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IN WHICH I APOLOGIZE TO MERRICK GARLAND
This is your reminder that Merrick Garland's investigation of Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and the Unabomber had zero leaks before indictments, 100% convictions and no turnovers on appeal. Sometimes you have to have a little faith in the process.
God bless Merrick Garland.
It is at this point that I confess I had fallen victim to our degraded politics as much as any and all others. The absence of “sound and fury” is not a sign of nothing happening. Immediate gratification is not and never has been a good thing.
Those are things we need to remember. Remember and get back in touch with.
In days since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for government records Donald Trump had shipped to his private residence and reportedly failed to return, prominent Republicans peddled wild allegations and demanded that Garland come forward to explain the “raid.”
On Thursday, we saw what such allegations can lead to: an attempted incursion at an FBI field office, culminating in a shootout that took the life of the suspect, a man who claimed to have been at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. This was on top of all the calls to violence on right wing social media, almost all of which has been traced to other insurrectionist veterans of January 6, including a few morons stupid enough to post while on probation after conviction for those activities.
So Garland came forward. On Thursday, he explained the FBI’s actions, and he debunked the lies and fantasies flourishing on right-wing media.
It took him four minutes.
Let’s pause on that number. Here are the lengths of Trump’s last six speeches, as recorded by C-SPAN: 1hour 37 minutes; 1 hour 44 minutes; 1 hour 45 minutes; 1 Hour 34 minutes; 1hour 9 minutes; 1 hour 50 minutes
Let me tell you something as a writer: it is a helluva lot more difficult to write 500 words on a topic and get to the point than it is to write 50,000 words on the topic. That’s because 500 words allow for no bullshit, mistakes, ill-use, wandering from the topic. Every word has to be on-topic. Every. Single. One.
That’s why there’s a rule in writing that Shorter Is Always Better.
When I am writing a 100,000 word book, I go through each chapter on completion of the first draft and try to cut it by at least one-third in word count. Doing so almost always results in better use of language, and also a chance to remember that I left things out that can go in the next draft, since I now have “extra” word count I can use. The result is always better, and not just in my mind, since I get notes from readers that they like the writing as much as they like what is said.
Garland didn’t need two hours to rebut this nonsense. In his four minutes, he made several key points:
First: “The search warrant was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause.” The search wasn’t a unilateral move by the FBI or the “Biden Justice Department.” The application for the warrant had to go through a federal judge. So the paranoid scenarios floated by Trumpists, about American presidents ordering investigations into their predecessors, don’t follow from what happened here. The request was independently vetted.
Second: “Copies of both the warrant and the F.B.I. property receipt were provided on the day of the search to the former president’s counsel, who was on site during the search.” This directly refutes allegations that Trump’s lawyers were bypassed.
Third. “The department did not make any public statements on the day of the search. . . . Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye. We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.” This is a key point: DOJ and FBI didn’t make a big deal of the search. They went in plainclothes, while Trump was away, and tried to retrieve the requested documents without making a scene.
Fourth: “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search.” Garland didn’t explicitly say that the government had tried to recover the records from Trump by such means before executing the search warrant. But that chronology has been well documented.
Fifth: “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor.” Note the last three words: fear or favor. Equal application of the laws doesn’t just mean it would be wrong to persecute a former president. It also means that when a former president unlawfully takes documents and fails to return them, those documents must be recovered, regardless of who he is or was. He doesn’t get an exception.
Sixth: “In light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search,” DOJ “has filed a motion ... to unseal a search warrant and property receipt.” By refusing to release the warrant and the list of documents, which were given to his lawyer on site, Trump has allowed his false portrayal of the search to permeate the right-wing mediasphere without rebuttal. Garland has had enough of that game. He wants to get the facts out so the lies can be answered.
When you’re just telling the truth and not lying or talking about yourself endlessly, you can say a lot in four minutes.
Over the week since Mar-a-Lago was searched by FBI agents, Republicans relentlessly attacked the bureau, the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland for conducting a supposed political vendetta. Unfortunately, too often the press has allowed their baseless accusations to pollute this story, so a bizarre inversion of reality was given nearly equal weight with known facts.
It was comical to hear lackeys like Widdle Marco Rubio compare the search of Mar-a-Lago to the tactics of “Marxists dictatorships” in Latin America. Trump’s the guy who tried to run the United States like a dictatorship! Look at the CNN record: he talks for hours, like Fidel Castro. “No president can be guilty of illegally handling classified information, because the president has complete and final authority to decide whether something’s classified or not,” Rubio declared on Tuesday in a denunciation of the Mar-a-Lago search.
The senator didn’t mention that Trump no longer has such authority, since he’s no longer president. And as we now read the list of what was taken, the items of importance are beyond the ability of any president to unilaterally declassify.
And all Trump could do after his bell was run was post this “truth” on his Truth Social: “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going to go a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents, even though they are have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me as they have done for the last 6 years.”
The deadline of 3 p.m. passed 90 minutes ago as I post this for Trump to object to the release of the search warrant and inventory of items taken from Mar a Lago.
There was no objection and the documents have been released.
NBC reports the search warrant reveals the DOJ is investigating Trump for violation of three federal statutes regarding removal and concealment of classified documents and altering or destruction of classified materials.
The inventory list reveals that some of the classified documents removed were marked with the top classification of TS/SCI. There is no way any president has any authority to remove such documents from the secure installation where they are stored. No staffer could have “made a mistake” with a box of documents and sent these to Mar a Lago. None of the places listed for search by the FBI are considered “secure” locations for the storage of highly classified materials.
Four sets of TS/SCI documents. The applicable statute is The Espionage Act. That’s the one that should send a chill down the spine of anyone involved in anything that brings that into the game.
So why did Trump decide to hype the search as a “raid”?
Thursday night, Lara Trump, bragged that “in the first couple of hours” after he did so, he raised tons of money for his re-election campaign.
He “posted the nuclear codes” - as suggested sums for the droolers to hand over to his grift.
Now we learn that there are and have been multiple investigations touching on various incidents tied to the end of the Trump presidency.
Let’s arrange all this in chronological order:
1. Officials at the National Archives and Records Administration had been pressing Trump for months to return documents improperly taken from the White House by the former president and his aides, possibly even classified materials. NARA officials took at least a dozen boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago early in 2022.
2. FBI agents made a friendly, informal visit to Mar-a-Lago in June, where they poke to Trump. They suggested a new lock for the room where some of these documents were stored.
3. Three weeks later, the FBI obtained multiple subpoenas for documents and surveillance video, and agents removed more boxes of materials.
4. Then an informant reportedly told the FBI that Trump was “still hiding” presidential documents and told them where they were located.
5. That, combined with concerns over potential nuclear or sensitive intelligence information being among the materials, prompted Monday’s execution of the search warrant.
This morning the House Freedom Caucus canceled the press conference they had planned to bewail the FBI search of the ex-President’s home, demonstrating they’re not as dumb as they look.
It’s going to be interesting to hear what Kevin McCarthy is going to say about his plans to investigate Attorney General Garland.
Lindsey Graham, the most ridiculous man in America, tweeted after Garland’s announcement, “What I am looking for is the predicate for the search. Was the information provided to the judge sufficient and necessary to authorize a raid on the former president’s home within ninety days of the midterm election?”
Maybe we should let cook his serving of Crow “South Carolina style.”
Rep. Mike Turner, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee was stupid enough to get up at a press conference this morning and asking that the “imminent national security risk” that prompted the raid be disclosed to the committee., confidently predicting that “These questions will still remain unanswered” even after the warrant is unsealed.
Congressman Turner managed to prove that Mark Twain’s comment from 1873 is still the Gold Standard: “Consider a congressman, then consider an idiot. Bah! I repeat myself!”
We are now back in one of those fugue moments Trump Republicans have, much like January 7th-9th 2021, where they fall into a period of relative silence while a story is devised to explain why something inexplicable and indefensible is in fact awesome and totally fine.
I’m sure they’ll get there. In the meantime, all this is a character test for Republicans. Do they have any? They are flunking spectacularly so far.
However, it’s not just Republicans. Until recently we heard constantly from Democrats how there was no accountability for the ex-President, no investigations or prosecutions, of anything tied to the denouement of the Trump presidency, save for the men who actually entered the Capitol complex on January 6th, that Merrick Garland was the worst possible Attorney General.
There was a bunch of frothy and nonsensical chatter after Trump’s announcement of the “raid” from people who should know better. I threatened Julia Ioffe with canceling my subscription to Puck News for the bullshit she and Tina Nguyen and Tara Palmeri were coming up with about how the FBI had just given the presidency back to Donald Trump.
People who claim to know better were among the worst offenders!
And a lot of us were too. Time for Mea Culpa’s around. Starting with mine here.
We are, we might say, deep in the thick of it. Facts change and you have to react to them.
Republicans have tried for most of the last six months to keep Donald Trump, literally and figuratively, out of the midterms. He’s back with a vengeance and they’re stuck with no choice but defend him to the hilt.
It’s the bargain they struck with him in 2016. Coming on top of everything else that has happened over this summer, the election has now shifted from a referendum on Joe Biden and the generally crappy state of the economy and world to a choice election between Democrats and Republicans who are identified with Donald Trump.
This doesn’t mean Democrats will necessarily have a good election. But it’s a bad development for Republicans. There’s no getting around that. And there is more to come with the January 6 Committee hearings in September and with the continuing results of the multiple investigations against “the most persecuted person in America, ever.”
Here’s a poll that caught the eye of Jake Sherman over at Punchbowl News this morning - before the documents were released: Fox News, which has a respected polling operation, had the generic ballot even between Republicans and Democrats on Thursday. 41% of respondents said they would vote for a Republican for Congress, while 41% said they would vote for a Democrat. This is a big swing in the Democrats’ direction from May, when Republicans were up 46%-39% on this question. As he noted, this isn’t an outlier. A Monmouth poll from last week showed 38% of respondents want Democrats in control of Congress, while just 34% want Republicans in control. This is not an apples-to- apples comparison, but it does show Democrats gaining on the GOP.
For a whole lot of Republicans, the game plan has shifted to…talking about something else. For many of them, an IRS conspiracy theory has become the big talking point of the day.
Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) put out a statement debunking the claims Friday morning.
“High-ranking Republicans, including the former chair of the Finance Committee, are saying shockingly irresponsible things. Given the social media chatter we’re already seeing, it’s all too easy to imagine individuals using these conspiracy theories as justification for violence against public servants and their families,” he wrote. “It’s unbelievable that we even need to say this, but there are not going to be 87,000 armed IRS agents going door-to-door with assault weapons. This is funding for answering phone calls and upgrading computer systems.”
As someone who has been spending a few hours this summer on hold, and many other phone calls just hanging up when the message “Call back later” comes on, trying to straighten out an IRS problem for my partner, the news they will have money to hire more people to answer the phones is Good News.
The scandal isn’t that federal agents went to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve government documents from Trump. The scandal is that they had to. A president who had the slightest understanding of what is meant by the term “national interest” wouldn’t have taken them in the first place.
I look forward to hearing what the Paid Subscribers have to say about all this. All you very nice folks who have recently taken a free subscription can join this community for only $7/month, less than the cost of two Ventes, and unlike everywhere else, the price won’t go up.