Day 611: "Thinking about it."
1/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Justice Department could use the classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago in its ongoing criminal investigation, blocking a lower court’s order that had limited the investigation into Trump’s handling of government materials. The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – two of whom were nominated by Trump – disagreed with Trump’s rationale that the classified documents were his property, rather than the government’s, writing that Trump “has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents.” The court also disagreed with the rationale used by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to order a special master to review the classified documents and deny the DOJ’s request that they be exempted from it. Trump, meanwhile, told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “there doesn’t have to be a process [to declassify documents], as I understand it,” claiming that a president can declassify “even by thinking about it.” (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / CNBC)
2/ The special master overseeing the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation ordered Trump’s lawyers to submit a sworn declaration saying if they believe the Justice Department lied about the documents seized. While Trump has repeatedly claimed that the FBI planted evidence when they searched Mar-A-Lago, his lawyers have not made similar assertions in court. Judge Raymond Dearie set a Sept. 30 deadline for Trump’s lawyers to state in a court filing if the Justice Department included any items on their “inventory” of materials taken from Mar-a-Lago that were not actually seized during the search. (Washington Post / CNN)
3/ Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, agreed to participate in a voluntary interview with the Jan. 6 committee. Thomas repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to find ways to overturn the election and attended the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. The committee has also obtained email correspondence between Thomas and John Eastman, the architect of the campaign to push Pence to reject the 2020 election results during the counting of Electoral College votes. The committee will hold its next public hearing next Wednesday, Sept. 28 – likely the last in a series of hearings that began this summer. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NPR / Associated Press)
4/ The House passed an electoral reform bill to prevent future presidents from trying to steal an election through Congress. The Presidential Election Reform Act amends the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act – the law that Trump and his allies tried to exploit in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election – by clarifying the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes as strictly ministerial. It also would raise the threshold for Congress to object to a state’s results. The bill passed 229-203, with nine Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the measure. None of those nine Republican lawmakers will be members of Congress next year. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where a bipartisan group has been working on a similar bill. (NBC News / NPR / New York Times / Washington Post)
5/ Senate Republicans blocked an effort to require the disclosure of large campaign donations to so-called dark money groups. The Disclose Act, which failed on a 49-49 vote along party lines, would have required super PACs to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)
6/ The Senate ratified a global treaty to phase down the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons – its first international climate treaty in three decades. The planet-warming industrial chemicals, commonly found in refrigerators and air-conditioners, are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at heating up the Earth. (Politico / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)
7/ An Indiana judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the state’s near-total ban on abortion a week after it took effect. The decision came as part of a lawsuit brought by abortion providers challenging the state ban, which prohibits most abortion except to save the woman’s life. The judge wrote that “there is reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy offends the liberty guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the lawsuit. (NPR / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
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