DOJ

September 16, 2022

Former President Donald Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that if the Justice Department indicts him in connection with his mishandling of classified documents, "I think you'd have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after a briefing Thursday by FBI and Homeland Security officials that "it was stunning the number of threats that have been cataloged since the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago," linking the "much more dangerous environment" for law enforcement to "political statements made by some individuals since Aug. 8." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) got pushback when he said last month that prosecuting Trump over mishandling top secret documents could lead to "riots in the street." Perhaps with that in mind, Hewitt asked Trump what he meant by "problems." Trump said he thinks "they'd have big problems. Big problems. I just don't think they'd stand for it." Hewitt asked how he would react if the "legacy media" accuses him of inciting violence. "That's not inciting, I'm just saying what my opinion is," Trump replied. "I don't think the people of this country would stand for it." The people of this country don't appear to be on Trump's side here. A Fox News poll released Thursday found that 65 percent of registered voters — including 38 percent of Trump voters — agreed it was inappropriate for Trump to have removed sensitive documents from the White House, and 56 percent said the FBI acted appropriately in searching his Mar-a-Lago home in Aug. 8. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released last week found that 44 percent of Americans (and 5 percent of Republicans) said Trump did something illegal in taking the classified documents, another 17 percent (including 20 percent of Republicans) said he just did something unethical, and 47 percent (including 10 percent of Republicans) said Trump should be charged with a crime. If Trump is charged, the poll found, 65 percent of Americans said he shouldn't run for president in 2024, versus 61 percent who don't want him to run regardless.  The Fox News poll was conducted Sept. 9-12 by Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Co. (R) among 1,201 registered voters nationwide, and its margin of sampling error is ± 2.5 percentage points. The NewsHour/Marist poll was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 1,236 U.S. adults, with a margin of error if ± 4.1 points.

September 13, 2022

The US Department of Justice will accept the appointment of one of the judges proposed by Donald Trump as a "special master" in the investigation of classified documents seized from the former president's Florida home last month, it said Monday.Despite pushback from the department, federal judge Aileen Cannon agreed last week to grant Trump's request to name an independent reviewer for the case, assigned to look over the hundreds of classified documents taken from his Mar-a-Lago resort in an FBI raid August 8.Trump is facing mounting legal pressure, with the Justice Department saying top-secret documents were "likely concealed" to obstruct an FBI probe into his potential mishandling of classified materials.He has denied all wrongdoing, saying the raid was "one of the most egregious assaults on democracy in the history of our country."On Friday, Trump's legal team and the Justice Department each submitted to Judge Cannon the names of two candidates for the role.But in a court filing earlier Monday, Trump rejected both of the government's nominations.The department said in its own court filing later Monday that it would agree to the appointment of Trump suggestion Judge Raymond Dearie, from the Eastern District of New York, in addition to its own nominees.Justice officials had originally suggested retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith, and said they would accept any of the three due to their "previous federal judicial experience and engagement in relevant areas of law."The filing also noted the department "respectfully opposes the appointment of Paul Huck, Jr," the Trump team's second nominee, a federal judge from Florida, "who does not appear to have similar experience."Trump's legal team did not include the reason for rejecting Jones and Griffith in its filing, saying "it is more respectful to the candidates from either party to withhold the bases for opposition from a public, and likely to be widely circulated, pleading." It is now up to Cannon to choose whether to name 78-year-old Dearie to the case.Government attorneys previously opposed Trump's special master request all together, arguing that an independent screening for privileged material could harm national security, and was also unnecessary as a team had already completed a screening.In addition to the documents probe, Trump faces investigations in New York into his business practices, as well as legal scrutiny over his efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election, and for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. © Agence France-Presse

August 25, 2022

The Justice Department on Wednesday released a secret 2019 memo laying out a legal rationale for not charging former President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice for impeding Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. A federal appellate court, siding with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), had ordered the department to release the unredacted memo, written by two top DOJ political appointees for then-Attorney General Bill Barr. CREW said the full memo, written by senior DOJ officials Ed O'Callaghan and Steven Engel, "presents a breathtakingly generous view of the law and facts for Donald Trump. It significantly twists the facts and the law to benefit Donald Trump and does not comport with a serious reading of the law of obstruction of justice or the facts as found by Special Counsel Mueller." Outside white-collar lawyers agreed that the memo reads like a defense brief, The New York Time reports. "An overarching premise is that Mueller did not find evidence sufficient to charge Trump with conspiring with Russia, so there was no underlying crime," Times reporter Charlie Savage tweeted. "(It does not raise the possibility that Mueller failed to get that evidence because his investigation was obstructed.)"  In fact, the Mueller report said the investigation found "substantial evidence" of obstruction by Trump, including dangling pardons before witnesses and ordering Mueller fired. The memo for Barr downplayed that evidence, often using generous assumptions or technicalities. McGahn said in sworn testimony that Trump told him "Mueller has to go," and "call me when you do it" — but Trump didn't use the word "fire," the memo points out.  Andrew Weissman, Mueller's deputy in the investigation, called the full memo a "doozy," especially one "astounding" sentence in which O'Callaghan and Engel tell Barr he should neutralize the report before it comes out because it could be read to say the president committed obstruction. He also told MSNBC's Nicole Wallace the memo is legally "dead wrong" on obstruction law and in claiming Mueller's team didn't find evidence of underlying crimes. The memo is essentially a "get out of jail free" card, New York University law professor Ryan Goodman tells the Times: "It's hard to stomach a memo that amounts to saying someone is not guilty of obstruction for deliberately trying to induce witnesses not to cooperate with law enforcement in a major criminal investigation." Seriously, "it's garbage," agrees former White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen. "Anyone else woulda been prosecuted. Barr should be disciplined."

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