Posts tagged with "FBI"

Ex-prosecutor tells why new Trump indictment is ‘final nail in the coffin’

July 31, 2023

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance—who is an MSNBC legal analystspelled out on Thursday night, July 27, why the new defendant in the classified documents case is very bad news for the former president, reports HuffPost.

The former federal prosecutor says it could be the “final nail in the coffin” for former President Donald Trump if a new defendant charged in the Mar-a-Lago documents probe flips―an outcome that she believes is very likely.

Prosecutors this week charged a third person, Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira, in the federal case involving classified material Trump took from the White House to his Florida estate.

De Oliveira is accused of helping Trump aide Walt Nauta—the other person previously charged with Trump in the case—move boxes of classified documents stashed at Mar-a-Lago, and then lying to federal investigators about it. He also allegedly followed Trump’s orders to try and erase surveillance footage.

“This is a defendant who has almost no choice but to flip,” the former U.S. Attorney said in on MSNBC on Thursday. “He’s looking at spending a big chunk of time in prison if he goes forward.”

Pointing to De Oliveira’s interview with the FBI, Vance said De Oliveira “lies to them in a bald-faced manner,” so they “have him dead to center if he does not cooperate.”

Vance said De Oliveira’s cooperation would be key in helping prosecutors prove Trump’s criminal intent.

“If he does cooperate, he is putting Trump front and center in this scheme to obstruct,” she continued. “They have Trump wanting to figure out if the videos can be erased. And this is so important in showing that this was not an innocuous effort by the former president to hold on to trophies or souvenirs from his time in office; but that he, in fact, knew that what he was doing was wrong.”

“And so, if they can obtain De Oliveira’s cooperation, that’s probably the final nail in the coffin on this one.”

Trump now has been charged with three additional felonies in the probe, adding to the 37 he already faced, according to Thursday’s superceding indictment.

The new charges include additional counts of willful retention of documents and obstruction of justice—alleging that the three defendants schemed to “delete security camera footage at the Mar-a-Lago Club to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Driver arrested on multiple charges after crashing truck with Nazi flag into White House barriers

May 24, 2023

A 19-year-old Missouri man, accused of driving a truck into barriers near the White House on Monday, May 22, made incriminating statements that have led investigators to believe he was seeking to harm the president, NBC News reports.

The suspect—identified as Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield by U.S. Park Police on Tuesday morning—made threatening statements about the White House at the scene of Monday night’s incident, a law enforcement official told NBC News. A Nazi flag was seized by authorities at the scene.

The charges against Kandula for allegedly “threatening to kill, kidnap, inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member,” stem from statements he made to multiple law enforcement agencies, according to a Secret Service representative.

The suspect was interviewed by Secret Service investigators Monday night, the agency representative said, during the ongoing probe that also involves United States Park Police, the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police.

Kandula was further charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, and trespassing.

Authorities said the preliminary investigation indicates Kandula “intentionally crashed” into the bollards outside Lafayette Park.

No one was injured. The truck was found to contain no weapons or explosives, the official said, without providing further details about the incident.

Asked for their reaction, the official said: “I don’t think there’s any place for a Nazi flag or the statements that he made.”

The white U-Haul box truck crashed into the barriers on the north side of Lafayette Square, just a few hundred feet from the White House, just before 10 p.m. (ET).

President Joe Biden’s exact whereabouts at the time of the incident were unclear. He had met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday night at the White House to discuss the debt limit.

“There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel and the cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation,” Anthony Guglielmi, the Secret Service chief of communications, said in a statement Monday night.

Guglielmi said in a later statement posted to Twitter that the truck had been deemed safe by Washington, D.C., police and that “preliminary investigation reveals the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers.” Park Police would file charges with investigative support from the Secret Service, Guglielmi said.

The Reuters news agency published an image showing a Nazi-style red flag emblazoned with a swastika laid on the ground beside the van. Reuters, citing its own photographer on the scene and a witness, reported that this and other pieces of evidence apparently taken from the truck had been placed on the sidewalk and were then seized by officers.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s home and turned over to DOJ

January 25, 2023

Classified documents have been found in the home of former Vice President Mike Pence and turned over to the FBI for review, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

A lawyer for Pence conducted the search of Pence’s home in Indiana last week and found around a dozen documents marked as classified, sources said. The search was done proactively and in the wake of the news that classified documents from before he was president were found in President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and in his old office at the Penn Biden Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Pence documents are undergoing a review by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the FBI, sources said.

Pence previously told ABC News’ David Muir that he did not retain any classified information after leaving office.

“Let me ask you, as we sit here in your home office in Indiana, did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?” Muir asked in a November 2022 interview.

“I did not,” Pence said then. Asked if he saw “any reason for anyone to take classified documents with them, leaving the White House,” he said, “There’d be no reason to have classified documents, particularly if they were in an unprotected area.”

CNN first reported the discovery of classified materials.

Research contact: @abcnews

Intruder violently assaults Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home

October 31, 2022

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was hospitalized after he was assaulted by someone who broke into the couple’s residence in San Francisco early on Friday morning, October 28, according to a report by The New York Times.

“Early this morning, an assailant broke into the Pelosi residence in San Francisco and violently assaulted Mr. Pelosi,” Drew Hammill, Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson, said in a statement on Friday.  “The assailant is in custody and the motivation for the attack is under investigation.”

Hammill said that Paul Pelosi, 82, was expected to make a full recovery. Ms. Pelosi was in Washington, D.C., with her protective detail at the time of the break-in, the Capitol Police said in a statement, which said the San Francisco Police Department had a suspect in custody.

The Pelosis have owned a three-floor red brick townhouse in San Francisco’s exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood since 1987. In January 2021, after Congress passed a stimulus bill, their home was vandalized with graffiti, and a pig’s head was left on the sidewalk. The vandalism occurred before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In the months since that attack, members of Congress from both parties have experienced a surge in threats and confrontations, including stalking, armed visits to their homes, and assaults. The motive for the attack on Paul Pelosi was not clear on Friday morning, and there was no immediate indication that the attack was politically motivated.

The Capitol Police said special agents from its field office in California “quickly arrived on scene.” Investigators from the Capitol Police’s threat assessment section on the East Coast were dispatched to assist the F.B.I. and the San Francisco police with an investigation into the break-in, the Capitol Police said.

The San Francisco Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Legal experts say Trump admitted guilt at Arizona rally

October 11, 2022

While speaking at a rally in Mesa, Arizona, on Sunday night, October 9, former President Donald Trump effectively admitted to his own criminal behavior when he stole government documents, reports Raw Story.

“I had a small number of boxes in storage,” Trump told the audience. “There is no crime. They should give me immediately back everything they have taken from me because it’s mine.”

In fact, it is a crime, which is why the Justice Department, the FBI, a federal judge and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals have gotten involved in the issue.

Watching the video of Trump, legal experts noted that Trump’s comments are an admission of guilt that will likely be used in trial.

“This is what we call a summation exhibit,” said former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, who also served as a prosecutor under special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. “Proof from the defendant’s own mouth. And on video.”

“There is more than ample evidence to indict Trump for crimes listed in the FBI search warrant,” explained former special counsel Ryan Goodman. “The question will come down to aggravating factors for Garland DOJ to consider. Outrageous, open defiance of the law—like this—must surely rank high among those factors.”

Teri Kanefield, a former appellate defender, noted in Trump’s comment that he’d been saying over and over that the documents were his. But from his own lawyers replying to the Special Master, the ex-president said: “There is no question and, indeed there is broad agreement, that the matters before this Court center around the possession, by a President, of his own Presidential records.”

Research contact: @RawStory

Justice Department’s scathing response: Trump brought this on himself; he had it coming

Sepember 1, 2022

The Department of Justice revealed on Tuesday night, August 30, that it only started criminally investigating former President Donald Trump after he lied about keeping “top secret” documents at his oceanside Florida mansion—including three highly classified records inside his personal desk—and had some presidential papers moved around and torn up, reports The Daily Beast.

Had Trump simply turned the documents over to the National Archives when the agency asked for them back last year, the FBI might never have gotten access to them, the DOJ explained.

The DOJ came out swinging against Trump in a scathing court filing to block him from getting his stuff back from the Mar-a-Lago search by stating flatly that “those records do not belong to him.”

In the 36-page document, the DOJ argued that Trump lacks any ability to even ask for a federal judge to step in and oversee the seizure of sensitive documents that were kept unsecured at Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Florida.

The DOJ also revealed why Trump is being investigated for violating a federal law that prohibits destroying government records, cited as 18 U.S. Code § 2071.

Federal prosecutors claim that recovered documents showed that “certain pages of presidential records had been torn up,” a crime that pivotally bars anyone from ever again holding a political office in the United States.

Federal prosecutors disclosed that Trump was under investigation for yet another crime, obstruction of justice, cited as 18 U.S.C. § 1519, because the feds “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the [Mar-a-Lago] storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

For example, FBI special agents who conducted the search three weeks ago claim they found three classified documents in desks at the so-called “45 Office” in another section of the mansion—alongside two of his expired passports—despite the fact that Trump and his lawyers had sworn they wouldn’t be there.

Trump, represented by a team of defense attorneys who have been criticized for their ineptitude, according to The Daily Beast, waited a whopping two weeks after the FBI raid at his Palm Beach estate to sue and ask for a judge to appoint a “special master” to oversee federal agents’ handling of the records they seized.

On Tuesday night, the DOJ responded by arguing that the Presidential Records Act of 1978 “makes clear” that the government “has complete ownership, possession, and control” of those documents and the former president can’t just ask for them back—or dictate how they should be handled.

Trump currently is under investigation by the FBI for putting the nation’s security at risk by mishandling “top secret” government records. For more than a year, his office had been in negotiations with the National Archives over the way he took more than a dozen boxes of presidential records from the White House to his private estate—instead of turning them over to the nation’s archivists for proper preservation.

In recent days, the looming threat of an unprecedented prosecution of a former president has prompted his allies—even prominent Republicans, among them, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—to threaten nationwide violence and even civil war.

Trump sued the federal government in South Florida federal court, and U.S. District Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon asked the DOJ to respond, hence Tuesday’s filing.

The scathing arguments laid out in the court filing—signed by top Miami federal prosecutor Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Jay I. Bratt, chief of the DOJ National Security Division’s counterintelligence and export control section—take the most aggressive tone by the DOJ yet against the former president. From the get-go, it counters the disinformation and politicizing that Trump has engaged in through public statements on social media that also bled into his lawsuit, with the DOJ saying that it would provide “a detailed recitation of the relevant facts, many of which are provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate narrative.”

For example, Trump and his lieutenants—including  former White House aide Kash Patel—have argued that he had already declassified mountains of records, thus eliminating any accusation that such records were sensitive or improperly handled. On Tuesday, the DOJ revealed that Trump’s lawyers never even mentioned that any of the documents in the 15 boxes Trump turned over to the National Archives in January 2022 were declassified.

The DOJ also acknowledged that it has indeed had a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia investigate the former president, noting that there authorized federal prosecutors on Monday to disclose it following Trump’s statements about having received subpoenas for video footage at Mar-a-Lago.

Federal prosecutors also shed more light on what they say happened on June 3, when Bratt himself traveled south to Mar-a-Lago to figure out what exactly was going on. According to the DOJ’s court filing, Trump’s lawyers assured the feds that no classified documents remained at the mansion, which doubles as a luxurious club with international clientele that at times has included unscrupulous types suspected of spying for foreign governments.

But when the feds tried verifying whether that was true, they were rebuffed, according to the DOJ. At one point, an attorney for Trump “explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”

Adding to the federal agents’ suspicions, Trump’s team handed over a single, sealed Redweld envelope, according to the DOJ. Inside, FBI agents found 38 documents that included five marked “confidential,” 16 marked “secret,” and 17 marked “top secret.”

“Counsel for the former president offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records, including 38 documents with classification markings, remained at the premises nearly five months after the production of the fifteen boxes and nearly one-and-a-half years after the end of the [Trump] administration,” the DOJ wrote on Tuesday.

However, despite the supposed assurances Trump’s team made that all classified material had been turned over that day, the FBI earlier this month found more than 100 others were still at Mar-a-Lago.

Research contact: @The_DailyBeast

Trump’s legal team scrambles to find an argument

August 30, 2022

On May 25, one of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a letter to a top Justice Department official, laying out the argument that his client had done nothing illegal by holding onto a trove of government materials when he left the White House, reports The New York Times.

The letter, from M. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, represented Trump’s initial defense against the investigation into the presence of highly classified documents in unsecured locations at his members-only club and residence, Mar-a-Lago.

According to the Times, “It amounted to a three-page hodgepodge of contested legal theories, including … Corcoran’s assertion that Trump possessed a nearly boundless right as president to declassify materials and an argument that one law governing the handling of classified documents does not apply to a president.”

Corcoran asked the Justice Department to present the letter as “exculpatory” information to the grand jury investigating the case.

Government lawyers found it deeply puzzling. They included it in the affidavit submitted to a federal magistrate in Florida in their request for the search warrant they later used to recover even more classified materials at Mar-a-Lago—to demonstrate their willingness to acknowledge Corcoran’s arguments, a person with knowledge of the decision said.

As the partial release of the search warrant affidavit on May 26—including the May 25 letter—illustrated, Trump is going into the battle over the documents with a hastily assembled team. The lawyers have offered up a variety of arguments on his behalf that have yet to do much to fend off a Justice Department that has adopted a determined, focused, and, so far, largely successful legal approach.

“He needs a quarterback who’s a real lawyer,” said David I. Schoen, a lawyer who defended Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial.  Schoen called it “an honor” to represent Trump, but said it was problematic to keep lawyers “rotating in and out.”

Often tinged with Trump’s own bombast and sometimes conflating his powers as president with his role as a private citizen, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.

“There seems to be a huge disconnect between what’s actually happening—a real live court case surrounding a real live investigation—and what they’re actually doing, which is treating it like they’ve treated everything else, recklessly and thoughtlessly,” Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and FBI official, told the Times regarding Trump’s approach. “And for an average defendant on an average case, that would be a disaster.”

Trump’s team has had a few small procedural wins. On Saturday, a federal judge in Florida signaled that she was inclined to support Trump’s request for a special master to review the material seized by the government in the search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8.

It is not clear how much the appointment of a special master would slow or complicate the government’s review of the material. Trump’s team has suggested that it would be a first step toward challenging the validity of the search warrant; but it also gives the Justice Department, which is expected to respond this week, an opportunity to air new details in public through their legal filings.

Some of the Trump lawyers’ efforts have also appeared ineffective or misdirected. Corcoran, in his May 25 letter, made much of Trump’s powers to declassify material as president, and cited a specific law on the handling of classified material that he said did not apply to a president. The search warrant, however, said federal agents would be seeking evidence of three potential crimes, none of which relied on the classification status of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago; the law on the handling of classified material cited by Corcoran in the letter was not among them.

According to the Times, two lawyers who are working with Trump on the documents case—Corcoran and Jim Trusty—have prosecutorial experience with the federal government. But the team was put together quickly.

Trusty was hired after Trump saw him on television, people close to the former president have said. Corcoran came in during the spring, introduced by another Trump adviser during a conference call in which Corcoran made clear he was willing to take on a case that many of Trump’s other advisers were seeking to avoid, people briefed on the discussion said.

Trump’s allies have reached out to several other lawyers, but have repeatedly been turned down.

Corcoran, in particular, has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials during the documents investigation. People briefed on the investigation say officials are uncertain whether Corcoran was intentionally evasive, or simply unaware of all the material still kept at Mar-a-Lago and found during the August 8 search by the FBI.

Corcoran did not respond to a request for comment. Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, said only that Trump and his legal team “continue to assert his rights and expose the Biden administration’s misuse of the Presidential Records Act, which governs all pertinent facts, has been complied with and has no enforcement mechanism.”

Even before Corcoran joined the team, Trump’s legal filings in various cases read like campaign rally speeches that he had dictated to his lawyers. The former president has a history of approaching legal proceedings as if they are political conflicts, in which his best defense is the 74 million people who voted for him in the 2020 election.

Trump’s advisers continue to insist that he was cooperating before the search in returning the documents. They also have suggested that they were quick to respond to Justice Department concerns, citing what they described as a request in June that a stronger lock be placed on the door leading to the storage area where several boxes of presidential records had been kept.

Yet the unsealed affidavit showed a portion of a letter from a Justice Department lawyer sent to Trump’s lawyers that did not specify anything about a lock and read less like a request than a warning.

The classified documents taken from the White House “have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location,” the letter read. “Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.”

During the August 8 search, the FBI found additional documents in that area and also on the floor of a closet in Trump’s office, people briefed on the matter said.

Trump and a small circle within his group of current advisers maintain that he was entitled to keep documents he took from the White House, or that he had already declassified them, or that they were packed up and moved by the General Services Administration — an assertion flatly denied by that federal agency.

Trump, people familiar with his thinking say, sees the attorney general, Merrick Garland, not as the federal government’s chief law enforcement officer, but merely as a political foe and someone with whom he can haggle with about how much anger exists over the situation.

Shortly before Garland announced that he was seeking to unseal the search warrant, an intermediary for Trump reached out to a Justice Department official to pass along a message that the former president wanted to negotiate, as if he were still a New York developer.

The message Trump wanted conveyed, according to a person familiar with the exchange, was: “The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?”

A Justice Department spokesman would not say if the message ever made it up to Garland; but the senior leadership was befuddled by the message and had no idea what Trump was trying to accomplish, according to an official.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘Lawyers are giggling’: Attorneys scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ DOJ lawsuit

Augusst 24, 2022

On Monday, August 22, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit demanding the return of documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago—arguing that the feds did not have sufficient reason for the raid, even though they found 300 classified documents at Trump’s home, according to The New York Times.

Indeed, Salon reports, the FBI recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in three batches over the last eight months, according to the report. Trump only turned over 150 of the documents to the National Archives in January, prompting the Justice Department to investigate whether he withheld some materials.

boxes included documents from the CIA, National Security Agency, and FBI across a “variety of topics of national security interest,” according to the report.

Trump rifled through the boxes of documents late last year as officials were attempting to recover them, sources told the outlet. Surveillance footage obtained by the DOJ also showed people “moving boxes … and in some cases, appearing to change the containers some documents were held in,” according to the report. Trump resisted demands to return the documents, describing them as “mine,” sources told the Times.

Earlier this year, Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed a declaration that all classified material had been returned, which ultimately led to the FBI’s unprecedented raid on Trump’s residence to recover documents that he withheld after the first three recovery attempts.

Andrew Weissmann, a former federal prosecutor who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, called the report “incredibly damning” for Trump, noting that the report suggests the former president personally reviewed the documents to decide what to return.

“If you are a prosecutor, you really look for evidence of what the former president did personally,” he told MSNBC. “If the DOJ either knows about or is soon to interview those people who were sources for The New York Times, they’re going to have a substantial criminal case.”

Despite the mounting evidence that Trump’s actions may have run afoul of federal laws governing classified materials and document preservation, Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing that the feds have “failed to legitimize its historic decision” to raid his home.

The lawsuit called for a court to appoint a special master, a third party who is typically a former judge, to review whether some materials may be protected by attorney-client privilege or other guidelines. The lawsuit seeks the return of documents the FBI seized in the raid.

“This Mar-a-Lago Break-In, Search, and Seizure was illegal and unconstitutional, and we are taking all actions necessary to get the documents back, which we would have given to them without the necessity of the despicable raid of my home, so that I can give them to the National Archives until they are required for the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.

The lawsuit argues that the raid was politically motivated, claiming that Trump is the “clear frontrunner” in the 2024 election “should he decide to run.”

The lawsuit accuses the feds of violating Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and asks that the court block “further review of seized material” until they are reviewed by a special master.

The DOJ said it would file a response in court.

“The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told CNBC.

Research contact: @Salon

DOJ issues warning amid spike in threats against school boards, principals, and teachers

October 6, 2021

U.S. Attorney-General Merrick Garland announced a crackdown on Monday, October 4, on threats against schools and teachers after a surge in verbal attacks by parents opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, and education on race bias, The Straits Times reports.

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against teachers, school administrators and other staff, Garland said in a memo to the Justice Department and FBI.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal; they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said.

“The department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” he said.

Garland did not mention what was driving the spike, and said he respected “spirited debate”.

But the memo came after dozens of incidents across the country in which irate parents—who object to mandates for student masking, vaccine requirements, and teaching children about structural racism in society—have been seen threatening school boards, teachers and school principals.

Last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) called on President Joe Biden to intervene after a surge in threats, many of them seen on viral videos taken at community meetings.

“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” said NSBA President Viola Garcia and CEO Chip Slaven in a letter to the president.

“The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” they said.

They detailed numerous violent threats and physical attacks, by parents angered by COVID-19 policies and opposed to what they wrongly believe is primary and secondary schools teaching “critical race theory,” an approach to social justice studies mostly taught at the university level.

“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” they said.

A similar statement was issued by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) on September 22.

Research contact: @thestraitstimes