by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 91 days away. Election Day 2024 is 819 days away.
FBI raids Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home
The FBI executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday, raiding his residence and allegedly breaking open a safe.
In a statement announcing the raid, Trump declared that it was evidence of politically motivated “prosecutorial misconduct,” adding: “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
Indeed, there is no obvious precedent in American history for such a serious investigative move being taken against a former president.
Here’s what we know so far about the raid, what the FBI was looking for, and what the consequences could be:
1. This was not about January 6. Instead, reports from a range of media outlets indicate that the raid was part of a different investigation that has shadowed Trump since leaving office: a probe into his handling of classified documents from his time at the White House.
All presidential documents are considered federal property and are supposed to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of a president’s term. However, in January of this year, the Archives learned of 15 boxes of official records Trump had kept after leaving office; officials had to go to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve them.
In February, concerned that the boxes had contained classified materials, the Archives reportedly asked the Justice Department to open an investigation. To obtain a search warrant for Monday’s raid, the FBI would have had to prove to a judge that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and that evidence of the crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago.
2. Here are the laws Trump might have broken. Beyond the documents he took to his Florida residence — which reportedly included letters he received from Barack Obama and Kim Jong Un — Trump has long been known for his casual handling of presidential records. In 2018, Politico reported that he frequently ripped up documents; just yesterday, photos emerged of papers that he flushed down the toilet.
What laws might that have violated? The most obvious one is the Presidential Records Act, a 1978 law establishing that presidential documents are public property and must be preserved. However, the PRA comes with very little enforcement mechanism if it’s broken.
That’s why some legal experts are instead eyeing 18 U.S. Code § 2071, which sets a prison term of up to three years for anyone who “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys” a public record. The statute also disqualifies violators from holding future public offices — but it is unlikely that prohibition would apply to the presidency, which has its qualifications set out in the Constitution.
3. Trump was not there during the raid, but his lawyer was. Trump was in New York City on Monday, away from Mar-a-Lago. However, his lawyer Christina Bobb — a former anchor at One America News, a right-wing TV network — was reportedly present during the search.
Per NBC News, the FBI notified the Secret Service of its plans ahead of time and the latter agency “facilitated access to the property.”
4. The White House was reportedly not notified. A White House official told CNN that President Biden’s team “did not have notice of the reported action”; according to the New York Times, several senior White House aides only learned about the raid on Twitter.
Attorney General Merrick Garland almost certainly would have known of the FBI’s plans — and given his approval — considering the political sensitivity of the investigation.
5. A political backlash is already beginning to brew. Top Republicans quickly condemned the raid and promised recourse. “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement, pledging to “conduct immediate oversight” of the raid if Republicans win the House majority in November.
Several Trump-allied lawmakers went even further: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called for the FBI to be defunded, while Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) demanded the “complete dismantling and elimination” of the law enforcement agency.
Notably, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) — a potential rival of Trump’s in the 2024 Republican presidential primary — also criticized the raid, which he labeled “another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.”
The probe could push Trump even closer to announcing a 2024 bid: “If he wasn’t running before, he is now,” a person close to him told NBC News. That would put the Justice Department in the controversial position of investigating the opposing party’s presumptive presidential frontrunner.
“Another day in paradise,” Trump said jokingly Monday night at a virtual political event. “This was a strange day.”
A few more developments from the other Trump investigations:
- InfoWars host Alex Jones’ text messages have been turned over to the January 6 committee after his lawyers accidentally sent them to opposing counsel in an unrelated lawsuit.
- Per the Daily Beast, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson is “shitting himself” worried that his messages to Jones might leak.
- The January 6 panel is scheduled to hear closed door-testimony today from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who led efforts to overturn the 2020 vote in his state.
- Finally, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was slated to testify today before a Georgia grand jury investigating the 2020 election aftermath — but he is seeking to postpone, citing health issues.
Primary contests to watch
It’s Tuesday, and that means more primaries! Here’s what you should know from the four states heading to the polls today:
The most closely watched contests are taking place in Wisconsin, which is poised to be a key battleground this fall.
In the state’s gubernatorial race, Trump-backed construction magnate Tim Michels and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are competing for the GOP nod to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. Both Michels and Kleefisch have danced awkwardly around questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Also in the Badger State, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is expected to easily win the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. The other three Democratic candidates dropped their bids late last month, consolidating behind Barnes, who would be the state’s first Black senator.
Plus, Trump is attempting to target a powerful state lawmaker for his refusal to overturn the 2020 election and a trio of Republicans running for secretary of state is calling for changes to the election system.
In Minnesota, voters in the 1st congressional district will participate in a special election to fill the seat vacated in February by Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died of cancer. The seat favors the GOP, but special elections can often be an indicator of partisan enthusiasm going into November — so the margin of victory will be worth watching.
If Republicans win the seat, Democrats will only be able to afford four defections in close House votes for the rest of the year, instead of the current five.
Over in the 5th district, left-wing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar faces a well-funded primary challenger.
In Vermont, the Democratic and Republican primaries each feature two competing female candidates hoping to succeed Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring after nearly 50 years in Congress. Why is that noteworthy? Because Vermont is the only state never to have sent a woman to Congress; no matter who wins today’s primaries, that streak will end.
The history-making senator is likely to be one of the two Democratic contenders, State Sen. Becca Balint or Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.
Finally, there’s Connecticut. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is virtually guaranteed to win re-election, but there has been some intrigue in the Republican race to challenge him. The state GOP is backing former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who supports gay marriage, gun control, and abortion rights — and opposed Trump in 2020.
In response, Trump unveiled a last-minute endorsement of one of her rivals, Leora Levy, adding another race to his growing primary scorecard.
More news you should know
Polling update: For the first time since November 2021, Democrats have taken a lead in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls asking voters which party they plan to support in the upcoming midterms — what’s known as the “generic ballot” question.
The polling average is essentially a dead heat — 44.3% for Democrats, 44.1% for Republicans — but the fact that Democrats have pulled even at all is notable. The development comes on the heels of a string of victories for the party, including the passage of their major climate, health, and tax package.
Primary results: Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the 10 House Republicans to support Trump’s second impeachment, will not advance to the general election in November, the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman projects.
Washington state holds “top-two primaries,” which means all candidates for the seat — regardless of party — were on last week’s primary ballot, and the top two vote-getters will advance. Herrera Beutler has fallen behind Democrat Marie Perez and Republican Joe Kent, Trump’s favored candidate, in the vote count.
Herrera Beutler is the third pro-impeachment House Republican to be defeated by a primary challenge. Four others have retired, while two have won their primaries — leaving Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary next week in Wyoming as the final post-impeachment battleground.
Three recommended reads: “Maps in Four States Were Ruled Illegal Gerrymanders. They’re Being Used Anyway.” (New York Times)
- “Abortion bans complicate access to drugs for cancer, arthritis, even ulcers” (Washington Post)
- “‘Nobody wants a runoff’: Georgia braces for chance of overtime — again” (Politico)
Today in Washington
All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am). Later, he will hold two signing ceremonies: for the CHIPS and Science Act (10 am) and the treaty admitting Finland and Sweden into NATO (2 pm).
The former is a $280 billion package aimed at boosting U.S. scientific research and production of semiconductor chips; the latter would put the U.S. in a mutual defense alliance with a country on Russia’s border. Both measures were approved by Congress with bipartisan support.
Vice President Kamala Harris will attend both signings.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (2:40 pm).
The Senate is on recess until September 6. The chamber will hold a brief pro forma session (9 am) to fulfill its constitutional obligations of meeting every three days; no business will be conducted.
The House is on recess until Friday. The chamber will hold a brief pro forma session (1 pm) as well, without conducting any business either.
The Supreme Court is on recess until October.
In Monday’s newsletter, I misstated the details of a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that would beef up IRS tax enforcement.
The provision entails $80 billion in new spending over 10 years; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will lead to $203 billion being collected, meaning it will raise $123 billion in net revenue.
My apologies for the error and thanks to all the readers who pointed it out. I’m only human and certainly make mistakes from time to time; for transparency’s sake, I always try to be open about it and post them here when slip-ups happen.
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