One More Comment from Prof. Zimmer on the Pathetic Circus We Call American Politics

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That’s Florida’s thuggish Republican governor Ronald DeSantis using his own state’s funds to gather up immigrants in Texas and put them on a plane to Massachusetts (where the arrivals were greeted warmly by local residents). History professor Thomas Zimmer had a reaction:

Leading Republican elected officials: “Let’s round up human beings under false pretenses and treat them like cargo in order to use them as props in an illegal stunt to trigger the Libs and rile up the base!”   New York Times: “Here’s a new political tactic we haven’t seen…”

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There is almost nothing so vile, so inhumane, so outrageous that the mainstream media can’t press it into the established politics-as-horse-race framework, thereby sanitizing it and presenting it as just the latest development in the struggle between Team Red and Team Blue.

Since mainstream journalism is predicated on the idea that politics is a game between two teams that are essentially the same and journalists aspire to “neutrality,” which they define as equidistance from either side, whatever comes from the [Republican Party] has to be elevated to credibility.

Sometimes that happens by presenting bad-faith nonsense as serious policy proposals – that’s what we get after every mass shooting, when Republicans claim the answer to gun violence is more guns or maybe school buildings with just one entry point, remember that one?

If that doesn’t work, then the sanitizing effect is achieved by simply ignoring the actual substance of what Republicans have done and focusing solely on the “playing politics” part, the horse race and how it may or may not be affected by these actions.

It’s one of the most bizarre features of the American political discourse that it demands we pretend these are serious political actions, coming from serious political actors, instead of denouncing them as the extremist culture warriors they so clearly are.

In a healthy political culture, anyone involved in such a deranged scheme would be shunned and ostracized, the party that elevated them would have to pay a hefty political price. In the U.S., that’s evidently not the case. And until that changes, nothing changes.

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There’s more to this story coming out. According to a lawyer representing the immigrants, officials from the Department of Homeland Security participated in this fiasco and falsified government documents, filling in random addresses around the US as the immigrants’ mailing addresses. If this actually happened, there needs to be serious jailtime.

Some Real World Perspective on the Case of the Purloined Papers

As I wait for the black-robed person with the lifetime judicial appointment to share her next pronouncement from on high, author and lawyer Seth Abramson expresses himself on the Florida fiasco. I especially found interesting his description of how a case like this works in the real world:

We have our special master! In a… uh… theft case… not involving attorney-client privilege or executive privilege or anything else special masters deal with… {sigh} This is all so goddamned stupid.

I earnestly admire those lawyers who are spending hours and hours analyzing the legal maneuvers in the Mar-a-Lago case. But I decided I couldn’t do it—because it’s all so stupid and farcical and pretextual and an insult to the rule of law and how {waves hands} all of this works.

I have worked *extremely* complicated criminal cases, from first-degree murders to armed robberies to felonious sexual assaults to financial crimes cases and other types of cases in which documents are at the center of everything. And let me tell you what the Mar-a-Lago case is:

It’s the equivalent of a man being caught with a gun over the dead body of his victim—smoke still rising from the gun, residue all over the hand of the shooter—with a *signed confession in his handwriting* pinned to his chest like he’s a kindergartener on his first day of school.

There is—I can’t emphasize this enough—nothing complicated about this case besides the political consequences and implications of it, which every lawyer in America took an oath not to consider when they became a lawyer (and that includes judges). So the whole thing is sickening.

The lawyers who are currently analyzing this case to death are doing so in good faith and are trying to be good people and lawyers. But they are also normalizing the idea that there are any actual complications to write about here. There are not. They are all invented and false.

There are no attorney-client privilege issues here. There are no executive privilege issues here. The defendant is dead to rights and has no plausible defense. Under normal circumstances plea negotiations would’ve begun immediately, and prison time would be a given to both sides.

I have committed myself to being honest with readers about the law, and also honest about my desire that our justice system be better than it is. How can I pretend to the readers of this feed that the Mar-a-Lago case is interesting when *legally* it is just effing *not*? At all?

And don’t tell me about this being the first case of its kind involving a President of the United States. Had Trump gone to Fifth Avenue as he once promised and gunned down a bunch of innocent civilians, would that make the resultant homicide cases *legally* interesting? Hell no.

Mar-a-Lago case talk is a flim-flam we’re sucked into because we feel like there’s no other choice. We “have” to discuss the minute details of the case for political reasons—and because T____’s the sort of criminal who’s never been held accountable and never takes responsibility.

But the other reason it seems we have to talk about it is that the federal judiciary in Florida apparently corrupt, and will openly treat a very rich and very powerful and very famous white male politician in a way that it wouldn’t treat anyone else. And it’ll do so unabashedly.

So every single reason to cover the intricacies of the Mar-a-Lago case is depressing. And I feel the world is depressing enough already. It should be sufficient for readers to simply know that T____ is dead to rights and would be imprisoned already if he were not D____ T____.

Yes, as a former federal criminal investigator, I can point out all the critical investigative steps the Department of Justice deliberately *didn’t* take—all of them dereliction of duty—for purely political reasons, which makes their repeated protestations that they’re above politics morally toxic but they could easily reply—or their defenders could do so on their behalf—that they’re just reacting to a corrupt judiciary that won’t let the wheels of justice turn unimpeded when the rich, powerful, and famous in politics are involved….

So when I write on the Mar-a-Lago case, I’ll write about a case in which the defendant has no defense and should already be in prison (remember, DOJ/NARA—extraordinarily—gave T____ 18 months to remedy his crime, and he refused *and committed more*) and the legal issues are banal….

It is true that in any case in which documents are seized, some documents not related to the investigation may be accidentally taken. These are returned *as a matter of course* (e.g., T____’s passports). If the defendant thinks some items were not returned, he has his attorney ask government agents for them back. If the government agents refuse, the defendant has his attorney go to the judge and a hearing is held and an order (if appropriate) issued. If the parties *dispute* whether something was properly taken, the judge may personally review the *handful* of documents answering to that description (and indeed it would only be a handful of documents). There would be no special master, no delay of the criminal investigation. None of the abject, embarrassing BS we are seeing in the Mar-a-Lago case.

This judge impeded a federal criminal investigation and will appoint a special master without D____ T____ having even identified any documents he thinks were wrongly taken or making any attempt to negotiate their return (or have the judge herself review them). It is all a sham.

Special masters are for cases that look nothing like this one—for instance when the office of a defendant’s attorney is searched. T____ has yet to even make the argument—because he could never make it—that he had a right to retain classified documents in his home post-presidency.

So yes, I do believe that every legal analysis of this case should begin with a disclaimer explaining that nothing about this case has been handled in the manner it would be handled were the defendant anyone but D____ T____—and that the rule of law has been bent at *every* turn.

The Government Strikes Back in Florida

If our depraved former president (FPOTUS) ceased to breathe, the world would be a much better place.

However, in light of the sorry fact that FPOTUS is still breathing, the government did two things today. First, they filed a motion to stay (put on hold) the recent ruling by one of FPOTUS’s “judges” in Florida that interfered with the criminal investigation of FPOTUS’s theft of government documents. But the government limited this request to the 100 or so classified documents found by the FBI when they searched FPOTUS’s lair. The government pointed out that the former president has no right to control access to classified documents under any possible interpretation of the law. They also asked that the “special master” (or outside party the “judge  wants) not be allowed to review the classified documents in order to determine if they somehow belong to FPOTUS:

Specifically, the government seeks a stay to the extent the Order (1) enjoins the further review and use for criminal investigative purposes of records bearing classification markings that were recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search warrant and (2) requires the government to disclose those classified records to a special master for review. The government respectfully requests that the Court rule on this motion promptly. If the Court does not grant a stay by Thursday, September 15, the government intends to seek relief from the Eleventh Circuit (i.e. the higher level in the federal judiciary responsible for Florida, Georgia and Alabama).

The other thing the government did was to file an appeal with the Eleventh Circuit regarding the order for a special master to be appointed at all. The beauty of the appeal is that it allows other judges, some of whom are more competent and less corrupt, to get involved in FPOTUS’s stupid lawsuit; and the government is in no rush to have the appeal ruled on, assuming that a special master can’t be appointed until the Eleventh Circuit rules, which could be months from now.

It helps to have a Department of Justice that is, unlike the one FPOTUS was in charge of,  competent and not corrupt. If you’d like to see some of your tax dollars at work:

The United States’ Motion for a Partial Stay Pending Appeal

Declaration of Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director, Counterintelligence Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation

It Helps To Find the Right Judge, Plus the Big Picture

If you want to keep government documents you stole, put them in cardboard boxes with stuff you actually own. Then find a judge you nominated to the federal bench to make a ruling in your favor. It’s simple.

Legal experts are commenting on Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to grant a motion by the former president and full-time criminal to delay the FBI’s investigation of his theft of government property. The technical legal language they’re using includes “crazytown”, “lawless”, “unbelievable”, she should be “impeached”, “a special exception to the law just for FPOTUS”, “she gave him more than he was entitled to”, “she is micromanaging the Executive Branch”, her decision is “biased even in its presentation of the facts”, her “ruling would demolish future white collar criminal investigations”, “this dumbass ruling”, “friggin’ absurd” and “for fucks’ sake”. Presumably, the Department of Justice will appeal her ruling or, even better, arrest her.

David Roberts of the VOLTS podcast sees the bigger picture:

I’m not a legal analyst, but I hope everyone is taking note of a particular maneuver that this judge pulled — a very, very familiar maneuver from reactionaries. It goes like this: first the right wing propaganda networks spread a bunch of lies and lunatic conspiracy theories.

Then other right-wingers implement particular policies in response to the “appearance” of something shady. So this judge says [FPOTUS] deserves extraordinary, unprecedented latitude because of the “extraordinary circumstances” and the “swirling questions about bias.” But her fellow reactionaries were the only ones raising questions of bias! It’s a perfectly sealed feedback loop — the propagandists “raise questions” and then politicians and judges pass/implement laws based on all the questions that have been raised. An ouroboros of bullshit.

ouroboros-symbol

The most familiar version of this bullshit loop is in reference to voting law. Right wing propagandists have spent decades “raising questions” about voter fraud. Of course, the questions have answers. It’s all bullshit. There is no appreciable voting fraud. Nevertheless, red state after red state has passed restrictive voting laws based on these bad faith questions that have been raised. Real voting restrictions in response to fake voting fraud.

Human beings have a strong instinctive heuristic that says, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” If enough people are talking about X or “raising questions” about X, then the default presumption is that there *must be something fishy about X”. Right wing media is basically a machine designed to exploit that heuristic. What right-wingers have realized is that they can create smoke around literally anything. Then they can use that self-created smoke as evidence of fire and pass policy to address the fire [that doesn’t exist]. It’s a neat trick.

I don’t even think it’s some grand, conscious scheme. It’s just a natural outgrowth of reactionary psychology — always claiming victimhood; always demanding special treatment. I’m sure this judge sincerely believes the “raised questions” justify special treatment for Trump.

I’m not so sure about that. I think it’s more a case of ends justifying the means. In order to achieve total political, economic and cultural power — which they think they fully deserve — it’s acceptable to tell lies and ignore the law. Lately, however, there’s another motivation. Stay on the cult leader’s good side or risk serious, possibly fatal, retaliation.

He’s Going To Be Indicted

It was clear for four long years that the former president treated the US government as if he owned it. The government was just another part of his cheesy business “empire”. When it came to following rules, he saw no significant difference between being president of the United States and president of a waste management company in Queens.  

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when the former president [hereafter “FPOTUS] was forced to vacate the premises on January 20, 2017, he took with him whatever he wanted. The latest inventory of items taken by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago shows that he stole an amazing amount of stuff [i.e. stuff that didn’t belong to him] The way the government documents were “stored” in boxes with magazine and newspaper articles and other memorabilia indicates that his staff simply collected what their boss wanted to keep while paying no attention at all to the laws regarding presidential records and national security. Maybe FPOTUS always had a box next to his desk in which he could toss anything that piqued his interest. I hope the FBI eventually interviews the people on his staff who helped him break the law. More from the New York Times:

The F.B.I.’s search of [Mar-a-Lago] last month recovered 48 empty folders marked as containing classified information, a newly disclosed court filing shows, raising the question of whether the government had fully recovered the documents or any remain missing….

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Along with the empty folders with classified markings, the F.B.I. recovered 40 more empty folders that said they contained sensitive documents the user should “return to staff secretary/military aide,” the inventory said. It also said that agents found seven documents marked as “top secret” in [FPOTUS’s] office and 11 more in a storage room.

The list and an accompanying court filing from the Justice Department did not say whether all the contents of the folders had been recovered. But the filing noted that the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents remained “an active criminal investigation”. The inventory also sheds further light on how documents marked as classified were stored haphazardly, mixed with everyday items.

Among the items found in one box: 30 news clippings dated from 2008 to 2019, three articles of clothing or “gift items,” one book, 11 government documents marked as confidential, 21 marked as secret and 255 government documents or photographs with no classification markings.

The list suggests the files [FPOTUS] took to his Florida home were stored in a slapdash manner and appeared to underline concerns that [he] had not followed rules for protecting national security secrets.

The inventory listed seven batches of materials taken by the F.B.I. from [his] personal office at Mar-a-Lago that contained government-owned documents and photographs, some marked with classification levels up to “top secret” and some that were not marked as classified. The list also included batches of government documents that had been in 26 boxes or containers in a storage room at the compound.

In all, the list said, the F.B.I. retrieved 18 documents marked as top secret, 54 marked as secret, 31 marked as confidential, and 11,179 government documents or photographs without classification markings….

In obtaining a search warrant, the bureau described the possibility of three crimes as the basis of its investigation: the unauthorized retention of national security secrets, obstruction and concealing or destroying government documents. None require a document to have been deemed to be classified, despite repeated and unproven claims that he had declassified everything he took from the Oval Office.

At the hearing on Thursday, the Justice Department said that it had performed its own review and set aside more than 500 pages of records that could be protected by attorney-client privilege.

But lawyers for the department fiercely contested Mr. Trump’s request for a review of the materials based on executive privilege, which protects confidential executive branch communications from disclosure.

The lawyers argued that executive privilege could not be used by a former president to keep part of the executive branch, like the department itself, from reviewing government files as part of its official responsibilities.

[The judge, a Republican nominated for the federal bench by FPOTUS himself] was not entirely persuaded by that argument and left open the possibility that she would grant [her political patron] a special master to conduct a wide-ranging review, encompassing both attorney-client and executive privilege [even though even Bill Barr, FPOTUS’s former attorney general and lackey, said that makes no sense since executive privilege no longer applies to a private citizen, whether or not the Electoral College once made him president].

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He is going to be indicted and found guilty unless he runs away. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever spend a night in jail, since he didn’t steal a six-pack from a liquor store and the law is often an ass.

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