Kyrsten Sinema Renounces The Democratic Party And Goes Independent

INSIDE: Jack Smith ... Viktor Bout ... Ric Grenell
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) departs from the U.S. Capitol on October 28, 2021. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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Last night was TPM’s holiday party. Morning Memo needs more coffee … here we gooo!

Attention Seeker Seeks More Attention

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, an erratic and self-focused thorn in the side of Democrats nationwide, has left the Democratic Party and registered as an independent, she announced early Friday morning.

The announcement – replete with her mavericky, centrist schtick – came in a tweet, a series of pre-planned interviews, and an op-ed in her state’s largest newspaper.

Let’s break down the potential impact:

  • Sinema told Politico she won’t caucus with Republicans.
  • It wasn’t clear if she will caucus with Democrats like independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME).
  • She told CNN she expects to keep her committee assignments, suggesting she won’t upend the delicate balance in the new Senate, where before she renounced her party affiliation, Democrats held a narrow 51-49 majority. But it’s Sinema, so who knows.
  • Deeply unpopular in Arizona, Sinema faced a potential primary challenge in 2024, with Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) regularly nipping at her heels.
  • She declined to discuss whether she would seek re-election.
  • “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said. Umm, too bad?

Special Counsel Subpoenas Secretaries Of State

We anticipated this might happen. Earlier this week, after it was revealed that Special Counsel Jack Smith had issued subpoenas to elections officials in five counties in four states, TPM reached out to the secretaries of state in each of the four states to see if they had been subpoenaed, too. No dice. It turns out we may have jumped the gun.

We reached out to the offices in question on Tuesday, but it appears at least one of the offices didn’t receive its subpoena from Smith until Wednesday.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has subsequently confirmed that her office received a subpoena from Smith on Wednesday. Benson’s office declined to make the subpoena public.

Officials in Arizona confirmed to ABC News that the secretary of state there had also received a subpoena from Smith.

Jan. 6 Committee Plans Weekend Meeting

As it wraps up, targeting a late December release of its final report, the Jan. 6 committee is reportedly planning on meeting Sunday to consider making criminal referrals, including against Donald Trump. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) is leading a subcommittee that will make recommendations to the full committee on referring criminal charges.

CNN reports that in addition to Trump himself, the committee is considering criminal referrals for Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and Rudy Giuliani.

DOJ Wants Judge To Hold Trump’s Office In Contempt

This is so weird, yet so quintessentially Trumpian.

The Justice Department is in search of a custodian of records for Donald Trump to hold accountable for the failure to return classified documents and other government materials in the Mar-a-Lago case. But because Trump has always run his affairs like a maniac, DOJ may not find one.

One of the key areas of disagreement centers on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, according to two of these people. The Justice Department has repeatedly sought an unequivocal sworn written assurance from Trump’s team that all such documents have been returned, and Trump’s team has been unwilling to designate a custodian of records to sign such a statement while also giving assurances that they have handed documents back.

The Washington Post reports that DOJ is asking DC chief federal Judge Beryl A. Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt of court. A hearing is reportedly scheduled for today. All of this is happening in secret because it is associated with a grand jury investigation that Howell is presiding over.

It’s not clear if or when the judge’s ruling on the contempt issue will become public or what form it might take.

Bizarre Sideshow In Mar-a-Lago Case Comes To An End

Former President Donald Trump declined to appeal immediately the 11th Circuit’s ruling ending the special master review of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago. The appeals court had delayed the effective date of its ruling by a week to give Trump a chance to appeal. The deadline passed with no action from Trump. Thus ends the sideshow commenced by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that shocked legal observers and stalled the federal investigation into whether Trump mishandled and/or destroyed classified documents and obstructed justice.

Poor Judge Dearie

The mostly retired senior federal judge who took on an unpaid role as special master in the Mar-a-Lago case saw his tenure come to an unceremonious end. U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie had brought some semblance of order and restraint to the untenable situation in which he found himself. Special masters are nothing new or particularly special, but he was given a highly unusual role by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon. An appeals court ultimately found she had no jurisdiction to act at all, and Dearie’s weeks of work ended up being for naught.

McCarthy Is In Trouble

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) may face the first multiple-ballot vote for speaker of the House since 1923.

Prisoner Swap

Basketball star Brittney Griner landed at an Air Force base in San Antonio early Friday morning after her release from a Russian prison. Griner’s freedom was secured by a deal that saw the United States release convicted international arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who was on TPM’s radar back in the day as the “Merchant of Death.”

Wingnuts Of The World Unite!

The competition for most noxious Trump administration official is fierce, but everyone’s short list includes Ric Grenell, a man who had no business being the U.S. ambassador to Germany let alone acting DNI.

Here is the one-time ambassador casting doubt on Germany’s arrest of a couple of dozen alleged coup plotters and letting his right-wing freak flag fly high:

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