Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023

5 details from Trump’s newest criminal case you might have missed

by admin
5 details from Trump’s newest criminal case you might have missed

I spent an inordinate amount of time on Tuesday hitting refresh on the federal court system’s electronic dockets in anticipation of Donald Trump’s newest indictment. But for those of you who are normal consumers of news and analysis, and lacked the time or energy to scrutinize those 45 pages, never fear. Here’s my guide to the five most interesting or head-scratching things about the indictment.

Note: None of the six co-conspirators were named in the indictment; however, NBC News has reported five of their identities. Other people referenced in the indictment can be identified by their titles. For instance, we can infer that the person referred to as “Defendant’s Chief of Staff” is former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

1. We don’t know, but it sure seems like Mark Meadows may have provided information that incriminates Trump — and himself.

The former White House chief of staff cuts an elusive figure in Washington these days. When NBC News spotted him last week, he was as closed-mouthed about Jan. 6 as he was just over a year ago when his former aide Cassidy Hutchinson appeared before the House Jan. 6 committee. She testified in July 2022 to her boss’ appeasement of Trump and seeming indifference to the dangers of Jan. 6.

Yet Meadows makes a number of appearances in the indictment, some of which suggest he was candid with federal investigators. Whether or not he received any promises in exchange, we don’t know.

Specifically, paragraph 28 of the indictment alleges Meadows advised Trump in late December 2020 that Georgia officials reviewing ballot signatures were doing their jobs honorably and well, only to be contradicted by Trump’s tweets. And just as significantly, it does not reflect that anyone else heard or participated in that conversation:

On December 23, a day after the Defendant’s Chief of Staff personally observed the signature verification process at the Cobb County Civic Center and notified the Defendant that state election officials were “conducting themselves in an exemplary fashion” and would find fraud if it existed, the Defendant tweeted that the Georgia officials administering the signature verification process were trying to hide evidence of election fraud and were “[t]errible people!”

That exchange is not described in the Jan. 6 committee’s final report. Nor has it been publicly reported, as far as I can tell.

Especially given that Trump famously does not text or email, it’s possible — although we cannot confirm — that Meadows himself was the source of the conversation described in Paragraph 28.

In addition, Paragraph 111 alleges that at 2:24 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, Trump’s advisers left him “alone in his dining room,” at which point he issued an incendiary tweet that endangered Pence. That raises an interesting question: How would the special counsel’s office know that without talking with those advisers who had been with Trump immediately before, perhaps including Meadows?

2. What happens in Nevada stays in Nevada?  

The indictment contains specific allegations about Trump’s claims of fraud in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, but oddly, not about the two other states in which the so-called fake elector scheme was executed: New Mexico and Nevada. 

That makes some sense where New Mexico is concerned. In particular, Paragraph 64 highlights how New Mexico was not among those states included in the scheme until just days before Dec. 14, 2020 — and illustrates that the Trump campaign’s “just in case” rationale for submitting their elector slates was always pretextual:

Also on December 13, at a Campaign staffer’s request, Co-Conspirator 5 drafted and sent fraudulent elector certificates for the Defendant’s electors in New Mexico, which had not previously been among the targeted states, and where there was no pending litigation on the Defendant’s behalf. The next day, the Defendant’s Campaign filed an election challenge suit in New Mexico at 11:54 a.m., six minutes before the noon deadline for the electors’ votes, as a pretext so that there was pending litigation there at the time the fraudulent electors voted.

Yet there is zero language about what Trump or other co-conspirators said about Nevada, much less what they did to involve their Nevada allies in their conspiracies. That is curious, especially considering that two fake electors in Nevada, Jim DeGraffenreid and Michael McDonald, reportedly received partial immunity in exchange for their testimony.

Nevada’s absence from the detailed pressure campaign on state legislators and other elected officials is particularly notable given Nevada’s more stringent laws surrounding the certificate of ascertainment its electors must sign.  As the Jan. 6 committee’s final report reads:

Many of the States contested by the Trump team had laws that specified requirements for electors to validly cast and transmit their votes — and the December 9, 2020, memo recognized that some of these criteria would be difficult, if not impossible, for the fake electors to fulfill. (As described later, most were not fulfilled.) For example, Nevada State law required that the secretary of state preside when Presidential electors meet, and Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, had already signed a certificate ascertaining the Biden/Harris electors as the authorized, winning slate.

To the best of my knowledge, no media outlet has confirmed that Cegavske herself met with investigators or testified to the grand jury; when I reached her by phone on June 23, 2023, she said, “I am going to tell you what the FBI told me, which is not to talk to anybody.” 

3. Trump’s former executive assistant is Trump Employee #2 in the classified documents case. And as predicted, she shows up in this newest indictment, too.  

As Trump’s Oval Office executive assistant, Molly Michael was the gatekeeper for most people who wanted to communicate with Trump. She placed and received his calls, sat right outside his office, and even served as his electronic communications portal (again, given Trump’s aversion to texting and emailing). Alex Wagner last week predicted Michael, who appears on multiple communications revealed as part of the DOJ’s Jan. 6 investigation, would be a key player in this indictment too. 

And she was right: Michael pops up in this indictment and not necessarily as a see-no-evil secretary. Rather, she is mentioned as an active participant in Trump and his co-conspirators’ machinations.

In paragraph 20, the indictment alleges, Michael on Nov. 16, 2020 sent pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and others, on Trump’s behalf, “a document containing bullet points critical of a certain voting machine company, writing, ‘See attached — Please include as is, or almost as is, in lawsuit.’” 

In other words, Michael was allegedly directing Powell to include unproven accusations about those machines in post-election litigation, presumably at Trump’s direction.

Paragraph 69 also implicates Michael in knowledge of the fake elector scheme: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sent Michael a recap of what the fake electors had done in each of the purportedly contested states on December 14, and Michael responded triumphantly, “‘It’s in front of him!’”

4. Jeffrey Clark was even more duplicitous than we knew

Through both the Jan. 6 committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s much smaller, predecessor investigation about the ways Trump and his allies tried to use the DOJ to subvert the election, we have seen a host of documents reflecting how Jeff Clark, a former DOJ official under Trump, attempted to have the DOJ urge state legislatures to convene special sessions to decertify the valid elector slates and instead vote to advance the fake slates. Those include Clark’s Dec. 28, 2020, email to then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue attaching the so-called “proof of concept” letter to Georgia state legislators as described in paragraph 75.

But paragraph 79 reveals that even after Rosen and Donoghue repeatedly made clear such a letter was inappropriate and unsupportable and reminded Clark to stop communicating directly with Trump, Clark — believing Trump would fire Rosen and appoint Clark as attorney general that same day — “sent to a Justice Department colleague an edited version of his draft letter to the states, which included a change from its previous claim that the Justice Department had ‘concerns’ to a stronger false claim that ‘[a]s of today, there is evidence of significant irregularities that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States…”

5. DOJ went to court to force White House lawyers to testify further after Trump invoked executive privilege. They won — and it worked.  

During the Jan. 6 congressional investigation, the members and media alike voiced frustration with the limits folks like Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Pat Philbin, put on their testimony in order to protect Trump’s invocations of privilege. But the DOJ and the special counsel’s team aggressively litigated the boundaries of Trump’s privileges — and while we have not seen the resulting, still-sealed opinions, those fights reportedly went the prosecutors’ way time and time again, causing many, including Cipollone and Philbin, to take a second or even third trip to the grand jury. But the indictment shows that litigation paid off.

One example? Paragraph 81 alleges that, in December 2020, Philbin told Trump unambiguously, “[T]here is no world, there is no option in which you do not leave the White House [o]n January 20th.” 

Similarly, paragraph 85, which discusses the Jan. 3, 2021, showdown between Clark and the senior leadership of the Justice Department, contains a new allegation: That when Steve Engel, then-head of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel “began to explain why the Justice Department should not [opine that Pence could change the election outcome],” Trump said, “‘No one here should be talking to the Vice President. I’m talking to the Vice President,’ and ended the discussion.”

But the piece de resistance among these new allegations is paragraph 120, which alleges that on the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, as Rudy Giuliani was still reaching out to U.S. senators on Trump’s behalf, Cipollone “called [Trump] to ask him to withdraw any objections and allow the certification.” The indictment continues starkly, “The Defendant refused.”

Of course, these aren’t my only or even my most important takeaways from the indictment. Like many, I’m still focused on figuring out who Co-Conspirator 6 is, for example. Stay tuned.

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