The White House has been struggling to keep up with the pace of scandal surrounding President Donald Trump, and the latest allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, have just added more fuel to the fire.
According to a new report from Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman, some of Trump’s advisers are fearful more damning claims about Kavanaugh may emerge.
White House advisers are worried that more damaging information about Kavanaugh could come out. Two sources told me the White House has heard rumors that Ford’s account will be verified by women who say she told it to them contemporaneously. People worry, without apparent evidence, of another Ronan Farrow bomb dropping. One source says Ivanka Trump has told her father to “cut bait” and drop Kavanaugh.
Kaitlan Collins, a CNN reporter, said that there has also been fear inside the White House about the potential testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of attempted rape. Tuesday night, Ford released a letter saying that she wants to wait until the FBI conducts an investigation into the matter before testifying, despite the fact that lawmakers have scheduled a hearing for next Monday.
“White House officials were worried about Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony Monday, fearing she could come off as credible and convince Murkowski and Collins, two crucial votes they desperately need, to vote against Kavanaugh,” Collins said on Twitter. “They will likely be pleased [with the] latest development.”
These attitudes help explain a small mystery that has arisen since the allegations against Kavanaugh became public. Trump, surprising many, hasn’t displayed his typical hostility and aggression in response to Ford and her claims.
But this is less surprising if the president’s advisers are seriously concerned about Kavanaugh’s prospects. With an election right around the corner, a major failure could have serious consequences for the president’s party. So Trump hasn’t gone out of his way to ferociously defend Kavanaugh — perhaps hedging his bets against the embarrassing possibility that the nominee will have to withdraw.
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‘Confessing to the Crime’: Reporter’s Claim About Trump Being ‘Reluctant’ to Return Records Ignites Legal Experts
Legal experts including Neal Katyal, Andrew Weissmann, and others are responding to a claim made by a right wing reporter that they say indicts rather than vindicates Donald Trump.
The claim was made by Paul Sperry, a former D.C. bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, who has worked for the far right wing website WorldNetDaily. He is described as having a “long record of promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories” by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative Team.
If his reporting is true, legal experts say it is a confession to unlawful actions regarding the 35 cartons of White House records that belong not to the former president, as he reportedly stated, but to the National Archives.
“BREAKING,” Perry’s post on the right wing social media site Gettr begins. “Sources close to Trump say the former president was reluctant to furnish presidential records to the National Archives after he found out partisan Democrat political appointees there were releasing thousands of his White House documents to the January 6 Committee in spite of his lawyers’ claims of executive privilege. They say the former president simply ‘does not trust’ the Obama and Biden political appointees running the National Archives to act in good faith and in bipartisan spirit.”
That post was included as a screenshot and tweeted by attorney Ron Filipkowski.
Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann responds by saying: “Legally, this is a confession, not a defense, even if Trump thinks this plays to his base. The more Trump keeps talking, the more he keeps digging his legal grave.”
Weissmann also served as an Assistant United States Attorney, chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and worked under Robert Mueller during the Trump investigation.
This “is Trump confessing to the crime,” says former U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal. “If this report is accurate, Trump is saying he took these doc[uments] for his personal gain. It’s no defense to say ‘the govt was going to be unfair.’ These are the govt’s docs, not his. He doesn’t get to hide them& benefit.”
The nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Ethics (CREW) writes: “So Trump was intentionally breaking the law. That’s really not the winner they think it is.”
Attorney Owen Barcala offers up this sarcastic response: “‘How dare you say he negligently retained classified documents! He did so intentionally and with the specific purpose to interfere with a Congressional investigation!'”
National security lawyer Mark S. Zaid: “These ‘sources’ close to Trump are undermining any possible factual or legal defenses he might assert. Please keep talking!”
Journalists are also weighing in.
Civil liberties and national security journalist Marcy Wheeler: “These ‘sources close to Trump’ LITERALLY just confessed to concealing official records to thwart an investigation, which is one of the crimes under investigation, 18 USC 1519.”
Columbia Journalism School Professor Bill Grueskin: “Each story is more confession-y than the previous one.”
New York Times opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo: “he’s admitting to taking classified documents from the White House in order to keep them away from government officials? convenient, because that is … specifically one of the crimes he’s being investigated for.”
‘It’s Not Theirs, It’s Mine’ Trump Told Aides About White House Records Including Classified Documents: NYT
Donald Trump last week claimed all the Dept. of Justice had to do was “ask” for the classified documents, and other items the FBI confiscated a week ago Monday, and he would have returned them, while multiple aides reportedly have quoted him saying those items belonged to him.
“Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin, the White House counsel and his deputy under President Donald J. Trump, were interviewed by the F.B.I. in connection with boxes of sensitive documents that were stored at Mr. Trump’s residence in Florida after he left office, three people familiar with the matter said,” The New York Times Tuesday afternoon reports.
Both were named as Trump’s representatives to the National Archives, so when the Archives discovered it was missing items, including the highly classified documents, NARA reached out to Philbin.
“Mr. Philbin tried to help the National Archives retrieve the material, two of the people familiar with the discussions said. But the former president repeatedly resisted entreaties from his advisers,” the Times’ Maggie Haberman reports.
“’It’s not theirs, it’s mine,’ several advisers say Mr. Trump told them,” according to the Times.
That’s a different response to the one Trump posted to his Truth Social account last week.
“Number one, it was all declassified,” Trump wrote, a claim experts question.
“Number two,” Trump added, “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”
“They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago,” he continued in a separate post on Truth Social. “ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”
Despite NARA retrieving the 15 cartons in January, there were more items they wanted returned. In May Trump was sent a subpoena, and yet those items were not returned.
In June, a Trump lawyer signed a statement saying there were no classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Two months later, on August 8, the FBI executed the search warrant that reportedly secured 11 sets of classified documents.
The Times adds that in June, “officials then used a subpoena to obtain surveillance footage of the hallway outside a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and saw something that alarmed them.”
The Times on Tuesday does not state what “alarmed” them, but Maggie Haberman at the Times on Saturday reported the surveillance footage revealed items being taken out of that locked storage room.
“The Justice Department also subpoenaed surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago recorded over a 60-day period, including views from outside the storage room,” Haberman reported. “According to a person briefed on the matter, the footage showed that, after one instance in which Justice Department officials were in contact with Mr. Trump’s team, boxes were moved in and out of the room.”
“They also received information from at least one witness who indicated that more material might remain at the residence, people familiar with the investigation said,” she added.
Trump Tweeted ‘Highly Classified Image Taken by a Secret Spy Satellite’ in 2019: Report
In late August of 2019, more than two and a half years into his first and only term, Donald Trump tweeted a photo that many at the time thought might be a classified spy image, setting the internet on fire.
As it turns out, it was.
Calling it “an infamous moment in the Trump presidency — one that former intelligence officials say perfectly illustrated his approach to dealing with state secrets,” NBC News on Tuesday reported that on August 30, 2019, a “former senior intelligence official with firsthand knowledge told NBC News that Trump did indeed tweet a highly classified image taken by a secret spy satellite, as many experts suspected at the time. And in doing so, the official and others said, Trump gave U.S. adversaries keen insights into the U.S. capabilities to spy from above.”
Trump’s Twitter account is gone, permanently suspended after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and with it all the tweets he posted over many years.
But this is a screenshot of that tweet captured by the Internet Archive (with what appears to be Finnish):
“The president tweeted a picture of an Iranian missile launch site that showed a failed ICBM test launch that everybody acknowledged was a highly classified picture taken from space,” former national security adviser John Bolton told NBC News. “He tweeted it out, and that of course declassified it by definition, but also showed what could happen when such a picture, even on a Twitter attachment, was then able to be analyzed by foreign intelligence services.”
“We had this image of the Iranian missile blown up, and it was exquisite intelligence, and he didn’t even wait,” a former senior intelligence official said. “As soon as we showed him, he said, ‘Hey, I’m tweeting this.’”
Trump “spent no time understanding what made something a secret and what we protected,” that former official also told NBC News.
“CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire tried to talk Trump out of doing it,” NBC News adds, “noting that the U.S. spent billions of dollars developing capabilities to capture images from space, and told Trump, ‘You can’t do this. If you put this out, they’re going understand what our capability is.'”
Falsely, he responded: “Look, I’m the president, I can declassify anything.”
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