Trump sits for deposition and Republican Rep. Fortenberry indicted


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Trump’s Jan. 6 lawsuit

Former president Trump sued the Jan. 6 Select Committee, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and the National Archives on Monday to block disclosure of White House records related to the insurrection. In a 26-page complaint (pdf), Trump argues the committee is conducting “a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that violates executive privilege:

The United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (the “Committee”) has decided to harass President Trump and senior members of his administration (among others) by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request to the Archivist of the United States…In a political ploy to accommodate his partisan allies, President Biden has refused to assert executive privilege over numerous clearly privileged documents requested by the Committee. The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration. Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former President and his close advisors

While Trump is no longer president, and doesn’t have the power to determine what is and is not covered by executive privilege, the matter has not been decided in court.

Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) responded:

“The former President’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. Precedent and law are on our side. Executive privilege is not absolute and President Biden has so far declined to invoke that privilege. Additionally, there’s a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.”

  • Trump’s lawyer is Jesse Binnall, an election conspiracy theorist who has also represented Mike Flynn for lying to the FBI and Sidney Powell in her doomed election lawsuits.

Trump’s deposition

Trump sat for a videotaped deposition Monday related to a civil suit brought by protestors alleging his bodyguards assaulted them in 2015. A group of activists claim they were assaulted by Trump’s security team, including his longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller, during a protest against Trump’s anti-immigrant racist comments outside Trump Tower.

In court documents, they alleged Schiller led a brutal crackdown on the group that sent at least one man to the hospital. Bronx Supreme Court Judge Fernando Tapia ruled the case must be heard by a jury to determine if Trump “authorized and condoned” the actions of his security team. Tapia also cited Trump’s comments after his supporters assaulted a demonstrator at a campaign rally, when he told reporters the demonstrator “should have been roughed up.”

Benjamin Dictor, a lawyer for the protesters, described Trump’s behavior during the deposition as “exactly as you would expect him to be.”

“We examined Mr. Trump on a variety of issues including statements he has made at various campaign events and rallies that counsel believes encouraged violence at those events or encouraged security guards to engage in violence or the confiscation of property…The President was exactly how you would expect him to be, he answered questions the way you would expect Mr. Trump to answer questions and conducted himself in a manner that you would expect Mr. Trump to conduct himself.”

  • Reminder: Schiller worked as Director of Oval Office Operations in 2017, reportedly leaving due to “income concerns”. His security company was then hired by the Republican National Committee to provide security consultation for $15,000 a month. Schiller’s company was ultimately paid $585,500 by the RNC over the course of Trump’s presidency.

Fortenberry indicted

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday related to an illegal foreign donation to his 2016 campaign. Fortenberry, who was charged with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators, allegedly accepted $30,000 from Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury in 2016 through straw donors. The congressman then lied to federal prosecutors investigating the donations in two separate instances.

Individual H allegedly told Fortenberry that the money – which was distributed to other individuals at the fundraiser so the donations could be made under their names and avoid individual donor limits – “probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury.”

Despite learning of the illegal campaign contributions, Fortenberry did not file an amended report with the Federal Elections Commission, the indictment alleges.

The indictment alleges a scheme in which Fortenberry, after learning this information, “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” about the illegal campaign contributions.

Kentucky abortion case

According to two court observers, the Supreme Court appears likely to allow Kentucky’s attorney general to defend abortion restrictions already deemed unconstitutional. The case, Cameron v. EMW Surgical Center, centers around a state law that would ban the common second trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E).

However, the Court is not considering the legality of the ban itself. At issue is whether AG Daniel Cameron can continue to defend the ban in court when state officials—including Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of Health Eric Friedlander (appointed by Beshear)—have moved to drop the case. At the time the law was passed, then-Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed it into law and advocated to defend it in court.

During oral arguments last week, even the liberal Justices seemed to side with AG Cameron:

“The attorney general, on behalf of the commonwealth, merely accepted a handoff for another state official to exhaust all appeals,” [Cameron’s attorney] said.

The justices seemed to agree, with some worrying that agreeing with the lower court would mean Kentucky had no representative.

“If there’s no prejudice to anybody, and I can’t see where there is, why can’t he just come in and defend the law?” asked liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Justice Elena Kagan, a fellow liberal, said the “real world” consequence of the election mattered.

“I think what Justice Breyer was saying is: ‘Gosh, that would be an extremely harsh jurisdictional rule, or at least a counterintuitive rule, if it ended up in a place where nobody was there to defend Kentucky’s law, even though there are significant parts of Kentucky’s government that still want its law defended,” she said.

SCOTUSblog analyst Amy Howe agreed with the above assessment, writing that “Cameron seemed likely to prevail – perhaps by a lopsided majority.”

  • Background: The Western District of Kentucky Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found the D&E ban to be unconstitutional. In the Sixth Circuit’s opinion, written by a Carter appointee and joined by a Clinton appointee, the judges found the state law “imposes an undue burden” on women seeking an abortion. John K. Bush, a Trump appointee, dissented.

Further reading:

“FBI agents swarm Washington home of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska,” NBC News