Trump ad Odds With the Espionage Act?

[Update: the House just passed the Inflation Reduction Act. Now it just needs President Biden’s signature.]

I take it the warrant and receipt are out, and — whoa — the warrant mentions the espionage act.

A document attached to the search warrant said the agents were searching for “All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime and other items illegally possessed in violation of” three laws, including a part of the Espionage Act that the Justice Department describes on its website as a “key national defense and national security” provision. The section cited in the search warrant “applies to activities such as gathering, transmitting to an unauthorized person, or losing, information pertaining to the national defense, and to conspiracies to commit such offenses.”

That sounds pretty serious. You can find the actual search warrant here.

I’m hearing on MSNBC there were four boxes of materials that had been given the highest top secret designation, “TS/SCI.” (Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information) I’m reading that SCI stuff must absolutely never be removed from a “sensitive compartmented information facility.”

Whether any of this touches on nuclear weapons information, we do not yet know.

So Trump had boxes of this stuff in the basement. For a time the basement wasn’t even locked. Then he put a padlock on the door and figured that was fine.

It appears that someone alerted the Department of Justice that Trump had TS/SCI documents that he was still hanging on to, even after being served with a subpoena to turn over documents in June. It appears that the search warrant was more than justified.

Trump issued this statement today:

“Number one, it was all declassified,” Trump said. “Number two, they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”

So, one, none of this had been declassified per normal protocols. His waving his tiny hands over the boxes and chanting “be thou declassified” doesn’t cut it. He can order that documents be declassified, but then the original classifying agency has to complete the process, it says here.

Two, obviously, the government HAD been asking for all documents he shouldn’t have kept, for some time, and obviously Trump was still sitting on them.

Trump has also been claiming that President Obama removed “33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,” and took them to Chicago. But the National Archives (NARA) shot that down. All of the documents of the Obama Administration are properly stored in NARA facilities, they said. Some of those facilities are in Chicago, but a NARA facility is not the Obamas’s basement. “As required by the [Presidential Records Act], former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration,” NARA said.

This is an interesting bit, reported by Josh Marshall today:

This morning the House Freedom Caucus, ground zero of Trumpism and coup plotting, canceled the press conference they had planned to bewail the FBI search of the ex-President’s home.

Somebody must have tipped them off what was coming.

I’m not hearing from any big-name Republicans yet. Even Josh Hawley, who has been tweeting that Merrick Garland must be impeached, has gone silent today.

More to come, I’m sure.

Merrick Garland Punts the Ball to Trump’s Defense

I’m just now learning that Merrick Garland issued a statement saying that, one, he personally approved the decision to seek a warrant on Mar-a-Lago, and two, the Justice Department filed a motion requesting the Trump warrant and property receipt be unsealed.

I understand the DoJ will also talk to Trump’s lawyers asking if they have any objections to making the warrant and receipt, or the list of what was removed, public. What do you bet the lawyers are going to object? They have been free to make these things public all along, and I notice they didn’t.

Yep, it says here (scroll down) the lawyers are considering filing a motion to challenge the release of the warrant and receipt. They have until 3 pm EST tomorrow to do this.

They don’t want it released, I bet. They just have to come up with some kind of excuse for why releasing it would be unfair to Trump.

And this popped up this afternoon in an article by Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and Glenn Thrush in the New York Times:

Mr. Trump’s team has declined to disclose the contents of the search warrant. A number of organizations, including The New York Times, are seeking in federal court to have it unsealed.

Some senior Republicans have been warned by allies of Mr. Trump not to continue to be aggressive in criticizing the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the matter because it is possible that more damaging information related to the search will become public.

Pass the popcorn.

Update:

FBI looked for documents related to nuclear weapons at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

If Trump had secret documents related to nuclear weapons, ours or anybody else’s, he’s toast.

What We Know About the Mar-a-Lago Search

Trump’s very bad week continues. Today he was deposed by lawyers from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office. He took the Fifth.

Today, Trump’s lawyers are claiming that the FBI found nothing incriminating at Mar-a-Lago but also that they planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

At WaPo, Philip Bump reviews what we know, and don’t know, about Monday’s FBI search of Mar-a-Lago (no paywall). This is worth reading, as it includes a lot of details about what was going on at Mar-a-Lago during the search. In brief: A pack of agents arrived at 9 am. The Secret Service was not told in advance they were coming. There were no guests staying there, and Trump was in New York/New Jersey, so the place was pretty empty.

The lawyers started arriving about 10 am. The lawyers who have seen the warrant verified that the agents were looking for documents, including classified documents, that belong to the government and shouldn’t have been removed from the White House.

The search concluded about 6:30 pm. The agents removed about 12 boxes of materials, most of which had been stored in a basement.

Another good source of information is this timeline by Zach Montague at the New York Times (no paywall). This goes back to the day before Trump vacated the White House. It appears the Justice Department initiated an investigation into Trump’s document violations in April.

Some time last spring, some federal agents, including one involved in counterintelligence, met with Trump and some of his lawyers at Mar-a-Lago. Philip Bump’s article said that at this meeting it was learned a lot of documents were stored in a basement with no security whatsoever. After that meeting, Trump put a padlock on the door, which was broken on Monday. So the searchers knew the documents were there.

A comment I heard repeated on MSNBC last night was that possibly the DoJ obtained a search warrant instead of a subpoena because of national security concerns.

Why would Trump want to hoard secret government documents in his basement? One, incrimination; two, leverage; three, maybe he could sell them for a lot of money.

Another comment I heard on the teevee is that there could be a connection between the seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s phone yesterday and the Mar-a-Lago documents. Preliminary examination of the documents might have prompted the seizure of the phone. This is speculation, obviously.

So that’s as much as we know right now, I believe.

Update: This morning there were rumors in rightieworld that there must have been an informant. Now Newsweek is reporting there was an informant, according to unnamed government officials.  But I don’t see why an informant was necessary, since the feds already knew Trump was keeping a bunch of White House documents in the basement. The only way this would be significant would be if the informant described some especially sensitive document.

Trump’s Next Move: Bahrain?

There are primaries in four states today — Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Here is Steve Benen’s preview.

This happened today: Trump tax returns must be given to Congress, federal appeals court says in new ruling. The tax returns and related entities must be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, the court said.

There is all kinds of speculation sluicing around regarding yesterday’s FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, including an opinion that the search was really about January 6. I would rather not speculate but wait until we get some solid information.

On the other hand, between the FBI search and the tax return decision, I’m speculating whether Trump will suddenly think up some excuse to be in some other country for a while. If I were him, I’d have lawyers looking up places with nice weather and amenities and no extradition agreements with the U.S.

Paul Waldman:

In his recent speeches, Donald Trump has taken to saying that he is “the most persecuted person in the history of our country.” The millions who lived and died in slavery? Native Americans who endured the Trail of Tears? Sure, they suffered. But did they get kicked off Twitter?

Now that the FBI has executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the former president can indulge what has become his most important impulse, his driving motivation, his very reason for being: to whine and complain.

Heh.

FBI Raids Mar-a-Lago (Updated)

I’m just hearing this. Details to come.

Update: So far, there is little in the way of official information coming from the Justice Department. There is widespread consensus that the search is mostly likely about documents, possibly including classified documents, illegally removed and taken to Mar-a-Lago. Here is the New York Times coverage, outside the paywall.

There is also widespread consensus that this is a big bleeping deal.

Bess Levin writes at Vanity Fair,

As reporter and historian Garrett Graff opined shortly after the news broke: “This is one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions the US Justice Department and FBI has ever taken—one of a tiny handful of times it’s ever investigated a president. Bottom line: The FBI & DOJ must’ve known they had the goods.” In other words, there’s a fuck-ton of ketchup dripping down the walls tonight, and this seems 100% plausible:

Bring it on, I say.

Updates:

Trump supporters are calling for Civil War. Yeah, that’ll be over as soon as the meatballs face a line of tanks.

Aaron Blake has a good roundup of the knee-jerk reactions from the Right. Linked without the paywall.

In the News: Voting Machines, Nazi Generals, Dirty Cops

There’s a whole lot of celebrating going on about the Senate’s passing the Inflation Reduction Act bill. It still has to survive the House. I’m hoping the troublemaking “moderates” get the message that this is not the time for grandstanding. Just pass the damn thing without changes, please. Then everybody can go home for August recess, right?

And it’s a bit nauseating to see Joe Manchin being lauded as some kind of hero, when his primary contribution was to extort benefits for his fossil fuel donors in exchange for his support for the bill.

In other news …

This one is complicated. You’ll remember that Michigan was one of the “contested” states in the 2020 election, and Trump supporters in Michigan went on a rampage looking for “evidence” that the votes had been tampered with. As I understand it, some of these supporters persuaded county clerks into giving them access to the voting machines, which was a felony. Investigation into this breach has turned up the name of Kalamazoo lawyer Matthew DePerno, who won the primary to be the Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general.

Politico reports,

DePerno led a November 2020 lawsuit against the state’s Antrim County over an election night tabulation error that was quickly fixed but which Trump and his allies seized on to claim the entire presidential election was fraudulent. Among the evidence that Nessel’s office said it uncovered were digital ID’s matching the seized voting machines which DePerno had used as evidence in that ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit.

Yeah, it looks bad. DePerno is running against the incumbent attorney general, Democrat Dana Nessel. Nessel has recused herself and requested that a special prosecutor be named to continue the investigation, since she and DePerno are political opponents.

The big headlines today tell us that while he was president, Trump wanted Nazi generals.

“Why can’t you be like the German generals?” Mr. Trump told John Kelly, his chief of staff, preceding the question with an obscenity, according to an excerpt from “The Divider: Trump in the White House,” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, published online by The New Yorker on Monday morning. (Mr. Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times; Ms. Glasser is a staff writer for The New Yorker.)

The excerpt depicts Mr. Trump as deeply frustrated by his top military officials, whom he saw as insufficiently loyal or obedient to him. In the conversation with Mr. Kelly, which took place years before the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the authors write, the chief of staff told Mr. Trump that Germany’s generals had “tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off.”

Mr. Trump was dismissive, according to the excerpt, apparently unaware of the World War II history that Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star general, knew all too well.

“‘No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,’ the president replied,” according to the book’s authors. “In his version of history, the generals of the Third Reich had been completely subservient to Hitler; this was the model he wanted for his military. Kelly told Trump that there were no such American generals, but the president was determined to test the proposition.”

I feel remiss in not mentioning the federal indictments against the Louisville cops involved in Breonna Taylor’s death. There were no state indictments, as the Kentucky attorney general, a Republican, refused to prosecute. There’s a really good article in Slate by Charles F. Coleman Jr. headlined The Most Important Revelation About the Cops Involved in Killing Breonna Taylor. Remember, if you’re out of free articles at Slate, you can still probably read it using an incognito or private window on your browser.

The indictment of the cops that killed Taylor is unique in that it offers the public a peek into typically opaque law enforcement decisions. As the DOJ noted, the “Place-Based Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home.” To put it another way, the police had no real reason to be at Taylor’s house. They were not acting in the interest of public safety when they broke into her home in the middle of the night without knocking and shot her to death. Instead, the officers who authorized the warrant “knew that the affidavit contained false and misleading statements, omitted material facts, relied on stale information, and was not supported by probable cause.” It was the cops, we now know, not Taylor or her boyfriend, who broke the law and need to be brought to justice.

Do read the whole article; there’s a lot of good commentary in it.

Mini-BBB Bill Passes in the Senate!

The Inflation Reduction Act bill, a.k.a. the Reader’s Digest Condensed BBB bill, passed in the Senate, people. Fifty Dems voted yes, fifty Republicans voted no, and Kamala Harris broke the tie. Woo HOO!

Now it goes to the House, which had better not screw it up.

The next question is, what is still in this bill? One provision that got chopped at the last minute was a $35 price cap on insulin. The cap will still apply to Medicare, but that’s all. As I understand it, the Senate parliamentarian had flagged some parts of the cap as being in non-compliance with reconciliation, and the Republicans used that to take it out..

And that sounds like an issue that could be used against all Republican senators running for re-election.

As described in the last post, the bill isn’t all we could have hoped for regarding prescription drugs.

The prescription drug pricing reforms aim to help cut costs for seniors enrolled in Medicare. It caps their out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 annually, while allowing the U.S. government to negotiate the price of a small set of medicines beginning in 2026. The landmark proposal is expected to save elderly Americans money and achieve billions in savings for Washington over the next decade. Pharmaceutical giants, which forcefully opposed the bill, also would be required to pay “rebates” to the federal government if they raise Medicare drug prices beyond the rate of inflation.

We still would get $369 billion for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy sources. It renews current subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, which were about to expire. It also dedicates some money for staffing up the IRS, a provision that really has Republican panties in a twist.

To get Joe Manchin’s support,

Democrats agreed to mandate new oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, while party leaders committed to pursue a separate bill in the coming months that makes it easier for developers to override some environmental objections. That proposal could greatly benefit a long-stalled pipeline in Manchin’s home state, a trade-off that some Democrats described as an uncomfortable necessity.

And to mollify Kyrsten Sinema, they had to dial back proposed tax increases on wealthy investors. Sinema is up for re-election in 2024; I trust we can get rid of her then. We’re stuck with Manchin until 2026.

The Mini-BBB Bill Could Pass

The Big News last night was that Kyrsten Sinema agreed to the Schumer-Manchin reconciliation bill, with some changes.

To win Ms. Sinema’s support, Democratic leaders agreed to drop a $14 billion tax increase on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives that she had opposed, change the structure of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations, and include drought money to benefit Arizona.

This is what Ed Kilgore predicted a few days ago. “While Sinema may not want to personally kill this heaven-sent deal herself, it would be surprising if she doesn’t take at least a pound of flesh in concessions to show her corporate friends she is still a major player,” Ed Kilgore writes. Looks like he was spot on.

Today he writes,

Sinema (and, for that matter, Schumer) seems to have calculated that liberal revulsion over the price she demanded for her support would be more than offset by joy that she didn’t kill the whole thing. So Senate Democrats went along with her demand (they also added some additional drought money, while offsetting the cost of concessions to Sinema via an excise tax on stock buybacks). That means on paper, at least, the Inflation Reduction Act has the 50 votes it will need (along with Kamala Harris’s tie-breaker) to finally emerge from the upper chamber.

There are still some hurdles. The parliamentarian has to sign off on the bill before it can be voted on as a budget reconciliation bill, without having to deal with the filibuster/cloture rule. Then it has to be subjected to the “vote a rama” process in which many senators will offer amendments. And then it has to pass the House, where the usual assholes, a.k.a. “moderate” Democrats, will probably try to bleep it up by adding other things that will require it to go back to the Senate.

But if it does pass, it would be a great thing both for the nation and for the Democrats’ chances in the midterms. The bill contains $369 billion to combat climate change, and a lot of that investment will go to creating “green energy” manufacturing jobs. Greg Sargent writes,

At its core, the bill constitutes industrial policy that would invest in the creation of clean-energy manufacturing jobs, including in former coal communities. As I’ve argued, this would allow Democrats to shift the debate: Rebuilding jobs in the industrial and Appalachian heartlands requires accepting realities of global warming and technological change — and harnessing them to our advantage — rather than remaining mired in backward-looking nostalgic fantasies.

In other words, when Republicans oppose the bill, Dems can honestly say they’re trying to stifle job creation.

The bill also extends the expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies through 2025. Otherwise they would have expired right before the midterms, I understand.

It also includes some provision for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but only some drugs, and it doesn’t kick into effect until 2026.

Still, this is a big deal, and it could be voted on very soon. Fingers crossed.

DoD, Cuccinelli, Alex Jones: Text News

Too much is happening all at once. It’s hard to keep up.

This week CNN reported, “The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, according to court filings.”

The departing officials included former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. It doesn’t sound as if these people deleted anything from their government-issued phones when they left the DoD; rather, the DoD wiped the phones without making backups first when they were turned in, the article says.

But I do remember that Miller and Patel were part of the plan to replace as many key officials as possible with Trump loyalists in the closing days of the Trump Administration. Miller was acting SecDef from November 9, 2020 to January 20, 2021. He replaced Mark Esper, whom Trump fired on November 9. This was just two days after the 2020 election had been called for Joe Biden. Shortly after that, Kash Patel was named Miller’s chief of staff.

By then, the fake elector plot already was taking shape. (McCarthy was Secretary of the Army from September 2019 to January 20, 2021, so his appointment probably wasn’t connected to the election overturning scheme.)

Note also that both Miller and Patel were accused of blocking cooperation with the Biden transition team.

Also, “Miller, Patel and McCarthy have all been viewed as crucial witnesses for understanding government’s response to the January 6 Capitol assault and former President Donald Trump’s reaction to the breach. All three were involved in the Defense Department’s response to sending National Guard troops to the US Capitol as the riot was unfolding,” CNN reported. This is a part of the January 6 picture that hasn’t been much addressed so far.

A few days ago it was reported that text messages of acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli were missing also. You might remember Chad Wolf’s unconstitutional activities in Portland, summer 2020.

And now Cuccinelli has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury regarding January 6. Cuccinelli strikes me as a guy who would like to just walk away from the mess that is Trump. He’d probably rather not denounce Trump, but I doubt he’s going to take any bullets for him, either.

I’m looking forward to the second season of the January 6 committee hearings. It could be even better than the first season.

Much hilarity ensued yesterday at Alex Jones’s trial when it was revealed Jones’s lawyer accidentally had sent all of his text messages to the prosecuting attorneys. It amounted to several hundred gigabytes of material that revealed a lot of deceptions and withholding of evidence on Jones’s part.

Jones is so screwed. His attorney asked for a mistrial this morning; the judge promptly denied it. This judge is all out of bleeps, I believe. For more on that, see Alex Jones Can’t Pretend His Way Out of This Reality by Charlie Warzel at The Atlantic.

Update: The January 6 committee wants Alex Jones’s texts.

In other news — the Senate voted to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO. This was a near-unanimous vote. The only holdout was Josh Hawley, who says we can’t waste time on NATO because China is bad. Yeah, he just wanted to draw attention to himself. Before the vote Mitch McConnell addressed the senators and basically advised them that voting against the admissions would be an extremely stupid move, and I guess everybody but Hawley heard him.

A Big No in Kansas Lights the Way for Dems

The most interesting commentary I’ve seen so far on the Kansas referendum vote is this one in the New York Times. The overwhelming victory for “no” was not just a result of big turnouts in the cities aned suburbs, although that helped. “No” overperformed everywhere, and “yes” underperformed everywhere, compared to votes for Biden and Trump in 2020.

Consider far western Kansas, a rural region along the Colorado border that votes overwhelmingly Republican. In Hamilton County, which voted 81 percent for Mr. Trump in 2020, less than 56 percent chose the anti-abortion position on Tuesday (with about 90 percent of the vote counted there). In Greeley County, which voted more than 85 percent for Mr. Trump, only about 60 percent chose the anti-abortion position.

By the same token, “no” won in the more Democratic urban areas by bigger margins than Biden carried them in 2020. This suggests to me that Democratic candidates even in Red states will benefit enormously by emphasizing support for abortion rights in their campaigns.

As of this writing, with 95 percent of the votes counted, “no” is ahead 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent. That’s decisive.

It may be significant that the only polling on this issue was way off. It showed a tight race with a small majority in favor of “yes.” I can’t speak to how or why the prediction could have been that wrong. However, the Kansas results do seem to be in line with long-standing opinion polls saying a majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade.

That said, I doubt yesterday’s vote will cause the anti-abortion faction in Kansas to back off, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Kansas legislature tried to pass an abortion ban anyway. That’s what the Missouri legislature would do.

In other abortion news — yesterday the Department of Justice sued the state of Idaho over a state abortion law that violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law that requires medical facilities that receive federal funds to give “stabilizing treatment” to patients. The Idaho law allows abortions only in the case of the imminent death of the mother, but not to stabilize someone who is circling the drain but might live a few more hours. This could very well be only the first of such lawsuits against other states. And President Biden is expected to sign an executive order to provide some kind of insurance coverage or other help for women who have to travel out of state for abortions.

Looking at the rest of the election results — a lot of the MAGA election deniers won primaries yesterday, Arizona went batshit. Democrat Mark Kelly will be defendng his Senate seat against Blake Masters, who sounds like a walking dystopian novel. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers was rewarded for his forthright testimony to the January 6 committee by losing his primary.

I am seeing some “relief” that Eric Schmitt defeated Eric Greitens, but believe me, relief is premature. Schmitt is going to be one shit show of a senator, if he’s elected, and he probably will be.

Also, too, yesterday the Senate passed the burn pit bill.

File this under, Yeah, we knew he was stupid.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has suggested that Social Security and Medicare be eliminated as federal entitlement programs, and that they should instead become programs approved by Congress on an annual basis as discretionary spending.

The voters will love that, Ron. You should get your other Republican friends to run on that, too.