One-Liner Wednesday: This is scary.

A photo from Attachment F of the Justice Department’s court filing last night, showing a variety of secret government documents found in former President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, which was searched under warrant earlier this month.
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/08/31/one-liner-wednesday-youre-never-too-old/

SoCS: United States?

I live in the United States of America.

It doesn’t feel that way.

There is a huge amount of disunity both between states and within states and it’s very upsetting and disorienting.

As with any democratic country, there will always be differences of opinion of how to govern and how to prioritize our obligations to each other and to other countries but we have fallen into a situation where we can’t even agree on facts.

I’ve written before about the issue of abortion, which now has each state making their own laws about it, but some states are trying to forbid going to another state to receive care, which is not something that should even be considered in the United States. We are supposed to be able to travel freely between states and to engage in commerce there.

As it happens, I’ve lived most of my life on a state border, growing up on the Massachusetts side of the border with Vermont and living for the last several decades on the New York side of the border with Pennsylvania. The concept that there would be any restrictions on crossing the border or engaging in a legal activity there is just bizarre and un-American.

While this disunity began before the Trump presidency, he has thrown the problem into overdrive. As non-US folks may be aware, Trump’s home in Florida was searched under warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this week. Yesterday, the warrant and receipt of what was removed by the agents was released by the court. The former president had kept documents that, under the Presidential Records Act, he should not have in his possession. (All presidential records belong to the people of the United States and are administered by the National Archives.)

This is part of an investigation at this point; there have been no charges that we know of. I suppose there could be charges that have been made but that are under seal but that seems unlikely at this point. At any rate, it seems clear that the former president had in his possession documents that he has no right to possess and that he did not turn them over when he was asked about them. When the archivists realized some documents were missing, they asked for them. Over the winter, fifteen boxes of material were sent back to Washington. When they analyzed them, the Archives realized there were still materials missing. There was a subpoena for them issued in June but they still were not returned, which led to the warrant and search this week. More materials were found and removed by the FBI agents, including some materials that are considered so sensitive that they are only supposed to be read in special rooms that are very secure with guards and prohibitions against having any electronic devices near them.

I’m not a lawyer, but the known evidence at this point looks bad for the former president.

The problem is that, in this time of disunity, even facts seem to be in dispute. Trump and his apologists are running through all kinds of excuses and obfuscations. There were claims that none of the president’s – well, ex-president’s – staff were there but his lawyers were present during the search. There were accusations that the FBI agents planted evidence, although, not only were Trump’s lawyers there but also DT and Melania watched the search unfold over the extensive surveillance system of Mar-a-Lago, the Trump golf resort which has become their primary residence. Trump was in New York at the time of the search to give a deposition in a civil case about his business practices pre-presidency; in hours of questioning, the only question he answered was his name, invoking his right against self-incrimination hundreds of times. (It’s true that that is his and every person’s right under the Constitution, but this is a civil, not criminal case, so jurors will be able to draw inferences from the refusal to answer in ways that are not possible in criminal cases where taking the Fifth is not able to be used against you in any way. Yeah, stream of consciousness can lead you off your path into what should probably be a separate post…)

So, yeah, back to other excuses. Some are saying that everything is okay because DT declassified everything he took, trying to obscure the fact that he should not have had any of these materials AT ALL because all presidential records belong to the people of the United States through the National Archives. Also, there is an extensive process by which a president can declassify materials which was not followed, as there were materials that still have stamps for classification at various levels, which would have to have been removed with documentation if they were truly declassified.

Unfortunately, there has already been a life lost due to the lies about the search. A man, responding to false reports that the FBI had done something illegal, attacked an FBI office, fled, had a standoff with agents, and was killed when he raised his weapon against them.

I’m very afraid of violence becoming more widespread. Unlike our Civil War which was between the Union and a group of states which broke away, this violence would likely take place within communities. There are homes that are flying the United States flag upside-down, which is a signal of distress, and displaying Trump banners and Second Amendment flags with guns on them and flags with vulgar messages toward President Biden. There are lots of people with multiple firearms and lots of ammunition. There are various s0-called militias that are anti-government and/or white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Christian nationalist, etc. And, of course, because of the January 6th insurrection, we know that they are capable of organizing and attacking at Trump’s behest.

It’s terrifying and bewildering and disorienting. I never thought I would have to fear that the United States might fall apart, or worse, fall into authoritarianism. I never thought one entire political party would so flagrantly violate their oath of office and still manage to get elected through riling up fears and manipulating the election system. I never thought the courts would take away rights that had been recognized.

It’s discouraging that, with facts as clear as they have been from the Select Committee taking testimony about January 6th and from the search warrant and results from this week, that so many, especially Republican members of Congress, are continuing to lie and lead people astray.

I try to do my little part to keep facts out there, even in stream of consciousness, but sometimes the disunity seems insurmountable. Millions of us will keep trying, though, to make our country the United States again.

I hope we can.
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Linda’s prompt this week was to build our post around something that begins with the letter U. Join us! (You can stream of consciousness write about something much more fun than this post, I promise!) Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/08/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-13-2022/.

(A reminder: Comments are open. I will respond to respectful comments but will delete anything that is vulgar or abusive.)

for the archives

A few weeks ago, a poet-and-church friend who is a faithful reader of Top of JC’s Mind asked if I would like to get in touch with a friend of hers who is involved with a local historical society. Their historical society is joining with others in New York State to assemble an archive related to the pandemic. My friend thought that my posts about being in the vaccine trial might be appropriate for the archive.

It turned out that the archiving project was interested in my vaccine trials posts and any others that dealt with living in the time of COVID. I had sent the vaccine posts first. Then, I worked my way through my blog archive, copying the links to other pandemic related posts.

I knew that I wrote about the impact of COVID-19 quite a lot, but I was surprised at how long the list of posts was – fifty-six posts, from late February through September 11, in addition to the handful of vaccine ones. I joked with the archivist about it being either “an embarrassment of riches or just an embarrassment!” Since then, any time I write about our pandemic experiences I send her the link.

I had asked her how they were preserving the archive. She said that, while they do keep links on their computer, they are printing the materials for posterity. Archival technologies tend to come and go but paper lasts for a very long time.

It’s humbling to think that, decades from now, some future historian might stumble across some of my posts and be able to glean some insights about what it has been like dealing with these fraught times in our communities in upstate New York. First person contemporaneous accounts are highly sought sources for historians and documentarians and I would be honored if my posts are able to assist someone with their research some-year in the future.

following impeachment

While I wasn’t able to watch all the impeachment testimony and debate and read all the reports, I was able to digest major chunks of it. There is a lot of factual evidence supporting the now-passed articles of impeachment. Even the Congressional Republicans weren’t often trying to dispute the testimony of the fact witnesses, instead arguing about process or trying to advance debunked conspiracy theories to muddy the waters.

It’s discouraging how little many people, including some in government, understand about the Constitutional process of impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate. Impeachment is roughly equivalent to a grand jury indictment in the judicial system. It is a vote on whether or not there is sufficient evidence in support of the article of impeachment to warrant a trial. Unlike a criminal trial, impeachment does not require a specific “crime” as misconduct, corruption, and ethics violations often don’t fit neatly into legal frameworks. One of the differences in the Trump impeachment compared to proceedings against Clinton and Nixon is that most of the investigation happened within the House committees themselves. In the Nixon and Clinton investigations, there was extensive investigation by the Justice Department that was passed on to the House; in Trump’s case, the Justice Department refused to investigate and the White House refused to honor subpoenas for testimony and documents, hence the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.

The two articles of impeachment passed by majority vote in the House, so President Trump has been impeached. Period. The articles of impeachment not having been conveyed to the Senate yet is irrelevant. If the Senate acquits at trial, it does not erase the impeachment.

When the Senate does hold the trial, all the senators are sworn in as triers of fact by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who is the presiding officer. House members will act as prosecutors and the president’s lawyers will be defense attorneys. In order for there to be removal from office, 2/3rds of the senators must vote to convict.

One of the appalling things that has happened is that some of the senators, including the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have publicly stated that they are not impartial. What will happen when they are asked to swear an oath to deliver “impartial justice”? Will there be consequences if they swear to it without intending to follow through? I can’t imagine they will recuse themselves rather than lie in taking the oath.

I do hope that the trial will be full and fair with relevant documents and testimony. All the senators and the public should hear the facts of the case. Although I know that it is unlikely that 2/3rds of the senators will vote to convict, it is important for the voters in the next election to know what has happened and for history to have an accurate record.

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