Morning Briefing: 5 Things for Thursday – Subpoenas, Russian Demands, Perjury, Paris, Spying on Journalists
Here’s What You Need to Start Your Day
Good Thursday Morning!
So much has happened in the past 12 or so hours!
Here areÂ five things you need to know for today:
- PresidentÂ Donald Trump says he will announce his decision on the Paris Climate Agreement today at 3 PM. He is expected to pull out of the accord, in what would be a devastating act for the planet, the U.S. economy, and the status of America as a world leader. To be clear, there is no need for a “decision,” no action is required. President Obama decided the U.S. would join 194 other nations, and Secretary of State John Kerry signed the agreement. Trump is dismantling the Obama legacy and the future.
- Trump reportedly may return two Russian spy compounds in the U.S. the Obama administration took from the Russians in retaliation for their interference in our elections. From the one in the Bronx Russian spies were able to track federalÂ agents for 50 miles. Why is Trump even thinking about returning them? Maybe this tweet from the Russian embassy is the reason?
Russia is seeking to return its diplomatic property in #USðŸ‡ºðŸ‡¸ asap.
Otherwise, we will have to take counter measures https://t.co/2MJ4PauEYt pic.twitter.com/kjC1iSQRrc
â€” Russia in USA ðŸ‡·ðŸ‡º (@RusEmbUSA) May 23, 2017
- House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is back in the news. Without consulting Democrats he issued subpoenas toÂ SusanÂ Rice, John Brennan, and Samantha Power to testify on the bogus “unmasking” story he thinks is more important that Russia attacking America.Â
- Senator Al Franken again suggests Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed perjury:
Breaking on @TheLastWord: Sen. Al Franken reveals he had sent a letter to the FBI re: Jeff Sessions’ reported 3rd meeting w/ Amb. Kislyak. pic.twitter.com/dOgBwrQSHI
â€” Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 1, 2017
- The Trump administration is spying on journalists to find the sources of leaks within its own White House. Very, very disturbing.
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Double Bombshell: Mark Meadows and Trump’s Secret Service Agents Have Testified, NYT Reports
The New York Times late Tuesday afternoon published two separate reports revealing previously unknown details from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s double-pronged investigation into Donald Trump’s likely unlawful actions, including that investigators have interviewed or subpoenaed approximately two dozen people who are among those who know the ex-president best: Mark Meadows, Trump’s final White House Chief of Staff, and “more than 20” of the ex-president’s Secret Service agents.
The Times, pointing to the “surprise revelation” that a federal grand jury has been convened in Florida, reports Meadows has testified before the grand jury, presumably in Washington, D.C. The 20 or more members of the ex-president’s Secret Service detail have either testified before the D.C. grand jury or been subpoenaed to do so.
Meadows is a “key witness” who allegedly was intimately aware or involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and he is believed to also have knowledge of the ex-president’s likely unlawful handling of classified and top secret documents.
Suggesting there could be “unknown complexities” with the revelation of a Florida grand jury, The Times reports Special Counsel Jack Smith’s D.C. grand jury appears to have stopped hearing testimony recently from witnesses, while the one in the Sunshine State “began hearing evidence last month,” but has seen “only a handful of witnesses.”
READ MORE: Jim Jordan Demands Merrick Garland Hand Over Documents Authorizing Special Counsel’s Trump Investigation
Based on “people familiar with the matter,” The Times explains, “if both grand juries are in operation, it suggests that prosecutors are considering bringing charges in both Washington and Florida. It is possible that Mr. Trump could be charged in one jurisdiction while other people involved in the case are charged in the other.”
“But if only the Florida grand jury is currently hearing testimony, it suggests two possibilities,” The Times explains. “One is that the investigation in Washington is largely complete and that prosecutors are now poised to make a decision about bringing charges there while still weighing other potential indictments in Florida.”
Other possibilities are that the Special Counsel believes Florida is the proper venue to file charges against Trump, in the documents probe, or even that the Florida grand jury was convened to accommodate “local witnesses.”
But former Deputy Asst. Attorney General Harry Litman told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace Tuesday that if the Special Counsel files charges in the wrong venue, the entire case “can go away” and cannot be retried.
READ MORE: Buttigieg: Republicans Are Targeting LGBTQ People Because They ‘Don’t Want to Talk About’ Their Own ‘Radical Positions’
“I think Smith has made all his decisions,” Litman added. “The fact that there was this meeting yesterday, only happens when everything’s final. I think there’s a draft indictment and everything, but a very important strategic decision is venue, and I think that they’re pursuing something separate in the Southern District of Florida.”
Meanwhile, The Times notes that “Mr. Meadows has kept largely out of sight, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers believe he could be a significant witness in the inquiries.” Apparently, even Trump has “at times asked aides questions about how Mr. Meadows is doing, according to a person familiar with the remarks.”
Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, played coy when asked about his client’s possible grand jury testimony. Terwilliger told The Times, “Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.”
In addition to his knowledge, if not participation in efforts to overturn the election, and his knowledge of Trump’s mishandling and possible attempts to obstruct the Dept. of Justice’s investigation into the classified documents, Meadows “tangentially” is involved in a meeting that Special Counsel Smith now has recorded audio of. Although he was not present, that meeting was about Meadows’ book. In the audio, Trump allegedly made clear he knew the highly-classified Pentagon document had not been declassified, shattering his stated defense, and he allegedly said he wanted to share it, which could lead to more legal troubles for him.
Andrew Weissmann, a former top DOJ official, tweeted in response to the Times’ story on Meadows, “Did he plead or was he given immunity?”
Professor of law at NYU Law, Ryan Goodman, a former Special Counsel for the Dept. of Defense, served up this equation:
“Put these 2 things together and what do you have? 1) Meadows ‘has testified before a federal grand jury…in the investigations being led by the special counsel’s office’! 2) Meadow’s actions seem to be kept secret from Trump team! Answer: A cooperator?”
Buttigieg: Republicans Are Targeting LGBTQ People Because They ‘Don’t Want to Talk About’ Their Own ‘Radical Positions’
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg blasted Republicans attacking the LGBTQ community on Tuesday, saying the reason right-wing lawmakers have decided to target them is they don’t want to talk about their “radical positions,” including opposing President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure law and other accomplishments, like $35 insulin.
Appearing on MSNBC, Secretary Buttigieg was asked to weigh in on the Human Rights Campaign’s declaration earlier in the day, of a national emergency in the U.S. for LGBTQ people.
“We have officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year,” the organizations says on its website. “More than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record.”
HRC also published a detailed chart by state on various issues, including bans on gender-affirming care, sports participation, drag, or support for forced student outing.
And while HRC points to the more than 75 bills that have been signed into law this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it’s currently tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country.
READ MORE: Bill Barr Slams Trump: DOJ Not ‘Conducting a Witch Hunt’ – ‘He Jerked Them Around’ – ‘No Excuse for What He Did’
“Our country is at a very real risk of backsliding on freedom and equality but that is exactly why we continue to push. There has been extraordinary work that’s been done just in this presidency,” Buttigieg said, responding to HRC’s national emergency declaration. He specifically pointed to “the President being able to sign the Respect for Marriage Act.”
“And if you zoom out to the progress that’s been made in the last 10 or 15 years, including the ability of somebody like me to be standing here doing this job, it’s extraordinary, and yet, now you see the attacks on the LGBTQ community, especially on the trans community and what they’re going through,” Buttigieg, who is the first out gay U.S. Cabinet Secretary, told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing.
“And I think it’s being done out of the perception that it is politically convenient to target vulnerable groups. And honestly, I think where it largely comes from is folks who don’t want to talk about why they were against the infrastructure loans, building roads and bridges. They don’t want to talk about why they were against $35 insulin that the President delivered for Medicare recipients. They don’t want to explain why they were for these radical positions that speak to what those people are worried about their everyday lives.”
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“So they’re focused on targeting some of the people who already do not have a very easy time going about everyday life,” he said.
“Think about how hard it is to be a teenager to begin with. But think about how hard it is to be a teenager when you realize that you are different when you’re coming to terms with your gender identity or you’re coming to terms with realizing that you’re gay or lesbian.”
“The last thing you need in your life are politicians trying to score political points by making things worse for you. We’re gonna stand together, whether it’s pride or just on any given day and say no, we’re going to expand, not withdraw, the freedoms and equalities we won in this country, and we’re going to build on them.”
Bill Barr Slams Trump: DOJ Not ‘Conducting a Witch Hunt’ – ‘He Jerked Them Around’ – ‘No Excuse for What He Did’
Bill Barr, once Donald Trump‘s favorite attorney general and the one who was seen as his “faithful protector and personal henchman” for his “willingness to enable Trump’s darkest impulses,” came out swinging against his former boss Tuesday, refuting his “witch hunt” claims, and saying the ex-president “jerked” DOJ around over hundreds of classified and top secret documents he refused to return.
“I think if based on the facts, as the facts come out, I think over time, people will say that this is not a case of the Department of Justice, you know, conducting a ‘witch hunt,'” Barr told CBS News Tuesday, ahead of what many believe is an impending indictment on what experts say could include charges of obstruction of justice and charges under the Espionage Act.
“In fact,” Barr continued, praising his former agency, “they approached this very delicately, with deference to the President, and this would have gotten nowhere had the President just returned the documents.”
Instead, Barr said, Trump “jerked them around for a year and a half. And the question is, did he deceive them? And if there’s evidence of that, I think people will start to see that this says more about Trump than it does the Department of Justice.”
The ex-president who is once again running to retake the Oval Office, Barr says, is “so egotistical that he has this penchant for conducting risky, reckless acts to show that he can sort of get away with it.”
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“It’s part of asserting his his, his ego, and he’s done this repeatedly at the expense of all the people who depend on him to conduct the public’s business in an honorable way. And, you know, we saw that with both impeachments, and there’s no excuse for what he did here.”
Referring to what many believe is an impending indictment over the classified documents he removed from the White House and refused to return, Barr added, “I’ve said for a while that I think this is the most dangerous legal risk facing the former president. And if I had to bet I would bet that it’s near.”
He said DOJ would not try to indict “if there’s not enough evidence, but from what I’ve seen, there’s substantial evidence there.”
But true to form, Barr also defended his former boss.
Whether what Trump’s done is “a crime or not remains to be seen,” he said, while refusing to weigh in on whether or not he thinks Trump “deceived” DOJ.
Later in the interview, Barr went full-force on supporting Trump’s claims that the Russia investigation was a hoax.
“I went into the administration halfway through, and I did it at a time where I felt he was being treated unfairly on the Russia gate thing. I thought that was, you know, turned out to be I think a big lie,” Barr said.
“And I felt that he was the duly elected president and he deserved a chance to conduct his administration. And I went in because I thought I could help stabilize things and also have the administration conducted in an appropriate way. And as I felt the idea that the election was stolen was a big lie.”
READ MORE: ‘Isn’t There a Beach in Mexico Waiting for You?’: Cruz Mocked for Claiming Garland Will Indict Trump Over SCOTUS Seat Loss
And despite it all, despite everything that has come out about Trump’s actions and alleged actions, despite the looming indictment – on top of a current indictment – Barr says if Trump is the Republican party’s nominee for president he will still support him.
“I don’t see myself not supporting the Republican candidate,” Barr said.
Taking a swing at President Joe Biden, Barr said neither the current nor the former president are “fit for the office.”
“But if I’m confronted with that choice, I have to go with policy, who’s closest to me on policy,” regardless of who might be convicted of breaking the law, including on our national secrets.
Watch a clip from the interview below or at this link.
Bill Barr on the classified documents investigation:
“This is not a case of the DOJ conducting a witch hunt…This would have gone nowhere had the president just returned the documents, but he jerked them around for a year and a half…There is no excuse for what he did here.” pic.twitter.com/dYWzauBqjo
— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) June 6, 2023
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