Ex-DC Chief Judge Warns Of Creeping Authoritarianism

INSIDE: Donald Trump ... Rupert Murdoch ... Hunter Biden
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 5: New Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell poses for photographs in her court room May 05, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Big Liars And The Big Lies They Tell

No judge has had a better global view of the Trump prosecutions than U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who as chief judge in DC until earlier this year oversaw the grand juries investigating Trump’s election subversion efforts and his unlawful retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

It was Howell who made key rulings during the Jan. 6 grand jury proceedings on executive privilege, the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, and other investigative issues. As chief judge, she also had administrative responsibilities for the district court’s heavy case load of Jan. 6 rioter cases.

So when Howell warns of creeping authoritarianism in the United States, it’s worth taking notice.

Speaking last night at a lawyers event in DC, Howell quoted from Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s new book, including:

  • “Big lies are springboards for authoritarians.”
  • The U.S. “is at a crossroads teetering on the brink of authoritarianism.”

Howell’s comments were reported by Politico’s Josh Gerstein:

“We are having a very surprising and downright troubling moment in this country when the very importance of facts is dismissed, or ignored,” Howell told the annual gala of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association at a downtown hotel. “That’s very risky business for all of us in our democracy. … The facts matter.”

Howell did not mention Trump by name but noted that the DC judges “regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on Jan. 6, 2021.”


TPM’s Josh Kovensky takes a closer look at some of the mechanisms available to Trump to make his prosecutions/convictions go away if he is elected president again.

Trump’s Shiny New Absurd Defense

Turning the last eight years on its head, Donald Trump now wants to use the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in U.S. elections to demonstrate that it was not he who sowed public distrust.

That’s right. Trump wants to use the intelligence community that he abhorred and their assessments that he roundly and publicly rejected as fodder for his own criminal defense.

More On The New Mike Pence Reveals

Aaron Blake: The plot thickens on a Mike Pence Jan. 6 recusal

Rupert Murdoch Deposed In Smartmatic Case

The chairman emeritus of Fox Corp. and News Corp. is being deposed yesterday and today in Los Angeles in Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, Reuters reports.

No Plea Deals For Trump, Rudy, Or Meadows

Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis has her eye on three big fish to whom plea deals will not be offered: Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Mark Meadows, according to The Guardian:

The previously unreported decision has not been communicated formally and could still change, for instance, if prosecutors shift strategy. But it signals who prosecutors consider their main targets, and how they want to wield the power of Georgia’s racketeering statute to their advantage.

Hunter Biden Calls House GOP Bluff

The absurdity of the House GOP’s Trump-inspired Hunter Biden witch hunt came into even sharper focus Tuesday. Going on the offensive, Biden demanded a public hearing rather than a closed-door deposition with the House Oversight Committee. That sent Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) into paroxysms of backpedaling. Painful to watch:

If that wasn’t good enough, here’s Comer pretending it’s all public anyway (which could make it harder to negotiate future “private” sit-downs with the committee since they’re not really private):

Fox Tap Dances

The good folks at Fox News howled in protest at Hunter Biden wanting to make the witch hunt against him public:

Dems Dance

House Democrats had fun with all the fodder provided by their GOP colleagues:

We Will Still Have Santos To Kick Around

A Grievous Injustice

The three college students (Brown, Trinity (CT), and Haverford) of Palestinian descent who were shot over the weekend in Burlington, Vermont, continue to recover from their injuries. The most seriously wounded, Hisham Awartani, suffered spinal cord damage and has a long and uncertain road to recovery ahead.

The three young men were in Burlington visiting Awartani’s grandmother for Thanksgiving. Chris Hayes aired a long, compelling interview last night with Awartani’s uncle, who also lives in Burlington:

U.S. Water Utilities Hacked

Politico: “The federal government is investigating multiple hacks suspected to have been launched by an Iranian government-linked cyber group against U.S. water facilities that were using Israeli-made technology, according to two individuals familiar with the probes.”

New Charges Expected In India Assassination Plot In US

WaPo: “The discovery of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on U.S. soil earlier this year so concerned the Biden administration that it dispatched its top two intelligence officials to New Delhi to demand the Indian government investigate and hold to account those responsible, senior administration officials said.”

Pope Evicts U.S. Cardinal From Vatican Apartment

Pope Francis has reportedly taken more drastic actions against the defiant retired American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a doctrinal conservative who is an outspoken critic of the pontiff, evicting him from his Vatican apartment and stripping him of his salary.

The Most Important Statistic Of All

New life expectancy data from the CDC shows the U.S. continues to lag other wealthy nations after taking a harder hit from COVID and bouncing back more slowly.


Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s new book includes her account of this bonkers exchange with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on his post-Jan. 6 pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago:

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