Trump says he’s received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 investigators – POLITICO

Skip to Main Content POLITICO Politico Logo Congress Pro E&E News Search Search WASHINGTON & POLITICS Congress White House Elections Legal Magazine Foreign Affairs 2024 ELECTIONS News GOP Candidate Tracker STATE POLITICS & POLICY California Florida New Jersey New York GLOBAL POLITICS & POLICY Brussels Canada United Kingdom POLICY NEWS Agriculture Cannabis Cybersecurity Defense Education Energy & Environment Finance & Tax Health Care Immigration Labor Sustainability Technology Trade Transportation NEWSLETTERS Playbook Playbook PM West Wing Playbook POLITICO Nightly POLITICO Weekend The Recast Huddle All Newsletters COLUMNISTS Alex Burns John Harris Jonathan Martin Michael Schaffer Jack Shafer Rich Lowry SERIES & MORE Breaking News Alerts Podcasts Video The Fifty Women Rule Matt Wuerker Cartoons Cartoon Carousel POLITICO Live Upcoming Events Previous Events Follow us Twitter Instagram Facebook My Account Log In Log Out legal Trump says he’s received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 investigators It’s the clearest sign yet that Trump may soon face his third criminal indictment — this time for his effort to subvert the 2020 election results. While the specific crimes that former President Donald Trump may be charged with are not clear, Smith’s team has been eyeing potential obstruction charges related to Trump’s actions in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and on that day itself. | Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images By Kyle Cheney 07/18/2023 09:32 AM EDT Updated: 07/18/2023 10:07 AM EDT Link Copied Donald Trump said Tuesday he expects to be indicted by special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 grand jury, citing a “target letter” he received from investigators on Sunday. Such a letter “almost always means an arrest and indictment,” Trump, who has already been criminally indicted twice in recent months, wrote on Truth Social. Trump said the letter, which is prosecutors’ typical precursor to a charging decision, offered him a chance to speak to the grand jury, which meets at the federal courthouse in Washington D.C., later this week. Targets of criminal investigations rarely speak to grand juries, and Trump has not exercised that right in the two other criminal cases in which he’s been charged. Legal Tracking the Trump criminal cases By POLITICO Staff The letter is the clearest sign yet that Smith is close to seeking an indictment for Trump’s role in the effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021. While the specific crimes that Trump may be charged with are not clear, Smith’s team has been eyeing potential obstruction charges related to Trump’s actions in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and on that day itself — including pressuring his vice president, Mike Pence, to unilaterally block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Investigators have also examined Trump’s consideration of a plan to seize voting machines from the states, his campaign of false claims that the election was stolen and his role in advancing a plan to assemble bogus slates of presidential electors to stoke a conflict ahead of Jan. 6. It’s unclear whether other figures associated with Trump’s effort are also in Smith’s sights. Investigators have interviewed dozens of prominent figures in Trump’s orbit, including Pence, in recent months. Attorneys John Eastman and Jeff Clark — two Trump associates considered key allies in his effort — had their phones seized last year. Trump revealed the target letter as he prepares to fight on another front to delay a criminal trial — also resulting from charges brought by Smith — related to his hoarding of national security secrets at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump’s attorneys will be in court in Fort Pierce, Fla. on Tuesday afternoon asking for the trial to be postponed until after the 2024 election, a prospect that Smith’s team has vehemently opposed. Trump is facing an extraordinary array of criminal charges and investigations. In addition to the two cases Smith has mounted, he’s facing charges in Manhattan for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment scheme to a porn actress accusing him of an extramarital affair in 2016. And a district attorney based in Fulton County, Ga. has convened a grand jury that is expected to consider charging Trump and allies for efforts to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia. Many aspects of Smith’s Jan. 6 investigation were previously pursued by the House select committee on Jan. 6, which interviewed hundreds of figures associated with Trump’s scheme to seize a second term despite losing the election. The committee concluded that Trump was at the center of a complex, months-long effort to sow doubt about the election results and then orchestrate several attempts to reverse the outcome despite no evidence of significant fraud. The panel focused in particular on Trump’s effort to pressure state and local officials to appoint “alternative” slates of presidential electors in seven states won by Biden and then use those slates as a pretense to disrupt the Jan. 6 session of Congress — when the Constitution and federal laws require Congress to meet and certify the election. That session, also according to the Constitution and law, is managed by the vice president, who doubles as president of the Senate. When no state officials acquiesced, Trump turned to a cadre of lawyers, including Eastman, who promoted fringe alternatives to keep Trump’s prospects alive. Eastman famously pressured Pence and his top aides to violate provisions of the Electoral Count Act — the law that has governed the Jan. 6 session of Congress since 1887 — to advance the effort. Prosecutors and the select committee have also focused on Trump’s effort to assemble a massive crowd in Washington on Jan. 6, part of his plan to pressure Pence and GOP lawmakers to help reverse the results, and then to steer it toward the Capitol after Pence made clear he wouldn’t go along with the plan. Trump inflamed the crowd with his rhetoric and then stoked anger further when he attacked Pence — even as violence was underway at the Capitol — accusing him of lacking “courage.” Pence and lawmakers were forced to evacuate and delay the count of electoral votes for six hours while law enforcement and the National Guard worked to clear the mob. Filed under: Donald Trump, Donald Trump 2024, 2020 Presidential Candidates, 2020 Elections, Jack Smith, Trump Indictment POLITICO Link Copied About Us Advertising Breaking News Alerts Careers Credit Card Payments Digital Edition FAQ Feedback Headlines Photos POWERJobs Press Print Subscriptions Request A Correction Write For Us RSS Site Map Terms of Service Privacy Policy Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information and Opt Out of Targeted Advertising © 2023 POLITICO LLC

@[100044274887410:2048:Donald J. Trump] will be indicted again for his scheme to stop the peaceful transfer of power by planning on the DOJ to seize voting machines, assembling fake electors, his fake electors submitting fraudulent votes, pressuring state officials to ignore votes and hand him the election, and of course for sending an armed mob to the Capitol to stop his Vice President from participating in the certification of the election.

[https://www.politico.com/news/2023/07/18/trump-says-hes-received-a-target-letter-from-special-counsel-jack-smiths-jan-6-investigators-00106776]

Trump says exclusion of Romney from task force shows he’s still holding a grudge

President Trump on Sunday said he intentionally left Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) off his congressional task force on reopening the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus, acknowledging it shows he still holds a grudge over the senator’s impeachment vote.

The president included every Republican senator on the task force except Romney, who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power. Asked if his exclusion shows he’s still holding a grudge, Trump said, “Yeah, it does.”

“I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney,” Trump said, adding, “I don’t really want his advice.”

The White House on Thursday released the members of its “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group.” The list included nearly 70 senators, including all 52 of Romney’s GOP colleagues in the chamber.

A spokeswoman for Romney and a source familiar confirmed that the GOP senator was not asked to take part in the task force. Romney is a former governor, private sector executive and presidential candidate.

Romney was the only GOP senator to vote for one of the articles during the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year. Trump has repeatedly referenced the vote in chiding Romney, at one point swiping at the Mormon senator’s use of religion to explain his reasoning for the vote.

There has been animosity between the two dating back years. After courting his support in 2012, Romney was fiercely critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

The two appeared to reconcile, with Trump considering Romney for a Cabinet post and endorsing his Senate bid in 2018. But the relationship appears to have deteriorated beyond repair with the impeachment vote.

[The Hill]

Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who told Congress about whistleblower complaint that led to impeachment

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.

Atkinson will leave his job in 30 days, Trump told the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and he has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, according to a congressional source.

Trump did not name a permanent successor.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

The announcement that he’s firing Atkinson late on a Friday night comes as the President is dealing with a worldwide pandemic from the novel coronavirus, which has consumed his presidency since the end of the impeachment trial only two months ago. Trump has faced widespread criticism for the federal government’s response to the outbreak, and has said the impeachment trial “probably did” distract him from responding to the virus’ outbreak during the trial in January and early February.

Atkinson’s firing is the latest case of the Trump administration removing officials who took part in the President’s impeachment. Trump also removed Alexander Vindman, a then-National Security Council official who had testified in the House’s proceedings, along with Vindman’s twin brother, both of whom were reassigned out of the NSC, and fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Other officials, including then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and her acting successor, Bill Taylor, left the Trump administration after the impeachment proceedings.

Trump also fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 while the FBI was investigating the President.

The congressional source said that Atkinson was informed on Friday evening that Trump had fired him. The statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires that both intelligence committees be notified 30 days before the inspector general can be dismissed, so Trump could not immediately remove Atkinson — he could only place him on leave until the 30 days pass.

Top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees blasted the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in statement that Trump must “immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe, particularly during this time of national emergency.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who led the House’s impeachment investigation, said the firing was “another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” Schiff said in a statement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was “all too familiar a pattern in this administration.”
“When you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often, you get fired,” Schumer told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

Atkinson — a career, nonpartisan official — came under fire from the President’s allies last year for alerting lawmakers to the then-unknown whistleblower complaint, which Congress later learned was an allegation that Trump had sought dirt on his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine’s President while withholding US security aid from Kiev.
The allegation sparked a House impeachment inquiry that detailed the quid pro quo effort and led to Trump’s impeachment in December on two articles. The Senate acquitted Trump on both charges in February.

One of the former attorneys for the anonymous whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, told CNN the firing of ICIG Michael Atkinson was not unexpected yet still “disheartening” and “pretty clearly retaliation” for his role in transmitting the initial complaint to Congress.

“I think Atkinson was quite honorable and acted with integrity. The way he handled himself underscored his independence and neutrality. Not all IG’s have historically done that,” said Bakaj, who no longer represents the whistleblower after they hired new legal counsel earlier this year. “In this case you have an individual who got an allegation, did an investigation and came to an independent conclusion. This is truly a loss to the IG community and also a shot across the bow for any future whistleblowers from coming forward.”
Bakaj said Atkinson “had the courage to do what was right” when he shared the whistleblower complaint with Congress despite clashing with his then-boss, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, over whether it rose to the level of “urgent concern.”

After the whistleblower complaint was shared with Congress, Atkinson testified before the intelligence committees, explaining how he had attempted to corroborate the complaint in order to determine it was credible and should be shared with Congress. Maguire initially pushed back on that recommendation, but the White House ultimately relented and released the complaint.
Bakaj told CNN that Atkinson’s replacement was ultimately expected and, in some ways, serves as a “bookend” for the impeachment saga. “The door is finally closed,” he said, adding that he was alerted that Trump had been planning to fire Atkinson for some time.

Maguire formally resigned from US government service in February after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the job full time, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Other top intelligence officials also have recently left the administration, after Trump picked US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to replace Maguire as acting director of national intelligence. Russ Travers, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired last month by Grenell in a move that was seen as a removal of someone not perceived as loyal enough.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine issued statements later Saturday on Atkinson’s removal.
“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure,” said Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role.”

Grassley said that “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence,” adding, “More details are needed from the administration.”

“The intelligence community inspector general is particularly essential to ensuring the nation’s secrets are well protected and powerful, highly invasive surveillance authorities are not abused. Going forward the ICIG must step up its focus on investigating those abuses and preventing leaks of classified information,” he said.

Collins noted that Trump followed established procedure by notifying Congress 30 days prior to the removal of the inspector general along with the reasons for the removal in line with The Inspector General Reform Act. But she added that she “did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said.

Tom Monheim, a career intelligence official, will be the acting intelligence community inspector general, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

[CNN]

Trump swipes at ‘little wise guy’ Brad Pitt, Korean film ‘Parasite’ during rally

President Trump took aim at the winners of the Academy Awards at a rally in Colorado Thursday night, singling out newly-minted best supporting actor winner Brad Pitt and best picture winner “Parasite.”

Trump blasted the Academy for giving its top honor to Bong Joon-Ho’s dark comedy about conflict between two families of different economic status, saying “The winner is a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. And after all that they give them best movie of the year?”

The movie was the first winner in a language other than English.

Trump also castigated Brad Pitt, who won for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood,” by taking a shot at the actor’s victory speech.

“And then you have Brad Pitt. I was never a big fan of his. He got up and said a little wise guy statement. Little wise guy. He’s a little wise guy,” the president said.

In his acceptance speech, Pitt, a longtime supporter of liberal causes, said the time he had been given to speak was “more than the Senate gave John Bolton,” in reference to the former White House National Security adviser who offered to testify in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed.

“I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it and in the end the adults do the right thing,” Pitt added.

The president then went on to ask “Can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back?” The Civil War epic won the 1939 award for Best Picture in 1940.

Trump has criticized the Academy Awards telecast for several years, dating back to before his candidacy for president. As president, he has frequently blamed ratings declines for the ceremony on actors’ attacks on him.

[The Hill]

Trump contradicts past denials, admits sending Giuliani to Ukraine

Emboldened after his impeachment acquittal, President Donald Trump now openly admits to sending his attorney Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to find damaging information about his political opponents, even though he strongly denied it during the impeachment inquiry.

The reversal came Thursday in a podcast interview Trump did with journalist Geraldo Rivera, who asked, “Was it strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, your personal lawyer? Are you sorry you did that?” Trump responded, “No, not at all,” and praised Giuliani’s role as a “crime fighter.”

“Here’s my choice: I deal with the Comeys of the world, or I deal with Rudy,” Trump said, referring to former FBI Director James Comey. Trump explained that he has “a very bad taste” of the US intelligence community, because of the Russia investigation, so he turned to Giuliani.

“So when you tell me, why did I use Rudy, and one of the things about Rudy, number one, he was the best prosecutor, you know, one of the best prosecutors, and the best mayor,” Trump said. “But also, other presidents had them. FDR had a lawyer who was practically, you know, was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers.”

Trump had previously denied that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine. Asked in November if he directed Giuliani to “do anything” in Ukraine, Trump said, “No, I didn’t direct him,” but went on to call Giuliani a “great corruption fighter.” Giuliani says he’s exposing legitimate corruption in Ukraine, even though his claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden have been widely debunked.

In the new interview, Trump defended the decision to “use” Giuliani, even though US diplomats previously testified that Giuliani had undermined long-standing US policy toward Ukraine.

Giuliani was a central player in the scandal that got Trump impeached, though the President was acquitted by the Senate last week. Multiple witnesses described how Giuliani met with former Ukrainian officials in search of dirt against Joe and Hunter Biden. Other key players described how Giuliani and his allies pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens.

Trump’s past denials came in November, when the House of Representatives was investigating the President’s conduct with Ukraine. Multiple US diplomats and national security officials testified that Giuliani was a central figure in the pressure campaign to secure political favors from Ukraine. Trump also mentioned Giuliani in his phone call last summer with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In the week since his acquittal, Trump has taken a series of bold steps to punish his opponents and reward his supporters. He fired several US officials who had testified against him in the impeachment inquiry, and he successfully lobbied the Justice Department to water down its request that his longtime adviser Roger Stone face as many as nine years in prison for lying to Congress.

[CNN]

Trump singles out Mitt Romney in post-acquittal Twitter-rant

President Donald Trump isn’t letting up on Sen. Mitt Romney during his post-acquittal victory lap.

Four days after the end of his impeachment trial, the president spent a sunny Sunday in D.C. continuing a weekend tweetstorm against the proceedings and his perceived foes — particularly targeting Romney, the lone Republican who voted to boot him from the White House.

The president retweeted assertions that Romney “stabbed Trump in the back” by joining Democrats in attempts to overturn the 2016 election, and that the Utah senator was connected to unsubstantiated claims that Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, was corruptly involved with the Burisma Holdings energy company in Ukraine.

“Mitt Romney is tied to Hunter Biden’s Burisma corruption. This is why he’s bent over backwards for the media with this show ‘guilty’ vote,” read a Trump retweet of the website Big League Politics’ post. “He doesn’t want this story EXPOSED!”

Neither the president nor Big League Politics offered any proof that Romney had been involved with Burisma or Hunter Biden.

The president also fired off his own anti-Romney tweets. “Romney hurt some very good Republican Senators, and he was wrong about the Impeachment Hoax. No clue!” he wrote based off a tweet that Romney’s real damage would be to Senate Republicans in tough reelection races.

He later pulled in Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a red-state Democrat who was considered to be a swing vote on impeachment and whom Trump labeled “weak & pathetic” after Manchin’s vote to convict.

“They are really mad at Senator Joe Munchkin in West Virginia,” the president wrote. “He couldn’t understand the Transcripts. Romney could, but didn’t want to!” This seemed to be a reference to a readout of the July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that led to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s 50-plus tweets and retweets on Sunday included criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up a copy of his State of the Union speech, and encouragement for Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to find out “who started the Ukraine ‘collusion’ narrative.” The senators have pledged to investigate Hunter Biden’s business activities, even after the impeachment trial’s completion.

Appearing on “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning, Graham directly addressed Trump about the origins of the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: “If he’s watching the show, here’s what I would tell the president: I’m going to get to the bottom of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process, because it was an abuse of power at the Department of Justice and the FBI.”

[Politico]

Trump assails Rep. Dingell, citing her late husband, amid wave of attacks on Dems

President Donald Trump on Saturday launched a vitriolic attack on his perceived enemies, including the widow of a prominent Democratic congressman, days after he was acquitted in his impeachment trial.

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to heap scorn on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), the widow of the late Rep. John Dingell, among others.

“@RepDebDingell, who called me, tears flowing, to thank me for rolling out the maximum ‘Red Carpet’ for the funeral of her husband, then voted against me on the partisan Impeachmen Hoax, said ‘everybody (Dems) wants to get out of town. This has been, in my whole career, one of… …the worst weeks ever.’ She could have had a much better week if Crazy Nancy, who is the most overrated person in politics (going to lose the House a second time), didn’t bring the phony & corrupt Impeachment Hoax,” Trump tweeted.

The tweets came at the end of a week that saw Trump acquitted Wednesday, a rambling post-impeachment White House address Thursday that mocked Democratic lawmakers and opponents, and the ousting of two impeachment witnesses Friday.

Trump has attacked Dingell before over her role in the impeachment inquiry, saying to supporters at a Michigan rally in December that her late husband, the longest-ever serving congressman when he died in February 2019, was “looking up” from hell.

Those comments drew condemnation from lawmakers, including from Republicans like Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) who called on Trump to apologize.

The president on Saturday continued lacing into Pelosi, who told Democrats she felt “liberated” after ripping up a paper copy of Trump’s Tuesday State of the Union speech on national television, which became one of the most talked about moments of the event.

“Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s Impeachment Hoax has lifted Republican Congressional Polls (she lost the House once before!), and my Polls, WAY UP, which was expected,” he tweeted, without citing examples.

He also attacked Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC official who testified about the president’s actions on Ukraine, drawing a furious response from Vindman’s lawyers, who called Trump’s attacks a “campaign of intimidation.”

Later Saturday, Trump also assailed Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) for their votes to convict him, in an echo of attacks he’d leveled against the senators on Friday.

Manchin responded in kind, tweeting: “I’ve read the transcripts thoroughly & listened to the witnesses under oath. Where I come from a person accused defends themselves with witnesses and evidence.”

Trump’s tweeting — totaling more than 40 tweets or retweets sent Saturday — didn’t end there.

The president also retweeted a photograph of himself that showed a darkened layer of makeup on his face as he walked across the White House lawn, which had gone viral online. While the original photograph was in color, Trump tweeted a black and white version of it.

“More Fake News. This was photoshopped, obviously, but the wind was strong and the hair looks good?” Trump said. “Anything to demean!”

[Politico]

Trump justifies firing Alexander Vindman for being “insubordinate”

President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning to explain why he fired national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the president’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “improper.”

“I don’t know [Vindman], never spoke to him or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly…….and was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT.'”

Context: Vindman was fired on Friday just before U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was dismissed. The firings took place two days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate.

  • Trump “expressed deep anger … over the attempt to remove him from office because of his actions toward Ukraine,” the Washington Post writes.

[Axios]

Reality

If any other person in America retaliated against witnesses like Donald Trump is doing, they would be in jail. But today we have a monarch.

Trump claims Pelosi ripping speech was ‘illegal’

President Trump claimed Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) committed a crime by ripping up a copy of his speech at the State of the Union on Tuesday evening, a claim that was immediately disputed as false by legal experts. “I thought it was a terrible thing,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a speech in North Carolina. “It’s illegal what she did. She broke the law.” Trump asserted that Pelosi was barred from ripping up the speech because it is an official document, later calling it “very illegal.”

Glenn Kirschner, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, disputed Trump’s claim, telling The Hill that a photocopy of a speech is not an official record.

“The federal law prohibiting the destruction of public records or government documents does not apply,” Kirschner said in a text message.

“No prosecutor with half an ounce of common sense would ever charge this case,” said Elie Honig, another legal analyst. “The law isn’t meant to criminalize destruction of copies of ceremonial documents.”

Trump on Friday also described Pelosi’s action as “very disrespectful to the chamber, to the country.”

Pelosi has said she tore up the speech in order to protest the “falsehoods” contained in the president’s State of the Union address and that she felt “very vindicated” by doing so.

The president’s remarks on Friday were his first public reaction to Pelosi’s ripping of his speech at the conclusion of his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

The president told reporters Friday that he didn’t know Pelosi ripped the copy of his speech until members of Congress remarked about it as he left the chamber.

White House aides have repeatedly criticized Pelosi for the move in recent days, though none have suggested her actions were illegal. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Wednesday that she believed Pelosi should be censured.

“I think it shows you how petty and peevish and partisan the Democratic Party has come,” Conway said on Fox News. “And for all the people out there who fancy themselves the armchair psychiatrist trying to analyze certain people, they ought to shift their craft over to Nancy Pelosi.”

Trump has regularly attacked Pelosi over his impeachment by House, but their relationship plummeted to a new low this week following the State of the Union and the president’s acquittal in the impeachment trial by the GOP-controlled Senate.

When Trump entered the House chamber before his remarks, Trump also appeared to snub Pelosi, not taking her hand as she reached out to shake his as is customary at the beginning of the president’s joint address to Congress.

During two separate appearances on Thursday — including one at the National Prayer Breakfast when the House Speaker was sitting just feet away — Trump took a shot at Pelosi for invoking religion during his impeachment.

“Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. And she wanted to impeach a long time ago,” Trump said during remarks from the East Room Thursday afternoon, disputing Pelosi’s claim that she prays for him. “She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all.”

[The Hill]

Reality

The assertion is rich given Trump’s well-documented penchant for ripping papers into tiny pieces after he’s done reading them. Politico reported in 2018 that White House aides could not convince the President to break his paper-ripping habit, so it became the job of career staffers in the records management office to tape official documents he’s torn into bits back together.

This all came from a tweet from conservative bullshit artist Charlie Kirk.

According to a fact check from the Tampa Bay Times:

The statute in question deals with the “concealment, removal, or mutilation generally” of records and reports. It sets a penalty for anyone who “conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys” any government record “filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States.”

The statute also says that any person with “custody” of a government record cannot “willfully and unlawfully” conceal, remove, mutilate, obliterate, falsify or destroy it.

“The point of the statute is to prevent people from destroying records in official repositories like the National Archives or in courts,” said Georgetown Law professor Victoria Nourse.

Pelosi is in the clear, experts said, because her copy of Trump’s speech wasn’t a government record.

Media

Trump slams Democrats and Romney at prayer breakfast

President Donald Trump began his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast by taking veiled shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was on the stage with him as he spoke, and Sen. Mitt Romneythe morning after the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted him.Romney, citing his Mormon faith, was the only Republican to vote against his party and join Democrats in voting to convict Trump.Beginning his speech at the bipartisan annual event, Trump criticized “dishonest and corrupt people” who “badly hurt our nation” — an apparent reference to Democrats who pursued his impeachment over what they claimed was an abuse of power in holding up aid in Ukraine.

The President thanked “courageous Republican politicians and leaders (who) had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right.”

He then obliquely referenced Romney and Pelosi.”I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so. So many people have been hurt and we can’t let that go on,” Trump said.”We have allies, we have enemies, sometimes the allies are enemies but we just don’t know it. But we’re changing all that,” Trump later remarked.Pelosi has previously said she prays for the President daily and Romney brought up his faith in a speech announcing his vote on impeachment. Later Thursday after the breakfast, Pelosi called Trump’s remark about faith as justification for doing something wrong “completely inappropriate” and “particularly without class.””This morning the President said when people use faith as an excuse to do … bad things … was just so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.”I don’t know what the President understands about prayer or people who do pray, but we do pray for the United States of America,” she said. “I pray hard for him because he’s so off the track of the Constitution, our values, our country.””He really needs our prayers, so he can say whatever he wants … but I do pray for him and I do so sincerely and without anguish,” Pelosi added.Trump walked into the annual, bipartisan breakfast and immediately picked up the newspaper laid on his place setting, a hard copy of USA Today, with the headline “ACQUITTED.” He displayed the headline to the room and to the cameras, to laughter from the audience.Pelosi, at the news conference, said that the President’s talking points were outside of religiously oriented issues was also inappropriate at the breakfast.”To go into the stock market and raising up (the newspaper) and mischaracterizing other peoples’ motivation, he’s talking about things he knows little about — faith and prayer,” she said.The President’s arrival at the breakfast was soon followed by a prayer to the breakfast group by Pelosi. Pelosi prayed for the poor and the persecuted around the world. The House speaker did not bring up politics or impeachment.”Let us pray that the names of the persecuted always live on our lips and their courage carried through our actions. And let us pray that we honor the spark and divinity in them and in all people including ourselves and that we treat everyone with dignity and respect,” Pelosi said.Prefacing Trump’s speech, Dr. Arthur Brooks, discussed the “crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.”He called for those at the breakfast to do what was preached in the Bible: “Love your enemies.”Brooks spoke at length about how politicians from differing parties need to treat each other with love.”Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you,” Trump told the audience after approaching the dais. “I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to have to say.”

[CNN]

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