Remember during the 2016 Presidential election when Donald Trump repeated over and over how only mobsters plead the Fifth Amendment? Yeah, so does he, as discussed on today's BradCast . And yet, he repeatedly took the Fifth for some four hours in a row during his deposition in New York today. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
Before we get to those details and the related story of the FBI search at Trump's home in Florida on Monday...Good news for Americans is, of course, bad news for Republicans. According to new numbers released by the Department of Labor on Wednesday, inflation may now be slowing, along with gas prices which fell in July by roughly 20%. Obviously, that is completely thanks to the brilliant policies of President Joe Biden. (It's not, but since the GOP blamed him for inflation and the rise in prices at the pump, it seems only fair to give him all the credit when the numbers go the other way.)
Next, our highly selective and curated coverage of noteworthy results from Tuesday's primary elections in four states --- Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin. (And one last noteworthy race called from last week's primary in the state of Washington.) Here too, good news for far-right MAGA Republican voters may turn out to be very bad news for them in November. If not, it's likely to be very bad news for American democracy in advance of the 2024 elections. Many of Trump's endorsed candidates, all of whom are 2020 election deniers, are winning GOP nominations for offices likely to be critical during the 2024 Presidential election, if those candidates are successful in the 2022 election. We cover a bunch of them today, with appropriate warnings, along with a number of the encouraging Democratic victories on Tuesday.
Then, Trump's horrible, no good, very VERY bad week continues to get worse. Of course, that is good news for the bulk of Americans who actually do believe in law and order and accountability and stuff. On Wednesday, Trump finally sat down for the under oath deposition he has fought so hard against in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil probe into his and the Trump Organization's years of apparent bank, tax and insurance fraud. For four hours, he repeatedly exercised his Constitutional Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, despite claiming for years --- or, at least while he was running for President in 2016 --- that doing so is "horrible, horrible, horrible" and "disgraceful" because "if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"
(As it turns out, Trump invoked the Fifth nearly 100 times during his 1990 divorce deposition as well. His own kid, Eric, one of the titular heads of the Trump Organization while Trump was in office, invoked the privilege more than 500 times when he was deposed in the James' probe back in 2020. And, over the past several days, two of his other kids, Don Jr. and Ivanka, were also reportedly deposed. Any guess what they might have done?)
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home on Monday, though we still don't actually know what they were looking for nor which of the several federal criminal investigations Trump is the focus of it pertained to. Trump does. It says as much on the warrant he has in his possession. He's just not telling anyone, while describing the matter (as usual) as a "political witch hunt" and declaring that it means the U.S. is now a "broken, Third-World Country."
We're joined today for some really helpful insight into both of these ongoing cases by former Asst. U.S. Attorney in D.C. and chief of the DoJ Public Corruption/Government Fraud section, RANDALL D. ELIASON.
As usual, Eliason, who now teaches law with a focus on white collar crime at George Washington University Law School, is able to offer clear, straight-forward facts on what much of cable news has been speculating about over the past 72 hours or so.
For example, what's the difference between a "raid", as Trump and many on the Right are describing what happened in South Florida on Monday, and the lawful exercise of a search warrant, approved by a federal judge? "I'm not sure if there is a universally agreed-upon definition of a raid," he explains, "but I think the most likely definition is it's a raid if it happens to you."
In response to the reports of Trump pleading the Fifth in his NY fraud case, Eliason doesn't think it's "terribly surprising, given what we know" about both the case and the former President, but he goes on to lay out both the difference between a civil case (such as the James') and a criminal probe, and how the Fifth Amendment can be used against Trump in the former, but not the latter, even if it may help criminal prosecutors, like the Manhattan District Attorney, identify where the disgraced former President himself believes he has potentially committed a crime.
Eliason explains what material would be revealed by the portion of the FBI search warrant from Mar-a-Lago that is now in Trump's possession, even as he is refusing to disclose it. "It has to cite the statutes that the investigators believe might have been violated," he says, while noting that there is nothing that legally prevents Trump from releasing it tothe public. Also, he asserts, Trump would, by now, "have an inventory of what was seized" by the FBI, even if he has also failed to release that information as well, despite his many claims of innocence and being a victim.
We also discuss the hurdles that would have to have been cleared by Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray, Biden-appointed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, as well as the federal magistrate judge who finally approved the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. (Eliason also breaks down the difference between a federal judge and a federal magistrate judge, who Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio suggested on Fox "News" last night, isn't actually a real judge.)
"Given the outcry that you know was going to result from this, and that we've actually seen, you'd want something far beyond just 'probable cause'," argues Eliason, a contributing columnist at the Washington Post and at his own Sidebars Blog. "The DoJ is not going to do this in a marginal case. Before taking this kind of extraordinary, unprecedented step, they're going to really be sure they've got substantial proof, and that it's something really important that they're going after."
As far as what they're "going after"? Well, nobody --- other than Trump, his attorneys and the FBI, DoJ and a federal judge --- actually knows at this point. There has been much TrumpWorld-sourced reportage that this all has something to do with the more than 15 boxes of Presidential Records, many of them highly classified, according to the National Archives, that Trump absconded with to Florida after leaving the White House. But none of that is actually confirmed.
I convince the usually quite careful Eliason to offer his own speculation about what the FBI could be looking for that would involve such a monumental and politically fraught step as obtaining a search warrant for the home of a former President. "Most people are speculating about these crimes that involve Presidential Records," he says. "If that's all it was, and it was relatively routine stuff, I would be surprised that they'd take this kind of step. That makes me think either the documents themselves are something extraordinarily sensitive, and potentially dangerous to national security, or that there's something else going on."
What might that "something else" be, according to Eliason? For that, you'll need to tune in...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)