Jack Smith Has An Insider Source At Mar-a-Lago?
INSIDE: Clarence Thomas ... E. Jean Carroll ... Kari Lake
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
I’m Excited. Are You Excited?
A whopping FIVE New York Times reporters have dumped their notebooks on the Mar-a-Lago investigation. The revelations fall into three buckets:
✅ a cooperating inside source
✅ video tampering suspicions
✅ Saudi LIV connection
Am I enjoying this too much? Probably a little.
Let’s take them in order:
Try To Keep The Witnesses Straight
Last night’s NYT story on the Mar-a-Lago investigation leads with: A person who has worked for Trump at his oceanside resort is cooperating with prosecutors.
This is a different witness than Walt Nauta, the former military valet for Trump who went with him to Mar-a-Lago post-presidency, whose cooperation has reportedly been, shall we say, spotty, the NYT reports:
But prosecutors appear to be trying to fill in some gaps in their knowledge about the movement of the boxes, created in part by their handling of another potentially key witness, Mr. Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta. Prosecutors believe Mr. Nauta has failed to provide them with a full and accurate account of his role in any movement of boxes containing the classified documents.
With me so far?
Tell Me More About The MAL Video Tampering Suspicions
The NYT story echoes some of CNN’s reporting from the day before about investigators’ suspicions that the surveillance video at MAL was tampered with (emphasis mine):
Prosecutors have also issued several subpoenas to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, seeking additional surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, his residence and private club in Florida, people with knowledge of the matter said. While the footage could shed light on the movement of the boxes, prosecutors have questioned a number of witnesses about gaps in the footage, one of the people said.
But hoping to understand why some of the footage from the storage camera appears to be missing or unavailable — and whether that was a technological issue or something else — the prosecutors subpoenaed the software company that handles all of the surveillance footage for the Trump Organization, including at Mar-a-Lago.
Like the CNN story Wednesday, the NYT connects prosecutors suspicions about the video to grand jury testimony yesterday by a father-son duo who works for Trump:
And they recently subpoenaed Matthew Calamari Sr., the longtime head of security at the Trump Organization who became its chief operating officer. His son, Matthew Calamari Jr., who is the company’s corporate director of security, was subpoenaed some time ago, according to a person familiar with the activity.
Both would have insight into the security camera operation, according to people familiar with the matter. Both Calamaris appeared before the grand jury gathering evidence in the case on Thursday. CNN first reported that prosecutors planned to question them.
Still with me?
I’m 100% Here For The Saudi Golf Connection
The emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour as a would-be competitor to the PGA has been fascinating to my sports-and-politics sotted brain, so I was delighted(!) to see a potential connection to the MAL probe:
One of the previously unreported subpoenas to the Trump Organization sought records pertaining to Mr. Trump’s dealings with a Saudi-backed professional golf venture known as LIV Golf, which is holding tournaments at some of Mr. Trump’s golf resorts.
It is unclear what bearing Mr. Trump’s relationship with LIV Golf has on the broader investigation, but it suggests that the prosecutors are examining certain elements of Mr. Trump’s family business.
It’s a lot, I know.
What To Make Of All This?
A couple of thoughts to keep in your head as you process the new MAL news this week:
Don’t rule out that part of the reason for stories like the NYT and CNN ones this week could be defense attorneys communicating to each other about the status of the investigation via press reports. This probably sounds more sinister to you than I intend it to be because it doesn’t make the reports false or the lawyers guilty of obstruction of justice. It may just color the way the info is presented and framed.
For what it’s worth, I am a little surprised to see the reports this week suggesting a flurry of activity recently in the MAL probe. I had been under the impression that the core of the investigatory work was complete and a charging decision might not be too far off. Maybe or maybe not.
Historic Seditious Conspiracy Verdict For Proud Boys
The conclusion of the four-month long Proud Boys trial with seditious conspiracy convictions for its leaders was the most historically resonant news of the day.
While the verdict was mixed, that didn’t blunt the significance of the outcome:
Remember it was the Proud Boys whom Trump directed to “Stand back and standby” during a 2020 presidential debate then unleashed them on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The big unknown coming out of the trial is whether the Proud Boys convictions pave the way for prosecutors to connect the Capitol attack to the White House or to Trump or to those in his inner circle. More on that to come.
Politico: “A former Trump campaign staffer who was subpoenaed by the Department of Justice as part of its investigation into the plot to overturn the 2020 election, is currently serving on the House committee overseeing U.S. elections.”
Supreme Court Scandal Watch
What Now, Clarence!?! The next shoe to drop has dropped, via the WaPo:
Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.
A Remarkable Statement. The Thomas camp issued the following statement in response to the separate ProPublica report that billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow paid the private school tuition of Thomas’ grandnephew. I’ll put it here in full as an historical artifact:
Ouch! The reaction to the latest Thomas news was blistering:
Durbin Totally Not Getting It
With no certain time for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s return to the Senate, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) is in the “hope and understanding” phase of denial:
Carroll Judge Trolls Trump
Standing on a golf course in Ireland Thursday, former President Trump suggested – against all evidence – he was going to leave early and head back to New York to “confront” the allegations being levied against him in the E. Jean Carroll trial, which he hasn’t attended and where he doesn’t plan to testify in his own defense.
The news of Trump’s remarks made it back to the trial judge, who ended the day by calling Trump’s bluff and giving him until Sunday at 5 p.m. ET to change his mind about testifying at trial.
The trial went slower this week than expected and will spill over into next week.
Trump Throws Hail Mary In Criminal Case
Donald Trump is trying to get the hush money case against him in New York state moved to federal court.
Kari Lake’s Lawyers Sanctioned
Republican Kari Lake’s lawyers were sanctioned $2,000 Thursday by the Arizona Supreme Court in their unsuccessful challenge of her defeat in the governor’s race last year to Democrat Katie Hobbs.
In an order, the state’s highest court said Lake’s attorney made “false factual statements” that more than 35,000 ballots had been improperly added to the total ballot count. They have 10 days to submit the payment to the court clerk.
Finding Humor In A Grim Moment
Of all the Trump barbarism to come out in the E. Jean Carroll trial, I don’t know why this froze me the most, but it did:
It took some effort to find any humor in this, bust MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin may have succeeded:
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Please give Dubin his full due: He refuses to drop the blue slip rule allowing red state senators to block a multitude of judicial appointees. He refuses to push Feinstein to retire so he can hide behind her absence to avoid issuing subpoenas to SCOTUS' justices. He refuses to lead a serious review of Court reform.
I don't know if he's incompetent or just frightened of GOP intimidation, but the Democrats long history of appointments to powerful commissions based on seniority must end.
Rock on, Morning Memo!