A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.
It’s All About Flipping Nauta
The proceedings today in the Mar-a-Lago case won’t be available in real time, so let me set the stage for you and give you a solid way of evaluating what happens.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is resuming the hearing over the conflicts of interest facing Walt Nauta defense counsel Stan Woodward. It is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.
I went into considerable detail in yesterday’s Morning Memo about what prosecutors are ostensibly after here: They’re trying to smoke out and resolve any conflicts of interest so that defendants can’t later cite those conflicts on appeal and get their convictions overturned.
Woodward is playing fast and loose, and Cannon is giving him an obscene amount of leash. She’s treating the conflict of interest problem like an adversarial issue that she’s refereeing, but the problem is that the conflicts go to the heart of whether it’s a fair adversarial proceeding in the first place. It’s not up to prosecutors to resolve that problem. It’s up to the judge.
While prosecutors have good reason to want to get the conflicts ironed out now, there’s obviously another reason this matters: They want to flip Nauta. It’s probably a long shot. He appears joined at the hip with Trump. His legal representation is being paid for by Trump. His livelihood is dependent on Trump.
But here’s the key: The last Trump employee who was given a chance to speak to independent counsel quickly decided to stop covering up for Trump, dropped Woodward as counsel, and with new counsel in tow practically ran to the DC grand jury to withdraw his earlier false testimony and provide new deeply incriminating testimony against Nauta and Trump.
Prosecutors want a chance to do the same with Nauta. I doubt they’re counting on flipping him, but they want that shot. Judge Cannon’s frankly ridiculous handling of this aspect of the case has stalled that effort, turned what should be a normal proceeding upside down, and generally made a hash of things.
I hope this steers you right for today’s hearing.
Sidney Powell Flips!
Arguably the biggest development in any of the Trump prosecutions in weeks: Sidney Powell’s decision to plead guilty in the Coffee County caper and to cooperate with Atlanta DA Fani Willis changes the legal landscape considerably.
The initial stage of jury selection begins today in the trial originally intended for Powell and Kenneth Chesebro. Now Chesebro will go it alone, barring any last-minute plea deal for him (he reportedly already rejected a plea offer). Jury selection begins in earnest Monday.
Powell’s conviction on six misdemeanor counts is a huge win for Willis, but I’m most intrigued by what impact Powell’s guilty plea has on Special Counsel Jack Smith’s work at the federal level. Since her guilty plea can be used against her by Smith, it’s hard for me to imagine her attorney not reaching out to Smith to try to negotiate a global deal. Still, we have no evidence that such a parallel deal was struck between Powell and Smith.
It probably won’t be the last guilty plea in the Georgia RICO case.
Michigan Fake Elector Flips
A fake Trump elector in Michigan has agreed to cooperate with state prosecutors in return for the dropping of all charges against him.
Correction: I mistakenly cast this as a guilty plea in the original version of the post. All charges were dropped, and there was no admission of guilt. The error was mine.
Trump Is No Washington Or Lincoln
It looks like the Justice Department unleashed its considerable internal legal firepower in drafting this brief in the Jan. 6 case opposing Trump’s claims that the president enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution.
Ryan Reilly: In its chaotic Jan. 6 probe, the FBI wrongly questioned a Biden staffer about Capitol pipe bombs
Never Say Never, But Then Again …
Yesterday was a very strange day on the Hill.
We came into the day promised another vote on Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid to become speaker. It never happened.
First the vote was supposed to be midday, then delayed, then maybe in the evening or even later. Nada.
There was a brief but short-lived push by Jordan and others to bestow more robust powers on Speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC). It’s not clear if that was a genuine effort to unlock the House for a few weeks and get things moving, or an elaborate delay tactic by Jordan, or some combination of both. But it didn’t do much to maintain the faux suspense.
Despite Jordan’s lackluster performance on holding a vote yesterday, most of the media coverage was still in “poised for another vote” mode. It was hard not to feel led around by the nose by the end of the day.
Jordan is obviously trying to avoid admitting defeat or even appearing to have been defeated. On top of that, he has taken advantage of the unprecedented situation and the lack of any real sense of what the next step can or should be to keep everyone on tenterhooks – even though the reality seems pretty darn clear: He doesn’t have the votes.
Maintaining this false sense of suspense continued overnight and into this morning, with a planned 10 a.m. ET vote on speaker. Will that happen or get punted like yesterday’s? If it happens, will Jordan lose even more votes than he did last time?
Jordan himself appeared before cameras briefly a short time ago and seemed to implicitly confirm some of the reporting that he is prepared to force the issue through the weekend: “Our plan this weekend is to get a speaker elected.”
Jordan indicates that he plans to just try and grind it out today and tomorrow and for whoever long it takes until a Speaker is elected pic.twitter.com/DcGmex1wUl— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 20, 2023
A Wave Of Threats Against Members
The Jim Jordan speakership bid has uncorked right-wing extremism directed at fellow House GOPers, subjecting them to the same threats and harassment MAGA opponents and innocent bystanders have been experiencing for years.
- CNN airs shocking voicemail to the wife of an unnamed GOP congressman from a Jim Jordan supporter: “We’re gonna be up your ass fucking nonstop.”
- Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY) received this email: “If I see your face, I will whip all the hair out of your head you scumbag.”
- NYT: “The harrowing experiences have provided a window into just how ugly the political discourse in the United States has become, and how the hard right in particular has normalized violent threats and intimidation.”
- Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO):
Daily Beast: Solving the Mystery of George Santos’ Sham Campaign Treasurer
- Historic Greek Orthodox church sheltering civilians in Gaza was bombed, killing 17 people.
- The timing of an expected Israeli ground assault on Gaza remained unclear.
- Death toll in Gaza hospital explosion may be significantly lower than initially claimed.
- Humanitarian aid is still struggling to reach Gaza.
- Matt Duss: The End of Biden’s Middle East Mirage
- President Biden’s full Oval Office address:
This Case Makes My Head Hurt
The Fifth Circuit is making a mess of the Louisiana redistricting case, but the Supreme Court isn’t quite prepared to clean it up just yet.
- Appointed Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) won’t run to fill Dianne Feinstein’s seat.
- Clarence Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow maxed out his campaign contributions to Cornel West.
- The challenge for RFK Jr. is getting on the ballot in all 50 states.
Hate To See It
NYT: “The judge in Alex Jones’s bankruptcy case ruled on Thursday that he will not be allowed to use his Chapter 11 filing to evade paying more than $1 billion in verdicts to families of the Sandy Hook shooting.”
Up Is Down
Do you like Morning Memo? Let us know!