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‘That’s Not How It Works’: Legal Experts, DOJ Slam Trump ‘Shell Game’ Claim He Owns Classified Docs

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Legal experts and even the U.S. Dept. of Justice are once again denouncing Donald Trump‘s attempts to avoid possible criminal prosecution and to keep mountains of classified and top secret documents he absconded with from the White House and stored at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence.

Trump’s latest claim, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney’s reporting, is that the ex-president is arguing in a “legal brief that the mere [fact] he transported sensitive records to Mar-a-Lago while he was president means he automatically designated them as ‘personal’ while still in office, a designation he says [cannot] be challenged in court.”

“Meanwhile,” Cheney continues, “DOJ says Trump is engaged in a ‘shell game,’ attempting to claim records seized from him are ‘personal’ but, if the judge disagrees, they’re also shielded by executive privilege. DOJ says Trump can’t have it both ways.”

Legal experts agree with DOJ.

READ MORE: Senate Democrats Expected to Pass Bipartisan Bill Codifying Same-Sex Marriage Rights Amid Some GOP Objections: Report

“That’s not how it works,” says former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa, an attorney and legal and national security analyst. “The designation of records as presidential or personal happens upon creation or receipt. Seems like they were initially designated as the former because NARA has a record of them. Changing designation after that requires notifying archivist 44 U.S.C. 2203.”

Also agreeing with the DOJ’s assessment, former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at DOJ, writes: “A new shell game by Trump and his counsel is exactly right.”

“So great that Judge Dearie,” Weissmann adds, referring to Trump’s hand-picked special master, “and not [Trump appointed Judge] Cannon, will have the first crack at this– if 11th Circuit doesn’t make this all moot soon by ending the whole claim before Canon.”

Top national security attorney Bradley Moss adds, “That’s not going to hold up. That’s not what came out of the Clinton tapes decision.”

Attorney Luppe B. Luppen notes that Trump’s argument “would nullify the PRA entirely,” referring to the Presidential Records Act.

READ MORE: ‘Coup-Plotters Reunion’: Experts Warn After Group Including Ginni Thomas Calls for House, Senate Leadership Elections Delay

“The outgoing president could just stuff any records he wanted in his pants,” Luppen suggests, if Trump’s legal theory were valid, “regardless of whether they were nuclear submarine secrets, pardons, or original copies of international treaties, and the people wouldn’t own them anymore.”

But Brad Heath, Reuters’ DC reporter for crime and justice offers a big picture overview, saying, “It’s hard to see why the personal/presidential categorization matters very much right now. The government routinely seizes personal records pursuant to search warrants; that’s basically why search warrants exist.”

Trump had at Mar-a-Lago more than 300 classified documents, The New York Times reported in August. Late Sunday night The Guardian reported Trump had “documents bearing classification markings” in his Mar-a-Lago office desk drawer. That could upend his claims he had declassified all the documents at Mar-a-Lago.

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‘Unambiguous Felony’: Trump at Risk in IRS ‘Personal Vendetta’ Audit Investigation – Report

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According to a report from former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Epner at the Daily Beast, Donald Trump’s legal problems may be growing exponentially because there appears to be evidence he attempted to use the IRS to persecute political enemies before he lost re-election.

At issue, Epner wrote, are accusations from former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that the former president demanded the IRS look into tax returns filed by, among others, former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

According to the legal expert, there is already an investigation by the IRS inspector general into the suspicious audits of the two FBI officials, with Epner writing, “As reported earlier this summer, both Comey and McCabe were subjected to highly unusual IRS audits. The odds of an individual randomly being subjected to this type of audit are similar to being struck by lightning. For both to be the subject of special audit by happenstance is about as likely as a whale falling from the sky and landing in the middle of a mountain range.”

As he notes, there is evidence Kelly is willing to provide evidence about Trump’s illegal demand, with Epner writing that “a president who unlawfully seeks to have an individual audited is subject to up to five years in prison. The crime does not require that the IRS actually carry out the audit. The crime is completed with the mere request.”

RELATED: The coming indictment of Donald Trump will break his power: former Obama lawyer

“If Trump made this demand while he was president, that is an unambiguous felony. Section 7217 of Title 26 of the United States Code makes it a crime for the ‘President’ to ‘request, directly or indirectly, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service to conduct or terminate an audit or other investigation of any particular taxpayer with respect to the tax liability of such taxpayer,'” he wrote before adding, “Based on my training and experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted tax offenses, I expect that each IRS employee along the chain of command kept detailed notes and records of who ordered them to conduct the audit, and on the facts that were cited to support that audit demand. I would not be surprised if each of those IRS employees cooperated with the DOJ, with all fingers pointing in Trump’s direction.”

He concluded that “the nice thing about prosecuting tax crimes is that the crimes are very clearly delineated. Few jurors have any sympathy for people who cheat on their taxes or wrongfully sic the IRS on an individual to carry out a personal vendetta.”

You can read more here.

 

Image by Evan El Amin/Shutterstock

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Trump Complains the ‘Fake News Went Crazy’ With Coverage of His 2-Hour Meeting With Notorious Racist He Won’t Condemn

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On Saturday evening, Donald Trump issued a fourth statement on his meeting with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and once again refused to denounce his racism and anti-Semitism.

Trump posted to his Truth Social account, “so I help a seriously troubled man, who just happens to be black, Ye (Kanye West), who has been decimated in his business and virtually everything else, and who has always been good to me, by allowing his request for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, alone, so that I can give him very much needed ‘advice.’”

“He shows up with 3 people, two of which I didn’t know, the other a political person who I haven’t seen in years. I told him don’t run for office, a total waste of time, can’t win. Fake News went crazy,” Trump wrote.

Trump’s dinner has already become an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign and could play a role in determining the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Trump’s ambassador to Israel condemned him dining with “human scum.”

Trump has received harsh headlines.

“Trump criticized for dining with far-right activist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye,” headlined The Washington Post.

“Trump’s Latest Dinner Guest: Nick Fuentes, White Supremacist,” was The New York Times headline.

“Trump world reels after white nationalist dinner,” headlined Politico playbook.

“Trump’s former US ambassador to Israel blasts meeting with Ye, Nick Fuentes: ‘You are better than this,'” Fox News headlined.

NBC News headlined, “‘F—ing nightmare’: Trump team does damage control after he dines with Ye and white supremacist Nick Fuentes”

READ MORE: Trump’s Dinner With Kanye Also Included a Former Aide Accused in Pay-for-Pardon Play, and White Supremacist Fuentes

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‘Poisonous’: Former Advisor Says Republicans Have ‘Just Switched Trump Off in Their Brain’

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In an interview with The Guardian, one of Donald Trump’s former senior advisers stated that the word he is getting from people he has spoken to is that they want the former president to be put out to pasture after the poor midterm election results for Republicans weeks ago.

According to John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, it’s time for the GOP to move on from the former president if the party wants to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024.

Bolton, whose tenure serving under Trump ended acrimoniously, told the Guardian’s David Smith that there are a multitude of reasons to put Trump in the rearview mirror, but the impact that the former president had on GOP fortunes in the midterms seems to be the final straw with many conservatives.

“There are a lot of reasons to be against Trump being the nominee but the one I’m hearing now as I call around the country, talking to my supporters and others about what happened on 8 November, is the number of people who have just switched Trump off in their brain,” Bolton explained.

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Elaborating, he continued, “Even if they loved his style, loved his approach, loved his policies, loved everything about him, they don’t want to lose and the fear is, given the results on 8 November, that if he got the nomination, not only would he lose the general election, but he would take an awful lot of Republican candidates down with him.”

“There’s no doubt Trump’s endorsement in the primary can be very valuable to a candidate in the Republican party. But relying on that endorsement or trumpeting yourself as the Trump-endorsed candidate is poisonous in the general election. So if you actually want to win elections, Trump is not the answer,” Bolton continued. “William F Buckley [the conservative author] once had a rule that in Republican primaries he supported the most conservative candidate capable of winning the general election and, under that theory, Trump loses.”

The Guardian’s Smith notes that Bolton “… joins Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, attorney general William Barr, UN ambassador Nikki Haley, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and onetime ally Chris Christie in a growing rebellion among alumni making the case – overtly or subtly – that Trump has become an electoral liability.”

You can read more here.

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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