September 22, 2022
Big stories in different parts of the world today.
The Russian mobilization—the first since World War II—appears to be aiming at 1 million new soldiers, rather than the 300,000 suggested yesterday. Officials are scouring villages to conscript men, especially ethnic minorities, to fill the quotas the government has established. Stories are circulating of men given only an hour to appear at recruitment centers, students being given draft notices while they were sitting in class, and workers taken off the job.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has officially condemned Russia’s attacks on the civilian population of Ukraine: the forced deportations, disappearances, detainments, torture, and other abuses. The State Department said that “President Putin must be held accountable for these atrocities.” Indeed, even North Korea has distanced itself from Russia, saying in an official statement that it has never supplied Russia with weapons and has no plans to do so.
The U.S. today also imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and other government leaders after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for wearing her head covering too loosely. Her death has prompted protests in Tehran and other areas, with Iranians seeing her death as a sign of the extremism of the country’s religious leaders.
And yet, not everyone is on board with distancing themselves from authoritarian governments. Today, Jared Kushner received the Hungarian Order of Merit at the Hungarian consulate in New York.
Here at home, President Biden has rushed help to Puerto Rico. The island is reeling from Hurricane Fiona, which knocked out a power grid not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria almost exactly five years ago. On Sunday he issued an emergency declaration, freeing up federal money to help the region, and yesterday he issued a major disaster declaration, which allows the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to pay for debris removal, water restoration, temporary housing and home repairs, and crisis counselors; to provide low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses; and so on.
When he ran for president, Biden promised he would provide aid to Puerto Rico, which was still rebuilding after Hurricane Maria killed 3000 people and left hundreds of thousands of people without power for months. Today, at FEMA’s Region 2 headquarters at One World Trade Center in New York City, Biden indicated he sees his response to Hurricane Fiona as a test of the federal government. He recalled President Ronald Reagan’s famous line: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help.” “But we really are,” Biden said, “[a]nd…I hope you’re satisfied with the response so far. We’ll be with the…folks of Puerto Rico now and until this is done and we recover.”
While Biden is trying to demonstrate that the government works, the former president is finding that out.
Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta overturned the decision of Judge Aileen Cannon saying that the Department of Justice could not use the materials seized in the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago until a special master had reviewed them. The 11th Circuit agreed with the Department of Justice that the 100 or so classified documents should be exempt from that decision. It ruled that the Department of Justice and the FBI can proceed with both the national security investigation of the documents with classified markings that Trump stole from the national government and the criminal investigation of that theft, including those documents.
Legal commenter Teri Kanefield noted that Trump was likely most concerned about the documents with classification markings because while all the material belonged to the United States—that is, to us—it is the classified material that threatens our national security and thus puts him in the greatest legal jeopardy. That, she suggests, is why he is making such a fuss about whether he declassified the material.
But the court has removed those documents from the special master’s review. “So now,” Kanefield notes, “[Trump] can pay for a special master to look through everything else while the DOJ continues a criminal investigation of the doc[ument]s that matter.”
Today that special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie—who was Trump’s pick for the job, by the way—ordered Trump’s lawyers to back up Trump’s wild claims in court. The former president has alleged that the FBI planted documents at Mar-a-Lago, that some of the recovered documents were actually his, and that he had, in fact, secretly declassified some of the materials with classified markings. Dearie gave his lawyers until September 30 to tell him which documents, if any, on the Justice Department’s inventory of the material they recovered from Mar-a-Lago on August 8 have been described incorrectly.
“This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” Dearie wrote.
This morning, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell was supposed to testify before a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, about her involvement in a breach of election systems in Coffee County. The data firm whose operatives gained access to the system says it was hired by Powell. She did not appear for today’s scheduled interview.