Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Trump Legal News: A Saucerful of Secrets

The plot of the Mar-a-Lago documents case has thickened, yet again. The Australian edition of 60 Minutes managed to lay hands on recordings of Aussie billionaire and Mar-a-Lago member Anthony Pratt, in which Pratt gives much detail about his many conversations with Donald Trump. You can watch the roughly 17-minute segment here, if you wish. Unfortunately, it does not include the famous 60 Minutes bumpers, so we are unable to verify whether or not it's true that in the Southern Hemisphere, the stopwatch runs counterclockwise.

In the newly revealed recordings and documents, it is made very clear that Pratt used his money to cultivate a network of influential people, from former Australian PMs, to then-prince Charles, to Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. It is also clear that Trump often shared information that should not be shared with a civilian who has no security clearance. For example, the then-president reportedly divulged details of the attack on Iranian-linked forces in Iraq before that news was made public. Imagine if Pratt was an Iranian operative (he isn't); Trump's loose lips could have cost American lives, or allowed the Iranians to avoid the attack. Trump also allegedly bragged about his extortionist phone call to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, remarking: "You know that Ukraine phone call, that was nothing compared to what I usually do." Recall also previous reporting that Trump shared details about the United States' nuclear submarines with Pratt.

Pratt, of course, has already been interviewed by Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team. While 60 Minutes (Down Under) is being coy about where this new information came from, it presumably didn't come from Smith's office. That said, surely Pratt would have told Smith all of these things. It is not illegal, necessarily, for a president to share information with people not cleared to have it, as the occupant of the Oval Office has broad latitude to decide who can and cannot hear the nation's secrets. That said, nuclear secrets play by a different set of rules, thanks to the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (and subsequent, amending, legislation). So that part actually might be illegal. In addition, the whole narrative speaks to a cavalier attitude on Trump's part when it comes to classified information, which in turn serves to underscore the allegations made in the Mar-a-Lago case.

Consistent with his general strategy these days, when a former ally turns against him, Trump distanced himself from Pratt and also denigrated him, in this case as a "red-haired weirdo." While we see Trump's point that billionaires with obviously unnatural hair colors might not be trustworthy, the fact is that it's easy enough to prove that Pratt was a Mar-a-Lago member, while his accounts of his conversations with Trump include too many specifics to be phony. Plus, Trump just said nearly the same thing about Sidney Powell; there's no creativity to his excuse-making.

And speaking of Powell, we had an item yesterday about Trump's claim that she was never his attorney, and she could not possibly have been his attorney, since "she would have been conflicted..." We commented: "Who knows why she would have been conflicted, or why Trump would have cared, since he has no problem with conflicts of interest among the attorneys working on his documents case."

Readers D.E. in Lancaster, PA, and J.L.J. in San Francisco, CA, clued us in to the answer, which is also covered in this article from Newsweek. In short, Powell was representing Mike Flynn at the time, and Mike Flynn was angling for a presidential pardon (which he got).

The main point of our item yesterday was that disclaiming Powell did relatively little good for Trump, while undermining him in several ways on the legal front. His remark about conflicts of interest, now that we are reminded of the context, serves to expand that list. The Constitution places very few limits on the pardon power, but legal experts are in near-universal agreement that a quid pro quo—a pardon in exchange for money or other benefits—would be illegal. The fact pattern here is that Powell and Flynn lobbied for a pardon, Flynn got the pardon, and Flynn and Powell turned around and became outspoken, unpaid (or largely so) stop the stealers. And now Trump has made clear he was aware of the underlying ethical and legal dynamics of the situation. In other words, as D.E. puts it: "Could we be looking at some more indictments for Trump? Could he break 100?" He's certainly doing his best to make that a reality. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates