Appeals court backs DOJ, forcing Trump attorney to aid documents probe

Appeals court backs DOJ, forcing Trump attorney to aid documents probe

An appeals court on Wednesday rejected attempts by former President Trump’s legal team to challenge a Friday ruling ordering his attorney Evan Corcoran to produce documents related to the probe into the potential mishandling of records at Mar-a-Lago.

A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with special counsel Jack Smith and backed a lower court judge who on Friday issued a sealed ruling directing Corcoran to cooperate on several lines of inquiry he had rebuffed, citing attorney-client privilege.

In that opinion, D.C. District Court Judge Beryl Howell determined that the Justice Department had presented sufficient evidence that his legal advice may have been in furtherance of a crime — igniting the crime fraud exception that allows the piercing of attorney-client privilege. 

The appeal by Trump’s team follows reporting from ABC News indicating that Trump may have intentionally concealed from Corcoran the existence of additional classified records held at his Florida home.

According to ABC, Howell’s ruling compelled Corcoran to testify along six lines of inquiry where Cocoran declined to answer questions in a prior appearance before a grand jury. She also compelled him to produce documents, notes, invoices and even transcripts or audio recordings related to the case.

Trump’s team did not immediately respond to request for comment, but previously pushed back on ABC’s story, dismissing it as “illegally leaked.”

Wednesday’s decision comes from three Obama appointees. Though publicly docketed, the arguments from both Trump’s team and the Justice Department are under seal. 

Updated at 4:16 p.m.

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Veterans Voices : Quilts of Valor

Veterans Voices : Quilts of Valor

ROANOKE/ROCKY MOUNT, VA(WFXR) — Roanoke Quilts of Valor Stitchers leader Carolyn Zaleski was called to serve in a military veterans and service members through her stitching skills. When she was in North Carolina she was impressed by the Quilts of Valor chapter there and started a chapter in Roanoke in October 2021.

“When I was in that group, I got to do a few events and speak to the veterans. It was very humbling and to meet them and delivering so much and they are so humble. It was such a good thing to do. I had to focus on something after my husband passed. I thought this was a good thing to focus on,” said Zaleski.

Star Quilters Guild representative Sarah Baumgardner said the partnership between the Guild and Stitchers is special especially when it comes to the presentation of the Quilts of Valor.

“We all share a common passion for quilting. quilters in general like to give back. The presentation is very moving. Because they are not just given a quilt. They are physically wrapped in the quilt during the presentation. Really to represent the love for their community and for their community and wrapped in that support, so it is a wonderful thing to see,” said Baumgardner.

One veteran to receive the quilt of valor honor is 21 year Navy vet Todd Cassell.
Todd was presented with his quilt last year. Interesting enough…Todd and his wife Melissa are the owner of Fork Mountain Quilting in Rocky Mount. He has a connection thanks to him being a veteran and connected to quilting.

“As a veteran, I served with many wonderful people that have done a lot of amazing things. Far beyond things that I could do. I am here talking to you. A lot of folks didn’t come home. So when I look at that type of quilt. When I look at that, that is what that reminds we of is the ones that didn’t make it home . The ones that made the ultimate sacrifice. So when I look at that. It keeps me warm at night when I am wrapped up tight. That is what goes through my mind,” said Cassell.

Since 2003, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has awarded a quilt of valor to over a quarter of a million service members and veterans touched by war. The Star Quilters Guild is hosting a quilt show this Friday and Saturday at the Berglund Center. The Roanoke Quilts of Valor Stitchers will present a total of eight quilts to selected veterans. The Stars Over the Blue Ridge Quilt Show and Sale is Friday(9am-5pm) and Saturday(9am-4pm)

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Trump’s possible indictment: What to watch for

Trump’s possible indictment: What to watch for

Former President Trump could be indicted in the coming days, a seismic event that will ripple through the political world.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has signaled he is prepared to bring charges against Trump over a hush-money payment to cover up an alleged affair during the 2016 election. 

Trump, who over the weekend indicated he was expecting to be arrested this week, has launched a stream of attacks against Bragg and urged supporters to protest.

Here’s what to watch ahead of a possible indictment

How are charges announced

A grand jury could decide this week and as early as Wednesday whether to indict the former president on charges related to a hush-money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.

What comes next will be closely watched, but the specifics are unclear.

If Trump is indicted, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is likely to work with Trump’s team to arrange his surrender in New York City. Trump resides in Florida, and his attorney has said he would not refuse to surrender.

Trump would have to be arraigned in New York City, but he is unlikely to be held in Manhattan while the legal case against him plays out, allowing him to continue campaigning as a 2024 presidential candidate.

What does Trump do

Trump has sought to weaponize the looming charges against him for political purposes, even predicting his own arrest would happen Tuesday despite no inside information or evidence to support his claim.

The former president is likely to use the announcement of charges to hammer home his message to supporters that he is a target of a politically motivated justice system that must be torn down and rebuilt.

Trump’s campaign already sent out numerous fundraising missives to his supporters seizing on the reports of Trump’s imminent arrest, and it is expected to do the same if and when an indictment drops.

And Trump himself has turned his Truth Social feed into a sounding board for aggressive attacks against Bragg, demeaning the 49-year-old district attorney as a “racist, [George] Soros backed” prosecutor who is being manipulated by Democratic leaders.

With Trump unlikely to be held in Manhattan after the charges are filed, he is expected to continue his schedule as a 2024 presidential candidate, beginning Saturday with a rally in Waco, Texas, where his grievances will be on full display in front of a crowd of ardent supporters.

What will protests look like

Authorities in New York City have been on alert for the possibility of protests, setting up metal barricades near the Manhattan courthouse in anticipation of a charged response to Trump’s arrest.

Republicans have generally called for any protests to remain peaceful, and chatter among pro-Trump groups has yet to show any organized effort for widespread demonstrations.

But the rhetoric coming from Trump and his team has put many on edge about the prospect of violence, particularly two years after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

Trump himself urged supporters to “protest, take our nation back!” in the same Truth Social post where he predicted his own arrest would happen Tuesday.

In a separate post, Trump bemoaned what he described as the decline of the country, writing: “They’re killing our nation as we sit back & watch. We must save America! Protest, Protest, Protest!!!”

Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, warned it would be “an all-out war” if the former president is indicted, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested that charging Trump would “blow up our country.

House GOP goes on attack

House Republicans in particular have signaled they will rally around Trump and go on offense on his behalf.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has led an effort to blast the looming charges as politically motivated, and he has threatened to review federal funding for the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Three House GOP committee chairs requested testimony from Bragg, writing to the district attorney that a decision to indict Trump “will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election.”

The strategy is reminiscent of the former president’s previous impeachment trials, when House Republicans like Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) were among his most outspoken defenders.

Bragg’s office in an internal memo Monday said it would not be intimidated by rhetoric from Trump and Republicans.

How does it shake up 2024 race?

Even with multiple investigations hanging over him, Trump has remained the front-runner for the GOP nomination in the 2024 presidential race.

The former president has a fervent base of supporters who give him a solid floor in any primary race, and some of that support will only be re-entrenched by what some view as a politically motivated prosecution.

Still, an indictment could prove damaging to Trump’s prospects long-term.

Other contenders like former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have repeatedly argued the GOP has better choices than Trump moving forward, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made a point to note Monday that he’s never had to pay hush money to cover up an affair.

One strategist who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign acknowledged the former president is still a force in the GOP, but argued that at a certain point the baggage will become too much for voters to look past.

“An indictment is not like Democrats going after him in the Oval Office,” the strategist said. “This is of his own making.”

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Democrats worry about Trump protest calls over possible indictment

Democrats worry about Trump protest calls over possible indictment

Senate Democrats on Tuesday expressed alarm at former President Trump’s call for protests in response to a potential indictment this week by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

But some also held back as they awaited the possible indictment over a hush money payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to be handed down.

Democrats panned Trump’s immediate response to a potential arrest, harkening back to his call out to his supporters prior to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“I worry about it in the context of Jan. 6,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill. “We saw what happened when the former president incited violence on Jan. 6, so I worry because of the former president’s past record.” 

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “Certainly I worry about President Trump doing things that are irresponsible, but it wouldn’t be the first time.”

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during his daily floor remarks on Tuesday notably stuck to other topics, including the chamber’s series of votes doing away with the Authorization of Military Force for the Iraq War, railway safety legislation and the House Republicans’ H.R. 1 energy bill.  

“I’m not commenting on this until we see what actually happens. It’s premature,” Schumer told NBC News when asked about Trump’s call for protests.

However, that has not stopped some other Democrats from going after the ex-president whether he is charged or not. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a longtime adversary of Trump, told reporters that the situation will “further reveal” the former president as a “crook.”

“I’m not on the jury, so I can say that,” Blumenthal said. “The American people have seen through him before.” 

Trump is in hot water after his former fixer, Michael Cohen, made a $130,000 payment to Daniels days before the 2016 election and as she was set to publicly claim she had an affair with the former president, which he denies.

The political ramifications if an indictment is indeed handed down remain to be seen as Trump mounts a third presidential bid.

Conservatives and Trump supporters have almost roundly condemned the push as a politically-motivated attack on one of the party’s leading figures for the nomination, and even some moderate Democrats are worried about those optics. 

“There’s many reasons not to support Donald Trump. There’s many reasons why Donald Trump should not be president again in the United States. But you should not allow the court system to be perceived as basically a political pawn as you will,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is up for reelection in 2024, told reporters. 

“I think it would basically have the reverse effect as some people would think — not for the good,” he added. 

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee,  declined to delve into what a Trump indictment could mean politically. 

“Let’s wait to see what the indictment is and what the facts are before we start commenting on that,” Peters said.

The nascent effort on the part of House Republicans to train their fire on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), meanwhile, has senators concerned on both sides of the aisle. 

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), the chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Administration committees, have all called on Bragg to testify to lawmakers. 

Jordan also has dismissed the allegations, having compared them to a “bookkeeping error.”

“Going after law enforcement folks who are working to enforce our laws is a very dangerous practice,” Van Hollen said. “This is a moment for all Republicans, all the people…just to let justice take its course. No one’s above the law. Everyone’s entitled to due process. The former president will have due process.”

“This is not a moment for Republicans to be attacking folks in the justice system,” Van Hollen added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top ally of Senate GOP leadership, indicated to reporters that House Republicans should sidestep targeting Bragg and instead “stick to the agenda they ran on when they got elected to the majority.”

A number of Republicans also took issue with Trump’s protest push. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told reporters that she didn’t see how they could be “helpful nor beneficial” for the former president. 

“Anytime anyone wants to assemble peacefully, that’s fine,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters. “The minute they get violent, they should go to jail.”

Alexander Bolton contributed.

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From Springsteen to Mindy Kaling: Biden Honors Artists with National Medals of Arts

From Springsteen to Mindy Kaling: Biden Honors Artists with National Medals of Arts

President Joe Biden welcomed a high-wattage collection of singers, authors, artists and humanitarians to the White House on Tuesday to present them with medals — and then stole the show himself with a quip about seeking reelection.

Bruce Springsteen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling and Gladys Knight were among the 22 people and organizations being honored. When author Colson Whitehead’s award was announced, Biden noted that the author of “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys” has already won back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes.

The president, who is expected to announce for reelection this spring, quickly picked up on that and joked that he was looking “for a back-to-back myself,” drawing a laugh from the audience.

It was a feel-good event in the East Room, as the honorees stepped forward to receive their awards one by one. Louis-Dreyfus, who channeled Biden’s resume when she starred in “Veep,” jokingly sagged under the weight when the president placed the medal for the arts around her neck. Springsteen, with his everyman persona, looked incongruous in a black suit. Poet and author Richard Blanco stunned in a teal tuxedo. Knight, the “empress of soul,” gave the president a giant hug when he put the medal around her neck.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Mindy Kaling at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Biden joked that he opens his closet to find designer Vera Wang inside — her clothes, anyway — then said, “Your dresses always look beautiful on my wife.”

The medals are Biden’s first batch of awards for the arts and humanities and were delayed by the pandemic. The president surprised Sir Elton John with a National Humanities Medal during a White House musical event last September.

Recipients of the 2021 National Medal of Arts:

— Judith Francisca Baca, artist.

— Fred Eychaner, businessman and philanthropist.

— Jose Feliciano, singer.

— Mindy Kaling, actress.

— Gladys Knight, singer.

— Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actor.

— Antonio Martorell-Cardona, painter.

— Joan Shigekawa, film producer.

— Bruce Springsteen.

— Vera Wang, fashion designer.

— The Billie Holiday Theatre.

— The International Association of Blacks in Dance.

Recipients of the 2021 National Humanities Medal:

— Richard Blanco, poet and author.

— Johnnetta Betsch Cole, anthropologist.

— Walter Isaacson, writer.

— Earl Lewis, social historian.

— Henrietta Mann, academic.

— Ann Patchett, author.

— Bryan Stevenson, advocate for the poor.

— Amy Tan, author.

— Tara Westover, author.

— Colson Whitehead, author.

— Native America Calling.

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McCaul threatens State Department with subpoena over Afghanistan documents

McCaul threatens State Department with subpoena over Afghanistan documents

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is warning the State Department will face a subpoena if it fails to deliver on repeated document requests related to the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent Monday, McCaul set a deadline of Wednesday evening for the State Department to provide at least three documents requested.

The demand coincides with Blinken’s expected appearance on Thursday before the committee to discuss President Biden’s budget request for 2024.

McCaul said the committee is requesting the three specific documents based on a request by the State Department to identify materials considered the most consequential to the committee’s oversight duties.

“From its broader January 12 request, the Committee identified on January 30 three highly specific immediate priority items that are well-known to the Department,” McCaul wrote in the letter.

“All of the items specified on March 3 could be produced extremely quickly if they were genuinely prioritized by the Department… A ‘diligent’ process working in good faith to produce these documents ‘as soon as practicable’ would have produced them long ago.”

McCaul has made it a priority for the Foreign Affairs committee to investigate how the hasty, chaotic and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolded.

Critics have blamed the U.S. intelligence community and the Biden administration for failing to identify the warning signs that the internationally-backed government in Kabul would collapse and having little to no plan in place to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

A suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members, and wounded scores of others, at the Kabul international airport in the chaos of evacuations was viewed as a fatal security failure. 

“Over 18 months after the fall of Kabul, numerous key questions about the withdrawal remain unanswered,” McCaul wrote in his letter.

“The Committee has an obligation to investigate how these grievous failures occurred and determine what actions, including potential legislation, are necessary to help prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring again in the future.” 

Of the documents prioritized by the committee is a Dissent Channel cable reportedly sent in July 2021 by at least 23 foreign service officers serving at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, warning that the Afghan government was at risk of collapse in the face of a rapid advance by the Taliban. 

A Dissent Channel is a formal communication procedure that allows State Department employees to bring to the attention of the secretary of State urgent, dissenting opinions on important foreign policy issues without fear of retribution. 

The cable’s existence was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

“The Dissent Channel cable provides key contemporaneous evidence from U.S. officials on the ground in Afghanistan. “The Department’s formal response similarly offers critical insight into Department leadership’s view of these concerns and what actions they took to address them,” McCaul wrote.

“As such, these documents are critical and material to the Committee’s investigation, and it is imperative that the State Department produce them in complete and unredacted form.”

Other prioritized documents include an After-Action report prepared by Ambassador Daniel Smith, who was charged in December 2021 with carrying out a review of the Afghanistan withdrawal. 

The committee also prioritized two iterations of the U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Emergency Action Plan, one that was in existence on Jan. 1, 2021 and the final iteration of the plan before the embassy’s closure in mid-August, 2021. 

The letter to the secretary is an exhaustive retelling of efforts by Republican committee staff — who held the minority in the previous Congress and assumed the majority in January — communicating, coordinating, and appealing with frustration with State Department officials to produce documents they say are key to building a picture of the failures of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. 

The State Department explained its delay for providing the materials by citing the need to carefully review a large volume of highly sensitive documents. 

“The State Department employs a rigorous process to review documents and ensure that documents containing sensitive information which could harm our national security, jeopardize our international relationships, or put our women and men working around the world in harm’s way, are adequately protected,” the State Department wrote to the chairman.

“For those reasons, unfortunately the process means few things are produced “with ease” and instead takes a bit more time. 

McCaul called the Department’s failure to provide documents to the committee and its reasoning “unacceptable and unreasonable.”

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