Hamas’ brutal terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians appropriately dominated last week’s news cycle. While vastly less important — from both a personal and world-affairs perspective — these four stories, which flew under the radar last week, deserve mention.
1. Biden’s Classified Docs Scandal
More than a year and a half before President Joe Biden’s attorneys claimed they “unexpectedly discovered” Obama-Biden documents at the Penn Biden Center, White House officials began screening the documents, James Comer, the Chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, revealed last week.
In an Oct. 11 letter to White House counsel Edward Siskel, Comer noted Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, had previously represented to the public that classified documents were first discovered at the Penn Biden Center on Nov. 2, 2022, and that Biden’s attorneys then promptly notified the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the discovery.
But according to an unnamed employee at the Penn Biden Center, on March 18, 2021, Annie Tomasini, assistant and senior adviser to the president and director of Oval Office operations, went to the Penn Biden Center to inventory Biden’s documents and materials. Thus, as Comer noted, the timeline began much earlier than Biden’s legal team had said.
This revelation raises the question of whether Tomasini discovered the documents with classification markings when she inventoried Biden’s records in March of 2021. If so, whom did she tell of that fact? Why was NARA not immediately contacted? And why were Biden’s personal attorneys later brought in to “find” the documents?
In addition to Tomasini, four other government employees were involved in reviewing or moving the documents from the Biden Penn Center, including former White House counsel Dana Remus; Anthony Bernal, assistant to the president and senior adviser to the first lady; Ashley Williams, special assistant to the president and deputy director of Oval Office operations; and Kathy Chung, a Department of Defense employee and former assistant to then-Vice President Biden.
As Comer asked in his letter to the White House counsel, if Biden truly believed the materials stored at the Biden Penn Center were personal documents and items, why would he use “significant federal resources” to secure that material?
Maybe for the same reason Biden had his personal lawyers “discover” the classified documents: because he knew they were there.
2. Hurdles for the Fulton County DA
Last Tuesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee held hearings on pretrial motions filed by lawyers for Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell. Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis had charged Chesebro and Powell in the sprawling RICO indictment that named a total of 19 defendants, including former President Donald Trump. But because both Chesebro and Powell demanded their right to a speedy trial, their cases were severed from the other defendants.
Among other issues, last week’s hearing concerned Chesebro’s motion to dismiss the charges. Judge McAfee did not rule on the motion, instead taking it under advisement, but the defense counsel’s arguments — both on the supremacy clause and the validity of the RICO charge — presented strong challenges to the prosecution.
As Chesebro’s attorney highlighted, federal law, which trumps state law, permits electors to be changed by the state after first certified. This negates the theory underlying Willis’ “fake electors” prosecution, the defense counsel argued.
On the RICO charge, Chesebro’s attorney argued that the state’s conspiracy law is unconstitutionally vague to the extent it criminalizes the conduct Willis charged — namely, the establishment of an enterprise to “change the results of the election.”
Not only is that not a crime, but the law authorizes such efforts through election contest lawsuits. Further, as the defense counsel highlighted, under the prosecutor’s untethered theory of the case, thousands if not millions of people around the country who believe Trump won the election could be charged with joining a conspiracy to “change the results” of the election.
With Chesebro and Powell’s trial scheduled to begin with jury selection on Oct. 20, Judge McAfee will be forced to decide these issues soon. That may prove a problem for Willis’ efforts to get Trump and the other defendants because with Chesebro and Powell’s cases teed up first, there’s a chance the Georgia appellate courts will reject the RICO count and the charges premised on the appointment of alternative electors before the other defendants face a jury.
These issues could be brought to the Georgia appellate court “interlocutorily,” meaning before a trial occurs, if the appellate court agrees to hear the case. Alternatively, if a jury convicts the duo, they could seek appellate review then.
It may be some time before the case gets to a jury, however, given that, as defense counsel noted during last week’s argument, there’s a RICO case down the hall that’s still in jury selection some six months later — and that case lacks any connection to the love-him or hate-him former president.
3. The Economy
Several stories concerning the economy broke last week as well. First, the Federal Reserve released its minutes from its September meeting, which revealed that “officials regarded the U.S. economy’s outlook as particularly uncertain.”
Of particular concern, according to the minutes, were the United Auto Workers’ strike against the Big Three automakers, higher energy costs, a weaker China economy, and the threat of a U.S. government shutdown.
While a funding deal staved off a shutdown until at least November, Hamas’ attack on Israel and concerns over an expanding conflict seem certain to keep energy costs high. Last week also saw “8,700 UAW members walked off the job … shutting down Ford Motor Company’s iconic and extremely profitable Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.”
The unannounced strike ends hope of a quick resolution to the labor dispute and may soon spread ripple effects throughout the economy. Should the factory remain closed for any substantial period, the lack of inventory promises to ratchet up both new and used car prices, which adds to the bad news on the inflation front also revealed last week.
While so-called experts had expected inflation to rise at 3.6 percent, it remained steady from August’s annual level at 3.7 percent — much higher than the 2 percent inflation rate target set by the Fed.
4. Robert Menendez
Another little-notice development occurred in the criminal case filed against Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez. Last Thursday, the Department of Justice returned a superseding indictment against the New Jersey senator adding a count charging Menendez with acting as an agent for a foreign government, namely Egypt, without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
The failure-to-register charge pales compared to the bribery counts against Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, contained in the original indictment. But it provides the government with an easier path to conviction because federal prosecutors need not prove a nefarious purpose for accepting the payments.
Ironically, though, the DOJ’s decision to charge Menendez with a FARA violation spotlights the Biden administration’s failure to pursue such a charge against Hunter Biden. And here, the superseding indictment returned against the New Jersey senator contains several facts that will remind Americans of Hunter Biden’s pay-to-play scandal, such as dinners and photographs with foreign figures, a gifted car, and the use of pressure to ensure the foreign officials make the promised payments.
With Hunter Biden, though, it is bank accounts and wire transfers and not gold bars that confirm payments from foreign officials. While that may not be enough to establish bribery, given Hunter Biden’s efforts on behalf of the foreigners, the evidence appears more than enough to support a FARA charge. And the superseding indictment against Menendez reminds Americans of that fact.