Wow, What A Week In The Mar-a-Lago Investigation

INSIDE: Steve Bannon ... Jay Johnston ... Clarence Thomas
AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 14: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention Center on May 14, 2022 in Austin, Texas. The national event gathered conservatives from arou... AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 14: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention Center on May 14, 2022 in Austin, Texas. The national event gathered conservatives from around the country to defend, empower and help promote conservative agendas nationwide. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

MAL Case Remains On Track

A lot has happened this week in the Mar-a-Lago case, but let me offer some assurance that, to use the economics argot, the underlying fundamentals remain the same.

We now can surmise that the Monday meeting between Trump’s legal team and Special Counsel Jack Smith at Main Justice was prompted by the target letter Trump received in the Mar-a-Lago case. Setting aside Trump’s status as an ex-president, the target letter and the meeting are within the realm of normal.

While the newly empaneled grand jury in south Florida was a surprise, the flurry of last-minute activity and new revelations is all consistent with a case quickly moving toward indictments and finally shifting from the secretive grand jury process to public charges and more transparency.

If anything has changed this week, it may be that the estimates for the exact timing of indictments – widely considered to be coming at the end of this week or early next week – may be a few days too optimistic. But you really shouldn’t be worrying about the timing at that level of detail unless you’re involved in the case or trying to cover it.

A former president of the United States with a long history of existing at the line between legal and illegal who is determined to undermine the rule of law is about to get his comeuppance. The main concern all along was whether the legal system would be adequate to the task. It’s looking better now than it was two years ago.

The Florida Angle

WaPo: “Justice Department prosecutors are planning to bring a significant portion of any charges stemming from the possible mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the home of former president Donald Trump, at a nearby federal court in South Florida, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Espionage Act Still Very Much In Play?

It’s still not totally clear why Special Counsel Jack Smith empaneled a Florida grand jury, though venue issues remain the most obvious explanation. One additional bit of information emerged yesterday via The Guardian: DOJ counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt is involved in the Florida grand jury’s work. Bratt has been chiefly involved in the Espionage Act side of the investigation (as opposed to the obstruction of justice side of the probe). Do with that what you will.

Trump Spox Testifies To Florida Grand Jury

The exact relevance of the testimony of Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich remains a public mystery, but he emerged displaying quite an attitude about the whole thing.

Bannon Subpoenaed In Jan. 6 Probe

Amidst all the other Jack Smith news, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was subpoenaed in late May by the DC grand jury investigating Jan. 6. It is not at all clear that Bannon – already under criminal indictment in New York state for the alleged We Build The Wall fraud and currently appealing his conviction for contempt of Congress – would do anything other than plead the Fifth before a grand jury.

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America In All Her … Ummm … Glory

HOLLYWOOD, CA. – APRIL 26: Actor Jay Johnston arrives at the 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards on April 25, 2008 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

Actor Jay Johnston – whose resume includes “Mr. Show,” “The Sarah Silverman Program,” “Arrested Development,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” – has been charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Clarence Thomas Is On The Clock

The eagerly awaited annual financial reports of the Supreme Court justices were due yesterday, but Justice Clarence Thomas asked for and received an extension of 90 days to file his. One can only imagine the clean-up work the Harlan Crow scandal is forcing Thomas to do with his filing(s).

Pat Robertson, 1930-2023

All the warnings you ever needed about where America was headed were right there for all to see in Pat Robertson’s 1988 campaign for president.

Comer Cancels Contempt Vote For Wray

This was never about the contempt vote or the rule of law or any good faith effort to conduct real oversight. This was a political gambit to smear a sitting president of the opposing party while delegitimizing the federal law enforcement entities investigating the the ex-president of the same party. In that sense, Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) got what he wanted and can declare victory. It’s an overt abuse of his power and corrupt as hell.

Drama Queens

The House GOP is in a perpetual state of drama and outrage. When they’re not attacking and trying to cause pain to their perceived enemies, they’re eating their own. In many ways, the need for constant drama is a bigger signifier than their radicalism. And that’s especially true with the Freedom Caucus. Fun to watch? Sometimes. A sign of the imminent collapse of the extremist wing or of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s speakership? I really doubt it.

The Confrontation Is The Point

NYT: “The flights to California illustrate the broader bet Gov. Ron DeSantis has made that the animating energy in the G.O.P. has shifted from conservatism to confrontationalism.”


Fox News: Tucker’s Twitter Show Breaches His Contract

In a lawyer letter, Fox News warned Tucker Carlson that his Twitter “show” is a breach of the contract under which he is still being paid post-termination.

Louisiana Poised To Ban Trans Care For Minors

The legislation passed both chambers of the legislature by veto-proof margins.

The Next Chapter

Ukraine has launched its long-awaited counteroffensive.

‘We Are Completely Underprepared For Wildfire’

I know that you know that the wildfire smoke plaguing the East Coast is inextricably bound up with climate change. Let’s take that as the starting point, not the end point of the conversation. With that in mind, a good thread on how to think about the wildfire threat in a dramatically warming world:

Kilauea Resumes Eruption

HAWAII, UNITED STATES – JUNE 7: An aerial view of Kilauea volcano as it began to erupt around 4:44 a.m. on June 7, 2023 in Hawaii, United States. The eruption at Kilauea’s summit is occurring within a closed area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and high levels of volcanic gas are the primary concern. (Photo by United States Geological Survey/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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