Donald Trump says he’d consider Ken Paxton for US attorney general

Trump told a reporter in Texas this weekend that Paxton is “a very talented guy.”

By Jasper Scherer, The Texas Tribune

Former President Donald Trump said he would consider tapping Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for U.S. attorney general if he wins a second term in the White House, calling his longtime ally “a very talented guy” and praising his tenure as Texas’ chief legal officer.

“I would, actually,” Trump said Saturday when asked by a KDFW-TV reporter if he would consider Paxton for the national post. “He’s very, very talented. I mean, we have a lot of people that want that one and will be very good at it. But he’s a very talented guy.”

Paxton has long been a close ally of Trump, famously waging an unsuccessful legal challenge to Trump’s 2020 election loss in four battleground states. He also spoke at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021.

Paxton’s loyalty was rewarded with an endorsement from Trump in the 2022 primary, which helped the attorney general fend off three prominent GOP challengers.

Trump also came to Paxton’s defense when he was impeached last year for allegedly accepting bribes and abusing the power of his office to help a wealthy friend and campaign donor. After Paxton was acquitted in the Texas Senate, Trump claimed credit, citing his “intervention” on his Truth Social platform, where he denounced the proceedings and threatened political retribution for Republicans who backed the impeachment.

“I fought for him when he had the difficulty and we won,” he told KDFW. “He had some people really after him, and I thought it was really unfair.”

Trump’s latest comments, delivered at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas, come after a series of recent polls have shown the presumptive Republican nominee leading President Joe Biden in a handful of key battleground states.

Paxton has also seen his political prospects rise in recent months, after prosecutors agreed in March to drop three felony counts of securities fraud that had loomed over Paxton for nearly his entire tenure as attorney general. The resolution of the nine-year-old case, along with Paxton’s impeachment acquittal in the Senate last fall, has brought him closer than ever to a political career devoid of legal drama.

Still, Paxton’s critics say he is far from vindicated. He remains under federal investigation for the same allegations that formed the basis of his impeachment, and he continues to face a whistleblower lawsuit from former deputies who said they were illegally fired for reporting Paxton to law enforcement. A separate lawsuit from the state bar seeks to penalize Paxton for his 2020 election challenge, which relied on discredited claims of election fraud.

If nominated, Paxton would need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The chamber is narrowly divided along party lines, with Democrats holding a 51-49 majority. One of the most prominent Republican members, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has been an outspoken critic of Paxton, while Paxton has openly entertained the idea of challenging Cornyn in 2026.

Paxton is not the only Texan Trump has floated for a high-profile spot in his potential administration. In February, he said Gov. Greg Abbott is “absolutely” on his short list of potential vice presidential candidates. Abbott has since downplayed his interest in the job.

Campaign Action

Tracking URL: https://www.texastribune.org/2024/05/20/donald-trump-ken-paxton-attorney-general/

House GOP targets attorney general after failing to dig up dirt on Biden

The House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are holding hearings Thursday to consider holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. The Department of Justice has refused to provide recordings of special counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with President Joe Biden and his ghostwriter in the classified documents probe, having already provided the transcripts of those interviews. 

The outcome of these meetings isn’t in question; committee chairs Jim Jordan and James Comer will push the contempt vote to the House floor. They remain intent on finding anything that they can use to impeach Biden and/or members of his administration, and they won’t let the fact that their efforts so far have been ridiculous stop them. 

It took them two tries to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, only for the Senate to swat it away. The star witness in their Biden impeachment case turned out to be a Russian mole. And they’ve already been down the road of trying to use Hur’s report to prove Biden unfit for office—a game that Hur refused to play in Jordan’s disastrous hearing. But no embarrassing defeat is going to stop them.

“These audio recordings are important to our investigation of President Biden’s willful retention of classified documents and his fitness to be President of the United States,” Comer said in a press release. 

The DOJ has in fact been providing information to Comer and Jordan. In February, it even gave them access to two of the classified documents Biden had from his time as vice president, which Comer insisted were critical to his investigations. 

But Comer “has not yet taken us up on our offer,” DOJ Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote in refusing the team’s subpoena for more information. 

Uriarte detailed all of the information they had provided in response to their demands and subpoenas in his initial letter to Jordan and Comer in April and concluded “we are therefore concerned that the Committees are disappointed not because you didn’t receive information, but because you did.”

In his second letter to the chairs, Uriarte reiterated that point.

“It seems that the more information you receive, the less satisfied you are, and the less justification you have for contempt, the more you rush towards it,” he wrote. “[T]he Committees’ inability to identify a need for these audio files grounded in legislative or impeachment purposes raises concerns about what other purposes they might serve.”

The purpose, of course, is having audio and video that they can chop up to show Biden unfavorably in their televised hearings. They got the transcripts for their hearing with Hur, but they didn’t find anything, so of course they’re doubling down. It’s Jordan and Comer—what else are they going to do?

But this latest sham does at least give Democrats on the committees yet another opportunity to own Republicans in the hearings.

RELATED STORIES:

Democrats are blowing up House GOP efforts to take down Biden

The Biden impeachment is a huge failure. The GOP is looking for a way out

House GOP manufactures new fight after Biden impeachment fails

Ian Bassin is the former associate White House counsel and co-founder and executive director of Protect Democracy. Protect Democracy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group focused on anti-authoritarianism, how to protect our democracy, and safeguarding our free and fair elections.

Campaign Action

Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial escalates Texas Republican civil war

By Robert Downen The Texas Tribune

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Hours after his acquittal in the Texas Senate, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s far-right supporters doubled down on their promises for swift retribution against fellow Republicans who supported his removal from office.

In particular, they vowed a scorched-earth campaign against House Speaker Dade Phelan, casting him as the ringleader responsible for the impeachment process and calling for him to resign immediately.

“You and your band of RINOs are now on notice,” Defend Texas Liberty PAC leader Jonathan Stickland tweeted at Phelan on Saturday, as voting continued in the Texas Senate. “You will be held accountable for this entire sham. We will never stop. Retire now.”

Paxton’s impeachment trial was the latest — and among the most consequential — battle in an ongoing civil war between the Texas GOP’s establishment members and a well-funded right wing that has for years claimed the party is insufficiently conservative.

Though the two factions generally agree on policy issues — and the Texas Legislature routinely leads the nation in passing socially conservative bills — the party’s far right has often accused members, specifically those in the Texas House, of partnering with Democrats to undermine conservative priorities.

Paxton has played a key role in that fight, and has used his office to back the issues favored by the state’s most conservative flank. In turn, he has received millions of dollars from ultraconservative donors such as oil tycoons Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, who have buoyed his campaigns as his legal woes mounted, approval ratings dropped and other, more establishment donors invested elsewhere.

After House Republicans took the lead to impeach Paxton in May, the state’s far right again rushed to his defense: They accused Phelan of being drunk while presiding over House business and promised high-price primary challenges to House Republicans who voted to suspend Paxton from office. They erected billboards, made documentaries and paid social media influencers to parrot pro-Paxton talking points. They compared him to twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, and argued the attorney general was the victim of a “witch hunt” orchestrated by, among others, the Bush family, Democrats and the deep state.

Paxton echoed that sentiment after the vote, saying in a statement that he was the victim of a “sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court.”

And, within seconds of his acquittal, Paxton’s supporters began to attack the cast of characters that they believed were responsible.

“The Texas House owes all of Texas a big apology,” said Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican from the Woodlands and a member of the House’s Freedom Caucus, which threw its support behind Paxton. “This was a sham … This is terribly destructive to the Republican Party of Texas.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who presided over the trial but had largely avoided discussing its merits — gave a blistering speech in which he condemned the House impeachment managers and Phelan, with whom Patrick has long been at odds over school-choice legislation and other conservative bills that did not make it out of the Texas House during this year’s legislative session.

Meanwhile, prominent conservatives — including Trump — excoriated “RINOs” in the House and called for Phelan’s resignation. Paxton’s acquittal, some argued, was proof that the far right was the Texas GOP’s true standard bearer. And they promised that dramatic changes would consequently follow.

“Speaker Dade Phelan and his leadership team should be embarrassed for putting Texas through the time and expense of this political sham of an impeachment,” Matt Rinaldi, the chair of the Republican Party of Texas, said in a statement. “We invite the House Republican Caucus to choose leadership moving forward who will unify a Republican coalition behind our common goals, instead of sharing power with Democrats.”

House Republicans responded in kind, framing Paxton as corrupt and blaming his acquittal on partisan politics in the other chamber.

At a press conference following the vote, Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican and chair of the House impeachment team, excoriated Republican senators and the “millions of dollars that Mr. Paxton’s apologists have spent to influence and intimidate Texas senators and Texas constituents.”

In a statement that echoed some of Murr’s disappointment and concerns, Phelan also blasted Patrick for his post-vote “tirade.”

“I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Lt. Governor Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s house on full display,” Phelan said. “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”

The animosity comes ahead of a special session — likely in October — over school choice legislation that has already turned into a lightning rod for conflict between Senate and House Republicans. For the past several legislative sessions, rural House Republicans have blocked voucher legislation favored by the Senate, and Phelan and Patrick also spent much of the summer warring over the details of their chambers’ respective property tax bills.

The possibility of an even deeper rift has already prompted some in the party to call for reconciliation, fearing a Pyrrhic victory for the winner of the escalating civil war.

“The radical and divisive nature of the situation in Texas now is going to cost us terribly,” former Amarillo Sen. Kel Seliger said in an interview. “And who is going to bring the party back together once we have really torn ourselves apart, once we’re done?”

Standing outside the Senate chamber on Saturday, Toth said he expects there to be “retribution” by voters for his fellow Republicans who supported Paxton’s impeachment. And he agreed that the party’s internecine conflict has no end in sight.

“It’s a mess,” he said.

Kate McGee contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Pressure mounts on Texas senators ahead of Ken Paxton impeachment trial

By Patrick Svitek The Texas Tribune

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Political pressure is intensifying around Republican state senators who will serve as the jurors in the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Paxton’s allies are singling out a half dozen senators for lobbying. A mysterious entity is airing TV ads and sending out mailers targeting certain senators. And an influential establishment group, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry, are urging senators to oppose efforts to effectively stop the trial before it starts.

“Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton in this impeachment is risking their entire political career and we will make sure that is the case,” Jonathan Stickland, who runs the pro-Paxton Defend Texas Liberty PAC, said Thursday in a media appearance.

The high-stakes trial of Texas’ top legal official is scheduled to start Sept. 5. It comes after the House impeached Paxton in May, accusing him of a yearslong pattern of misconduct and lawbreaking centered on his relationship with Nate Paul, an Austin real-estate investor and Paxton campaign donor. Paxton, a Republican in his third term, was immediately suspended from office, and the trial will determine whether he will be permanently removed.

His fate lies in the hands of the 30 senators who can vote in the trial. (His wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, is recused.) Removal requires a two-thirds vote, meaning that if all 12 Democrats vote to convict Paxton, nine of the 18 remaining Republicans would have to cross over to force him out. Furthermore, only a majority vote is required for senators to grant a pretrial motion to dismiss, which would come before any opening statements. While that would require 16 of the 18 voting Republicans – assuming all Democrats oppose it — it may be a tempting option for GOP senators who do not want to go through with a weeks-long trial where the spotlight on them will burn even brighter.

Paxton’s supporters have touted him as the tip of the spear in Texas’ battles against President Joe Biden’s administration. The impeachment, they argue, is a plot by the Republican establishment to take Paxton out after failing to defeat him in his reelection campaign last year.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, imposed a strict gag order on senators that largely prohibits them from commenting on the case publicly. Shortly after Paxton’s impeachment in May, several GOP senators issued identical or similar statements telling constituents they could not discuss the case but welcomed their feedback.

Paxton’s allies have gotten more aggressive in recent days. On Tuesday, Dallas County GOP activist Lauren Davis went on the show of Steve Bannon, the former Donald Trump strategist, and urged viewers to apply pressure to six GOP senators: Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, Charles Perry of Lubbock, Drew Springer of Muenster and Mayes Middleton of Galveston. She said Middleton was especially important to lobby given that he was a top donor to Paxton’s primary challengers in 2022.

“We're gonna make all these six famous in the days ahead,” Bannon said.

Earlier in the week, Davis used her group, Moms Love Freedom, to launch a petition asking the Senate to dismiss the articles of impeachment “with prejudice.”

Davis was the 2022 Republican nominee for Dallas County judge and is currently running for Dallas County GOP chair, challenging an incumbent. She shares a political consultant, Axiom Strategies, with Paxton.

The pressure ramped up more Wednesday, when a new group began airing TV ads targeting certain senators before the Republican presidential primary debate on Fox News. One commercial targets Schwertner and asks viewers to call him and “tell him to stand up to the left and stop the impeachment of our attorney general.”

The group, San Jacinto 2023, ran $31,000 in ads Wednesday and was set to air another $6,000 in ads on Thursday, all on Fox News, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. While it was not immediately clear which senators were all targeted, the ad buy was in the Abilene, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Waco and San Antonio markets.

On Friday, it also surfaced that the group was also sending out mailers that encourage people to call their senator and "tell [them] to end the sham impeachment."

San Jacinto 2023 is a Virginia-based corporation that was formed June 28, according to records in the state. Other records show the group uses a media buyer, Ax Media, that is part of Axiom Strategies, Paxton’s political consulting firm. Those records list the group’s treasurer as Nancy Rennaker, who is listed online as a "non-attorney professional" at The Gober Group, an Austin-based law firm that Paxton has used.

Rennaker did not respond to a request for comment before deadline. But after the publication of this story, she clarified that she is an independent contractor for multiple companies and that she is doing bookkeeping for San Jacinto 2023 for RightSide Compliance, not The Gober Group.

Then on Thursday, the deep-pocketed GOP group Texans for Lawsuit Reform issued a rare public statement on the impeachment process. The group, which heavily funded one of Paxton’s primary challengers in 2022, reiterated it “had nothing to do with” his impeachment, a day after the Dallas Morning News reported that Paxton’s lawyers planned to call TLR founder Richard Weekley as a witness.

But what came next was more notable. The group, which was sitting on a $33 million warchest as of June 30, made clear it expected senators to oppose the pretrial motions to dismiss — or anything else that could derail a full-blown trial.

“There is an ongoing effort underway to intimidate the Senators into abandoning their constitutional obligations and acquitting Paxton before the trial even begins and the evidence has been presented,” the statement said. “These efforts are disrespectful of the constitutional impeachment process and insulting to the integrity of the Texas Senate.”

“TLR expects the Senate will conduct a fair, open and thorough trial and that each Senator will make her or his decision solely on the evidence presented,” the statement added, putting an emphasis on “solely.”

The statement was only attributed to Texans for Lawsuit Reform and not any specific representative of the group.

By the end of Thursday, Perry was also weighing in with a similar message to that of TLR. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Perry condemned fellow Republicans who he said were trying to "delegitimize" the process and called for a "full and fair trial" in the Senate.

"We’ve come this far in the process, and it’s critical that the Senate sees it through to the end," wrote Perry, who is close with Patrick. "That means a fair trial that allows both sides to lay out all the facts and gives senators the opportunity to vote based on the evidence."

Such interventions are likely to further inflame tension with Paxton and his allies, who have long theorized the Republican establishment, especially TLR, is willing to do whatever it takes to get him out of office.

That became clearer when Davis returned to Bannon’s show Thursday and elaborated on why she named those six. She said four of them — Hughes, Middleton, Perry and Springer — may be listening to political consultants who have “vendettas” against Paxton and noted all four share a consultant who previously worked for Paxton.

Davis’ appeared to be a reference to Jordan Berry, an Austin-based consultant who resigned from Paxton’s campaign in 2020 after senior officials in his office asked federal law enforcement to probe Paxton’s relationship with Paul. Berry declined to comment.

Davis appeared on the show jointly with Stickland, a former state representative whose PAC has been a top defender of Paxton. It has already put up billboards and sent out text messages attacking House Republicans who supported Paxton’s impeachment.

“We’re spending millions of dollars,” Stickland said. “We think this is a huge fight.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

In Texas, Ken Paxton legal team works to invalidate every article of impeachment before trial

By Robert Downen The Texas Tribune

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Attorneys for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a flurry of motions over the weekend that seek to dismiss additional articles of impeachment, arguing that the allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

In the documents, filed before Saturday’s deadline for pretrial motions and made public Monday, Paxton’s attorneys routinely accused House impeachment managers of using “any means necessary” to “overturn the will of voters” who elected Paxton last year.

Paxton’s team also downplayed the severity of the accusations against him — including those surrounding his firing of whistleblowers from his office who reported him to law enforcement for alleged bribery — and argued that many of the claims are without merit or do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

In addition to challenging individual articles, Paxton’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing all 20 articles of impeachment that were approved 121-23 by the House in May, arguing that the accusations are unsupported by evidence.

The House impeachment managers have until Aug. 15 to respond in writing to all pretrial motions. Paxton’s impeachment trial, with 30 Texas senators acting as jurors, is set to begin Sept. 5.

Combined with earlier filings, the latest pretrial motions set up a dramatic confrontation in the early moments of Paxton’s trial — a series of votes by senators on whether to eliminate some or all of the articles of impeachment before evidence can be presented. A majority of senators — 16 — can approve dismissal of an article, placing an early test on the determination of the chamber’s 19 Republicans to allow a trial on the allegations.

If all articles were to be dismissed, the impeachment trial would be over before it began. If any article survives, the trial would move to opening statements by lawyers for the House impeachment managers. Paxton’s lawyers could deliver their opening statements immediately afterward or defer until later in the trial.

The new filings are the latest in which Paxton’s team, led by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, has sought to have articles tossed.

Last week, Paxton’s team filed two motions to dismiss 19 of the 20 articles of impeachment, arguing that all but one — Article 8 — ran afoul of the “prior-term doctrine,” which they said bars officials from being impeached for conduct that predates their most recent election. They argued that almost all of the allegations outlined by House investigators were known to voters when they reelected him to his third six-year term in 2022.

But while those filings attacked the impeachment articles on procedural grounds, the new flurry of motions individually addressed the merits of the allegations against Paxton. The lawyers also sought to dismiss Article 8, which deals with Paxton’s request that the Legislature finance his $3.3 million lawsuit settlement with the whistleblowers — a request that prompted the initial House investigation into him earlier this year.

In its filing, Paxton’s team framed the lawsuit settlement as a “money-saving agreement” of “ordinary employment litigation.” It also accused the House of having “done violence to our democracy” by attempting to impeach Paxton over what it described as a “routine” function of his job.

The new filings also hint at Paxton’s potential defense strategy for allegations involving Nate Paul, a political donor and Austin real estate investor who was arrested in June on federal felony charges of lying to financial institutions to secure business loans. House investigators accused Paxton of misusing his office to help Paul’s business and to interfere with criminal investigations into Paul’s activities. In return, investigators alleged, Paul paid to remodel Paxton’s Austin home and hired a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair.

In the filing, Paxton’s team downplayed the relationship with Paul and argued that there was no evidence that Paxton formed “an illegal agreement” to help Paul in exchange for a benefit — a “quid pro quo” required under state bribery laws.

“As they stand, the Articles allege nothing more than that the Attorney General had a personal relationship with a constituent and that the constituent found something the Attorney General did to be agreeable in some way,” Paxton’s attorneys wrote. “If that is enough to amount to a bribe, scarcely any elected official is innocent of the House’s notion of bribery.“

On the other side of the legal fight, House impeachment managers filed a motion Saturday requesting clarity on several Senate-approved trial rules. They asked that cross-examination not count toward the 24 hours allotted to each side to present evidence; that both sides exchange “all documents, photographs or other materials expected to be used at trial” by Aug. 22; and that House managers be allowed to use their wireless mobile devices while on the Senate floor during the trial.

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Such an abuse’: Bill Barr delivers obvious facts to Fox News about Mar-a-Lago stash of documents

By now, you’ve probably heard that the disgraced former president, Donald Trump, seems to be something of a criminal. No, I’m not talking about his racist landlord violations from the 1970s. No, not his dubious interactions with contractors throughout the 1980s and 1990s. No, not his shady personal bankruptcies of the 1990s and 2000s. No, not even his two impeachments and the fact that there are numerous campaign violations that many believe need more criminal investigations. Trump seems to have broken a slew of laws surrounding the handling, hoarding, and possible treason of taking classified documents to keep at his private golf club and residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The Republican Party, sans a few neocons, is struggling to regain primacy in the toilet bowl that is the Republican Party circling the sewer of fascism. On Friday, former Trump attorney general Bill Barr went on Fox News and took a ginormous rain on the right wing’s parade by making the case—not once, but twice in a two-minute span—that Donald Trump had earned and deserved the search and seizure of government documents from Mar-a-Lago.

Yes, the guy who just a few months ago said he would still vote for Donald Trump were he to run in 2024, the guy who allowed Donald Trump to skate past clear recommendations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he should be investigated more thoroughly for breaking federal laws. That Bill Barr. And yes, that Fox News.

RELATED STORY: All you need to read from the memo Barr claimed cleared Trump on obstruction is a single footnote

Campaign Action

Let me premise this by saying that I personally believe Fox News is hedging its bets here. Murdoch and the brain trust at Fox News have already lost favor with Trump after being the news outlet to call Arizona for Biden in 2020. They have had to walk back their full-on dismissal of Trump, as the current GOP leadership didn’t have the backbone to stand up to Trump and offer their base a worthwhile alternative.* Letting Bill Barr come on and slam Trump while vapid hosts made faces and threw softball defenses up is a way for Fox News to have clips if and when Donald Trump ends up in an orange jumpsuit.

On Friday, Barr spoke to two vacuous Fox News mouthpieces and began by pointing out that the idea that Trump could or would make a blanket declassification was ridiculous, and that even if he did, it wouldn’t be much of a defense against any real legal challenges. Barr said he was “skeptical” of that claim in the first place, “because frankly, I think it’s highly improbable; and second, if in fact he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse, show such recklessness, that it is almost worse than taking the documents.”

One Fox deplorable decided the best tactic here was to ask Barr about how the FBI went to Donald Trump’s private residence to get said folders and files. You know, the old GOP chestnut: How could a rich, conservative white guy possibly break the law? Barr did a good job of pointing out that it seemed pretty clear the FBI had a very good idea that there were a lot of very serious documents in a very not-secure location, and Trump wasn’t willingly giving them back.

He then gave a very simple answer that maybe some of the people watching from their MyPillow recliners could maybe understand:

"People say the search was unprecedented. Well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take classified information and put them in a county club. How long is the government going to try to get that back, you know? They jawbone for a year. They were deceived on the voluntary actions taken. They then went and got a subpoena. They were deceived on that—they feel. And the records are starting to show that they were being jerked around."

"People say this was unprecedented. Well, it's also unprecedented for a POTUS to take all this classified information & put 'em in a country club, ok? And how long is the govt going to try to get that back?" -- Bill Barr bodies Trump on Fox News even as anchors try to defend him pic.twitter.com/7HqOvf9xvp

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 2, 2022

*In the GOP leadership’s defense, they have no meaningful alternative to Trump. Trump is worth 1,000 Ted Cruzes or Josh Hawleys because Trump will unashamedly lie about giving conservative voters everything they want (lower health insurance costs, more and better jobs, all the oil they can guzzle). Most Republicans have spent the last few decades attempting to pretend they had policies that might do that in the face of failure after failure.

RELATED STORY: The classified documents in that DOJ photo were all found in Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago office

D.C. attorney general: Trump Jr.’s deposition ‘raised further questions’ about inaugural payments

In January of 2020, Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a civil complaint against the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (Trumps) and the two entities—the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the Loews Hotel chain, which owned The Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2017. At issue were the exorbitant rates the Inaugural Committee paid to the hotel for private parties and rooms and spaces that were not even used. Racine pointed to evidence that people within the Inaugural Committee knew the prices were overboard and questioned them at the time. In December, Ivanka Trump had to sit for at least five hours to answer questions. Like a good grifter Trump, she claimed it was all a political witch hunt.

At around the same time Ivanka was being deposed, her older brother Junior was getting phone calls from Racine asking him about a purported $49,358.92 that the Trump Organization was contracted to pay to the hotel connected to the inauguration. It turns out that not only didn’t the Trump Organization pay that money back to itself (in essence)—the nonprofit, donor-funded Presidential Inauguration Committee ended up cutting that check back to the Trumps’ hotel interests. In fact, Trump Jr. may have been the person who forwarded that check on to the Inaugural Committee. Weeeeeeeiiiiird, huh?

Well, it turns out that while many of us were watching the awful sequel impeachment trial of Donald Trump during the week of Feb. 9, Donald Trump, Jr. was having his own deposition with Racine’s office. CNN reports that the Washington, D.C. Attorney General’s office says this new deposition "raised further questions about the nature" of that very same invoice—the one that was forwarded by the Trump Organization to the Trump Inaugural Committee to pay Trump’s hotel.

Will Trump Jr. be able to explain why the Trump Organization’s hotel bill was paid by the Trump Inaugural Committee? Let’s just guess that any excuse given by someone related to Donald Trump at this point is likely going to be less than satisfactory. But that’s not all of Junior and the Trump family’s problems. On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office have begun focusing more intensely on the Donald’s eldest, least remarkable son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as on Trump’s old buddy and longstanding CFO of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg.

Weisselberg has been interviewed by all kinds of law enforcement agencies over the last few years, and was even offered immunity when cooperating in the FBI’s investigation into former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. According to the Daily Beast, the Manhattan investigation—not to be confused with the Washington, D.C. investigation—has “broadened the range of investigation into the Trump family’s assets, and have recruited some extra manpower.” 

The New York investigation comes out of the Donald’s tax filings and Weisselberg has already been deposed at least once by Manhattan prosecutors during the investigation. More recently, sources say that Donald Trump’s properties and the nature of the loans he’s taken out against some of his properties have been examined by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. These investigations are different from the one being conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which is also investigating some of Trump’s sketchy property development loans.

Sources close to Trump say that the New York investigations—as well as all of the numerous other investigations into Trump and his family’s affairs, while on his mind—are being dismissed by the family as a political witch hunt. But maybe there’s a reason why Weisselberg was on everybody’s list of people Donald Trump may try to preemptively pardon before leaving office? Maybe all of these people have secret break-in-case-of-emergency” pardons, as some have speculated? Maybe Trump’s attempt to load up the Supreme Court with ultra-right-wing, underqualified judges hasn’t worked as well as he had hoped in protecting his criminal behavior.

Maybe Trump’s No. 1 motivation for positioning himself to run again in 2024 is the hope that he can once and for all legalize his and his family’s apparent criminal enterprise.