Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 20 through Friday, August 26, 2022 [Vol.4 No.6]
Mar-a-Lago Search Affidavit
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
The week ended with yet another Mar-a-Lago reveal. This time it was the 38-page, mostly redacted, affidavit for the search warrant. What do these pieces add up to? Or, to cut to the chase, is this going to be the case that ends in the world’s most famous perp walk? As of the end of the week, the legal consensus is that it could be the crime(s) that get Teflon Don indicted and convicted. However, only IF that’s where the DOJ/Merrick Garland go with it. Still a big if.
Back up a bit: Timeline details are readily available, but for a quick overview: May 2021-National Archives requested document boxes be removed from Mar-a-Lago. Correspondence continued through 2021. Jan. 18 2022, 15 boxes arrive at Archives. Archives immediately spots that docs are missing. Early spring 2022, Archives alerts DOJ. FBI and Trump lawyer notified in May. May 16-18, FBI examines docs. DOJ and White House agree executive privilege does not apply. May 11, Trump receives grand jury subpoena for docs “bearing classification markings.” May 25, Trump lawyers assert he has “absolute authority to declassify docs.” June 3, Trump meets DOJ Chief of Counterintelligence and surrenders some docs. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb signs statement that DOJ has everything and subpoena is fulfilled. June 8, DOJ requests storage room be secured. June, 2022 – FBI interviews Trump staff. June 22, grand jury subpoenas surveillance footage. DOJ is convinced that more documents exist. Aug. 5, warrant for search is drawn and approved by federal magistrate. Aug.8, warrant is executed.
The DOJ (at minimum) knows that Trump illegally removed, improperly stored, hid, and lied about 300+ sensitive national or classified documents. Several laws were apparently violated, including those involving espionage and obstruction. Subsequent public revelations of the search warrant, items list, and now probable cause affidavit confirm the legal grounds for the search and ongoing investigation.
Trump’s various legal responses were late, weak to non-credible, constantly changing, and often more PR than legal argument. The claim of universal declassification powers is fictitious and pointless as the relevant laws are not connected to classification. The media uproar caused by Trump’s initial lies and mischaracterization of the document retrieval process reflect the argument for obstruction.
Where does the DOJ go from here? More interviews. The DOJ and FBI need to find answers to questions: Who handled the documents? Are there more docs, in other places? Were any docs copied, transferred, or transmitted? Why so many documents (300+)? Finally, the big questions: Why did Trump take the documents, search through them, lie about them, and avoid the required legal handling? Answers to these questions are not entirely required for prosecution, but in both courts – legal and public opinion – the Trump “why” questions may be decisive for the DOJ to pursue indictment.
Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Program. Based on a campaign promise, this is one of those actions that will be instantaneously controversial, with praise and criticism at high volume coming from all directions; and then almost abruptly disappear from the political discourse. It may or may not help the Democrats in November, but barring some drastic event that correlates to it, it’s not likely to be a big issue – or even an issue at all. What it will be is a squall of lawsuits, most of which will take many months to resolve, with at least one winding up at the Supreme Court. Ten years from now, give or take, there are going to be splendid reports summarizing the political, economic, and judicial results. Until then, this becomes what sociologists and economists call a “natural experiment.”
Saturday, August 20
[Russia] Darya Dugina Assassinated with Car Bomb – Though virtually unknown outside Russia, she was an outspoken media propagandist in favor of Putin’s War. She was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a.k.a. Putin’s Brain, and one of the early architects of the return to authoritarian–imperial style Russia. It’s widely believed that her father was the actual target, although she was better known because of her media exposure. She will be a martyr for the right and a symbol of the uncertainty about Putin’s future in the broader scheme of Russian politics. [Update: Russia blames Ukraine with likely fabricated evidence.]
[U.S. Politics] Trump and McConnell Have Hissy Fit – Normally this is not news, as the two were never kissy-kissy, but Trump’s attack on McConnell (“broken-down hack”) and his wife came after McConnell observed the trend in favor of the Democrats, especially in the Senate, and among other things said, “candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.” Trump took that personally, as he selected most of the Senate candidates who are currently in the deepest trouble.
Sunday, August 21
[Kansas – Abortion] Abortion Vote Recount Changes 63 Votes – The partial recount, in nine counties, was a compromise that still cost $120,000. It resulted in 6 six additional yes votes and 57 fewer no votes. The election saw a record 922,000 votes. (For those who like numbers: 63/922,000 = 0.0068%.)
Monday, August 22
[Public Health] Fauci Announces December Retirement – Announcements of future retirement are not particularly newsworthy; this one is different. Anthony Fauci, at 81, is one of the more recognizable civil servants in U.S. history. It’s been 38 years, seven presidents, and five major national health crises at the helm of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. However, the right-wing propaganda machine has spent millions demonizing Fauci; he’s a target asset they don’t want to waste. So, as the guy is ready to take his gold watch and sail off into the book-writing sunset, they attack. Megyn Kelly gets the nod for representing the tone, “F**k you, Fauci. You don’t get to say whether you’ll go [to a Republican-led House committee subpoena].” Remember, they get paid big bucks to be this classy.
[Mar-a-Lago] Trump Requests Special Master to Review Evidence – It wasn’t in a legal format for a request, so the judge had Trump’s lawyers rewrite it. It cannot apply to classified or national security material as that is government property and any privilege, client or executive, does not apply. As there is a smattering of other material, a Special Master may be assigned. [Update: It appears the judge will make the appointment. Why not, it’s ceremonial.]
[Climate Change] Dallas Flash Floods Trap Hundreds – Parts of the Dallas area received more than 13” of rain in less than 24 hours – a summer’s worth of precip. Rising streams and flooding roads trapped people in cars and homes, even while emergency sirens were just starting.
Tuesday, August 23
[Primary Elections] Big Electoral Pivot in Upstate New York – It wasn’t predicted, not even a couple of weeks ago, but Pat Ryan’s 2.5% victory swing in the House of Representatives District 19 special election really did send shockwaves among those who watch election results. It means, or at least seems to mean, that the abortion issue is pivotal. Women are going to have their vote, and their vote is going to add from 2% to 8% for the Democrats in all but the reddest of districts. That, if it materializes, will sling a lot of districts into Democratic seats. Ryan ran an election focused mainly on the issues related to abortion, rhetorically – reproductive freedom. Like other Democrats he could immediately follow up with a smorgasbord of issues and achievements, including having done something to attack inflation. It’s beginning to look like a good combination of punches, if enough Democrats can learn how to land them.
Wednesday, August 24
[Student Loans] Biden Announces Student Debt Forgiveness Program – After weeks of preamble, Biden is issuing an executive order expected to be implemented by October: Those with outstanding student loans who earn less than $125,000 will get up to $10,000 debt forgiveness; Pell Grant recipients can get up to an additional $10,000. The action will affect roughly 43 million borrowers at a cost of about $24 billion/year. Right now, it’s a complicated and controversial action: good/bad incentive, pro/anti-inflation, good/bad for education, help/hinder a true solution: good arguments can be made on several sides. Problem is, outcomes are speculative, as educational debt-forgiveness on this scale has not been tried in the U.S. It should be noted the U.S. is one of the relatively few wealthy countries that does not cover the cost of pre-K – Ph.D. education.
[Ukraine] Ukrainian Independence Day: As Predicted, Russians Attack, Killing 25 at Train Station – For the most part, it was a relatively quiet, celebratory day but, as feared, the day closed with a rocket attack by the Russians on a crowded railroad station near Chaplyne in eastern Ukraine; a total of 25 were killed and about 20 injured. The U.S. State Department had warned Americans to leave Ukraine during this period, as the Russians were expected to redouble their targeting of civilian areas.
[Ukraine] Biden Announces $3 Billion in Additional Military Assistance for Ukraine – This brings the total to $13.5 billion for the year, this time taken from the pool of $40 billion allocated by Congress for the rest of the year. The assistance comes mainly in the form of additional rocket systems, Puma drones, Vampire counter-drones, and ammunition.
[Mueller Investigation] DOJ Releases Barr Memo to Not Charge Trump – This was the infamous (for Democrats at least) surprise memo of 2019 in which AG Barr declared that Trump was not going to be indicted for either conspiracy with the Russians or for obstruction of justice. It’s one of those documents that has profound historical ramifications, a deceptive yet decisive political maneuver that ended the usefulness of the Mueller report. The Democrats were left with pursuing a fruitless impeachment in the House.
[Economy] California Announces Plan to Ban Sale of New Gas Cars by 2035 – This was the most important economic announcement of the week, and maybe the year. The ban for selling gas-powered new vehicles in less than 13 years represents a coalition of tacit agreements among car manufacturers, the state government of California, the EPA, and in fact the car buying public of California, that electric-digital is the future. Because this is California, the most populous state and the fifth largest economy in the world, what California does is almost always what the rest of the world does.
Thursday, August 25
[Arkansas – Transgender] Court Bars Arkansas Ban on Gender Affirming Medical Care – A three-judge appellate court ruled, “Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex.” In October, a lower court will rule on making the block to the law permanent. Expect a long string of appeals on this.
[Abortion] Trigger Laws Take Effect in Four States – Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, and North Dakota automatically tightened their abortion laws, sharply restricting access for about 10.1 million women. Many of these changes are facing court challenges.
[Russia] Putin Decree Increases Military Troops by 137,000 – Desperately avoiding conscription (draft), which would have severe political repercussions and necessitate a full declaration of war, Putin is attempting to replace the extensive loss of forces in Ukraine. It was also a concession that Putin’s war has become painfully expensive.
[Ukraine] Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant Crisis Averted – All week, the Russian-occupied but Ukrainian-operated nuclear plant continued to be a source of diplomatic, military, and practical concern. The original disconnection from the Ukrainian net was caused by a fire in a transmission line. Backup generators prevented the situation from becoming critical, and full power connection was restored today. This is a good example of the “unintended consequences” in a strategic/tactical standoff, threatening to become a major nuclear incident.
[Texas – Gun Laws] Judge Rules Adults under 21 May Carry Handguns – In an interesting ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman wrote “The Second Amendment protects against this prohibition because its guarantee of the right to bear arms does not specify an age limit.” 18-year-old gun-toting adults?
Friday, August 26
[Mar-a-Lago] Heavily Redacted Search Affidavit Unsealed – Quite literally, millions across the country were waiting for this shoe to drop; so much so that it nearly brought down the relevant DOJ website. The extensive 38 page, 60% redacted and yet tantalizing affidavit that lays out the probable cause for the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago is the final piece of the publicly accessible story – and it does not make Trump look good. There are many takeaways that lawyers, journalists, and politicians will chew on for quite a while; but the main take-away is that the DOJ spent many months, actually more than a year, attempting to get the classified documents out of Mar-a-Lago, but after continual stalling and prevarication, decided to resort to a search warrant. The DOJ also issued a companion document explaining why elements of the affidavit were redacted – mainly to protect individuals, methods and sources, and national security.
[Climate Change] Pakistan Floods since June Kill More Than a Thousand – A state of emergency has just been declared, as much transportation infrastructure has been destroyed and the military is needed to carry out basic transport.
[Louisiana – Abortion] Woman with Unviable Fetus Seeks Legislative Action – She is 15 weeks pregnant with a fetal acrania (the fetus has no skull) – a fatal condition outside the womb. She requested an abortion, but under new Louisiana law, doctors cannot legally perform such an abortion. She has publicly called upon the governor to act, but that’s not happening. She is currently seeking an abortion out-of-state. “They said I have to carry my baby, so I can bury my baby.” The Louisiana abortion law is being challenged in court for “vagueness” and “unconstitutionality.” This is a sample of the legal and personal chaos promoted by the Christian right-wing.
[Coronavirus] Moderna Sues Pfizer and BioNTech for Copying COVID-19 Vaccine – Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is “over” (it’s not over . . . ) everybody has time to pick up the pieces. Patent infringement lawsuits make lawyers rich.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Democrats kept their powder dry: Maybe the Democrats got lucky, not only with the sequence of issues that is leading to powerful changes in voter opinion (reproductive freedom, voting rights, climate change, improving economy, wild-ass Republicans, etc.), but they also didn’t waste their money and energy too early in the midterm campaigns. Now, with 60 days to go, “Dark Brandon Biden” with eyes aflame and what appears to be a growing squad of quick-draw, quick-witted counter-attackers, the (predictable and boring) Republican trolls suddenly found themselves immediately attacked for their blatant stupidity. Last week was a virtual shooting gallery, as Trump and symbionts popped up with one implausible Mar-a-Lago excuse after another, and found themselves under fire. Hopefully the Democrats will keep this up for two months (at least).
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
The 38-page affidavit . . . asserted that there was ‘probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at’ Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound, indicating that prosecutors had evidence suggesting efforts to impede the recovery of government documents. . .. To convict someone of obstruction, prosecutors need to prove two things: that a defendant knowingly concealed or destroyed documents, and that he did so to impede the official work of any federal agency or department. Section 1519’s maximum penalty is 20 years in prison, which is twice as long as the penalty under the Espionage Act.
Charlie Savage, “Possibility of Obstruction Looms Over Trump After Thwarted Efforts to Recover Documents,” The New York Times, 8/26/2022.
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