Judge Carter’s Memo to Merrick Garland
Plus, Russia’s scorecard and Biden’s budget.
Since clarifications are all the rage this week, I’d like to clarify that U.S. District Court Judge David Carter did not, in fact, actually write a memo to the attorney general.
And for that I apologize, because, as Will Smith said once (actually it was yesterday), I am a work in progress.
What the judge did do, however, was to nudge, prod, poke, and remind the Department of Justice that the former president of the United States “more likely than not” committed felonies in his attempt to subvert the presidential election.
“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Judge Carter wrote.
Let’s be clear. As en fuego as the ruling might be, its actual scope is quite limited. In his decision, Judge Carter acknowledged as much: “This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” he wrote. “At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of ‘legal theories’ gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs.”
But that does not mean it is not consequential. Undoubtedly, Carter’s decision will land in Merrick Garland’s inbox and, as the Wapo writes, “is likely to increase public pressure on the Justice Department to investigate the former commander-in-chief.” (No sh*t.)
The judge’s ruling makes for a helluva read: Referring to Trump’s legal Iago, John Eastman, the judge wrote: “Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history.”
“Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower—it was a coup in search of a legal theory,” the court ruled. “The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process.”
Judge Carter’s decision walks through Trump’s actions over a period of months, including his attempt to pressure Georgia officials (“I only need 11,000 votes,” Trump told Georgia secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”)
On the day of the insurrection itself, Trump tweeted out calls for Vice President Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes from some states Trump had lost, and called Pence directly, pushing him “‘to make the call’ and enact the plan.” Trump then proceeded to the Ellipse with a warning for the VP: “...Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you. I will tell you right now.”
At the end of his speech, Judge Carter wrote, Trump asked the crowd of his supporters to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to give the VP and Congress “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
“Together, these actions more likely than not constitute attempts to obstruct an official proceeding,” Carter writes.
In a key finding, Carter wrote that Eastman and Trump knew that they were breaking the law. They “justified the plan with allegations of election fraud— but President Trump likely knew the justification was baseless, and therefore that the entire plan was unlawful.”
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote of the obstruction allegation. “... President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election. As Vice President Pence stated, ‘no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.’
Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed. With a plan this ‘BOLD’” President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle.”
The judge concluded his ruling by placing the events of January 6 in context:
More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails…
If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.
If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself.
Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien thinks that Garland now has more than enough to investigate Trump.
A federal judge thinks that former President Donald Trump likely committed fraud — and probably knew it — when he and one of his lawyers, John Eastman, plotted to block Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election so Trump could hold on to power.
So how much longer will it take Attorney General Merrick Garland to draw the same conclusion about that attempted coup?
“The House panel is now investigating whether Trump communicated that day through backchannels, phones of aides or personal disposable phones, known as ‘burner phones.’”
The Jan. 6 committee’s investigators have recently focused on Eastman’s efforts to pressure Pence to declare Trump the winner, but there has been little public notice that Cruz and Eastman have known each other since they clerked together 27 years ago for then-U.S. Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig. Cruz’s proposal ran on a parallel track to Eastman’s memos.
Luttig told The Post that he believes that Cruz — who once said that Luttig was “like a father to me” — played a paramount role in the events leading to Jan. 6.
“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig said in a statement to The Post. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”
The Kremlin is now saying that it will “drastically reduce” military activity near Kyiv and Chernihiv “in order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations.”
General Hertling has a question:
David Frum had an interesting thread yesterday on Russia’s military scoreboard:
1956 vs disarmed civilians in Hungary: victory
1968 vs disarmed civilians in Czechoslovakia: victory
1969 vs China: draw
1979-89 vs Afghanistan: defeat & revolution ...
1994-96 vs Chechens: defeat
1999-2009 vs Chechens: costly victory
2008 vs Georgia: victory.
Moral of the story ...
Unless against disarmed civilians or very small countries ... or unless backed by massive amounts of US aid ... Russian wars tend to end badly for the Russian state.
Exit take: Maybe — despite the very cool May Day parades — the Russians are just not very good at this.
Funding the Police. Not abolishing ICE.
Far from defunding the police and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two popular slogans on the left, the budget robustly funds both. Customs and Border Protection would receive $15.3 billion and ICE $8.1 billion, including $309 million for border security technology — a well-funded effort to stop illegal migration. The nation’s two primary immigration law enforcement agencies would see increases of around 13 percent.
The budget even includes $19 million for border fencing and other infrastructure.
Federal law enforcement would receive $17.4 billion, a jump of nearly 11 percent, or $1.7 billion, over 2021 levels. And the president, acknowledging widespread concerns that are driving Republican attacks against Democrats, vowed to tackle the rise in violent crime.
“The answer is not to defund our police departments,” Mr. Biden said at the White House on Monday. “It is to fund our police and give them all the tools they need.”
The less good news? Here’s the analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:
Based on the Administration’s own estimates and assuming the Build Back Better agenda is indeed budget neutral, under the President’s budget:
Debt would rise to record levels within a decade, from 102.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of FY 2022 to 106.7 percent by 2032. Prior to the pandemic, debt was less than 80 percent of GDP. Nominal debt would grow from $24.8 trillion at the end of FY 2022 to $39.5 trillion by 2032.
Deficits would total $14.4 trillion (4.7 percent of GDP) over the next decade. Though expiring COVID relief will cause annual deficits to decline from $2.8 trillion (12.4 percent of GDP) in FY 2021 to below $1.2 trillion (4.5 percent of GDP) in 2023, they would never fall below $1 trillion and would grow back to $1.8 trillion (4.8 percent of GDP) by 2032.
Excluding Build Back Better, spending and revenue would average 23.4 and 18.8 percent of GDP, respectively, over the next decade. This would be higher than the Administration’s baseline projection of 23.0 and 18.0 percent of GDP, respectively, and above the 50-year averages of 20.9 and 17.3 percent. Inclusive of Build Back Better, spending and revenue would be even higher.
Deficits would be about $1 trillion lower over a decade. This includes $1.66 trillion of new spending and tax breaks offset by $2.61 trillion of tax increases and spending reductions and $95 billion of interest savings. This assumes a deficit-neutral Build Back Better agenda.
1. The Revenge of the Normal Republican
“Will Hurd thinks there are enough normal voters to deliver him the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But is he right?”
I think: probably not.
[Come] November, Republicans are likely—based on all the available evidence—to rout Democrats in the midterm elections. If that happens, the loudest and most radical elements of the Republican Party will be emboldened, and any incentive to moderate the party’s identity will seem lost.
Hurd acknowledges this. But if past is prologue, he says, Republicans will do little with their newly won power in 2023. Congressional leaders will struggle to corral their rambunctious majorities; the party will succeed in frustrating Joe Biden’s agenda but fail to provide any governing vision for the country; and by 2024 the country will be forced to choose between two dug-in, do-nothing parties.
“At that point,” Hurd says, “Maybe people will feel like it’s time to get off this crazy train.”
It’s possible, Hurd tells me, that such continuing dysfunction will push voters deeper and deeper into their partisan silos. His hope rests on a belief that they’ve been pushed too far—and that sooner or later, they’ll push back.
“Look, if you’re a left-wing nut or a right-wing nut, you’re probably not going to smell what I’m cooking,” he says. “But most people aren’t nuts. They want to solve problems. They want to make this century an American century. They are normal people who want normal leaders.”
2. Giving the GOP the Heimlich
Will Ohio send a Never Trump Republican to Congress? Jim Swift takes a look at GOP congressional candidate Phil Heimlich.
To give you a sense of what kind of Republican Heimlich is, he says, “I’m willing to follow Liz Cheney and Anthony Gonzalez, people like that who have stood up for what’s right. And who have stood up for our democracy.” He says that there “is a clear distinction so people can choose: Do they want Liz Cheney or do they want Marjorie Taylor Greene?”
Meme of the day.
Obligatory Ted Cruz joke.
Amazingly, this statement from TFG is not a parody: