What’s beneath all these redactions- POLITICO
Obstruction has emerged as a new threat to Donald Trump and his team after the Justice Department released heavily redacted documents regarding the search of Mar-a-Lago. | Jon Elswick/AP Photo
On Friday, we got a snapshot of the Justice Department’s documents that led to the FBI search of DONALD TRUMP’s Mar-a-Lago estate. And while they were filled with substantial redactions, additional reporting over the last 24 hours has helped explain why that is.
— The threat of obstruction: Among prosecutors’ reasons for so heavily redacting the documents was a section that “made clear that they feared the former president and his allies might take any opportunity to intimidate witnesses or otherwise illegally obstruct their investigation,” NYT’s Charlie Savage writes. Much of the focus since the investigation began has centered on the Espionage Act, but Savage writes that “by some measures, the crime of obstruction is a threat to Mr. Trump or his close associates that is as much or even more serious.”
— What shocked investigators: “[A]gents were most alarmed to discover that many of the materials included the highest national security restrictions, requiring they be held in controlled government storage facilities, and barring them from ever being shared with foreign governments, to protect ‘clandestine human sources,’ or informants employed by the intelligence community to collect information around the world,” NYT’s Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman write.
— What exactly is missing from the docs: “JACK SHARMAN, a corporate litigator who has been involved in numerous government investigations, said affidavits that get publicly released are usually protective of confidential informants as well as personal identifying information of the informants, or of law enforcement agents, given the threats to law enforcement from some Trump supporters,” WaPo’s Amber Phillips writes. “Also, statements made by witnesses or informants can be redacted. And just about anything having to do with a related investigation or potential subjects or targets is usually cut from these kinds of releases, Sharman said.”
— Still waiting:AP’s Jill Colvin and Nomaan Merchant note that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence thus far “has not responded to calls from Congress for a damage assessment.” Senate Intelligence Chair MARK WARNER (D-Va.) re-upped his request for one following Friday’s release.
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— Very helpful timeline: “Inside the 20-Month Fight to Get Trump to Return Presidential Material,” by NYT’s Luke Broadwater, Katie Benner and Maggie Haberman
— Read along: “The affidavit behind the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, annotated,” by CNN’s Zachary Wolf, Sean O’Key and Christopher Hickey
— Fun read: “‘Mutilated by rats,’ burned, trashed: 200 years of presidential papers lost,” by WaPo’s Ronald Shafer
Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers on Friday also submitted a renewed pitch for an independent review of the materials recovered at Mar-a-Lago, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein write.
“It makes no mention of the hundreds of pages of classified documents recovered during the Aug. 8 search and in previous visits by investigators. It also makes no mention of Trump’s claims to have declassified the material. It also eschews the heated criticism Trump has leveled at BRUCE REINHART, the magistrate judge who authorized the search.
“Instead, Trump lawyers suggest in the filing that the search may have been improper or even illegal because of indications that investigators were concerned that records covered by the Presidential Records Act were at his Palm Beach home.”
Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY: The VP will deliver remarks at a DNC finance event in Newport Beach, Calif., at 5:35 p.m. Eastern.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Fed Chair Jerome Powell chats with Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President and CEO John Williams at the central bank’s annual symposium in Grand Teton National Park on Friday, Aug. 26. | Amber Baesler/AP Photo
9 THINGS FOR YOUR RADAR
1. WHAT’S THE PRICE TAG?: “The White House said Friday that President Joe Biden’s action to cancel student loan debt for millions of borrowers will cost the federal government $240 billion over the next decade after refusing to give a cost estimate earlier in the week,” writes USA Today’s Joey Garrison.
Not everyone agrees with that estimate: “[O]ther outside analysts said the price tag is much higher — especially when factoring in a new income-based loan repayment model outlined by the president.”
What the White House is banking on: “The White House’s projection is based on the assumption that 75% of eligible Americans with federal student loan debt participate, matching the ratio of similar federal programs.”
— On the timing: “Student loan forgiveness application coming in October, White House says,” by WaPo’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel
— The public reaction: “‘This will change everything for me’: Americans react to Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20k in student loan debt,” by CNN’s Emma Tucker and JiMin Lee
2. PULLING PUNCHES: The Senate Leadership Fund has pulled roughly $10 million in ad buys in Arizona and Alaska, Burgess Everett scooped, raising questions about Republican leadership’s commitment to BLAKE MASTERS’ campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. MARK KELLY, who already has a big cash advantage over Masters. “The [MITCH] McCONNELL-backed super PAC’s strategic change is in part a reaction to its massive $28 million commitment in Ohio, where GOP nominee J.D. VANCE is facing a strong challenge from Rep. TIM RYAN (D-Ohio). The organization said it will reallocate the money elsewhere and is not planning to totally pull out of Arizona at the moment.”
— Speaking of Masters …CNN’s Dan Merica and Michael Warren have new details on Masters’ scrubbing of abortion positions on his campaign website: “A person close to Masters told CNN that the Republican candidate designs, codes and updates his website himself — and that his recent updates to the abortion section reflect his desire to use his policy section as a ‘living document’ rather than an immutable record of his positions. This person said that Masters’ views have not changed and that he still holds the positions he has scrubbed from the site.” (The context: “In Arizona, Blake Masters backtracks on abortion and scrubs his campaign website,” NBC)
— BTW: The RNC on Friday fired PARIS DENNARD as its national spokesman, Alex Isenstadt scooped.
3. WALL STREET SPOOKED: Following Fed Chair JEROME POWELL’s big speech at Jackson Hole on Friday, the Dow plummeted by more than 1,000 points. “Friday’s selloff capped off two consecutive weeks of losses for major stock indexes and largely wiped out the market’s gains since late July,” WSJ’s Alexander Osipovich and Will Horner write.
4. BEHIND THE TWITTER ACCOUNT: @WhiteHouse has taken a spicy turn of late — raising eyebrows on Thursday for directly going after a handful of Republican members of Congress for having PPP loans that were forgiven even as they criticized Biden’s federal student loan relief decision. “[F]or the White House, the newly punchy tone seems to be part of a revamped strategy leading up to November’s midterm elections,” WaPo’s Yasmeen Abutaleb writes. “White House officials acknowledge privately they are trying to unleash more zingers, but they also said Biden has called out Republicans in the past and pointed to earlier tweets by the president.”
Who’s behind it: “The White House also recently hired MEGAN COYNE as deputy director of platforms in its Office of Digital Strategy. Coyne garnered widespread attention among Democrats for bringing humor and punchiness to a New Jersey state-run account with tweets that went viral.” (ICYMI: New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein had a good profile of Coyne in August.)
5. BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON: “States wrangle with how to secure schools as students return,” by Juan Perez Jr. and Katelyn Cordero: “Federal data shows that gun attacks on campuses reached their highest level in 20 years during the 2020-21 academic term.”
— “Back to School in DeSantis’s Florida, as Teachers Look Over Their Shoulders,” by NYT’s Sarah Mervosh: “Gov. RON DeSANTIS is battling what he calls ‘indoctrination’ in schools. New laws have left many teachers questioning everything from pride flags to ‘The Great Gatsby.’”
— “Affirmative Action Was Banned at Two Top Universities. They Say They Need It,” by NYT’s Stephanie Saul: “As a Supreme Court case on college admissions nears, the California and Michigan university systems say their efforts to build diverse classes have hardly worked.”
6. A DIFFERENT KIND OF GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN: “Pennsylvania candidate Mastriano posed in Confederate uniform at Army War College,” by Reuters’ Phil Stewart and Jarrett Renshaw: “The previously unreported photo, released by the War College to Reuters after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, showed Mastriano in a 2013-14 portrait for the Department of Military Strategy, Plans, and Operations, where he worked. … Faculty at the time had been given the option of dressing as a historical figure, people familiar with the photo said. At least 15 of the 21 faculty in the photo opted to appear in regular attire. Although one man wears a trench coat and sunglasses and another carries an aviator’s helmet, Mastriano is the only one wearing a Confederate uniform.”
7. THE PANDEMIC: The government-sponsored website that provided free at-home Covid tests is suspending service in order to preserve the limited supply of swabs for an expected fall/winter surge in cases, USA Today’s Maureen Groppe reports. “The administration says it has to limit distribution of tests because Congress has not approved funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile.”
— In other pandemic news: “Appeals Court Rules Against Vaccine Mandate for Government Contractors,” by WSJ’s Jacob Gershman
8. AMERICA AND THE WORLD:“Biden navigates Iran clashes in Syria as negotiators inch toward nuclear deal,” by Lara Seligman: “U.S. officials say the attacks in Syria are not related to negotiations over the Iran deal. But the split screen highlights the challenge the administration faces in making progress on one of its top Middle East priorities — bringing Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal — while Tehran’s proxies continue to foment violence against the U.S. and its allies in the region.”
9. MONKEYPOX LATEST: “This Is Not the Monkeypox That Doctors Thought They Knew,” by NYT’s Apoorva Mandavilli: “At the onset of the outbreak, scientists thought they knew when and how the monkeypox virus was spread, what the disease looked like and who was most vulnerable. The 47,000 cases identified worldwide have upended many of those expectations.”
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 keepers
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “Inventing Anna,” a joint investigation by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime Corruption and Reporting Project: “The tale of a fake heiress, Mar-a-Lago and an FBI investigation.”
— “Trouble in Paradise,” by Air Mail’s Clara Molot: “The talk of the town in idyllic Nantucket is an allegation of strangulation that pits prominent D.C. figures against each other.”
— “Debbie Harry and Chris Stein Remember the Bad Old Days,” by Esquire’s Alan Light: “With a new box set, out now, the Blondie founders dish on touring with Iggy and Bowie, hanging with Warhol, and the making of ‘Heart of Glass.’”
— “How a Corporate Law Firm Led a Political Revolution,” by NYT’s David Enrich: “The untold story of Jones Day’s push to move the American government and courts to the right.”
— “A Hole in the Head,” by Harper’s Magazine’s Zachary Siegel: “Can a brain implant treat drug addiction?”
— “America’s Fire Sale: Get Some Free Speech While You Can,” by The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan: “Freedom of expression isn’t the tool of the powerful; it’s the tool of the powerless.”
— “A hazy afternoon with Bill Maher,” by Spectator’s James Kirchick: “‘The young people are the prudes and don’t find anything funny.’”
— “Like Oysters in Their Shells,” by Malcolm Gaskill for the London Review of Books
— “Holding Russia to Account for War Crimes in Ukraine,” by Vanity Fair’s Janine di Giovanni: “Reporting from Ukraine, a veteran war correspondent chronicles a campaign to collect evidence of Russian atrocities that might stand up in court against Putin, his commanders, and their troops.”
— “The Big Lie Messengers Who Carry a Badge and Gun,” by Bolts’ Jessica Pishko: “Arizona’s Mark Lamb and a network of far-right sheriffs around the country are partnering with leading purveyors of election fraud conspiracies, part of an escalating campaign to police the vote.”
— “Inside the QAnon Queen’s Cult: ‘The Abuse Was Non-Stop,’” by Vice’s Mack Lamoureux: “‘QAnon Queen’ Romana Didulo has threatened to arrest police and execute anyone who crosses her. Now, some of her followers are speaking out.”
Ted Cruz thinks student debt relief could help Democrats in November if voters can “get off the bong for a minute.”
Jared Kushner is under pressure on his book tour.
IN MEMORIAM — “Roland Mesnier, White House pastry chef for a sweet quarter-century, dies at 78,” by WaPo’s Olesia Plokhii: “Mr. Mesnier, whose career started with a $1 per month pastry apprenticeship at 14, was offered the White House job in 1979 after pleasing first lady Rosalynn Carter with his promise that he would focus on lighter dessert fare such as fruit. Indeed he had a knack for modifying decadent confections with low-calorie ingredient substitutes and, when a luxurious mood prevailed, he proved a master at creating blown and pulled sugar sculptures that adorned his desserts.”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Georgetown socialite’s son settles lawsuit over alleged jewel thefts,” by WaPo’s Paul Schwartzman
MEDIA MOVES — Lawrence Hurley is joining NBC as a Supreme Court reporter. He previously was a Supreme Court correspondent at Reuters. … N.Y. Mag has added Simon van Zuylen-Wood as a features writer and Ankush Khardori and John Herrman as contributing editors. Van Zuylen-Wood was previously a freelancer for the magazine. Khardori is a contributing editor at POLITICO, and Herrman was most recently at the NYT.
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Danny Yagan has left OMB, where he was chief economist, to return to UC Berkeley as an economics professor. … Damon Jones has left the Council of Economic Advisers, where he was a senior economist, to return to the University of Chicago as an associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. … Gopi Shah Goda has left the Council of Economic Advisers, where she was a senior economist, to return to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research as senior fellow and deputy director.
WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Michael Sinkinson has joined the Council of Economic Advisers as a senior economist. Sinkinson, who is an industrial organization economist focusing on antitrust and competition policy, is on leave from the Yale School of Management, where he is an associate professor of economics. … Neale Mahoney is now special policy adviser for economic policy at the National Economic Council. He is on leave from Stanford, where he is an economics professor and the George P. Shultz Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
TRANSITION — Brianna Curran is joining the Environmental Defense Fund as the inaugural director of executive public engagement. She most recently was a program manager at the Aspen Institute.
ENGAGED — Adam Parkhomenko, a political consultant at Democratic general and digital consulting firm Prestige WW Inc., and Ally Sammarco, a political consultant at Democratic social media and comms consulting firm ARS Media, got engaged Wednesday in lower Senate Park at sunset, with a dinner celebration afterward at Cafe Milano with Ally’s sister and friends. The two met when Ally was working for the Democratic Party of Virginia Coordinated Campaign in 2021 for Terry McCauliffe on the field team and she invited Adam to an event she was holding in Fairfax, Va. Instapics from Austen Risolvato
WEDDING — G. Michael Brown, who works in international affairs at the Department of Energy, and Kristin Repass, operations coordinator at Orbis Operations and a DOE alum, got married on Aug. 6 at Century Hall in Fort Worth, Texas. The couple met at a birthday party for a DOE colleague at a karaoke bar in Chinatown. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED: Charlie Riedl, Mark Menzes, Bill Cooper, Ed Brookover, Matt Keelen, James Campos, Irma Aguirre, Meghan Cox, Ryan Rhodes, Kent Bacus, Steve Stroud and Ben Carson Jr.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul … DNI Avril Haines … Roger Stone (7-0) … Semafor’s Steve Clemons … Jennifer Senior … Fox News’ David Spunt … POLITICO’s Darius Dixon … Megan Cassella of Barron’s … Francesca McCrary … E&E News’ David Iaconangelo and Kasi Perkins … Ty Matsdorf … Christopher LaPrade of the American Chemical Society … Leah Daughtry … White House’s Benjamin Haas … CNN’s Jedd Rosche … Vanessa Wruble … George Hartmann … Kelsey Berg of Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) office … Francisco Flores-Pourrat … Sarah Schenning of Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) office … Peter Rothfeld of Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) office … Moutray McLaren of Rep. William Timmons’ (R-S.C.) office … Spencer Silverman of Axiom Strategies … Pete Boyle … TikTok’s Mac Abrams … former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) … August Skamenca … Naomi LaChance … Gary Cohn … Peter Sterne … NBC’s Josh Mankiewicz … Karla Raettig of the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund … Jefferson Thomas of Joe O’Dea’s Colorado Senate campaign
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
ABC “This Week”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Panel: Dan Abrams and Mary McCord. Panel: Jonathan Karl, Cecilia Vega, Chris Christie and Heidi Heitkamp.
CBS “Face the Nation”: DNC Chair Jaime Harrison … Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan … Kate Rubins … Michael Morell … Robert Costa … Anthony Salvanto.
CNN “State of the Union”: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). Panel: Ashley Allison, Scott Jennings, Alyssa Farah Griffin and Paul Begala.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Alex Burns, Toluse Olorunnipa, Melanie Zanona and Yasmeen Abutaleb.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Cedric Richmond … retired Gen. Frank McKenzie … Keith Knutson … members of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. Panel: Karl Rove, Catherine Lucey, Josh Kraushaar and Juan Williams.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) … NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Panel: Peter Alexander, Kimberly Atkins Stohr and Amna Nawaz.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Maxwell Frost … Joan Walsh … Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.).
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Correction: Friday’s Playbook misstated Maxwell Frost’s current position. He is a congressional candidate.
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