Espionage Act Charges Very Much In Play For Donald Trump

INSIDE: Stewart Rhodes ... Caitlin Bernard ... Ken Paxton
President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving on November 26, 2020. (Photo by Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images)
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Indictments After Memorial Day?

Another flurry of new reporting about the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation.

First, the timing of indictments:

  • Bloomberg: “Special Counsel Jack Smith is wrapping up his investigation into former president Donald Trump’s refusal to return classified documents after his election defeat and is poised to announce possible criminal charges in the days or weeks after Memorial Day, according to people familiar with the matter.”
  • WaPo: “The grand jury working on the investigation apparently has not met since May 5, after months of frenetic activity at the federal courthouse in Washington. That is the panel’s longest hiatus since December …”

Second, two substantial and mostly new stories on some of the evidence Special Counsel Jack Smith has (emphasis below is mine):

  • WaPo: “Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.”
  • The NYT had limited access to the sealed court order piercing attorney-client privilege between Trump and Evan Corcoran: “At another point, Judge Howell addressed Mr. Trump’s intent and state of mind, saying that the government had also provided sufficient evidence to meet its burden of showing that the former president had retained the classified documents willfully, the person said.”

Third, Espionage Act charges against former President Donald Trump remain firmly in play, as Ryan Goodman notes:

  • Responding to the NYT followup to the WaPo:

If GOP Wins White House, Rhodes Goes Free

On the same day Stewart Rhodes made the strategic gamble that a fiery, defiant speech at his sentencing might well yield a stiff sentence but set him up for a presidential pardon if Republicans win the White House in 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) spoke favorably of pardoning Jan. 6 defendants.

Donald Trump has of course already promised pardons.

Pardoning the insurrectionists is now a litmus test for the GOP nomination for president, once again setting up 2024 as the most important election since the Civil War.

Quote Of The Day

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentencing Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in federal prison:

I dare say Mr. Rhodes, and I have never said this to anyone I have sentenced: You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, the republic and the very fabric of democracy.

From Tea Party To Seditious Conspiracy

ICYMI, I traced TPM’s early coverage of Stewart Rhodes and Oath Keepers and his roots in the Tea Party movement.

Debt Ceiling Resolution? Or Nah?

It looks like we’re soon going to see whether the last month of debt ceiling talks were really a negotiation or political theater.

The notion that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could somehow force President Biden’s hand while not actually being able to deliver the votes of his own conference has been nonsensical. It’s why Democrats refused to budge until the House GOP passed something … anything. And I suspect, though it’s more intuition than actual knowledge, that the slow pace of negotiations and the lack of clarity about them stems from White House skepticism that McCarthy can deliver. It’s not really a negotiation if the other side has no negotiating authority.

Crunch time is here though. The outline of a deal is emerging. It doesn’t appear, according to the early reports, to be a deal that shows McCarthy putting one over on Biden, which seems like the only standard far-right House members will judge it by. Already the usual suspects in Freedom Caucus land are balking.

A deal in which Democrats basically save McCarthy’s ass should skew heavily in Democrats’ favor. And if it does, McCarthy will lose a big chunk of his members. This is not new. Republican House speakers in this century have been historically weak and feckless. McCarthy just happens to be the one who embodies it most in his personality and affect.

It’s going to be a weird next few days on the Hill.


There is much to be said, none of it good, about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision radically re-reading the Clean Waters Act. But for now I leave you with this good summation by Richard J. Lazarus:

None of this was compelled by law. Even Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh rejected Alito’s majority view, announcing that he “would stick to the text.” Congress spoke clearly in the Clean Water Act about its ambitions and backed that intent up with deliberately sweeping language to provide the EPA with the discretionary authority it needed to realize those goals. Our nation’s waters are far cleaner as a result. Yet, for the second time in less than a year, an activist Supreme Court has deployed the false label of “separation of powers” to deny the other two branches the legal tools they require to safeguard the public.

I’ve been working on paring back the conservative v. liberal construct in describing the Supreme Court. “Conservative jurisprudence,” as existed as recently as 20 years ago, arguably had an internal logic and consistency to it. It could be applied – though it wasn’t always, of course – in a consistent and even-handed way that defied particular outcomes. There was a discipline to it, at least in theory. It possessed some intellectual rigor that was worth grappling with even if you were a progressive. There is very little that remains “conservative” about the current Supreme Court majority or what we think of as the Federalist Society’s conservative legal movement. It’s right-wing radicalism that is more outcome-based than they ever accused liberals of being.

Ultimately, however, this is no longer a legal issue to be solved in court. It’s a political issue to be fixed by winning elections. It will be a long, slow climb out of a deep, dark hole. No hand-wringing. Just do it.

Headline Of The Week

JTA: “The Florida mom who sought to ban Amanda Gorman’s poem says she’s sorry for promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”

Rokita ‘Wins’ Against Caitlin Bernard

The jihad by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) against the in-state doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old Ohio girl right after Dobbs yielded a pretty minor sanction against her: “The board gave the doctor a letter of reprimand and ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine for violating ethical standards and state laws by discussing the case with a reporter.”

Pretty minor sanction, but a major year-long headache for Dr. Bernard.

2024 Ephemera

  • Doug Mastriano, the losing GOP nominee for governor in 2022, will not run for U.S. Senate in 2024.
  • Who? North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) is planning a June 7 launch of a presidential campaign, the WSJ reports.
  • This is an actual quote:

Ken Paxton Faces Imminent Impeachment

The notorious scoundrel Ken Paxton, who also happens to be the Republican attorney general of Texas, faces possible impeachment in the state House, with a vote coming as early as today.

Notable: “Since the prospect of impeachment suddenly emerged Wednesday, none of Texas other top Republicans have voiced support for Paxton.”

More Bob Menendez Shadiness


Federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. are investigating whether Senator Robert Menendez or his wife received unreported gifts of a luxury car and an apartment in Washington from a halal meat company that is also the focus of a criminal inquiry, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.

OMG That Shrug!

So much going on here, but my favorite part is the half shrug that accompanies the news-to-me suggestion that you’re not really a “white guy” if you’re also gay:

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Notable Replies

  1. I think they are finally going to nail him. Champagne is on ice. Not enough white guys in the Federal judiciary? They are no longer using dog whistles; now it’s bullhorns.

  2. I would not be surprised if Jack Smith has evidence that some MAL documents are now in the hands of some of TFG friends overseas.

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