The week began as one of Donald Trump's best weeks in ages. His hand-picked federal judge came through for him and issued an extremely broad injunction against the government investigation into all the stolen secret government documents he was storing at Mar-a-Lago and decreed that a "special master" be appointed to look through all of it to determine if any of Trump's alleged "privileges" had been trampled since she apparently believes he's is entitled to special protections. Her reasoning may have been panned by every credible legal expert in the country but that's just the sort of reaction that would make Trump's followers respect her more.
Unfortunately for Trump, that was the last bit of good news that he got this week.
First, his most zealous defender and former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, already awaiting sentencing for his contempt conviction, was indicted in New York on fraud charges for bilking Trump's followers out of millions in that phony "Build the Wall" scam. You'll recall that he was already indicted on federal charges for the same crime but Trump pardoned him on his last day in office. Sadly for him, that pardon doesn't apply to state charges.
As I have written before, Bannon will no doubt fashion himself as the MAGA Luther King and write his War Room manifesto that he'll sell to the same chumps who gave him money for that ridiculous wall. His cri de cœur as he was being led to the courtroom on Thursday gives a taste of what they can expect:
Trump hasn't had anything to say about this but he may be wondering if Bannon might have a few things to say about the insurrection plotting in the days before January 6 once it sinks in that he could be doing time at Riker's Island.
On the same day as Bannon's surrender, reports surfaced of an impaneled federal grand jury looking into Trump's post-election fundraising. Several of Trump's associates affiliated with his Save America PAC were subpoenaed this week including some of the people involved in a different crime the Department of Justice (DOJ) is already investigating:
The subpoenas sought information about communications with a range of people, many of them lawyers who were also listed on earlier subpoenas that focused on the fake elector plan. Among the lawyers appearing as subjects of interest on both sets of subpoenas were Jenna Ellis, who was part of Mr. Trump's initial legal team after the election, and Kenneth Chesebro, a Wisconsin-based lawyer who helped devise the fake elector scheme.
A lot of money has flowed through this so-called political PAC, virtually none of it going to candidates or political causes. It's unclear what connections there are between two different grand jury investigations but let's just say this New York Times report reads like one of those early Woodward and Bernstein stories during Watergate: "follow the money."
Thursday ended with the DOJ's response to Trump's favorite judge's injunction. Widely acclaimed, it was a very deft bit of lawyering. The department lawyers patiently pointed out that her split-the-baby injunction, in which she allowed the Director of National Intelligence to continue its investigation of national security damage from the stolen documents but barred the DOJ from doing any further criminal investigation, is unworkable. The offices of the DNI, CIA, NSA etc have no domestic investigatory powers, which is as it should be. They must rely on the FBI to do that work, which is why it is also part of the intelligence community. As a result, the investigation into the damage that may have been caused by this serious breach is currently at a standstill.
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Rather than fight the entire order, the DOJ simply asked the judge to allow them to access the 100 classified documents that were found in various areas of Trump's beach club, arguing correctly that these documents belong to the government, not Donald Trump, and cannot possibly have any kind of attorney-client privilege. The government agreed to "make available to [Trump] copies of all unclassified documents recovered during the search — both personal records and government records — and that the government will return [Trump]'s personal items that were not commingled with classified records and thus are of likely diminished evidentiary value," taking his whining about his personal medical records and tax documents off the table. Since the judge cited those items as her reason for blocking the DOJ from access to all documents this should allay her concerns as well.
It will be interesting to see if Trump's lawyers make the case that he magically declassified all those documents with a Vulcan mind-meld when he was still president as his minions have been saying all over television ever since the search. If they don't I think we can put that silly idea to bed. If they do, we are dealing with a whole other level of misconduct.
It is very clear that this is a serious national security investigation, not a "storage" issue or even a Presidential Records Act issue. And the government seems to be equally serious about the evidence pointing to blatant obstruction of justice. The DOJ, following procedure, asked the judge to allow them to access the classified documents immediately and also indicated that they plan to appeal her original ruling so all of this will be aired out in due course. Most lawyers who are following this case closely believe that it is going to be very difficult for the appeals court to uphold her feeble reasoning. Of course, you never know.
Finally, on Friday morning a federal judge issued a scathing dismissal of Trump's sprawling lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, Rod Rosenstein and former FBI official Peter Strzok. Calling the lawsuit "devoid of facts" and "premised on nonsense legal claims," Judge Donald Middlebrooks accused Trump and his lawyers of judge shopping before calling his complaint frivolous.
"At its core, the problem with Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff is…seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this Court is not the appropriate forum."
Trump himself has not intelligibly addressed this latest state of affairs but he has been emitting periodic primal screams as events unfold. On Thursday he posted this on his social media platform:
So now the FBI & Biden Department of "justice" leakers are going to spend Millions of Dollars, & vast amounts of Time & Energy, to appeal the Order on the "Raid of Mar-a-Lago Document Hoax," by a brilliant and courageous Judge whose words of wisdom rang true throughout our Nation, instead of fighting the record setting corruption and crime that is taking place before their very eyes. They SPIED on my Campaign, lied to FISA COURT, told Facebook "quiet," preside over worst CRIME WAVE ever!!
.....They leak, lie, plant fake evidence, allow the spying on my campaign, deceive the FISA Court, RAID and Break-into my home, lose documents, and then they ask me, as the 45th President of the United States, to trust them. Look at the I.G. Reports on Comey, McCabe, and others. Things are safer in the middle of Central Park!
They would be safer in Central Park because Donald Trump doesn't live there, an easy target of all of America's adversaries who know he has all the common sense of a bath mat.
He seems upset. And he should be. It's possible that he will escape any accountability for his actions. Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time. Trump has been playing fast and loose with national security since the 2016 campaign but this time he doesn't have the power of the presidency to protect him. Now we're going to see if the courts will step in to do his dirty work.