difficulties” of convicting Trump have shifted somewhat. At first, there were the “defenses” suggested around whether Trump was legally responsible for inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol. You know, the First Amendment that he was just engaged in protected “political speech.” That argument has pretty much dissolved in the face of overwhelming evidence developed by the January 6 Select Committee and other sources noting, correctly, that speech that is part of a criminal conspiracy, for example, is not protected “freedom of speech.”

We now have Republicans with credentials suggesting there are major difficulties in the path of Attorney General Garland’s struggle whether to indict the former president. In a Sunday New York Times “Guest Essay,” entitled “Prosecute Trump? Put Yourself in Merrick Garland’s Shoes,” Jack Goldsmith argues that the AG has three difficult decisions to make.

Mr. Goldsmith’s credentials are imposing. He served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant attorney general, office of legal counsel, and as special counsel to the general counsel (??) of the Department of Defense.  He is a Harvard law professor and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (yes, that Hoover), and a co-author of “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.”

To his credit, Goldsmith admits up front that Trump’s claim of election fraud was false. He also admits that, faced with multiple failures to secure his objective, Trump “riled up a mob, directed it to the Capitol and refused for a time to take steps to stop the ensuing violence.”

To mitigate this problematic situation, Goldsmith says Garland must first decide who should decide whether to indict Trump. He argues that DOJ likely has a conflict of interest because Garland’s “boss,” President Biden, is a likely opponent of Trump in the 2024 election. Thus, if another condition is met (Garland believes appointment of a special prosecutor is “in the public interest”), the AG must appoint a special counsel (another Mueller) to investigate Trump and decide the indictment issue. He goes so far as to note that “some people” believe that a quasi-independent special counsel should be a Republican (and you thought my reference to Mueller was just historical; remember who we’re talking about here).

After more back-and-forth, and like a good law professor, Goldsmith concludes this issue with the observation that “Garland could legitimately conclude that the public interest demands that the Trump matter be guided by the politically accountable person whom the Senate confirmed in 2021 by a vote of 70-30.” I think that means Garland could decide that Garland should decide.

This is where things get really hinky. The second major decision, Goldsmith says with a straight face, is whether Garland,

has adequate evidence to indict Mr. Trump… The basic question here is whether, in the words of Justice Department guidelines, Mr. Trump’s acts constitute a federal offense and “the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.” [emphasis added]

These issues, Goldsmith says, “will be hard conclusions for Mr. Garland to reach.”

To that, I say, C’mon, man. Be serious.

Goldsmith’s argument is that the evidence developed by the January 6 Select Committee is too “one-sided” and that,

Garland must assess how any charges against Mr. Trump would fare in an adversarial criminal proceeding administered by an independent judge, where Mr. Trump’s lawyers will contest the government’s factual and legal contentions, tell his side of events, raise many defenses and appeal every important adverse legal decision to the Supreme Court.

Putting aside the position of the freshly corrupted Supreme Court (the Thomas scandal, questions about who paid Kavanagh’s debts, etc.), the rest of these issues, while certain to be raised, pose no serious threat to a well-crafted evidentiary case that overwhelmingly, just on what we now know, demonstrates Trump’s guilt on multiple federal counts. See, for example, the Brookings Institution’s report, Trump on Trial. See prior post, https://shiningseausa.com/2022/06/20/trump-crimes-report-marked-up/ And that does not include the nine remaining counts of obstruction of justice that Mueller uncovered but felt he was blocked by DOJ policy on indicting a sitting president.

Undeterred, Goldsmith suggests Trump has potential defenses in the argument that “he lacked criminal intent because he truly believed that massive voter fraud had taken place” and “his interpretations of the law, his pressure on Mr. Pence, his delay in responding to the Capitol breach and more — were exercises of his constitutional prerogatives as chief executive.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Goldsmith can call these arguments “legally powerful claims” all he wants, but the weight of reality is simply too great here. More on the “intent” issue in a bit.

Goldstein then says the third issue, in his reckoning the most difficult, is: “whether the national interest would be served by prosecuting Mr. Trump.”

He rightly says this is “a judgment call about the nature, and fate, of our democracy.”

A failure to indict Mr. Trump in these circumstances would imply that a president — who cannot be indicted while in office — is literally above the law, in defiance of the very notion of constitutional government. It would encourage lawlessness by future presidents, none more so than Mr. Trump should he win the next election. By contrast, the rule of law would be vindicated by a Trump conviction. And it might be enhanced by a full judicial airing of Mr. Trump’s possible crimes in office, even if it ultimately fails.

And yet Mr. Garland cannot be sanguine that a Trump prosecution would promote national reconciliation or enhance confidence in American justice. Indicting a past and possible future political adversary of the current president would be a cataclysmic event from which the nation would not soon recover. It would be seen by many as politicized retribution. The prosecution would take many years to conclude; would last through, and deeply impact, the next election; and would leave Mr. Trump’s ultimate fate to the next administration, which could be headed by Mr. Trump.

Along the way, the prosecution would further enflame our already-blazing partisan acrimony; consume the rest of Mr. Biden’s term; embolden, and possibly politically enhance, Mr. Trump; and threaten to set off tit-for-tat recriminations across presidential administrations. The prosecution thus might jeopardize Mr. Garland’s cherished aim to restore norms of Justice Department “independence and integrity” even if he prosecutes Mr. Trump in the service of those norms. And if the prosecution fails, many will conclude that the country and the rule of law suffered tremendous pain for naught.

Mr. Goldstein is a master of both-sides-ing. But the effort fails in my judgment because:

  • It is not the Attorney General’s job to promote national political reconciliation. His job is to prosecute serious violations of federal law. There are none more serious than the attempts to overthrow the government, subvert the election and declare Trump the winner even though he lost.
  • Confidence in the justice system, already threatened by partisanship and conflicts of interest on the Supreme Court, cannot be promoted by letting a public criminal walk free just because he was president.
  • Republicans have already made clear that, if they gain enough political power, they will pursue policies of retribution wholly independent of substantive merit. If Trump has a role in that, it should be from prison.
  • The people who will see Trump as a victim of politicized justice are the same people who deny Biden’s election victory. In the grand tabulations involved here, they are entitled to zero deference.
  • Justice Department norms of independence and integrity, undermined by Trump, can only be restored by indicting and trying Trump, not by pretending none of this happened.
  • If the Department of Justice won’t stand up for our democracy, we will, as Ben Franklin suggested, lose our republic.

I noted above that I would return to the issue of “intent” that many observers have claimed is the centerpiece of the legal defenses Trump would raise. See “Despite Growing Evidence, a Prosecution of Trump Would Face Challenges.” https://nyti.ms/3xKwrZ9 The authors of these ideas continue to suggest that Trump’s “intent,” his “corrupt state of mind, or not,” is a real issue and challenge for any prosecution.

Given what we already know, these concerns about Trump’s intentions border on preposterous. The repetition of them seems designed to prime the public mind to believe something that, like the Big Lie, is quite unbelievable because of, you know, the facts.

The New York Times piece recites Trump’s “arguments” based on a 12-page statement he issued last week, a statement the article described as,

· “rambling”

· “usual mix of outlandish claims, hyperbole and outright falsehoods”

· “unfounded”

· “obvious problems of credibility”

But also,

On nearly every page, Mr. Trump gave explanations for why he was convinced that the 2020 election had been stolen from him and why he was well within his rights to challenge the results by any means available. What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Trump wrote, stemmed from an effort by Americans “to hold their elected officials accountable for the obvious signs of criminal activity throughout the election.”

If the Justice Department were to bring a case against him, prosecutors would face the challenge of showing that he knew — or should have known — that his position was based on assertions about widespread election fraud that were false or that his attempt to block the congressional certification of the outcome was illegal. [emphasis added]

As a potential defense, the tactic suggested by Mr. Trump’s statement is far from a guarantee against prosecution, and it presents obvious problems of credibility. Mr. Trump has a long history of saying whatever suits his purposes without regard for the truth. And some of the actions he took after the 2020 election, like pressing officials in Georgia to flip enough votes to swing the outcome in that state to his column, speak to a determined effort to hold on to power rather than to address some broader perceived vulnerability in the election system.

But his continued stream of falsehoods highlights some of the complexities of pursuing any criminal case against him, despite how well established the key facts are at this point.

What? The article emphasizes that Donald Trump is a dishonest and remorseless serial liar while simultaneously saying this complicates prosecution of him? This bizarre position is apparently based on the views of Daniel L. Zelenko, a white-collar defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor:

“The key is having contemporaneous evidence that he was saying that he knew the election was not stolen but tried to stay in power anyway,” said Mr. Zelenko, a co-chair of the white-collar defense practice at Crowell & Moring. “The problem with Trump is that you have to try and get inside his mind, and he has such a history of lying and pushing falsehoods that it makes it difficult to determine what he really believes.”

Another authority, Samuel W. Buell, a law professor at Duke University and former federal prosecutor, said:

any criminal case against Mr. Trump would have to start with establishing that he had been aware that what he was doing was improper. “You need to show that he knew what he was doing was wrongful and had no legal basis,” he said. “I’m not saying that he has to think: What I’m doing is a crime. It’s proving: I know I don’t have a legal argument, I know I’ve lost the election, but I’m going ahead with a known-to-be-false claim and a scheme that has no legal basis.”

If that is the standard, it has been met many times over. No rational juror could find otherwise based on the evidence presented during the January 6 hearings.

I recognize, of course, the article’s point that, “The House committee’s hearings are not a trial. The panel is free to be selective in what testimony it employs to build a case against Mr. Trump, and the former president has no allies on the committee who can question witnesses or provide information helpful to him.”

Consider for a moment who might be Trump’s “witnesses” to rebut the allegedly selective, but entirely consistent and multiply attested to, evidence presented by the January 6 Select Committee: Rudy Giuliani, Lin Wood, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and others similar. Most of them have either had their law licenses suspended, are subject to disciplinary proceedings or pleaded the Fifth Amendment 100 times when testifying to the January 6 Committee.

Against that “evidence,” would be the testimony of the former Attorney General (Barr), a Trump loyalist, and numerous other highly credentialed people who had investigated the fraud claims and advised Trump there was no evidence to support his claims. Also, Greg Jacob, VP Pence’s chief counsel. And many many others.

Unless we are going to follow a rule of law that says a person’s intent is measured entirely by whatever phantasmagorical imaginings they choose to adopt, which is not the law [unless they want to argue that Trump is insane, in which case, he gets committed 😎😃], Trump’s corrupt state of mind can readily be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The fact, if it is one, that he wanted to believe something else, something that was false, cannot be accepted as a defense any more than we would accept the excuse that the driver causing a fatal accident was blind drunk at the time. Every one of Trump’s responsible advisors told him, some many times, that there was no credible evidence of voter fraud that could change the result. He continued to declare that he won “by a landslide.”

It is beyond astonishing that credence is being given to the idea that because Trump was a serial liar, it may be harder to prove his guilt:

Expert advice is often enough to show a jury what a defendant knew, lawyers said. But that may be more difficult with Mr. Trump because he has such a long history of disregarding experts and his own aides, they said. Given the challenge of showing what Mr. Trump actually knew, there is one other way prosecutors could show he had a corrupt intent: proving what is often called “willful blindness.

Nonsense. The prosecution may choose to jump through all those hoops, but it should be more than sufficient to prove that Trump’s credible advisors told him his claims were false, but he persisted with the Big Lie anyway. A properly instructed jury could rationally and easily find Trump guilty on that basis. The suggestion that the prosecutors must somehow plumb the depths of Trump’s “mind” to determine and prove his subjective intent in fact is unnecessary and impossible. His behavior tells you what his mind was thinking. Trump has never cared about the truth and has always used his large resources and willing accomplices to avoid being held accountable. In this case his public conduct and the disclosed facts are more than sufficient to convict.

I recognize, however, there is the “what if we indict, try and lose” school of thought. The answer is, I suggest, straightforward. There are no guarantees when it comes to criminal prosecution. But we’re talking about the fate of the country here. This is no time for timidity. If DOJ’s leadership is too afraid of the possibility, however remote, of defeat, it should be replaced forthwith by people of more courage and determination.

I am at a loss as to why the media and many lawyers continue to treat Trump like a grammar school-aged toddler who still believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I understand that there are people, more than we would care to think, who genuinely believe that the Earth is flat, that aliens walk among us, that Q is real and on and on. But those “beliefs” would not be effective defenses to, say, a charge of bank robbery: “Well, your Honor and members of the jury, it’s true I robbed the bank, but I did it only because an alien visited me and said his group needed the money to buy a spaceship for return to their home planet. Many people want the aliens to leave so I was justified. You must find me innocent.”

Enough with this nonsense. Indict him, try him, and convict him.

 

Trump Crimes Report — marked up

In a prior post, I promised to provide a marked-up copy of the Brookings Institution report on the crimes of Donald Trump and some of his enablers. https://bit.ly/3A6oIaT

Here it is. https://shiningseausa.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/trump-on-trial-marked.pdf

You may want to consult it as you watch the remainder of the televised hearings of the January 6 Select Committee. The next hearing is tomorrow, June 21, currently scheduled to be televised live at 1:00 EDT. Check the time for your local broadcast, as they sometimes change.