March 16, 2023
Yesterday, Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, investigating the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in that state, heard yet another recording of former president Trump pushing a key lawmaker—in this case, Georgia House speaker David Ralston—to convene a special session of the legislature to overturn Biden’s victory.
One juror recalled that Ralston “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails.” Ralston, who died last November, did not call a special session.
This is the third such recorded call. One was with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, and another was with the lead investigator in Raffensperger’s office. Ralston had reported the call, but it was not public knowledge that there was a recording of it.
Hallerman and Rankin interviewed five members of the grand jury, which met for 8 months and heard testimony from 75 witnesses. The jurors praised the elections system, and one said, “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.” Another said: “A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later…. And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”
The special grand jury recommended Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis indict people involved in the attempt to overturn the election. The cases are now in her hands.
Yesterday, prosecutors in New York met with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress whom Trump allegedly paid $130,000 to keep their sexual liaison quiet. Also yesterday, Trump fixer Michael Cohen testified before a grand jury about the hush-money payment. Cohen’s testimony suggests that Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg is considering an indictment on a felony charge for misrepresenting the nature of that payment.
Trump has a new lawyer in that case, Joe Tacopina, who has been making the rounds on television shows to insist that Trump isn’t guilty. Tacopina’s job isn’t easy, and he is not necessarily helping, telling MSNBC’s Ari Melber that Trump didn’t actually lie about the hush payment when he lied about it because he was not under oath and he didn’t want to violate a confidentiality agreement.
Also in New York, Trump has asked a judge to delay the $250 million civil case against him, his three oldest children, and the Trump Organization, for manipulating asset valuations to get bank loans and avoid taxes. New York attorney general Letitia James, who brought the suit, said the defendants had had plenty of time to prepare and that Trump is trying to move the case into the election season, at which point he will insist it must be delayed again.
Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, Kristen Holmes, and Casey Gannon of CNN reported today that the federal grand jury investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents has interviewed dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff, from servers to attorneys. Special Counsel Jack Smith continues to try to get Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify after prosecutors learned that on June 24, 2022, Trump and Corcoran spoke on the phone as Trump had been ordered to produce the missing documents and the surveillance tapes of the area.
Prosecutors want Corcoran to have to testify despite the attorney-client privilege he claims, using the “crime-fraud exception,” which means that discussions that aided a crime cannot be kept secret.
In the face of this mounting legal pressure, Trump took to video to demand: “The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the deep staters.” Then, he said, his people need to finish the process he began of “fundamentally revaluating [sic] NATO’s purpose and NATO’s mission.” “[T]he greatest threat to Western civilization today is not Russia,” he said, but “some of the horrible USA-hating people that represent us.”
This speech was not simply a defense of Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In his attempt to undermine the legal cases against him, Trump has endorsed the “post-liberal order” whose adherents reject the American institutions that defend democracy. In their formulation, American institutions they do not control—“the State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest,” for example—are corrupt because they defend the ideas of equality before the law, a free press, religious freedom, and so on. They must be torn down and taken over by true believers who will use the state to enforce their “Christian nationalism.”
In that formulation, the FBI and the Department of Justice are persecuting good Americans who were trying to protect the country on January 6, 2021. And yesterday, Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg reported that Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., sent a letter on October 28 last year to Chief Judge Beryl Howell warning that as many as 1,200 more people could still face charges in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Today, the House Republicans announced an investigation, run by Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), into the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. The January 6th committee asked Loudermilk to talk to it voluntarily to explain why he gave a tour of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021, a time when the coronavirus had ended public tours. One of the people on that tour showed up on a video the next day threatening lawmakers.
Loudermilk told Scott MacFarlane and Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News that Americans have “very little confidence” in the report of the January 6th committee, “[a]nd there’s good reason. I mean, you even consider what they did to me, the false allegations that they made against me regarding the constituents that I had in my office in the office buildings—accusing me of giving reconnaissance tours.”
Loudermilk, who chairs the House Administration subcommittee on Oversight, says his committee will work “aggressively” to explain why Capitol security failed on January 6 and will seek interviews with people involved, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He says his panel will “be honest, show the truth, show both sides.” Representative Norma Torres (D-CA), the top Democrat on the panel, notes that Loudermilk has not informed the Democrats even of the dates on which the committee is supposed to meet.
Politico’s Heidi Przybyla today reported on a February 2023 “bootcamp” for Republican staffers to learn how to investigate the Biden administration. The camp was sponsored by right-wing organizations including the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is led by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and other right-wing leaders and which raised $45 million in 2021 alone. Sessions included “Deposing/Interviewing a Witness” and “Managing the News Cycle.”
At one of those investigations yesterday, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who sits on the Homeland Security committee, said she intended to divulge classified information, saying: “I’m not gonna be confidential because I think people deserve to know.” She claimed that drug cartels had left an explosive device on the border; U.S. Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz later posted a picture of the “device” and said it was “a duct-taped ball filled with sand that wasn’t deemed a threat to agents/public.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to administer.
Today, Sanofi, the third major producer of insulin in the United States, announced it will cap prices for insulin at $35 a month. Sanofi, Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk produce 90% of the insulin in the U.S. The producers have faced pressure after the Inflation Reduction Act lowered the monthly cost of insulin to $35 a month for those on Medicare.