Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 27 through Friday, September 2, 2022 [Vol.4 No.7]
More Mar-a-Lago Evidence
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
It’s axiomatic that prosecutors let their filings speak for them, ditto the DOJ. They don’t do social media legal announcements. But when clueless Trump attorneys set up the situation for a judge to grant the DOJ a 36-page written rebuttal to an appallingly bad defense motion for a special master? That doesn’t happen every week. Especially when the case involves the potential indictment of a former president. The DOJ, in a rare moment of situational savvy, grabbed this opportunity to file a brilliant work of legal advocacy in a unique moment in U.S. jurisprudence.
Let’s unpack the last sentence. In a nutshell, Trump (his lawyers) invited the DOJ response by requesting a special master. The DOJ responded (oh goody!) with a 36-page description of what they did for the search – including a rarely publicly used – outside of a trial – device: a picture. (A picture is indeed worth a thousand words for a public that’s never seen official secrets covers.) This new DOJ filing, and picture, hit the court of public opinion hard. It was also linked to Trump’s office, which his lawyers didn’t mention. Three classified documents were found in a drawer in Trump’s desk, along with three (two expired) passports. It’s highly unlikely Trump didn’t know about them. The new DOJ filing went off like a flash-bang in legal and pro-Trump circles. But did it, as intended, convince the judge against a special master? We don’t know. (Maybe after the Labor Day weekend?)
There is a proto-constitutional crisis lurking here. Special masters are usually appointed to filter through huge numbers of documents from lawyers’ offices, looking for client/attorney privilege conflicts. In this case, however, Trump’s lawyers are asking for the same function regarding executive privilege. This has never been done because (1) Only the current president can declare executive privilege and (2) Classified documents don’t fall under the privilege. However, this has never been contested. Perhaps this judge would like her name in the history books? Instant chain of appeals, a major legal brouhaha, and of course, delay. Supplicate before a statue of lady justice that this doesn’t go there.
What chain of custody? The DOJ has identified 300+ classified documents found at various locations in Mar-a-Lago – repeat: 300+ – totaling thousands of pages at all levels of classification. That’s not casual or accidental. On Friday it was revealed that the FBI found 48 empty classified document folders, begging the questions of what documents were in those folders and where are they now? There should be a chain of custody. By law, every step of the way, from where the classified documents were stored to where they were found by the FBI in Mar-a-Lago and who touched them, and when, should have been recorded. The FBI must track and verify every document. Any bets there are breaks in the chain of custody? In this line of investigation, there may be a clue/answer to the keystone question: What was Trump doing by taking, storing, hiding, lying about, reading, and annotating these hundreds of documents? This end of the story seems to be metastasizing.
Americans are not inclined to take the threat to democracy seriously: In an official speech, The President of the United States identified a leader and a group of supporters as an imminent threat to the democracy and ultimately the security of the U.S. He provided the ID of the cause: Trump and his MAGA base. Despite the historical and “real world” circumstances, none of the national broadcast networks covered the speech live – “Too partisan.”
There’s a strange political landscape these days. Roughly 50 million voters believe (more or less) the narrative that Trump is the greatest hope for America; his election was stolen; Jan.6 is a hoax; Mar-a-Lago secret documents are DOJ overreach, and overall Trump is the victim of persecution. When Trump screamed via his social media – “Immediate reinstatement as president; or a new election, now!” most of MAGA agreed; reason: Hunter Biden’s laptop, which supposedly contained information that should’ve won Trump the 2020 election. Obviously, these folks don’t take Biden seriously because all they hear is that he is the one destroying democracy.
Then there is the other, bigger half of voters, roughly 70 million, who hear snippets of the right-wing/GOP narrative and have a hard time believing anyone takes it seriously. Consequently, many of these voters don’t take Biden’s warning all that seriously either. For the most part, the media is content to fall back into “both siderism,” Big Lie be damned. This has been identified at other times and places as the “bridge to fascism.”
Two months to midterms: Voting is the ultimate defense of democracy.
Saturday, August 27
[Mar-a-Lago] Judge Signals Intent to Appoint Special Master – U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, without hearing arguments, favored a special master to sort through the Mar-a-Lago documents for attorney/client privilege or executive privilege conflicts. (Executive privilege oversight would be highly controversial.) Trump lawyers filed a second “improved” request for the special master. The DOJ can now file a response, which may be an excellent opportunity to state part of their case and reveal new information.
[Social Media] Trump’s Truth Social Platform in Financial Distress – Citing inability to pay debts in a timely manner, a report by Digital World Acquisition outlines the weak growth of membership and the reliance on a single source of attraction (Trump) as financial trouble spots. [Update: Trump vastly increased his posts and increased his cross-posting of Q-Anon originated articles and vows he has plenty of money to cover Truth Social.]
[Pakistan] Massive Flooding Continues throughout Pakistan – More than 180,000 fled their homes as a major northern bridge collapsed. About 1,000 people have been killed, many more deaths expected. The heavier than normal monsoonal rains continue.
Sunday, August 28
[Midterm Poll] CBS Poll Shows Decline in Predicted GOP House Seat Wins – While predictions of Democratic gains in the Senate have become commonplace, this is one of the first major polls to show gains by Democrats in House races. The CBS poll had predicted a GOP gain of 16 seats, but has revised that to 12 seats. Abortion and lowering gas prices are cited as factors. [Polls at this stage are rarely precise/accurate but can reveal interesting trends.]
Monday, August 20
[Iraq] Fighting Erupts in Baghdad, 12 Dead – Chief cleric Muqtada al Sadr announced he is withdrawing from politics and bloody rioting ensued. While the fighting is mostly local and among factions, it represents a dysfunctional government and enough regional instability to skew the mounting petro-fueled realignments among Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S.
[Ukraine] Ukraine Officially Launches Campaign to Retake Kherson – Ambitious is one word for it, fictitious might be another, depending on the slant of wartime propaganda. Ukraine is launching coordinated attacks in the south, that much is certain. If Kherson isn’t retaken before winter sets in (Oct.-Nov.), then the campaign was a failure.
[Ukraine] IAEA inspectors head for Zaporizhzhia While Shelling Continues – The situation is about as unstable and dangerous as it could be without casualties. Damage to the largest nuclear facility in Europe has already occurred and technically conditions border on catastrophic if major backup systems fail. [Update: Inspectors arrive at the plant, 10 originally, all but two sent back because of dangerous situation.]
[Climate Change] Study: Greenland Icecap Loss to Raise Sea-level by a Foot – In a new study, published in Nature Climate Change, it is estimated that at the current rate, by 2100 110 trillion tons of ice will melt in Greenland, raising world sea levels by 10 inches to a foot. Some previous studies were less optimistic.
[NASA] NASA Postpones Artemis 1 Launch Because of Technical Problems – This is the largest and most complex rocket ever built by NASA and technical problems were more or less expected. This early flight is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, a shakedown of potential glitches and problems, before sending astronauts to the moon. [Update: The flight is rescheduled for Saturday. Saturday: another technical glitch scrubs the mission. Further attempts will not be scheduled until late September.]
Tuesday, August 30
[Mikhail Gorbachev [1931 – 2022 (91)] Last leader of the Soviet Union. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for allowing the largely nonviolent breakup of the Soviet Union during the 1980s. His name will always be associated with glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).]
[Mar-a-Lago] DOJ Replies to Trump Team Request for Special Master – In what promises to be a pivotal DOJ move in the ongoing investigation of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the 36-page filing challenges the need for a special master and goes on to provide new public evidence of classified materials in locations not revealed by Trump or his lawyers; namely, Trump’s office and desk. The presentation of this evidence, including a singularly important photograph of classified documents on display in Trump’s office, point to a pattern of obstruction. The presiding judge for the special master motion has also heard a reply from Trump lawyers, but has not ruled on the motion itself and has said she will present her decision in writing ”in good time.” Most legal analysis considers this to be another classic Trump move to delay the procedure.
[Jackson MS] Drinking Water System in Mississippi’s Capital Fails – More than 160,000 people are or will be without potable water. In part triggered by recent floods, the city’s water treatment plant, which was already in bad condition, is beginning to fail completely. Schools are switching to distance-learning, water must be distributed by hand, businesses are closing, and there is no apparent quick fix. The breakdown represents decades of infrastructure neglect, much of it based on racial discrimination, and it is estimated that more than $1 billion will be needed to completely restore the city’s water systems.
[U.S.-Life Expectancy] Life Expectancy in the U.S. Has the Biggest Decline in 100 Years – For the most part, thank COVID. Americans born in 2021 are expected to live 76.1 years, down 2.7 years from two years ago.
Wednesday, August 31
[Alaska Special Election] Mary Peltola (D) Wins Alaska House Seat. (Palin Loses.) – The Alaska ranked-choice system, voter approved in 2020, was designed to break up the two-party primary to general election stranglehold. In this case, when the third leading vote getter was eliminated, his votes were allocated on the basis of his voters’ second choices. Interestingly, his Republican voters did not choose Sarah Palin as their second choice; they chose Democrat Mary Peltola. Peltola and Palin will be once more on the ballot in November, this time for the permanent House seat.
[Coronavirus] FDA Approves Omicron-Oriented Booster Shots from Both Moderna and Pfizer – The final CDC approval and distribution announcement is expected this week. The booster shots should be available during the September rollout after Labor Day.
Thursday, September 1
[Biden Speech] Biden Addresses the Nation on Democracy – Biden delivered two energetic and (for Democrats) hard-hitting speeches. The first was Tuesday night at a Wilkes-Barre PA rally and featured the phrase “semi-fascist” to describe Trump and the MAGA folks. Thursday’s speech, prepared for national broadcast, again singled out Trump and MAGA Republicans as the greatest threat to democracy. Together, the speeches signaled that the Democrats are out to carve off all but the hard-core Trump base. The isolating and demonizing approach is right out of the GOP playbook; no wonder the following two days were filled with Republicans screaming, “Divisive!” “Hostile!” The general reaction from Democrats seems to be, “About time!” Frankly, the Democrats smell fear – the Senate and House are now both in play and the Democrats have the solid issues (especially abortion and defense of democracy), better rhetoric, and apparently momentum. It appears that the new Biden aggressiveness has roused the bellowing warthog in Trump (Biden is “an enemy of the state”) and that usually does not play well outside of the base for the Republicans.
[Russia – Oligarchs] In Putin’s Russia, Oligarchs Should Avoid Standing near Windows – It’s not funny, really, but oligarchs in Russia have a problem with survival. In this case, the chairman of the Russian oil giant Lukoil reportedly tossed himself out a sixth-floor window. Death by defenestration.
Friday, September 2
[Student Debt] Republicans Preparing Legal Assault on Most of Biden’s Student Debt Program – As predicted, after a week of public declamation about the evils of subsidizing students, it’s no longer headline material. Cue the court card: Keep the issue going, more or less forever in U.S. courts. The MAGA base likes that; 40 million student loan holders (nearly all voters) won’t.
[Judicial Corruption] ”Ginni” Thomas Solicited Lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to Overturn 2020 Election – Of course, her husband knew nothing about it. Like a bad penny, her name keeps turning up in relation to the Jan. 6 insurrection and the House Jan. 6 Committee request for her testimony.
[Climate Change] Dangerous Heat Wave in the West – The days before and following Labor Day will see record heat, a lot of 100’s, throughout the West as well as some 55 million people under heat alerts.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Trump put himself on the ballot for the midterms. This is not good news for the Republicans. They wanted the election to be about doddering old Joe and the tottering economy. Except Joe and the economy have both feet out of the grave. Meanwhile Trump is sucking the air and money out of down-ballot Republican campaigns and creating his usual rhetorical rumpus. The growing general reaction: Tiresome.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
While President Biden warned the nation about threats to democracy in a prime-time address on Thursday, ABC was airing a game show, ‘Press Your Luck.’ As Biden spelled out his objections to former president Donald Trump and ‘MAGA Republicans,’ NBC was broadcasting a rerun of ‘Law and Order.’ CBS skipped the speech to show a rerun of ‘Young Sheldon.’
Paul Farhi, “As Biden Warned About Democracy’s Collapse, TV Networks Aired Reruns,” The Washington Post, 9/2/2022.
Democracy is under attack – and reporting that isn’t ‘violating journalistic standards’
Robert Reich, The Guardian, 9/8/22
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]