Heather Cox Richardson
Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin, and Mike Levine of ABC News reported today that sources have told them that former president Trump shared information about U.S. nuclear subs with Anthony Pratt, an Australian billionaire who was a member of the Mar-a-Lago club. The sources say Pratt then shared that information with at least 45 others: more than a dozen foreign officials, his own employees, and a few journalists. Trump allegedly shared the exact number of nuclear warheads U.S. submarines carry, and exactly how close they can get to a Russian submarine without being detected.
Former defense secretary William Cohen explained to CNN’s Anderson Cooper how information about nuclear submarines fit into the larger picture of what’s known as the nuclear triad, the land, sea, and air systems that protect the U.S. “Out of the triad,” he said, “the submarine is the one that is most secure for us because it’s not targetable…. So they’re special. And he is giving away special information on what is protecting us around the world.”
FBI agents and the team overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, looking into Trump’s mishandling of national security documents, have interviewed Pratt at least twice. About a year ago, on November 9, 2022, U.S. Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Dianna, were sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for conspiring to sell classified information about nuclear-powered warships to a foreign country.
“Naval nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe was entrusted with our nation’s critical secrets and, along with his wife Diana Toebbe, put the security of our country at risk for financial gain,” U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung for the Western District of Pennsylvania said at the time. “Their serious criminal conduct betrayed and endangered the Department of the Navy’s loyal and selfless service members. The seriousness of the offense in this case cannot be overstated.”
Trump today endorsed Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) for the speakership. There is an important history to this endorsement. On January 11, 2021—five days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the attempt of some Republican lawmakers to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election—Trump awarded Jordan the Medal of Freedom without a real explanation of why he deserved it.
On January 6, 2021, then-Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) told Jordan to get away from her because “You f*ck*ng did this!”
Yesterday, in a speech at the University of Minnesota, Cheney explained: “Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for January 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives. Jim Jordan was involved, was part of the conspiracy in which Donald Trump was engaged as he attempted to overturn the election…. There was a handful of people, of which he was the leader, who knew what Donald Trump had planned. Now somebody needs to ask Jim Jordan, ‘Why didn’t you report to the Capitol Police what you knew Donald Trump had planned? You were in those meetings at the White House.’”
She concluded: “If the Republicans decide that Jim Jordan should be the Speaker of the House…there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers are trying to get the indictments against him for trying to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election thrown out, arguing that a president has absolute immunity from prosecution for criminal as well as civil prosecutions. If this argument succeeded, it would mean that a president was above the law and could do anything they wanted without fear of prosecution. In her newsletter Civil Discourse, Joyce White Vance suggests this is likely an attempt to delay the trial at least until after the Republican National Convention nominates a presidential candidate and possibly until after the 2024 election itself.
Trump’s tangles with the law are not going well, and in a sudden flurry today, his lawyers tried to delay or get rid of them. In his coverage of Trump’s fraud trial in New York this week, Daily Beast political investigations reporter Jose Pagliery noted that Trump likely appeared in person because he had cited the trial as the reason he could not give a deposition in his $500 million lawsuit against his former fixer Michael Cohen for talking about him and thus breaking his fiduciary duty to act solely in Trump’s interest. That deposition was rescheduled for Monday. Today, Trump withdrew his case against Cohen, clearly suggesting he was afraid to testify.
In the New York fraud trial, a document introduced into evidence today undermined the argument that Trump wasn’t involved in the fraudulent valuations at the heart of the case. The Trump Organization’s 2014 statement of financial condition included a note from the organization’s comptroller saying: “DJT TO GET FINAL REVIEW.”
Apparently concerned that Trump would try to move his assets around to hide them, Justice Arthur Engoron today ordered Trump, his older sons, and the two Trump Organization employees in the suit not to move money or open a new business without reporting it to the independent monitor overseeing the businesses. They must also provide a list of each of their businesses and anyone who shares ownership of those businesses.
Trump has also asked Judge Aileen Cannon to delay his trial for mishandling the national security documents he stashed at Mar-a-Lago until after the 2024 election.