Tag Archives: Meadows

A Darkness in the Heart

A few days ago, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, releaseddocuments showing ex-President Trump’s efforts to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.  https://bit.ly/35wq4uL Maloney’s release says, in part,

These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost. Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy.

This is not really new. Recall that on May 3, 2017, more than four long long years ago, I published, https://bit.ly/3vObOrS that included a 24-item list of indictable/impeachable offenses by Donald Trump. That was long before the March 2019 Mueller Report, laying out conclusive evidence of at least ten instances in which Trump obstructed justice. And longer still before the July 2019 phone call in which Trump threatened the President of Ukraine that he would withhold Congressionally-approved aid if Ukraine did not announce an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. See https://bit.ly/3vBQ7LF It was even longer before the January 6, 2021 Trump-inspired and Trump-led (“I will be there with you.”) attack on the Capitol, for which I recommended that Trump be indicted, arrested and charged with Sedition & Felony Murder. https://bit.ly/3q7iaSb

Thus, it comes as no surprise that unleashed Trump has once again committed multiple crimes. [An aside: this is not an exaggeration. I will soon be reviewing the extraordinary memoir, Where Law Ends, by Andrew Weissmann, the inside account of the Mueller investigation that reveals in horrifying detail the determination of Donald Trump to retain power and remain unaccountable to the people, including multiple crimes in office]

In a nutshell, as exposed in the released documents, here is how Trump attempted to subvert the Department of Justice in the wake of his 2020 election defeat [full details here; https://bit.ly/35wq4uL]:

Trump Sent Bogus Election Fraud Claims to Top DOJ Officials Minutes Before Announcing Their Promotions to the Top Two Spots in the Department

Trump Used Official White House Channels and a Private Attorney to Pressure DOJ to Urgently File a Supreme Court Lawsuit to Nullify the Election

      • The draft 54-page complaint demanded that the Supreme Court “declare that the Electoral College votes cast” in six states that President Trump lost “cannot be counted,” and  requested that the Court order a “special election” for president in those states.

Trump Enlisted Assistant AG Jeffrey Clark in an Attempt to Advance Election Fraud Claims; The White House Chief of Staff Pressured DOJ to Investigate Conspiracy Theories At Least Fives Times

 Examples [“Rosen” refers to then Deputy AG Jeffrey Rosen]:

      • On December 30, 2020, Mr. Meadows forwarded Mr. Rosen an email from Cleta Mitchell, a Trump advisor who later participated in a January phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.  During that call,  President Trump reportedly asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to declare him the winner of the state.  The December 30 email contained allegations of “video issues in Fulton County.”  Mr. Meadows wrote to Mr. Rosen:  “Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing.  Only the alleged fraudulent activity.”
      • Later on December 30, 2020, Mr. Meadows emailed Mr. Rosen a translation of a document from an individual in Italy claiming to have “direct knowledge” of a plot by which American electoral data was changed in Italian facilities “in coordination with senior US intelligence officials (CIA)” and loaded onto “military satellites.”  This individual claimed that the true data, as well as sources within the conservative wing of the Italian secret service, confirmed that Donald Trump was “clearly the winner” of the 2020 election.

Further nuances and details about these sorry episodes were reported in the Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3q4tP49 One element of that recital is the repetition of “no comment” and no response to inquiries from the press about the narrated events. Even those Justice Department officials who were steadfast in declining Trump’s overtures to overturn the election are apparently unwilling to address the revelations in the emails released by the Oversight Committee. And, quite expectedly, Mark Meadows and Trump himself had nothing further to say regarding their blatant attempts to overturn the election.

 What Should Happen Now

Trump and all of the people involved in attempts to suborn the Department of Justice should be indicted under 18 USC § 371,arrested and tried. It’s past time to put a stop to Trump’s campaign to undermine the central fabric of our democracy.

The US Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. § 371, if violated when two or more persons conspire either to (a) commit any offense against the United States, or (b) defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose. Both offenses require the traditional elements of conspiracy: an illegal agreement, criminal intent, and proof of an overt act.

In Hass v. Henkel, 216 U.S. 462 (1910) the Supreme Court stated:

The statute is broad enough in its terms to include any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government . . . (A)ny conspiracy which is calculated to obstruct or impair its efficiency and destroy the value of its operation and reports as fair, impartial and reasonably accurate, would be to defraud the United States by depriving it of its lawful right and duty of promulgating or diffusing the information so officially acquired in the way and at the time required by law or departmental regulation.

In Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182 (1924), the Court elaborated:

To conspire to defraud the United States … also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. It is not necessary that the Government shall be subjected to property or pecuniary loss by the fraud, but only that its legitimate official action and purpose shall be defeated by misrepresentation, chicane or the overreaching of those charged with carrying out the governmental intention.

A multitude of later cases confirm the ongoing vitality of those early definitions.

Proof of conspiracy requires knowledge by the perpetrators that the statements were false. The claims made by Trump, Meadows and others acting on Trump’s behalf were not just obviously false but bordered on hallucinatory. Trump’s repeated claims that there was “no way” he lost Georgia, for example, have no plausible factual predicate and after sixty lawsuit failures, no plausible factual basis has been presented. Trump’s claims were a blatant attempt to both “interfere or obstruct legitimate Government activity” and/or to “make wrongful use of a governmental instrumentality.”

The Manual of Model Criminal Jury Instructions: 8. Offenses Under Title 18, referring to 18 USC § 371,  states,

A conspiracy is a kind of criminal partnership—an agreement of two or more persons to commit one or more crimes. The crime of conspiracy is the agreement to do something unlawful; it does not matter whether the crime agreed upon was committed….

One becomes a member of a conspiracy by willfully participating in the unlawful plan with the intent to advance or further some object or purpose of the conspiracy, even though the person does not have full knowledge of all the details of the conspiracy. Furthermore, one who willfully joins an existing conspiracy is as responsible for it as the originators.…

An overt act does not itself have to be unlawful. A lawful act may be an element of a conspiracy if it was done for the purpose of carrying out the conspiracy. The government is not required to prove that the defendant personally did one of the overt acts.

A conspirator may not defend on the basis that he believed in fantasies when he made claims he knew were unjustified. In this case Trump and his henchmen tried to enlist the personnel and resources of the nation’s top law enforcement agency to accomplish what they failed to accomplish in the election, knowing to a moral certainty that their claims lacked a basis in reality. The conduct in question occurred almost two months after the election and after numerous lawsuits throughout the country failed to persuade a single judge (including some Trump himself appointed) that there was any basis for claims of election fraud that could change the result. Even Trump’s Attorney General Barr publicly rejected the fraud claims.

I am not alone in advocating strong and prompt action to stop Trump’s continuing effort to overturn the election . Jennifer Rubin suggested the following in the Washington Post on [https://wapo.st/3wz0sJM]:

    1.  criminal investigation into post-election actions in which officials were pressured to change election outcomes, including attempts at DOJ and at state officials such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger,
    2. create strict guidelines for Justice Department attorneys regarding efforts to undo lawful elections, including whistleblower protections and mandatory duty to report such actions to Congress,
    3. sue to stop the bogus so-called “audits” in Arizona and elsewhere,
    4. develop federal legislation to strengthen the Electoral Count Act, such as requiring a supermajority to challenge electoral votes.

Rubin’s final recommendation is probably the most important: establish an election-monitoring program for 2022 and 2024 that will assign Justice personnel to prevent voter intimidation, measure wait times, observe election counting, receive complaints and, ultimately, render a report on the functioning of elections in all 50 states.  That’s the most critical because Republicans throughout the country are legislating changes in local election procedures to enable Republican-controlled legislatures and political appointees to control and even overturn election results.

Following Republicans’ uniform refusal to hold Trump accountable for any of his many crimes in office, it is now clear that the fate of the nation’s election system is under systemic attack. It is no exaggeration to say that Republicans are prepared, without compunction, to adopt totalitarian tactics to establish themselves as the permanent ruling party in American politics. They seem to believe that the majority of Americans will accept such actions in peaceful submission. That, I believe, is a fundamental misjudgment, the consequences of which are unimaginably horrible. Among many other things, the United States is no longer separated from its enemies by oceans that take weeks or months to cross. A violent civil conflict would expose the country to attacks from which it could never recover.

In any case, there is no reason to sit idly by while the Republicans attempt in plain view to subvert the Constitution and establish a Republican dictatorship under Donald Trump. Aggressive and immediate actions can prevent the unthinkable and avert more drastic measures later. Trump and his co-conspirators should be indicted forthwith. Time and opportunity are wasting.

Trump Finally Tells the Truth

According to fact-checkers at multiple credible sources, Donald Trump has set a world record for lies, deflections, mis-directions and related phantasmagorical utterances since he started his run for president and during his time in office. Mercifully, his time in office is about to end. Yet, in the midst of overt attempts to undermine the election, Trump has, at long last, told the truth about one thing.

During a roughly hour-long call by Trump, his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, some of his lawyers, including Cleta Mitchell (a recent appearance) with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, and his attorneys, Trump in an endless stream of world-class whoppers, said on at least two occasions: “what a schmuck I was.”

Beyond that small victory for humanity, the rest of the call is almost beyond comprehension. I listened to the entire tape. What follows is my approximate “transcript” of the call, which, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, will live in infamy. It’s a bit herky-jerky but that reflects the nature of the “conversation.”

Throughout the call, Trump insists that “data” such as the size of his rallies in Georgia and the opinions of Republican governors from surrounding states prove beyond doubt that he won the election in Georgia by “hundreds of thousands” of votes, a “half million votes,” and 400,000 votes in his final plea for relief. Trump’s concept of truth is thus, essentially, that everyone knows if you have big rallies, you win the election. Also, if other politicians say, as Trump claims, ”there is no way” he lost Georgia, then, of course and obviously, he didn’t lose Georgia — he won it by huge margins.

On the rare occasions when they could get a word in, the representatives of Georgia contradicted every claim Trump made. The claims were the usual, most of which have been asserted in court cases that were thrown out but Trump claims the courts are against him so that doesn’t count. When Cleta Mitchell tried to chime into the conversation, Trump mostly just talked over her and said that whatever she was saying wasn’t important, because he only needed 11,780 votes to change the result and while he had “hundreds of thousands” more than he needed, he wasn’t really interested in going into all that as long as the GA officials “found” the 11, 780 he needed to be declared the winner (despite the fact that the vote count in Biden’s favor has been certified and confirmed in the Electoral College). Trump made clear he will never give up.

Trump has a very long list of “wrongs” perpetrated by the Georgia vote counters, including (1) video that the GA folks noted had been manipulated to show false results. The grievances also (2) include drop boxes that were mishandled, (3) dead people by the thousands who somehow voted, (4) “fake ballots” that were voted, (5) ballots that were shredded and are being shredded right now, (6) provisional ballots given to voters who were turned away because they allegedly had already voted but then their provisional votes weren’t counted, (7) people who moved out of state but still voted, (8) corrupt voting machines, (9) machines being removed, (10) parts of machines being removed ….

All of that either has been or will be “certified” in the near future by unnamed “experts” in Trump’s employ.

And it’s not just Georgia: “other states will be flipping to us shortly.” Some 200,000 more people voted in Pennsylvania than people voting. [That’s what I heard him say. I am not making this up]. In Michigan a “tremendous number of dead people voted.­­­­­” [These statements imply that Trump has reached out to Republican officials in other states he lost to urge them to somehow recount the votes and award him the victory]

The Georgia folks, trying very hard to maintain their composure and to be respectful to their Republican president asking them to violate the Constitution, federal law and Georgia law, noted that they simply did not agree with Trump’s claim that he won the vote in Georgia and that they had gone over his points one-by-one with the state legislature and Republican congressmen for hours.

Trump was having none of that, insisting that it was simply “not possible” he lost Georgia and that “they dropped a lot of votes in there at night.”

The Georgia people repeated that “the data you have is wrong.” “Only two dead people voted.” Cleta Mitchell, one of Trump’s lawyers, referred to a group of people with the same names as people who died but claimed they didn’t have the records they needed. Trump wasn’t interested in hearing from his lawyer; he interjected that “they stuffed the ballot boxes like nobody has ever seen before.”

The Georgia people noted, as politely as possible, that the video produced by Rudy Giuliani  to show that ballots were counted three times was “spliced and diced “by Giuliani to give a false impression of what actually occurred, that audits had been conducted and there was no evidence of ballots being input three times. When it was noted that during an absence of the vote counters, law enforcement people were present, Trump declared those people were either “incompetent or dishonest.”

Trump launched a personal attack on Stacey Abrams. Then he made the “give away” claim:  “we’ll find hundreds of thousands if you let us do it.”  More ranting followed: claims of many unsigned ballots and many forgeries in Fulton County. They’re “totally corrupt. They’re laughing at you. They cheated like nobody has ever cheated before. They are shredding ballots. The ballots are corrupt.”

Trump then asserted that there were crimes being committed and that the Georgia officials were not reporting it. “That’s a criminal offense. That’s a big risk to you and your lawyers. They’re moving machines and you’re letting them do it.” [It is a good measure of Trump’s desperation that, needing the complicity of the Georgia officials, he chose to accuse and threaten them].

Trump said they have “thousands of people who will testify they were denied right to vote because they were told they had already voted.” Trump’s ranting became louder and more forceful as it become clearer that he was going to get no joy from the Georgia authorities.

The first mention of “compromise and settlement” by a Trump attorney occurred at 53 minutes into the call. This was too late even if such an arrangement would have sufficed to cloak the discussion with privilege. [Even if these were in fact settlement talks regarding pending litigation, the solicitation of crimes of election fraud would almost certainly have defeated any claim of privilege. It’s reported Trump has sued someone over the release of the tape, but that is likely to meet the same fate as Trump’s other lawsuits (he’s 1 for 61 by my count).

As the call wound down, Trump pressed for immediate resolution, claiming the Senate run-off election was going to be affected because angry Republicans were being deterred from voting. The Georgia people reiterated that Trump’s data was wrong but indicated a willingness to sit down for talks. Trump became practically hysterical at this point, stating again that the governors in the surrounding states had said “there’s no way you lost GA.”

Meadows urged the lawyers to work out a plan to address some of the data issues, saying he can “promise you” there were more than two dead people who voted.

Trump brings up Abrams again: “I beat her.”  “What a schmuck I was.” “Let the truth come out.” “I won by at least 400,000 votes. That’s the truth.” Uh huh.

Let Them Eat Cake

Putting aside the apocryphal nature of the title phrase, it fits perfectly the current attitude of the Republican Party in the Senate where they are doing their best to mimic Ebenezer Scrooge by denying suffering workers a meaningful relief program. The situation is so bad that,

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. [https://reut.rs/2EIOKpL]

The key problem should be the easiest to resolve:  whether to extend the $600 per week in extra federal unemployment benefits for Americans that has literally saved millions from total economic destruction. The benefit expired on July 31.

According to the Reuters report,

The Trump administration and some Senate Republicans have been pushing for a reduction in those extra federal benefits, saying they should be tied to wages. Other Senate Republicans have rejected any extension. [emphasis mine]

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin claims Trump supports the enhanced benefits but does not want people to make more when they are unemployed than they would if they had a job. Mnuchin reportedly said, ”we want to make sure there’s the right incentives.” Typically, Republican leaders are more worried about a few people getting an “undeserved benefit” than helping the overwhelming majority of people who are is increasingly desperate need of help.

Yale economists have studied the data on the alleged disincentive to work arising from unemployment benefits and concluded that “expanded jobless benefits did not reduce employment.” https://bit.ly/3gnWdIY At the risk of letting actual economics get in the way of Republican orthodoxy, the Republican Party would do itself and the country a favor if it stopped bowing down to Donald Trump’s uninformed view of work incentives for people with whom he has only enjoyed a master-servant relationship. The Republicans are focused on the wrong, and least significant aspect, of the problem.

In addition to the classically dense Republican view of economics, the most stunning element of this fiasco is that the Democrat-controlled House proposed relief legislation in May – MAY – but it has languished in the Republican-controlled Senate until last week (more than two months of no action) and Republicans remain divided on what should be in the next round.

Meanwhile, America burns while the Republicans fiddle.

It’s time to hold the Republicans’ feet to the fire they have stoked. The coronavirus rages largely out of control around the country and the economy is in a dead stall. Republicans own the disaster because they supported Donald Trump’s ignorance, incompetence and corruption. The time for political posturing is over. It’s time to act and help the people who elected this legislators and expect them to do their job.