Appeals court orders end to special master review process in Trump documents case

CBS News

Appeals court orders end to special master review process in Trump documents case

Robert Legare – December 1, 2022

Washington – A three-judge federal appeals court panel in Atlanta ruled that the special master review process that oversaw the Justice Department’s use of non-classified evidence collected earlier this year at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence must end.

The unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed the decision of Judge Aileen Cannon, a federal judge from Florida who granted Trump’s request for the review and appointed semi-retired federal Judge Raymond Dearie of New York as an independent arbiter, or special master, to sift through the documents for any that may be subject to claims of privilege by the former president.

That decision also barred investigators from using the roughly 13,000 documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort, during the execution of a search warrant on Aug. 8 for investigative purposes. A separate appeals court decision from September permitted the Justice Department to use more than 100 documents with classified markings it seized for its investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of sensitive documents, and Thursday’s subsequent decision grants the government full access to the evidentiary record.

Trump can now ask the full 11th Circuit to rehear the case or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said the former president called the panel’s decision “procedural and based only on jurisdiction.”

“The decision does not address the merits that clearly demonstrate the impropriety of the unprecedented, illegal, and unwarranted raid on Mar-a-Lago,” Cheung’s statement said.

But in fact, the 11th Circuit’s opinion made clear that the execution of the search warrant — the “raid” — was legal.

The Justice Department “presented an FBI agent’s sworn affidavit to a Florida magistrate judge, who agreed that probable cause existed to believe that evidence of criminal violations would likely be found at Mar-a-Lago,” the opinion stated.

“President Donald J. Trump will continue to fight against the weaponized Department of ‘Justice,’ while standing for America and Americans,”  Cheung added.

Trump and his allies have frequently accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of weaponizing the Justice Department against Republicans, although no court has found any evidence of that.

Former President Donald Trump applauds while speaking at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Nov. 15, 2022.  / Credit: ALON SKUY/AFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump applauds while speaking at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Nov. 15, 2022. / Credit: ALON SKUY/AFP via Getty Images

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” Chief Judge William Pryor and Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher said in their 23-page opinion. “Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”

Pryor was appointed to the 11th Circuit by former President George W. Bush, while Grant and Brasher were named by Trump.

The opinion from the 11th Circuit wipes away Cannon’s order appointing the special master and sends the case back to the lower court with instructions for it to be dismissed.

“This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation,” the judges wrote. “The answer is no.”

Trump first asked Cannon to appoint a special master to review the seized documents in late August, two weeks after the FBI conducted the search of his office and storage room at Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors say they are conducting a national security investigation into those and other sensitive documents retrieved from the Florida resort after Trump left office, and possible obstruction of that probe.

When issuing her original order appointing the special master, Cannon wrote that Trump faced an “unequitable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public,” but criminal investigators rarely — if ever — release seized evidence to the public unless criminal charges are filed. The Justice Department has repeatedly argued the entire process was premature and unnecessary.

The former president’s legal team has said Cannon’s order appointing a special master was not appealable and claimed that Trump deemed the records he brought to Mar-a-Lago as “personal” while he was still in office, a designation allowed under the Presidential Records Act (PRA).

“It is simply untenable to conclude any president may be subject to a criminal charge for exercising the unfettered rights set forth in the PRA to categorize certain documents as ‘personal’ during that president’s term of office,” they told the 11th Circuit in filings.

But the 11th Circuit noted that even if Trump did designate the document as “personal,” search warrants authorize the seizure of such records.

“As we have said, the status of a document as personal or presidential does not alter the authority of the government to seize it under a warrant supported by probable cause,” the judges wrote.

Claims of attorney-client privilege have mostly been resolved by the two parties, but Trump argued some of the seized records belong to him in a personal capacity as the former president. His legal team has said the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago must be considered “presumptively privileged” by the courts and shielded from the criminal investigation until the independent review concludes.

Throughout the appeal, prosecutors remained opposed to Trump’s reading of the law, writing in part that he cannot assert executive privilege to preclude review of executive branch documents by the executive branch itself.  The Justice Department also argued that Cannon overstepped when she issued her September injunction barring the FBI from using the seized material for investigative purposes.

A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in the dispute last week, during which they appeared open to the Justice Department’s position that Cannon wrongly appointed the special master to review the seized documents and erred when she issued her injunction.

Thursday’s ruling comes after Attorney General Merrick Garland last month appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s handling of government records, as well as the department’s probe into his efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Florida federal Judge Aileen Cannon ‘slammed’ by appeals court in Trump case

Miami Herald

Florida federal Judge Aileen Cannon ‘slammed’ by appeals court in Trump case

Jay Weaver – December 2, 2022

Three months ago, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon made the controversial call to appoint an independent expert to examine documents — including classified government materials — seized by FBI agents from former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach residence.

She did so despite expressing initial doubts in her own ruling about intervening in the politically charged case.

In a scathing ruling issued Thursday night, a federal appellate court in Atlanta found she should have heeded her first legal concerns. A three-judge panel, all Republican-appointees like Cannon, reversed her decision to name a “special master” because she had no authority to do so and effectively killed the case as legal experts consider a potential appeal unlikely to succeed.

The ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, several South Florida and other legal experts said, left little room for argument.

“The key point is that Judge Cannon had no jurisdiction to do anything here,” said Mark Schnapp, a former federal prosecutor and longtime Miami criminal defense attorney. “She tried to assert equitable jurisdiction [to appoint the special master], but her own opinion showed why her analysis was defective.

“Her opinion got ripped to shreds by the Eleventh Circuit Court,” he said.

Read More: Trump wanted a special master. So did a businessman. The judge treated them differently

In her Sept. 5 order, Cannon noted that she agreed with Justice Department lawyers that FBI agents carrying a search warrant for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate had not shown a “callous disregard for [his] constitutional rights,” concluding that “this factor cuts against the exercise of equitable jurisdiction.”

But rather than follow her own analysis, Cannon extended Trump protections not provided to ordinary citizens by appointing a special master to review the FBI’s evidence, citing the “unprecedented circumstances” of the U.S. government raiding a former president’s home.

Cannon, who was nominated by Trump and joined the federal bench in South Florida at the end of his term in 2020, assumed jurisdiction in the Justice Department’s investigation of his alleged mishandling of classified documents and possible national security violations. She appointed a New York special master to view about 100 classified records and thousands of other personal and presidential records taken from Trump’s home on Aug. 8 to determine if any contained privileged correspondence with lawyers. Cannon refused to let a Justice Department “filter team” of agents and prosecutors do the job.

Her decision, in response to a civil lawsuit seeking to have certain privileged documents returned to Trump, slowed down the FBI’s criminal probe of the former president. The Justice Department appealed her ruling and has now scored a major legal victory, allowing its investigation of the classified documents case to move forward at full throttle.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Earlier in the day Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate and aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Earlier in the day Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate and aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.

The impact is immediate: Cannon’s decision will not only be thrown out based on her lack of jurisdiction but the special master’s still-unfinished review will be shut down, bringing Trump’s lawsuit to dead end.

While the former president’s lawyers are expected to pursue a counter appeal experts say it will likely fall on deaf ears given the blunt appellate decision: “This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation. The answer is no.”

Legal experts in South Florida agreed, saying Cannon should have rejected Trump’s lawsuit seeking to thwart the Justice Department’s investigation after the FBI obtained a search warrant from a magistrate judge who found probable cause of a crime over his storing of classified and other presidential documents at the Mar-a-Lago club and residence after he left the White House in January 2021.

“The bottom line is, he didn’t have presidential privilege anymore because he was no longer president,” said retired career federal prosecutor Dick Gregorie. “She had no business sticking her nose in it, and they slammed her for it.”

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, echoed that view, saying the Atlanta appellate judges “ripped her [decision] apart” during oral arguments and so the outcome “was not surprising.”

Tobias said that Cannon never “justified” her decision to invoke jurisdiction in Trump’s case, saying her conclusion to appoint a special master was “wrong.” But he added: “I don’t think she’s acting in bad faith. She’s a junior judge acting in isolation” in Fort Pierce.” That’s where Cannon was assigned when she joined the federal bench in the Southern District of Florida.

The appellate panel’s ruling came from three Republican-appointed judges, including two by Trump. It also marks the second time that the Atlanta court has dealt a major blow to Cannon in her handling of the high-profile case. After her initial decision to appoint the special master, the appellate court ruled that the outside expert, New York U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, could not review the classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, and that they should be returned immediately to U.S. investigators.

In a 21-page ruling issued late Thursday, the judges — Chief Judge William H. Pryor, Britt Grant and Andrew L. Brasher — described the Trump legal team’s arguments as a “sideshow,” highlighting that his lawyers never made the fundamental point that FBI agents showed a “callous disregard” for the former president’s constitutional rights. The appellate panel found that the “callous disregard standard has not been met here, and no one argues otherwise” — including the presiding judge, Cannon.

“There is no record evidence that the government exceeded the scope of the warrant — which, it bears repeating, was authorized by a [West Palm Beach] magistrate judge’s finding of probable cause [of a crime],” the panel wrote. “And yet again, [Trump’s] argument would apply universally; presumably any subject of a search warrant would like all of his property back before the government has a chance to use it.”

The panel said that the proper time for Trump or any other suspect in a criminal investigation to challenge the government’s seizure of property would be after an indictment has been returned by a grand jury. The grand jury in Washington, D.C., is currently reviewing evidence and hearing witness testimony in the Mar-a-Lago documents probe, according to published reports. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed a special prosecutor, Jack Smith, to oversee the investigation., which followed Trump’s announcement that he is running for president in 2024.

The Atlanta appellate judges noted that it is “indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation.”

Citing a legal test on jurisdiction that has been in place for nearly 50 years, the three-judge panel wrote that “its limits apply no matter who the government is investigating.”

“The law is clear,” the panel concluded. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of a warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.“

Lauren Boebert won. But did Democrats miss a chance to flip her Colorado district?

USA Today

Lauren Boebert won. But did Democrats miss a chance to flip her Colorado district?

Erin Mansfield and Rachel Looker, USA TODAY – December 1, 2022

When former currency trader Adam Frisch from western Colorado looked at far-right Republicans who won seats to Congress in 2020, he found something surprising: While many of them won their seats by 20 or more percentage points, his own, Rep. Lauren Boebert, failed to get the same numbers.

She won 51%-45% over her Democratic challenger and lost her home county by nearly 1,800 votes. It gave Frisch an idea: If a moderate Democrat like him could get through a primary, they might be able to beat Boebert in the general election.

He was almost right.

Frisch lost to Boebert by about 500 votes in a down-to-the-wire race last month in the midterm election. But he did so as a largely self-funded candidate, who ran a campaign without any financial help from national Democrats and struggled to get national pollsters and pundits to take him seriously during the bulk of the campaign.

In an election where far-right candidates faltered and Democrats fared far better than expectations, did Democrats miss an opportunity to unseat one of their most outspoken critics?

“I said, ‘Listen, this could be the emotional win for the country and the party if you actually put some investment in here,’” said Frisch recalling his pitch to national Democratic campaign leaders for money after winning the June primary.

Democrat Adam Frisch, a candidate for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, makes an appearance on the campus of the University of Colorado-Pueblo, Sept. 28, 2022, in Pueblo, Colo.
Democrat Adam Frisch, a candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, makes an appearance on the campus of the University of Colorado-Pueblo, Sept. 28, 2022, in Pueblo, Colo.

There’s no expert consensus over whether money from national Democrats would have helped Frisch get over the finish line, or whether national support would have created more ammo for the Boebert campaign to tie the moderate Democrat to figures like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Even Frisch is cautious to say whether more money would have helped his campaign or made him look too much like a national Democrat, or created a kind of arms race between the two parties.

What is known is Boebert, known for her disparaging comments against Muslim colleagues and opposition to LGBT rights, heads into a second two-year term in the House with a Republican majority. The chamber’s possible next speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pledged to give far-right members committee seats, offering the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a louder microphone.

Frisch said he kept reaching out to national Democrats as the race got closer, and didn’t get a substantive response. Chris Taylor, spokesperson for the Democratic party’s congressional campaign arm, said his group “engaged with Team Frisch multiple occasions throughout this election cycle” but did not address any of Frisch’s detailed accounts of his outreach.

Frisch nets a primary win, then seeks support from Democrats
Adam Frisch, a Democratic candidate in Colorado's 3rd Congressional district, arrives at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.
Adam Frisch, a Democratic candidate in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional district, arrives at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

Frisch is a moderate Democrat who campaigned on issues like fighting inflation and maintaining energy production in his home state. He said it was hard to win the Democratic primary as a moderate, but after he won in June, he began pitching to national Democrats.

Frisch said he was in Washington, D.C. in July when he first made an appeal to the House Democrats’ campaign arm, also known as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC. He said his campaign’s polling showed him down by 7 percentage points to Boebert, but campaign staff thought Frisch should have been down by 12 percentage points because of the makeup of the largely rural district and Boebert’s incumbency.

Despite some encouraging words, the DCCC did not agree to provide financial help, and Frisch was outgunned. Boebert raised $6.7 million to Frisch’s $5.2 million, and $2.2 million of Frisch’s money came from his own pocket. Boebert also got a $413,000 ad boost from the campaign arm of the House Freedom Caucus, but no similar PACs bought their own ads for Frisch.

More: Far-right candidates struggled in midterm election. Who’s to blame? Experts say Trump, GOP

Around the time of the DCCC conversation, pundits and pollsters projected Democrats would lose the House by a wide margin. Frisch said he understood party leaders might prefer to put money into closer districts, as opposed to his district, which the Cook Political Report says the average national Republican could win by about seven percentage points.

“The mindset was, ‘We have other easier races that we can focus on by a longshot,’” Frisch said. “I appreciate numbers are important, but what about the emotional win?”

As internal polling showed him getting closer to Boebert, Frisch said he kept reaching out but “never received a response of substance” in the lead-up to Election Day. His campaign did receive legal help from the DCCC after polls closed and it became more likely there would be a recount of the close race.  

Frisch said he would have spent any additional money on media buys in the vast western Colorado district that encompasses about half the state.

‘Hard to say’ if more money to Frisch could have flipped district
Adam Frisch of Aspen, Colo., center, the Democrat who opposed Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, walks with his son Felix Frisch, left, and wife Katy Frisch, right, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 18.
Adam Frisch of Aspen, Colo., center, the Democrat who opposed Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, walks with his son Felix Frisch, left, and wife Katy Frisch, right, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 18.

Experts told USA TODAY more support for Frisch wouldn’t necessarily equate to a win for the Democrat over Boebert in the Republican-leaning district.

“It’s hard to say that one strategic decision would have made a difference in that complex environment, but it could have,” said Kyle Saunders, political science professor at Colorado State University.

Saunders said the DCCC and other organizations that contribute to campaigns have limited resources and must “behave strategically” when deciding which candidates to support during an election season.

‘Not a repudiation’: Joe Biden holds off red wave, gets unexpected boost from midterm election

Almost half of the voters in the district, or 45%, are registered as unaffiliated voters. Another 31% are registered Republicans and 24% are registered Democrats. Saunders said most of these unaffiliated voters are not independents and estimates 70% are likely to lean toward one party or another.

“They’re just as partisan as the people who say they are a Republican or Democrat,” he said.

David Wasserman, House editor for Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election analysis newsletter, rated the race as solid Republican but said pundits like him and Democrats clearly underestimated Boebert’s vulnerability. Still, he cautioned against assuming help from national Democrats would have put Frisch over the finish line.

“Had national Democrats invested more in this race, it might not have helped Frisch because, No. 1, Frisch was well funded on his own, and No. 2, attempting to nationalize this race might’ve played into Boebert’s argument that D.C. liberals and Nancy Pelosi are out to get her,” Wasserman said.

He pointed to how Democrat Marie Perez beat Republican Trump acolyte Joe Kent for a seat in Washington without any help from national Democrats.

“It may have been beneficial to Frisch to come across as a homegrown campaign,” Wasserman said.

What does this mean for 2024?
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who was in an unexpected tight race with Democratic challenger Adam Frisch, arrives to meet with fellow Republicans behind closed doors as Republicans hold its leadership candidate forum at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who was in an unexpected tight race with Democratic challenger Adam Frisch, arrives to meet with fellow Republicans behind closed doors as Republicans hold its leadership candidate forum at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022.

Headed into 2024, Boebert will be a twice-elected incumbent serving in a House led by Republicans, and Frisch will be better known in Democratic circles for having almost unseated her.

Incumbents have high name recognition in their districts and need to spend less to get their message out. Incumbents running for Congress raised more than twice as much as their challengers, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks money in politics.

Wasserman said Frisch could double how much he raises if he runs in 2024 because of his increased name recognition. However, he cautioned that won’t necessarily propel him to victory.

More: Democratic support for Biden in 2024 surges after midterms as Trump takes a hit, USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds

“The problem, if Trump is back on the ballot, the district’s electorate is likely to become more favorable to Republicans, judging by the low turnout on the Republican side this time,” said Wasserman, referring to former President Donald Trump.

Taylor, from the DCCC, said Colorado voters this year stood up to “extremism, hate and division” and showed that they were not welcome in their state.

“While we narrowly came up short this time, voters will have their say again in two years,” he said.

Frisch did not address whether he would run in 2024, but said he is working to understand what went wrong in his 2022 campaign.

“When losers lose, they blame other people,” Frisch said. “When winners lose, they try to figure out where they could’ve done better, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

McCarthy Warns Jan. 6 Committee Republicans Will Investigate Its Work

The New York Times

McCarthy Warns Jan. 6 Committee Republicans Will Investigate Its Work

Luke Broadwater – December 1, 2022

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Venetian Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, on Nov. 19, 2022. (Mikayla Whitmore/The New York Times)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Venetian Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, on Nov. 19, 2022. (Mikayla Whitmore/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is attempting to become the next House speaker, on Wednesday warned the special committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that members of his party planned to launch an inquiry of their own into the panel’s work next year when Republicans assume control of the chamber.

In a letter sent to the committee’s chair, McCarthy instructed the panel to preserve its records — an action already required under House rules — including any recorded transcripts of its more than 1,000 interviews. The missive was the first official indication that newly empowered House Republicans plan not only to end the inquiry at the start of the new Congress, but also to attempt to dismantle and discredit its findings — the latest piece of a broader effort the party has undertaken over the past two years to deny, downplay or shift blame for the deadly attack by a pro-Trump mob.

It comes as McCarthy toils to shore up his position with hard-right Republicans in his conference who have refused to support his bid for speaker, imperiling his chances of being elected in January.

McCarthy pledged in the letter that he would hold public hearings scrutinizing the security breakdowns that occurred during the assault, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, disrupting Congress’s formal count of electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden’s election as president.

“Although your committee’s public hearings did not focus on why the Capitol complex was not secure on Jan. 6, 2021, the Republican majority in the 118th Congress will hold hearings that do so,” McCarthy wrote to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. and chair of the committee.

A spokesperson for the Jan. 6 committee declined to comment on the letter, which was reported earlier by The Federalist.

The committee, which will be dissolved at the end of the current Congress, is finishing up its final batch of witness interviews, including a session on Wednesday with Robin Vos, the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, who said former President Donald Trump has continued to try to pressure lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election — even more than a year after his defeat.

The panel is also completing an extensive report, which is expected to be released in December and is the subject of much internal debate over how much to focus on Trump’s actions versus security failures at the Capitol. Members of the committee’s so-called Blue Team have conducted months of investigation and research into such failures, but it was unclear how much of their work would be featured.

McCarthy highlighted the complaints raised by some current and former staffers in media reports that their work investigating security failures, the financing of the rallies that preceded the attack and the threat of white nationalism would be overshadowed in the report by a focus on Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Lawmakers on the committee have said they are attempting to create a readable report — and had to make difficult choices about what to include, given the voluminous evidence accumulated — but plan to release the full transcripts of their interviews after making some redactions to prevent the identification of witnesses who were granted anonymity.

In addition to interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses, the committee has obtained more than 1 million pages of documents.

Shortly after the attack, both the Senate and the House held multiple hearings investigating security failures, and the Senate produced a bipartisan report detailing those failures.

Republicans, especially those on the hard right, have pressed to focus on the security flaws, which they have baselessly blamed on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rather than on Trump’s role in pushing for the election to be overturned and summoning a large crowd to march on the Capitol, where they attacked and injured more than 150 police officers in a bloody rampage.

In a recent closed-door meeting of Republicans, right-wing lawmakers including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also extracted a promise that their leaders would investigate Pelosi and the Justice Department for their treatment of defendants jailed in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.

McCarthy has long derided the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation. He refused to comply with a subpoena and argued the panel is “illegitimate,” citing Pelosi’s rejection of two of his nominees.

The panel has taken no step to enforce that subpoena, citing congressional traditions.

Oath Keepers’ Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy

Associated Press

Oath Keepers’ Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy

Lindsay Whitehurst, Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Kunzelman

November 30, 2022

FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, on June 25, 2017. Rhodes was convicted Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, on June 25, 2017. Rhodes was convicted Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Attorneys for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, James Lee Bright, center left, and Edward Tarpley, left, speak to members of the media outside the Federal Courthouse following a verdict in the Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Attorneys for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, James Lee Bright, center left, and Edward Tarpley, left, speak to members of the media outside the Federal Courthouse following a verdict in the Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he testifies before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on charges of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, Nov. 7, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy on Nov. 29. (Dana Verkouteren via AP, File)
 This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he testifies before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on charges of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, Nov. 7, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy on Nov. 29. (Dana Verkouteren via AP, File)
A federal jury convicted five members of the Oath Keepers on a variety of charges Tuesday in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. (AP Graphic)
A federal jury convicted five members of the Oath Keepers on a variety of charges Tuesday in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. (AP Graphic)
A man holding a sign that reads "Stop Hating Each Other Because You Disagree" refuses to move from behind The attorneys for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes Edward Tarpley, right, and James Lee Bright, center, as they speak to members of the media outside the Federal Courthouse following a verdict in the Stewart Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A man holding a sign that reads “Stop Hating Each Other Because You Disagree” refuses to move from behind The attorneys for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes Edward Tarpley, right, and James Lee Bright, center, as they speak to members of the media outside the Federal Courthouse following a verdict in the Stewart Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn leaves federal court following a verdict in the Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn leaves federal court following a verdict in the Rhodes trial in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn President Joe Biden’s election, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in the nearly two-month-long trial that showcased the far-right extremist group’s efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House at all costs.

Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. A co-defendant — Kelly Meggs, who led the antigovernment group’s Florida chapter — was also convicted of seditious conspiracy, while three other associates were cleared of that charge. Jurors found all five defendants guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding: Congress’ certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

The verdict, while mixed, marks a significant milestone for the Justice Department and is likely to clear the path for prosecutors to move ahead at full steam in upcoming trials of other extremists accused of sedition.

Rhodes and Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty at trial of seditious conspiracy — a rarely used Civil War-era charge that can be difficult to prove. The offense calls for up to 20 years behind bars.

It could embolden investigators, whose work has expanded beyond those who attacked the Capitol to focus on others linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently named a veteran prosecutor, Jack Smith, to serve as special counsel to oversee key aspects of a probe into efforts to subvert the election as well as a separate investigation into the retention of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

Garland said after the verdict that the Justice Department “is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021.”

“Democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power. By attempting to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, the defendants flouted and trampled the rule of law,” Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in an emailed statement. “This case shows that force and violence are no match for our country’s justice system.”CAPITOL SIEGEJan. 6 panel interviews ex-Secret Service agent Tony OrnatoJury deliberates for 2nd day in Oath Keepers sedition case2 Illinois sisters get probation after Capitol riot pleasMontana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

Using dozens of encrypted messages, recordings and surveillance video, prosecutors made the case that Rhodes began shortly after the 2020 election to prepare an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.

Over seven weeks of testimony, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his followers to fight to defend Trump, discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and warned the Oath Keepers may have to “rise up in insurrection” to defeat Biden if Trump didn’t act.

Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of twisting their clients’ words and insisted the Oath Keepers came to Washington only to provide security for figures such as Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally. The defense focused heavily on seeking to show that Rhodes’ rhetoric was just bluster and that the Oath Keepers had no plan before Jan. 6 to attack the Capitol.

Rhodes intends to appeal, defense attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes lawyer, Ed Tarpley, described the verdict as a “mixed bag,” adding, “This is not a total victory for the government in any way, shape or form.”

“We feel like we presented a case that showed through evidence and testimony that Mr. Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy,” Tarpley said.

On trial alongside Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and Meggs, were Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group.

Caldwell was convicted on two counts and acquitted on three others, including seditious conspiracy. His attorney, David Fischer, called the verdict “major victory” for his client and a “major defeat” for the Justice Department. He also said he would appeal the two convictions.

Jury selection for a second group of Oath Keepers facing seditious conspiracy charges is scheduled to begin next week. Several members of the Proud Boys, including the former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, are also scheduled to go to trial on the sedition charge in December.

In an extraordinary move, Rhodes took the stand to tell jurors there was no plan to attack the Capitol and insist that his followers who went inside the building went rogue.

Rhodes testified that he had no idea that his followers were going to join the mob and storm the Capitol and said he was upset after he found out that some did. Rhodes said they were acting “stupid” and outside their mission for the day.

Prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to advance their plot to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when the mob started storming the Capitol. The Capitol attack was a “means to an end” for the Oath Keepers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy told jurors in her closing argument.

How close were House races? A few thousand votes could have swung control

The Hill

How close were House races? A few thousand votes could have swung control

Julia Mueller – November 28, 2022

Republicans retook the House majority in the midterms, but just a few thousands votes in five races could have swung the outcome in favor of Democrats.

In the days after the election, Democrats still had an outside chance to eke out a House win — but Republicans last week narrowly crossed the 218-vote threshold to take House control.

The GOP appears on track to win 222 seats in the 435-seat chamber, meaning Democrats came just five seats short of the majority.

TargetSmart’s Tom Bonier calculated Sunday that Democrats could have held the House if just 3,340 Republican voters instead cast their ballots for Democrats in the five closest House races won by Republicans.

Republicans won in those districts by just over 7,000 votes combined, according to the latest tallies — meaning that Democrats could also have won by mobilizing a few thousand more voters in those elections.

In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert beat out Democrat Adam Frisch by just 554 votes — a margin so slim it triggered an automatic recount in the state.

Republican John Duarte beat out Democrat Adam Gray by just 593 votes in California’s 13th District. Along with Colorado’s 3rd, the district is one of the two races still undeclared nearly three weeks after Election Day.

In Michigan’s 10th District, Republican John James won by 1,601 votes over Democrat Carl Marlinga, despite significant blue successes elsewhere in the state. The party flipped the Michigan state House and Senate and secured the governorship in a legislative trifecta, and Democrat Hillary Scholten flipped Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District on the other side of the state.

Republican Zach Nunn won Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District by just 2,144 votes over Democrat incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne, flipping the seat that also represents heavily Democratic Des Moines. Axne had been elected in 2018 as part of the “blue wave” that brought the Democrats to their current House majority.

In New York’s 17th District, Republican Mike Lawler won over Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of House Democrats’ campaign arm, by 2,314 votes in the first general election loss for a campaign chair of either party since 1980.

Assuming Republicans win the uncalled races in Colorado in California, the 222-213 House seat split would be a reversal of the results in the 2020 election cycle, when the House broke in the Democrats’ favor by the same numbers.

Though a loss for Democrats, the results are far from the “red wave” many in the GOP predicted ahead of the midterms.

House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year said Republicans would flip 60 seats or more in the lower chamber, and Republicans were optimistic about being able to take over the Senate as well.

But Democrats grew more hopeful about their chances in both chambers as poll results and special elections showed strong voter support despite historical headwinds against the party in power.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the eve of Election Day that she was “optimistic” about House races others labeled “too close to call” and later contended that her party had a chance to hold on to the House.

“I have always objected to the presentation, the media thread that was out there [that] you can’t win because it’s an off year,” Pelosi said on the day of the midterms.

Democrats will keep control of the Senate, with the Georgia runoff next week determining whether they take 50 or 51 seats.

Young voters appear to have been a major block against the red wave, with post-election research indicating this year’s midterms saw the second-highest turnout among voters under 30 in the last three decades.

That demographic voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, giving the party a critical boost in key races such as the Pennsylvania Senate contest. Though Democrats have typically done well with young voters, Brookings research shows this year saw the group shift even more toward blue candidates.

Young women in particular broke hard for Democrats: CNN exit polling shows nearly three-quarters of women under 30 cast blue ballots. Slightly more than half of women overall were found to have supported Democrats in House races specifically.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said that Republican voters “didn’t show up” for the party on Election Day.

At Protests, Guns Are Doing the Talking

The New York Times

At Protests, Guns Are Doing the Talking

Mike McIntire – November 26, 2022

Kimber Glidden, who resigned as the library director for  Boundary County, Idaho after her library became a cause célèbre for conservatives, in Spokane, Wash. on Oct. 28, 2022. (Rajah Bose/The New York Times)
Kimber Glidden, who resigned as the library director for Boundary County, Idaho after her library became a cause célèbre for conservatives, in Spokane, Wash. on Oct. 28, 2022. (Rajah Bose/The New York Times)

Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay-pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tennessee, handing out flyers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First Amendment has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tennessee, where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an LGBTQ event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that at about 77% of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.

Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors such as the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa.

Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”

Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns. Democratic politicians were identified at only two protests taking the same view as those armed.

Sometimes, the Republican officials carried weapons: Robert Sutherland, a Washington state representative, wore a pistol on his hip while protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Olympia in 2020. “Governor,” he said, speaking to a crowd, “you send men with guns after us for going fishing. We’ll see what a revolution looks like.”

The occasional appearance of armed civilians at demonstrations or governmental functions is not new. In the 1960s, the Black Panthers displayed guns in public when protesting police brutality. Militia groups, sometimes armed, rallied against federal agents involved in violent standoffs at Ruby Ridge, in Idaho, and in Waco, Texas, in the 1990s.

But the frequency of these incidents exploded in 2020, with conservative pushback against public health measures to fight the coronavirus and response to the sometimes violent rallies after the murder of George Floyd. Today, in some parts of the country with permissive gun laws, it is not unusual to see people with handguns or military-style rifles at all types of protests.

For instance, at least 14 such incidents have occurred in and around Dallas and Phoenix since May, including outside an FBI field office to condemn the search of Trump’s home and, elsewhere, in support of abortion rights. In New York City and Washington, D.C., where gun laws are strict, there were none — even though numerous demonstrations took place during that same period.

Many conservatives and gun-rights advocates envision virtually no limits. When Democrats in Colorado and Washington state passed laws this year prohibiting firearms at polling places and government meetings, Republicans voted against them. Indeed, those bills were the exception.

Attempts by Democrats to impose limits in other states have mostly failed, and some form of open carry without a permit is now legal in 38 states, a number that is likely to expand as legislation advances in several more. In Michigan, where a Tea Party group recently advertised poll watcher training using a photo of armed men in camouflage, judges have rejected efforts to prohibit guns at voting locations.

Gun-rights advocates assert that banning guns from protests would violate the right to carry firearms for self-defense. Jordan Stein, a spokesperson for Gun Owners of America, pointed to Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager acquitted last year in the shooting of three people during a chaotic demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he had walked the streets with a military-style rifle.

“At a time when protests often devolve into riots, honest people need a means to protect themselves,” he said.

Beyond self-defense, Stein said the freedom of speech and the right to have a gun are “bedrock principles” and that “Americans should be able to bear arms while exercising their First Amendment rights, whether that’s going to church or a peaceful assembly.”

Others argue that openly carrying firearms at public gatherings, particularly when there is no obvious self-defense reason, can have a corrosive effect, leading to curtailed activities, suppressed opinions or public servants who quit out of fear and frustration.

Concerned about armed protesters, local election officials in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have requested bulletproofing for their offices.

Adam Searing, a lawyer and Georgetown University professor who helps families secure access to health care, said he saw the impact on free speech when people objecting to COVID-19 restrictions used guns to make their point. In some states, disability-rights advocates were afraid to show up to support mask mandates because of armed opposition, said Searing, who teaches public policy at Georgetown University.

“What was really disturbing was the guns became kind of a signifier for political reasons,” he said, adding, “It was just about pure intimidation.”

Armed Speech

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has been tracking such incidents in the United States for the past few years. Events captured by the data are not assigned ideological labels but include descriptions and are collected from news sources, social media and independent partners such as the Network Contagion Research Institute, which monitors extremism and disinformation online.

The Times’ analysis found that the largest drivers of armed demonstrations have shifted since 2020. This year, protesters with guns are more likely to be motivated by abortion or LGBTQ issues. Sam Jones, a spokesperson for the nonpartisan data group, said upticks in armed incidents tended to correspond to “different flashpoint events and time periods, like the Roe v. Wade decision and Pride Month.”

In about one-fourth of the cases, left-wing activists also were armed. Many times, it was a response, they said, to right-wing intimidation. Other times, it was not, such as when about 40 demonstrators, some with rifles, blocked city officials in Dallas from clearing a homeless encampment in July.

More than half of all armed protests occurred in 10 states with expansive open-carry laws: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Three of them — Michigan, Oregon and Texas — allowed armed protesters to gather outside Capitol buildings before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and in Michigan, militia members carrying assault rifles were permitted inside the Capitol during protests against COVID-19 lockdowns.

Beyond the mass gatherings, there are everyday episodes of armed intimidation. Kimber Glidden had been director of the Boundary County Library in Northern Idaho for a couple of months when some parents began raising questions in February about books they believed were inappropriate for children.

It did not matter that the library did not have most of those books — largely dealing with gender, sexuality and race — or that those it did have were not in the children’s section. The issue became a cause célèbre for conservative activists, some of whom began showing up with guns to increasingly tense public meetings, Glidden said.

“How do you stand there and tell me you want to protect children when you’re in the children’s section of the library and you’re armed?” she asked.

In August, she resigned, decrying the “intimidation tactics and threatening behavior.”

A Growing Militancy

At a Second Amendment rally in June 2021 outside the statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where some people were armed, Republican speakers repeatedly connected the right to carry a gun to other social and cultural issues. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry voiced a frequent conservative complaint about censorship, saying the First Amendment was “under assault.”

“And you know very well what protects the First,” he said. “Which is what we’re doing here today.”

Stephanie Borowicz, a state legislator, was more blunt, boasting to the crowd that “tyrannical governors” had been forced to ease coronavirus restrictions because “as long as we’re an armed population, the government fears us.”

Pennsylvania, like some other states with permissive open-carry laws, is home to right-wing militias that sometimes appear in public with firearms. They are often welcomed, or at least accepted, by Republican politicians.

When a dozen militia members, some wearing skull masks and body armor, joined a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Pittsburgh in April 2020, Jeff Neff, a Republican borough council president running for the state senate, posed for a photo with the group. In it, he is holding his campaign sign, surrounded by men with military-style rifles.

In an email, Neff said he had since left politics, and expressed regret over past news coverage of the photo, adding, “Please know that I do not condone any threats or action of violence by any person or groups.”

Across the country, there is evidence of increasing Republican involvement in militias. A membership list for the Oath Keepers, made public last year, includes 81 elected officials or candidates, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Most of them appear to be Republicans.

Another nationwide militia, the American Patriots Three Percent, recently told prospective members that it worked to support “individuals seeking election to local GOP boards,” according to an archived version of its website.

More than 25 members of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have been charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those organizations, along with the Proud Boys and Boogaloo Boys, make up the bulk of organized groups in the armed-protest data, according to the Times’ analysis.

Shootings were rare, such as when a Proud Boy was shot in the foot while chasing antifa members during a protest over COVID-19 lockdowns in Olympia last year. But Jones said the data, which also tracked unarmed demonstrations, showed that although armed protests accounted for less than 2% of the total, they were responsible for 10% of those where violence occurred, most often involving fights between rival groups.

“Armed groups or individuals might say they have no intention of intimidating anyone and are only participating in demonstrations to keep the peace,” said Jones, “but the evidence doesn’t back up the claim.”

Competing Rights

In a landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment conveyed a basic right to bear arms for lawful purposes such as self-defense at home. It went further in a decision in June that struck down New York restrictions on concealed-pistol permits, effectively finding a right to carry firearms in public.

But the court in Heller also made clear that gun rights were not unlimited and that its ruling did not invalidate laws prohibiting “the carrying of firearms in sensitive places.” That caveat was reiterated in a concurring opinion in the New York case.

Even some hard-line gun-rights advocates are uncomfortable with armed people at public protests. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told The Washington Times in 2017 that “if you are carrying it to make a political point, we are not going to support that.”

“Firearms serve a purpose,” he said, “and the purpose is not a mouthpiece.”

But groups that embrace Second Amendment absolutism do not hesitate to criticize fellow advocates who stray from that orthodoxy.

After Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman from Texas and former Navy SEAL, lamented in 2020 that “guys dressing up in their Call of Duty outfits, marching through the streets” were not advancing the cause of gun rights, he was knocked by the Firearms Policy Coalition for “being critical of people exercising their right to protest.” The coalition has fought state laws that it says force gun owners to choose between the rights to free speech and self-defense.

Regardless of whether there is a right to go armed in public for self-defense, early laws and court decisions made clear that the Constitution did not empower people, such as modern-day militia members, to gather with guns as a form of protest, said Michael Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Cornell University who has written about the tension between the rights to free speech and guns.

Dorf pointed to an 18th-century Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that a group of protesters with firearms had no right to rally in public against a government tax. Some states also adopted an old English law prohibiting “going armed to the terror of the people,” still on the books in some places, aimed at preventing the use of weapons to threaten or intimidate.

“Historically,” said Dorf, “there were such limits on armed gatherings, even assuming that there’s some right to be armed as individuals.”

There is no evidence that the framers of the Constitution intended for Americans to take up arms during civic debate among themselves — or to intimidate those with differing opinions. That is what happened at the Memphis museum in September, when people with guns showed up to protest a scheduled dance party that capped a summerlong series on the history of the LGBTQ community in the South.

Although the party was billed as “family friendly,” conservatives on local talk radio claimed that children would be at risk. (The museum said the planned activities were acceptable for all ages.) As armed men wearing masks milled about outside, the panicked staff canceled all programs and evacuated the premises.

Thompson, the director, said he and his board were now grappling with the laws on carrying firearms, which were loosened last year by state legislators.

“It’s a different time,” he said, “and it’s something we have to learn to navigate.”

Former surgeon general faces his wife’s cancer – and the ‘Trump Effect’

The Washington Post

Former surgeon general faces his wife’s cancer – and the ‘Trump Effect’

Manuel Roig-Franzia, The Washington Post – November 25, 2022

Former surgeon general faces his wife’s cancer – and the ‘Trump Effect’

Former surgeon general Jerome Adams and his wife, Lacey, often find themselves talking about what they have named the “Trump Effect.”

It followed them from Washington to their home in the Indianapolis suburbs. They felt it when he was exploring jobs in academia, where he would receive polite rejections from university officials who worried that someone who served in the administration of the former president would be badly received by their left-leaning student bodies. They felt it when corporations decided he was too tainted to employ.

Now, two years after Adams left office as only the 20th surgeon general in U.S. history, the couple feel it as acutely as ever. As Donald Trump announced this month that he will run for president again, they had hoped it all would have faded away by now.

They would rather talk about public health, in a very personal way. This summer, Lacey Adams was diagnosed with a third recurrence of melanoma. Both Adamses have been sharing her experiences on social media and in public appearances, hoping to spread a message about skin-cancer prevention. But the stigma of his association with Trump, even though neither of them is a supporter of his political campaign, remains.

Trump is “a force that really does take the air out of the room,” Adams, 48, said. “The Trump hangover is still impacting me in significant ways.” He said the 2024 Trump campaign “will make things more difficult for me.”

The former surgeon general’s predicament underscores one of the givens of today’s political environment: Association with Trump becomes a permanent tarnish, a kind of reverse Midas touch. Whether indicted or shunned or marginalized, a cavalcade of former Trump World figures have foundered in the aftermath of one of the more chaotic presidencies in modern American history.

Lacey saw it coming. She said she “hated Trump” and did not want her husband to leave his comfortable life in Indiana, where he practiced anesthesiology and served as state health commissioner under then-Indiana governor Mike Pence, who was Trump’s vice president when Jerome became surgeon general. Lacey, 46, worried about a lasting “stigma” but her husband talked her into supporting their move by saying he thought he could make a bigger difference inside the administration than outside it, especially when it came to his efforts to combat opioid addiction.

Now Jerome bristles at his forever label as “Trump’s surgeon general,” an image sealed by his highly public role during the much-criticized early White House response to the coronavirus pandemic. Other surgeons general, he feels, have been less intensely identified with the president who appointed them, permitting them to glide into a life of prestigious and sometimes lucrative opportunities, unencumbered by partisan politics.

Not him. “It was a lot harder than he thought to find a landing spot because of the Trump Effect,” Lacey said. For eight months after leaving office, Jerome could not find a job. The couple started to worry about how they would support their three children, especially since Lacey does not work outside the home.

“People still are afraid to touch anything that is associated with Trump,” Jerome said. Though he was quick to add in the interview that he is “not complaining.” He added, “It is context.”

Finally, in September 2021, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, a former Indiana governor and Republican stalwart, hired Adams as the first executive director of health equity initiatives at the school.

Even as Adams was seeking to define the next chapter of his life, he was engaged in an almost constant battle on social media. His frequent tweets about everything from his personal life to public health issues have invariably drawn attacks from both the right and the left. Rather than ignore his critics, he has often punched back, engaging in Twitter spats that stretch for days.

He has battled on social media over his recommendation that people continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, his criticism of President Biden’s declaration of an end to the pandemic and about his advocacy for coronavirus vaccinations for children and for adults to get booster shots. He takes heat from the left for a pro-life stance on abortion and from the right for his opposition to laws that dictate what a doctor can say to a patient about abortion.

“I get mad at him for being addicted to Twitter,” Lacey said. “People hated him because he was part of Trump’s administration. Now the Trump people hate him.”

Carrie Benton, an Ohio medical lab scientist who has tangled with Jerome Adams on social media, is critical of what she considers “blanket statements” he is now making about topics such as masking. But she also feels he should still be held accountable for errors committed by the Trump administration early in the pandemic.

The pushback has done little to dissuade Adams. He invites debate. He wants to argue, genially. He tries to search for ways to use his platform as a former surgeon general that do not turn into politically charged spats.

“It is hard to find an issue,” he said.

In August, an issue found him, and it was precisely the topic that he had hoped would not feel so personal anymore. During a routine follow-up check, doctors discovered tumors on the outside of Lacey’s right thigh.

“Here we go again,” Lacey said to herself.

She had first been diagnosed with melanoma 12 years ago, in 2010, when she spotted a “weird mole.” She had it removed. She thought she was in the clear.

“No big deal,” she said.

As an adolescent growing up in the Midwest, she had been a frequent visitor to tanning beds. She did not worry much about the sun, even though she is very light-skinned. After having the mole removed, she changed her ways. Sunscreen. Long sleeves. She joked that her mother would chase her around with floppy hats. She started getting regular dermatology checks. It was all good. Until it was not.

In early 2018, just as her anesthesiologist husband was starting as surgeon general under Trump, she noticed lumps on her groin while shaving her bikini line. The doctor in her house, newly minted as America’s doctor, was constantly on the go as he sought to get a grasp on his job, serving as a public health advocate and overseeing thousands of members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. “The doctor in my house is my absent-minded professor, always running in 100 directions,” she said.

So Lacey called the doctor next door: her neighbor in Indiana and dear friend, Amy Hoffman, an emergency room physician. When Hoffman realized why her friend was calling, she put her on the speakerphone, so that her husband, an oncologist, could listen in.

He just had one question: Was it on the same side as the melanoma from years earlier? Yes, she said. She could hear the worry in their voices.

“Stop unpacking,” she said they told her. “Stop going to fancy events with your husband. You need to make this a priority.”

She was soon ushered into a special area of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center reserved for high-ranking officials and their families. She was given a fuzzy robe with an embroidered White House logo.

“All of a sudden it is like you are in the Ritz-Carlton,” she recalled, and asked herself, “Why am I deserving of this special attention?”

A scan showed a tumor somewhere between the size of a pea and a grape. She needed to have surgery. Doctors eventually removed 12 lymph nodes, some of which were cancerous. While she was recovering from surgery, still groggy from the anesthesia, her husband came into the room with a request that was hard for her to comprehend through the fog of the drugs: He wanted her Facebook password.

She had taken a selfie at the medical center and posted it to her Facebook page, and she also took a little dig at the administration. The White House was not happy, he told her. They wanted it taken down.

In the months to come, she would again think she had beaten cancer. She underwent a year of immunotherapy treatments. She rang the bell, a tradition among cancer patients completing treatments, at Walter Reed after scans showed she was cancer free.

“Cancer, schmancer,” she thought.

There were other things to worry about. Her husband had come to Washington hoping to focus on opioid addiction, a plague that had hit members of his family. Instead, he was thrust into a much more public role with the arrival of the coronavirus. As the Trump administration struggled with effective responses, the new surgeon general kept setting off firestorms.

He shared a Valentine’s Day poem on social media that said the regular flu was a greater risk than covid and urged people to get flu shots. He told African Americans, who were contracting the coronavirus in disproportionate numbers, to take precautions to protect their “Big Mama.”

In each instance, he fumbled the messaging, making incomplete or poorly explained statements. He asked people not to buy masks because there was a shortage. He said people were at a greater risk of catching the regular flu than covid because projections by the Trump administration, later shown to be inaccurate, suggested more people would get the regular flu.

He used the words “Big Mama,” which led to accusations that he was using Trump-style racist dog whistles, because it was a term of affection in his own family that he thought would help him connect with African Americans.

Those missteps, which Adams has blamed on a partisan atmosphere, drew heavy criticism, which might be expected. What he had not anticipated was how people would come for his loved ones. On social media, trolls called his family ugly. They criticized Adams, who is Black, for marrying a White woman.

While her husband was trying to fend off critics and nasty commenters by sharpening his messaging, Lacey, like many Americans, was putting off medical appointments while limiting her movements because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus. She had a clear scan in January 2020. It was not until July that year that she returned for another scan. It revealed a tumor on her back.

The cancer had returned for a second round: This time it was Stage 4. She started immunotherapy. And again she beat it. For two years she passed routine scans, with good results. Then, this past summer, came the tests that revealed the cancer had returned. His wife cries herself to sleep some nights. He marvels at her resilience.

She has been speaking and writing about the disease that lurks inside her and threatens to deprive her of so many things she looks forward to, like the days her children, now 18, 16 and 12, graduate or get married.

Some days she is too ill from side effects of her treatments to do much. But other times she is full of energy and ready to go. People might look at her and not know she is sick, and that is one of her points: Melanoma is a stealthy disease, the doctors keep telling her. It can hide inside people without any outward signs. She had once had a mole, but other times nothing showed up on her skin. The disease was hiding from her.

She understands that she has been given a platform few have. No one would be listening to a mom from Indiana if she were not the wife of the former surgeon general.

The other day, her husband asked if he could post a photo of her on Twitter. She said for him to go ahead. It showed her in profile, lying in bed with the covers partly obscuring her face, on a day when she was not feeling great. He asked for prayers, but he also gave some advice: “See a dermatologist right away if a mole changes/looks different from your others!”

What happened next was nothing short of amazing to them. People wished the best for Lacey even though they were not fans of Jerome: “I don’t agree with your politics. God bless your sweet wife.” “I’m sorry your wife has cancer, even though I completely disagree with some of your decisions.”

Some people even wanted advice. “Should we worry about a single mole or look for odd shapes and changes in several?” That person did not mention Trump at all. That might be a person they could help. That might be, they dared to imagine, the end of the Trump Effect, and the beginning of a Lacey Effect.

Krull: House Republicans plan to investigate things that don’t matter to most Americans

The Herald Times

Krull: House Republicans plan to investigate things that don’t matter to most Americans

John Krull – November 24, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Some people are slow learners.

And some people never learn at all.

The members of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives belong to one of those two groups. The next two years will tell us which one.

Fresh from a midterm election that fell far, far, far short of both Republican expectations and historic norms for parties out of power, the House GOP firebreathers announced their priorities for the coming legislative session, one in which they will have one of the slimmest majorities in American history.

Most sensible politicians would use a moment such as this to lay a foundation for future growth. They would outline an agenda featuring plans and programs designed to sway independent or undecided voters. They would use their platform to persuade.

But that’s not the way the deep thinkers in the House Republican caucus approach things. Their agenda is simple.

They plan a series of investigations — and every one of those investigations will be designed to appeal to the narrowing base of supporters that already supports the GOP.

The Republicans say they will investigate President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, even though there already are several criminal investigations into the younger Biden’s conduct, and he likely will be indicted soon.

They plan to investigate the U.S.-Mexico border “crisis.” Maybe that investigation will determine why Republicans made top-heavy tax cuts for billionaires their legislative priority rather than border security from 2017 to 2019, when they controlled the presidency, both chambers of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

The Javerts in the House also intend to dive into the U.S. withdrawal from the Afghanistan War, the cause of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Of these, only the study of the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle doesn’t seem exclusively partisan in nature.

It’s doubtful, though, that House Republicans will ask the essential question about that costly episode, which is: Once the United States has plunged into a long-term military conflict without an exit strategy in mind, how should we go about extricating ourselves?

The other investigations are nothing more than attempts to throw chunks of red meat to the most rabid and snarling parts of the Republican base. The House GOP brain trust seems to think this is a winning political strategy. They’re wrong about that — for at least two reasons.

The first is none of these investigations connects in any way to the lives of average Americans.

The strongest message Republicans had in the 2022 election focused on the economy and the unease many — perhaps even most — Americans feel regarding galloping inflation.

Voters in the suburbs — once a Republican bastion but now the battlefield in which elections for at least the next decade will be decided — worry the good lives they’ve built for themselves and their families will slip away, one price increase at a time.

Inflationary pressures on the world economy aren’t likely to go away any time soon, so House Republicans could spend their political capital fashioning programs designed to alleviate those concerns. They could create a system of targeted tax cuts aimed at helping the middle class offset costs in other areas.

But no.

The Republicans are going to focus on wooing the voters already with them.

They might as well send every embattled suburban GOP candidate out to campaign wearing a sign reading: “Please send me back to make noise and spend your tax money while accomplishing nothing.”

The second reason the GOP strategy is wrong is that it’s based on a mistaken premise.

Republicans believe the Benghazi investigation fatally wounded 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The problem with that thinking is Clinton was damaged goods long before the investigation started. For nearly 20 years, she had carried historically high negatives. Polls showed that four out of 10 voters wouldn’t cast a ballot for her under any circumstances, which meant she had to persuade five out of the remaining six to support her.

That’s a tall order.

Joe Biden never has aroused the levels of animosity both Clintons did and do and, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee again, Biden likely won’t do anything more than say: “Vote for me because I’m not him.”

Republicans have been down this road before.

Pity they didn’t learn anything along the way.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.

Bill Barr says Trump will ‘burn the whole house down’ and destroy the GOP if he doesn’t win the 2024 nomination

Insider

Bill Barr says Trump will ‘burn the whole house down’ and destroy the GOP if he doesn’t win the 2024 nomination

Tom Porter – November 23, 2022

Bill Barr and Donald Trump
Former Attorney General Bill Barr and former President Donald TrumpDrew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr discussed Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign in an op-ed.
  • He said Trump’s “narcissism” means he would be unable to accept losing the GOP nomination race.
  • Barr is a former Trump loyalist, who has recently turned against his ex-boss.

Former Attorney Bill Barr said that Donald Trump would seek to destroy the Republican Party if defeated in his bid to become its 2024 presidential nominee.

In an op-ed in The New York Post published on Tuesday, Barr addressed Trump’s announcement last week that he was seeking the Republican Party candidacy for the White House in 2024.

He said that if Trump loses the nomination, it could tear the GOP apart.

“Unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP,” Barr said, referring to the former president’s hardline supporters in the party.

“Trump’s willingness to destroy the party if he does not get his way is not based on principle, but on his own supreme narcissism,” Barr wrote.

“His egoism makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself — a cult of personality.”

Trump’s status as the GOP’s most powerful figure has taken a hit in the wake of the midterm elections, when several of the high profile candidates he’d endorsed in key races were defeated. 

Barr is among Republicans claiming the the divisive and flawed candidates Trump endorsed are the reason for the party’s failure to win control of the Senate, and to only secure a small House majority.

“The GOP’s poor performance in the recent midterms was due largely to Trump’s mischief,” said Barr, citing his candidate choice, failure to provide proper funding, and stoking of internal GOP divisions.

His criticisms is strikingly similar to that of Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, who also believes that the former president would seek to “burn everything down” if Republicans blame their midterms defeat on him.

Trump announced his candidacy at a relatively muted event at Mar-a-Lago last week amid mounting criticism of his midterm strategy. Meanwhile, momentum is building behind his rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Barr was seen as among the most loyal members of Trump’s cabinet. But more recently has been highly critical of Trump over his refusal to concede defeat after the 2020 election, and his retention of stashes of classified information after leaving office.

Barr in the op-ed said it was time for new leadership in the Republican Party.

“It is painfully clear from his track record in both the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms that Donald Trump is neither capable of forging this winning coalition nor delivering the decisive and durable victory required,” Barr said.

“Indeed, among the current crop of potential nominees, Trump is the person least able to unite the party and the one most likely to lose the general election,” he added.