‘Detached From Reality’ Is Trump’s Best Defense at This Point

“Attorney General Bill Barr..said former President Donald Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen from him indicated he was “detached from reality.” Ironically, that seemingly damning assessment of Trump’s state of mind might be his best defense against a possible criminal prosecution.

The Jan. 6 Committee has spent a great deal of time during its first two hearings trying to prove that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election fair and square. On Monday, they effectively used the testimony of Trump’s former staff and lawyers to hammer home that Trump was repeatedly told the vote totals went against him, that allegations of election fraud were bogus and that he continued to spread them to his followers anyway.”

“as several former Trump insiders testified, the former president clung to implausible conspiracy theories advanced by a handful of legal advisers such as Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Sidney Powell.”

“prosecutors would have to overcome the likely defense that Trump sincerely believed the election had been stolen because he had been told so by people he believed were knowledgeable. Defendants usually don’t go to prison for following legal advice. While Eastman, Giuliani and Powell were conspiracy theorists whose claims were thrown out of multiple courts, they also were lawyers with, at one time, good credentials. Trump’s defense team would argue that he trusted them and relied on their advice. Poor judgment might disqualify someone for public office, but it is not, in and of itself, a crime.”

” That would also be a defense to another potential charge — that Trump obstructed an official proceeding, which requires proof that Trump had corrupt intent. A federal judge recently found that it was “more likely than not” that Trump had corrupt intent, relying on the fact that Pence and others told Trump that Eastman’s plan to set aside valid slates of electors and send the process back to the states was illegal. But in the context of a federal jury trial, Trump would only need to convince one juror that there was reasonable doubt that he believed a plan proposed to him by a prominent lawyer (who had once been a former Supreme Court clerk) was lawful.”

“Garland has been dealt a difficult hand. Many who view the committee hearings will assume that the mountain of evidence amassed by the committee would be more than sufficient to convict Trump. But Garland and his team must know that such a case would be a coin flip at best, and federal prosecutors don’t win over 95 percent of their cases by rolling the dice. They charge defendants when they know they have the goods, and based on what we’ve seen so far, they don’t have an airtight case against Trump.”

Yes, Merrick Garland can prosecute Mark Meadows (and Peter Navarro, and Dan Scavino)

“The US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the Trump White House’s role in it is charging ahead. But — thanks in part to the limited power of congressional inquiries — the success of their next steps depends on the Justice Department.

And at least right now, the committee appears to be losing faith in that department, and specifically in Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has thus far been reluctant to prosecute high-ranking Trump administration officials who’ve stonewalled the committee. Several members of the committee criticized Garland for failing to prosecute at least one former top Trump aide whom Congress voted to hold in contempt. In the words of Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), “Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours.”

The committee also voted unanimously..to hold two former Trump White House aides in contempt of Congress. The former aides, trade adviser Peter Navarro and social media director Dan Scavino, both refused to comply with a subpoena seeking documents and testimony.

In the likely event that the full House agrees that the two men should be held in contempt, both could be fined and face up to a year of incarceration — though the decision whether to prosecute the two former White House aides will be made by the Justice Department and not by Congress.”

Rep. Jim Jordan says he won’t cooperate with Jan. 6 committee’s interview request

“The committee recently revealed a text message from Jordan to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Jan. 5 in which he forwarded a strategy for blocking Joe Biden’s election. According to Jordan, he was passing along a plan sent to him by a former Pentagon inspector general. His aides have declined to say whether he supported that strategy or why he decided to send it to Meadows.

Jordan has frequently insisted he has “nothing to hide” when asked if he would cooperate with the Jan. 6 select committee, and he has expressed uncertainty about whether he had one or multiple conversations with Trump on Jan. 6 — both before and after the riot.”

Jan. 6 investigators’ new challenge: Trump allies pleading the Fifth

“three witnesses with ties to Donald Trump have signaled they intend to invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination.”

“Their assertions are the latest, and perhaps stiffest, test for the Jan. 6 committee as it seeks to penetrate the former president’s inner circle and piece together his actions during the chaotic closing weeks of his term. Eastman, Clark and Stone are among those who were closest to Trump as he sought to overturn the 2020 election, with some physically just blocks away as a mob of supporters overran Capitol Police and threatened the peaceful transfer of power.

Legal experts say the committee has few options once a witness pleads the Fifth — and the choices they do have are risky or impractical. ”

“For now, the committee has been content to emphasize Trump allies’ extraordinary acknowledgment, by asserting their right against self-incrimination, that some of their actions related to the 2020 election may have crossed the line into criminality — even if it carries no legal weight.”

“The committee’s options for circumventing a Fifth Amendment assertion are extremely limited. One path would involve offering a form of immunity that would prevent a witness’ testimony from being used by prosecutors in any future criminal proceeding. Thompson said Monday that immunity was among the tools the committee could consider to compel another former Trump aide, Mark Meadows, to provide information to the panel.
Legal experts say this is an unlikely path, though, since offering immunity could derail any investigation into criminal activity that the committee reveals.”

“Another option for the Jan. 6 panel is to file a civil contempt lawsuit and seek a judge’s review of the witness’ claim, but that could be a protracted effort at a time the committee is racing against a dwindling calendar. And it might not work.

“Courts will be reluctant to order witnesses to testify … if there is any potential for prosecution,” McQuade said.

A third option that some committee members — and other House Democrats — have floated is the concept of “inherent contempt.” That’s a process by which Congress bypasses the Justice Department and simply arrests or fines any recalcitrant witness. But House General Counsel Douglas Letter has made clear for years that this option is not realistic to pursue. It hasn’t been deployed in a century and it could lend itself to dangerous abuses in a body that is inherently political.”

‘This call never happened’: Ex-D.C. Guard leaders push back as internal Army report on Jan. 6 emerges

“The Army report, obtained by POLITICO, lays the foundation for the Pentagon’s defense against criticism that it took too long to approve the Guard’s response to the Capitol attack. The March 18 report says Guard members weren’t prepared to respond quickly to the riot and describes multiple communications between top Army officials and the D.C. Guard’s commander, then-Maj. Gen. William Walker.

But Walker, now sergeant at arms in the House, says some of those communications the Army describes in the report never actually happened. He and a former top lawyer for the D.C. Guard, Col. Earl Matthews, also say the Guard members were ready to be deployed to the Capitol.

“It’s whole fiction,” said Matthews, who has accused two Army generals of lying to Congress about their role in the Jan. 6 response. Matthews was on a call with leaders from the Capitol Police and the Army during the siege.”

“Matthews alleges that the report is a secretive attempt to whitewash the Army’s record on Jan. 6 and shift blame to the Capitol Police and Guard leaders, thus taking the focus off the Army’s own missteps.

Army spokesperson Mike Brady says the Jan. 6 report was designed for internal staff use as part of routine procedure and drafted with information from the Guard.”

““One side or the other is lying,” said Sol Wisenberg, a white collar defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. “One side or the other has committed perjury or obstructed a congressional inquiry concerning a topic of paramount importance. The Department of Justice should unquestionably be investigating this matter for possible perjury and/or obstruction charges. Something this serious cannot be left to Congress alone.””

The Supreme Court just dealt a huge blow to Congress’s power to investigate Trump

“Trump v. Vance, largely maintains the status quo. As Chief Justice John Roberts states in the first line of that opinion, “in our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence,’” and “since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.” Trump does not enjoy absolute immunity from a state prosecutor’s criminal investigation.”

“The upshot of Trump v. Mazars is that House investigators almost certainly will not see potentially damning records concerning Trump’s finances until after the November election. Mazars was also written by Roberts.
Though Mazars does not preclude the House from seeing those records eventually, by the time those records become available Trump will almost certainly either be an ex-president, or he will be firmly entrenched in his second term.

On the surface, it is easy to see Mazars as a defeat for Trump. The decision was 7-2, with all four of the Court’s liberals joining the majority. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito both wrote dissents, where they complain that the majority didn’t do enough to protect Trump from investigation.

But make no mistake, Mazars is a victory for Trump because it holds that the president enjoys special immunity from congressional investigation enjoyed by no other citizen — and because it likely shields Trump’s records from the public eye until after the election.”

“Eastland held that Congress is entitled to gather information — and to use compulsory subpoenas to gather such information — whenever that subpoena is “intended to gather information about a subject on which legislation may be had.” So long as the congressional subpoenas sought information on a topic that could plausibly be subject to an act of Congress, those subpoenas were lawful.
The new rule announced in Mazars, however, can be boiled down into four words: “the president is special.”

According to Roberts, “congressional subpoenas for the President’s information unavoidably pit the political branches against one another.” He adds that “without limits on its subpoena powers, Congress could ‘exert an imperious controul’ [sic] over the Executive Branch and aggrandize itself at the President’s expense, just as the Framers feared.”

So Mazars invents new limits on congressional subpoenas targeting the president, and sends the case back down to a lower court to apply this new rule.”

The FBI’s Systematic Dishonesty

“It would be reassuring, in a sense, if the FBI’s misfeasance could be explained by anti-Trump bias. But as Horowitz noted in his report, the fact that “so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations,” one that “was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI” and “FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny,” suggests a much deeper problem involving unrestrained overzealousness, confirmation bias, tunnel vision, and groupthink—tendencies that threaten all Americans who value their privacy and reputations.

Even Comey, who claims the dishonesty described by Horowitz “does not reflect the FBI culture of compliance and candor,” wonders if the failure might be “systemic,” meaning there could be “problems with other cases.””