A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Is It Finally Happening?
I would love to style this as the legal vise is finally closing on Donald Trump. Or the wheel of justice grinds slow but fine. Or that the courts have finally had enough of Trump’s inane legal arguments.
Maybe we’ll look back in a few months and conclude those would have been accurate ways to frame yesterday’s events. But given how many times we’ve reached back to kick that football right out of Lucy’s hands only to swing at air, it’d be a little credulous and overdetermined to proclaim that accountability is finally at hand.
But … maybe it is?
Over the course of a single hour yesterday afternoon, things went very badly for Donald Trump.
- Trump’s legal arguments in the Mar-a-Lago documents case were absolutely pulverized by a federal appeals court.
- After years of litigation, the Supreme Court declined to weigh in on whether Trump’s tax returns must be turned over to the House Ways & Means Committee, ending his path to legal recourse to block the move.
Both legal setbacks for Trump came against a backdrop of other looming risks for him: Jean Carroll is poised to tack on new, more serious charges to her claims that Trump raped and defamed her; the trial of the Trump Org for tax fraud continues in New York City; and the trial of Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy for the Jan. 6 attack continues in Washington, D.C.
Let’s focus on Mar-a-Lago for the moment.
How Bad Was It For Trump?
Sample headlines from the Mar-a-Lago oral arguments:
NYT: Court Appears Ready to End Special Master Review in Trump Files Inquiry
WaPo: Appeals panel grills Trump lawyer over FBI search of Mar-a-Lago
CNN: Appeals court is dubious of Trump’s arguments for special master review of Mar-a-Lago search
Bloomberg: Trump Faces Skeptical Appeals Court in Mar-a-Lago Document Fight With DOJ
No, But How Bad Was It Really?
Former U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal: “My god, in the Trump Special Master appeal, I don’t think I’ve ever heard an oral argument go worse for a litigant. … They are demolishing Trump’s lawyer. It’s not close.”
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman: “Trumps lawyer got beaten up pretty badly. He lurched at the end for a whole new argument about a general warrant, and the court called him out on it.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene: “A hot bench & not a very receptive one for Trump in Atlanta just now. In 40 minutes of argument, all 3 judges seemed inclined to rule against him.”
Law professor Orin Kerr: “From what I can tell, the idea of creating special rules for former Presidents to help them think of new arguments they can make to challenge the government when they are under criminal investigation does not seem to have a lot of legs in the 11th Circuit today.”
What The Judges Said
It’s almost always a mistake to take what judges say in oral arguments literally, but in this case the thrust of the judges’ questions was unmistakeable:
- “I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.”
- “Do you think that ‘raid’ is the right term for execution of a warrant?”
- “Do you think it’s rare that the target of a warrant thinks the government is overreaching?”
- “Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant.”
- “If you can’t establish that it was unlawful, then what are we doing here?”
Finally, The Tax Returns
I doubt the public is going to see Trump’s tax returns any time soon, and there’s very little time left in the current Congress for the House Ways & Means Committee to make robust use of them. So in that sense, I suppose, Trump’s delays worked and he “won.” But his exhaustion of the legal paths to fight the committee, and especially the Supreme Court’s refusal to weigh in, does amount to a vindication of the rule of law, albeit a modest one.
What Did Lindsey Say?
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) finally testified Tuesday before the Georgia grand jury investigating Trump’s 2020 election meddling. It doesn’t appear that Graham invoked the 5th Amendment or declined to answer questions on Speech and Debate Clause grounds. In contrast to Graham’s vigorous legal fight to avoid testifying, his office released a mild statement that he answered all the questions asked of him.
No word yet on whether Mike Flynn testified to the grand jury yesterday as scheduled.
Business As Usual
Republicans are fighting like hell to prevent Saturday voting in the Georgia runoff for U.S. Senate.
Keep An Eye On Arizona
The election-denying GOP nominee for attorney general has filed suit over the election results, ahead of what is expected to be an automatic recount in his race.
Overnight Shooting At Virginia Walmart
A gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, late Tuesday night killing at least six people. The shooter was reportedly found dead inside the store, but it was unclear how he died.
Picking Through The Pieces Of The Last Mass Shooting
The 22-year-old Colorado Springs gunman legally changed his name as a teenager after being the victim of a brutal episode of online bullying, the Washington Post reports. The newspaper also confirmed that the shooter is the grandson of California state Rep. Randy Voepel.
AP Reporter Fired
The AP has terminated James LaPorta, a 35-year-old national security reporter involved in the erroneous report that an errant missile strike in Poland was fired by Russia.
The situation is, to put it mildly, complicated, but the internal Slack messages leading up to the faulty AP alert bathe no one in glory:
All By Myself
TPM’s Kate Riga wrote a brilliant account of the oral arguments that is centered on Trump’s weird fixation with a Celine Dion photograph the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago.
Do you like Morning Memo? Let us know!