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ANALYSIS

‘This Is the Rule of Law Striking Back’: Legal Experts Cheer DOJ’s Bannon Indictment

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Steve Bannon’s Friday afternoon indictment by a grand jury is being heralded by legal experts. The former Trump advisor faces two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack and for refusing to hand over documents to House investigators.

“Good news for the rule of law, and the institution of Congress,” NYU Law professor Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Dept. Special Counsel tweeted.

This is the first time in nearly four decades anyone has been indicted for criminal contempt of Congress. Bannon faces up to two years in jail should a jury convict him.

“This is the rule of law striking back,”  U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said on MSNBC in response to the news. “Mark Meadows: Call your office.”

Tristan Snell, who successfully prosecuted the State of New York’s case against Trump University, warns Bannon is a flight risk:

He adds:

Top national security lawyer Bradley Moss had a three-pronged response to the news.

First, he scolded those who complained Attorney General Merrick Garland and DOJ were not moving fast enough: “What did I say? I said give Garland time. I said stop whining like little children. All of you can get on your knees and apologize now for weeks of incessant juvenile antics.”

Then he also took a swipe at Bannon and other Trump acolytes: “Who else wants to go to jail for Donald Trump?”

And finally, he mocked Bannon’s infamous wardrobe, asking if the Federal Bureau of Prisons will issue “five layered clothing.”

Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, author of books on the Supreme Court:

LA Times Legal Affairs Columnist Harry Litman, a former U.S. Attorney:

 

 

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ANALYSIS

Here Are the Two Avenues the DOJ Will Now Follow After Seditious Conspiracy Indictments

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The Department of Justice has two new investigatory avenues to pursue after indicting eleven Trump supporters for seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The most interesting aspect of the recent indictments of 11 people accused of involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on charges of seditious conspiracy isn’t who has been charged — but who might be charged next,” former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote for MSNBC.

The former U.S. Attorney wrote that it is “likely that prosecutors aren’t done yet.”

McQuade explained that the indictments help prosecutors move up to the higher people behind Jan. 6 and may result in cooperation agreements.

“Working up the chain of organized criminal conduct is part of the standard Justice Department playbook. Lower-level offenders can provide leads to higher-level offenders in two ways. One way is through the investigation of simpler crimes. For example, prosecutors may find ample evidence that a particular subject unlawfully entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. If prosecutors can also demonstrate probable cause that the person used his cellphone as a so-called instrumentality to commit the crime, a search warrant can be obtained for the contents of his physical device. A phone may contain evidence of criminal conduct, and it can also provide links to other offenders. Access to phones is particularly valuable in cases in which, as here, the defendants are alleged to have used encrypted messaging applications, such as Signal, to communicate, making it impossible for investigators to obtain the content of incriminating text messages through the normal route — from the service providers,” McQuade wrote.

She also explained the indictments may make it more likely suspects will “flip” and testify against other co-conspirators.

“Another way lower-level offenders can lead to evidence against more serious offenders is through cooperation. Defendants who are charged with crimes and are likely to face conviction can often help themselves by sitting down with prosecutors and providing debriefings of everything they know. Prosecutors refer to this process as ‘flipping’ a defendant from the defense side to the prosecution team. If that information is valuable, prosecutors will ask the court to reduce the cooperator’s sentence. Cooperators can provide verbal testimony, as well as point investigators to documents and other witnesses who can corroborate their stories. Cooperators can even voluntarily share the contents of their cellphones, providing access to encrypted messages that prosecutors may have been unable to obtain in the absence of probable cause that they used the phones as instrumentalities for the crime,” she explained.

The evidence obtained from this methodical approach can be “devastating.”

“The recent charges indicate that this methodical approach has yielded results. The indictment includes verbatim quotations from encrypted text messages among the Oath Keeper defendants, and they are devastating,” she wrote. “The content of other text messages appears throughout the indictment. No evidence is more powerful than the incriminating words of a defendant himself.”

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ANALYSIS

Trump’s Latest Endorsement? A White Christian Nationalist Xenophobic Strongman

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Donald Trump recently has thrown the GOP into disarray, endorsing far right wing extremists who are opposed by Republican Party leadership, but his latest move is more an endorsement of his own political philosophy – and a statement about how he would govern if he becomes president again.

On Monday Trump, the one term, twice-impeached, insurrectionist former president who is under investigation by multiple legal authorities, endorsed authoritarian Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary.

Calling Orbán the “American right’s favorite strongman,” VOX in 2020 reported he “has given significant state support to Hungary’s churches, officially labeling his government a ‘Christian democracy.’ He provided generous subsidies to families in an effort to get Hungarian women to stay at home and have more babies. He launched a legal assault on progressive social ideals, prohibiting the teaching of gender studies in Hungarian universities and banning transgender people from legally identifying as anything other than their biological sex at birth.”

There’s more.

“After winning Hungary’s 2010 election, the prime minister systematically dismantled the country’s democracy — undermining the basic fairness of elections, packing the courts with cronies, and taking control of more than 90 percent of the country’s media outlets.”

And as NPR reported in 2019 when Trump hosted Orbán in the White House, the Hungarian authoritarian said: “We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this. We do not want that at all. We do not want to be a diverse country.”

Last year Orbán was slammed for a “racist and xenophobic” speech, likening it to “fascist, Nazi, violent and genocidal ideologies that led to the Holocaust.”

Does all this sound familiar?

“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people,” Trump said in a statement Monday, The Washington Post reports. “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election. He is a strong leader and respected by all. He has my Complete support and Endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!”

Ben Rhodes, the former Obama White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, responded to the Trump endorsement, saying “we aren’t headed for a Hungary model – we are almost there.”

 

 

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ANALYSIS

Jan 6. Committee Report on Mark Meadows Is a ‘Blueprint of a Coup’: WaPo Columnist

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Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent is serving up a damning look at former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows‘ refusal to give a deposition before the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, saying it appears he is the one person who can testify to “how Trump responded to all these repeated demands that he call off the violent assault.”

Late Sunday night the Committee released its 51-page report that outlines its case against Meadows, including the bombshell that on Jan. 5 Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro Trump people.” The House will vote on sending the report to the Dept. of Justice for possible prosecution of Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress. The vote is expected to be successful.

Sargent says the “committee’s report on Mark Meadows is extraordinary — it’s a detailed blueprint of a coup. Notably, it shows Meadows can testify to Trump’s reaction to the violence as it unfolded. This is a huge element of what he’s covering up.” He adds that it “blows a big hole in Meadows’s pleasing little propaganda piece.”

He calls Meadows’ book “almost comically sanitized,”

“In his telling,” Sargent adds, “the rioters attacked the Capitol with ‘absolutely no urging’ from Trump, and the notion that Trump sought to incite them to disrupt his loss is purely an invention of the ‘Fake News.'”

In a passage that would embarrass a North Korea disinformation specialist, Meadows writes that the mob assault left Trump “mortified.” But, Meadows piously insists, this didn’t distract Trump from focusing only on the welfare of the country in his final days as president, a noble and selfless impulse that “never wavered.”

Sargent says the “whole coup blueprint is right there in black and white. And so is the scope and reach of what Meadows and others stonewalling the Jan. 6 committee are so eager to cover up. But we’ve now learned the committee has extensive receipts, and soon enough, we’ll see all of them.”

 

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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