Appeals Court Spanks Mark Meadows In A Way That Could Hurt Trump, Too
INSIDE: Rudy G ... Jack Smith ... Clarence Thomas
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
What’s Good For The Goose …
In rapid order, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Friday on whether Mark Meadows can remove the Georgia RICO case to federal court and then cranked out a ruling on Monday that handed Meadows a significant defeat.
The ruling against Meadows on removal all but eliminated the chances of any other defendant in the Georgia case to succeed in removing their prosecutions to federal court.
And on top of all that, it may have signaled trouble for Trump’s claims of immunity. More on that in a moment.
Adding to the weight of the 11th Circuit opinion, it was authored by Chief Judge William Pryor, a former GOP elected official and reliable conservative. The court ruled against Meadows’ removal gambit on two alternate grounds: The removal statute doesn’t apply to former federal officials and, more importantly, that even if it did, Meadows’ alleged participation in the RICO conspiracy was not part of his duties as Trump White House chief of staff.
The Supreme Court may yet hear this case, so it may not be the last word. But the 11th Circuit ruling was definitive and even if the Supreme Court takes issue with the ruling on the status of former federal officials, it still has the too-tenuous connection between Meadows’ official duties and the criminal conduct to fall back on.
But in finding that Meadows was engaging in conduct that fell outside his official duties, the appeals court by implication suggested Donald Trump was, too, and that has implications for the immunity claims Trump is pressing, as law professor Ryan Goodman notes.
In another sign of the federal courts rallying to defend the rule of law from Trump’s attacks, the Pryor opinion favorably cites U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta’s ruling on immunity for Trump in the civil context, specifically this line: [T]he Office of the President has no preference for who occupies it.”
Appeals Court Sets Oral Argument On Trump Immunity
Here’s the latest schedule of the appeals courts (BOLD is Supreme Court) considering Trump’s claim of absolute presidential immunity against criminal prosecution:
Dec. 20, 2023: Trump response due on whether SCOTUS should take the case
Dec. 23, 2023: Trump brief due
Dec. 30, 2023: Smith brief due
Jan. 2, 2024: Trump reply brief due
Jan. 9, 2024: Oral arguments
Rudy G Gonna Get Walloped Again
Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moore have sued Rudy Giuliani again, on the first business day since the $148 million damages award against him and in their favor. This time, they want the court to bar Giuliani permanently from repeating the same falsehoods for which they won the defamation judgment against him.
Trump filed a new motion to dismiss the Georgia RICO case against him because the charges intrude on his core First Amendment right to engage in political speech.
Trump asked the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the three-judge panel ruling that mostly upheld the gag order imposed on him in the Jan. 6 case.
A Little Gamesmanship
PUNCH: Like a schoolboy bringing an apple to the teacher, Special Counsel Jack Smith is meeting the deadlines set by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan even though everyone agrees that the case is on hold while Trump’s immunity claim works its way through appeals.
COUNTERPUNCH: Put off by Smith’s showboating, Trump’s legal team refused to accept Smith’s latest filing in the case.
More Reading On the Current Moment
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance:
Trump told the crowd: “We’re going to win four more years in the White House, then after that we’ll negotiate. Based on the way I was treated; we’re probably entitled to another four after that.” That’s not a joking matter. That’s the leading GOP candidate saying he intends to stay in office for longer than the Constitution allows.
Law professor Kate Shaw:
For a Supreme Court that holds itself out as hewing closely to text, history and tradition, immunity should present an easy case, and Mr. Trump should lose. … If the court nevertheless distorts precedent and principle to endorse some version of Mr. Trump’s logic — or if it facilitates a delay that has functionally the same result — it will have revealed the hollowness at the core of its professed method and expose itself as willing to act in the most craven ways to advance the electoral prospects of the leading Republican contender.
Bulwark editor Jonathan V. Last:
[T]he New York Times illustrates precisely how unprepared our liberal institutions are for dealing with the expressly illiberal threat of Trump 2024 … The Times has no idea how to handle this threat except to present two sides: One which warns about the danger and one which prevaricates and misdirects in an attempt to hide it.
TPM’s Josh Kovensky and Kate Riga: Inside The Russian Propaganda Mill Beaming Out Of A Florida Strip Mall
Judge Halts Removal Of Confederate Memorial
Groups who oppose the removal of a Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery obtained a temporary restraining order blocking the Army from continuing the work. But the federal judge who issued the order warned that he did so based on representations by the plaintiffs that the work was disturbing nearby graves and that he “takes very seriously the representations of officers of the Court and should the representations in this case be untrue or exaggerated the Court may take appropriate sanctions.”
Who Will Rid Me Of This Meddlesome Debt?
Saddled with debt, Justice Clarence Thomas was complaining loudly about his meager government paycheck and suggesting he might resign from the Supreme Court right around the time wealthy benefactors began to shower him with gifts, according to new reporting from ProPublica.
Justices Honor Sandra Day O’Connor
Pope Francis Allows Blessings Of Same-Sex Couples
The Pope stopped short of conferring the sacramental rite of marriage on same-sex couples, but the Vatican made clear that priests could bless same-sex couples without running afoul of church doctrine on marriage.
Perhaps you remember the Icelandic town of Grindavík being evacuated last month in anticipation of an imminent volcanic eruption in an area that until quite recently had been relatively calm, at least for Iceland.
As magma pushed toward the surface, Grindavík was rocked by a flurry of earthquakes that did extensive damage to infrastructure. But in recent weeks, the seismic activity abated somewhat, which given the pattern of Icelandic magmatic intrusions meant either that there would be no eruption or that this was the calm before the storm.
Yesterday, the calm broke as a new fissure unzipped with very little warning and lava spewed forth in the precise area scientists had thought most likely to be the focal point of an eruption, nearby but not in the town. Here’s a time lapse of the first 20 minutes of the new eruption:
Some of the lava fountains reached 300-feet high in the initial moments of the eruption, although later reports suggest a less vigorous flow as the fissure elongated:
One Of Those Kinds Of Days
In case you need a little inspiration, too:
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