It's our last BradCast until after the Thanksgiving holiday. And for that we are both thankful...and exhausted. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
Merrick Garland's newly appointed independent Special Counsel, Jack Smith, is reportedly already at work, now overseeing two Department of Justice criminal probes related to Donald Trump's incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and his theft of classified documents and other Presidential Records from the White House upon leaving office.
Following Garland's announcement on Friday, there are differing opinions from those in the legitimate legal community hoping to see accountability for the former President. Some believe the appointment of Smith was the right thing to do in order to avoid even the appearance of political conflicts of interest. Others believe that it's too late now to appoint a Special Counsel and that Garland should have simply cut to the chase by bringing indictments himself where appropriate.
Garland's appointment of a Special Counsel came on the heels of Trump's announcement earlier last week that he had filed to run again for President in 2024 and the presumption that Joe Biden was planning to do the same. The Attorney General explained that he felt that the "extraordinary circumstances" triggered the DoJ regulations mandating an independent, non-political appointee be named to oversee both cases and to make the determination as to whether indictments should be brought.
We're joined today by two longtime guests of the program, with very different opinions on the matter. Hours prior to Garland's appointment of Smith, former federal prosecutor RANDALL D. ELIASON, now a law professor at George Washington University, published an article headlined "Mr. Attorney General, It's Time to Appoint a Special Counsel," explaining why he believes that DoJ "regulations and the public interest demand it."
His piece was written following Trump's announcement of his 2024 candidacy and in response to an article earlier in the month by Laurence Tribe and Dennis Aftergut's arguing: "Mr. Attorney General, It’s Too Late to Appoint A Special Counsel."
Following the A.G.'s announcement on Friday, Constitutional law expert JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of the government watchdog group Free Speech for People, expressed disappointment and frustration with Garland's decision, tweeting: "Garland has had more than 1.5 years to name a special counsel to investigate Trump. It is not credible that he was unaware during that time that Trump and Biden might run again."
Both Eliason and Bonifaz join us today to hash out their varying positions, with Bonifaz leaning heavily on the argument that Garland lacks "credibility" in his appointment after failing to bring a "vigorous effort" to hold Trump accountability over the past year and a half, "for the crimes that were clearly laid out" by the time Garland took office. He cites the 10 instances of Obstruction of Justice detailed by the previous Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, and the fraud detailed by the DoJ's successful prosecution and conviction of Trump attorney Michael Cohen, in which the Department identified Trump as "Individual 1" directing a criminal conspiracy to secretly pay off porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about a sexual affair.
"If he's not being held accountable for those crimes," Bonifaz argues, "why should we believe that he now will be held accountable for these crimes?"
Eliason, on the other hand, sees those matters as separate and distinct from the immediate need to appoint a Special Counsel for the DoJ's two, currently ongoing probes. He explains why he believes the appointment is both necessary and will not substantially slow down any prosecution of the former President if indictments are found warranted by Smith. He is also critical of Bonifaz' argument that indictments should already have been brought by the DoJ.
"When you're talking about prosecuting a former President," explains the former chief of the DoJ's Public Corruption and Government Fraud section in D.C., "they've got to have this buttoned up every way possible. So it is going to take some time. I know there is a lot of frustration or impatience with that, but that's the nature of these cases. If they don't take the time and do it right, then they're going to bring some half-baked charges and Trump gets acquitted."
After that debate, Bonifaz sticks around for a bit longer to explain his group's new campaign to call on Secretaries of State and chief election officials in all 50 states to bar Trump from the 2024 ballot, arguing that his incitement of the January 6 insurrection makes him ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, the so-called Insurrection Disqualification Clause. FSFP has joined with Mia Familia Vota to launch a campaign at TrumpIsDisqualified.org to gather signatures for a petition to state election officials, charging "because of his role in inciting, encouraging, and supporting the January 6th insurrection, Trump is constitutionally ineligible for any future run for office."
Also today, several news headlines from over the weekend, including an all too brief conversation with Desi Doyen --- before we disappear for the next week --- about the landmark agreement struck during overtime at the U.N.'s climate conference over the weekend. The nations of the world finally agreed to create a long-sought, so-called "loss and damage" fund that will require wealthy nations who benefited from the use of cheap and dirty fossil fuel energy to help still-developing nations who are not responsible for our climate crisis yet are facing the brunt of the worsening emergency. The 200 nations at the conference did not, however, agree to call out the reason for the emergency --- the burning of fossil fuels --- due to opposition from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, nations with fossil fuel dependent economies...
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