The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Trump’s Criminal Defense Is Offensive

Andrew Weissman made an interesting point on MSNBC last night, that Trump keeps saying things that amount to admissions of guilt. Philip Bump writes,

As he was rolling along in the comments he offered outside his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Tuesday evening, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann (and veteran of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe) noticed something.

“Whatever documents the president decides to take with him, he has the right to do so,” Trump said in his speech. “It’s an absolute right. This is the law. And that is something that people have now seen.”

In an interview on MSNBC, Weissmann (who can be trusted to have a firmer grasp on the legal issues at play) pointed out that this undermines his case rather than proving it.

“When you are charged with the illegal retention, the illegal possession of the documents,” Weissmann said, “it is not a good idea to say, ‘Hey, you want to know why I took these? Because I could.’ That is not a defense to that charge. That is an admission to the charge.”

This, of course, is why lawyers tell their clients to keep their mouths shut. But Philip Bump makes the point that Trump’s only defense against the criminal charges is becoming POTUS again. Somehow, dimly, he may know he can’t win in court. He’s swinging for the fences. Bump continues,

This is why he may think it makes sense to frame his arraignment in the context of his campaign, to fundraise off it and to turn the attention it generates into political attention. This is why he might not care too much that the Andrew Weissmanns of the world are able to pick out incriminating details — they’re only incriminating for a competition on which Trump isn’t focusing.

I’m not even going to address why what Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden did with government records is no where in the same ball park as what Trump did. And I trust y’all know that as well as I do. Now he’s got his defenders repeating “Presidential Records Act” over and over, in the belief that the Presidential Records Act allowed him to keep whatever records he wanted. This, of course, is the exact opposite of what the Presidential Records Act actually says.

A separate defense of Mr. Trump’s actions has been offered up by the former president’s lawyers for months, and lately it has been appearing with more frequency in right-wing media: He is not guilty, the argument goes, because of a law called the Presidential Records Act. Congress passed this law in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, specifically to prevent presidents from taking papers that don’t belong to them when they leave the White House. (An earlier law stopped Richard Nixon from destroying his own papers, including the Watergate tapes, after his resignation in 1974. Mr. Nixon challenged the law but lost in the Supreme Court.)

The act says explicitly that the federal government “shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession and control of presidential records.”

And this is how the Trump team interprets the records act: “The president can take whatever he wants when he leaves office,” said Kash Patel, a lawyer who served as a high-ranking national security adviser in the Trump administration. When the president takes a document, he went on, “it transitions from being U.S. government property to the personal, private property of the past president.” This is about as wrong as it is possible to be; it is literally the opposite of what the law says, especially when you are talking about the sort of highly sensitive documents — nuclear secrets, military strategies and so forth — that Mr. Trump is charged with illegally keeping in his possession. I would call it gaslighting, except it’s not creative enough.

“There’s no ambiguity in the law,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library. “The 31 documents that are listed — there’s no way you could apply the P.R.A. and determine they were personal records. Under the P.R.A., they belong to the American people. Trump stole American property.”

When dealing with Trump, of course, it’s entirely possible he believes the Presidential Records Act allowed him to take the documents. Trump’s concept of “factual” is a tad wobbly. Between his numerous personality and psychological pathologies and his profound stupidity, it’s hard to know if he knows he’s lying. What Kash Patel’s issues are, however, I do not know.

Right now we may well be in a race to see if Trump can be convicted of something before the 2024 general election. It’s also possible that Trump’s legal problems will erode his election chances. We’ll see.

22 thoughts on “Trump’s Criminal Defense Is Offensive

  1. I don’t think he really believes in anything (like the Presidential Records Act), only in his ability to manufacture reality and get others to believe in it.

    Right now we may well be in a race to see if Trump can be convicted of something before the 2024 general election. It’s also possible that Trump’s legal problems will erode his election chances.

    He turned 77 yesterday, the day of his arraignment. He may just run out the clock and die. I caught a video of him “celebrating” at Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in Miami. While he physically moved around like a robust older man, his face looked very mottled.

    I really want justice to have the last word, before he exits life. It’s bigger than Trump, quite a few presidents have escaped any punishment for wrong-doing, which only facilitates someone like Trump.

    Harry Litman on all the ways Aileen Cannon can gum things up. He can be long-winded, the summary begins around 8:30.

  2. "…it’s hard to know if he knows he’s lying. "

    David Dunning and Justin Kruger described Trump to a T.

  3. Judge in Trump Documents Case Has Scant Criminal Trial Experience

    …Judge Cannon, 42, has been on the bench since November 2020, when Mr. Trump gave her a lifetime appointment shortly after he lost re-election. She had not previously served as any kind of judge, and because about 98 percent of federal criminal cases are resolved with plea deals, she has had only a limited opportunity to learn how to preside over a trial.

    A Bloomberg Law database lists 224 criminal cases that have been assigned to her, and a New York Times review of those cases identified four that went to trial. Each was a relatively routine matter, like a felon who was charged with illegally possessing a gun. In all, the four cases added up to 14 trial days…

    A real greenhorn, even if she wasn’t in the tank for Trump.

  4. It's a good thing for ex(thankfully)-POTUS TANGface that he doesn't drink. 

    Can you imagine the 'veritas' that would come out of that rancid piehole if he was 'in' the warm welcoming arms of some 'vino?'

    His mouth already knows no constraints.  Never has.

    I'm no fan of lawyers, but I kinda feel sorry for his legal beagles.  I hope they got a big seven – maybe even eight – figure deposit.

    Slightly OT, let me tell you what really annoys the shite out me:

    It's when Speaker of the Louse(s) McCarthy and other RepubliKKKLAN politicians bring up Hillary's name, and ask why she wasn't charged like their boy was.

    You assholes really wanna know?

    Forget Jim Comey saying that 'no prosecutor could, in good conscience, charge her with serious crimes.'

    Ask Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr.

    Neither of the two has a conscience anyone has ever been able to detect, and yet, despite their best investigative efforts, they also found that there was no there there when it came to serious charges.

    Sure, they could have made some crap up.  But that would have been so obvious.  So, so 'Banana Republicy."

    So STFU, Speaker of the Louse(s)!

  5. Very OT:

    So, maha, is the move over?

    Are you glad you made the move?

    I hope you are very, very happy.

    Because when our maha is happy, we maha-ites are happy! 🙂

    • Because when our maha is happy, we maha-ites are happy! 

      That's what I want to hear. Everybody should want to make me happy.  smiley

      I am in the new place, and it's a nice building and a decent apartment. The downside is that I have no furniture. Well, very little. A bed, a desk, and a chair. When I left my last apartment in 2015 I got rid of my furniture because storing it cost too much. I do have dishes and pots and pans, and a lot of books. But it's going to be a while before the place is homey. I also have no car, so I am dependent on the buses and on Lyft and such to get around. And nothing is really convenient. But eventually I think it will be fine. 


  6. I've seen a few clips of his spew fest in NJ. I noticed that he has his balcony made up to look like the White House, right down to the White Columns, wood door and flags in the room behind the podium. The man is fucking delusional, he's play acting he's still president like a fucking child? He has his bodyman and co-defendant Waltine walking around with a pretend nuclear football. Where are the democrats, I keep seeing clips of the GQP'ers defending Trump, where are the democrats, where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, is she still alive? Why aren't our leaders out there roughing Trump up? The DOJ are not allowed to fight the message war so the democrats need to, somebody needs to tell the truth. I'm really getting sick of Stump being treated like a serious person. The man is 77 years old, he's delusional, he cannot speak three words without lying, he wears makeup, he has that silly fucking hair clued to his head, he tried to steal the last election, he's been found liable for sexual assault and he's pretending he's still in the White House. Where the fuck is the ridicule?

    • Absolutely correct, don't just leave it up to Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Myers making us laugh, the left needs to be hammering and spitting fire not sitting back and saying well now its up to the judicial system to take its course, punch now!

  7. I think Maha framed a critical dynamic. Trump's strategy is to delay all trials until after the election, then blow away all federal proceedings and declare by presidential edict that no state legal proceedings "count" against a former president. Trump now knows the judiciary is the greatest threat to his freedom. Like Netanyahu, Trump will try to subjugate the judicial branch to the Executive. Which will be a good trick – Trump needs the USSC to approve the constitutionality of an executive order that suspends the Constitution AND the power of the Supreme Court. I do not think that even this  Supreme Court will endorse the legality of a self-pardon and coup if Trump tries.

    The "ideal" outcome for Trump (in his mind) would be to be elected and THEN execute a coup, using the power of the military? to strip the DOJ, FBI, federal and state judiciary, and insert a completely unconstitutional apparatus of loyalists. Does anyone think that's possible? (Remember that when Trump tried to install a radical loyalist as A/G just before J6, the entire leadership of the DOJ threatened to resign in public protest of the power grab.)

    It's not possible for the coup that Trump needs to happen in the way Trump wants. But the discussion is moot – Trump can't be elected.

    Trump lost in 2020. AFTER that, he pulled the J6 insurrection. Worse than that, Trump has publicly and personally taken credit for undoing Roe. The anger over women's rights was the prime factor in the mid-terms, which were a disaster for the GOP. The GOP holds the House by a thread and they don't have the Senate. (Kudos to Trump for some of the nut-case Senatorial candidates. I expect a repeat of that strategy.) Trump will be under at least three, possibly four, five, or even six * federal and state criminal indictments before Nov 2024. One will have concluded and be under appeal. There's NOTHING that makes Trump more attractive to swing voters now than when he lost in 2020. The J6 insurrection and abortion issue will cut deeply into the swing vote he barely had enough of in 2016, didn’t have enough of in 2020, and now has even less of.

    Take a moment and think about the GA case. Some stuff is public – there were a LOT of recommended indictments by the Grand Jury. Of the fake electors who signed the GA document, I think eight flipped and turned state's evidence. The ones who did not are likely being charged. Oh, and yesterday two of the NV fake electors were hauled before a DC Grand Jury. The scheme to steal the election is gonna be out there in living color this year. Some of those folks will go to jail. 

    How will that affect the pawns who are asked to commit fraud for Trump in the 2024 election? Yes, some Trumpsters are stupid enough to commit crimes and go to jail for Trump but damn few will participate in election fraud for Trump when a jail cell awaits those who get caught. (And there's no way not to leave a trail that leads back to you.) There will be a lot of election bosses who want Trump to win, but I think very few will break the law with overt fraud on the scale Trump needs and will demand from them.)

    I firmly believe that Mayor Bug Eyes is gonna be named everywhere as the culprit behind the fake electors. It's possible that Jack will bring charges against Rudy soon and alone. If Trump follows his MO, he will suddenly hardly know Rudy. Pence has testified before the Grand Jury. If the former VP knew of the fake electors and was asked to use the fake slate and not the real electors, this nails Rudy personally for the fraudulent intent to steal the presidency for Trump. Unless Rudy flips on Trump, he will die in jail. (I do not think Pence will commit perjury to save Rudy or Donnie. Pence has an aversion to jail or he'd have played ball on J6.)

    This is the recurring choice for Trumpsters – they will be asked to bet their freedom on Trump winning the next election by fraud that they participate in. If Trump does not win (to cover their crimes) the DOJ will follow the evidence to the people who submitted false election totals. After the debacle of J6, it's not a good bet to risk years behind bars on the expectation Trump will prevail. 

    * I'm counting GA as a done deal – if the civil financial fraud case succeeds it could be flipped to a criminal case. That's four. No one knows when the federal J6 charges will be brought. That's five. But there's a wire fraud case under investigation re the fraudulent fund-raising Trump did after J6. He raised the money under a claim of proving election fraud but Trump spent the money completely differently. That's six. 

    • But the discussion is moot – Trump can't be elected.

      Probably not, but not impossible.  One scenario:  The Fed puts the economy into a deep recession (which will be blamed on Biden by republicans and the corporately owned media) and #NoLabels puts a ticket on all blue and purple states that can draw 10-15% of the vote from Biden.

      • I'm aware I said Trump can't win in 2016. But there are three elections to draw from – 2016 2020, and 2022. Trump is gaining popularity in the primary polls from the charges. I don't see that happening in "likely voter" polls overall. 

        Biden could crash and burn – any politician can. The GOP is heaping accusations of corruption on Biden but without evidence. I do and will keep looking for the proof but when they claim witnesses that they can't produce and cite recordings that don't seem to exist, it's not a huge problem for Biden. The evidence IS out there in the case against Trump.

        Trump is losing it and there's no one filtering the bile. Recently Trump came out against "mutants." I think it's gonna get worse when GA files charges. And the trials have not begun. 

        Lawyers are quitting on Trump – three in the last ten days. I hope they were paid in advance. This is a problem as legal arguments have to be submitted which will satisfy a judge. If these criminal cases go to court before the general election, Trump's going to lose all the voters capable of evaluating objective evidence.

        It's not "done" until January of '25, but Trump has his wenie in a wringer that only cranks one direction – toward justice.

  8. It's crazy. I think Trump really believes he can declassify with his mind, because of the excuses made for him when he blabbed super-secret information to the Russian ambassador.

    People rushed in to say he can say anything, and by choosing to say it, has implicitly declassified it to the point that any listener is permitted to hear it. It's a load of male bovine excretia. Yeah, you can't prosecute the President for loose lips, even if they sink ships, because the President might really have a good reason for sharing classified information. But it's not declassification. People with clearances can't talk about something, just because the President blabbed. Hence, it's not "declassification".

    Re: the Presidential Records Act, it says he's permitted "access" to his papers. That's the excuse. Like, your doctor's office might once have let you photocopy your patient records – that's what "access" is. (Now, they'll copy the PDF to a flash drive for you.) You have a right to see them, to use the information on them, but "access" doesn't mean you get to keep them… it just means you can't be forbidden to see them.

    As a legal excuse, it's not even pathetic, it's a pale shadow of pathetic, striving hard, but still so stupid that it's not worthy of pity.Ah, but as a partisan talking point, it's quick, it's easy, and they never care about the truth.


    • His superficial self-serving grasp of a completely wrong interpretation of the Presidential Records Act is exactly like his misinterpretation of hearing that the Covid virus on exposed surfaces could be killed by exposure to light and disinfectant. The idiot has no clue what he's babbling about.

  9. @gulag – you have to understand that it's just a game with them. Flooding the public space with nonsense is all they know. It's important to keep your distance and not get sucked in. It has no meaning. If it would help their position to declare that the sky is orange, they would mindlessly do so.

    Because of this they inevitably fall on their faces. Kevin McCarthy ridiculing the indictment before he even read it is an example. What they deserve is ridicule and mocking. Not taking their nonsense seriously flips the game on them.

  10. Nixon got part way there, operating on the "if the president does it, it is not a crime" premise.  Nixon was certainly a crook and needed such special rules when he was president.  Trump needs special rules even when he is not president.  He is as distressing as a turd in a punch bowl, a characteristic that appeals to under-socialized people.  I guess that is why they call him a populist.  He us popular with those whose life path also leaves a big disgusting wake.  They love seeing the little boats getting rocked.  

    Trump has all the defensive skills of a Kamikaze.  Too bad he lacks their virtue.  The ending will be dramatic, as one would expect when dealing with a drama queen.  Most people will be happy when it is over, but some even have fond memories of Nixon, who was, in fact, quite the crook.  But some people even have bathrooms with a chandelier hanging in them. 

  11. Just an FYI on the indictment: There is no mention of the Presidential Records Acts. One of the things Trump is indicted for is taking AGENCY documents. Any document presented to the president while in office, by any official department, is the property of the Agency, not the president.

  12. The talking heads, including Senator Mitt Romney are using the phrase "military documents" to characterize Trump's crime. That's gotta resonate with a lot of people, including everyone who served.

    Take the fork out, he's done.

  13.  "That's gotta resonate with a lot of people, including everyone who served"

    Maybe but if you ever supported Stump , if you served or  didn't "serve" your hopeless. I've yet to meet a sincere convert. And being in the military isn't a virtue all in itself, plenty of dull. There isn't going to be some group of Trump supporters who are going to be swayed by his latest outrage. Converts won't keep Stump out of the white house. He's going to lose because he's one year too early, if the election was in 2025 he might win.


    • You're right, on several points. My point (and not clearly stated) is that sentiment toward Trump is turning. In-fighting among Republicans is growing, More ears are going to hear "military documents" and be rightfully alarmed. 

      Great Steve Earle and Kinks videos, thanks!

      • Politically speaking Trump is a deadman walking. And he knows it too. The only path available to him now is to push on with his grift and hope that he makes it to the grave before he makes it to a prison.

        I'll be happy with either outcome!

      • I just think that if you supported Stump after his first term the latest scandals are not going to matter to you. In fact polls (grain of salt) show he's actually picked up some support. They all believe the deep state nonsense. Like I've said before the country will be better off when all these dullards switch back to following professional wrestling!

        Yeah that Steve Earle video is from this month, old dude still getting it done!

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