Lawfare annoys me at times, but these two articles are well worth reading.
In this first article, Scott Anderson and Benjamin Wittes provide some of the information I have heard before, but with color commentary that’s very useful to a non-lawyer like me.
The Justice Department’s filing Tuesday evening in former President Trump’s federal court effort to slow the Mar-a-Lago investigation presents a remarkable show of strength and confidence in the ongoing probe.
The document’s legal arguments are not particularly engaging, as they respond to uninteresting, meritless legal challenges from the former president. Its factual summary, by contrast, is a rip-roaringly great read, one in which the department tells the story of its investigation in some detail. Some of this story it has told before, but some it has not. There are a lot of new details in here, and nearly all of them are bad for the former president.
Some of these flesh out the volume and nature of the classified material Trump hoarded at Mar-a-Lago. But other details, more importantly in our view, flesh out questions of intent and mens rea that are key to all of the statutes at issue in the warrant. While the document goes out of its way not to discuss Trump’s personal behavior, it also includes material specifically suggestive of the degree to which the department has collected material incriminating Trump personally.
Yet the story the department tells in the filing is not just about the highly sensitive nature of the documents. The document spends a great deal of time on the question of intent, which is key to all three statutes listed in the original search warrant.
The first conclusion from this extraordinary recitation is that the former president is in serious legal jeopardy. The department could have made all of the legal arguments that follow its factual account with a much more minimal factual presentation.
It chose to tell this story.
It chose to tell it in an open filing.
It chose to make a series of serious imputations about the manner in which the former president and his team had behaved.
It chose to include specific facts that suggest that Trump himself had engaged in misconduct.
And it chose to lay all this out in a fashion that will make the department look very foolish indeed if the investigation now comes to nothing. The Justice Department does not do bravado, as a general rule. For it to so confidently detail the history of its investigation and the interactions that have driven it suggests a high degree of confidence on where this is heading.
Read the whole thing.
This second article is an interesting play-by-play description of how Thursday’s court proceeding unfolded. Sort of live blogging, but after the fact. Written by a third-year law student, but really well done, in my opinion.
This article is distressing to the extent that it really makes clear to me how desperately this judge is trying to find something, anything, that she can use to justify a Special Master.
Still, this isn’t the time to stick fingers in ears, saying “la la la I can’t hear you”, so I read the whole thing and I’m glad that I did.
It is 1:07 p.m. ET at the federal courthouse in Palm Beach, Florida, and it’s time for the first big courtroom showdown between former President Trump and federal prosecutors over the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago.
Judge Aileen Cannon enters the courtroom, having already created something of a drama merely by taking Trump’s motion for a special master more seriously than a lot of commentators thought it warranted and stating in an order that she is inclined to appoint a special master. The Justice Department replied with a blistering brief, to which Trump’s team responded last night. And just like that, Trump’s team and the Justice Department lawyers are facing off before a judge Trump appointed and who received Senate confirmation even as the former president was contesting his election loss in a federal courthouse just a few miles from Trump’s own golf resort—which was itself the site of the search at issue in today’s hearing.
As Trusty strolls back to his table, Cannon announces that she won’t issue an oral order from the bench today. Instead, she says, the “court will be entering a written order in due course.”
And with that, we’re done for the day.
Again, read the whole thing; you’ll be glad you did.