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Trump's legal gambits offer fresh revelations and deepen his political risk – CNN

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(CNN)Donald Trump’s scattershot defense in the weeks since FBI agents descended on his Mar-a-Lago resort has only exposed the depth of the mess he faces over his refusal to return classified documents that led to an unprecedented search of an ex-president’s home.

Happening Today
  • 1 p.m. ET: Federal judge holds hearing to consider Trump’s bid for a special master to review evidence the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago. Follow live updates
  • 5:45 p.m. ET: House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to give a speech in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, just before the President’s primetime address
  • 8 p.m. ET: Biden to speak about “the continued battle for the soul of the nation”
As he keeps inadvertently giving the Justice Department new openings, there are also signs that the fast-expanding drain on Trump’s time and focus is having a political impact as he considers delaying his timeline for the launch of a likely 2024 White House bid, as CNN’s Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes reported Wednesday.
But Trump is not done with the time-honored strategy of delaying, distorting and trying to tie the legal system up in knots, which has throughout his life in business and politics often succeeded in postponing or preventing accountability.
In a legal filing on Wednesday laced with trademark chutzpah ahead of a critical new court hearing in Florida, Trump ditched a core argument he’s made for days — that he had already declassified documents found on his property.
In a head-spinning pivot, Trump’s legal team effectively argued that no one should be shocked he had classified documents at his home — he was once president, after all.
“Simply put, the notion that Presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been cause for alarm,” the filing said.
The bald-faced statement was a classic Trumpian tactic. It recalled the ex-President’s insistence that an official account of a conversation in which he self-evidently coerced the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden with the promise of military aid was, on the contrary, evidence of “a perfect call.”
Trump’s approach immediately gives his supporters in the GOP and on conservative media new material to muddy the waters, distort the case against him and accuse the DOJ and the FBI of political motives.
But he did not address the core questions swirling around him in the documents case. These include: why did a former president need material, some bearing the highest designations of classification in the intelligence community? And why did he keep material that could potentially damage national security and endanger US agents overseas in insecure locations in his heavily visited resort?
And he also ignored a fundamental principle underlying the Justice Department investigation: According to US law, the papers of former presidents do not belong to the individual who once sat in the Oval Office. They belong to the nation and should be in the custody of the National Archives — an agency that made exhaustive efforts to retrieve Trump’s haul before turning to the Justice Department.
Often Trump’s political and legal strategies cross-pollinate. This was highly successful in the case of the Ukraine call, which led to his first impeachment, although he avoided conviction in the Senate, which could have removed him from office. The complication here, however, is that Trump is facing not political scrutiny but the judgment of the law. And recent days suggest that he’s deeply exposed — not least because of a scathing Justice Department filing on Tuesday that obliterated many of his previous defenses and raised the possibility that Trump and his lawyers could face obstruction charges.
Still Trump’s Wednesday filing, in support of his call for the appointment of an independent official known as a special master to work out whether the FBI took legally privileged documents from his home, could still work for him in the short term. If a judge agrees with his expansive definition of the role, Trump could throw a stick in the spokes of the investigation. He might be able to launch court challenges rooted in legal and executive privilege claims that could be frivolous but would take time to work through the system. And he could challenge the Presidential Records Act through various and exhaustive levels of the legal system. A hearing on Trump’s request is set for 1 p.m. ET Thursday.
If he can push the investigation deep into 2023 and possibly beyond, it could conflict with the presidential campaign and help Trump portray the episode as a politicized effort by the Biden administration to thwart his return to the White House. And he could once more frustrate political opponents desperate to see him quickly pay a price for his refusal to observe presidential norms and constant challenges to the rule of law.
This is one reason why the DOJ urged the judge to equip any special master she appoints with exceedingly limited guidelines for operation.
In itself, a special master is not an unreasonable request in such a case, according to legal experts, though the curiosity here is that Trump waited until the government had documents it took from Mar-a-Lago for two weeks to make it.
“If the government’s case is as they think it is, let’s just play it straight, let a special master come in,” David Schoen, Trump’s lawyer from his second impeachment trial, said on CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday.
“But why not let that process run out? Because a part of this whole scenario has to be — satisfy the public that there’s been a full and fair airing of everything, that all concerns have been addressed.”

How Trump keeps sabotaging his own defense

At the same time, however, Wednesday’s filing also threatened to backfire since it appeared to admit to the transgression of which Trump is accused — keeping classified information at his home. This could be another self-inflicted legal blow. Much like the revelations by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, the longer the process goes on, the more damning it seems to become for Trump.
While the ex-President has succeeded in politicizing the investigation, and uniting much of the GOP behind him, his gambits so far have often only revealed more and more damning evidence about his own conduct.
The Justice Department, meanwhile, seems to be constantly outwitting Trump’s politicized and emotional defenses, which typically fail to address substantive legal issues.
The most concrete example of this is the remarkable legal filing by the DOJ on Tuesday night that argued that highly classified material was “likely concealed and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago. In a staggering photo, the filing showed document title pages bearing highly classified markings on the floor after they were found on the former President’s property. The DOJ filing also suggests that Trump’s lawyers misled the FBI when they attested that all secret documents had been removed earlier this year, a potential trigger for obstruction charges.
What is striking about this is that Americans would never have had this level of insight into the case were it not for Trump himself.
“The response that the Justice Department gave was perfectly appropriate,” conservative attorney George Conway told CNN’s Pamela Brown Wednesday. “The Trump people just basically asked to be punched in the face and they were punched in the face by the response,” Conway said.
Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, where Mar-a-Lago is located, agreed that Trump’s request for a special master had only worsened his position.
“This is yet another self-inflicted wound by Trump’s legal team. (The special master motion) opened the gates for the DOJ to respond with a 36-page missile right into the heart of Trump Tower,” Aronberg, a Democrat, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“You have got this response that decimates Trump claims that his team was fully cooperative the whole time. Actually, it lays out a case of obstruction.”
It was not the first time that Trump had appeared to sabotage his own position.
Earlier in August, Attorney General Merrick Garland pressed for the release of a search warrant that showed classified documents were taken from his home three weeks ago. This revelation, which undermined Trump’s criticism of the search and revealed that the FBI had reason to believe classified information was on the property, only took place after Trump announced the search himself, then unleashed a storm of disinformation and threats against the bureau.
Like many of Trump’s legal filings, Wednesday night’s document seemed as much designed to address a political audience — and to fan his campaign of fury against the Justice Department — as to ease his legal conundrum.
There is much that remains unknown about this case. It is reasonable for Trump and his allies to demand answers about how the Justice Department handled a hugely sensitive case against an ex-president and possible 2024 presidential candidate. So far, however, there is every sign the DOJ is going by the book. The search was, for instance, not illegal as Trump claims but was permitted by a search warrant signed by a judge who had to be convinced of probable cause a crime had been committed. It is also impossible to get a full window into the case because the underlying affidavit that precipitated the search warrant has only been released in highly redacted form to protect witnesses and FBI agents from backlash and to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

Trump’s 2024 calculation is getting more complicated

The fallout of the FBI raid on Trump’s property has thrust the former President back into the headlines in a way that Republicans keen to focus on inflation and Biden’s low approval ratings in the midterm elections do not welcome.
It has also raised questions about how the legal pressure bearing down on him will impact his likely 2024 presidential campaign.
CNN’s Orr and Holmes reported that after months eyeing Labor Day weekend as the target launch date for his 2024 campaign, he has spent the last few weeks backing away from that timeline.
An onslaught of political concerns — raised by the possibility some of his hand-picked candidates are underperforming in the midterms — and his growing legal worries have Trump nervous about prematurely diving into the race, according to nine former and current Trump aides and allies who requested anonymity to discuss internal matters.
“Everyone was operating under the assumption that shortly after Labor Day would be the best possible time to launch, but that has changed and he’s being told to deal with the FBI stuff first,” said a Trump adviser.

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Politics Podcast: Is Social Media Turning Us Into Political Extremists? – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

What effect is social media having on our politics and society more broadly? According to critics, we’re living through an unregulated era of social media that will one day look as outdated as tobacco did in its pre-regulation era.

In his new book, “The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World” New York Times reporter Max Fisher explores how social media impacts the psychology of its users and changes how people think, behave and communicate.

In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Galen Druke talks to Fisher about his book and why he believes this is leading to social and political crises in the U.S. and around the world.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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Equilibrium/Sustainability — Oil’s diversity push crashes into abortion politics – The Hill

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Texas’s restrictive position on abortion is thwarting attempts by the state’s oil industry to draw younger and more diverse talent.

“It has always been difficult to attract women into oil and gas,” Sherry Richard, a human resources professional with 40 years in the oil industry, told Reuters. 

“When you create an environment that is unfriendly to women, it just makes it harder,” Richards added. 

More than half of women between the ages of 18 and 44 said they would not apply for jobs in a state that banned abortion, Reuters reported, citing a PerryUndem poll.

Divisive state politics around abortion and religion in public schools caused attorney Hayley Hollands to leave the state for Colorado with her husband — a former oil worker, she told Reuters. 

“It is kind of the first time I’ve reckoned with the idea that I don’t think I’m going to live in my home state ever again,” Hollands said. 

Oil companies themselves have attempted to split the difference — quietly offering employees support to travel for health care without specifically mentioning abortion, Reuters reported. 

Meanwhile, they continue to donate largely to conservative candidates, employees complained. 

“Companies say they value employee’s rights and yet finance politicians who violate my rights and wellbeing,” one engineer at oilfield service firm Halliburton told Reuters.  

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Today we’ll start in Puerto Rico, where residents are in danger of serious shortages. Then we’ll see why President Biden may be considering ousting the World Bank chief. Plus: A look at how aerosol pollution is worsening the effects of climate change. 

“This is hypocrisy,” she added. 

Puerto Ricans fear shortages as stores close 

Businesses in Puerto Rico are shutting their doors as power outages caused by Hurricane Fiona persist across the island, The Associated Press reported.  

Meeting basic needs: These closures have triggered fears about the availability of fuel and other necessities, according to the AP. 

  • About 62 percent of 1.47 million customers still do not have power more than four days after the storm occurred.  
  • Hand-written signs indicating closures are increasingly popping up on storefronts, eliciting frustration.  

“There are a lot of people with a lot of needs,” one retiree told the AP. “If there is no diesel, we’re going to be very much in harm’s way.” 

Some of those needs are life-or-death: Luis De Jesús Ramos, who has throat cancer and a tracheostomy, relies on electricity for survival, NBC News reported.  

  • De Jesús Ramos needs a blender for liquid meals, a refrigerator, an adjustable bed for safe sleeping and various medical supplies. 
  • “He really needs these things. It’s an emergency,” his daughter told NBC.  

Health depends on electricity: After hearing about De Jesús Ramos’s condition, a team from Direct Relief Puerto Rico — an NGO that donates medical supplies — brought a generator to his home, according to NBC.  

“Without electricity, there is no health,” Ivonne Rodríguez-Wiewall, executive adviser of Direct Relief Puerto Rico, told NBC. 

Federal funding efforts: As Puerto Rico’s residents were still coping with the fallout from Fiona, President Biden on Thursday said that the federal government is “laser-focused” on the situation, our colleague Brett Samuels reported for The Hill.  

The day before, he had signed an expedited major disaster declaration, to authorize federal funding for debris removal, rescue efforts and power and water restoration.  

Biden pledges to stand by Puerto Rico: “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know: We are with you,” Biden said.  

“We’re not going to walk away,” the president added. 

Biden considers removing head of World Bank  

The Biden administration is considering ousting World Bank President David Malpass — a Trump appointee whose wavering this week on climate change angered many in the financial and environmental communities alike, Axios reported. 

What did he say? Asked at New York’s climate week if he accepted the scientific consensus on climate change, Malpass hedged, according to CNN.

  • “I don’t even know – I’m not a scientist and that is not a question,” Malpass said. 
  • He later told CNN “I’m not a denier” and circulated a note to staff blaming climate change on particular fossil fuels.

Leaving out oil and gas: Malpass added in his note that “coal, diesel and heavy fuel oil in both advanced economies and developing countries is creating another wave of the climate crisis,” Reuters reported. 

Why it matters: Malpass’s message was poorly received due to an ongoing debate “about how all the capital sitting in the bank can be deployed more quickly and assertively,” Rachel Kyte of Tuft University’s Fletcher School told The New York Times. 

  • Kyte added that this is particularly urgent “given the situation the world is in.” 
     
  • She noted that Malpass’s original statement had come in the context of a subject that is “an open wound.” 

Aerosols may worsen the effects of climate change

Aerosol pollution is exacerbating the impact of climate change — with dramatically different effects depending on where these contaminants are emitted, a new study in Science Advances has found. 

What are aerosols? They’re tiny solid particles and liquid droplets emitted by industrial factories, power plants and tailpipes, the study authors explained.  

  • Aerosols contribute to smog, and unlike carbon dioxide, they hang close to their emission source.   
  • Some examples of aerosols include fine particulate matter — common in dust or wildfire ash — as well as sulfates, nitrates and sea salts. 

Different contaminants, different behaviors: Although carbon dioxide and aerosols are often emitted simultaneously during fuel combustion, these substances behave differently in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to co-lead author Geeta Persad.   

  • “Carbon dioxide has the same impact on climate no matter who emits it,” Persad, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.  
  • Astay concentrated near where they’re emitted — meaning that their effects on the climate system is location-dependent, Persad added.  

Dramatic social costs: Depending on where they are emitted, aerosols can worsen the social costs of carbon — a measure for the economic toll greenhouse gasses take on society — by as much as 66 percent, according to the study. 

Aerosols vs. carbon: The scientists drew their conclusions by probing the influence of aerosols in eight regions of the world: Brazil, China, East Africa, Western Europe, India, Indonesia, United States and South Africa. 

  • They ran simulations with identical aerosol emissions in each region — mapping the effects on temperature, precipitation and surface air quality. 
  • Then they connected this data with known links between climate and infant mortality, crop productivity and domestic economies.  
  • Lastly, they calculated the societal costs of aerosol-driven effects and those of co-emitted CO2, as well as their combined effects. 

What did they find? The scientists observed that emissions from some regions generate climate and air quality effects that range from two to more than 10 times as strong as others.  

Yet despite these discrepancies, they stressed that aerosol emissions are always bad for the emitter and the planet.  

Thinking beyond carbon dioxide: “The harmful effects of our emissions are generally underestimated,” co-lead author Jennifer Burney, a chair of global climate policy and research at the University of California San Diego, said in a statement.  

“CO2 is making the planet warmer, but it also gets emitted with a bunch of other compounds that impact people and plants directly and cause climate changes in their own right,” Burney added.  

A global push for carbon capture 

A flurry of new carbon capture and storage proposals are arising around the world, as part of a global attempt to counter the impacts of fossil fuel dependence. 

  • The specific reasons for these projects are as diverse as their locations, which range from Appalachia to China
    .  
  • They are being built in an attempt to slow global warming, produce new fuels, prolong the lifespan of fossil fuel assets or create credits to sell on international exchanges. 

Carbon capture refers to a broad set of processes by which the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is trapped for long-term storage or reuse in other industrial processes. 

Drawing down: The U.S. government is scouting possible sites for a test facility that would aim to cut the cost of pulling down carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. 

  • The facility would be located on a Department of Energy campus in either Morgantown, W.Va., or Pittsburgh.  
  • It would seek to drop the cost of capturing a ton of carbon dioxide below $100 — down from its current range of $400 to $1,000. 

Worldwide focus: “It is technically feasible to suck CO2 out of the air. The issue is cost, and the issue is scale,” National Energy Technology Laboratory director Brian Anderson told the Gazette. 

The laboratory wants to create methodologies for direct air capture that could be transferable to facilities around the world.  

  • Direct air capture specifically involves pulling carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. 
  • That’s distinct from carbon capture in general, which also includes siphoning the greenhouse gas from smokestacks. 

“We want to be able to simulate conditions that go from Antarctica to equatorial Africa,” Anderson said.  

OIL COMPANIES BUYING IN 

With direct air capture still an expensive frontier technology, the principal drivers behind carbon capture are the firms that are a major source of current carbon emissions: oil companies. 

Recycling Waste: Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil company, spun off a specialized subsidiary on Friday to invest in carbon capture technology, Reuters reported. 

  • The company aims to capture and store 3 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2025 — two-thirds of which it plans to reuse. 
  • China aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, which has driven companies like Sinopec to make big investments in carbon capture.

Making more oil: To pay for developing that technology, China is focusing in part on current usages for carbon dioxide, many of which do little to slow climate change.

  • Sinopec didn’t specify how its captured carbon dioxide would be used.  
  • But the company currently plans to inject over 10 million tons of carbon dioxide into oilfields over the next decade — enabling it to produce an additional 3 million tons of oil, Reuters reported. 

Last week, California outlawed this form of oil extraction, as we reported. 

Looking south: Across the South China Sea, Indonesia’s state-owned energy company — Pertamina — plans to begin testing methods to permanently store carbon dioxide underground by the end of the year, Reuters reported.  

  • If conditions are right, the greenhouse gas can be locked down as stone, as we previously reported.  
  • The initiative is part of Pertamina’s attempt to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 — a goal the company aims to achieve in part by capturing emissions from smokestacks and injecting them underground. 

British bonanza: On the other side of the world, 19 companies applied for the U.K.’s first ever round of licenses to develop carbon capture and storage sites, according to Reuters. 

Britain aims to store up to 30 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, Reuters reported. 

  • Such sites would be in caverns beneath the porous seafloor of the North Sea, between Britain and Norway. 
  • British Petroleum, Norway’s state energy firm Equinor and Italy’s Eni all applied. 
  • One firm, London-based Neptune Energy, aims to store more carbon than it emits by 2030.  

Follow-up Friday

Revisiting issues we’ve covered over the past week. 

Thirty whales survive mass beaching crisis in Tasmania 

  • We reported on the tragic mass beaching in Tasmania of 230 pilot whales. Rescuers successfully saved just 32 — two of which died after running aground again, The Associated Press reported. The hundreds of remaining corpses will be “basically longlined or tied together, ready for disposal at sea,” an incident commander Brendon Clark said told the AP. 

North Carolinians angry about proposed expansion of PFAS-producing plant   

  • Scientists detected high levels of toxic “forever chemicals” — also known as PFAS — in school uniforms we covered earlier this week. Some North Carolinians expressed outrage on Friday about the proposed expansion of a Chemours factory that has leached PFAS into the nearby Cape Fear River, North Carolina Public Radio reported.  

Malfunctioning water tank may have caused NYC arsenic crisis 

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you Monday.

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Is Beacon Hill a political 'safe space'? – GBH News

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The MBTA’s Orange Line is back up and running after a disruptive 30-day shutdown — and if the past is any indication, Gov. Charlie Baker won’t pay any political price whatsoever. That’s despite the fact the meltdown that brought the system to the brink of a federal takeover occurred on his watch.

So what is it about Baker that yields consistently high approval numbers from Massachusetts voters, even when big things go really wrong? Talking Politics host Adam Reilly is joined by Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe and Yawu Miller of the Bay State Banner to unpack Baker’s untouchability — and the similar dynamic that’s developed with the Massachusetts Legislature, whose members tend to coast to reelection despite the body’s proclivity for procrastination and unfinished to-do lists.

Related Stories

Steph Solis of Axios Boston and Peter Kadzis of GBH News also weigh in on some of the major political news of the week, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl’s dalliance with election denialism, Baker’s delicate dance on immigration and the efficacy of the climate protests that shut down multiple locations in Boston.

Tell us what else you’d like to see on future shows as we continue Talking Politics every Friday. Send us a message at TalkingPolitics@wgbh.org or fill out the form on the Talking Politics page.

Watch tonight’s episode of Talking Politics live at 7 p.m. below on our website and across all of GBH News’ platforms, including GBH 2, the GBH News YouTube Channel and Facebook page. Subscribe to the GBH News’ YouTube channel to get alerted to future episodes.

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