That chill you feel might be the wind at Donald Trump’s back

Ukraine

Samantha Lock and Dan Sabbagh, “Russian warplanes destroyed in Crimea airbase attack, satellite images show,” Guardian, August 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show

Associated Press, “Russia struggles to replenish its troops in Ukraine,” August 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-putin-world-news-st-petersburg-treatment-of-prisoners-f20273227cf4c4e65ba6f4866dc975ea


Gilead

Competitive authoritarian regime project

Michael Scherer, Ashley Parker, and Tyler Pager, “Historians privately warn Biden that America’s democracy is teetering,” Washington Post, August 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/10/biden-us-historians-democracy-threat/

Donald Trump

Coup attempt

The rapid developments crystalized the former president’s singular status atop a party he has spent the past seven years breaking down and rebuilding in his image. Facing mounting legal vulnerabilities and considering another presidential run, he needs support from the party to maintain his political career. But, whether they like it or not, many in the party also need Trump, whose endorsement has proven crucial for those seeking to advance to the November ballot.

“For a pretty good stretch, it felt like the Trump movement was losing more ground than it was gaining,” said Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is urging his party to move past [Donald] Trump. But now, he said, Trump is benefiting from “an incredibly swift tail wind.” . . .

But even before the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] showed up at Mar-a-Lago, Trump was gaining momentum in his post-presidential effort to shape the GOP. In all, nearly 180 Trump-endorsed candidates up and down the ballot have won their primaries since May while fewer than 20 have lost.[10]

The question, really, however, is this:

Mishandling of such records can create potential criminal liability under the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act. At first, the [Washington] Post quoted legal experts saying that criminal prosecution for violation of federal records laws seemed “unlikely.” Soon, though, the paper uncovered that the boxes from Mar-a-Lago contained “clearly marked classified documents”—a development that raised questions over possible violation of statutes criminalizing mishandling of classified information. According to the [Washington] Post, among the documents obtained from Mar-a-Lago were some classified in the most sensitive category of “Top Secret,” including some apparently marked to further restrict access within an even smaller group of approved officials.[11]

In this context of a potential return to the Civil War as an actual shooting war,[12] will Merrick Garland accept the risk of violence[13] and prosecute Donald Trump?

It’s not clear why the dispute over Trump’s retention of these records is being treated as a criminal matter, rather than a set of administrative errors.

Nor is it clear what sort of information the FBI was seeking or what sort of information it has seized.

One possibility is that the purpose of the seizure was not to gather evidence for a criminal prosecution but simply to recover material of particular sensitivity.

That said, we don’t know for sure that the search was limited to material related to the classified records dispute. The activities of the Trump White House and the entourage around the former president in the wake of the 2020 election, after all, are also the subject of Justice Department investigations. And while the Mar-a-Lago search appears to be connected to the classified materials matter, the parameters of the search and the investigation that spawned it are not public—nor do we know if the investigations are in any way related to one another.[14]

It appears that to do so even over classified material—this ground was trodden with the scandal over Hillary Clinton’s email server—would break precedent. It is also likely that even a conviction under relevant statutes would not prevent Trump from returning to the presidency.[15] This almost certainly does not solve the problem. There will need to be something more.

Jonathan Capehart, “Liz Cheney is the Obi-Wan to Trump’s Darth Vader,” Washington Post, August 8, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/08/liz-cheney-obi-wan-kenobi-trump-darth-vader/

Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6

Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search

Devlin Barrett et al., “Mar-a-Lago search appears focused on whether Trump, aides withheld items,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/

Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/

Perry Stein, “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/garland-trump-raid-politics/

Jan Murphy and Charles Thompson, “FBI delivers subpoenas to several Pa. Republican lawmakers: sources say,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, August 10, 2022, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2022/08/fbi-delivers-subpoenas-to-several-pa-republican-lawmakers-sources-say.html

Tina Nguyen, “‘The DeSantasy Is Over,’” Puck News, August 10, 2022, https://puck.news/the-desantasy-is-over/

Steve Peoples, “GOP rallies around Trump following FBI search of his estate,” Associated Press, August 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/gop-rallies-around-donald-trump-a0f20a219b1090fd02f529acf744f246

Amber Phillips, “What could the Mar-a-Lago search mean for Trump legally?” Washington Post, August 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/what-is-presidential-records-act-how-did-trump-violate-it/

Steve Peoples, “Trump’s bond with GOP deepens after primary wins, FBI search,” Associated Press, August 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-wisconsin-donald-trump-marjorie-taylor-greene-b5c2ee83bb655c43e1deb9c46f2a6020


Secession movements

California

The threat of secession has long been a weapon for dissatisfied political minorities in California, the most populous state in the nation and one of the most liberal. Conservative forces in far Northern California have tried repeatedly to create their own state with no success. A proposal to break up California into multiple states also foundered. There is no indication this one would turn out any differently.[16]

This is really about funding and San Bernardino folks can pretty safely vote yes without fearing that secession, and the problems it would pose for the county, would actually come about.[17] That said, it isn’t like San Bernardino is like Los Angeles or San Francisco politically and this isn’t the first time that San Bernardino County has been part of a secession proposal;[18] these voters will include some who may feel effectively disenfranchised by a Democratic Party lock on California state government.

David Allen, “Support for San Bernardino County secession ‘overwhelming,’ backer says,” San Bernardino Sun, August 10, 2022, https://www.sbsun.com/2022/08/09/support-for-san-bernardino-county-secession-overwhelming-backer-says/


  1. [10]Steve Peoples, “Trump’s bond with GOP deepens after primary wins, FBI search,” Associated Press, August 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-wisconsin-donald-trump-marjorie-taylor-greene-b5c2ee83bb655c43e1deb9c46f2a6020
  2. [11]Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search
  3. [12]Greg Sargent, “An expert in political violence urgently warns: The worst is coming,” Washington Post, July 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/11/gop-political-violence-militias-jan-6-democratic-breakdown/; Michael Scherer, Ashley Parker, and Tyler Pager, “Historians privately warn Biden that America’s democracy is teetering,” Washington Post, August 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/10/biden-us-historians-democracy-threat/; Zoe Strimpel, “America is headed for another civil war where one side has to vanquish the other,” Telegraph, June 25, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/06/25/america-headed-another-civil-war-where-one-side-has-vanquish/
  4. [13]Farnoush Amiri and Michael Balsamo, “Jan. 6 panel puts Garland in ‘precarious’ spot, ups pressure,” Associated Press, April 1, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/capitol-siege-merrick-garland-donald-trump-f70143880cb9be8a0610edcad1ed18e8
  5. [14]Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search
  6. [15]Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search
  7. [16]Christian Martinez, “Could San Bernardino County secede from California? Voters may have a say in November,” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-05/san-bernardino-county-secession-california-november-ballot-measure
  8. [17]David Allen, “Support for San Bernardino County secession ‘overwhelming,’ backer says,” San Bernardino Sun, August 10, 2022, https://www.sbsun.com/2022/08/09/support-for-san-bernardino-county-secession-overwhelming-backer-says/; Christian Martinez, “Could San Bernardino County secede from California? Voters may have a say in November,” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-05/san-bernardino-county-secession-california-november-ballot-measure
  9. [18]CBS News Los Angeles, “Official Calls For Riverside, 12 Other Counties To Secede From California,” July 1, 2011, https://www.cbsnews.com/losangeles/news/official-calls-for-riverside-12-other-counties-to-secede-from-california/; Jennifer Medina, “California Counties Talk of Cutting Ties to State,” New York Times, July 12, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/13/us/13secession.html

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