State and federal courts on the same day? Impressive.
In other happy news, Donald Trump is having a bad day in ALL the courts. Obviously, there's that whole indictment thing. But before he got fingerprinted in Manhattan, Trump started the morning getting his ass kicked by the DC Circuit.
This is going to require a journey through the federal court docket, so ... grab your reading glasses and get in, nerd, we're going lawsplaining!
Remember last summer when Mark Meadows told the House January 6 Select Committee he wasn't going to cooperate anymore with their subpoena for documents and testimony? By coincidence (LOL), that decision to flip off the committee came approximately five minutes after Trump's PAC gave $1 million to Meadows's employer, the Conservative Partnership Institute. But the Justice Department ignored the referral from Congress and declined to prosecute Meadows and Trump's comms flack Dan Scavino for contempt, so, that was the end of that.
But if you blow off a grand jury, or shout EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE in response to every question, you wind up with a different result. Also, Special Counsel Jack Smith is no Attorney General Merrick Garland. (And he's not Bob Mueller either, while we're making comparisons.) So Smith's team went straight to the US District Court in DC, where then-Chief Judge Beryl Howell has dropkicked every single one of Trump's privilege claims, on grounds of PISS OFF, THIS IS A COUP INVESTIGATION. Well, more or less. The orders are sealed, so we don't really know. But judging by all the reporting, it seems that's the long and short of it.
On March 24, ABC reported that Judge Howell had overruled Trump's privilege claims for Meadows, Scavino, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, former national security adviser Robert O'Brien, gross bigot monster Stephen Miller, acting DHS head (and gross bigot monster) Ken Cuccinelli, and Trump aides Nick Luna and Johnny McEntee. We broke it down for you last week, and we also mentioned that Judge Howell had abrogated attorney-client privilege with respect to Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran. That post was extra fun, not only because we would dearly love to do LOCK HER UPS to Trump, but because his lawyers waited several days to file an emergency appeal of that order seeking a stay, something they should have done that very night. The DC Circuit issue a temporary stay, ordered the two sides to brief the issue overnight — breaking the judicial land speed record — and then dissolved the stay the following day, ordering Corcoran to testify.
High comedy, and ... you see where all this is going, right?
Now, let's head over to the docket for this case, which has proceeded entirely under seal.
On March 29, Trump and his lawyers finally moseyed into the DC Circuit and filed their appeal. Take your time, boys!
That's not an emergency appeal — that's just put them in the regular line. They don't get around to filing for an emergency stay until 9 PM YESTERDAY.
At 11:18 p.m., the three judge panel (two Obama appointees and Judge Katsas, one of Trump's worst nominees), issue a sealed order for the government and Trump to brief the issue. Now, we don't know what that order says, but we take a pretty good guess, since the the government responded at 1:25 a.m., and Trump's people turned in their homework at 9:27 a.m.
At 12:12 p.m., the panel issued a per curiam order (that means it was unsigned) denying the motion to stay Judge Howell's order.
That means that Meadows, Scavino, Miller, and all the rest of those goobers are going to have to get their lily white asses down to Special Counsel Smith's grand jury and say what they saw. And, yes, it's possible that Trump will appeal this order to the Supreme Court. He's certainly got every incentive to take a chance on SCOTUS, considering that Mark Meadows was part of the fake electors scheme, and the effort to ratfuck the Georgia vote count, and the attempted coup at the DOJ, and the pre-riot rally on the Ellipse, and the actual plan to storm the Capitol. But the Court has shown exactly zero interest in protecting Trump since he left office, rejecting, among other things, Trump's demand to shield his presidential records and his tax returns from Congress. So, while he might get a short administrative stay, this weird, opaque docket may be even worse news for Trump than that indictment we're all waiting for.
It's a beautiful day.
[In re: Sealed Case (23-3043), Docket via Court Listener]
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The countdown to the mug shot begins now!
Let's check in on the Sunday shows and see how some of them are doing now.
Joe Tacopina Returns!
It seems like only yesterday (or last week) that we reveled in the "brilliant" legalese of Joseph Tacopina, Trump's current attorney and a man who answers the question "What would happen if The Brooklyn Brawler practiced law instead of wrestling?"
This week, Tacopina made dual appearances on CNN's "State Of The Union" and ABC's "This Week," but with similar results. On CNN, when host Dana Bash asked him what we could expect from Trump's return to New York, Tacopina set the expectations low.
TACOPINA: [...] I honestly don't know how this is going to go, hopefully as smoothly as possible, and then we begin the battle to right this wrong, because it's a -- really, it's a day that, in my opinion, the rule of law in the United States has died.
Remember, kids: Showing that no one is above the law is the true death of justice.
Tacopina continued his argument from last week that hush money and lying is ok as long as it's from "personal funds" while decrying the perceived injustice inflicted on Trump.
TACOPINA: This is a case of political persecution. [...] had he not been running for presidency, he would not have been indicted.
Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and now Donald John Trump. Let us never forget how Gandhi paid hush money to an adult film star or MLK incited an insurrection (twice) or Mandela asked the secretary of state of South Africa to find him the votes to be president!
On ABC, a simple follow-up question caused Tacopina's rhetorical house of cards to collapse.
\u201cTACOPINA: This is something that we believe is a political persecution & I believe people on both sides of the aisle believe that\n\nSTEPHANOPOULOS: What evidence do you have that Democrats see this as political persecution?\n\nTACOPINA: *word salad*\u201d— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1680446019
Trump's Other Trusty Lawyer
On "Fox News Sunday," Trump attorney James Trusty gave a truly hilarious answer when asked about Trump's
brilliant unhinged attacks on the judge overseeing his case.
TRUSTY: Well look, the president is a big believer in free speech [...]
Yes, the guy who used pepper spray to clear a peaceful protest so he could take a photo-op and had his White House try to take down a tweet calling him a "pussy ass bitch" is such a free speech champion.
Speaking Of "Free Speech"...
"Fox News Sunday' also had on Trump's former attorney general, William "Pepper Balls" Barr!
Barr hedged his bets but still agreed with the rightwing talking points.
BARR: Based on what we know it certainly appears to be [a political prosecution] and I think the American people see that [...]
That or they are the committed 25 percent who support bigots who receive normalizing Lesley Stahl interviews.
When Shannon Bream asked Barr if he ever felt pressure to bend or ignore the law as attorney general, Barr became a bit defensive, especially at the notion that he was Trump's "toady" (which he was).
BARR: [...] He [Trump] was calling for people's scalps and, from what he said after I left, he was mad at me for not delivering scalps. But the idea that I was a toady was something fostered by the mainstream media and I've...which of his enemies were prosecuted? Who did I use the criminal justice process against? And there's usually crickets. [...]
It may be hard to see or hear them if you pepper spray them. Here's another reminder that Barr was corrupt as hell.
School Shootings? We Need More Guns!
Spirit Halloween Nick Fury, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, appeared on CNN's "State Of The Union" and was asked about the Republican Party's downright nihilistic inaction on gun control.
CRENSHAW: Now, because it's so random and unexpected, it's hard to prevent. And because -- and they seem like they happen a lot, but they're still anomalous events, and they're very difficult to build a pattern behind. [...]
Pushing back, Bash pointed out a very common denominator.
BASH: You said that they're random. The one through line in these deaths is that they are shootings. Therefore, they are done by guns. And guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the US. So shouldn't helping save the lives of children be a top priority for you, as a member of the House majority?
Crenshaw suggested the ONLY idea Republicans have for gun violence.
CRENSHAW: No, it absolutely should be, which is why I say I would look to the thing that would absolutely stop this, which is putting armed police officers at every school. [...]
CRENSHAW: That's a preventive measure. That, I know will stop this. And there was nothing like that in these last few mass shootings. There's no armed guards there.
BASH: So, the answer is more guns?
CRENSHAW: So, if I'm just looking for actual solutions, that would be it.
BASH: So the answer is more guns?
CRENSHAW: No, the answer is armed guards. No, the answer is armed guards, right, armed guards. Yes, more guns [...]
BASH: There were supposed to be armed guards at the schools in both Uvalde in your home state of Texas and Parkland, and that didn't help anything.
Republicans love guns unconditionally ... unless marginalized groups both past and present begin arming themselves due to credible threats and violence. That seems like the only guns they wanna control.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he's running for president on ABC's "This Week" with Jonathan Karl.
\u201cAsa Hutchinson\u2019s chances at being the GOP nominee:\u201d— M3Writer (@M3Writer) 1680530149
Have a week.
Mike Pence is a man of faith. He believes many things, despite lacking any empirical evidence of their truth. Yes, even that he, Mike Pence, a guy with all the depth and charm of a "What Would Jesus Do?" bumper sticker, might one day become president of God's own US of America. Which is fine, of course. It's a free country, and we all need a hobby. But Mike Pence would like us to believe in childish fantasies, too, and therein lies the problem. Because the former vice president has declined to comply with a subpoena to testify to the grand jury investigating the events of January 6, 2021, and he'd like us to accept that he's doing it to protect the sacred integrity of the Constitution.
Mike Pence's theory, or more accurately, the one cooked up by his very good lawyers, is that he was acting as president of the Senate with regard to his role opening the envelopes containing state elector certifications. And so he claims legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause that protects him from having to testify about anything related to that day.
“He thinks that the ‘speech or debate’ clause is a core protection for Article I, for the legislature,” a source in Pence's camp told Politico. “He feels it really goes to the heart of some separation of powers issues. He feels duty-bound to maintain that protection, even if it means litigating it.”
Well, it's a lot. But Pence seems to have at least partially persuaded a federal court of the strength of this argument, since Chief Judge James Boasberg said this week that he does not have to answer Special Counsel Jack Smith's questions about what he did on January 6 specifically with regard to his "legislative" duties. As for the rest of it, he can start talking, though, since Judge Boasberg dropkicked Trump's attempt to use executive privilege to block Pence's testimony.
Judge Boasberg, who was originally nominated to the bench by George W. Bush, and then to the federal court in DC by Barack Obama, just took over as the chief judge when Judge Beryl Howell rotated out two weeks ago. Although the orders are sealed in these privilege disputes, it's clear that Judge Howell took a very dim view of Trump's efforts to use executive privilege to thwart the special counsel investigations. Indeed, there's no report that she ever sided with Trump, who made the claim at least half a dozen times. And as her final act, Judge Howell abrogated attorney-client privilege under the crime-fraud exception and ordered Trump's lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify to the grand jury investigating the documents Trump stole from the White House and stashed in his pool locker.
It's not clear whether Trump will appeal to the DC Circuit, although his win-loss record there appears to be no better than it was with Judge Howell. As for Pence, the sealed order means that we can't really tell specifically what he'd have to testify to if he showed up at the grand jury. Is everything but his actions when he was physically in the Senate fair game? Can he talk about his conversation with Trump the morning of January 6? Did Judge Boasberg craft his ruling with sufficient specificity to give the parties clarity on what's in and what's excluded?
“I’m pleased that the court accepted our argument and recognized that the Constitution’s provision about Speech and Debate does apply to the Vice President,” Pence told Greta van Susteren on Newsmax. “But the way they sorted that out, and the requirements of my testimony going forward, are a subject of our review right now, and I’ll have more to say about that in the days ahead.”
\u201c"I have to nothing to hide; I have a constitution to uphold. I upheld the Constitution on January 6th." \n\nFormer Vice President Mike Pence [@Mike_Pence] speaks out about being ordered to testify before a grand jury about January 6th. \n\n@greta\n\nMORE: https://t.co/jRJZshikzd\u201d— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) 1680042845
You can safely read that one as a HELL, YES. To the extent that Pence has a future in the Republican Party, he can't go pissing off the MAGA faithful by selling out the Dear Leader.
“We’re going to respect the decisions of the court, and that may take us to the highest court in the land,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl before the decision dropped. And here, where the special counsel is racing to wrap up his case before the 2024 election season, a delay is functionally as good as a win. If Pence can get the Supreme Court to wrinkle its brow for six months pretending to seriously contemplate his fakakta legislative immunity argument, then he's probably home free.
On the other hand, we may get more information from some of the other goodies Judge Howell left on her way out the door, specifically an order overruling the executive privilege claim to block testimony by Mark Meadows. As Salon points out, the former chief of staff had eyes on every aspect of the effort to overturn Biden's win. From the phone call pressing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," to coordinating speakers at Trump's pre-riot rally on the Ellipse, to organizing the Republican members of Congress to protest the electoral certification on a call where the supposedly spontaneous march on the Capitol was discussed, Meadows was there for it all. And judging by the texts he turned over to the January 6 Committee before he quit cooperating — five minutes after Trump's PAC gave a million dollars to his employer — Meadows has the goods on half of DC right there on his phone.
So maybe if Jack Smith doesn't get the goods from Uncle Mikey, he can get 'em from Cousin Mark.
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It's your very legally amateur Sunday show rundown!
It's either because he's a terrible client or never pays his bills or no one wants to be on the losing side, but Donald Trump has an uncanny ability to pick out the worst attorneys to ever pass the bar. His latest legal draft pick: Joseph Tacopina, who appeared on this Sunday's "Meet The Press" with Chuck Todd.
Similar to an infamous appearance by Rudy Giuliani, Chuck Todd's oft-suppressed journalistic instincts awakened when given such an incompetent target. The trouble for Tacopina began when Todd asked why Trump got the media and the right-wing into a lather about his impending arrest last week. Tacopina, because he couldn't just say his client is a bullshit artist who is willing to incite dumbasses to protect his own hide, tried to blame others.
TACOPINA: No, he didn't make it up, he was reacting towards a lot of leaks coming out of the district attorney's office. There had been a leak, Chuck, that Monday, the day before that Tuesday, there was a law enforcement meeting, including Secret Service and NYPD, that was going to go through the logistics of the arraignment. [...] So he just, I think he just assumed based on those leaks that that's what was going to happen.
As Lemony Snicket once wrote, "Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble." Neither Tacopina nor his client have ever learned this lesson, which is why the rest of Tacopina's answers to Todd's questions came off as a series of unfortunate events for his credibility. When Todd read some of Trump's public statements on social media, specifically targeting Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, Tacopina attempted to change the subject.
TACOPINA: So Chuck, as his lawyer, I want to dissect this case, because it's a case that shouldn't be brought and wouldn't be brought if it were anyone other than Donald Trump, let's be clear about that. Does anyone actually think [...] that anyone else would be prosecuted for making a civil settlement in a hush money case with personal funds? Of course not.
Literally that was what Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was prosecuted for and served federal prison time for. The crime, mind you, that was at the direction of and reimbursed by Donald Trump through his businesses and he's currently being investigated for.
Todd, again, pressed Tacopina about Trump's attacks on Bragg through social media and Tacopina deflected poorly.
TACOPINA: [...] Again, I'm not his social media consultant. I don’t -- I think that was an ill-advised post that one of his social media people put up, and he quickly took down when he realized the rhetoric in the photo that was attached to it. But that being said --
TODD: You're only referring to the baseball bat.
TACOPINA: ... I'm not here to defend or support —
TODD: He didn't take down the other rhetoric. [...]
Tacopina then reverted back to his only defense of Trump, mainly that this was "personal funds" and "would have been made payment irrespective of the candidacy or campaign," which he views as bulletproof for his client. But when Todd pulled his best Inigo Montoya impression about this "personal funds" argument, Tacopina made a colossal legal mistake that even Todd couldn't ignore.
TODD: [...] So you call it personal funds. It is, in a court of law, it's been proven —
TACOPINA: It is personal funds.
TODD: — that it was Trump Organization funds.
TACOPINA: It's personal funds. It was not funds related to the campaign. That's the distinction —
TODD: But he used a Trump Organization check.
TACOPINA: It's not campaign finance laws. But Chuck, that's personal, that’s personal. It has nothing to do with the campaign —
TODD: So everything with the Trump Organization is Donald Trump the person?
TACOPINA: Let's focus this —
TODD: I mean, you realize the door you're opening there.
I don't think Tacopina realized what he did there, Chuck, as his continued answer dug the hole deeper.
TACOPINA: [...] These were personal funds. By all accounts, these were personal funds, not campaign funds. It's personal or campaign – whether Trump Organization, Donald Trump the person, you know, Mar-A-Lago Corporation, whatever it is – they're personal and not campaign funds. And that's the key distinction here. If they were campaign funds, we'd be having a different discussion. [...]
But, as Todd then pointed out, Tacopina's client might not be facing campaign finance charges.
Tacopina basically admitted what everyone knows: The Trump family uses his organizations and corporations as their own personal piggy banks, much like they did with the Trump "charities."
This makes DA Bragg's case much easier ... not that he needs help since he's done this type of case many times before despite what Trump's surrogates say.
TODD: But again, what this investigation may end up being is about the, essentially the falsifying business records. Which by the way, this prosecutor has brought over 60 – this one and the previous one – has brought over 60 times over the last four years. This is not an unusual crime to charge somebody with [...]
When Todd brought up falsifying business records and ledgers to say the payments were "legal fees," Tacopina outlined how somehow that was ok in what will probably be what he's remembered for after all this.
TACOPINA: [...] Seriously, what would he personal ledger? "Payment for hush money to quiet an affair that I claim I never had so my family doesn't get embarrassed." Is that what he should put in his ledger? There's no, nothing wrong with putting whatever you want in your ledger [...] You're being petty. [...]
Todd ended the segment these clips of a very familiar lawyer saying how this was crime when it was first reported in 2018.
We bet Tacopina wishes his reality show dreams hadn't flamed out 5 years ago.
Have a week.
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