Donald Trump and the Presidential Records Act

Donald Trump

Coup attempt

There’s this controversy about Donald Trump’s handling of records—he apparently shreds them routinely as a form of catharsis[1]—that some on Twitter have thought should be prosecuted:

While the law requires that presidents preserve records related to an administration’s activities, the Archives has very limited enforcement capabilities. The Presidential Records Act operates on the basis of a “gentlemen’s agreement,” as one Archives official phrased it.

Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and constitutional scholar, along with other legal experts point to the potential for enforcement that could take place via federal records laws. But several said they thought such action would be unlikely.

“There is a high bar for bringing such cases,” said Charles Tiefer, former counsel to the House of Representatives who teaches at the University of Baltimore School of Law.[2]

While it appears unlikely that Trump will be prosecuted for mishandling records, including those related to the coup attempt,[3] other investigations proceed and Trump is demonstrating criminal intent:[4]

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor who is of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy, told the Guardian that Trump “may have shot himself in the foot” with the comments. “Criminal intent can be hard to prove, but when a potential defendant says something easily seen as intimidating or threatening to those investigating the case it becomes easier,” Aftergut said.[5]

This would seem to somewhat relieve my concerns[6] about proving intent in a potential prosecution of Trump for seditious conspiracy based on Jeannie Suk Gersen’s analysis.[7] Time will tell and my experience with the court system is that it often seems fickle.

Ashley Parker et al., “‘He never stopped ripping things up’: Inside Trump’s relentless document destruction habits,” Washington Post, February 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/05/trump-ripping-documents/

Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/

Peter Stone, “Trump’s incendiary Texas speech may have deepened his legal troubles, experts say,” Guardian February 7, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/07/donald-trump-incendiary-speech-texas-legal-troubles-experts

Michael Tomasky, “The Republican Party Can’t Be Saved,” New Republic, February 7, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165301/republicans-violence-normal-political-discourse


Right-wing dictatorship

Jonathan Lai, “Pa. Supreme Court takes over a redistricting case and will decide the state’s new congressional map,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/pennsylvania-supreme-court-redistricting-case-20220202.html

Kate Huangpu, “Final Pa. legislative maps approved by redistricting panel, but legal challenges likely,” Spotlight PA, February 4, 2022, https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/02/pennsylvania-redistricting-legislative-maps-final-vote/

Marc Levy, “GOP’s election inquiry: Courts, conspiracies and more costs,” Associated Press, February 4, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/elections-pennsylvania-voting-donald-trump-presidential-elections-e09c2770b605567fa203404637552a7a

Kate Huangpu, “A Pa. judge just sided with the GOP on a congressional map proposal. Here’s what’s next,&dquo; Spotlight PA, February 7, 2022, https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/02/pennsylvania-redistricting-congressional-map-recommendation/


Right-wing militias

Carter Walker, “White supremacist group Patriot Front recruiting in Pa., targeting Lancaster County with propaganda,” Lancaster Online, February 6, 2022, https://lancasteronline.com/news/pennsylvania/white-supremacist-group-patriot-front-recruiting-in-pa-targeting-lancaster-county-with-propaganda/article_64c7dc5e-85de-11ec-8673-f7b96d1c7b58.html


Supply chain (also Work)

Want to understand the supply chain crisis? As The American Prospect has it, trucking has been impaired by worker misclassification leading to high turnover,[8] railroads by financialization of the economy which emphasized return to investors at the expense of resilience,[9] ports by consolidation as fewer facilities could accommodate larger ships bringing ever more cargo from east Asia[10] increasing the demands on workers who face greater risks from having to work faster and who accordingly expect a greater share of the profits that follow,[11] and shipping by port backlogs as cargo increases from countries with lower labor costs have been facilitated by containerization.[12]

With so-called “free” trade and deregulation, the U.S. has become heavily dependent on China, “the world’s second-largest economy, and the world leader in manufacturing,” with low labor costs and less environmental regulation, for production of lots of stuff and China has imposed shutdowns and travel restrictions to contain COVID-19, while also facing extreme weather and power shortages, meaning there are bottlenecks even at the source.[13] To the extent that COVID-19 has been a factor in labor availability,[14] medical providers also face shortages in supplies and equipment needed to combat the disease.[15]

Meanwhile, a cost-cutting “efficiency” in the whole optimized “just in time” supply chain approach that corporations have increasingly embraced since World War II, had been the minimization of the need for warehouse space. As that approach breaks down, the need for more of that space than ever before suddenly reappears, even as growing online retailers like Amazon are also increasing their demand for that space, predictably raising rents.[16] This, by the way, is the same bullshit that has, for years now, led to so many shelves in so many Whole Foods Markets being bare.[17]

So the pandemic has really been a mere catalyst for problems that have been developing mostly since the Carter administration: Neoliberal policies mean less resilience to disruptions at the same time corporate profits and investor returns have soared, largely at the expense of workers.[18]

Higher prices were supposed to prevent breadlines by spurring production.[19] But I can’t find raisins at my local Whole Foods Market; thanks to neoliberal ideology, we now have inflation without the capacity to resolve the supply chain crisis any time soon.

David Dayen and Rakeen Mabud, “How We Broke the Supply Chain,” American Prospect, January 31, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-we-broke-the-supply-chain-intro/

Esther Eriksson von Allmen, “Medical Emergency,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/health/medical-emergency-supply-chain/

Robert Kuttner, “China: Epicenter of the Supply Chain Crisis,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/china-epicenter-of-the-supply-chain-crisis/

Amir Khafagy, “The Hidden Costs of Containerization,” American Prospect, February 2, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/hidden-costs-of-containerization/

Ella Fanger, “Labor Fight Brews on the Docks,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/labor/labor-fight-brews-on-the-docks/

Alexander Sammon, “We Were Warned About the Ports,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/we-were-warned-about-the-ports/

Matthew Jinoo Buck, “How America’s Supply Chains Got Railroaded,” American Prospect, February 4, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-americas-supply-chains-got-railroaded/

Harold Meyerson, “Why Trucking Can’t Deliver the Goods,” American Prospect, February 7, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/why-trucking-cant-deliver-the-goods/

Gabrielle Gurley, “The Warehouse Space Race,” American Prospect, February 8, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/warehouse-space-race/


‘Classified information’

I’ve long been skeptical of ‘classified’ information; an absence of evidence is just that, really no evidence at all, and that’s precisely what we have when it is withheld for any reason. That makes Jon Allsop’s latest particularly relevant. I’m glad this seems finally to be getting some attention as mainstream media coverage of issues involving ‘classified’ evidence has much too often been stenographic. Allsop cites more recent examples,[20] but I will forever remember David Halberstam’s narrative of Vietnam War coverage, especially the Tonkin Gulf incident that (not really) started it all.[21]

Jon Allsop, “Cutting through the fog of war,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 7, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/psaki_price_isis_russia_media.php


Pittsburgh

Infrastructure

I don’t quite follow the structural stuff, but it sounds to me like the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed in a way it wouldn’t be expected to.[22] If I am indeed understanding that right, it suggests that inspectors might not have been looking at the right places to catch the impending failure, possibly because they simply didn’t know to look there. It’d be like major earthquakes in California: Architects and engineers learn something new from the damage each time. It’s a helluva way to learn but sorry, there’s just no substitute for actual experience.

WTAE, “Fern Hollow bridge collapse in Pittsburgh: National Transportation Safety Board releases preliminary report,” February 7, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/pittsburgh-bridge-collapse-ntsb-preliminary-report-fern-hollow/39004013

Republican National Convention

At The New Republic, it sure looks like Michael Tomasky (see above, Donald Trump: Coup attempt) shares my view of the Republican Party,[23] and this would be the bullet that Pittsburgh just dodged when the Republicans took the city out of contention for the 2024 Republican National Convention.[24]

Snow plowing

It seems an existing order for snow plows has been held up due to—of course—the supply chain problem. A proposal would seek to obtain trucks, some through purchase, some through a lease, from other sources, including some in Erie, that could be made available quickly. Some council members are objecting to the funding mechanism.[25]

Currently, the city’s goal is to work on primary streets and emergency routes during snowfall. Once the snow stops falling, the city aims to have secondary streets done within 24 hours — though 36 hours is currently a more realistic expectation, [Jake] Pawlak said. Tertiary streets are done last.[26]

I didn’t cover a lot of Pittsburgh Monday, but yes, there are indeed still uncleared streets in an area of the Knoxville or Beltzhoover neighborhoods (when I’m out on the road, I’m never quite sure where one neighborhood ends and the other begins).

Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh looks to add more plows to address concerns about snow, ice removal,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 7, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-looks-to-add-more-plows-to-address-concerns-about-snow-ice-removal/


Ukraine

Joe Biden is full of shit. Germany is not certain to cut off Nord Stream 2 should Russia invade Ukraine.

Germany has stopped short of explicitly promising to halt the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project, which would bring Russian gas to energy-hungry European consumers. On Monday, [Olaf] Scholz said only that his country was “absolutely united” with the United States and other NATO allies, “and we will not be taking different steps.” . . .

Germany in particular has appeared out of step with many allies as it holds back from supplying Ukraine with weapons and declines to make explicit promises about the Nord Stream project. The 764-mile pipeline would significantly increase Russian gas supplies to Europe, bringing consumers lower-priced energy.

Scholz, who is facing internal and external criticism over his muted response to the crisis, characterized the buildup around Ukraine as a “serious threat to European security.” . . .

British Deputy Foreign Secretary James Cleverly noted Monday that while the alliance was broadly united in its desire to deter a Russian invasion, there were some differences, which he said were understandable.

“We need to be realistic about the fact that different countries have different levels of exposure to or dependence on Russia economically,” he said. “The whole point of an alliance is you don’t just ignore or gloss over those differences.”[27]

But “gloss[ing] over those differences” is precisely what Biden is doing[28] when he expresses confidence that if Russia invades Ukraine, “[w]e will bring an end to [Nord Stream 2]” and claims that “Germany is completely reliable, completely, totally, thoroughly reliable. I have no doubt about Germany at all.”[29]

Most dangerous for Ukraine is that Vladimir Putin surely knows this and is not even for a second deceived.

Simon Tisdall, “Biden rattles his sabre at Putin … but it’s Xi he really wants to scare,” Guardian, February 6, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/06/biden-rattles-his-sabre-at-putin-but-its-xi-he-really-wants-to-scare

Missy Ryan et al., “Biden vows to stop Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/07/ukraine-russia-scholz-biden-macron/


  1. [1]Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/; Ashley Parker et al., “‘He never stopped ripping things up’: Inside Trump’s relentless document destruction habits,” Washington Post, February 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/05/trump-ripping-documents/
  2. [2]Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/
  3. [3]Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/; Ashley Parker et al., “‘He never stopped ripping things up’: Inside Trump’s relentless document destruction habits,” Washington Post, February 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/05/trump-ripping-documents/
  4. [4]Monique Beals, “Georgia prosecutors ask FBI for security help after Trump protest remarks: report,” Hill, January 31, 2022, https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/592044-georgia-prosecutors-ask-fbi-for-security-help-one-day-after-trump; George T. Conway, III, “The Supreme Court’s order against Donald Trump is even worse for him than it appears,” Washington Post, January 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/21/courts-hand-donald-trump-loss-after-loss-after-loss/; Richard Luscombe, “‘The walls are closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks,” Guardian, January 23, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/22/the-walls-are-closing-in-trump-reels-from-week-of-political-setbacks; Olafimihan Oshin, “Trump calls for protests if prosecutors ‘do anything illegal’ in targeting him,” Hill, January 30, 2022, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/592009-trump-calls-for-biggest-protest-weve-ever-had-if-prosecutors-do; Ed Pilkington, “‘House of Trump is crumbling’: why ex-president’s legal net is tightening,” Guardian, January 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/22/donald-trump-legal-perils; Corinne Ramey, “New York Attorney General Says Evidence Suggests Trump, Company Falsely Valued Assets,” Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-attorney-general-evidence-suggests-trump-and-company-falsely-valued-assets-11642573790; Jennifer Rubin, “A single district attorney in Georgia has the best case against Trump,” Washington Post, January 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/11/single-district-attorney-georgia-has-best-case-against-trump/; David G. Savage, “Supreme Court rejects Trump’s plea to shield White House records from House inquiry,” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-01-19/supreme-court-turns-down-trumps-plea-to-shield-his-white-house-records-from-house-probe; Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell, “Supreme Court, investigators force Trump and his children on the defensive on multiple fronts,” Washington Post, January 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/21/supreme-court-investigators-force-trump-his-children-defensive-multiple-fronts/; Peter Stone, “Trump’s incendiary Texas speech may have deepened his legal troubles, experts say,” Guardian February 7, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/07/donald-trump-incendiary-speech-texas-legal-troubles-experts; Heather Vogell, “New Legal Filing Reveals Startling Details of Possible Fraud by Trump Organization,” ProPublica, January 21, 2022, https://www.propublica.org/article/new-legal-filing-reveals-startling-details-of-possible-fraud-by-trump-organization; John Wagner, “Georgia prosecutor requests special grand jury in probe of Trump’s efforts to overturn state’s election results,” Washington Post, January 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/20/georgia-da-seeks-special-grand-jury-trump/; Amy B. Wang and John Wagner, “Georgia prosecutor granted special grand jury in probe of Trump’s efforts to overturn state’s election results,” Washington Post, January 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/24/georgia-prosecutor-granted-special-grand-jury-probe-trumps-efforts-overturn-states-election-results/
  5. [5]Peter Stone, “Trump’s incendiary Texas speech may have deepened his legal troubles, experts say,” Guardian February 7, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/07/donald-trump-incendiary-speech-texas-legal-troubles-experts
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Reasonable and unreasonable doubt in ‘seditious conspiracy,’” Not Housebroken, January 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/01/23/reasonable-and-unreasonable-doubt-in-seditious-conspiracy/
  7. [7]Jeannie Suk Gersen, “The Case Against the Oath Keepers,” New Yorker, January 21, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-case-against-the-oath-keepers
  8. [8]Harold Meyerson, “Why Trucking Can’t Deliver the Goods,” American Prospect, February 7, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/why-trucking-cant-deliver-the-goods/
  9. [9]Matthew Jinoo Buck, “How America’s Supply Chains Got Railroaded,” American Prospect, February 4, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-americas-supply-chains-got-railroaded/
  10. [10]Amir Khafagy, “The Hidden Costs of Containerization,” American Prospect, February 2, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/hidden-costs-of-containerization/; Alexander Sammon, “We Were Warned About the Ports,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/we-were-warned-about-the-ports/
  11. [11]Ella Fanger, “Labor Fight Brews on the Docks,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/labor/labor-fight-brews-on-the-docks/
  12. [12]Amir Khafagy, “The Hidden Costs of Containerization,” American Prospect, February 2, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/hidden-costs-of-containerization/
  13. [13]Robert Kuttner, “China: Epicenter of the Supply Chain Crisis,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/china-epicenter-of-the-supply-chain-crisis/
  14. [14]Katie Bach, “Is ‘long Covid’ worsening the labor shortage?” Brookings, January 11, 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-long-covid-worsening-the-labor-shortage/; Harriet Torry, “Omicron Wave Drives Surge of Workers Calling In Sick, Working Through Illness,” Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/omicron-wave-drives-surge-of-workers-calling-in-sick-working-through-illness-11642933802
  15. [15]Esther Eriksson von Allmen, “Medical Emergency,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/health/medical-emergency-supply-chain/
  16. [16]Gabrielle Gurley, “The Warehouse Space Race,” American Prospect, February 8, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/warehouse-space-race/
  17. [17]Hayley Peterson, “‘Entire aisles are empty’: Whole Foods employees reveal why stores are facing a crisis of food shortages,” Business Insider, January 18, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/whole-foods-employees-reveal-why-stores-are-facing-a-crisis-of-food-shortages-2018-1
  18. [18]Esther Eriksson von Allmen, “Medical Emergency,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/health/medical-emergency-supply-chain/; Matthew Jinoo Buck, “How America’s Supply Chains Got Railroaded,” American Prospect, February 4, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-americas-supply-chains-got-railroaded/; David Dayen and Rakeen Mabud, “How We Broke the Supply Chain,” American Prospect, January 31, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-we-broke-the-supply-chain-intro/; Ella Fanger, “Labor Fight Brews on the Docks,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/labor/labor-fight-brews-on-the-docks/; Gabrielle Gurley, “The Warehouse Space Race,” American Prospect, February 8, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/warehouse-space-race/; Amir Khafagy, “The Hidden Costs of Containerization,” American Prospect, February 2, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/hidden-costs-of-containerization/; Robert Kuttner, “China: Epicenter of the Supply Chain Crisis,” American Prospect, February 1, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/china-epicenter-of-the-supply-chain-crisis/; Harold Meyerson, “Why Trucking Can’t Deliver the Goods,” American Prospect, February 7, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/why-trucking-cant-deliver-the-goods/; Alexander Sammon, “We Were Warned About the Ports,” American Prospect, February 3, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/we-were-warned-about-the-ports/
  19. [19]David Dayen and Rakeen Mabud, “How We Broke the Supply Chain,” American Prospect, January 31, 2022, https://prospect.org/economy/how-we-broke-the-supply-chain-intro/
  20. [20]Jon Allsop, “Cutting through the fog of war,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 7, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/psaki_price_isis_russia_media.php
  21. [21]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  22. [22]WTAE, “Fern Hollow bridge collapse in Pittsburgh: National Transportation Safety Board releases preliminary report,” February 7, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/pittsburgh-bridge-collapse-ntsb-preliminary-report-fern-hollow/39004013
  23. [23]Michael Tomasky, “The Republican Party Can’t Be Saved,” New Republic, February 7, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165301/republicans-violence-normal-political-discourse
  24. [24]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh out of running to host 2024 Republican National Convention,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 4, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-out-of-running-to-host-2024-republican-national-convention/
  25. [25]Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh looks to add more plows to address concerns about snow, ice removal,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 7, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-looks-to-add-more-plows-to-address-concerns-about-snow-ice-removal/
  26. [26]Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh looks to add more plows to address concerns about snow, ice removal,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 7, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-looks-to-add-more-plows-to-address-concerns-about-snow-ice-removal/
  27. [27]Missy Ryan et al., “Biden vows to stop Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/07/ukraine-russia-scholz-biden-macron/
  28. [28]Missy Ryan et al., “Biden vows to stop Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/07/ukraine-russia-scholz-biden-macron/
  29. [29]Joe Biden, quoted in Missy Ryan et al., “Biden vows to stop Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/07/ukraine-russia-scholz-biden-macron/

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