A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Shit Is Getting Real
Over the past several days, the full scope, scale and speed of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations of Donald Trump have come more fully into focus. The daily drip of accounts from witnesses, defense lawyers, and others almost certainly not associated with the government provides a somewhat skewed but still clarifying view into the legal jeopardy the former president faces at the federal level.
A few takeaways:
- Speed: Smith is moving as fast as the legal system will allow and doesn’t appear encumbered by lack of resources or institutional support. We don’t know exactly how many grand juries he’s overseeing in DC, but, as was reaffirmed yesterday by the WaPo, at least two of them “are meeting every week about Trump and his advisers on multiple fronts.” Trump and others are putting up various fights over executive privilege, attorney-client privilege, and the Speech or Debate Clause, which must be litigated and that necessarily takes time. But the courts are moving quickly (for them), allowing Smith to speed those arguments through the appeals process, where for the most part he keeps winning. The clock is ticking, though, with a pressing need to make charging decisions before the 2024 campaign season is in full swing.
- Scope: The most self-contained probe involves the Mar-a-Lago documents case. The Jan. 6 probe is much more wide-ranging (more on that in a moment). But the thoroughness and aggressiveness with which Smith picked up from the original DOJ components handling these cases suggests a clear understanding of the stakes, the risks, and the historic significance of what is unfolding.
- Scale: The Jan. 6 investigations of the higher ups, especially when coupled with the hundreds of criminal prosecutions of the rioters, which the Justice Department has already called the biggest probe in its history, appears to be as sweeping and all-encompassing as it deserves. We still don’t know the exact contours of this probe, but it ranges from the fake electors scheme, to the financing of the Jan. 6 rallies, to the bogus fundraising the Trump campaign was doing off the Big Lie, to the connections between Trump World and the leading edge of the provocateurs at the Capitol. In other words, the investigation seems to rise to the historic moment.
If it sounds like I’m cheerleading Jack Smith and certain outcomes of his investigations, I’m not. The point all along hasn’t been to send Trump to jail, or to win indictments, or to punish those responsible. The point has been to investigate it with the speed, scale and scope the democracy-rending scheme deserves and then let the facts and the law lead where they may. For a time in 2021, it looked alarmingly unlikely that a proper investigation was ever going to happen. That is no longer the case.
Smith Eyes Trump’s Bogus Fundraising Off The Big Lie
WaPo adds to what CNN has been reporting for a while: The Big Lie-focused fundraising between Election Day 2020 and Inauguration Day 2021 is a specific focus of Jack Smith’s investigation:
- Smith has sent subpoenas since the beginning of March about the fundraising angle to Trump advisers and former campaign aides, Republican operatives and other consultants involved in the 2020 presidential campaign, according to the report.
- “[P]rosecutors are said to be interested in whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws, which make it illegal to make false representations over email to swindle people out of money.”
- “The subpoenas seek more specific types of communications so that prosecutors can compare what Trump allies and advisers were telling one another privately about the voter-fraud claims with what they were saying publicly in appeals that generated more than $200 million in donations from conservatives, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.”
Tell Me More About The Map, Please!
In the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, Jack Smith has zeroed in on a sensitive map containing intel that Trump took with him when he left office and allegedly showed off to aides and visitors, the NYT reports.
The story is full of new nuggets:
- “One person briefed on the matter said investigators have asked about Mr. Trump showing the map while aboard a plane.”
- “A third person with knowledge of the investigation said the map might also have been shown to a journalist writing a book.”
- Investigators are also reportedly looking at whether Trump delayed his annual departure from Mar-a-Lago last year and sifted through boxes between the May grand jury subpoena for the return of documents and a June 3 visit from DOJ officials to retrieve them. Not all the sought-after documents were returned then, leading to the FBI search of MAL in August.
Abortion Pill Case Looks Headed To SCOTUS
The overnight ruling in the big Texas abortion pill case by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was frankly a disaster.
You probably woke up to alerts that the appeals court issued a stay, which is true, but it’s only a partial stay and it’s reasoning is flawed in numerous ways.
This will almost surely force the Justice Department to go the conservative Supreme Court to try to obtain a more thorough stay blocking the lower court decision. I know that may sound like a fool’s errand, but these decisions are so bad that even the six-justice conservative majority may have trouble swallowing them. Either way, DOJ doesn’t have much choice and better to know the legal terrain as it is rather than as we might guess or imagine it to be.
TPM’s Kate Riga has a closer look at the late-night ruling.
Fox News Is In A World Of Hurt
The rapid-fire developments in the Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox landmark defamation case were nothing short of startling:
- The judge imposed sanctions against Fox for withholding evidence from Dominion and misleading the court.
- Angry about the conduct of Fox’s high-powered and respected legal team, the judge signaled he would appoint a special master to investigate the withholding of evidence and related matters, including it appears the failure to reveal that Rupert Murdoch is an officer of Fox News.
- As if that weren’t enough, MSNBC’s Alex Wagner obtained some of the allegedly withheld evidence: audio tapes made by a former senior Fox News producer Abby Grossberg who is now suing the network. Here’s that segment:
Navarro Has To Cough Up Presidential Docs
For real now, Peter.
Donald Trump sues Michael Cohen – the lead witness in the New York state criminal cases against him – in federal court in Florida for half a billion dollars.
Trump Begs To Delay Carroll Defamation Trial
All Trump’s criming is going to make it hard for him to get a fair trial on E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him in New York. Okay, that’s not exactly Trump’s argument, but it’s laughable, especially with the prospect of more indictments soon in Georgia and DC.
Trump To Be Deposed Today In NY
This is almost ancillary at this point, but there remains the giant civil lawsuit by the New York attorney general against Trump, three of his adult kids and the Trump Org. Trump is being deposed today in that case and he’s not happy about it.
Amid new calls from Democratic elected to step down, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced last night that she was stepping away from the Senate Judiciary Committee indefinitely. This allows Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to fill her seat on the committee and resume confirming federal judges. Judicial confirmations have been at a standstill for some two months on the closely divided committee as Feinstein was in poor health in California and unable to fulfill her duties.
WaPo homes in on the Discord leaker.
Who Needs A Dog Whistle Anymore?
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