Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 6 through Friday, August 12, 2022 [Vol.4 No.4]
FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago
The Week’s Most Notable
The week the Inflation Reduction Act passed: Pity the Democrats; all the time, effort, and achievement, and they get upstaged by a pseudo spy thriller. Worse, the espionage plays out dramatically but quickly. Somebody died, state secrets imperiled, crimes committed, lots of political hubbub, and indignantly ignorant chest-beating; but in the end, only a chance of indictment. * The passage of the IRA will be far more important, short term, midterm, long term.
For one thing, the new law changes the tax code – the wealthiest corporations must pay at least a minimum tax of 15%. (No more behemoth corporations with a -0- tax bill on their bottom line.) It also has $80 billion for revitalizing the Internal Revenue Service, expressly enabling it to pursue wealthy tax avoiders. For health care, Medicare can now negotiate for lower drug prices (on some drugs) and there is a yearly $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket drug costs. The pandemic-era extension of the Affordable Care Act is retained. However, the crown jewels of the act are a string of elements that add up to $370 billion and the most far-reaching climate-change legislation in U.S. history. Key pieces are $161 billion in new tax credits to incentivize clean electricity, $80 billion to encourage purchase of electric vehicles, and $1.5 billion to cut down on methane. The goal of the legislation is to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 40% at the end of the decade.
The various elements of the act will develop across a 10-year period. Most of the impact will take years to be noticeable. As a “budget reconciliation” act, by definition all the expenditures are supposed to be “budget neutral”, that is, balanced by measurable government income or benefit. This is always controversial but Republicans have established a line of propaganda claiming that the act is wholly disruptive (“socialist”) and will harm everyone’s prosperity (“radical tax-and-spend”). Historically, Republicans have invested billions in these tired objections – they signal lack of interest.
The Republican response to the legislation was to approve “none of the above” with zero votes.
This week or the next few weeks, what will it be for the Mar-a-Lago search: a lit fuse, a remarkable incident, just more fascist rhetoric? What follows is something of a chronicle as it was experienced, and is a departure from the usual format.
[Monday 11PM EDT] When the FBI entered Mar-a-Lago, they (and the DOJ) knew, must have known, that a probable or even inevitable line was being crossed. If Trump was ever going to be indicted on criminal charges (for anything), then at some point an action would have to be taken that would piss off his supporters and quite possibly lead to violence. Trump set it up that way. What the FBI could do was choose when, how, and over what. They chose Monday, August 8 and a federal judiciary search warrant, looking for important classified documents illegally, knowingly, and deceitfully held by Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump wasn’t there, so no picturesque confrontation. Just a routine, hot, South Florida summer morning. It was a complete surprise, by the book, systematic, well ahead of the mid-terms, casual dress, no guns, and without comment. The first such official and public search for criminal evidence in what must be a targeted investigation of a former President of the United States. History.
Yes, the DOJ is fully engaged with the Donald Trump saga. (In case anybody was wondering.) As is customary, evidence was seized and documented. From there the evidence goes back to Washington for processing and eventually to the grand jury overseeing this investigation. As expected, Trump, all GOP officials, right-wing media, and a whole cluster of MAGA folk hit the UPROAR! button. The big questions: Will this mean mass demonstrations? A mustering of armed militias? Violence in the streets? Random acts of violence? Or a lot of painfully empty but bellicose rhetoric? The FBI/DOJ have calculated the probabilities; let’s hope they got it right – that the lid stays on the violence.
[Update Wednesday 3PM EDT: Since the first reporting: No mass demonstrations. No pseudo-soldiers strutting. No violence (except to the truth), so far. What developed looks like Big Lie 3 (Big Lie – 2020 election stolen, Big Lie 2 – Capitol attack, Big Lie 3 – Trump’s home vandalized by Gestapo-Deep State). Right-wing/GOP media are screaming FBI/DOJ hatred, mad-dog level. Most likely future: nothing more officially will be heard of the search for months, way after the mid-terms.]
[Update Thursday 7PM EDT: So much for not hearing anything more about the search. AG Garland takes the podium Thursday AM and announces the DOJ has applied to unseal the search warrant and the list of seized items – and oh by the way – as a courtesy, Trump has been given 24 hours (3 PM EDT Friday) to decide if he wants the search documents released or not. Meanwhile, an obvious MAGA supporter, already identified as a Jan 6. participant, has attacked the Cincinnati FBI office with a nail gun (while also carrying an AR15). Six hours later he is dead, the first casualty of yet another Trump incitement to violence. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that at least some of the illegal documents at Mar-a-Lago concern nuclear issues and national security. Events are moving so fast, media newsrooms at even the largest outlets can’t keep up.]
[Update Friday 1 AM EDT: Intentional or not, Garland has called Trump’s bluff. The entire GOP/right-wing is caught spluttering with their mouths full of anti-FBI/DOJ BS. (Careful what you wish for.) Garland said he – with Trump’s permission – will provide the transparency the public wants. By 1AM EDT, Trump notes in his social media platform that it’s ok for DOJ to release the search documents. Friday will be an interesting day.]
[Update Friday 9 PM EDT: Republicans/right-wing media are reduced to throwing s* (doesn’t rhyme with spaghetti) against the wall approach. First it was “the FBI planted evidence” (somehow that didn’t show up on the CCTV of the search, which the Trumps watched); then GOP politicos chimed in, “show us the warrant and receipts,” (Garland did that), then it was, “nothing-burger classifications” (many of the documents seized were of the highest secrecy classification), then they tried “Trump declassified everything” (there is no record of it, and there is protocol), then oh, well; Obama took records too (National Archives: “No he didn’t. We have it all.”)
*Will this be the one? Will Trump be indicted for something involving documents? After the court-ordered search, it turns out that Trump had a lot of documents, 20 boxes worth. He, and his lawyers, had provably and consistently lied about having un-surrendered documents. Why? The facts seem iron-clad, but the motivation is mostly a big question. In most cases, the mere fact of having the documents illegally and jeopardizing national security would be enough to send most people to prison. But this involves a former president, and Trump is not a person who acts in good faith. He has already used lies about these documents and the FBI search to incite his followers, resulting in the death of one of them. Could this alone be like the January 6 insurrection, grounds for indictment? Will it be necessary for DOJ to link Trump to some illegal activity involving the documents – espionage, profiteering, fraud, blackmail? Do they have to prove nefarious intent? Is this where the Department of Justice and Merrick Garland choose to make their stand (or at least one of them)? Keep in mind that the legal stakes are so high, an indictment must be tantamount to a conviction. Anything else imperils the rule of law and threatens major violence. Also, remember – this is all new territory.
Saturday, August 6
[Israel – Palestine] Israeli Army and Palestinian Militants Continue Rocket Warfare – Given all the things going on in the world, and the U.S. in particular, it’s not surprising that a low-level war in Israel continues more or less without the world’s attention. Yet everyday people die – recently 32 Palestinians, including six children. [Update: Shaky cease-fire goes into effect on Sunday and is in trouble by Friday.]
[Death Valley] Record Rains in Death Valley Strand More Than a Thousand Visitors – Receiving 1.46 inches of rain was 70% of the yearly total and resulted in flash floods throughout Death Valley National Park, washing out roads and stranding vehicles.
Sunday, August 7
[Taiwan] Chinese Continue Military Demonstrations Near Taiwan – The diplomatic contretemps over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was extended through the weekend. [Update: China announced its protests will be curtailed.]
[Ukraine] Giant Nuclear Facility at Zaporizhzhia Targeted – Russian rocket attacks at the power plant complex, the largest in Europe, have raised concerns not only among Ukrainians. As per usual, the Russians blame Ukrainians, but it’s clear that the nuclear complexes became a target in some kind of strategic plan. Threatening to damage it, or cause a nuclear leak, is considered a tactical advantage by Russia.
Olivia Newton-John [1948–2022 (73)] Singer, actress (Grease), pop-music icon, 4 Grammy winner, cancer crusader.
Monday, August 8
[Mar-a-Lago Search] Under Federal Warrant, FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago for Classified Documents – Apparently this was at least round three between the FBI/Federal Documents Division and Trump/lawyers. The claim of missing documents had to be a doozy this time; how else could an independent federal magistrate be convinced to issue a search warrant for the home of a former president? Top-level secrets, national security? What was taken and why? We don’t know. The FBI/DOJ knows but by precedent cannot say. Trump knows – he has the warrant and resulting inventory; but he adamantly will not say or reveal anything. That leaves a big, fat information gap – and what do right-wing media and politicians do with a gap like that? Conspiracy time. Literally an orgy of castigation against the FBI and DOJ, belched into distribution with no evidence – no copy of the warrant, no legal testimony, no nothing but the implicit certainty that Trump should be above the law, untouchable. In its extremism, purple rhetoric, and to-hell-with-the-rule-of-law attitude, the Republican-radical right response is exposed and should be noted by all Americans.
[Ukraine] U.S. Tops up Military Support with $1 Billion in Security Aide – This tranche consists mostly of rockets and ammunition, especially for the highly effective HIMARS system. US aid to Ukraine now exceeds $9 billion since February. (U.S. military budget is $67 billion per month.)
David McCullough [1933–2022 (89)] Historian, author, TV host (Truman, John Adams), Pulitzer Prize (2).
Tuesday, August 9
[NATO] Biden Signs U.S. Approval of Finland and Sweden Admission to NATO – On the surface, this is a defensive reaction, which the U.S. obviously supports. Deeper down, both Finland and Sweden were adamantly neutral for many decades, so what has changed? Putin’s ambitions, of course, but one day he’ll be gone. What NATO believes, and what Sweden and Finland are acting upon, is that the axis of the world – militarily and economically – is realigning to be more north-south than east-west. Solidarity with Europe has become paramount.
[Congress] Biden Signs $280 Billion CHIPS and Science Act into Law – Even spread over five years, this is a ton of money, yet it was bipartisan-passed with minimum grousing to step-up U.S. semiconductor production. Less noticed is $67 billion for R&D, with much of that for climate change related research, especially zero-carbon technologies.
[Trump Taxes] U.S. Appellate Court Orders IRS to Give Congress Trump Tax Returns – The House Ways and Means Committee subpoenaed the tax documents, and wants them immediately. The ongoing issue will be Trump’s inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court, and whether that court will issue a temporary delay.
[New Mexico Murders] Police Arrest Suspect in New Mexico Muslim Murders – The racially and politically charged murders, which terrorized an entire community, has apparently resolved itself with a primary suspect. [Update: The suspect is Muslim, a New Mexico resident, and the motive appears to be religious/personal rather than political.]
[Primary Elections] Trump Candidate Wins in Wisconsin, Rep. Ilhan Omar Ekes Out Win in Minnesota
Wednesday, August 10
[Ukraine] Ukraine Destroys Nine Russian Military Planes at a Crimea Base – From the Ukrainian point of view this was a strategic symbol; the successful attack on the Crimean base is remindful of their sinking of the flagship Moskva. .
[Trump Deposition] Trump Takes the Fifth, 440 times – The deposition regarding the Trump Corporation, with questions posed by New York AG Letitia James, encountered a solid wall of “I take the Fifth Amendment.” The oft repeated irony is that Trump has been recorded on several occasions saying that the Fifth Amendment is tantamount to a confession, only for weaklings, and a tactic of the Mafia. The New York case is a civil proceeding, so that technically Trump didn’t need to plead the Fifth, but he did so in deference to the possibility of the case escalating to criminal.
[Economy] Gas Prices Drop Below $4/Gallon and the CPI Drops .6 % – Democrats are inclined to celebrate, Republicans respond with “big deal, things were better before.” Since inflation will be a key issue in the midterms, everybody is watching “the numbers” from week to week with great interest. In terms of economic relevance, fantasy.
[Veterans’ Healthcare] Biden Signs Healthcare Support for Vets Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits – This was the bill that got Republicans into trouble – denying veterans desperately needed healthcare. It was the issue that Jon Stewart leveraged into a very bad look for the GOP and prompted the turnaround of their votes when Schumer reintroduced the bill.
Thursday, August 11
[Mar-a-Lago Search] Garland Makes a Stunning Move, Requests Release of Search Warrant – From Tuesday on, the most frequent attacks on the FBI and DOJ, even from some moderate critics, was “There is no transparency.” Of course, transparency is not usually a feature of FBI (or any police) ongoing investigations. So, transparency was not expected and Republicans exploited “suspicion” to the max. One congressman said it was all a rogue FBI operation. It was a fact-free assertion typical of the gaslighting (doubt casting) that is now standard practice. No risk considered, apparently, and then the Attorney General of the U.S. announces he was in charge (not a rogue operation) and people will soon see (Trump willing) the search warrant and the “receipts.” [Update: Trump gave his blessing and the magistrate released the search documents around 5PM EDT on Thursday.]
[Mar-a-Lago Search] Gunman Attacks Ohio FBI Field Office, Later Shot Dead in Cornfield – Quickly identified as an ardent MAGA supporter and participant in the Jan. 6 rally, the shooter becomes the first casualty of Trump’s new call to arms.
[Climate Change] Report: Arctic Is Warming 4x Faster Than Rest of Planet – The effects are already visible – shorter winters, less pack-ice, drastic changes in habitat. Scientists knew the Arctic to be more sensitive to global warming, but the new findings in Communications Earth and Environment show the impact to be far more rapid than expected.
[Coronavirus] CDC Relaxes Some COVID-19 Guidelines – The new guidelines drop the recommendation for quarantine after contact with an infected person and say it is no longer necessary to stay 6 feet away from others. In general, CDC policy currently operates on the basis that coronavirus is on the way out and social mitigation is not required. Some epidemiologists suggest this is taking a risk, particularly with the ultra-infectious Omicron BA.5 variant and the upcoming fall/winter season.
Friday, August 12
[IRA] House Passes $800 Billion Inflation Reduction Act (220-207) – The Senate approved it on Sunday and by Friday Speaker Pelosi had it ready for the House vote. Although much smaller than the original Build Back Better bill, which was $2.2 trillion and included childcare and numerous other program extensions, the current bill was what the Democrats could pass under budget reconciliation restrictions, and because of its focus – essentially healthcare and climate change – still manage some dramatic and significant legislation. The challenge now for the Democrats will be to sell the programs to a voting public that is almost totally unaware of what is in the bill. Plans are to prominently promote the Democrats’ support for women’s healthcare freedom (pro-choice) among the various benefits of the IRA.
[Rushdie] Salman Rushdie Attacked on Stage, Stabbed Multiple Times – Just before speaking to a Chautauqua Institution conference in upstate New York, the noted author was severely injured and helicoptered to an area hospital. Rushdie has long been controversial in the Muslim world, mainly for his book Satanic Verses, which got him a fatwa (in this case a judgment of death) from Iran’s top cleric. [Update: Rushdie was in critical condition on a ventilator with stab wounds to neck and torso. He may lose the sight of one eye but is expected to live. The ventilator was removed on Saturday and he can speak.]
[Mar-a-Lago Search] Search Inventory List: 11 Sets of Classified Documents – The list, carried out in 20 boxes, included 4 sets of TOP SECRET documents, 1 box of TS/SCI = Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (only very limited people permitted access and then only in a SCIF = Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). Such documents contain the most important and potentially damaging national secrets; they are never supposed to leave a secure location. There were also 3 sets of SECRET documents, and 3 sets of CONFIDENTIAL documents. Congresspeople are calling for a systematic assessment – including value and threat – of all documents and Trump’s handling of them.
Additional Mar-a-Lago Document Search Notes
- The National Archives collected 15 boxes of material from Mar-a-Lago in January of 2022.
- After analysis, the National Archives determined documents were still missing.
- Negotiations with Trump lawyers held over several months concerning missing documents.
- In June DOJ convened grand jury on the documents; grand jury issued a subpoena.
- In July DOJ met with Trump lawyers about fulfilling subpoena, some documents were received. and Trump lawyer provided written affidavit of “completeness.”
- DOJ realizes with informant support that more documents are still missing and has the search warrant executed.
- They find 20 boxes of additional material.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
On Fox News, the hosts and guests all but lost their minds in rage. Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, thundered in a statement that “We must fire the Federal Government,” whatever that means.
Paul Waldman, “With FBI Search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Whining Kicks into Overdrive,” The Washington Post, 8/9/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]