The USA Isn’t a ‘Banana Republic’ for Investigating Trump — Just Look at the Data

“It’s true that few American presidents have found themselves on the wrong side of the criminal justice system — just one has ever been arrested (read to the end of this piece to find out who). But plenty of other countries have arrested, indicted or imprisoned their current or former leaders, and it’s not a mark against their health as a democracy. Quite the contrary.
The evidence shows that free countries — those that have strong records of protecting political rights and civil liberties — are just as likely to hold their current and former leaders accountable as unfree countries. In fact, such moves are slightly more likely to make countries freer than less free, as well as enable free countries to keep their republic intact.

That’s the clear conclusion from a review of 243 cases from 1972 through 2021, where current or former chief executives have been arrested, indicted or imprisoned.”

Why the DOJ won’t talk about its investigation of Donald Trump

“In case there is any doubt, the Justice Department has very good reasons to keep its lips shut about ongoing criminal investigations.
One reason is fairly obvious. If prosecutors and law enforcement speak openly about a criminal investigation, they could reveal information to a suspect that could undercut the investigation. Trump could conceivably destroy evidence if he knows the DOJ is looking for it, or he might attempt to intimidate a witness if he knows that witness is one of the DOJ’s sources.

Indeed, while the Supreme Court has said that “the courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents,” lower courts have held that this right can be overcome by the government’s need to keep sensitive information about ongoing investigations secret. As the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which oversees federal cases in Florida, said in one case, documents may be kept secret when there is a “substantial probability that the government’s ongoing investigation would be severely compromised if the sealed documents were released.”

(That doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire warrant affidavit in Trump’s case must be kept secret, but it does mean that it will likely remain under seal if it could compromise the DOJ’s investigation of Trump.)

There’s also another reason the Justice Department rarely speaks about ongoing investigations: Doing so is unfair to criminal suspects — including Trump.

If Trump is eventually indicted for an alleged violation of a federal criminal law, he has a right to stand trial and will have an opportunity to present evidence that he is, in fact, innocent. Assuming that he does not accept a plea deal, a jury will weigh the evidence and return a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” Technically, a “not guilty” verdict would not be a declaration that Trump is actually innocent — it merely means that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt — but it would go a long way toward clearing the cloud of suspicion that hangs over anyone charged with a crime.

But if the Justice Department speaks openly about a criminal investigation before anyone is actually arrested, they place that cloud over a criminal suspect’s head without giving that suspect a forum to vindicate their reputation. As former deputy attorneys general Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson explained in a 2016 Washington Post op-ed, the Justice Department’s “long-standing and well-established traditions limiting disclosure of ongoing investigations” that might influence elections prevent prosecutors from “creating unfair innuendo to which an accused party cannot properly respond.”

So we should expect the Justice Department to be very quiet from here on out about its investigation of Donald Trump, unless that investigation leads to arrests. This silence is not an attempt to stonewall. It is consistent with longstanding DOJ policies that protect both the department and anyone accused of a federal crime.”

Republicans who blast FBI’s Trump search are prepping to snag Joe in a Hunter Biden probe

“These days, Republicans are making no secret of their plans to use a Hunter Biden inquiry next year as a platform to go after his father — after years of brushing off conflicts of interest within Trump’s family. No evidence has emerged to show that the business dealings of Hunter Biden, who’s faced a years-long federal investigation, affected his father’s decisions as president.

GOP lawmakers are pushing ahead anyway, planning a sprawling probe that will reach into the ethics of Hunter Biden’s artwork sales and other business deals, as well as policy decisions by the Biden administration.”

‘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.””