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Judge blocks justice department from Trump documents as legal fight continues – live | US politics


What’s a special master, and why has Donald Trump asked for one in the Mar-a-Lago case?

As the Guardian reported yesterday, a special master can best be described as “an independent arbiter to vet records”, specifically for the two types of privilege Trump is worried about: “attorney-client confidentiality or … a legal principle called executive privilege”. The winning candidate is Raymond Dearie, a veteran federal judge with long experience handling sensitive matters, including terrorism and other national security cases.

But the biggest impact of the ruling from judge Aileen Cannon is that the justice department can’t continue reviewing documents taken from Mar-a-Lago while the special master does his work, greatly complicating their investigation into what was going on at Trump’s Florida resort. That ruling sets the stage for the government to take the matter to a higher court. Don’t be surprised if we hear more about that today.

Key events

January 6 committee could release interim report before midterms

The House committee investigating January 6 plans to release preliminary findings into the attack on the Capitol sometime in October, meaning voters may be digesting new details of the insurrection as the midterms approach, Axios reports.

The committee has tentative plans to hold its first public hearing since July on 28 September, and Axios reports that its members are meeting today to flesh out the rest of their schedule. The Democratic chair Bennie Thompson said an early version of its report into the attack will come out in October. “The goal is to have … some information pushed out, obviously, before the November election,” he said, adding that the time between the late-September hearing and the 8 November election “won’t be a quiet period.”

The committee’s public hearings held in June and July dredged up highly publicized details of the attack and Donald Trump’s actions before, during and after that put the former president and his Republican allies on the defensive. That dynamic may repeat in the two months ahead, assuming the committee is able to match its earlier revelations.

For a sense of how the committee is thinking in relation to its impact on the midterms, here are the thoughts of one of its Democratic members, Jamie Raskin: “There are those partisans of former President Trump that will denounce anything we do, so we’re not going to jump through hoops to please people who will call anything we do partisan.”

If there’s one thing Donald Trump likes, it’s people who like him. The Associated Press reports that the former president has reached out to a new group of friends: QAnon supporters.

While saying as recently as 2020 that he didn’t know much about the convoluted conspiracy theory-turned-movement, he has lately made several social media posts embracing some of its ideas. The AP reports that it may be a way to shore up his support base as he deals with an array of legal troubles, like the Mar-a-Lago investigation:

The former president may be seeking solidarity with his most loyal supporters at a time when he faces escalating investigations and potential challengers within his own party, according to Mia Bloom, a professor at Georgia State University who has studied QAnon and recently wrote a book about the group.

“These are people who have elevated Trump to messiah-like status, where only he can stop this cabal,” Bloom told the AP on Thursday. “That’s why you see so many images (in online QAnon spaces) of Trump as Jesus.”

On Truth Social, QAnon-affiliated accounts hail Trump as a hero and savior and vilify President Joe Biden by comparing him to Adolf Hitler or the devil. When Trump shares the content, they congratulate each other. Some accounts proudly display how many times Trump has “re-truthed” them in their bios.

By using their own language to directly address QAnon supporters, Trump is telling them that they’ve been right all along and that he shares their secret mission, according to Janet McIntosh, an anthropologist at Brandeis University who has studied QAnon’s use of language and symbols.

It also allows Trump to endorse their beliefs and their hope for a violent uprising without expressly saying so, she said, citing his recent post about “the storm” as a particularly frightening example.

A survey published earlier this year found that belief in QAnon has surged ever since Trump left the White House.

Democrats are growing increasingly engaged and cheery about the country’s direction, though Joe Biden remains is still unpopular and many Americans have a gloomy outlook for the country, according to a poll from the New York Times released today.

The findings bolster the case that Biden’s recent legislative successes, coupled with the supreme court’s decision overturning abortion rights and the mounting legal troubles of Donald Trump, could make a meaningful difference for Democrats in the midterms.

The survey indicates an increase in enthusiasm among Democrats, 50% of which view the country as going in the right direction, up from 27% in July. Biden’s approval rating among his party’s voters has also climbed to 83% from 70% two months ago. But overall, the president’s approval rating among all voters is still underwater at 42%, and while the poll does find Democrats with a two percentage point lead over the GOP on congressional ballots, that’s within the survey’s margin of error.

If there’s one takeaway from the data, it could be this: Democratic voters are getting fired up to fight for Biden and their congressional majorities, but whether it will be enough to keep the House and Senate in the party’s hands is another question. There’s more to unpack from the poll, and here’s a link to the full data.

Nancy Pelosi is going to have a busy weekend. She’s currently in Berlin representing the United States at a meeting of assembly speakers from the G7 group of wealthiest nations, but will this weekend head to Armenia, where fighting has flared with its neighbor and arch-rival Azerbaijan.

Here’s more from the Associated Press:

Pelosi told reporters in Berlin she would to travel to Armenia on Saturday with a delegation that includes Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who is of Armenian descent. Pelosi declined to give further details about the trip, saying that traveling members of the Congress “don’t like to be a target.”

“In any case, it is all about human rights and the respecting the dignity and worth of every person,” she said.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said the situation on the border with Azerbaijan has remained quiet since the cease-fire took effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and no violations were reported.

The cease-fire declaration followed two days of heavy fighting that marked the largest outbreak of hostilities in nearly two years.

Armenia and Azerbaijan traded blame for the shelling, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression and Azerbaijani officials saying their country was responding to Armenian attacks.

Speaking of conservative media, Ramon Antonio Vargas tuned into conservative stalwart Fox News to see what their political coverage looks like ahead of the midterms:

With most US voters indicating that the preservation of abortion rights is their chief focus as midterm elections loom, the face of Fox News and Republican politicians appear to be trying to shift attention to crime, a progressive media watchdog has warned.

As Democrats seek to maintain razor-thin advantages in both congressional chambers, an analysis from Media Matters for America notes that on 19 August, the highest-rated Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, implored “every Republican candidate in the United States” to pitch themselves as favoring “law and order and equality under the law”.

Since then, the word “crime” has appeared in 29% of Republican political ads, up from 12% in July, Media Matters said, citing reporting from the Washington Post.

The White House has hired a satanist! Or at least that’s what some conservative media outlets would like you to be believe.

Politico has published a fascinating interview with Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s deputy monkeypox coordinator, which gets into his passion for fighting HIV, his path to the White House and the thirst trap photos on his Instagram that led to some rather outrageous allegations of satanism. First, a bit about his career:

As a kid, he always knew he wanted to be a doctor (“Fisher Price play kit,” he muses). But it wasn’t until he was an undergraduate at Columbia University that he experienced an epiphany.

He was working on a big display of the AIDS memorial quilt, he says, and was tasked with flying to San Francisco to bring back a “roll of carpet that looked like a body in a shroud.” On the day the exhibit opened for the finished quilt, he watched as men his age — people who should have been enjoying their 20s — walked in, coughing and raging with a disease very likely to kill them.

“My job is going to be to never let anyone get HIV or if people have HIV, make sure that they don’t get sick and die. It hit me like that,” he recalls with a snap of his fingers.

Daskalakas’s appearances at the White House briefing room have put him in the public eye, but much of the hubbub around him stems from photos on his Instagram account and elsewhere that show off his substantial tattoos, including one of a pentagram that led to allegations of satanism – which he denies. “I wish I were that interesting,” he told Politico, noting that he also has a large but less noticed tattoo of Jesus on his stomach.

As for the intent behind the photos, Daskalakas said he posted them for the same reason many people use Instagram. “I spent a lot of money on my tattoos and a lot of time at the gym. I’m showing it off.”

Russia’s detention of Americans has been a thorn in the side of the White House for months, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to win their release. Here’s more from the Associated Press about the saga:

Joe Biden plans to meet at the White House on Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, both of whom remain jailed in Russia, senior administration officials told the Associated Press.

The separate meetings are to be the first in-person encounter between Biden and the families and are taking place amid sustained but so far unsuccessful efforts by the administration to secure the Americans’ release. The administration said in July that it had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home, but despite plans for the White House meetings, there is no sign that a breakthrough is imminent.

Biden plans to speak at the White House with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and with the player’s agent in one meeting and with Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth, in the other.

Biden to meet today with families of Americans detained in Russia

Joe Biden will meet today with the relatives of WNBA star Brittney Griner and executive Paul Whelan as his administration seeks their release from detention in Russia, the White House announced.

At the meeting with Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner and Whelan’s sister Elizabeth Whelan, Biden will “discuss his continuing commitment to bringing their family members home safely,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday.

“As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney and Paul under intolerable circumstances. And as you know, we have been directly engaged with the Russian government through appropriate channels,” Jean-Pierre said, noting that Washington had recently made a “significant offer” to secure their release. “We have followed up on that offer repeatedly, and we’ll continue to pursue every avenue to bring them home safely.”

According to CNN, that offer includes a prisoner swap that would release Viktor Bout, an arms dealer jailed in the United States.

Mobsters, corruption and now Trump: Raymond Dearie, the senior federal judge selected yesterday as special master in the Mar-a-Lago case, certainly has had an interesting career.

Politico published a profile of the 78-year-old juror who will be tasked with figuring out which documents taken by the FBI from the south Florida resort are privileged:

Lawyers and litigants who have appeared before Dearie describe him as independent, thorough and even-handed jurist who is fit to wrangle the dueling sides. As much as any judge put in this difficult position, they say he’s up to the task.

“He’s one of the few judges who both sides want to appear in front of. He is held in the highest regard by attorneys. He’s someone who actually listens to the lawyers and considers what they have to say before he makes a decision,” said Lindsay Gerdes, a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor.

Sean Hecker, an attorney at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP who has had several cases before Dearie (including one pending) said much the same. “He’s independent-minded, extremely smart and wise. Hard to imagine a more qualified person for this challenging assignment.”

Trump may be getting his way – for now – in the Mar-a-Lago case, but the former president could face legal peril from several other investigations nationwide.

A reminder of what’s at stake came yesterday, when Fani Willis, the Georgia district attorney who empaneled a special grand jury to investigate the campaign of meddling aimed at overturning the state’s election results in 2020, said her investigation could lead to people facing charges.

“The allegations are very serious. If indicted and convicted, people are facing prison sentences,” Willis told the Washington Post in an interview. She said her office has credible evidence that the law had been broken in the course of the effort by Trump’s allies, which drew in well-known figures like his attorney Rudy Giuliani and senator Lindsey Graham.

But, this is the legal world, where matters play out over long timelines. Willis couldn’t say when indictments are to be expected, and would not discuss who she may be targeting.

What’s a special master, and why has Donald Trump asked for one in the Mar-a-Lago case?

As the Guardian reported yesterday, a special master can best be described as “an independent arbiter to vet records”, specifically for the two types of privilege Trump is worried about: “attorney-client confidentiality or … a legal principle called executive privilege”. The winning candidate is Raymond Dearie, a veteran federal judge with long experience handling sensitive matters, including terrorism and other national security cases.

But the biggest impact of the ruling from judge Aileen Cannon is that the justice department can’t continue reviewing documents taken from Mar-a-Lago while the special master does his work, greatly complicating their investigation into what was going on at Trump’s Florida resort. That ruling sets the stage for the government to take the matter to a higher court. Don’t be surprised if we hear more about that today.

Judge continues to block DoJ from reviewing Trump documents as legal fight goes on

Good morning, US politics blog readers. It was good news for Donald Trump and bad news for the justice department yesterday, when the judge assigned to referee the legal wrangling over the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago extended her block on the government reviewing the documents it had seized. Instead, she appointed a special master to go through them and weed out any that are under legal privilege rules. This is certainly not the last word on the matter, legally speaking – the justice department is expected to appeal the decision to a higher court.

It’s a busy day otherwise:

  • Joe Biden is meeting with the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the White House at 2.15pm ET.

  • Fury is growing over Republican governors’ campaign to bring migrants from the souther border to Democratic-run areas, which has attracted the attention of the justice department.

  • The deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, will discuss the Biden administration’s efforts to free Americans held hostage abroad in a Washington Post event at 10.30 am ET.



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