A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.
Let’s Go To The Videotape!
Portions of the video recordings of the proffer sessions by the four defendants who have pleaded guilty in the Georgia RICO case were leaked to news media, providing a vivid, unexpected – and I can’t emphasize this enough – incomplete glimpse of their potential testimony at trial.
This gets a little confusing so let’s break it down into manageable bites.
What Are Proffer Sessions?
In working out a plea agreement, especially when cooperation is an element of the deal, prosecutors want to know exactly what the defendant/future witness has to say. So the defendant and their lawyer will sit down with prosecutors, and the defendant is supposed to spill their guts.
In this instance, Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis held proffer sessions with each of the RICO defendants around the time each entered their guilty pleas. Those sessions were recorded on camera.
Who Leaked And Why?
It’s not clear who leaked. There doesn’t seem much reason for Willis to leak it. All of the remaining defendants would be given access to the recordings in discovery, so the list of potential leakers isn’t short.
As for why they leaked and whose interest it was to leak them, it’s hard to make that assessment without know what portions of the recording were not leaked. That’s why I emphasize that these are incomplete recordings. With only a portion of them, it’s difficult to tell what impressions were sought to be created and why.
Who Got The Leaks?
ABC News was first out of the gate with a portion of the proffer sessions of Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell.
WaPo soon followed with Ellis, Powell, Kenneth Chesebro and Georgia bail bondsman Scott Hall.
How To Think About The Leaks
Let me throw up a bit of caution sign here and offer a way to process this information. For legal types, including the former prosecutors who populate cable news, there’s a tendency these days to look at new developments like this one through the prism of the prosecutions of Trump. Which is to say, a very narrow criminal procedure prism, with things like admissibility, reliability, and probative value.
But you are not a judge or a juror. In making your own judgment, you need not concern yourself with the high standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Journalists, historians, and politicians also don’t need to use such a narrow prism.
A lot of what comes out at the trials is going to be things we already knew. We may learn new things in other venues that don’t come out at trial. All of that can go in the hopper as we make a collective judgment about Trump, Jan. 6, and the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
The Most Tantalizing Reveal
The WaPo story zeroes in on this never-before-reported meeting between Trump and Kenneth Chesebro:
Chesebro disclosed in his recorded statement that at a previously unreported White House meeting, he briefed Trump on election challenges in Arizona and summarized a memo in which he offered advice on assembling alternate slates of electors in key battlegrounds to cast ballots for Trump despite Biden’s victories in those states.
Chesebro’s recollection could provide evidence that Trump was aware of the elector plan.
Dan Scavino: The Boss Ain’t Leaving The White House
The juiciest morsel in the recordings comes from Jenna Ellis:
It Wasn’t Just Scavino
This would be a reference to Mark Meadows:
Why Trump’s Advice Of Counsel Defense Ain’t Going Anywhere
Harry Litman: Trump could try to blame his lawyers for Jan. 6. But it just got a lot more difficult
Another Preview Of What Awaits With Trump II
Former President Trump’s allies are pre-screening the ideologies of thousands of potential foot soldiers, as part of an unprecedented operation to centralize and expand his power at every level of the U.S. government if he wins in 2024, officials involved in the effort tell Axios.
Hundreds of people are spending tens of millions of dollars to install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.
Quote Of The Trump Era
In response to a WaPo story titled “Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin,’ echoing dictators Hitler, Mussolini,” a Trump spokesperson went full dictator:
[T]hose who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung
Cheung later clarified that he meant to say their “sad, miserable existence” instead of their “entire existence,” the WaPo noted.
Charges Against Jan. 6 Rioter Yetman Unveiled
The Jan. 6 defendant who was the subject of a manhunt in New Jersey last week has been charged with various crimes in connection with the Capitol attack.
Fired Fox News Reporter Sues Network
Former Fox News producer and reporter Jason Donner has sued the network claiming his termination was retaliation for speaking out against its bogus coverage of the 2020 election. The most striking part of the lawsuit describes Donner’s reaction to the Fox News coverage on Jan. 6:
When Donner heard Fox News’ false reporting of the insurrection at the Capitol, he called the Fox News’ control room and stated, “I’m your Capitol Hill Producer inside the Capitol where tear gas is going off on the second floor in the Ohio clock corridor, rioters are storming the building, reports of shots fired outside the House Chamb4r. I don’t want to hear any of this fucking shit on our air ever again because you’re gonna get us all killed.
Unmarried To The Mob
Joan Walsh has a deeeeeep dive on the ex-wife of Barry Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg. Jennifer Weisselberg turned against Trump World and has paid a heavy price.
SCOTUS Issues Ethics Code With No Enforcement Mechanism
Welp, the public pressure and hard-edged reporting from ProPublica about Justice Clarence Thomas’ ethics scandal finally forced the Supreme Court to come up with an ethics code for itself. But it contains no enforcement mechanism, no consequences for violating it, or any other accountability features.
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck, who is very smart and level-headed on this stuff, responded:
Nothing in the 14-page document, or the one-page cover note, addresses the elephant in the room: *Whatever* rules the justices *say* they are bound to follow, *who* is going to enforce those rules—and how?
For Your Radar …
Paul Pelosi Testifies About Home Attack
Mike Johnson Is One Of THOSE Republicans
Like so many of his brethren, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) started out in 2015 as anti-Trump before starting to sip the Kool-Aid: “The thing about Donald Trump is that he lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.”
Mike Johnson’s Shady Finances
The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger tries to piece together the story of Speaker Mike Johnson’s finances: “However, his financial history, as reviewed by The Daily Beast, is evasive, confusing, and anything but forthright. It’s difficult for any American to understand Johnson’s financial situation—let alone relate to it—because Johnson has provided very little information.”
- Jewish groups are rallying on the National Mall in DC today under the banner “March for Israel.”
- Jewish cemetery near Cleveland is defaced.
Hurtling Toward Climate Disaster
The 5th National Climate Assessment is out today. As these types of public-facing reports often do, it tries to balance sounding the alarm with optimism that policy action can still help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. But perhaps the most salient point of the report for those of us who don’t need our feelings coddled lest we fall into hopelessness and despair is that climate change is not some future hypothetical but a clear, present and rapidly unfolding danger right now:
For more in-depth coverage of the new National Climate Assessment:
- Grist breaks down the report region-by-region.
- E&E News: “The assessment details how climate change is already battering the nation with extreme heat, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and swiftly rising sea levels.”
- NYT: “[T]he United States and other industrialized countries are still curbing their emissions so sluggishly that a certain amount of additional greenhouse warming is essentially locked in, forcing societies to learn to live with the effects.”
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