A coward's bluff.
August 30, 2022
Senator Lindsey Graham amplified Trump’s threat of violence in the event the DOJ indicts Trump, saying,
If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country.
Graham’s attempt to soften the threat by adding that he is “worried about our country” is the time-tested Mafia formulation that it “would be a shame if your shop burns down.” In other words, the expression of “concern” operates as a threat.
Although there is much to discuss about Graham’s threat, let’s skip to the end to say the most important thing first: Graham, like Trump, is raising the specter of violence because he is desperate and frightened. Graham, like Trump, senses that he is losing control and has resorted to bluffs and threats to avoid actual confrontation. In other words, Graham, like Trump, is pathetic. Dangerous, but pathetic.
To be clear, I am not dismissing the notion of scattered or sporadic violence at the hands of “lone wolves” or delusional bands of drinking buddies pretending to be Confederate militias or white nationalist stormtroopers. Indeed, isolated violence has already occurred and will likely continue. But to the extent that Lindsey Graham and Donald Trump are threatening violence to avoid indictment of Trump, it is an empty threat that oozes desperation.
Greg Sargent deconstructs Graham’s threat in his WaPo op-ed, Lindsey Graham’s vile ‘riots’ threat over a Mar-a-Lago prosecution gives away Trump’s game. First, Sargent demolishes the false equivalency between Trump and Hillary Clinton:
As you’ll recall, former FBI director James B. Comey announced in July 2016 that an exhaustive investigation had failed to produce evidence to make a criminal case against Clinton. The Justice Department inspector general subsequently found no grounds for questioning that decision. [¶] In other words, Clinton was not charged because the facts did not merit it.
Sargent then addresses the dangerous idea underlying Graham’s threat: That the law does not apply equally to Trump (or at all). Per Sargent,
Trump and Graham cannot be permitted to advance the idea that applying the law to Trump cannot be done neutrally or legitimately by definition. Graham is not just threatening political violence. He’s also providing an invented rationale for it that is deeply dangerous. . . . It’s an effort to discredit the idea that the law can be applied to the former president at all.
Garland will not be intimidated—at least according to someone who knows Garland well, Professor Laurence Tribe, who tweeted,
Knowing him, I’m confident he’ll neither be cowed nor provoked. He’ll do what he must: indict.
Nor should we be cowed by threats of violence. They matter, but the Constitution and the rule of law matter more. Let’s act like it—and do the right thing, come what may. Otherwise, we allow imagined fears to govern our nation and our lives. That is no way for a free people to live.
Biden to deliver prime time address on Thursday.
As Republicans ramp up their threats of violence, President Biden is scheduled to deliver a prime-time speech to address those threats. See WaPo, Biden to deliver prime-time address on democracy Thursday. Per a White House spokesperson,
He will talk about the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack. He will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.
It is risky delivering a prime-time speech the day before the Labor Day weekend, but it is a risk worth taking. Democrats cannot allow Republican threats of violence to go unchallenged. Biden started to push back last week and must continue to do so. Thursday’s speech is a good next step.
Trump’s motion to appoint a special master.
The motion to appoint a special master is a confusing mess—largely because Trump filed his motion two weeks after the search. After the judge stated her inclination to appoint a special master, the DOJ filed a preliminary response that effectively said, “Too late, we have already finished our review of the documents.” (The DOJ’s response was professional and respectful in tone; the snark is mine.) See DOJ’s Notice of Receipt of Preliminary Order.
Per the DOJ filing,
The DOJ agreed to provide a more detailed list (under seal) of the items seized pursuant to the search warrant.
The DOJ “filter team” has already finished its review of the documents.
The DOJ “filter team” concluded that a “limited set” of documents might be protected by attorney-client privilege and has withheld those documents from the prosecutor.
The DOJ and Director of National Intelligence are conducting (a) a classification review to determine if documents were properly classified; and (b) an assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials.
A reader pointed me to a new Substack blog by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance, in which Vance discusses the motion for a special master. Vance’s discussion is truly excellent, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the details of the controversy. (I immediately subscribed to Vance’s blog and expect to rely on and cite it in the future.) See Joyce Vance in Civil Discourse, The Week Ahead.
Here are the key passages from Vance’s analysis discussing Trump’s motion to appoint a special master:
The whole request is a bit off. The MAL search is not the type of situation that usually gives rise to the use of a special master. We see that in cases where a search of a lawyer’s office or his electronic devices is likely to involve material covered by the attorney-client privilege between that lawyer and third parties who aren’t involved in the investigation at hand as well as with the target.
Here, there is no suggestion that type of privilege problem exists. To the extent Trump is arguing any documents at MAL are covered by executive privilege, that only strengthens the argument that they are presidential records that should be recovered and returned to the National Archives. Trump has offered no reason to believe the DOJ filter team that is conducting the review has done anything improper.
The hearing on Trump’s motion to appoint a special master is set for Thursday. Large parts of Trump’s request for relief appear to be moot (overtaken by events), but the judge seems inclined to get involved. Stay tuned.
This seems suspicious.
Tony Ornato was a Secret Service officer who became Trump’s deputy chief of staff. Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her about an altercation between Trump and Secret Service officers when they refused to drive Trump to the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Ornato told the media—off the record—that he would deny Hutchinson’s story about the altercation. But Ornato never testified under oath before the January 6th Committee. Instead, he hired a private lawyer and went silent.
Ornato returned to the Secret Service after Trump left the presidency. On Monday, the Secret Service announced that Ornato has resigned. See The Hill, Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 hearing departs agency. The timing of Ornato’s resignation seems suspicious. Look for more developments in the near future.
A common question from readers is how best to invest their money in the midterms. I have frequently recommended Future Now Fund’s / The States Project “Giving Circles” as a way for donors to combine and direct their resources where they are most needed. “Giving Circles” support state legislative races where Democrats have a fighting chance to flip (or defend) closely divided state legislatures. The fallout from the Dobbs decision highlights the critical role state legislatures play in protecting (or infringing) on personal liberties.
Several months ago, Melissa Walker, Head of Giving Circles, suggested that readers of this newsletter form giving circles to support Democratic candidates in state legislative races. Readers formed over twenty Giving Circles and have raised (to date) more than $200,000!
On Monday, I joined a Zoom conference with ten leaders of reader-sponsored Giving Circles (listed below). The leaders of those groups are still working to reach their goals and are hoping that other readers will join. Click on the links to read about the giving circles:
Big Red’s Blue Angels ($11,786 raised of $12,500 goal)
The Mainiacs ($10,295 raised of $15,000 goal)
Paint a State Blue ($58,780 raised of $60,000 goal)
Potlucks and Politics ($7,945 raised of $8,000 goal)
Resilience Initiative ($21,838 raised of $25,000 goal)
The ReSisters Giving Circle ($1,360 raised of $5,000 goal)
San Francisco Black & Jewish Unity Coalition ($16,260 raised of $20,000 goal)
State Democracy Matters ($15,000 raised of $30,000 goal)
Steffanie’s Giving Circle ($4,655 raised of $5,000 goal)
Tracy Place Giving Circle ($21,975 raised of $25,000 goal)
As always, whenever I meet with readers, I am inspired and filled with confidence anew. Most of the leaders of the Giving Circles were not involved in politics before stepping up to form a community of like-minded citizens. Now they are experts in legislative races outside of their own states. They are serving as role models, cheerleaders, organizers, and change agents during a critical time in our nation’s history. Most importantly, they are part of an army of hundreds of thousands of new Democratic activists that did not exist in 2016. That fact should give all of us hope for the midterms—and beyond.
As always, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent.
Talk to you tomorrow!