Trump Watch

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Shown below is a list of recent news stories reporting on probes of President Trump, his administration and businesses. The reports are listed in reverse chronological order, and are drawn primarily from news stories relating to investigations and the U.S. Congress of major claims of wrongdoing.

Note: Excerpts below are from the authors' words except for subheads and "Editor's notes" such as this. This segment of our near-daily summary of Trump Watch News and Commentary encompasses news stories that began in 2021. For material in 2020, kindly visit a link for it that will be posted soon here.

-- Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

 

2021-24

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

 

February 2024

Feb. 17

 arthur engoron djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Ordered to Pay Fraud Penalty That Will Exceed $450 Million, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). The ruling in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case could cost him all his available cash. It also bars him from running a business in the state for three years. The judge (shown above at left) also barred the former president’s adult sons from serving in top roles at any New York company for two years.

A New York judge on Friday handed Donald J. Trump a crushing defeat in his civil fraud case, finding the former president liable for conspiring to manipulate his net worth and ordering him to pay a penalty of nearly $355 million plus interest that could wipe out his entire stockpile of cash.

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Justice Engoron barred Mr. Trump for three years from serving in top roles at any New York company, including portions of his own Trump Organization.

eric trump djtHe also imposed a two-year ban on the former president’s adult sons and ordered that they pay more than $4 million each. One of them, Eric Trump (shown above at right), is the company’s de facto chief executive, and the ruling throws into doubt whether any member of the family can run the business in the near term.

letitia james o headshotThe judge also ordered that they pay substantial interest, pushing the penalty for the former president to $450 million, according to the attorney general, Letitia James, right.

In his unconventional style, Justice Engoron criticized Mr. Trump and the other defendants for refusing to admit wrongdoing for years. “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” he said.

He noted that Mr. Trump had not committed violent crimes and also conceded that “Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff.” Still, he wrote, “defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways.”

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Mr. Trump will also most likely ask an appeals court to halt the restrictions on him and his sons from running the company while it considers the case.

But there might be little Mr. Trump can do to thwart one of the judge’s most consequential punishments: extending for three years the appointment of an independent monitor who will be the court’s eyes and ears at the Trump Organization, watching for fraud and second-guessing transactions that look suspicious.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have railed against the monitor, Barbara Jones, saying that her work has already cost the business more than $2.5 million; the decision to extend her oversight of the privately held family company could enrage the Trumps, who see her presence as an irritant and an insult.

The attorney general, Letitia James, had sought those consequences and more, asking for Mr. Trump to be permanently barred from New York’s business world. In the 2022 lawsuit that precipitated the trial, she accused Mr. Trump of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable treatment from banks and other lenders, attacking the foundation of his public persona as a billionaire businessman.

Even though the lenders made money from Mr. Trump, they were the purported victims in the case, with Ms. James arguing that absent his fraud, they could have made even more. The financial penalty reflects those lost profits, with nearly half of the $355 million — $168 million — representing the interest that Mr. Trump saved, and the remaining sum representing his profit on the recent sale of two properties, money that the judge has now clawed back.

Before the trial began, Justice Engoron ruled that the former president had used his annual financial statements to defraud the lenders, siding with the attorney general on her case’s central claim. The judge’s Friday ruling ratified almost all of the other accusations Ms. James had leveled against Mr. Trump, finding the former president liable for conspiring with his top executives to violate several state laws.

The judge’s decision for now grants Ms. James, a Democrat, a career-defining victory. She campaigned for her office promising to bring Mr. Trump to justice, and sat calmly in the courtroom during the trial as the former president attacked her, calling her a corrupt politician motivated solely by self-interest.

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: President Biden Should Use His Constitutional Power to Call The House Back Into Session to Pass webster tarpley 2007the Urgent Senate Ukraine Funding Bill Before Putin Kills More Ukrainians, Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian, author, Feb. 17, 2024 (132:51 mins).  Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the President ”may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them….”

Time to seize the initiative from the flailing and chaotic subversive MAGA Mike, who is determined to serve Putin and Trump;

The example of Harry Truman, who won re-election in 1948 despite dismal polls, a hostile press corps, and a lack of money: at the Democratic harry trumanconvention, Truman called the Republican-controlled Congress back into session to approve Fair Deal legislation to fight inflation, solve the housing crisis, protect civil rights, and implement points of agreement in the both party platforms;

After the GOP refused to pass any of these bills, Truman went on a 22,000 mile whistlestop campaign tour of US, coast to coast and border to border, denouncing the ”Do-Nothing Eightieth Congress; Truman became ”Give ’em hell Harry,” taking 28 states to win re-election with 303 electoral votes and a plurality of 49.5% to GOP candidate Dewey’s 45.1% in the most stunning political upset in American history and a ”major miracle” (Newsweek);

Biden stresses that Navalny assassination shows true nature of the bloody dictatorship run by Trump-MAGA heartthrob Putin; Navalny’s widow indicts Kremlin tyrant for murder in dramatic intervention at Munich Wehrkunde Security Conference; Benedict Donald is silent; West must transfer $350 billion in Russian assets to Ukraine for defense; If all else fails, Biden should declare national emergency to transfer military supplies to Kiev by Executive Order;

Judge Engoron slams Benedict Donald with $364 million in fines on top of $88.3 million already imposed by New York federal court; Don banned from New York real estate for 3 years; Total fines now exceed $464 million plus interest, suggesting Trump may exhaust GOP cash reserves to pay lawyers in at least 9 separate losing legal battles; Survival of Trump’s fortune now in serious doubt; Sons Don Jr. and Eric also face fines and business bans;

Fani Willis offers profile in courage, defying grotesque Georgia inquisition demanded by lawyers for Trump and RICO co-defendants; Smirnov arrest shows linchpin of Comer’s impeachment case against Biden is a criminal lie; Shellenberger-Taibbi-Gutentag launch absurd rewrite of Russiagate history; Probe of Trump’s Russian links was triggered by warnings from nine US allies;

Suozzi wins NY-3 seat in Nassau and Queens, once again exposing bankruptcy of gaslighting polls run by malefactors of great wealth; Long Island Democrat pushes aside ultra-left border orthodoxy to wage devastating attack on MAGA demagogy while stressing path to citizenship, democracy and return to Roe; Rep. Grace Meng of neighboring NY-6 gave vital help with Asian voters, showing superlative mastery of united front team play; She continues spirit of tolerance exemplified by Flushing Remonstrance of 1657, the first call for freedom of religion in North America;

Zients and Garland should quit now to permit Biden administration to definitively seize initiative in sweeping away wreckage of moribund Republican Party; New York State expropriating much of Trump’s fortune may be seen by history as marking the end globalization era

 

hunter biden beard

ny times logoNew York Times, Indictment of Informant Undercuts G.O.P.’s Impeachment Drive, Luke Broadwater, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). The effort by House Republicans to find wrongdoing on the part of President Biden took another big blow when a key source was charged with making up allegations.

fbi logoThe indictment of a former F.B.I. informant on charges of making up claims that President Biden and his son sought bribes from a Ukrainian energy company is the latest blow to the effort by House Republicans to assemble a credible impeachment case against the president.

Republicans had hailed the informant, Alexander Smirnov, as “credible” and “most respected.” They asserted that he had 17 recordings to back up his story that Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, shown above, had each accepted bribes of $5 million from Burisma, the Ukrainian firm that had paid Hunter Biden as much as $1 million a year for serving on its board.

But the tapes never materialized, and on Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it had charged Mr. Smirnov with making it all up.

That left Democrats calling for the immediate halt of the inquiry, and Republicans scrambling to find something else to use against the president.

“He is lying and it should be dropped and it’s just been an outrageous effort from the beginning,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the indictment exposed the evidence being cited by Republicans as false. “I hope it will be the final chapter of this ludicrous wild goose chase,” Mr. Raskin said.

The charges against Mr. Smirnov are unlikely to deter Republicans from marching forward with their investigation into the president. But they deeply undercut the foundation of the inquiry and give more weight to longstanding Democratic complaints that the impeachment drive is a purely political exercise intended to put Mr. Biden on the defensive as he seeks re-election.

Mr. Smirnov, 43, is accused of falsely telling the F.B.I. that Hunter Biden demanded the money to protect the company from an investigation by the country’s prosecutor general. But those claims were false, and Mr. Smirnov’s motivation for lying appeared to have been political, prosecutors wrote, citing anti-Biden messages he wrote during the 2020 campaign.

“They’re making an impeachment inquiry based on — it looks like now — criminal conduct,” said Kimberly Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore. “It’s not like where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s like the smoke is actually a lie and a federal felony.”

The charges against Mr. Smirnov are not the first time the central thesis of the Republican case — that Mr. Biden accepted bribes from Ukraine — has been undercut or shot down. Attempts to prove that Mr. Biden was on the take have repeatedly failed over the years, according to congressional testimony.

One example stemmed from an incident in 2019, as allies of President Donald J. Trump were hunting for allegations of corruption against Mr. Biden. Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, secured an interview with the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, that the men hoped would prove a bribery allegation central to their case.

But the interview backfired, undercutting the claims of bribery. Mr. Giuliani became enraged and demanded that Mr. Parnas tell no one of what the Ukrainian had said, according to Mr. Parnas’s account to Congress.

“Make sure nobody sees this,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Bury this.”

Mr. Parnas concluded in a letter to Congress: “There was no evidence of bribery or extortion that anyone could find.”

Other officials who have undercut the Republican case against Mr. Biden include Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president; Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations; Gordon Sondland, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the European Union; career U.S. State Department officials; and several of Hunter Biden’s business associates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former FBI informant charged with lying about Biden business, Devlin Barrett, Feb. 16, 2024 (print ed.). Charges come amid pitched accusations from Republicans in Congress over alleged informants.

david weissSpecial counsel David Weiss, left — who has previously filed criminal charges against President Biden’s son Hunter (shown above) — announced new charges Thursday against a former FBI informant who officials say lied about the Bidens’ business dealings.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, is described in charging documents as a former confidential human source for the FBI who gave agents false information in 2020 about a prominent political figure and his son.

The description of the two individuals matches that of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and a person familiar with the matter said those are the individuals about whom Smirnov lied. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

The indictment returned by a grand jury in Los Angeles charges Smirnov with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.

fbi logoFor months, congressional Republicans have tried to use some FBI informant claims to argue that Hunter Biden — and President Biden — engaged in corrupt business deals and that the FBI did not pursue those claims.

Now, the same prosecutor who is seeking to convict Hunter Biden of gun and tax crimes has also brought charges against a person who allegedly made false claims of corruption against the Bidens.

Thursday’s indictment implicitly argues that some of the most sensational charges Republicans have sought to level against President Biden and his son were based on lies.

Smirnov, according to the indictment, “transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery Justice Department log circularallegations against Public Official 1, the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against Public Official 1 and his candidacy.”

Authorities charge that Smirnov, in talking to his FBI handler, repeatedly expressed dislike for Joe Biden, and at one point texted the agent that Biden was "going to jail.”

burisma logoSmirnov allegedly reported to an FBI agent in 2017 that he had a phone call with the owner of the Ukrainian firm Burisma, in which it was discussed that “Public Official 1’s son, was a member of Burisma’s Board” — which was publicly known information at the time.

In 2020, the indictment charges Smirnov brought new claims to the bureau, including that he knew of conversations from 2015 or 2016 in which Burisma executives said they hired the son “to protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.”

Smirnov’s claims that he knew of those conversations were false, the indictment charges.

U.S. authorities said that when agents questioned Smirnov again in 2023, he repeated some past false claims, changed other parts of his story and suggested new falsehoods after claiming to have met with Russian officials.

Smirnov was arrested at a Las Vegas airport on Wednesday, when he flew into the United States from overseas, the Justice Department said.

 

 

alexny navalny ap denis kaminevAlexei Navalny was President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent and a fierce critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Denis Kaminev photo via the Associated Press)

washington post logoWashington Post, Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison, officials say, Staff Report, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). Russia’s jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, died in a Russian prison colony Friday, Russia’s prison service announced in the early afternoon, without giving the cause of his death. News of his death flooded across Russian Telegram news channels early Friday afternoon and was later confirmed in a curt announcement by prison authorities.

Russian FlagPrison authorities reported that Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk, “almost immediately losing consciousness,” and added that a medical team failed to resuscitate him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had “some very serious questions to answer” about Navalny’s death, while European Council President Charles Michel saying the bloc considers Russia “responsible for this tragic death.” A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the West of having “its conclusion ready” before more information was available.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Prison Certain and Death Likely, Why Did Navalny Return to Russia? Neil MacFarquhar, Feb. 17, 2024. Aleksei Navalny thrived on agitation and feared irrelevancy in exile. Winning respect as he continued to lambast the Kremlin behind bars cost him his life.

alexey navalny 2017There was one question that Russians repeatedly asked the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, right,  who died in a remote Arctic penal colony on Friday, and he confessed that he found it a little annoying.

Why, after surviving a fatal poisoning attempt widely blamed on the Kremlin, had he returned to Russia from his extended convalescence abroad to face certain imprisonment and possible death? Even his prison guards, turning off their recording devices, asked him why he had come back, he said.

Russian Flag“I don’t want to give up either my country or my beliefs,” Mr. Navalny wrote in a Jan. 17 Facebook post to mark the third anniversary of his return and arrest in 2021. “I cannot betray either the first or the second. If your beliefs are worth something, you must be willing to stand up for them. And if necessary, make some sacrifices.”

That was the direct answer, but for many Russians, both those who knew him and those who did not, the issue was more complex. Some of them considered it almost a classical Greek tragedy: The hero, knowing that he is doomed, returns home anyway because, well, if he didn’t, he would not be the hero.

ny times logoNew York Times, Aleksei Navalny’s Allies Confirm His Death, Ivan Nechepurenko, Feb. 17, 2024.  A spokeswoman for the team that has continued Mr. Navalny’s work said his mother had received the official notification.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden said President Vladimir Putin was personally responsible for Aleksei Navalny’s death, Peter Baker, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden condemned “Putin and his thugs” for the Russian dissident’s demise, while European allies urgently sought assurances that the United States would not abandon them.

Russian FlagPresident Biden blamed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia personally on Friday for the reported death of the imprisoned Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny, and cited the case in pressing House Republicans to approve military aid to Ukraine in its war with Moscow.

But while he once threatened to impose “devastating” consequences on Mr. Putin if Mr. Navalny died in prison, the president conceded that there was not much more he could do after the sanctions and other actions taken in the last two years in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Mr. Biden said in a televised statement from the White House. “Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled, not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world.”

Asked if Mr. Navalny had been assassinated, Mr. Biden said the United States did not have a full understanding of the circumstances. “The answer is, we don’t know exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

The death of Mr. Navalny came at a delicate moment in America’s confrontation with Russia over its aggression in Europe and repression at home. House Republicans are blocking $60.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine at the behest of former President Donald J. Trump, who himself is boasting that he would “encourage” Russia to attack NATO allies that do not spend enough on their armed forces.

Mr. Biden is seeking to make the case for American leadership in the world and reassure European allies that the United States still has their back. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to the Munich Security Conference in Germany this week to defuse fears of an American retreat. But the mood in Munich was dark even before reports of Mr. Navalny’s death. American attendees said everywhere they went, they were besieged by distraught Europeans.

ny times logoNew York Times, “Dictators do not go on vacation,” Ukraine’s president warned, calling on world leaders for support, Peter Baker, David E. Sanger and Erika Solomon, Feb. 17, 2024. President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed back against skepticism of a Ukraine victory, calling on world leaders not to ask when the war would end, but why Russia was still able to wage it.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on world leaders not to abandon his country, citing the recent death of a Russian dissident as a reminder that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would continue to test the international order, and pushing back against the idea of a negotiated resolution to the war.

munich security 2024Mr. Zelensky, speaking on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, said that if Ukraine lost the war to Russia, it would be “catastrophic” not only for Kyiv, but for other nations as well.

“Please do not ask Ukraine when the war will end,” he said. “Ask yourself why is Putin still able to continue it.”

Russian FlagThe two topics that have loomed over nearly every discussion at the yearly meeting of world leaders have been Russia and the potential weakening of trans-Atlantic relations, amid an increasingly pessimistic assessment of Kyiv’s ability to beat Moscow.

Mr. Zelensky’s speech on Saturday came as Ukrainian forces retreated from a longtime stronghold, Avdiivka, giving Russian troops their first significant victory in almost a year.

And it came a day after attendees of the conference were shaken by the news that the prominent dissident Aleksei A. Navalny had died in a Russian Arctic penal colony. It was a stark reminder, Mr. Zelensky warned, of how Moscow would continue to test the Western-backed international rules-based order.

“This is Russia’s war against any rules at all,” Mr. Zelensky said. “But how long will the world let Russia be like this? This is the main question today.”

Mr. Zelensky’s impassioned call was in dramatic contrast to his last appearance in Munich, two years ago. At that moment, an invasion seemed inevitable, but European officials were still insisting, despite the satellite evidence of massing troops, that Mr. Putin was bluffing. Even Mr. Zelensky, in his public appearance on the same stage that he used on Saturday, had said he did not believe Mr. Putin would dare to attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Avdiivka, Longtime Stronghold for Ukraine, Falls to Russians, Carlotta Gall, Marc Santora and Constant Méheut, Feb. 17, 2024. With Ukraine’s forces at risk of encirclement, the top military commander ordered a retreat. It was the first major gain by Russian forces since last May.

Ukraine ordered the complete withdrawal from the decimated city of Avdiivka before dawn on Saturday, surrendering a position that had been a military stronghold for the better part of a decade, in the face of withering Russian assault.

Russian Flag“Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines,” Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military commander, said in a statement issued overnight.

The fall of Avdiivka, a city that was once home to some 30,000 people but is now a smoking ruin, is the first major gain Russian forces have achieved since May of last year. After rebuffing a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the summer and fall, Russian forces in recent weeks have been pressing the attack across nearly the entire length of the 600-mile-long front.

The Ukrainian withdrawal on Saturday follows a bloody endgame that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the two-year-old war. Relying on its superiority in personnel and weaponry, Russia pounded the city with aerial bombardments and ground assaults, even as its fighters suffered a staggering amount of casualties.

Outgunned Ukrainian forces had begun withdrawing from positions in the southern part of the city on Wednesday, and since then have been engaged in a desperate battle to avoid encirclement inside the city as Russian forces advanced from multiple directions. As Russian bombers pummeled Avdiivka, Ukraine said its forces had targeted and shot down three Russian warplanes.

Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the head of Ukraine’s forces in the south, said there had been no choice but to withdraw, given the Russian advantage in firepower and the number of soldiers Russia was willing to throw into the battle.

“In a situation where the enemy is advancing on the corpses of their own soldiers with a 10-to-1 shell advantage, under constant bombardment, this is the only correct solution,” he said in a statement.

 

yulia navalnaya pool kai pfaffenbach 2 16 2024

 Yulia Navalnaya, Aleksei Navalny’s wife, at the Munich Security Conference on Friday (Pool photo by Kai Pfaffenbach)

ny times logoNew York Times, Navalny’s Wife Makes Dramatic Appearance After Reports of His Death, Peter Baker, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). In a surprise address in Munich, Yulia Navalnaya said that if her husband, Aleksei A. Navalny, was dead, those responsible “will be brought to justice.”

Just hours after her husband was reported dead, Yulia Navalnaya made a dramatic, surprise appearance at a gathering of world leaders in Munich on Friday. Taking the stage, she denounced President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and vowed that he and his circle “will be brought to justice.”

alexey navalny 2017The diplomats and political leaders at the Munich Security Conference were already reeling from reports that her husband, Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian dissident, had died in prison under suspicious circumstances when Ms. Navalny stunned the hall by striding in. Conference organizers quickly wrapped up a session with Vice President Kamala Harris and turned the munich security 2024microphone over to Ms. Navalnaya.

“We cannot believe Putin and his government,” Ms. Navalnaya told the audience. “They are lying constantly. But if it’s true, I would like Putin and all his staff, everybody around him, his government, his friends, I want them to know that they will be punished for what they have done with our country, with my family and with my husband. They will be brought to justice, and this day will come soon.”

Ms. Navalnaya spoke clearly and calmly, with remarkable composure, her face etched with evident pain but under complete control. Standing at the lectern, she clasped her hands in front of her and stared straight ahead as if willing herself to focus on her message.

The audience was captivated and gave her an emotional standing ovation when she finished.

In the annals of international meetings, it would be hard to remember a more riveting moment, when the careful scripts of government leaders laden with diplomatic jargon fall to the wayside as life-and-death questions play out so intensely in front of them.

The conference was already focused on security threats from Russia, and Friday’s news added new urgency to the gathering.

Russian FlagMs. Navalnaya had come to Munich along with Leonid Volkov, her husband’s longtime chief of staff, to keep world leaders focused on her husband’s case and the clampdown on dissent by Mr. Putin’s government. She met on Thursday evening with conference attendees, who described conversations hoping for better days ahead.

Ms. Harris addressed the reports of Mr. Navalny’s death at the beginning of her speech to the conference, extending her sympathy to Ms. Navalnaya and saying that Washington was still gathering information. “If confirmed,” Ms. Harris said, “this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality. Whatever story they tell let us, be clear: Russia is responsible, and we’ll have more to say on this later.”

Over the years, through Mr. Navalny’s near death from poisoning and his long prison sentences, many Russians hoped that Ms. Navalnaya might step in to become an alternative leading figure in the opposition. She has always demurred.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent antagonist of Putin exposed corruption at Russia’s highest levels of power, David E. Hoffman and Harrison Smith, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). He emerged as the most prominent antagonist of Russian President Vladimir Putin while exposing self-dealing at the country’s highest levels of power.

Alexei Navalny, the steely Russian lawyer who exposed corruption, self-dealing and abuse of power by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies, sustaining a popular challenge to Putin for more than a decade despite constant pressure from the authorities and a near-fatal poisoning, died Feb. 16 in a Russian prison colony just above the Arctic Circle. He was 47.

His death at Kharp, in the Yamal-Nanets Autonomous Region, was announced by Russia’s prison service. Prison authorities said in a statement that Mr. Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk, “almost immediately losing consciousness,” and added that a medical team failed to resuscitate him.

Russian FlagMr. Navalny had endured the country’s harshest prison conditions since December; the region is brutally cold. In August, his prison sentence was extended by 19 years on charges connected to his anti-corruption foundation. Supporters said the charges were politically motivated and part of a campaign by Putin to silence him.

Mr. Navalny emerged over the years as a singularly successful blogger, activist and opposition leader in Putin’s Russia, reaching a mass audience through online videos that detailed ruling-class corruption and lavish spending. He was handsome, articulate and charismatic — a natural politician in a country where there is virtually no competitive public politics.

 

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

washington post logoWashington Post, Kamala Harris seeks to reassure allies at Munich Security Conference, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Emily Rauhala, Michael Birnbaum
and Souad Mekhennet, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Vice President Harris (shown above) tried to allay concerns among European allies about American resolve in major conflicts while also sending a message to voters at home: Electing Donald Trump in November would destabilize the global order and weaken the United States.

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 file“I know there are questions here in Europe and around the world about the future of America’s role of global leadership,” she told the conference on Friday afternoon. “These are questions the American people must also ask ourselves.”

munich security 2024Harris’s speech — which marks her third appearance at the annual confab of world leaders and policy and security officials — precedes a busy weekend in which she will meet several European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking just days after Trump set off new anxiety by saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies that underspend on defense, Harris may find it difficult to reassure Washington’s transatlantic partners, who are keenly aware of the electoral uncertainty of this year’s presidential contest.

But Harris argued that a worldview that includes isolationism and support for authoritarian governments only weakens the United States and hurts its people.

Russian Flag“That worldview is dangerous, destabilizing and indeed shortsighted. That view would weaken America,” she said.

It is in many ways a global spin on Biden and Harris’s reelection message that Trump would undo the progress the administration has made on rebuilding trust in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. political uncertainty looms over key security conference in Munich, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Emily Rauhala, Michael Birnbaum and Souad Mekhennet, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.).

 

truth social logo

Politico, Trump’s Truth Social nears Wall Street listing that could yield millions, Declan Harty, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). The deal could inject some $300 million into the company, which operates Trump’s social media bullhorn, Truth Social.

politico CustomDonald Trump may be finally headed for Wall Street.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has signed off on one of the last outstanding hurdles to a more than two-year-old planned merger to take the former president’s media venture public, according to the companies behind the deal, Trump Media & Technology Group and Digital World Acquisition Corp.

Now, pending final approval from investors, Trump Media would join the ranks of thousands of other public companies trading in the U.S. The deal could inject some $300 million into the company, which operates Trump’s social media bullhorn, Truth Social. And Trump himself will gain a major stake in the company.

“I never thought it would get to this point,” said Julian Klymochko, CEO of Accelerate Financial Technologies, which operates a fund focused on so-called blank-check companies like Digital World that seek to acquire private companies to take them public. “Deals die on the vine, but this one somehow managed to survive despite seemingly everything going against it.”

The SEC’s green light is a surprising turn for the beleaguered deal — injecting new hope into Trump’s next act in business, just as the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign against President Joe Biden heats up.

Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp., or DWAC, skyrocketed more than 25 percent on the news Thursday.

Since the beginning, the planned union has been mired in regulatory issues, market volatility and looming deadlines that have posed existential threats to the deal.

The SEC began investigating the transaction soon after its unveiling in late 2021, resulting in insider trading charges against a trio of Florida men involved in the deal as well as a separate settlement with Digital World over the company’s disclosures. Digital World agreed to pay $18 million last year to resolve the allegations.

Executives for Digital World and Trump Media have had to push investors repeatedly for more time to complete the deal.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Privately Favors a 16-Week Abortion Ban, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). In supporting a 16-week ban with exceptions, Donald Trump appears to be trying to satisfy social conservatives who want to further restrict abortion access and voters who want more modest limits.

In supporting a 16-week ban with exceptions, Donald Trump appears to be trying to satisfy social conservatives who want to further restrict abortion access and voters who want more modest limits.

Former President Donald J. Trump has told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week national abortion ban with three exceptions, in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother, according to two people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s deliberations.

Mr. Trump has studiously avoided taking a clear position on restrictions to abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned in the middle of 2022, galvanizing Democrats ahead of the midterm elections that year. He has said in private that he wants to wait until the Republican presidential primary contest is over to publicly discuss his views, because he doesn’t want to risk alienating social conservatives before he has secured the nomination, the two people said.

Mr. Trump has approached abortion transactionally since becoming a candidate in 2015, and his current private discussions reflect that same approach.

One thing Mr. Trump likes about a 16-week federal ban on abortions is that it’s a round number. “Know what I like about 16?” Mr. Trump told one of these people, who was given anonymity to describe a private conversation. “It’s even. It’s four months.”

When discussing prospective vice-presidential candidates, Mr. Trump often asks whether they are “OK on abortion.” He is instantly dismissive when he hears that a Republican doesn’t support “the three exceptions.” He tells advisers that Republicans will keep losing elections with that position.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Mr. Trump told advisers that he believed the decision was going to be harmful to Republicans. Since then, he has formed the view that the abortion issue is overwhelmingly responsible for a string of Republican losses in congressional races.

And he is acutely aware of his own vulnerability: He appointed the three justices who enabled that decision, a fact he has publicly claimed credit for in several settings. Those statements have already been included in ads, and Democrats plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to remind voters of that fact.

In backing a 16-week ban, Mr. Trump would be trying to satisfy both social conservatives who want to further restrict access to abortions and Republican and independent voters who want more modest limits on the procedure.

Abortion is currently banned before 16 weeks in 20 states, including Mr. Trump’s home state of Florida. The type of ban that Mr. Trump has discussed privately would restrict abortion rights in the remaining 30 states where it is legal beyond that point. And the question of exceptions limited to the life of the mother is also controversial. In Texas, state courts have ruled that women did not qualify for the limited exceptions for “life-threatening conditions” related to pregnancy, even in cases where their fetus faced a severe diagnosis and the woman’s future fertility and health were jeopardized.

Feb. 16

 

 

arthur engoron djt ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered to Pay Over $350 Million and Barred From New York Business, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Feb. 16, 2024. The ruling in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case could cost him all his available cash. It also bars him from running a business in the state for three years.

A New York judge on Friday handed Donald J. Trump a crushing defeat in his civil fraud case, finding the former president liable for conspiring to manipulate his net worth and ordering him to pay a penalty of $355 million that could wipe out his entire stockpile of cash.

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Not only did Justice Engoron impose a three-year ban preventing Mr. Trump from serving in top roles at any New York company, including his own, but the judge also applied that punishment to the former president’s adult sons for two years and ordered that they pay more than $4 million each. One of the sons, Eric Trump, is the Trump Organization’s de facto chief executive, and the ruling throws into doubt whether any member of the family can run the business in the near term.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Mr. Trump will also most likely ask an appeals court to halt the restrictions on him and his sons from running the company while it considers the case.

But there might be little Mr. Trump can do to thwart one of the judge’s most consequential punishments: extending for three years the appointment of an independent monitor who will be the court’s eyes and ears at the Trump Organization, watching for fraud and second-guessing transactions that look suspicious.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have railed against the monitor, Barbara Jones, saying that her work has already cost the business more than $2.5 million; the decision to extend her oversight of the privately held family company could enrage the Trumps, who see her presence as an irritant and an insult.

The attorney general, Letitia James, had sought those consequences and more, asking for Mr. Trump to be permanently barred from New York’s business world. In the 2022 lawsuit that precipitated the trial, she accused Mr. Trump of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable treatment from banks and other lenders, attacking the foundation of his public persona as a billionaire businessman.

Even though the lenders made money from Mr. Trump, they were the purported victims in the case, with Ms. James arguing that absent his fraud, they could have made even more. The financial penalty reflects those lost profits, with nearly half of the $355 million — $168 million — representing the interest that Mr. Trump saved, and the remaining sum representing his profit on the recent sale of two properties, money that the judge has now clawed back.

Before the trial began, Justice Engoron ruled that the former president had used his annual financial statements to defraud the lenders, siding with the attorney general on her case’s central claim. The judge’s Friday ruling ratified almost all of the other accusations Ms. James had leveled against Mr. Trump, finding the former president liable for conspiring with his top executives to violate several state laws.

The judge’s decision for now grants Ms. James, a Democrat, a career-defining victory. She campaigned for her office promising to bring Mr. Trump to justice, and sat calmly in the courtroom during the trial as the former president attacked her, calling her a corrupt politician motivated solely by self-interest.

 

alexny navalny ap denis kaminevAlexei Navalny was President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent and a fierce critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Denis Kaminev photo via the Associated Press)

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison, officials say, Staff Report, Feb. 16, 2024. Russia’s jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, died in a Russian prison colony Friday, Russia’s prison service announced in the early afternoon, without giving the cause of his death. News of his death flooded across Russian Telegram news channels early Friday afternoon and was later confirmed in a curt announcement by prison authorities.

Russian FlagPrison authorities reported that Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk, “almost immediately losing consciousness,” and added that a medical team failed to resuscitate him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had “some very serious questions to answer” about Navalny’s death, while European Council President Charles Michel saying the bloc considers Russia “responsible for this tragic death.” A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the West of having “its conclusion ready” before more information was available.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says ‘Putin Is Responsible’ After Report of Navalny’s Death, Anton Troianovski and Peter Baker, Feb. 16, 2024. President Biden said that there was “no doubt” that President Vladimir Putin was behind the death of Aleksei Navalny, the outspoken Russian dissident. President Biden said that there was “no doubt” that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government was behind the death of Aleksei A. Navalny, the outspoken dissident who Russian authorities said had died at a remote Arctic prison on Friday.

“Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Mr. Biden said at a White House news conference, while acknowledging that the United States still did not know details of what happened. “What has happened to Navalny is even more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled.”

Mr. Navalny’s death would leave the country without its most prominent opposition voice at a time when Mr. Putin has amassed near-total power, invaded neighboring Ukraine and drawn the sharpest divisions with U.S.-led Western allies since the end of the Cold War.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement that Mr. Navalny, 47, had lost consciousness and died after taking a walk on Friday in the Arctic prison where he was moved late last year. “All necessary resuscitation measures were taken, which did not lead to positive results,” the statement said.

The news shocked world leaders, although Western officials and many of Mr. Navalny’s supporters expressed skepticism about the Russian authorities’ statements. Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said in a live broadcast that his team could not immediately confirm his death but believed in all likelihood he was dead.

 

yulia navalnaya pool kai pfaffenbach 2 16 2024

 Yulia Navalnaya, Aleksei Navalny’s wife, at the Munich Security Conference on Friday (Pool photo by Kai Pfaffenbach)

ny times logoNew York Times, Navalny’s Wife Makes Dramatic Appearance After Reports of His Death, Peter Baker, Feb. 16, 2024. In a surprise address in Munich, Yulia Navalnaya said that if her husband, Aleksei A. Navalny, was dead, those responsible “will be brought to justice.”

Just hours after her husband was reported dead, Yulia Navalnaya made a dramatic, surprise appearance at a gathering of world leaders in Munich on Friday. Taking the stage, she denounced President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and vowed that he and his circle “will be brought to justice.”

alexey navalny 2017The diplomats and political leaders at the Munich Security Conference were already reeling from reports that her husband, Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian dissident, had died in prison under suspicious circumstances when Ms. Navalny stunned the hall by striding in. Conference organizers quickly wrapped up a session with Vice President Kamala Harris and turned the munich security 2024microphone over to Ms. Navalnaya.

“We cannot believe Putin and his government,” Ms. Navalnaya told the audience. “They are lying constantly. But if it’s true, I would like Putin and all his staff, everybody around him, his government, his friends, I want them to know that they will be punished for what they have done with our country, with my family and with my husband. They will be brought to justice, and this day will come soon.”

Ms. Navalnaya spoke clearly and calmly, with remarkable composure, her face etched with evident pain but under complete control. Standing at the lectern, she clasped her hands in front of her and stared straight ahead as if willing herself to focus on her message.

The audience was captivated and gave her an emotional standing ovation when she finished.

In the annals of international meetings, it would be hard to remember a more riveting moment, when the careful scripts of government leaders laden with diplomatic jargon fall to the wayside as life-and-death questions play out so intensely in front of them.

The conference was already focused on security threats from Russia, and Friday’s news added new urgency to the gathering.

Russian FlagMs. Navalnaya had come to Munich along with Leonid Volkov, her husband’s longtime chief of staff, to keep world leaders focused on her husband’s case and the clampdown on dissent by Mr. Putin’s government. She met on Thursday evening with conference attendees, who described conversations hoping for better days ahead.

Ms. Harris addressed the reports of Mr. Navalny’s death at the beginning of her speech to the conference, extending her sympathy to Ms. Navalnaya and saying that Washington was still gathering information. “If confirmed,” Ms. Harris said, “this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality. Whatever story they tell let us, be clear: Russia is responsible, and we’ll have more to say on this later.”

Over the years, through Mr. Navalny’s near death from poisoning and his long prison sentences, many Russians hoped that Ms. Navalnaya might step in to become an alternative leading figure in the opposition. She has always demurred.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent antagonist of Putin exposed corruption at Russia’s highest levels of power, David E. Hoffman and Harrison Smith, Feb. 16, 2024. He emerged as the most prominent antagonist of Russian President Vladimir Putin while exposing self-dealing at the country’s highest levels of power.

Alexei Navalny, the steely Russian lawyer who exposed corruption, self-dealing and abuse of power by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies, sustaining a popular challenge to Putin for more than a decade despite constant pressure from the authorities and a near-fatal poisoning, died Feb. 16 in a Russian prison colony just above the Arctic Circle. He was 47.

His death at Kharp, in the Yamal-Nanets Autonomous Region, was announced by Russia’s prison service. Prison authorities said in a statement that Mr. Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk, “almost immediately losing consciousness,” and added that a medical team failed to resuscitate him.

Russian FlagMr. Navalny had endured the country’s harshest prison conditions since December; the region is brutally cold. In August, his prison sentence was extended by 19 years on charges connected to his anti-corruption foundation. Supporters said the charges were politically motivated and part of a campaign by Putin to silence him.

Mr. Navalny emerged over the years as a singularly successful blogger, activist and opposition leader in Putin’s Russia, reaching a mass audience through online videos that detailed ruling-class corruption and lavish spending. He was handsome, articulate and charismatic — a natural politician in a country where there is virtually no competitive public politics.

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

washington post logoWashington Post, Kamala Harris seeks to reassure allies at Munich Security Conference, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Emily Rauhala, Michael Birnbaum
and Souad Mekhennet, Feb. 16, 2024. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Vice President Harris (shown above) tried to allay concerns among European allies about American resolve in major conflicts while also sending a message to voters at home: Electing Donald Trump in November would destabilize the global order and weaken the United States.

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 file“I know there are questions here in Europe and around the world about the future of America’s role of global leadership,” she told the conference on Friday afternoon. “These are questions the American people must also ask ourselves.”

munich security 2024Harris’s speech — which marks her third appearance at the annual confab of world leaders and policy and security officials — precedes a busy weekend in which she will meet several European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking just days after Trump set off new anxiety by saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies that underspend on defense, Harris may find it difficult to reassure Washington’s transatlantic partners, who are keenly aware of the electoral uncertainty of this year’s presidential contest.

But Harris argued that a worldview that includes isolationism and support for authoritarian governments only weakens the United States and hurts its people.

Russian Flag“That worldview is dangerous, destabilizing and indeed shortsighted. That view would weaken America,” she said.

It is in many ways a global spin on Biden and Harris’s reelection message that Trump would undo the progress the administration has made on rebuilding trust in Washington.

 

arthur engoron djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump May Face Harsh Punishment Thanks to a Mighty New York Law, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, Feb. 16, 2024. In the civil fraud case brought by Attorney General Letitia James, the little-known measure could mean hundreds of millions in penalties.

When a New York judge (shown above left) delivers a final ruling in Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial as soon as Friday, the former president could face hundreds of millions in penalties and new restrictions on his family business.

That might seem steep in a case with no victim calling for redress and no star witness pointing the finger at Mr. Trump. But a little-known 70-year-old law made the punishment possible.

The law, often referred to by its shorthand, 63(12), which stems from its place in New York’s rule book, is a regulatory bazooka for the state’s attorney general, Letitia James. Her office has used it to aim at a wide range of corporate giants: the oil company Exxon Mobil, the tobacco brand Juul and the pharma executive Martin Shkreli.

In the Trump case, Ms. James accused the former president of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loans and other financial benefits. Mr. Trump, she argued, defrauded his lenders and in doing so, undermined the integrity of New York’s business world.

Mr. Trump’s conduct “distorts the market,” Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for Ms. James’s office, said during closing arguments in the civil fraud trial.

“It prices out honest borrowers and can lead to more catastrophic results,” Mr. Wallace said, adding, “That’s why it’s important for the court to take the steps to protect the marketplace to prevent this from happening again.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Privately Favors a 16-Week Abortion Ban, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Feb. 16, 2024. In supporting a 16-week ban with exceptions, Donald Trump appears to be trying to satisfy social conservatives who want to further restrict abortion access and voters who want more modest limits.

In supporting a 16-week ban with exceptions, Donald Trump appears to be trying to satisfy social conservatives who want to further restrict abortion access and voters who want more modest limits.

Former President Donald J. Trump has told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week national abortion ban with three exceptions, in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother, according to two people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s deliberations.

Mr. Trump has studiously avoided taking a clear position on restrictions to abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned in the middle of 2022, galvanizing Democrats ahead of the midterm elections that year. He has said in private that he wants to wait until the Republican presidential primary contest is over to publicly discuss his views, because he doesn’t want to risk alienating social conservatives before he has secured the nomination, the two people said.

Mr. Trump has approached abortion transactionally since becoming a candidate in 2015, and his current private discussions reflect that same approach.

One thing Mr. Trump likes about a 16-week federal ban on abortions is that it’s a round number. “Know what I like about 16?” Mr. Trump told one of these people, who was given anonymity to describe a private conversation. “It’s even. It’s four months.”

When discussing prospective vice-presidential candidates, Mr. Trump often asks whether they are “OK on abortion.” He is instantly dismissive when he hears that a Republican doesn’t support “the three exceptions.” He tells advisers that Republicans will keep losing elections with that position.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Mr. Trump told advisers that he believed the decision was going to be harmful to Republicans. Since then, he has formed the view that the abortion issue is overwhelmingly responsible for a string of Republican losses in congressional races.

And he is acutely aware of his own vulnerability: He appointed the three justices who enabled that decision, a fact he has publicly claimed credit for in several settings. Those statements have already been included in ads, and Democrats plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to remind voters of that fact.

In backing a 16-week ban, Mr. Trump would be trying to satisfy both social conservatives who want to further restrict access to abortions and Republican and independent voters who want more modest limits on the procedure.

Abortion is currently banned before 16 weeks in 20 states, including Mr. Trump’s home state of Florida. The type of ban that Mr. Trump has discussed privately would restrict abortion rights in the remaining 30 states where it is legal beyond that point. And the question of exceptions limited to the life of the mother is also controversial. In Texas, state courts have ruled that women did not qualify for the limited exceptions for “life-threatening conditions” related to pregnancy, even in cases where their fetus faced a severe diagnosis and the woman’s future fertility and health were jeopardized.

Feb. 15

 

djt indicted proof 

 

 Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Imagesand TNS).

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Images and TNS).

ny times logoNew York Times, In Manhattan, a Possible Court Date in a Trump Criminal Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and Kate Christobek, Feb. 15, 2024. A date may be set for Donald Trump’s trial on charges that he disguised hush-money payments. It would be the first such trial of a former president.

A New York judge on Thursday is expected to rule on whether the Manhattan district attorney’s case against Donald J. Trump can go to trial as early as next month, in what would be the first criminal prosecution of a former American president.

juan merchan djtThe judge, Juan M. Merchan (shown above left), convened a hearing at 9:30 a.m. to address Mr. Trump’s long-shot request that he throw out the charges, which stem from a hush-money payment to a porn star. If Justice Merchan rejects Mr. Trump’s request — as is expected — then the judge will most likely set a firm date for the trial, which had been tentatively scheduled for March 25.

Mr. Trump, who is expected to attend the hearing on Thursday, faces 91 felony counts across four indictments from prosecutors in Washington, Florida and Georgia as well as Manhattan, all while he seeks to lock up the Republican presidential nomination.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, was the first to obtain an indictment of Mr. Trump, accusing him last year of covering up a potential sex scandal involving the porn star during and after the 2016 election. Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, has cast his case not as a condemnation of sordid financial dealings, but as an example of Mr. Trump’s interfering in an election by concealing crucial information from voters.

Until recently, another criminal case involving accusations of election interference was poised to go to trial first. That case, filed in federal court in Washington by a special counsel, Jack Smith, centers on Mr. Trump’s effort to remain in power after his 2020 election defeat.

Mr. Bragg had indicated a willingness for the Washington case to jump ahead in line, underscoring its historical significance. But appeals from Mr. Trump postponed that trial, initially scheduled for March 4.

Here’s what else you need to know about Thursday’s hearing:

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair.

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair from election finance officials and the public.

Mr. Bragg’s case is best known for its salacious facts: During the 2016 campaign, the porn star, Stormy Daniels, threatened to go public with her story of a tryst with Mr. Trump, who then authorized a $130,000 payoff to keep her quiet. Paying hush money is not inherently illegal, but Mr. Trump is accused of falsifying records to hide a potential scandal from voters.

The case might come down to the word of Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who paid Ms. Daniels just days before voters went to the polls. Once Mr. Trump was elected, he reimbursed Mr. Cohen. This is the conduct at the heart of the case. Mr. Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, is expected to testify that Mr. Trump authorized his family business to falsely record the payments to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have argued that Justice Merchan should throw out the case, deriding it as a “discombobulated package of politically motivated charges marred by legal defects.” They have also disputed whether the charges should be felonies. Mr. Trump has accused Mr. Bragg of carrying out a witch hunt against him.

This week is a perilous one for Mr. Trump. A day after Justice Merchan holds his hearing, another New York judge is expected to deliver a final ruling in Mr. Trump’s civil fraud case. The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, is weighing the New York attorney general’s request that he penalize Mr. Trump nearly $370 million and effectively oust him from the New York business world.

In addition to the Manhattan and Washington criminal cases, Mr. Trump faces federal charges in Florida, also brought by Mr. Smith, over his handling of classified documents after he left the White House. In the Georgia case, Mr. Trump is accused of seeking to subvert the 2020 election results in that state. On Thursday, at the same time that Mr. Trump is expected in Justice Merchan’s courtroom, there is a hearing in the Georgia case concerning a romantic relationship between the two prosecutors leading the case.

 

fulton county jail

Fulton County Prosecutors Fani Willis and Nathan Wade (Reuters file photo by Elijah Nouvelage).

ny times logoNew York Times, In Georgia, a Push to Disqualify the Main Prosecutors, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Feb. 15, 2024. A judge in Atlanta will hear evidence about the defense’s claim of a disqualifying conflict of interest among the main prosecutors.

georgia mapThe three-year-long investigation of Donald J. Trump and his allies for election interference in Georgia faces a major hurdle on Thursday, when a judge begins to assess whether the lead prosecutor and her office should be disqualified from the case.

A hearing that began in the morning, delves into a romantic relationship between the two main prosecutors — Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and Nathan J. Wade (both shown above), whom she hired to run the case. The defense argues that their relationship has created an untenable conflict of interest.

Here are the details:

  • michael romanThe revelations about the relationship between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade surfaced in a legal filing last month from Michael Roman, right, a former Trump campaign official who is one of the defendants in the Georgia election case. Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade acknowledged the relationship in a February court filing.
  • Lawyers for Mr. Roman and other defendants are seeking to disqualify the two prosecutors from the case. Their argument hinges on assertions of a financial conflict of interest: Mr. Wade has been paid more than $650,000 since he was hired in 2021, and during that time he has spent money on vacations with Ms. Willis. Defense lawyers argue that the money paid to Mr. Wade creates an incentive for Ms. Willis to prolong the case.
  • Ms. Willis, who acknowledged the romantic relationship in a filing last week, said it began only after Mr. Wade was hired, and was irrelevant to the case or her ability to lead it. She said that the costs of the couple’s personal travel had been “divided roughly evenly” between her and Mr. Wade, so it represented no financial conflict.
  • Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, right, the presiding judge in the Trump case, was persuaded that there was sufficient reason to hold an evidentiary hearing delving into the relationship. “It’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one,” the judge said at a hearing on Monday afternoon.
  • Ms. Willis, Mr. Wade and a number of others have been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing, including more than half a dozen prosecutors and others who work in the district attorney’s office, as well as Mr. Wade’s former divorce lawyer. Ms. Willis’s office has indicated that the prosecutors may call her father, who lives with her in Atlanta, as a witness. The evidentiary hearing is expected to last into Friday or longer.
  • Mr. Trump and 18 other defendants were charged last August with racketeering and a variety of other charges in connection with a plot to subvert the presidential election results in a number of swing states. Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty.

Feb. 11

 

erik prince amazon proof

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Top Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Says the United States Must Move to Recolonize Africa Because Africans seth abramson graphic“Cannot Govern Themselves,” Seth Abramson, left, best-selling author and attorney, Feb. 10-11, 2024. This is terrifying. And Erik Prince, above, is terrifying. And we have to listen to his madness because he is advising Trump and Trump is listening.

If you think Trump would not do what Prince is now advising him to do, you need to read this article because you are wrong.

seth abramson proof logoLeading 2024 Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump has a history of advocating for the invasion of majority-nonwhite countries by the United States, the latter a nation whose sole legitimate heritage—as he’s made quite clear—must be seen, in his view, as white and Christian.

Most readers will remember Trump “repeatedly” threatening to invade Venezuela because its domestic and foreign policies displeased him. That invasion was only stopped by weeks of dramatic effort by former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Or you may recall how Mr. Trump fired his own handpicked Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, because Tillerson had the gall to prevent Trump’s friend and business partner Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates from—in conjunction with Trump friend and business partner Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia—launching a massive ground invasion of Qatar, the Middle Eastern nation where the United States has its largest regional military base. That invasion would have put thousands and thousands of American troops in the way of missiles and bombs fired by Trump’s friends, which as it happened was exactly what occurred when Trump’s deference to another friend and business partner, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, led to U.S. troops being shelled by their supposed NATO allies from Turkey in northern Syria.

Yes, really.

And who could forget how Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and all the Black nations of Africa “shithole countries” whose citizens should be kept out of the United States.

In short, throughout Mr. Trump’s first term in office America was perpetually days or even minutes from attacking a majority-nonwhite country so that Trump would have an opportunity to please his white Christian nationalist base, demonstrate his own imagined authority over nonwhite-governed nations, and do all this at the mere cost of thousands and thousands or even tens of thousands of American soldiers’ lives—a cost he would not much have considered, given that he deems our troops “losers and suckers” for having volunteered to serve in the American military in the first place.

But what far fewer Americans will know about than any of the incidents above (and more like them that are not cited here) is the class of person who was advising Trump on national security prior to, during, and immediately after his sole term in office.

As detailed in the Proof Trilogy, the identities of such persons were largely well hidden by Trump—and with good reason.

Why “good reason”? Because one of those advisers, who’s desperate to see Trump re-elected to the White House, has just announced that he wants to see America take over Africa. Not just small parts of it, but almost the entire continent. And given Trump’s sordid, jingoistic, explicitly racist views and policies, we better pay attention.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Donald Trump said he warned NATO allies to pay their share or he’d tell Russia to “do whatever the hell they want,” Michael Gold, Feb. 11, 2024. Former President Donald J. Trump said on Saturday that, while president, he told the leaders of NATO countries that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that had not paid the money they owed to the military alliance.

Mr. Trump did not make clear whether he ever intended to follow through on such a threat or what that would mean for the alliance, but his comment at a campaign event in South Carolina — a variation of one he has made before to highlight his negotiation skills — is likely to cause concern among NATO member states, which are already very nervous about the prospect of a Trump return.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the White House, called Donald Trump’s comments tonight on NATO “appalling” and “unhinged.” In a statement, Mr. Bates said: “Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests – not against them.”

Feb. 10

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: Corrupt Supremes on track to violate oaths of office by negating plain text of XIV Amendment’s webster tarpley 2007Insurrection clause to keep Trump on Colorado ballot, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 10, 2024. Thomas defies call from Chairman Durbin of Senate Judiciary Committee to recuse based on wife’s infamous complicity in rebellion;

Even three Democratic justices capitulate to MAGA program; Court is vitiated by ideological poison of Legal Positivism, now available as originalism (fake history or Geschichtskletscherei) or textualism (stupid nominalism in tradition of William of Ockham); Remedy is jurisprudence of Natural Law, meaning justice, morality, awareness of social consequences, and fulfilling tasks of government as expounded by Preamble to US Constitution;

Time to fire DoJ MAGA hack Robert Hur, the special counsel probing Biden for mishandling classified documents; Hur is the new Comey, having violated DoJ rules for special counsel by producing a 388 page screed defaming President and portraying him as senile; Hur’s obiter dicta could also open him to a lawsuit for defamation;

With AG Barr’s distortion of March 2019 Mueller Report, misleading intro hid Trump’s real Russiagate misdeeds; Now Hur’s lying introduction alleges crimes which are explicitly denied in main body of report;

Hur report is a blatant hatchet job to help Trump while bidding for post of Attorney General in a second Trump regime; Hur report was screened by AG Merrick Garland, who has failed to redact gratuitous and slanderous material that violates DoJ regulations mandating that prosecutors put up an indictment or shut up about derogatory material they have found; Garland is worst cabinet secretary, and must resign or be fired;

Garland failed for almost two years to name a special counsel, making Trump’s current delaying strategy possible; He has not moved against Congressional MAGAts implicated in January 6 coup, and has ignored rampant Supreme Court corruption;

Press riot at White House Thursday evening when Biden refutes Hur report as crazed journalistic hooligans scream their scurrilous objections on orders from their super-rich, Biden-hating owners; Failed White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients permitted this disservice to the President and should go back to his true calling in private equity;

MAGA Quislings tank border security bill to enable Trump’s demagogy, but mainly to block funding for Ukraine defense as loyal toadies of Putin; MAGA Mike bungles impeachment of Mayorkas, highest ranking Hispanic in Biden administration;

Trump must present immunity appeal to rotten Suprem by Monday; Engoron moving toward imposing NY corporate death sentence after reports of Weisselberg perjury surface; Pro-Trump Mar a Lago judge stalls, wants to reveal witnesses to MAGA goons;

Behind the worldwide chaos: death agony of economic and globalization is marked by decline of all-powerful plutocratic finance oligarchs, who are now fighting for survival: Central engagement will be contest between arch-plutocrat Trump and Biden’s return to the FDR New Deal.

Feb. 6

 

djt handwave file

ap logoAssociated Press, Trump is not immune from prosecution in his 2020 election interference case, US appeals court says, Eric Tucker and Alanna Durkin Richer, Feb. 6, 2024. It’s the second time in as many months that judges have spurned Trump’s immunity arguments and said he can be prosecuted for actions undertaken while in the White House and in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot.

A federal appeals panel ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump can face trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting the former president’s claims that he is immune from prosecution.

The decision marks the second time in as many months that judges have spurned Trump’s immunity arguments and held that he can be prosecuted for actions undertaken while in the White House and in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. But it also sets the stage for additional appeals from the Republican ex-president that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The trial was originally set for March, but it was postponed last week and the judge didn’t immediately set a new date.

“We conclude that the interest in criminal accountability, held by both the public and the Executive Branch, outweighs the potential risks of chilling Presidential action and permitting vexatious litigation,” the judges wrote.

The trial date carries enormous political ramifications, with the Republican primary front-runner hoping to delay it until after the November election. If Trump defeats President Joe Biden, he could presumably try to use his position as head of the executive branch to order a new attorney general to dismiss the federal cases or he potentially could seek a pardon for himself.

The appeals court took center stage in the immunity dispute after the Supreme Court last month said it was at least temporarily staying out of it, rejecting a request from special counsel Jack Smith to take up the matter quickly and issue a speedy ruling.

The legally untested question before the court was whether former presidents can be prosecuted after they leave office for actions taken in the White House related to their official duties.

The Supreme Court has held that presidents are immune from civil liability for official acts, and Trump’s lawyers have for months argued that that protection should be extended to criminal prosecution as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election 2024: Republicans fear they will be targets in Trump’s ‘retribution’ campaign, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Feb. 6, 2024. The former president is already attacking those who have endorsed his GOP opponents or have crossed him in other ways.

trump 2024Donald Trump has promised a presidency of “retribution” if he wins another term in office. Many Republicans fear they might face the brunt of it.

djt maga hatThe former president has threatened to have donors to his Republican opponent Nikki Haley “permanently barred” from his orbit. A top adviser has vowed to destroy the career of Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), House Freedom Caucus chairman, after he endorsed another Trump challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Trump campaign has also attempted to condemn former aides who worked for his rivals during the GOP nomination fight and have twisted arms demanding endorsements, telling lawmakers that Trump will remember exactly when they backed him.

“MAGA disowns her and anyone else that associates/works with her,” read a recent Trump campaign social media message targeting the Trump campaign’s 2020 communications director for working last year to elect DeSantis. “TRAITOR!”

Even new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has been dragged into the crossfire. One of his top political consultants, Jason Hebert, works for Axiom Strategies, a consulting company that advised the DeSantis presidential effort. A Trump adviser called Johnson after he won the speakership to warn him not to work with Axiom, according to multiple people familiar with the call, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details. Hebert, a college friend of Johnson’s, is expected to start billing his work for Johnson through a company not tied to Axiom, one of the people said.

The high-dollar donor community, which has been told in various ways to rally quickly behind Trump, has taken notice.

“People took that as, ‘I am going to be president and I am going to investigate you,’” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP chairman and Haley backer, when Trump threatened to punish her donors. “There is always a threat. If you are not for him he’s against you.”

  • What the 14th Amendment says about whether Trump can be on the ballot
  • What we’re watching: How Haley frames her expected victory
  • Haley slams Republicans for stopping border deal to help Trump

Feb. 4

 ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

 ny times logoNew York Times, At R.N.C. Meeting, Talk Is of Coming Trump Merger and Chairwoman’s Fate, Shane Goldmacher, Feb. 4, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump has long worked closely with Ronna McDaniel, the head of the R.N.C. In private, he has begun to question its direction under her leadership.

In early 2021, when former President Donald J. Trump was unhappily exiting the White House, he suggested in a private conversation with Ronna McDaniel, the head of the Republican National Committee, the possibility of running for the White House again in 2024, not as a Republican but as a third-party candidate.

rnc logoMr. Trump quickly scrapped the idea. Three years later, the rest is nearly history. After his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire last month, Mr. Trump is on the precipice of again becoming the Republican Party’s official standard-bearer.

Despite a sometimes fraught history — most party insiders were leery of Mr. Trump when he first won the Republican nomination in 2016 — the former president and his party are now largely aligned, a sign of how much Republicanism has transformed in the last eight years.

trump 2024As members of the Republican National Committee gathered in Las Vegas this week for their winter meeting, the looming remarriage of the party apparatus with Mr. Trump generated only the smallest pockets of resistance. Instead, much of the drama and discussion on the sidelines was about how Mr. Trump would seek to put his imprint on the party’s leadership.

Would it be a wholesale takeover? What would be Ms. McDaniel’s fate? And what would it all mean for the party’s strained finances?

One of the central questions on the sidelines of the Las Vegas gathering was if Ms. McDaniel, still the party chairwoman, would stay through the election, when her term ends. Mr. Trump first appointed Ms. McDaniel in 2016 and has long worked closely and directly with her. In private, however, the former president has begun to question the R.N.C.’s direction under her leadership, according to a person who has heard his remarks. For her part, Ms. McDaniel has indicated she would step aside if the Republican nominee prefers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tribe bars South Dakota governor from its land over her border remarks, Maham Javaid, Feb. 4, 2024. The largest tribe in kristi noemSouth Dakota has barred the state’s governor from its lands for the second time in at least five years after her speech about curbing immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border “offended” the tribal president.

Frank Star Comes Out, the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, made the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota off limits to Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) on Friday after she told the state legislature that she was sending razor wire and security personnel to Texas, and that unauthorized immigration was harming reservations.

“Due to the safety of the Oyate, effective immediately, you are hereby Banished from the homelands of the Oglala Sioux Tribe!” Star Comes Out said in the statement posted to social media. “Oyate” is a word for people or nation.

Star Comes Out noted that the Oglala Sioux is a “sovereign nation,” under the protection of the United States, not South Dakota.

He said in a statement that Noem was using the border issue to influence Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and boost her chances of becoming his running mate.

Noem responded to the tribe’s statement on Saturday, saying it was unfortunate that Star Comes Out “chose to bring politics into a discussion regarding the effects of our federal government’s failure to enforce federal laws at the southern border and on tribal lands.”

Feb. 3

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Overview: Will the Supreme Court uphold the plain text of the Constitution, or will threats and bribes induce them into an Orwellian denial of the Fourteenth Amendment’s exclusion of insurrectionist Trump from the ballot? webster tarpley 2007 Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentatory, Feb. 3, 2024 (156:05 mins.).

If Democrats want to defend the Constitution from Trump, here is where they must start; Trump got all the due process he was entitled to when XIV Amendment was ratified in 1868; Beware the perils of hyper-democracy, a key factor in the 1933 destruction of Germany’s Weimar Republic constitution;

ICE logoFriends of the court brief from 25 historians makes plain that Insurrection Clause was intended to apply to presidents, and therefore to Trump, as officers of US federal government; Ban on insurrectionists in public office was intended to be permanent, with an emphatic view to excluding future offenders; this provision is self-executing and does not require further legislation by Congress or court convictions; the key roles of Reps. Thaddeus Stevens (right, a Republican thaddeus stevens brady handycongressman from Pennsylvania shown in a photo by Brady Handy), Jonathan Bingham, and Benjamin Butler;

Confederate ex-President and arch-traitor Jefferson Davis (shown below at left in a photo by Matthew Brady in approximately 1859 when Davis was a U.S. senator). might have sought White House in 1870s, but XIV Amendment barred him and he acknowledged it; Originalists and jefferson davis 1859 matthew bradytextualists cannot today deny the force of this clause;

Judge Luttig’s brief represents that rarity, the views of an actual conservative concerned with tradition, precedent, custom, norms, protocols, conventions, and stare decisis — in contrast to MAGA demagogues who proclaim they want to tear up the Constitution;

Reports of long-overdue indictments for Congressmen and Senators implicated in January 6 putsch attempt; these are also the main saboteurs of foreign military aid; Trump hypes US-Mexico border situation as apocalyptic emergency for demagogic purposes, but then demands solutions wait at least a year for his supposed regime;

Biden should ready emergency powers to make sure military aid to Ukraine arrives in time to defeat Russian aggressors; European Union rebuffs sinister bid by Russian satellite Orban of Hungary to deliver Kiev into hands of Kremlin; 50 billion euros now headed for Ukraine;

Realism at last: Biden leads Trump 50-44 overall in latest Quinnipiac poll, with epic 58-36 Dem lead among women voters; Bidenomics created a stunning 353,000 jobs in January; Trump faces cash crunch after spending $55 million on lawyers in 2023; RNC hack Ronna McDaniel’s tenure under heavy attack; GOP state organizations impoverished and/or bitterly factionalized in Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota; MAGA personalities are not selling well, so they try to use Taylor Swift as a wedge issue;

Biden State Department joins with British Foreign Office to study diplomatic recognition of Palestinian Authority as sovereign state without reference to Israel; Biden has thus revived two-state solution after decades of frustration; US readies sanctions against leaders of armed fascist settlers in West Bank, perhaps including Smotrich and Ben Gvir of Netanyahu cabinet; Why Dearborn attacks on Biden are tragically misguided; Remembering Bourguiba’s 1965 realistic advice to Nasser that could have prevented 6-day war;

Breaking: Biden orders air strikes on 85 pro-Iranian militia targets in Syria and Iraq to deter repeats of last week’s rocket hit that killed 3 US soldiers at Tower 22 in Jordan.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Politico, Special counsel mounts forceful — and unusual — defense of Trump classified documents case, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Feb. 3, 2024. The routine filing features a public rebuttal of “misimpressions” allegedly fueled by the former president.

politico CustomSpecial counsel Jack Smith used a routine legal filing Friday to offer a forceful public rebuttal against Donald Trump’s claims that his criminal prosecution for allegedly hoarding classified documents has been infected by politics and legal impropriety.

The 68-page document began with what Smith’s team described as an effort to correct false assertions the former president had made about the nature of the case against him.

“It is necessary to set the record straight on the underlying facts that led to this prosecution,” the prosecutors argued. “The government will clear the air on those issues … because the defendants’ misstatements, if unanswered, leave a highly misleading impression.”

What followed was a lengthy recitation of the events that led prosecutors to suspect Trump had been squirreling reams of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Rather than the bloodthirsty partisan endeavor Trump describes, prosecutors say federal officials from the National Archives, intelligence community and White House counsel’s office took “measures” and “incremental” steps to retrieve the documents — often in coordination with some of Trump’s own designated advisers — before escalating the matter as the former president continued to resist.

The approach taken in the legal brief is somewhat unusual for the Justice Department. Though the filing was submitted to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, at times it sounded like an opening argument to a jury Trump could face in the future or the first chapter of a report meant to detail investigative findings to the public.

It’s unclear whether the “misimpressions” prosecutors say they’re trying to correct are ones they fear Cannon could fall prey to, whether the target audience for the brief is a larger one, and how the Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Trump appointee will respond to the tactic.

The substance of the prosecution brief is aimed at countering the demands by Trump and his two co-defendants — Walt Nauta and Carlos DeOliveira — for access to a broad range of documents from across the government that the defense attorneys contend could be useful in defending their clients. They’ve asked Cannon to consider massive executive branch agencies and the White House as appendages of Smith’s prosecution team — a decision that could open their files to defendants beyond the typical evidence-sharing that occurs for witnesses in criminal proceedings.

The filing included some new details about the origins of the probe, particularly as Trump’s liaisons to the National Archives began a dialogue with key White House officials about how to facilitate the return of missing documents. Though Trump has long portrayed the Biden White House’s involvement in the process as a sign of sinister politics, Smith’s team described it as limited, necessary and well-known to Trump’s aides, who did not protest.

That was a running theme throughout the prosecutors’ filing: Where Trump spoke in ominous terms about a monolithic “Biden administration” acting against him, the reality was that career officials from multiple agencies, acting on their discrete responsibilities, took standard and even “innocuous” actions to fulfill their duties, according to the brief.

The brief is also peppered with factual claims that make Trump’s behavior sound more serious and egregious. When discussing the defense’s request for more information from the Secret Service, prosecutors assert that their interaction with the federal agency that guards the president and his family underscored Trump’s recklessness in keeping a large volume of classified information at his Florida home, which also serves as a social club and a site for political and social events with lengthy guest lists.

The Secret Service reported that “of the approximately 48,000 guests who visited Mar-a-Lago between January 2021 and May 2022, while classified documents were at the property, only 2,200 had their names checked and only 2,900 passed through magnetometers,” the prosecution filing says

djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, After Speedy Start, Appeals Court Slows Down on Trump Immunity Decision, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Feb. 3, 2024. The implications are coming into focus with the scrapping of the March 4 start date for Donald Trump’s trial on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

In December, when a federal appeals court agreed to hear former President Donald J. Trump’s sweeping claims to be immune from charges of plotting overturn the 2020 election, it laid out a lightning-fast briefing schedule, asking the defense and prosecution to file their papers on successive Saturdays during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also moved with unusual alacrity in setting up a hearing for arguments on the issue, scheduling the proceeding on Jan. 9, just one week after all of the papers were submitted — a remarkably short window by the standards of the judicial system.

But after sending up what appeared to be clear signals that they intended to swiftly resolve this phase of the immunity dispute — which lies at the heart of both the viability and timing of Mr. Trump’s trial on the election subversion charges — the appeals court judges have yet to issue a decision.

The implications are already coming into focus. On Friday, the Federal District Court judge overseeing the election case, Tanya S. Chutkan, formally scrapped her plan to start the trial on March 4. She was bowing to the reality that time had run out to get the proceeding going by then, mostly because of the wrangling over Mr. Trump’s immunity claim, and said she would set a new date “if and when” that matter is resolved.

The disconnect between the expectations set up by the panel’s early moves to expedite the case and the weeks that have now accumulated without a ruling has captured the attention of some legal experts who are closely watching the case.

It has also caught the eye of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who have been watching from the sidelines with something akin to quiet glee. Each day that passes without a ruling bolsters their strategy of seeking to postpone the trial until after the presidential race is decided.

Feb. 1

 

ICE logo

Proof,  Investigative Commentary:  Last Month’s $83.3 Million Civil Jury Verdict Against Donald Trump in Federal Court Raises Historically Serious seth abramson graphicNational Security Concerns, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 1-2, 2024  The disgraced former president often cites his ongoing political ambitions as a reason for special treatment from the courts—but what they really require is special treatment from the intel community.

seth abramson proof logoWere Trump not planning to appeal the Carroll II judgment, he would have to pay it in full right now—or plead poverty to the court and establish some sort of negotiated payment plan, a decision that would reveal him to have committed Fraud and Perjury in the 2023 civil deposition in which he discussed having $400 million in liquid assets (for the record, an amount just under 500% of the amount he owes Carroll).

What this means is that Trump now has two options: he can pay $83.3 million into a federal escrow fund to remain therein for the duration of his appeal of Carroll II—a process that could take years, during which time Trump would be responsible for the interest on the $83.3 million, amounting to about $10 million—or he could purchase a bond to cover that amount, a purchase that would cost him approximately $16 million (20% of the total jury award in Carroll II).

If Trump doesn’t actually have $83.3 million (or $92.5 million, with interest included) in liquid assets, which it appears hardly anyone thinks he does, he will have to opt for the second route described above.

Keeping in mind that Trump has a decades-long history of not paying his debts; that he’s facing (as noted above) hundreds of millions in civil judgments if his New York Trump Organization case is included in the mix of his 2024 legal troubles; that he’s currently on a $200,000 bond in a criminal case in Georgia; that his friend and lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s creditors have announced they will be going after Trump for millions and millions in unpaid legal bills as part of the longtime Trump attorney’s bankruptcy proceedings; and that Trump has consistently exhibited contempt for every aspect of Carroll II—including its verdict; indeed, he’s already defamed Carroll again, which may lead imminently to a “Carroll III” and, this time, a nine-figure civil judgment—what domestic or foreign lender would take the risk of paying anything on Trump’s behalf?

It’s not merely that Trump said in a sworn deposition—almost certainly falsely—that he had $400 million in liquid assets (a lie he would have told, if indeed it was a lie, to continue to try to convince his MAGA base that he’s been successful in business, a pillar of his political persona); it is also, much more to the point, that it appears that the Carroll II jurors relied on this sworn statement in determining that a relatively small fraction of that purportedly free and ready amount (about 20%) would be a reasonable verdict in a case designed to dissuade Trump from defaming Carroll again. A sizable chunk of the $83 million judgment in Carroll II—65$ million—was in fact earmarked as “punitive damages” for precisely this critical purpose: deterrence.

So we have a current presidential candidate who will spend much of this year in court rather than on the campaign trail saying that he will file a seemingly hopeless appeal that will either cost him $16 million—if he can find anyone to bond him—or $92.5 million, neither of which are amounts of liquid cash anyone thinks he has.

With all that in mind, the conversation that now needs to be had—but likely will not be, because major media is gunshy after the Russia investigation—is whether Trump plans on getting the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s going to owe in New York from foreign nationals who believe what they’re really purchasing from him is his second-term foreign policy agenda.

As detailed in each of the three books of the Proof Trilogy, Trump has a nearly decade-long track record of trading U.S. foreign policy in exchange for personal gain; and to be clear, there are no shortage of buyers for that particular commodity. So it would be stunning if now, at his worst moment politically and legally and financially, he did not look overseas for aid. As already noted, small donations from poor and working-class Trumpists who can’t afford the money he’s attempting to squeeze from them will almost certainly not be enough to save him from what he currently faces.

And all this is unfolding as Trump’s overseas deals continue to explode in number and remuneration. And while Trump has of course engaged in illegal foreign election interference many times before, he has never done so while out on bail on three criminal cases or under the degree of scrutiny he is certain to face as a known insurrectionist.

One of the many ways American major media has given Trump a pass—and the total number of such passes is staggering, by now—is that it has investigated his finances without ever letting the other shoe drop: emphasizing to American voters and news-readers that Trump’s dodgy finances matter not because they reveal him to be a historically incompetent “nepo baby” (his father gave him more than $410 million in ill-gotten gains to get his miserably incompetent business career started) but because they underscore that a man who can be easily compromised by the first foreign agent to compliment him also has significant bases to find himself deeply in hock to hostile foreign powers.

ABC News, Special counsel questioned witnesses about 2 rooms FBI didn't search inside Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence: Sources, Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin, Feb. 1, 2024. The FBI missed the rooms in their search for classified documents, said sources.

abc news logoTrump was warned by attorney about ignoring documents subpoena: Sources

The attorney, Jennifer Little, told investigators she had warned Trump that failing to comply with the sub...Show More
Special counsel Jack Smith's team has questioned several witnesses about a closet and a so-called "hidden room" inside former President Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago that the FBI didn't check while searching the estate in August 2022, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

FBI logoAs described to ABC News, the line of questioning in several interviews ahead of Trump's indictment last year on classified document charges suggests that -- long after the FBI seized dozens of boxes and more than 100 documents marked classified from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate -- Smith's team was trying to determine if there might still be more classified documents there.

MORE: Attorney warned Trump 'it's going to be a crime' if he didn't comply with subpoena for classified docs: Sources
According to sources, some investigators involved in the case came to later believe that the closet, which was locked on the day of the search, should have been opened and checked.

ICE logoAs investigators would later learn, Trump allegedly had the closet's lock changed while his attorney was in Mar-a-Lago's basement, searching for classified documents in a storage room that he was told would have all such documents. Trump's alleged efforts to conceal classified documents from both the FBI and his own attorney are a key part of Smith's indictment against Trump in Florida.

Jordan Strauss, a former federal prosecutor and former national security official in the Justice Department, called the FBI's alleged failure to search the closet "a bit astonishing."
"You're searching a former president's house. You [should] get it right the first time," Strauss told ABC News.

In addition to the closet, the FBI also didn't search what authorities have called a "hidden room" connected to Trump's bedroom, sources said.

federal reserve system CustomSmith's investigators were later told that, in the days right after the search, some of Trump's employees heard that the FBI had missed at least one room at Mar-a-Lago, the sources said.

According to a senior FBI official, agents focused on areas they believed might have government documents.

"Based on information gathered throughout the course of the investigation, areas were identified and searched pursuant to the search warrant," the official told ABC News.

Within a few months of the FBI's search, federal prosecutors in the Justice Department pushed Trump's legal team to ensure that no classified documents remained at any of Trump's properties, but it's unclear if those prosecutors or any Trump lawyers even knew about the unexamined spaces then.

It's also unclear if Trump ever kept any classified documents in either of those spaces, or whether Smith's team ever considered seeking another warrant to search Mar-a-Lago again.

In their questioning of witnesses, Smith's team seemed to focus more on the missed spaces in the three months before first indicting Trump in the case, sources said.

Reached by ABC News, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign criticized President Joe Biden and the news media, saying the investigations into Trump are "just desperate attempts at election interference ... to stop the presumptive Republican nominee for President."

Strauss, who served in the Justice Department from 2005 to 2016, said he was particularly surprised to hear about the FBI's alleged inaction considering how "exceptionally thorough" he said they usually are and how meticulously they planned for the Mar-a-Lago search ahead of time.

Wray assured lawmakers that in such "sensitive" investigations, "Our folks take great pains to be rigorous [and] professional."

Justice Department log circularBut when agents reached the locked closet near the front of Trump's residence, they couldn't locate a key for it and were told the space behind the door -- an old stairwell turned into a closet with shelves -- went nowhere, so they decided not to break it open, sources said.

Sources also told ABC News that FBI agents didn't do more in part because they felt like they had been at Mar-a-Lago long enough. But the senior FBI official disputed that, saying, "Discussions took place that day about additional areas of the property and it was determined that actions already taken met the parameters of the search warrant."

"[The FBI] is almost notorious for their relentlessness and follow-through," Strauss said.

At the time, the FBI didn't know the lock change -- at least in their view -- could have been potentially significant, sources said.

According to the indictment against Trump, after Trump received a federal subpoena demanding the return of all classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his attorney -- identified to ABC News as Evan Corcoran -- was told to look for any responsive documents in boxes stacked inside a basement storage room.

But in the days before Corcoran arrived at Mar-a-Lago on June 2, 2022, Trump aide Walt Nauta -- acting "at Trump's direction" -- moved more than 30 boxes from the storage room to Trump's residence, so the attorney never even saw many of Trump's boxes, according to the indictment.

Corcoran found 38 classified documents in the storage room and gave them to the FBI, but Trump ensured that "many documents responsive to the [subpoena] could not be found," the indictment alleges.

Through their investigation, Smith's team learned that while Corcoran was still in the storage room, Trump asked a longtime Mar-a-Lago employee to change the lock on the closet, sources said. For years, the lock on the closet was managed by the Secret Service, but on June 2, 2022, Trump had it changed and wanted the key, the sources said.

One former maintenance worker described Trump's request as unusual, according to the sources.

Unlike the locked closet, the FBI didn't even know the so-called "hidden room" existed until after they left Mar-a-Lago, sources said.

MORE: Trump visits secure facility to view evidence in classified documents case: Sources
Though agents searched Trump's bedroom, a small door in one of the walls was concealed behind a large dresser and a big TV, sources said. The space behind the wall was the "hidden room," which maintenance workers sporadically entered to access cables running through it, sources said.

Strauss said it's not uncommon for agents executing search warrants to miss some things, especially when they're searching expansive properties.

Nevertheless, the fact that witnesses were saying the FBI missed a "hidden room" within Trump's bedroom caught the attention of Smith's team, according to sources.

A federal judge had signed off on the search of Mar-a-Lago, approving the FBI's plan to search Trump's office and "all storage rooms and any other rooms or locations where boxes or records may be stored."

During their search, they allegedly found 27 classified documents in Trump's office and 75 more in the basement storage room, where Corcoran had searched two months earlier and found a smaller set of other apparently classified documents, according to the indictment against Trump.

The FBI did not find classified documents in any ballroom, bathroom, or in Trump's bedroom, where he allegedly stored classified documents at times over the year-and-a-half after leaving the White House.

During the summer of the FBI search, Trump was primarily living at his property in Bedminster, New Jersey. The FBI didn't search that property -- it only searched Mar-a-Lago.

As ABC News previously reported, within months of the FBI search, the Justice Department suspected Trump was still holding classified documents somewhere, so -- under pressure from the department -- one of Trump's attorneys conducted another search of Mar-a-Lago and other properties, and he found a handful of more classified documents.

In his testimony to Congress last year, Wray said that, under "specific rules," there are only certain locations that can securely store classified information, "and in my experience, ballrooms, bathrooms and bedrooms are not" among them.

"Our folks in this case have proceeded honorably and in strict compliance with our policies, our rules, and our best practices," Wray added.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, insisting he did not break the law by holding onto the documents later seized by the FBI. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Nauta, the aide who allegedly helped move Trump's boxes, and Mar-a-Lago's property manager, Carlos De Oliveira, have also been charged for their alleged roles in Trump's conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty.

 

djt indicted proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Election 2024: Trump spent over $55 million in donor money on legal fees last year, filings show, Maeve Reston, Clara Ence Morse and Hannah Knowles, Feb. 1, 2024 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump is cruising toward the Republican presidential nomination after victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he is diverting enormous sums of donor money to his mounting legal fees as he faces multiple lawsuits and 91 felony charges across four criminal cases.

djt maga hatThe new figures for his legal spending were outlined in campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday night. Trump’s advisers have said the money that is being spent on legal expenses is not only for Trump’s defense, but also for the lawyer fees for some of his advisers and associates. Here are a few early takeaways from the new filings:

Trump’s mounting legal bills: Two of Trump’s committees, Save America leadership PAC and the Make America Great Again PAC, spent $55.6 million on legal bills in 2023, including $29.9 million in the second half of the year, according to the new reports released Wednesday.

The Trump campaign had more than $33 million in cash on hand at the end of last year after raising more than $19 million in the fourth quarter. Save America leadership PAC had about $5.1 million in cash on hand at the end of the year. Across all of his committees, Trump had a war chest of over $70 million at the end of the year, a total that includes cash available to his allied super PAC, MAGA Inc.

Trump has raised most of his campaign funds from small-dollar donors. In the fine print of his solicitations, Trump’s joint fundraising committee notes that about 90 cents of each dollar is diverted to his campaign committee and 10 cents is diverted to the Save America leadership PAC.

 

January 2024

Jan. 31

Politico, ‘Unless You’re a Purist, We Don’t Want You Voting’:  The Nevada GOP wanted to ensure a Trump win, David Siders, Jan. 31, 2024 (print ed.). They wound up making the state irrelevant.

politico CustomDownstairs in a roped-off corner of the lobby at the Ahern Hotel, off the Las Vegas Strip, the chair of the Nevada Republican Party was trying to convince a club of fellow Republicans to go along with a perplexing plan: To hold a party-run caucus two days after the state’s presidential primary in February.

Upstairs, overlooking the lobby, Chuck Muth told me the whole thing wasn’t just counterintuitive or confusing for Republican voters. It smacked of insider “bullshit.” The state party, he said, just “wanted the caucus rigged for Trump.”

And then Muth, a former executive director of the Nevada Republican Party, tried to explain to me how Nevada’s Republicans got into this mess — and helped make their state irrelevant in the process.

djt maga hatOn Feb. 6, the state will hold a primary in which GOP voters will go to their usual precincts but there will be only one serious contender, Nikki Haley, on the ballot. Then, two days later, the Republican Party will host a caucus in which GOP voters will go to school gyms and church basements where they can express their support for only one credible candidate, Donald Trump.

On Feb. 6, the state will hold a primary in which GOP voters will go to their usual precincts but there will be only one serious contender, Nikki Haley, on the ballot. Then, two days later, the Republican Party will host a caucus in which GOP voters will go to school gyms and church basements where they can express their support for only one credible candidate, Donald Trump.

Both parties used to hold caucuses here, but in 2021, the Nevada legislature passed a law requiring the state to hold primaries. State GOP officials wanted to stick with the caucus because they’ve done it that way before, and because the state’s new presidential primary requirements failed to include voter ID. It’s the kind of gathering that tends to draw the most fervent, activist members of a party — no coincidence, the same as Trump’s base. GOP officials decided that the caucus would be the only contest that will award delegates to the national convention.

But there have been plenty of reasons to think that decision might turn out to be a mistake.
Chuck Muth in Las Vegas.

Chuck Muth, a former executive director of the Nevada Republican Party, in Las Vegas. Both parties used to hold caucuses here, but in 2021, the Nevada legislature passed a law requiring the state to hold primaries.

Last fall, leaders of the group meeting at the Ahern, the Nevada Republican Club — a separate entity from the Nevada Republican Party — urged party officials not to hold a caucus competing with the state-run primary, arguing “ negative publicity from this will make the Republican Party look bad and likely diminish participation in the Primary election.”

The effect, they wrote, would be to “frustrate, anger and confuse Nevada’s Republican voters,” giving “average voters the impression they don’t care about them or their votes.”

Looking back, it seems they were right. Recent headlines about the election here have ranged from “ EXPERTS: Why Trump, DeSantis are not on Nevada Primary Election ballot” to “ Dual elections causing confusion among Nevada Republican voters” to “ Nevada Republicans can’t decide between a primary or a caucus — so they’re doing both.”
Locator map of Las Vegas, Nev.

Republicans across Nevada have been confused by the state running both a primary and a caucus.

Earlier this month, a Reno TV station ran a fact check on a social media post from a rural Nevada voter questioning why her primary ballot was “missing a certain DONALD J TRUMP.”

“It’s crazy, it’s nuts,” said Ron Knecht, a former Republican state controller. “It’s the ultimate degeneration of Republican politics.”

It’s also a big comedown for Nevada, which had hoped to parlay its No. 3 spot on the Republican presidential nominating calendar into a measure of relevance in the campaign. There was a time, after all, that Nevada really did feel like the “ We Matter,” first-in-the-West caucus state.

For Republicans, that was 2016, when Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were out campaigning on arena stages and casino floors — and where, in one palm tree-lined parking lot not far from the Chicken Ranch Brothel, in Pahrump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz rallied a crowd from the bed of a pickup truck. Reporters flew in from Washington to set up live shots and to pore over candidates’ “ ground games.”

Today, it’s sometimes easy to forget Nevada even exists on the primary calendar. Haley seems to want to will it away; when she appeared the other day on Fox & Friends, she described the nominating process as going from Iowa, which was “good to us,” to New Hampshire, which would “set the tone as it goes to my sweet home state of South Carolina.” It was South Carolina — not Nevada — that she identified as “ the next one” when she addressed supporters after the primary in New Hampshire.

 

 

Fulton County Prosecutors Fani Willis and Nathan Wade (Reuters file photo by Elijah Nouvelage).

Fulton County Prosecutors Fani Willis and Nathan Wade (Reuters file photo by Elijah Nouvelage

washington post logoWashington Post, Fani Willis subpoenaed for hearing on misconduct allegations in Trump Georgia case, Holly Bailey, Jan. 31, 2024. An anticipated hearing over allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) engaged in an improper personal relationship with the lead prosecutor in the election-interference case against former president Donald Trump is beginning to take shape, with subpoenas issued seeking the sworn testimony of Willis and others in a proceeding that is likely to determine whether the case proceeds.

michael romanAn attorney for Mike Roman, right, the Trump co-defendant who first leveled misconduct allegations against Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade more than three weeks ago, has subpoenaed both to testify under oath at a Feb. 15 evidentiary hearing on his motion to disqualify them from the case and have charges against Roman dismissed.

But a notice shared Wednesday with Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the case, shows that Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, is seeking to call at least 10 other witnesses, including senior members of Willis’s staff and associates of Wade, to prove her client’s allegations of prosecutorial wrongdoing. She has subpoenaed financial records tied to Wade and his law firm as she seeks to back up her claims, including that Wade used his income as a special prosecutor to pay for vacations for him and Willis.

In addition to Willis and Wade, Merchant has issued subpoenas to several employees of the district attorney’s office — including Daysha Young, an executive district attorney who is also assigned to the Trump case; Tia Green, an executive assistant to Willis; Sonya Allen, an assistant district attorney who previously worked with Wade in Cobb County; Mike Hill, an investigator assigned to the Trump case; Dexter Bond, the office’s chief operating officer; Capers Green, the office’s chief of investigations; and Thomas Ricks, an investigator assigned to Willis’s security team.

It is unclear whether Willis will seek to challenge her subpoena or those issued to her staff members. A spokesman for Willis declined to comment.

Other subpoenas were issued to Wade’s current and former law partners, Christopher Campbell and Terrence Bradley, and to Robin Bryant-Yeartie, a longtime Willis associate who previously worked at the district attorney’s office.

Last week, an attorney for Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, Wade’s estranged wife, filed notice in their divorce case that she had issued a subpoena seeking information on an Atlanta home. The address was previously linked to Bryant-Yeartie, according to public records.

Reached by phone before Merchant gave notice that she planned to call her as a witness, Bryant-Yeartie declined to comment. “If I get subpoenaed, that’s when I’ll talk,” Bryant-Yeartie said before hanging up.

Merchant also subpoenaed two Atlanta-area travel agencies — Vacation Express and H2O, Limited — seeking information on airline tickets, hotels and other travel expenses possibly tied to Wade and Willis dating back to 2020. She also issued summonses to American Express, Capital One and Synovus Bank seeking financial records for Wade and his law firm.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump prosecutor settles divorce before hearing where he may have been asked about alleged misconduct, Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey, Jan. 31, 2024 (print ed.). The lead prosecutor in the election interference case against the former president and his allies will avoid a hearing that could have included testimony about allegations of an improper relationship between him and Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis.

Nathan Wade was expected to be questioned under oath about his finances — including his income as a special prosecutor in the Trump case and his spending, such as his purchase of airline tickets for himself and Willis in October 2022 and April 2023.

michael romanThe divorce garnered national attention after one of Trump’s co-defendants, former campaign aide Mike Roman, right, accused Willis and Wade of having an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” that has financially benefited them both, prompting calls for their removal from the criminal case in Fulton County, home to Atlanta. Both Trump and a third defendant adopted Roman’s motion to remove Willis and Wade from the case and dismiss the charges.

County records show Wade’s firm has been paid more than $653,000 for his work on the election case over the past two years.

The last-minute agreement, albeit “temporary” for now, allows Wade and Willis to avoid testimony that could have been embarrassing or given Trump and his co-defendants new evidence or ammunition to undermine the criminal case. Attorneys for the defendants had planned to closely follow Wednesday’s hearing as they prepare for a separate Feb. 15 hearing in Fulton County on whether the allegations warrant disqualification or dismissal.

But the settlement does not eliminate scrutiny of alleged actions by the two prosecutors. Nor does it assure that the criminal case against Trump and his allies will continue. Last week, Republicans in the Georgia Senate established an investigatory committee with subpoena power to probe whether Willis (D) was in a romantic relationship with Wade when she appointed him as a special prosecutor. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission seeking an investigation.

Attorneys for Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, Wade’s estranged wife, had also sought to question Willis in the case, arguing she has “unique knowledge” about Wade’s finances and his marriage. But Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry Thompson, who oversaw the divorce case, stayed that subpoena during a hearing last week, saying he first wanted to hear testimony from Wade.

Thompson issued a temporary consent order shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, explaining that the hearing has been removed from the calendar with the consent of both parties, because they have agreed “to all issues presently before the court.”

Their agreement will not be filed in court, Thompson noted — meaning it may not ever be public. Last week, Wade’s divorce lawyer asked the judge to reconsider a motion to seal the divorce case, which would have required a public hearing. It was not immediately clear whether the divorce agreement would stop the disclosure of any other information potentially damaging to Willis or Wade, including discovery material.

Meidas Touch Network, Trump ATTACK on Georgia Prosecutor NOW A MASSIVE FLOP, Michael Popok, Jan. 30, 2024. Champagne corks are popping across America: the nightmare that is the Fulton County special Trump prosecutor Nathan Wade’s divorce is finally over! Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on a settlement reached between Mr Wade which will prevent MAGA from getting to depose his boss Fulton County DA Fani Willis, and will likely lead to the criminal judge quickly denying the efforts by Trump and his co co conspirators to dismiss the Georgia indictment.

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

Jan. 30

ap logoAssociated Press, Trump stays on Illinois’ ballot as election board declines to ban him over insurrection amendment, Sophia Tareen and Nicholas Riccardi, Jan. 30, 2024. Illinois’ election board on Tuesday kept former President Donald Trump on the state’s primary ballot, a week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether the Republican’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualifies him from the presidency.

illinois mapThe eight-member board’s unanimous ruling comes after its hearing officer, a retired judge and Republican, found that a “preponderance of the evidence” shows Trump is ineligible to run for president because he violated a constitutional ban on those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. But the hearing officer recommended the board let the courts make the ultimate decision.

The board, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, agreed with a recommendation from its lawyer to let Trump remain on the ballot by determining it didn’t have the authority to determine whether he violated the constitution.

“This Republican believes there was an insurrection on Jan. 6,” said board member Catherine McCrory before her vote, adding that she didn’t believe the agency had the legal authority to enforce that conclusion.

Trump’s attorney urged the board not to get involved, contending the former president never engaged in insurrection but that wasn’t something it could determine. “We would recommend and urge the board to not wade into this,” attorney Adam Merrill said.

An attorney for the voters who objected to Trump’s presence on the ballot said they’d appeal to state court. “What’s happened here is an avoidance of a hot potato issue,” attorney Matthew Piers told reporters after the hearing. “I get the desire to do it, but the law doesn’t allow you to duck.”

The issue will likely be decided at a higher court, with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled next week to hear arguments in Trump’s appeal of a Colorado ruling declaring him ineligible for the presidency in that state.

The nation’s highest court has never ruled on a case involving Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was adopted in 1868 to prevent former confederates from returning to office after the Civil War but has rarely been used since then. Some legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the U.S. Capitol after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Jan. 28

 

 

Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, center, at federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, left, on April 25 in New York (Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan on April 27 in New York (Associated Press photo by Seth Wineg).

Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, center, at federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, left, on April 25 in New York City (Associated Press photo by Seth Wineg).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Roberta Kaplan, a Legal Force, Was Carroll’s Lawyer and Trump’s Nemesis, Maria Cramer and Kate Christobek, Jan. 28, 2024 (print ed.). She won a Supreme Court case that won gay couples federal recognition. During her closing argument on behalf of E. Jean Caroll, Donald Trump walked out.

The meeting turned ugly fast.

In October 2022, Roberta Kaplan flew to Donald Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, to question him under oath in the defamation lawsuit that her client, the writer E. Jean Carroll, had filed against him after she accused him of sexually assaulting her.

“She’s not my type,” Mr. Trump said when he was asked if he raped Ms. Carroll in the mid-1990s in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York.

Then he shrugged, looked at Ms. Kaplan and pointed at her.

“You wouldn’t be a choice of mine either, to be honest with you,” he said, according to transcripts of the deposition. “I would not, under any circumstances, have any interest in you. I’m honest when I say it.”

She began another question, then paused and reminded him, “I’m an attorney.”

Ms. Kaplan, an openly gay lawyer who married her wife, Rachel Lavine, in Toronto in 2005, faced more invective from Mr. Trump during the five-hour deposition. He called her “a political operative,” “a disgrace.” When she asked him if he had been referring to Ms. Carroll when he said in June 2019 that people who make false accusations of rape should “pay dearly,” he said yes.

“And I think their attorneys, too,” Mr. Trump responded, smiling slightly. “I think the attorneys like you are a big part of it, because you know it’s a phony case.”

Ms. Kaplan did not respond.

It was a clash of two New Yorkers, both of them formidable combatants and talkers but in different ways. While Mr. Trump, 77, has a salesman’s flair for bombast and an instinct for insult, Ms. Kaplan, 57, is methodical and disciplined. An experienced litigator, she has represented major corporations and won a 2013 Supreme Court case that granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time. She has said that, as a lawyer, “I really am like a dog with a bone” — never letting go once her teeth are engaged.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump will be able to wait to pay the full $83.3 million until all his appeals are exhausted, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 28, 2024 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump — the rare defendant who can afford a judgment of this size — could secure a bond to cover it while his appeals play out.

Donald J. Trump might one day have to pay E. Jean Carroll the $83.3 million she was awarded, but that day is not today.

Mr. Trump called the jury’s decision “Absolutely ridiculous!” and vowed to appeal the verdict, a process that could take months or more.

And while he is waiting for an appellate court to rule, Mr. Trump need not cut Ms. Carroll a check.

Yet the former president is still on the hook to pay something — possibly a sizable sum — while he waits.

Mr. Trump can pay the $83.3 million to the court, which will hold the money while the appeal is pending. This is what he did last year when a jury ordered him to pay Ms. Carroll $5.5 million in a related case.

Or, Mr. Trump can try to secure a bond, which will save him from having to pay the full amount up front.

A bond might require him to pay a deposit and offer collateral, and would come with interest and fees. It would also require Mr. Trump to find a financial institution willing to lend him a large sum of money at a time when he is in significant legal jeopardy.

Although Mr. Trump likes to boast of his billions, much of his wealth is linked to the value of his properties, and he is loath to part with vast sums of cash at once.

And when it comes to his varied legal expenses — of which there are many — he tries to avoid spending his own money at all. Mr. Trump has tapped his political action committee’s coffers to pay for his own legal fees and other expenses stemming from his criminal indictments and civil trials.

Yet $83.3 million eclipses the amount in his political accounts. The verdict on Friday will require Mr. Trump to reach into his own pocket.

Still, if the verdict survives Mr. Trump’s appeals, Ms. Carroll should eventually be paid, according to Bruce Green, director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University.

“He’s the rare defendant with an $83 million verdict against him who actually has the money,” Mr. Green said. “Wherever this lands, she should be able to collect.”

He has enough cash to cover the verdict in various accounts, a person close to him said. In recent years, Mr. Trump has unloaded several assets, including his Washington hotel, which sold for $375 million.

Yet the verdict on Friday is not the only payout upcoming for Mr. Trump. The New York attorney general is seeking a $370 million penalty from the former president and his family business as part of a civil fraud trial that wrapped up this month.

The judge in that case is expected to issue a decision in the coming weeks. If Mr. Trump is ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars, it is unclear whether he would have to sell another asset to make a payment like that.

Jan. 26

 

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won a jury verdict that he sexually attacked her three decades ago.

donald trump ny daily pussy

The disclosures in the E. Jean Carroll rape verdict echoed Trump's words in "Hollywood Access" videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Shown Then: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed innocence in the Carroll case. 

ap logoAssociated Press, Trump to pay additional $83.3 million, Larry Neumeister, Jake Offenhartz and Jennifer Peltz, Jan. 26, 2024. Jury says Donald Trump must pay an additional $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll in defamation case. Former President Donald Trump was on and off the witness stand at a jury trial Thursday in less than 3 minutes but not before breaking a judge’s rules on what he could say by claiming that a writer’s sexual assault allegations were a “false accusation.” 

A jury has awarded a huge $83.3 million in additional damages to advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who says former President Donald Trump damaged her reputation by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

The verdict was delivered Friday by a seven-man, two-woman jury in a trial regularly attended by Trump, who abruptly left the courtroom during closing arguments by Carroll’s lawyer, only to later return.

Carroll smiled as the verdict was read. By then, Trump had left the building in his motorcade.

“Absolutely ridiculous!” he said in a statement shortly after the verdict was announced. He vowed an appeal. “Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon.”

It was the second time in nine months that a jury returned a verdict related to Carroll’s claim that a flirtatious, chance encounter with Trump in 1996 at a Bergdorf Goodman store ended violently. She said Trump slammed her against a dressing room wall, pulled down her tights and forced himself on her.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Carroll’s Lawyer Gives Closing Statement, Trump Walks Out of Court, Benjamin Weiser and Maria Cramer, Jan. 26, 2024.  Lawyers for Donald Trump and the writer E. Jean Carroll are making their last pitch about what damages he should pay for denying he sexually abused her.

Former President Donald J. Trump walked out of the courtroom on Friday as lawyers trying the defamation case brought against him by E. Jean Carroll made their final pitches to a nine-member jury.

The closing arguments in a Manhattan federal court will set the stage for the jury to decide how much money, if any, Mr. Trump must pay Ms. Carroll in damages for calling her a liar for accusing him of sexually assaulting her, and saying her story was a hoax.

“Now is the time to make him pay for it, and now is the time to make him pay dearly,” Roberta A. Kaplan, the lawyer for Ms. Carroll, told jurors.

In her argument, Ms. Kaplan focused on the harm she said Mr. Trump inflicted on her client and her reputation, saying that the trial is about “getting him to stop once and for all.” She emphasized that the only way to do so was to cost him as much money as possible.

While she asked for at least $24 million for emotional damage and reputational harm, she did not ask for a specific amount in punitive damages, but effectively asks that jurors shoot for the moon.

Ms. Kaplan told the jury that Mr. Trump has normalized behavior by people on social media who, because of his actions, thought it was acceptable to attack Ms. Carroll. Soon after, Mr. Trump, in an unusual breach of courtroom decorum, stood up and walked out, though Ms. Kaplan continued as if nothing unusual had happened.

Trump appeared frustrated before the proceedings even began, shaking his head repeatedly. When Ms. Kaplan began describing last May’s verdict that found Trump had sexually abused Carroll, he grew more frustrated — scoffing, muttering and shaking his head.

He stood up suddenly and without warning, then walked out slowly, followed by one of his other lawyers. Stunned reporters and other onlookers in the courtroom craned their necks to stare at him. A sketch artist quickly began drawing him exiting the courtroom.

The former president has used his appearances to court voters as he seeks another term in the White House, painting himself as the victim of a political cabal. His lawyers have now begun their closing arguments.

lewis kaplanA jury in an earlier trial found last May that Mr. Trump was liable for sexually abusing Ms. Carroll in a 1990s assault in a department store dressing room, and for a defamatory statement he made about her in 2022.

The current trial focuses on statements he made three years earlier, after Ms. Carroll first publicly accused him of raping her in a 2019 New York Magazine article, and for attacks on her since then in social media posts, on CNN and on the campaign trail.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, above left, has ruled that the sole focus for the jury is the matter of damages.

Here’s what to know:

  • The jury consists of seven men and two women, whose identities have been kept secret. The judge advised them not to identify themselves even to one another.
  • Ms. Carroll’s lawyers emphasized her testimony, in which she described the terror she felt upon reading the rape and death threats she received after she publicized the accusations in 2019. They have argued that Mr. Trump did not merely deny the accusations, he continuously went after Ms. Carroll, posting messages on his Truth Social site and speaking at news conferences where he called her a liar.
  • alina habbaMr. Trump’s lawyers have said that Ms. Carroll brought the backlash on herself. By granting interviews on television and in podcasts, they argue, she invited the criticism. “This trial is about a plaintiff who used her story to obtain as much fame and notoriety as possible,” Alina Habba, right, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, said in her opening statement.
  • Trump’s lawyers have consistently played down the seriousness of threats of harm made to his political opponents, and Habba likes to note that she receives similar threats. She just did that in the courtroom, in fact, as I was typing, and Judge Kaplan warned her against it, saying it was inappropriate.
  • Habba is showing time stamped comments and tweets that show people were reacting with disbelief at Carroll's story well before Trump released a statement from the White House in 2019. “It is Ms. Carroll’s burden, not President Trump’s, to prove that his statements are somehow the cause of any harm,” Habba says.
  • “President Trump has no more control over the thoughts and feelings of social media users than he does the weather,” Habba says.Habba is arguing that Carroll has to prove a direct causal connection between Trump’s statements and the harm Carroll suffered. This has come up again and again in Trump legal arguments — whether or not his statements have real-world impact. “No causation!” Habba thunders.

Jan. 25

 

 Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Imagesand TNS).

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Images and TNS).

 

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair.

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair from election finance officials and the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan’s district attorney is quietly preparing for a Trump trial, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum
Jan. 25, 2024. As prosecutors navigate calendars and appeals, Alvin L. Bragg may take the former president’s first criminal case to trial. He has said that covering up a hush-money payment was a fraud on voters.

Federal prosecutors have accused Donald J. Trump of plotting to subvert American democracy and mishandling nuclear secrets. But with those cases in limbo, state prosecutors in Manhattan are gearing up as though they will be the first to try the former president on criminal charges — for covering up a potential sex scandal.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has begun to approach witnesses to prepare them for trial, including Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, according to people with knowledge of the matter. He and at least two others involved in buying a porn star’s silence about her story of a tryst with Mr. Trump are expected to meet with prosecutors in the coming weeks.

With the potential trial drawing near, the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has also added one of his most experienced trial lawyers to the team assigned to prosecute Mr. Trump.

And in recent public appearances, Mr. Bragg has presented the loftiest possible conception of the case, casting it as a clear-cut instance of election interference, in which a candidate defrauded the American people to win the White House in 2016. Mr. Trump did so, the district attorney argues, by concealing an illegal payoff to the porn star, thus hiding damaging information from voters just days before they headed to the polls.

“The case — the core of it — is not money for sex,” Mr. Bragg said in a radio interview last month, objecting to news outlets’ longstanding characterization of it as a hush-money case. “We would say it’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election and then lying in New York business records to cover it up. That’s the heart of the case.”

Jan. 24

Politico, Appeals court shoots down Trump’s bid to sideline his DC gag order, Kyle Cheney, Jan. 24, 2024 (print ed.). A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. has rejected former President Donald Trump’s bid to lift a gag order that sharply restricts his ability to criticize witnesses in his criminal case for attempting to subvert the 2020 election.

politico CustomIn a terse ruling on Tuesday, the full 11-member bench of the appeals court — which includes three of Trump’s own appointees — opted against reconsidering a three-judge panel’s Dec. 8 decision upholding the gag order. The order was initially imposed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, after prosecutors requested the limitation, citing threats to witnesses, attorneys and court personnel driven by Trump’s vitriol.

Trump’s last shot to lift the gag order now lies with the Supreme Court, if he chooses to appeal further. A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Notably, none of the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals even asked for a vote on Trump’s request for the court to rehear the issue — a sign that no judge was pushing hard for further review. That stands in contrast to a decision earlier this month in which the court’s four conservatives went out of their way to raise concerns about a ruling that upheld special counsel Jack Smith’s effort to obtain Trump’s Twitter data.

The three-judge panel that backed Trump’s gag order largely agreed that Chutkan had a responsibility to restrict Trump’s speech, given the threat it posed to Trump’s prospective trial.

“The court had a duty to act proactively to prevent the creation of an atmosphere of fear or intimidation aimed at preventing trial participants and staff from performing their functions within the trial process,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the unanimous panel of three judges, all of whom were Democratic appointees.

Trump has assailed the gag order as an infringement of his First Amendment rights, particularly amid his resurgent bid for the presidency. But the courts have emphasized that, if Trump is not restricted in what he’s allowed to say, his continued attacks on witnesses and prosecutors will pose grave threats to the security of those individuals and the integrity of the trial itself.

Under the gag order, Trump is barred from attacking key witnesses against him. He is also barred from making statements that attack prosecutors — other than Smith himself — and courthouse staff if the statements are deemed to interfere with the proceedings.

The gag order ruling was not the most anticipated action by the D.C. Circuit this month. Trump is also awaiting a ruling about whether he will be deemed “immune” from the charges that Smith brought against him. A three-judge panel appeared skeptical of that claim earlier this month, but it’s unclear when the panel will issue an opinion. An adverse ruling for Trump would likely result in yet another appeal to the Supreme Court.

The litigation over the immunity question has paused proceedings in his Washington, D.C. case, which actually prolongs the amount of time Trump is likely to be subject to the gag order. He is also subject to a limited gag order in New York — imposed in a civil case accusing him of business fraud — that restricts his ability to comment about court personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trial Delays Could Pay Off for Trump, Amy Schoenfeld Walker and Zach Levitt, Jan. 23, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump faces four criminal trials this year, but delays are already underway. The odds are that no more than one or two will finish before voters choose the next president.

The trials, which may require a couple of months or more, are unlikely to happen concurrently because defendants typically have to attend criminal trials in person.

And delays are a critical piece of the Trump legal and campaign strategy, which is to protect his march toward the Republican nomination and avoid a jury before November.

The first case in line — the federal Jan. 6 case in Washington that accuses Mr. Trump of seeking to overturn the 2020 election — is already facing delays from its scheduled start date in early March. The former president is claiming immunity from the charges and his appeal is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the court moves quickly or elects not to hear the case immediately, the federal Jan. 6 trial could still proceed in the late spring, in one scenario.

This would most likely delay the trial in the Manhattan criminal case in New York, which charges Mr. Trump with making payments to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign. That trial is scheduled for late March, but the judge could defer to the federal Jan. 6 trial, which is widely viewed as more consequential to the current election.

Here’s how the scheduling could come together.

Sentencing for each trial could happen a few months after it concludes

A conviction and sentencing in either case before the nomination or election would not make Mr. Trump ineligible to run, but could sway voters or the Republican nominating committee.

But delays into November could give Mr. Trump, if elected, the opportunity to dismiss a federal case like Jan. 6, or seek protection from the state cases, like the Manhattan criminal case, under a long-held rule that a sitting president cannot be criminally prosecuted.

How swiftly the Supreme Court responds to Mr. Trump’s immunity appeal will play a critical role in when these trials start.

In a second scenario in which the Supreme Court moves more slowly to weigh the charges against Mr. Trump in the federal Jan. 6 case, that trial might not begin until the summer or fall, pushing any conviction or sentencing close to or beyond Election Day.

Experts say that the Manhattan criminal trial would then most likely run around the time it was originally planned in late March.

Jan. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, In Judge Kaplan’s court, Trump plays with fire, Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 22, 2024 (print ed.). A misbehaving defendant claims to want a showdown Monday with a judge who has a unique track record on contempt.

In the high-stakes world of presidential trials, there are no judges like Lewis A. Kaplan.

At 79, after decades on the bench, the senior judge is one of the most well-regarded legal minds in New York. And he has a unique history that makes Donald Trump’s courtroom behavior over the past week potentially dangerous for the former president of the United States.
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Trump is on trial in a civil case as writer E. Jean Carroll seeks damages from Trump, who has been found liable for defaming her when he made disparaging remarks denying he sexually assaulted her decades ago in a department store.

Trump has claimed that he intends to testify in the case on Monday — which would probably produce a dramatic courtroom showdown. But it’s unclear whether Trump will really show up. For one thing, he has made similar claims in the past, then not appeared. For another, Tuesday is the New Hampshire primary, and Trump is again running for president.

If he does testify, legal experts said, his time on the witness stand could be something akin to a suicide mission.

Over the past week, Kaplan’s handling of the damages trial in Lower Manhattan shows how different a federal courtroom is from most other parts of public life — even state court, where Trump and his lawyers had more leeway to squabble with a judge overseeing a different civil trial in another New York courthouse over the past several months. Kaplan has not tolerated similar behavior, and Trump has railed on social media that the federal judge is “a totally biased and hostile person.”

The former president claimed that he only lost a previous lawsuit brought by Carroll over the sexual assault and a different set of defamatory comments because he didn’t appear in court personally. Kaplan oversaw that lawsuit, too.

See how Trump is is making his court appearances seem like campaign stops

In recent weeks, Trump has been attending more court hearings than he needs to, seemingly deciding that the best way to fight his legal critics — and win the GOP nomination — is to try to shout them down. He has spoken out of turn in the courtroom and denounced the proceedings.

Legal experts warn that if he does so on the witness stand in Kaplan’s courtroom, he could end up humiliated and threatened with contempt of court.

Robert Katzberg, a veteran New York white-collar criminal defense lawyer, said Kaplan is “the worst possible draw for Trump,” not because of any personal or political bias, but because of the type of judge he is.

“He’s really smart and takes no guff from either side. He expects lawyers to be professional and toe the line, and if they do not, holds them accountable,” said Katzberg, who is now consulting counsel for Holland & Knight.

“Even if you had the most pro-Trump judge in America overseeing the trial, Donald Trump should not testify. Multiply that by a million with Lewis Kaplan on the bench,” he said. “Given both his lack of any relevant facts as to the only issue remaining — the damages suffered by Ms. Carroll — and Donald Trump’s inability to control himself emotionally, he is begging not only to be debased before the jury, but contempt citations will be looming large.”

Jan. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Heritage Foundation’s Plans for ‘Institutionalizing Trumpism,’ Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Jan. 21, 2024. “People will lose their jobs,” the think tank’s president says about federal workers. “Hopefully their lives are able to flourish in spite of that.”

Since taking over the Heritage Foundation in 2021, Kevin D. Roberts has been making his mark on an institution that came to prominence during the Reagan years and has long been seen as an incubator of conservative policy and thought. Roberts, who was not well known outside policy circles when he took over, has pushed the think tank away from its hawkish roots by arguing against funding the war in Ukraine, a turnabout that prompted some of Heritage’s policy analysts to leave.

Now he’s looking ahead, to the 2024 election and beyond. Roberts told me that he views Heritage’s role today as “institutionalizing Trumpism.” This includes leading Project 2025, a transition blueprint that outlines a plan to consolidate power in the executive branch, dismantle federal agencies and recruit and vet government employees to free the next Republican president from a system that Roberts views as stacked against conservative power. The lesson of Trump’s first year in office, Roberts told me, is that “the Trump administration, with the best of intentions, simply got a slow start. And Heritage and our allies in Project 2025 believe that must never be repeated.”

You’ve taken the Heritage Foundation, once a bastion of the Reagan doctrine of peace through strength, in a different direction. Under you, Heritage has vocally opposed recent aid packages to Ukraine. It has criticized the Biden administration for what you’ve said is a lack of transparency when it comes to how the money is being spent and how you believe those packages are impacting the administration’s domestic priorities. Can you explain some of your thinking on that pivot?

Yeah, sure. But perhaps it would be helpful to start with my perception of those examples you mentioned relative to the Reagan principle of peace through strength. We believe that the manner in which the Ukraine aid packages have been put together, the manner in which they’ve been debated or really not debated in Congress, the manner in which they’ve not been analyzed, the manner in which there’s no transparency, the fact that there’s no strategy actually is a violation of the principle of peace through strength. So while much ink has been spilled about Heritage no longer believing in peace through strength, that’s not true. But I don’t want to dismiss the part of your question about the shift in the conservative movement toward more skepticism, if not restraint, in foreign policy, and I think a lot of that is prudent. Because what the American people are saying, conservatives in particular, but not exclusively conservatives, is why are we prioritizing any other place internationally above the problems we have in the United States?

I hear you that there are a lot of problems at home to be solved, and they’re costly problems. But we had Russia invade a sovereign country on the doorstep of a democratic Europe. Does it not seem to you squarely within the U.S. national interest to stop Russian aggression?

Jan. 20

 

djt nikki haley Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lobs racially charged attacks against Haley ahead of N.H. primary, Amy B Wang, Maegan Vazquez and Azi Paybarah, Jan. 20, 2024 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump is lobbing racially charged attacks at Republican rival Nikki Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants who served as his U.N. ambassador, days before a hotly contested New Hampshire primary that could determine the trajectory of the party’s nominating contest.

In a lengthy post on his social media platform Friday, Trump gave his GOP rival a nickname that appeared to be yet another racist dog whistle.

Writing on Truth Social, Trump repeatedly referred to Haley as “Nimbra,” an apparent intentional misspelling of her birth name. Haley, whose parents moved to the United States in the 1960s, was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa.

Reminiscent of his spurious claims about former president Barack Obama’s citizenship, Trump also last week spread a false “birther” claim about Haley when he shared a post on Truth Social from the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that propagates baseless accusations.

Haley sparks a 2024 debate: Whether the U.S. is (or ever was) a racist country

The post falsely suggested Haley was ineligible to be president or vice president because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born. This is not true. The Constitution states that a natural-born citizen can be president, and Haley automatically became a U.S. citizen when she was born in South Carolina in 1972. Trump’s use of Haley’s birth name comes as the topic of racism has emerged as a flash point among Republicans on the campaign trail, with Haley recently asserting that the United States is not and never was a racist nation. She earlier stirred controversy for comments in which she initially did not identify slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

Friday wasn’t the first time Trump has mocked Haley’s name. After the Iowa caucuses on Monday, Trump embarked on a tirade against Haley, misspelling her given first name.

“Anyone listening to Nikki ‘Nimrada’ Haley’s wacked out speech last night, would think that she won the Iowa Primary,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “She didn’t, and she couldn’t even beat a very flawed Ron DeSanctimonious, who’s out of money, and out of hope. Nikki came in a distant THIRD!” (DeSanctimonious is a Trump nickname for another GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.)

ny times logoNew York Times, For the Anti-Trump Wing of the G.O.P., It All Comes Down to Tuesday, Lisa Lerer, Michael C. Bender and Jazmine Ulloa, Jan. 20, 2024. The old guard of the Republican Party has rallied around Nikki Haley ahead of New Hampshire’s primary, in a long-shot bid to stop Donald Trump.

The first-in-the-nation primary could be the last stand for the anti-Trump Republican.

new hampshireSince 2016, a shrinking band of Republican strategists, retired lawmakers and donors has tried to oust Donald J. Trump from his commanding position in the party. And again and again, through one Capitol riot, two impeachments, three presidential elections and four criminal indictments, they have failed to gain traction with its voters.

Now, after years of legal, cultural and political crises that upended American norms and expectations, what could be the final battle of the anti-Trump Republicans won’t be waged in Congress or the courts, but in the packed ski lodges and snowy town halls of a state of 1.4 million residents.

Ahead of New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, the old guard of the G.O.P. has rallied around Nikki Haley, viewing her bid as its last, best chance to finally pry the former president from atop its party. Anything but a very close finish for her in the state, where moderate, independent voters make up 40 percent of the electorate, would send Mr. Trump on an all-but-unstoppable march to the nomination.

The Trump opposition is outnumbered and underemployed. The former president’s polarizing style and hard-nosed tactics have pushed many Republicans who oppose him into early retirement and humiliating defeats, or out of the party completely. Yet, their long-running war against him has helped to frame the nominating contest around a central, and deeply tribal, litmus test: loyalty to Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Haley says being Trump’s vice president is ‘off the table,’ Dylan Wells and Amy B Wang, Jan. 20, 2024 (print ed.). Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said Friday that being vice president is “off the table,” her sharpest rejection so far of the notion that she could be former president Donald Trump’s running mate if he ultimately wins the Republican presidential nomination.

During a campaign stop at a diner in New Hampshire, a voter asked Haley if she would vow not to be Trump’s vice president.

“I have said from the very beginning I don’t play for second, I don’t want to be anybody’s vice president. That is off the table,” Haley told the voter, in remarks first reported by Politico and confirmed in a recording obtained by The Washington Post.

Jan. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks Supreme Court to Rule He Is Eligible to Hold Office, Adam Liptak, Jan. 19, 2024 (print ed.). The forceful brief was the former president’s main submission in his appeal of a ruling barring him from the Colorado primary ballot on the ground that he had engaged in insurrection.

Former President Donald J. Trump urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a ruling barring him from the primary ballot in Colorado and to declare him eligible to seek and hold the office of the presidency.

Mr. Trump’s brief, his main submission in an extraordinary case with the potential to alter the course of the presidential election, was a forceful recitation of more than half a dozen arguments about why the Colorado Supreme Court had gone astray in ruling him an insurrectionist barred from office by the Constitution.

“The court should put a swift and decisive end to these ballot-disqualification efforts, which threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans and which promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots,” the brief said.

The case will be argued on Feb. 8, and the court will probably decide it quickly, perhaps by March 5, when many states, including Colorado, hold primaries.

The case turns on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Adopted after the Civil War, it bars those who had taken an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” from holding office if they then “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Congress can remove the prohibition, the provision says, but only by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

The Colorado court ruled that Section 3 covers Mr. Trump in light of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The Colorado case is one of several involving or affecting Mr. Trump on the Supreme Court’s docket or on the horizon. An appeals court is expected to rule in the coming days on whether he has absolute immunity from prosecution, and an appeal to the Supreme Court from that ruling is very likely. And the justices have already agreed to decide on the scope of a central charge in the federal election-interference case against Mr. Trump, with a ruling by June.

Mr. Trump’s brief attacked the Colorado ruling on many grounds. If he persuades a majority of the justices on any one of them, he will prevail. All of Mr. Trump’s arguments are sharply contested, and many of them have come in for withering criticism from prominent legal scholars.

The brief said Mr. Trump himself had not “engaged in insurrection.”

“President Trump never participated in or directed any of the illegal conduct that occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” the brief said. “In fact, the opposite is true, as President Trump repeatedly called for peace, patriotism, and law and order.”

The brief added: “Raising concerns about the integrity of the recent federal election and pointing to reports of fraud and irregularity is not an act of violence or a threat of force. And giving a passionate political speech and telling supporters to metaphorically ‘fight like hell’ for their beliefs is not insurrection either.”

In an earlier brief, Mr. Trump’s lawyers made a broader argument — that the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was not an insurrection at all. The new brief concentrated on Mr. Trump’s own conduct.

“Section 3 is not a vicarious-liability regime,” the brief said, “and there is no legal basis for imputing the conduct of others to President Trump.” It added that Mr. Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment.

The lead lawyer on the new brief was Jonathan F. Mitchell, who rose to prominence as the architect of a novel Texas law that sharply curtailed abortions there by allowing private lawsuits against providers of the procedure.

The brief’s primary argument was that Section 3 did not apply to Mr. Trump because the president was not among the officials covered by the provision. “The president is not an ‘officer of the United States’ as that term is used in the Constitution,” the brief said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Denies Effort to Remove Trump From the Ballot in Washington State, Drew Atkins and Mike Baker, Jan. 19, 2024 (print ed.). Voters had sought to disqualify the former president under the 14th Amendment, following the lead of Colorado and Maine.

A judge in Washington State said on Thursday that former President Donald J. Trump’s name could remain on the state’s primary ballot. The ruling was the latest in a series of battles nationwide over whether Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat make him ineligible to hold the presidency again.

A group of voters had filed a legal challenge asking state officials in Washington to leave Mr. Trump off the Republican primary ballot. But Judge Mary Sue Wilson said that Washington’s secretary of state had acted “consistent with his duties” by including Mr. Trump.

Formal challenges to Mr. Trump’s candidacy have been filed in at least 35 states, according to a New York Times review of court records and other documents. So far, he has been disqualified in only two states: Colorado, by an appeals court ruling, and Maine, by the secretary of state.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Mr. Trump’s appeal of the Colorado decision on Feb. 8. The case could determine his eligibility for the ballot nationally.

As in other states, the voters in Washington argued that Mr. Trump’s actions related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol made him ineligible steve hobbsfor office under the 14th Amendment. Steve Hobbs, right, the secretary of state and Washington’s top election official, has said he does not believe that he has the power to remove Mr. Trump from the primary ballot on his own.

But Mr. Hobbs has said that court rulings could change his decision. A lawyer representing his office asked Judge Wilson on Thursday for a prompt ruling on the challenge to Mr. Trump’s eligibility, because ballots would be going out later this month to voters in the military and overseas.

A lawyer representing the state Republican Party argued that the case brought by voters was flawed for technical reasons, and also because federal courts had not convicted Mr. Trump of any criminal conduct that would disqualify him.

The issue could return after the primary, depending on Mr. Trump’s legal fortunes. Washington State law allows a voter to seek the removal of a candidate from the general election ballot if that candidate has been convicted of a felony, and Mr. Trump faces 91 felony charges as part of various criminal cases against him.

In her ruling, Judge Wilson declined, for now, to rule on Mr. Trump’s eligibility for the general election in November.

Politico Magazine, Elections: Asa Hutchinson Still Believes the GOP Base Will Abandon Trump: ‘It’s Just a Question of When,’ David Siders, Jan. 19, 2024. The former presidential candidate appreciated the White House apology he got this week. But he’s a long way from supporting a Democrat.

politico CustomHe previously was a national political correspondent at POLITICO and, before that, was a senior writer for The Sacramento Bee. Siders graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and from the University of Westminster in London. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and two daughters.

It was hardly surprising to see the Democratic National Committee snarkily mock Asa Hutchinson when he abandoned his longshot presidential campaign this week, calling it “a shock to those of us who could’ve sworn he had already dropped out.”

But what was surprising was that the White House felt compelled to apologize swiftly — and that Jeff Zients, the White House chief of staff, reached out personally to the former Arkansas governor to do it.

Of all the constituencies President Joe Biden needs to worry about, Hutchinson’s following — totaling 191 Iowa caucusgoers on Monday, or 0.2 percent of the vote — hardly tops the list. And it’s not like Hutchinson is about to go out campaigning for the Democratic president, regardless of how critical he’s been of Biden’s likely general election opponent, Donald Trump.

When I asked him what it would take for him even to vote for Biden, Hutchinson told me, “That’s not going to happen.”

But if Hutchinson isn’t gettable for Biden in November, Democrats are counting on the idea that a lot of other people like him might be — traditionalist Republicans and independent voters who find Trump intolerable and who, as many independents did in 2020, could be persuaded to cast a ballot for Biden instead.

The 73-year-old former member of Congress and U.S. attorney had pitched himself to voters as an experienced, conservative alternative to Trump, saying he would not “ support somebody who’s been convicted of a serious felony or who is disqualified under our Constitution.”

But he’d also seen first-hand in Iowa this week how far that got him. When he dropped out of the primary after the caucuses — “driving back to Arkansas,” as he put it — he acknowledged “my message of being a principled Republican with experience and telling the truth about the current front runner did not sell in Iowa.”

Politico, 2024 Elections: Trump keeps his lead in New Hampshire with 4 days until primary, poll shows, Kierra Frazier, Jan. 19, 2024. Campaign activity in New Hampshire ahead of the primary has been relatively sparse.

politico CustomFormer President Donald Trump is maintaining his lead in New Hampshire with four days left until the first-in-the-nation primary, according to a Boston Globe/Suffolk University/NBC-10 Boston tracking poll.

Friday’s poll results show Trump at 52 percent, two percentage points higher than Wednesday’s poll. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has 35 percent of support among likely voters — she had 34 percent two days prior — and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis remained a distant third at 6 percent.

new hampshireSimilar to two days ago, about 87 percent of those surveyed said they were either “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to change their candidate choice ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Campaign activity in New Hampshire ahead of the primary has been sparse. There have been no debates among the candidates, Trump has spent more time in court and Haley is keeping a light (by New Hampshire standards) schedule. DeSantis is effectively ceding the state and moving on to other states such as South Carolina, which holds its primary in a month.

Politico, Tim Scott to endorse Donald Trump, Alex Isenstadt, Jan. 19, 2024. The South Carolina Republican will give the former president his backing at a rally on Friday night.

Sen. Tim Scott will endorse Donald Trump at a rally tonight in New Hampshire, a person familiar with the coming event confirmed.

politico CustomThe senator had competed against Trump for the Republican nomination before bowing out amid a failure to gain traction in the polls.

His decision to back Trump is a blow to Nikki Haley, a fellow South Carolina Republican, who is aiming to have a strong showing in New Hampshire’s upcoming primary. It was Haley who appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012 while serving as governor of the Palmetto state.

Jan. 17

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won a jury verdict that he sexually attacked her three decades ago.

donald trump ny daily pussy

The disclosures in the E. Jean Carroll rape verdict echoed Trump's words in "Hollywood Access" videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Shown Then: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed innocence in the Carroll case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Threatens to Eject Trump From Carroll Trial After His Complaints, Benjamin Weiser, Maria Cramer and Kate Christobek, Jan. 17, 2024. The former president’s right to be at his defamation trial “can be forfeited,” the judge warned. E. Jean Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages for his denials that he sexually assaulted her.

A Manhattan judge overseeing the trial in which the writer E. Jean Carroll has accused Donald J. Trump of defaming her warned the former president Wednesday that he would throw him out of the courtroom if he kept making comments that the jury could hear.

During a break after Ms. Carroll had spent the morning testifying about what happened after she accused Mr. Trump of raping her, one of her lawyers complained, out of the jury’s presence, that Mr. Trump had been overheard speaking at the defense table. He said “witch hunt” and “it was a con job,” loudly enough that jurors could hear, said Shawn Crowley, one of Ms. Carroll’s lawyers.

lewis kaplanJudge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, who had sparred all morning with Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, over her objections to Ms. Carroll’s testimony, appeared to be losing his patience.

“Mr. Trump has a right to be present here,” Judge Kaplan said. “That right can be forfeited and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which is what has been reported to me, and if he disregards court orders.”

He then addressed the former president directly.

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” he said.
Mr. Trump, who had spent most of the morning shaking his head during Ms. Carroll’s testimony, threw up his hands.

“I would love it,” he said.

Judge Kaplan replied: “I understand you’re probably very eager for me to do that because you just can’t control yourself.”

Ms. Carroll, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, has accused Mr. Trump of raping her decades ago in a dressing room in the Bergdorf Goodman department store. He immediately denied her accusation, said he had never met her and accused her of inventing a story to sell her book. Since then, he has made dozens of posts on social media repeating his diatribes against her.

Last May, a jury awarded her about $2 million in damages for the assault and about $3 million for defamation claims based on an October 2022 post on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social website in which he again called her a liar and her accusation a hoax.

Mr. Trump did not testify in that trial or even attend the proceedings, but he said he wanted to attend this week’s trial and take the stand. He has been in the courtroom since it began on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the former president watched and listened as Ms. Carroll, 80, described how those statements affected her.

“He shattered my reputation,” Ms. Carroll said in the federal courtroom in Lower Manhattan as Mr. Trump sat at the defense table.

In the trial this week, Ms. Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages for two statements he made as president in 2019, accusing her of lying about the assault.

Ms. Carroll, the author of five books, appeared regularly on programs like “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show before 2019, when she wrote a book that described the assault in a chapter that was published in New York magazine. Those appearances stopped after Mr. Trump accused her of lying and she was deluged with threats and cruel comments about her looks on social media and in her inbox, according to her lawyers.

“I was attacked,” Ms. Carroll said. “I was attacked on Twitter. I was attacked on Facebook. I was living in a new universe.”

Mr. Trump repeatedly shook his head and exhaled loudly, appearing to scoff.

Ms. Carroll is also seeking punitive damages, intended to punish Mr. Trump and keep him from making further attacks.

The threat of having to pay more damages to Ms. Carroll has not stopped Mr. Trump from commenting publicly about her. On Tuesday, he made 22 posts on Truth Social, including one that showed an image of Ms. Carroll on CNN with the caption, “Can you believe I have to defend myself against this woman’s fake story?!”

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump went after Judge Kaplan, calling him “abusive, rude and obviously not impartial.” He complained that the judge had denied his lawyer’s request to suspend court on Thursday, when the funeral for his mother-in-law, Amalija Knavs, will be held.

“I feel an obligation to be at every moment of this ridiculous trial because we have a seething and hostile Clinton-appointed judge, Lewis Kaplan, who suffers from a major case of Trump Derangement Syndrome,” he wrote.

After the lunch break, a lawyer for Mr. Trump said that there had been “general hostility” toward the defense and asked Judge Kaplan to recuse himself.

“Denied,” Judge Kaplan responded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For Biden, Another Trump Nomination Presents Opportunity, and Great Risk, Peter Baker, Jan. 17, 2024 (print ed.). Some Democrats see Donald Trump as the Republican that President Biden would have the best chance of beating, but also the one they most fear him losing to.

joe biden resized oTo be clear, no one in President Biden’s White House would ever root for Donald J. Trump. To a person, they consider him an existential threat to the nation. But as they watched Mr. Trump open the contest for the Republican presidential nomination with a romp through Iowa, they also saw something else: a pathway to a second term.

Mr. Biden’s best chance of winning re-election in the fall, in their view, is a rematch against Mr. Trump. The former president is so toxic, so polarizing that his presence on the November ballot, as Mr. Biden’s advisers see it, would be the most powerful incentive possible to lure disaffected Democrats and independents back into the camp of the poll-challenged president.

And so, some Democrats felt a little torn this week as the Republican race got underway. None of them would cry if Mr. Trump were taken down by someone like former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who has one shot in New Hampshire next week to make it a race. Whatever Ms. Haley’s flaws, and Democrats see many, they do not believe she would pose the same danger to democracy that Mr. Trump does.

But if she won the Republican nomination, she might pose a bigger danger to Mr. Biden.

The paradox recalls 2016, when many Democrats were not unhappy when Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, on the theory that the country would never elect a bumptious reality-television star who specialized in racist appeals and insult politics. Burned once, they are not so certain this time, but Democrats are banking on the hope that the country would not take back a defeated president who inspired a violent mob to help him keep power and has been charged with more felonies than Al Capone.

biden harris 2024 logo o“I was not one of those Democrats who thought Trump would be easier to beat in 2016,” said Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s communications director in the election she lost to Mr. Trump. “Some Democrats root for Trump. I think it is better for the country” for him “to be defeated in the Republican Party and not continue to gain strength.” If Mr. Trump did lose, she added, she believed Biden could defeat Ms. Haley or Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

But it might not be as easy. Ms. Haley would be vulnerable to Democratic attacks for enabling Mr. Trump as his ambassador to the United Nations, and even as a Republican candidate for president who largely declined to attack the former president and would not rule out voting for him if he won the nomination.

Yet she might not be as radioactive with undecided voters. And unlike Mr. Trump, who is 77, Ms. Haley, at age 51, would have an easier time making a generational case against Mr. Biden, 81, who even most Democratic voters say is too old for another term, according to polls.

A CBS News survey released on Sunday indicated that Ms. Haley was a stronger potential challenger to Mr. Biden than Mr. Trump at this stage of the race. She held an eight-point advantage over the incumbent president in a hypothetical matchup, 53 percent to 45 percent, while Mr. DeSantis had a three-point lead over Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump a two-point edge.

For public consumption, at least, Democrats stick with the we’ll-beat-anyone, they’re-all-tainted-by-Trump line, and the Democratic National Committee began laying the groundwork by regularly attacking her and other G.O.P. alternatives to Mr. Trump since the 2022 midterm elections. “We’ll be ready for Donald Trump or whatever MAGA extremist stumbles out of this process,” Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesman, said on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S.  Election Live Updates: Donald Trump attacked Nikki Haley as the race shifts to a snowy New Hampshire, Chris Cameron, Jan. 17, 2024. Donald J. Trump opted to start his day in a New York courtroom again. He is then scheduled to return to the Granite State, where Nikki Haley, who has been polling in a distant second, says he is dodging her.

There are six days until the New Hampshire primary. Here’s the latest.

Donald J. Trump unleashed a barrage of attacks against Nikki Haley on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, training his attention on the candidate who has crept up on his significant lead in the polls in the Granite State.

Ms. Haley, the former South Carolina governor, has steadily risen in New Hampshire polls, a state where she has courted independent voters who can take part in the Republican primary. At his rally on Tuesday night in Atkinson, he accused her of “artificially boosting” her support by rallying “Democrats and liberals” to support her.

Jan. 16

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Scores Record Win in Iowa; DeSantis Finishes a Distant 2nd, Shane Goldmacher, Jan. 16, 2024. Donald Trump’s triumph puts him closer to the rematch he wants with President Biden. Ron DeSantis finished narrowly ahead of Nikki Haley, a surprise.

 Voters looked past Donald Trump’s legal jeopardy and embraced his vision of vengeful disruption,  Donald J. Trump won the Iowa caucuses in a landslide on Monday, a crucial first step in his bid to claim the Republican nomination in a third consecutive election as voters looked past his mounting legal jeopardy and embraced his vision of vengeful disruption.

Mr. Trump’s record-breaking triumph, called by The Associated Press on Monday night only 31 minutes after the caucuses had begun, gave the former president an important win in a state that had rejected him eight years ago.

But on a bitter cold night, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida finished in a distant second place, according to The A.P. His narrow edge over Nikki Haley in a state where he had increasingly banked his candidacy could provide him some much-needed money and momentum in the battle for the mantle of Mr. Trump’s chief rival.

With Mr. Trump far ahead in most polls, much of the focus heading into the caucuses had been on the race for second, as Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, spent as much time and money attacking each other as they did the front-runner. With Mr. DeSantis finishing ahead of Ms. Haley in Iowa, and her leading him in New Hampshire, the possibility of a two-person race remains elusive for foes of Mr. Trump, who fear a split field will ease his path to the nomination.

Even before the Iowa results were in, Mr. DeSantis had symbolically decided to fly directly to South Carolina after Iowa instead of to New Hampshire, which votes on Jan. 23 and where Ms. Haley is making her next stand.

Mr. Trump is the first former president in the modern era who has sought to return to the White House. On Monday, he easily exceeded the Republican record of 13 percentage points for the largest victory ever in a contested caucus. He was close to winning an outright majority of more than 50 percent, a critical psychological barrier for those in the party still hoping to stop him.

Should Mr. Trump ultimately prevail as the nominee, it would set up a historic potential rematch in November with President Biden that could play out both on the campaign trail and in the courtroom.

Regardless of what comes next, Mr. Trump’s Iowa victory amounts to a remarkable resurrection of a political career that had once appeared in tatters. He was impeached in the final days of his first White House term for his role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. His subsequent acquittal by the Senate left open the possibility of this return campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, See the results of the Iowa G.O.P. caucuses, including a map of every precinct, Jan. 16, 2024. This is our current best estimate for each candidate’s final share of the vote. We look at the reported votes and adjust our estimate based on what we expect from the votes that remain. Read more about how it works.

  • Trump 51% of final vote
  • DeSantis 21%
  • Haley 19%
  • Ramaswamy 8%
  • Binkley 1%

ny times logoNew York Times, DeSantis’s Iowa Letdown: A Distant Second Place Behind Trump, Nicholas Nehamas and Jonathan Swan, Jan. 16, 2024. Gov. Ron DeSantis is running low on campaign cash and faces tough tests ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina, but vowed to stay in the race.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida may have done just enough in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night to argue that he still belongs in the race to defeat Donald J. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

But his distant second-place finish had all the feelings of a disaster, given how much time and money he invested in the state, and it calls into question his ability to stay in the nominating contest, with his campaign cash running low and tough tests ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Mr. DeSantis, who entered the field as one of its most compelling contenders, just barely managed to hold off a late surge from Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor.

Mr. Trump defeated both candidates so soundly on Monday night that the race was called in his favor by The Associated Press just 31 minutes after the caucuses got underway. The early call — while some Iowans were still caucusing — gave Mr. DeSantis’s team a lifeline to blame the news media for a disappointing performance.

Mr. DeSantis, who addressed his supporters at a hotel ballroom in West Des Moines, criticized the news media and noted that his opponents had spent heavily against him, but did his best to spin his second-place finish into a positive result. He vowed to stay in the race.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attends opening of E. Jean Carroll defamation trial, Staff report, Jan. 16, 2024. Another civil case against former president Donald Trump begins this week. It is the second trial to be held in a pair of cases against Trump brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll.

The trial is expected to be brief and very limited in scope, because a jury, which could be selected as early as Tuesday, will be asked only to determine whether damages should be awarded for defamatory comments Trump made in 2019 while he was in office.

Carroll has already been awarded $5 million at a previous trial in Manhattan federal court for sexual abuse and defamation related to comments Trump made in 2022, which echoed the disparaging remarks Trump made two years before.

Based on that verdict, the judge overseeing the cases, Lewis A. Kaplan, said that no new evidence needed to be presented on the issue of whether Carroll suffered reputational harm.

Trump denies that any sexual encounter occurred.

He has called Carroll a liar, painted her as mentally ill and has suggested he would never have approached her romantically because she wasn’t his “type.”

Carroll has said Trump raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s after a chance encounter. Both were public figures at the time.

Two of Carroll’s friends testified at the first trial that she told them about the assault.

 

iowa map

Frozen Iowa

 

seth abramson graphicProof, Investigative Commentary: The Top 10 Warning Signs for Trump After Iowa, Seth Abramson, Jan. 16, 2024. Some in major media are treating the Trump victory on Monday as a knockout blow in the GOP primary. And while Trump may well go on to be the GOP nominee, journalists are ignoring some startling data.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: CNN’s post-Iowa caucuses headline summarized the mood of American media: “Trump’s Landslide Iowa Win Is a Stunning Show of Strength After Leaving Washington in Disgrace”

Proof can agree on at least one of the many implications of that lede: as this outlet has said for almost two years, Trump is almost certain to be the 2024 Republican Party nominee for president. But that doesn’t mean journalists can stop doing their jobs.

ICE logoA number of major warning signs for Trump were missed by American media as it raced to congratulate Donald Trump for his win in Iowa, which knocked out two of his lesser opponents—Vivek Ramaswamy (R-OH) and Ada Hutchinson (R-AK)—and caused Trump to change his previously callous tone toward his remaining two rivals (Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Ron DeSantis of Florida) in a bid to pretend that the upcoming first primary of 2024 (in New Hampshire in a week) doesn’t matter at all.

djt maga hatThe fact that the former president is neck-and-neck with Haley in the Granite State is almost certainly what now has him telling supporters (and his opponents) that it is time for the GOP to rally around him after just one night of voting—a night, by the way, in which a party that says it’s obsessed with secure election procedures tossed scraps of paper into popcorn tubs to settle on a winner.

What’s almost as surprising is how quick major media has been to echo Trump’s self-serving narrative, an especially odd decision given that the Iowa caucuses are famous for predicting who the Republican base likes best at the moment but not who has a real chance of winning a general election. And with Trump having been found liable for Rape by a federal court and still facing 91 state and federal felony charges, it certainly seems like the 2024 Iowa results could again follow this well-established pattern.

With all that in mind, here are The Top 10 Warning Signs for Trump After Iowa.

The Top 10 Warning Signs for Trump After Iowa

(1) Turnout

Just 15.3% of Iowa Republicans came out to vote. Yes, the weather was abysmal, but in 2016 the party saw more than 50% higher turnout. That’s astounding, given that Trump had been thought to be a major motivator in getting Republican “base” voters to vote.

A reasonable question to ask, now, is whether the low (and partly weather-affected) turnout aided Trump, whose fans are known for their cultish, almost slavish devotion to him (pre-caucus, he told them to risk spreading illnesses to their neighbors or even to court death from hypothermia or a car accident to aid him, and it appears not one of them batted an eyelash at such a gauche, nakedly sociopathic appeal).

(2) Margin

As MSNBC reported, this was the worst margin of victory for someone who has been a sitting president in Iowa caucus history. While many caucus-watchers will be solely fixated on the top-line number from Monday—Trump got 51% of the votes—the fact remains that nearly half of voters in a solidly red, supposedly very pro-Trump state do not want the most recent Republican President of the United States to be their party’s 2024 nominee for that job.

And it’s not just how many caucus-goers—again, more or less half—opposed Trump. It’s also the fact that, in a nominating process in which we sometimes see up to 16 or 18 Democrats or Republicans left standing heading into the Iowa caucuses, last night just two candidates were by themselves able to rack up over 40% of the total vote. This would seem to suggest that (a) the opposition to Trump isn’t as fragmented as he may have hoped for at this point in the nominating process, and (b) if or when one of those two Trump opponents drops out of the race, hr could be facing very tight primaries in U.S. states that are more moderate than Iowa—which, these days, is most of them.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Trump’s Runaway Victory in the Iowa Caucuses, Lisa Lerer, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Jan. 16, 2024. The former president crushed Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley and also benefited from their close battle for second, which seems set to prolong a three-way race.

After nearly a year of campaigning, more than $123 million in advertising and an inglorious, frozen-over finish, the Iowa caucuses ended much as the race began: Donald J. Trump, the dominant front-runner, was declared the winner before most of the votes had even been cast.

Mr. Trump’s overwhelming victory again demonstrated his enduring command of the Republican Party. Far behind him, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida narrowly pulled ahead of Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor. Their close finish gave both a rationale for continuing their campaigns, which is likely to help Mr. Trump.

The contest now turns to New Hampshire, a more moderate state both in temperature and temperament, where polls show Ms. Haley with more support. After so many months of attacks between her and Mr. DeSantis, the old political trope held true: In 2024, there are three “tickets” out of Iowa. But Mr. Trump rides away on a bullet train.

Here are five takeaways.

As his rivals spent weeks campaigning across the state, Mr. Trump flew into Iowa only about a dozen times. Key Republican figures in the state, including Gov. Kim Reynolds and top evangelical leaders, endorsed his rivals. Yet by the time Mr. Trump took the stage for his victory speech, he appeared on track to win 98 of the state’s 99 counties, with him and Ms. Haley neck and neck in the final one.

Mr. Trump’s sweep of the caucuses was broad and deep. He outperformed Mr. DeSantis in conservative strongholds, including northwest Iowa, which is home to many evangelical voters who were heavily courted by the Florida governor. And even in more moderate suburban counties surrounding Des Moines, which were considered favorable terrain for Ms. Haley, Mr. Trump won, albeit with far tighter margins.

The technology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who cast himself as a younger heir to Mr. Trump’s MAGA movement, captured less than 8 percent of votes. He quickly suspended his campaign and endorsed Mr. Trump on Monday evening.

Much of the battle in Iowa had been over expectations: Would Mr. Trump win more than 50 percent of the vote? Even as he bragged about his huge advantage in polls, his aides tried to lower the bar to a winning margin of 12 percentage points, the biggest recorded in a competitive Republican presidential race in the state. With the former president finishing at 51 percent to Mr. DeSantis’s 21 percent and Ms. Haley’s 19 percent, he exceeded both markers.

DeSantis won a Pyrrhic fight for second.

Though he edged out Ms. Haley for second, it’s hard to see a clear path forward for Mr. DeSantis — and it’s unclear how long he will have enough money to forge ahead.

Mr. DeSantis had staked his campaign on Iowa and promised more than once that he would win the caucuses.

Mr. DeSantis checked every box that would usually be required to carry Iowa. He visited all 99 counties, stopped by tiny towns and pubs, and took questions from locals and the press. He won over Governor Reynolds and put to use the vast network of the evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. His super PAC spent tens of millions of dollars on a door-knocking program of unrivaled scale.

He tried to run to Mr. Trump’s right — portraying him as insufficiently conservative — and the strategy failed. There simply weren’t enough Republicans who wanted to move on from Mr. Trump.

Now, he heads to nominating states that are far less hospitable and where he enjoys none of the ideological advantages he had in Iowa. He faces more moderate voters in New Hampshire — where he is polling in third or even fourth place — and is expected to lose badly to Mr. Trump in Nevada, which holds its caucuses next.

If Mr. DeSantis remains in the race beyond that point, he would move on to South Carolina, where Mr. Trump is beloved and where Ms. Haley is a former governor.

Haley’s rising hopes were dampened.

Measured against the expectations of last summer, Ms. Haley had a heartening night, even if only her most wishful supporters could squint hard enough to see a path to ultimate victory. For most of last year, Ms. Haley polled in the single digits in Iowa. She had little money and no field organization. Mr. DeSantis enjoyed overwhelming head starts in cash, staff and local support.

Turnout was low for freezing, low-drama caucuses.

Turnout fell far short of the last contested Republican caucuses, in 2016, when nearly 187,000 Iowans helped choose their party nominee.

This year, only about 110,000 people participated. The low turnout could be another mark against a quirky process that has come under intense criticism in recent years.

The caucuses — with their 7 p.m. meeting time and extended process — bear little resemblance to voting in most of the country. They also attract only a fraction of the participation: Roughly 15 percent of the nearly 720,000 registered Republicans in Iowa took part this year.

Even in more robust years, the caucuses have a dismal record of picking the Republican nominee. In the seven contested Republican races since 1980, only two winners in Iowa have captured the party’s nomination: Senator Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996 and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas in 2000.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Most Durable Force in American Politics: Trump’s Ties to His Voters, Michael C. Bender and Katie Glueck, Jan. 16, 2024. If Donald Trump’s rivals want to stop his rise, they’ll need to break his bond with his supporters. They didn’t come close in Iowa.

Bill Clinton once explained the nation’s two political parties by saying that Democrats want to fall in love while Republicans want to fall in line.

That adage has not withstood the Trump era. Today, it is Republicans who are besotted.

Donald J. Trump’s decisive victory in Iowa revealed a new depth to the reservoir of devotion inside his party. For eight years, he has nurtured a relationship with his supporters with little precedent in politics. He validates them, he entertains them, he speaks for them and he uses them for his political and legal advantage.

This connection — a hard-earned bond for some, a cult of personality to others — has unleashed one of the most durable forces in American politics.

Iowa Republicans, following the lead of party officials across the country, rallied behind the former president despite a list of reasons to reject him. Republicans lost control of the presidency, the Senate and the House during his four years in office. He failed to deliver the red wave of victories he promised in the 2022 midterms. He has been charged with 91 felonies in four criminal cases this past year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: With Trump’s win, Liz Cheney and anti-MAGA GOP voters face a choice, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 16, 2024. With four-jennifer rubin new headshottime-indicted former president Donald Trump’s expected win in Iowa coupled with the close race for second, the 2024 race may come to resemble the 2016 contest when Republican alternatives divided up the not-Trump vote.

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley’s finish no doubt disappoints establishment Republicans looking for a Trump alternative. So, while the race is not over quite yet, it will be soon enough. Republicans not enamored with a right-wing authoritarian will then face two critical choices:

If Trump is the nominee, will it be time to depart from the Republican Party? And if the answer is yes, what to do in November and beyond?

Former Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney, who has become the most articulate voice of sanity on the right, does not want to crush one of the challengers’ chances, no matter how slight. So don’t expect her to do anything to foreclose whatever small possibility remains to defeat Trump in the primaries. That said, Cheney has begun to look ahead.

Last week, Cheney gave her most succinct and clear answer about her outlook on 2024. It bears emphasizing that she is not giving herself or others an “out” by suggesting they all hop on a third-party train to nowhere. Instead, she delivered the hard news: “There are some conservatives who are trying to make this claim that somehow [President] Biden is a bigger risk than Trump,” she said on “The View.” “My view is I disagree with a lot of Joe Biden’s policies. We can survive bad policies. We cannot survive torching the Constitution.”

Jan. 14

 djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, How College-Educated Republicans Learned to Love Trump Again, Michael C. Bender, Jan. 14, 2024. White working-class voters are Donald Trump’s base. But his resurgence has been fueled by Republicans from the other end of the socioeconomic scale.

Working-class voters delivered the Republican Party to Donald J. Trump. College-educated conservatives may ensure that he keeps it.

Often overlooked in an increasingly blue-collar party, voters with a college degree remain at the heart of the lingering Republican cold war over abortion, foreign policy and cultural issues.

These voters, who have long been more skeptical of Mr. Trump, have quietly powered his remarkable political recovery inside the party — a turnaround over the past year that has notably coincided with a cascade of 91 felony charges in four criminal cases.

Even as Mr. Trump dominates Republican primary polls ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Monday, it was only a year ago that he trailed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in some surveys — a deficit due largely to the former president’s weakness among college-educated voters. Mr. DeSantis’s advisers viewed the party’s educational divide as a potential launching point to overtake Mr. Trump for the nomination.

Then came Mr. Trump’s resurgence, in which he rallied every corner of the party, including the white working class. But few cross-sections of Republicans rebounded as much as college-educated conservatives, a review of state and national polls during the past 14 months shows.

This phenomenon cuts against years of wariness toward Mr. Trump by college-educated Republicans, unnerved by his 2020 election lies and his seemingly endless craving for controversy.

Their surge toward the former president appears to stem largely from a reaction to the current political climate rather than a sudden clamoring to join the red-capped citizenry of MAGA nation, according to interviews with nearly two dozen college-educated Republican voters.

Many were incredulous over what they described as excessive and unfair legal investigations targeting the former president. Others said they were underwhelmed by Mr. DeSantis and viewed Mr. Trump as more likely to win than former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Several saw Mr. Trump as a more palatable option because they wanted to prioritize domestic problems over foreign relations and were frustrated with high interest rates.

“These are Fox News viewers who are coming back around to him,” said David Kochel, a Republican operative in Iowa with three decades of experience in campaign politics. “These voters are smart enough to see the writing on the wall that Trump is going to win, and essentially want to get this over with and send him off to battle Biden.”

As the presidential nominating season commences, college-educated Republicans face a profound decision. Whether they stick with Mr. Trump, swing back to Mr. DeSantis or align behind Ms. Haley will help set the party’s course heading into November and for years to come.

iowa map

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, a pivotal survey showed Donald Trump far ahead of his rivals, Chris Cameron, Jan. 14, 2024. Former President Donald J. Trump has a commanding lead going into Monday’s caucuses in Iowa, with a key poll released on Saturday night showing that he has the support of 48 percent of likely caucusgoers. Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina is narrowly leading Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the race for second place, 20 percent to 16 percent.

After tens of millions of dollars spent on television ads, mailers and a marathon of campaign events across the state in the past year, the race is coming to a close in much the same way it started: Mr. Trump is the odds-on favorite to win in Iowa, most likely by a significant margin.

While the new survey — known as the Iowa poll and conducted by The Des Moines Register and others — showed Mr. Trump’s lead slipping slightly, the former president is still so far ahead of his rivals that his support eclipses that of all the other candidates combined, 48 percent to 45 percent. Vivek Ramaswamy, the wealthy entrepreneur who has campaigned heavily in Iowa, was in fourth place, with the support of 8 percent of voters. Seven percent said they did not yet have a first-choice candidate.

The survey is a promising sign for the Trump campaign, which is hoping for an overwhelming victory in Iowa to shut out competitors and assert that Mr. Trump is all but guaranteed to win the nomination.

With the campaign largely frozen in recent days by a severe snowstorm, and bitter cold weather forecast through the night of the caucuses, Mr. Trump’s rivals face an additional hurdle to encourage their voters to turn out on Monday.

Mr. Trump is also seeking to squeeze support from Mr. Ramaswamy in the final day before the vote. The former president and one of his senior advisers attacked Mr. Ramaswamy on Saturday, apparently calculating that the fervently pro-Trump businessman is drawing some support, however marginal, that could instead help expand Mr. Trump’s victory on caucus night.

In other news:

  • Mr. DeSantis’s top surrogates have set high expectations for his performance in the caucuses. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Bob Vander Plaats, the influential evangelical leader, have both told voters that Mr. DeSantis will win on Monday. He has slipped to third place behind Ms. Haley in the Iowa poll.
  • While Mr. Trump canceled two in-person rallies this weekend, Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis pushed ahead with campaign events on Saturday despite blizzard conditions and life-threatening wind chills, reflecting just how much more they have to lose from a worse-than-expected performance in Monday’s caucuses.
  • Mr. Trump’s campaign instead turned a hotel ballroom in Des Moines into a makeshift studio for a live-streamed town hall. Mr. Trump continued his recent strategy of portraying himself as the presumptive nominee and relentlessly promoting his record in office, often by exaggerating — or even concocting — statistics.

Jan. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Iowa pastors say video depicting Trump as godly is ‘very concerning,’ Ken Bensinger, Jan. 12, 2024 (print ed.). A viral video praising former President Donald J. Trump has offended a key Iowa constituency in the lead-up to next week’s critical Iowa caucuses: faith leaders.

The video, which Mr. Trump first posted to Truth Social last Friday and then played before taking the stage at several rallies in Iowa over the weekend, is called “God Made Trump.” In starkly religious, almost messianic tones, it depicts the former president as the vessel of a higher power sent to save the nation.

“God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker,’ so God gave us Trump,” begins the video, which appears to use artificial intelligence to mimic the voice of Paul Harvey, a conservative radio broadcaster who died in 2009. Mr. Trump, it adds, “is a shepherd to mankind who won’t ever leave nor forsake them.”

Since the video was posted, it has been widely shared, racked up millions of views and drawn a lot of attention. But much of that attention has been negative, particularly among Iowa’s pastors, some of whom said they were shocked and offended by the content.

“It was very concerning,” said Pastor Joseph Brown of the Marion Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, Iowa, a town of 7,500 people about 40 minutes south of Iowa City. He took issue, he said, with how it used language plucked from the Bible — such as describing Mr. Trump’s arms as “strong” yet “gentle” — to compare Mr. Trump directly to God, rather than a servant of a higher power.

“The original sin of Satan or Lucifer is not that he wanted to take over God’s position but that he wanted to be like God. There is only one god, and it’s not Trump or any other man,” said Mr. Brown, who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and 2020 but says he will not this year.

The opinions of religion leaders like Mr. Brown carry considerable weight in Iowa. More than three-quarters of the state’s population identifies as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center, and 28 percent of the population describes themselves as evangelicals — both measures are well above the national average. What’s more, the preponderance of voters in Iowa primary elections have historically been evangelicals.

Mr. Trump, who rarely attends church, has nonetheless managed to gain the support of a large swath of the nation’s faithful — particularly less traditional, non-churchgoing Christians. But the cohort has not universally embraced him.

A high-profile example came in November, when the Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats endorsed one of his rivals in the primary race, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

For pastors like Darran Whiting of Liberty Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, who say they would never vote for Mr. Trump, the video only underscores why.

“God has ordained servant leadership, not the arrogant, self-serving righteous leadership that particular video portrays,” said Mr. Whiting, who plans to vote for Mr. DeSantis. He noted that while Mr. Trump’s campaign did not make the video, the former president’s decision to share it speaks to his endorsement of its message.

The clip’s authors are members of the Dilley Meme Team, an organized collective of video producers who call themselves “Trump’s Online War Machine.” The group’s leader, Brenden Dilley, describes himself as Christian and a man of faith, but says he has never read the Bible and does not attend church. He has said that Mr. Trump has “God-tier genetics” and, in response to outcry over the “God Made Trump” video, he posted a meme depicting Mr. Trump as Moses parting the Red Sea.

Other members of the meme team frequently express religious faith, and one, a musician named Michael Beatty, has recorded several albums of original Christian songs. Multiple passages in “God Made Trump” hew closely to language from the Bible, and they are delivered in a voice that sounds nearly identical to Mr. Harvey’s when he spoke at the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. That speech was called “So God Made a Farmer.”

A different oratory by Mr. Harvey, 1965’s “If I Were the Devil,” is the seeming inspiration for another video created by the Dilley Meme Team that went viral last summer. Called “If I Were the Deep State,” it also features a voice-over that sounds like Mr. Harvey, a symbol of Midwestern practically and old-fashioned conservative values, in this case delivering ominous lines about fraudulent elections, corrupt prosecutors and the medical establishment.

“If I was the Deep State, you would fear to ever resist me,” the video intones. “If I was the Deep State, you would wish I was really the devil.”

djt wind jim watson afp getty

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Greatest Threat Posed by Trump, David French, right, Jan. 12, 2024. If Donald Trump storms through Iowa and easily david french croppedseizes the G.O.P. nomination, as presumed, and then goes on to win back the presidency, his victory will trigger a wild political and legal melee.

The primary motivating purpose of his campaign is vengeance. He’s told his base that he is their retribution and has promised to “totally obliterate” the deep state. If he faces protests, he may immediately invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy troops, under his command, to American cities.

Although we experienced a related melee during his first term, a second would be substantially worse. Instead of offering an internally divided administration, in which a variety of responsible aides and appointees struggled to contain Trump’s worst impulses, a second term would present him in his purest form. His MAGA base would replace the Federalist Society as the screener of his judicial appointments, and there are now a sufficient number of pure Trump sycophants to staff his White House from top to bottom.

I dread the division and conflict of a second Trump term, and I don’t minimize the possibility of Trump doing permanent political damage to the Republic. But the problem I’m most concerned about isn’t the political melee, it’s the ongoing cultural transformation of red America, a transformation that a second Trump term could well render unstoppable.

To put the matter as simply as possible: Eight years of bitter experience have taught us that supporting Trump degrades the character of his core supporters. There are still millions of reluctant Trump voters, people who’ve retained their kindness, integrity and good sense even as they cast a ballot for the past and almost certainly future G.O.P. nominee. I have friends and family members who vote for Trump, and I love them dearly. But the most enduring legacy of a second Trump term could well be the conviction on the part of millions of Americans that Trumpism isn’t just a temporary political expediency, but the model for Republican political success and — still worse — the way that God wants Christian believers to practice politics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: MAGA Has Devoured American Evangelicalism, Michelle Goldberg, right, Jan. 12, 2024. Tim Alberta’s recent book about the michelle goldberg thumbChristian nationalist takeover of American evangelicalism, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, is full of preachers and activists on the religious right expressing sheepish second thoughts about their prostration before Donald Trump.

Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas — whom Texas Monthly once called “Trump’s apostle” for his slavish Trump boosterism — admitted to Alberta in 2021 that turning himself into a politician’s theological hype man may have compromised his spiritual mission. “I had that internal conversation with myself — and I guess with God, too — about, you know, when do you cross the line?” he said, allowing that the line had, “perhaps,” been crossed.

Such qualms grew more vocal after voter revulsion toward MAGA candidates cost Republicans their prophesied red wave in 2022.

But there’s not going to be a post-Trump religious right — at least, not anytime soon. Evangelical leaders who started their alliance with Trump on a transactional basis, then grew giddy with their proximity to power, have now seen MAGA devour their movement whole.

From this wreckage has emerged a version of evangelicalism that sometimes seems like a brand-new religion, with Trump at the center of it.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know After Closing Arguments in Trump’s Civil Fraud Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Jan. 12, 2024. A judge’s decision lies ahead, and appeals are highly likely. But the case could end Donald Trump’s decades-long role in New York real estate.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial went out with a bang on Thursday, with the former president delivering an impassioned defense during closing arguments.

Mr. Trump attacked both the New York attorney general who brought the case and the judge overseeing it, casting himself as a victim of what he claimed was their partisan crusade against him. The attorney general’s office countered that, leaving aside his denials and antics, Mr. Trump orchestrated a sweeping fraud in which he inflated his net worth to obtain favorable loans and other benefits.

The dueling narratives marked a chaotic end to a trial that had unnerved Mr. Trump and threatened his family business.

Politico, Trump’s latest about-face: He now says 2020 election was ‘long over,’ Kyle Cheney and Betsy Woodruff Swan, Jan. 12, 2024. It’s a new piece of rhetoric that Trump hopes will help him win immunity from his criminal charges.

politico CustomIn the months after the 2020 election, Donald Trump leaned on his campaign to launch ad blitzes and legal challenges to the results, insisting to his supporters that the election was “a long way from over.” He even told state and federal courts he was suing in his capacity as a political candidate.

Now, in a bid to derail criminal charges, he’s saying the opposite. At least six times in the past two weeks, Trump has declared that the election was “long over” by the time he began pushing state officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn his defeat.

It’s a new piece of rhetoric that’s meant to bolster Trump’s assertion of “presidential immunity” from his criminal charges for interfering with the transfer of power. He wasn’t a candidate anymore, Trump’s new theory goes, so he must have been doing his job as president to ensure elections are fair.

Jan. 11


Former president Donald J. Trump, flanked by his lawyers Christopher M. Kise and Alina Habba, during closing arguments in his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Thursday (Pool photo by Shannon Stapleton via The New York Times).Former president Donald J. Trump, flanked by his lawyers Christopher M. Kise and Alina Habba, during closing arguments in his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Thursday (Pool photo by Shannon Stapleton via The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Civil Fraud Trial: Trump Delivers Final Words of His Closing Arguments in Fraud Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and Kate Christobek, Jan. 11, 2024. He directly attacked New York’s attorney general and the judge overseeing the case. The former president faces a $370 million penalty in the trial, which threatens his family business.

Donald J. Trump on Thursday delivered abrupt remarks in his own defense on the final day of his civil fraud trial in Manhattan, attacking the New York attorney general, who brought the case, insulting the judge to his face and declaring himself “an innocent man.”

Mr. Trump’s remarks were chaotic and emotional and lasted only minutes, during which he impugned the attorney general, Letitia James, a Democrat, saying she “hates Trump and uses Trump to get elected.”

He also took aim at the judge, Arthur F. Engoron, remarking, “You have your own agenda, I certainly understand that.” He added, as the judge stared stonily at him, “You can’t listen for more than one minute.”

Justice Engoron instructed the former president’s lawyer to “control your client.” But Mr. Trump continued until the lunch break, at which point he stopped as suddenly as he had started.

The episode ushered in a dramatic conclusion to a monthslong trial that has enraged the former president and threatens his family business.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had initially put forward his plan to speak in his own defense last week, but the judge imposed limits on his remarks. Justice Engoron ruled that the former president could not deliver “a campaign speech” or attack the judge, his staff or Ms. James. Mr. Trump’s legal team objected, apparently scuttling his plan to speak, until one of his lawyers renewed the request at the end of the defense’s closing arguments on Thursday and the judge permitted it.

But despite the judge’s objections and restrictions, the former president appeared to speak his mind exactly as he had planned, reiterating that he “did nothing wrong,” and arguing that the attorney general “should pay me” for what he’s gone through.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers kicked off the closing arguments Thursday with an attack on Ms. James, who brought the case accusing Mr. Trump of fraudulently inflating his net worth. Painting Ms. James as a rogue official, Mr. Trump’s legal team argued that she had no actual evidence buttressing her claims, only partisan talking points.

“This entire case is a manufactured claim to pursue a political agenda,” said Christopher M. Kise, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, as the former president looked on from the defense table. “It has always been press releases and posturing, but no proof at all,” adding that “not one witness came into this courtroom” to say that “there was fraud.”

Lawyers for Ms. James are now expected to counter that the former president violated state laws by exaggerating his net worth to obtain favorable loans and other financial benefits. The accusation strikes at the heart of Mr. Trump’s presentation of himself as a real estate visionary and has made Ms. James one of his chief antagonists.

Ms. James’s lawyers will highlight internal emails and the testimony of onetime Trump employees to assert that Mr. Trump’s actions warrant a severe punishment. Ms. James wants to extract a $370 million penalty, and to oust Mr. Trump from his own company and the wider world of New York real estate.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Thursday began to offer a competing narrative: that Ms. James fell woefully short of showing that the former president had orchestrated a fraud.

Mr. Kise argued that the documents at the heart of the case — Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements containing values of his properties — were essentially irrelevant to loans the former president received. He noted that Mr. Trump’s banks were hardly victims — they profited and extolled the former president as a reliable borrower during the trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police respond to bomb threat at home of judge in Trump N.Y. fraud trial, Amy B Wang and Shayna Jacobs, Updated Jan. 11, 2024. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, right, received a bomb threat to his Long Island home early Thursday, hours before closing arthur engoran judgearguments were set to begin in the $370 million civil fraud trial against Donald Trump, his company and others, court spokesman Al Baker said.

“We have been at a heightened security posture for the entirety of the proceedings and that continues,” Baker said. “Additional layers of security will be added out of concern for Justice Engoron.”

The Nassau County Police Department confirmed that they were investigating a “swatting” incident that occurred about 5:30 a.m. Thursday at a residence in Great Neck, N.Y., but declined to provide further details.

The closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil case moved forward as planned Thursday, with only a slight delay. Engoron entered the courtroom minutes after the proceedings were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., and opened by expressing gratitude for the many months of work the attorneys on the case have done. He did not address the bomb threat to his home.

Jan. 10

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, One of Trump’s Oldest Tactics: I’m Rubber. You’re Glue, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 10, 2024. Whenever Donald Trump is accused of something, he accuses his opponent of the same thing. The idea is to suggest that everyone is dirty.

Days before the Iowa caucuses, former President Donald J. Trump is appearing twice in court this week — on Tuesday in Washington and Thursday in New York.

He was not required to attend either hearing. But advisers say he believes the court appearances dramatize what is fast becoming a central theme of his campaign: that President Biden — who is describing the likely Republican nominee as a peril to the country — is the true threat to American democracy.

Mr. Trump’s claim is the most outlandish and baseless version of a tactic he has used throughout his life in business and politics. Whenever he is accused of something — no matter what that something is — he responds by accusing his opponent of that exact thing. The idea is less to argue that Mr. Trump is clean than to suggest that everyone else is dirty.

It is an impulse more than a strategy. But in Mr. Trump’s campaigns, that impulse has sometimes aligned with his political interests. By this way of thinking, the more cynical voters become, the more likely they are to throw their hands in the air, declare, “They’re all the same” and start comparing the two candidates on issues the campaign sees as favorable to Mr. Trump, like the economy and immigration.

His flattening moral relativism has undergirded his approach to nearly every facet of American public life, including democracy.

Politico, Trump’s immunity claim gets frosty reception at appeals court, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Jan. 10, 2024 (print  ed.). With Trump looking on, three judges grilled his lawyer on his claim that he cannot be prosecuted for subverting the 2020 election.

politico CustomA federal appeals court panel strongly suggested Tuesday that it would reject Donald Trump’s claims of immunity from criminal charges related to his effort to subvert the 2020 election.

djt march 2020 CustomWith Trump looking on, the three judges expressed deep skepticism of his contention that a president could not be prosecuted — even for assassinating a rival or selling military secrets — if he were not first impeached and convicted by Congress.

“I think it’s paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate criminal law,” said Judge Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee.

Despite that inclination, the judges — who also include Biden appointees Florence Pan and Michelle Childs — appeared divided during Tuesday’s oral argument over how to shape their decision. Their ruling, no matter where they land, is likely to trigger a further appeal to the Supreme Court for a final determination on whether Trump’s criminal trial in Washington, D.C. will take place this year.

That trial is currently scheduled to begin March 4, but it is likely to be postponed by the litigation over Trump’s immunity claims. His claims hinge on his argument that the charges against him, brought by special counsel Jack Smith, arose out of his official acts as president. Smith alleges that Trump tried to disenfranchise American voters and defraud the nation by spreading lies about the 2020 election and attempting to cling to power.
This artist sketch depicts former President Donald Trumplistening as his attorney D. John Sauer speaks before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump speaks to the media after attending the federal appeals court hearing Washington on Jan. 9, as attorneys John Lauro (left) and D. John Sauer (right) look on. | Dana Verkouteren via AP

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is set to preside over the trial, rejected Trump’s immunity claims last month, prompting Trump to appeal the matter and effectively put the trial proceedings on hold until the immunity issue is resolved.

During Tuesday’s hearing, which lasted over an hour, the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals seemed inclined to uphold Chutkan’s ruling — but the precise reasoning they might use, and how quickly they might rule, remained unclear.

Trump’s attorney, John Sauer, argued that permitting Smith’s case to proceed would trigger a “republic-shattering” cycle of recrimination in which future presidents would reflexively prosecute their predecessors from opposing parties.

To “authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts would open a Pandora’s Box from which this nation may never recover,” Sauer said.

All three appeals judges, however, sounded dubious. Pan, for instance, said that dismissing the Trump prosecution would have its own set of ill effects on the nation, like weakening the enforcement of criminal laws or diminishing the Constitution’s guarantee that executive power will be vested in a duly elected president.

While most of Sauer’s arguments seemed aimed at the judges, his presentation was also peppered with political fodder directed at audiences outside the courtroom.

He described Trump as President Joe Biden’s “number one political opponent” and “greatest political threat.” In one hypothetical, Sauer said denying immunity to Trump would make it possible for Biden to be prosecuted in federal court in Texas after leaving office for failing to secure the border with Mexico.

During his rebuttal argument near the end of the hearing, Sauer declared that Trump was “leading in every poll.” That’s a point Trump also emphasized at a post-hearing press conference at a nearby hotel.

Trump, who was not required to attend the hearing but left the campaign trail to do so, appeared largely stoic throughout the proceedings. He at times wrote some thoughts in sharpie on a legal pad that he shared with his legal team.

Smith was also present, flanked by top aides Michael Dreeben, Ray Hulser and James Pearce, who argued for the prosecutors.

When Pearce brushed off Trump’s claimed fear about a “vindictive tit-for-tat,” Trump visibly shook his head. He was accompanied in the courtroom by aides Boris Epshteyn and Walt Nauta, a co-defendant in a separate criminal case brought by Smith in Florida over Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents.

Trump was seated just a few feet away from Smith, whom he frequently calls “deranged.” Smith came into the room well before Trump and the two men did not appear to lock glances.

Jan. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court to Hear Arguments on Trump’s Claim of Immunity, Alan Feuer, Jan. 9, 2024. Judges will hear arguments on a question that has paralyzed the 2020 election case: whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution.

Federal prosecutors and lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump will square off on Tuesday morning in front of an appeals court in Washington over one of the most important questions surrounding the criminal indictment accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election: whether Mr. Trump is immune to the charges because they arose from actions he took while in the White House.

The hearing in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could help decide when — or even whether — Mr. Trump will go to trial in the election interference case, which is unfolding in Federal District Court in Washington. It could also go a long way in determining the timing of the three other criminal trials that Mr. Trump is facing in the months ahead.

Jan. 6

Then-President Donald Trump, left and future President Joe Biden and shown during a 2020 debate in Associated Press photos by Patrick Semansky on Sept. 29,  2020.

Then-President Donald Trump, left and future President Joe Biden and shown during a 2020 debate in Associated Press photos by Patrick Semansky on Sept. 29, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Clashing Over Jan. 6, Trump and Biden Show Reality Is at Stake in 2024, Michael C. Bender, Lisa Lerer and Michael Gold, Jan. 6, 2024. Former President Trump and President Biden are framing the election as a battle for democracy — with Mr. Trump brazenly casting Mr. Biden as the true menace.

Rarely in American politics has a leading presidential candidate made such grave accusations about a rival: warning that he is willing to violate the Constitution. Claiming that he is eager to persecute political rivals. Calling him a dire threat to democracy.

Those arguments have come from President Biden’s speeches, including his forceful address on Friday, as he hammers away at his predecessor. But they are also now being brazenly wielded by Donald J. Trump, the only president to try to overthrow an American election.

Three years after the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Trump and his campaign are engaged in an audacious attempt to paint Mr. Biden as the true menace to the nation’s foundational underpinnings. Mr. Trump’s strategy aims to upend a world in which he has publicly called for suspending the Constitution, vowed to turn political opponents into legal targets and suggested that the nation’s top military general should be executed.

The result has been a salvo of recriminations from the top candidates in each party, including competing events to mark Saturday’s third anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.

The eagerness from each man to paint the other as an imminent threat signals that their potential rematch this year will be framed as nothing short of a cataclysmic battle for the future of democracy — even as Mr. Trump tries to twist the very idea to suit his own ends.

“Donald Trump’s campaign is about him — not America, not you,” Mr. Biden said Friday, speaking near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. “Donald Trump’s campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He’s willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power.”

On Friday evening, at his own rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Mr. Trump fired back, calling Mr. Biden’s remarks “pathetic fear-mongering” and again accusing him, without any evidence, of wielding federal law enforcement to attack his political opponents.

 

“We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is who are we.”

— Biden at Valley Forge

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic News Summary: In powerful campaign kickoff at start of year of destiny, President brands Trump as holding webster tarpley 2007a dagger to the throat of democracy since January 6 MAGA insurrection, Webster G. Tarpley, (right, historian and commentator), Jan. 6, 2024 (141 mins.). Cites George Washington’s ”sacred cause” of independence;

Liberty, freedom, and democracy are on the 2024 ballot, along with the MAGA alternative of totalitarian fascist dictatorship; As FDR noted, needy people cannot be free, so content of freedom and democracy is not only political rights, but also return to economic progress after nightmare of plutocratic globalization-as in today’s sustained job creation of 216,000 jobs and full employment jobless rate of 3.7%, continuing longest stretch below 4% since Vietnam war;

Legality under Constitution is indivisible, meaning that Insurrection Clause of XIV Amendment bans Trump from second term, despite whining from faint-hearted centrists and liberals from Newsom to the Washington Post; Scalia majority opinion in 1989 Midland Asphalt case limiting interlocutory appeals may rule out Trump’s delaying tactics in his immunity appeal;

Gaza death toll among Palestinians approaches twenty times the victims of October 7 terrorist attacks; US attempt to prevent spread of Gaza war is failing as conflict metastasizes across Middle East; with Netanyahu further weakened by defeat in Supreme Court, opportunity emerges to speed his replacement; Blinken starts mission to Middle East;

To enhance White House performance, time for departure of inept Chief of Staff Zients and AG Garland, who has failed to enforce law vs Congressional insurrectionists;

A mirror for modern squadristi: Shameful track record of ultra-left sectarian fratricide over a century features treachery of German KPD in enabling 1933 Nazi seizure of power;  Best wishes to those marking Epiphany!

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Three Years After Jan. 6, Trump’s Immunity Claims to Take Center Stage, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Jan. 6, 2024. An appeals court will hear arguments on Tuesday over the former president’s attempt to shut down the federal election case. Much is riding on how — and how quickly — the issue is decided.

Three years after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, former President Donald J. Trump will make his latest and potentially most consequential argument in the coming week for why he should not be held responsible for seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Impeachment proceedings, the House Jan. 6 committee’s inquiry and two separate criminal investigations have established a comprehensive set of facts about Mr. Trump’s deep involvement in overlapping efforts to remain in office despite having been defeated at the polls.

But when — or even whether — he will ultimately face a trial on charges related to those efforts remains unclear. One of the most decisive factors in getting an answer to those questions will be the success or failure of the arguments his legal team plans to make on Tuesday in a federal appeals court in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are banking on a long shot, hoping to convince a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Constitution affords him complete immunity from actions he undertook as president. The assertion, while untested in the courts, has the advantage to the former president of chewing up time in the service of his strategy of trying to delay any trial until after Election Day.

Should Mr. Trump be elected, he could seek to order the federal charges against him to be dropped. The pace and outcome of the appellate challenges stemming from his immunity claim could also affect the timing of the three other criminal cases he is facing.

The legal maneuvering is playing out against a backdrop in which President Biden is casting the 2024 campaign as a test of whether democratic norms and institutions can hold against Mr. Trump and his push to convince voters that he is not a perpetrator of the chaos of Jan. 6 but a victim of an effort to silence him and his supporters.

Mr. Trump has been making plans to attend the appeals court hearing even though he is not required to be there, a further indication of how central fighting his prosecutions has become to his political strategy heading into the Republican primary campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether Donald Trump was ineligible for Colorado’s G.O.P primary ballot, Adam Liptak, Updated Jan. 6, 2024. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last month that the former president could not appear on the state’s Republican primary ballot because he had engaged in insurrection.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is eligible for Colorado’s Republican primary ballot, thrusting the justices into a pivotal role that could alter the course of this year’s presidential election.

The sweep of the court’s ruling is likely to be broad. It will probably resolve not only whether Mr. Trump may appear on the Colorado primary ballot after the state’s top court declared that he had engaged in insurrection in his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, but it will most likely also determine his eligibility to run in the general election and to hold office at all.

Not since Bush v. Gore, the 2000 decision that handed the presidency to George W. Bush, has the Supreme Court taken such a central role in an election for the nation’s highest office.

The case will be argued on Feb. 8, and the court will probably decide it quickly. The Colorado Republican Party had urged the justices to rule by March 5, when many states, including Colorado, hold primaries.

The number of challenges to Mr. Trump’s eligibility across the country can only have added pressure on the court to hear the Colorado case, as they underscored the need for a nationwide resolution of the question.

The case is one of several involving or affecting Mr. Trump on the court’s docket or on the horizon. An appeals court will hear arguments on Tuesday on whether he has absolute immunity from prosecution, and the losing side is all but certain to appeal. And the court has already said that it will rule on the scope of a central charge in the federal election-interference case in a decision expected by June.

Mr. Trump asked the Supreme Court to intervene after Colorado’s top court disqualified him from the ballot last month. That decision is on hold while the justices consider the matter.

Jena Griswold, Colorado’s secretary of state, pressed the Supreme Court to act fast.

“Coloradans, and the American people, deserve clarity on whether someone who engaged in insurrection may run for the country’s highest office,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Trump acknowledged the court’s decision to hear the case at a rally Friday in Sioux Center, Iowa, saying he hoped the justices would fairly interpret the law. “All I want is fair; I fought really hard to get three very, very good people in,” he said, referring to his appointees. He added, “And I just hope that they’re going to be fair because, you know, the other side plays the ref.”

The case turns on the meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, which bars those who had taken an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” from holding office if they then “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Congress can remove the prohibition, the provision says, but only by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

Jan. 4

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Received Millions From Foreign Governments as President, Report Finds, Luke Broadwater, Jan. 4, 2024. House Democrats released evidence that the former president took in at least $7.8 million from foreign entities while in office, engaging in the kind of conduct the G.O.P. is grasping to pin on President Biden.

President Donald Trump officialDonald J. Trump’s businesses received at least $7.8 million from 20 foreign governments during his presidency, according to new documents released by House Democrats on Thursday that show how much he received from overseas transactions while he was in the White House, most of it from China.

The transactions, detailed in a 156-page report called “White House For Sale” that was produced by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, offer concrete evidence that the former president engaged in the kind of conduct that House Republicans have labored, so far unsuccessfully, to prove that President Biden did as they work to build an impeachment case against him.

U.S. House logoUsing documents produced through a court fight, the report describes how foreign governments and their controlled entities, including a top U.S. adversary, interacted with Trump businesses while he was president. They paid millions to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.; Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas; Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York; and Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza in New York.

House Democrats highlighted the transactions on Thursday as a counterweight to Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Biden, which has sought to tie him to international business deals by his son Hunter Biden before his father became president in a bid to prove corruption or influence peddling. They have so far failed to show that President Biden was enriched in any way by any of those transactions.

”By elevating his personal financial interests and the policy priorities of corrupt foreign powers over the American public interest, former President Trump violated both the clear commands of the Constitution and the careful precedent set and observed by every previous commander in chief,” Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, wrote in a foreword to the report.

China FlagAmong the countries patronizing Mr. Trump’s properties, China made the largest total payment — $5.5 million — to his business interests, the report found. Those payments included millions of dollars from China’s Embassy in the United States, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Hainan Airlines Holding Company.

Saudi Arabia was the second-largest spender, shelling out more than $615,000 at the Trump World Tower and Trump International Hotel.

Eric Trump, the former president’s son, has long insisted that foreign interests did not influence his father’s presidency and that any profit the company earned on the hotel stays was returned to the federal government through a voluntary annual payment to the Treasury Department.

The Constitution prohibits a president from accepting money, payments or gifts “of any kind whatever” from foreign governments and monarchs unless he obtains “the consent of the Congress” to do so. The report notes that Mr. Trump never went to Congress to seek consent.

The report also acknowledges its own limitations. Democrats fought aggressively through years of litigation to gain access to only a portion of Mr. Trump’s business records. After they won court rulings, Mazars USA, the longtime accounting firm for Mr. Trump that cut ties with him and his family business, began in 2022 turning over documents related to his financial dealings.

The development came after Mazars said it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization.

But once Republicans won control of Congress, they dropped the effort to force Mazars to continue with its production of documents about Mr. Trump’s business dealings.

Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and the chairman of the Oversight Committee, made clear he had abandoned any investigation into the former president’s financial dealings and was instead focusing on whether Mr. Biden and members of his family were involved in an influence-peddling scheme.

Still, Democrats say they received key material before the investigation was shut down.

“Critically, even this subset of documents reveals a stunning web of millions of dollars in payments made by foreign governments and their agents directly to Trump-owned businesses while President Trump was in the White House,” the report states. “These payments were made while these governments were promoting specific foreign policy goals with the Trump administration and even, at times, with President Trump himself, and as they were requesting specific actions from the United States to advance their own national policy objectives.”

The report is the result of a multiyear investigation into Mr. Trump’s receipt of payments from foreign-controlled entities while in office. The investigation began in 2016 under the leadership of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who died in 2019.

It noted that Mr. Trump sometimes bragged about the wealth that foreign governments had provided him, including at a campaign rally in 2015, when he suggested that his personal financial incentives might influence his dealings with another government.

“Saudi Arabia, I get along great with all of them.,” the report quotes him saying. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

ny times logoNew York Times, 2024 Election: Bomb Hoaxes and ‘Swatting’ Attempts Target Public Officials as 2024 Begins, Neil Vigdor, Jan. 4, 2024.  Colorado and Maine, which blocked former President Donald Trump from the ballot, have grappled with the intimidation and harassment of officials.

The caller had tipped off the authorities in Maine on Friday night: He told them that he had broken into the home of Shenna Bellows, the state’s top election official, a Democrat who one night earlier had disqualified former President Donald J. Trump from the primary ballot because of his actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

No one was home when officers arrived, according to Maine State Police, who labeled the false report as a “swatting” attempt, one intended to draw a heavily armed law enforcement response.

In the days since, more bogus calls and threats have rolled in across the country. On Wednesday, state capitol buildings in Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Montana were evacuated or placed on lockdown after the authorities said they had received bomb threats that they described as false and nonspecific. The F.B.I. said it had no information to suggest any threats were credible.

The incidents intensified a climate of intimidation and the harassment of public officials, including those responsible for overseeing ballot access and voting. Since 2020, election officials have confronted rising threats and difficult working conditions, aggravated by rampant conspiracy theories about fraud. The episodes suggested 2024 would be another heated election year.

Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia who debunked Mr. Trump’s election fraud claims in 2020 in the battleground state, urged caution on Wednesday.

“Do not jump to conclusions as to who is responsible,” Mr. Sterling wrote on social media. “There will be chaos agents sowing discord for 2024. They want to increase tensions. Don’t let them.”

Mr. Sterling later said he was among the public officials who have been swatted by callers falsely reporting crimes. Someone called 911 to report a shooting after a drug deal gone bad, he wrote on X, “Everyone is ok. But this is wrong.”

Other prominent Republicans have also been swatted in recent weeks, including Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Senator Rick Scott of Florida.

Ms. Greene, a right-wing provocateur and Trump ally, was home on Christmas morning when a man in New York called a Georgia suicide hotline and claimed that he had just shot his girlfriend at Ms. Greene’s residence and was about to kill himself, The Associated Press reported.

Two days later, on Dec. 27, it was Mr. Scott’s turn, he said. He was having dinner with his wife when it happened.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Jan. 6 Riot Inquiry So Far: Three Years, Hundreds of Prison Sentences, Alan Feuer and Molly Cook Escobar Jan. 3, 2024, Jan. 4, 2024. More than 1,200 people have now been arrested in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The investigation is far from over.

Nearly three years after a mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in support of former President Donald J. Trump, the criminal investigation into the events of that day pushes on.

Prosecutors have called the riot inquiry the largest in the history of the Justice Department, and there is no doubt it is vast by any measure.

As of December, about 1,240 people had been arrested in connection with the attack, accused of crimes ranging from trespassing, a misdemeanor, to seditious conspiracy, a felony.

More than 350 cases are still pending.

Jan. 3

 

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, 3 years after Jan. 6 attack, GOP loyalty to Trump and rioters climbs, poll finds, Rachel Weiner, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Jan. 3, 2024 (print ed.). Republicans are less likely to believe those who stormed Capitol were “mostly violent” and less likely to believe Donald Trump bears responsibility for Jan. 6, a Post-UMD survey found.

  • Over a third of Americans believe Biden’s election was illegitimate
  • Most Americans, but few Republicans, think Jan. 6 threatened democracy
  • Fewer Republicans blame Trump for Jan. 6 attack
  • Most Americans think Trump is guilty of a crime over Jan. 6
  • About 7 in 10 Americans believe Trump will not concede if he loses in 2024

Three years after the Jan. 6 attack, Republicans are more sympathetic to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol and more likely to absolve Donald Trump of responsibility for the attack than they were in 2021, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Republicans are showing increasing loyalty to the former president as he campaigns for reelection and fights criminal charges over his attempt to stay in power after losing in 2020. They are now less likely to believe that Jan. 6 participants were “mostly violent,” less likely to believe Trump bears responsibility for the attack and are slightly less likely to view Joe Biden’s election as legitimate than they were in a December 2021 Post-UMD survey.

In follow-up interviews, some said their views have changed because they now believe the riot was instigated by law enforcement to suppress political dissent — a baseless conspiracy theory that has been promoted heavily in right-wing media and by Trump in his speeches and in his legal fight against the four-count federal indictment he faces in D.C.

“From a historical perspective, these results would be chilling to many analysts,” said Michael J. Hanmer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland.

But Republican views are more fractured than those of Democrats, who remain largely in agreement that the riot was a violent threat to democracy for which Trump bears responsibility. “In the current context of hyper-partisanship, there seem to be some divisions among Republicans,” Hanmer said. Independents, according to the poll, mostly side with Democrats.

As Trump leads the Republican field for president by a wide margin, the poll reveals several key takeaways.

Jan. 2

 

djt hands open amazon safe

washington post logoWashington Post, Doom dominates 2024 messaging as Trump and Biden trade dire warnings, Toluse Olorunnipa, Jan. 1, 2024 (print ed.).  Experts and pollsters say the depictions are reflective of the country’s broadly pessimistic and apprehensive mood.

In President Biden’s increasingly stark telling, an America led by former president Donald Trump in 2025 would be a dystopian dictatorship with American values constantly on the brink of collapse.

“The greatest threat Trump poses is to our democracy,” Biden said earlier this month at a fundraiser in Bethesda. “Because if we lose, we lose everything.”

Trump, who has used terms like “vermin” to describe his enemies and called 2024 “the final battle,” has said if Biden wins a second term, Americans would “no longer have a country” and the globe would quickly descend into a third world war.

“As long as Joe Biden is in the White House, the American Dream is dead,” Trump said during a rally in Durham, N.H., where he also accused migrants of “poisoning the blood” of the nation.

Trump calls adversaries "vermin," echoing Hitler and Mussolini

As the two leading candidates trade depictions of doom, the 2024 race for president is increasingly dominated by dark sentiments and appeals to fear — a phenomenon experts and pollsters say is reflective of the country’s broadly pessimistic and apprehensive mood.

Jan. 1

 

ron desantis mouth open uncredited


washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis, Haley pledge to pardon Trump if he’s convicted, Reis Thebault, Jan. 1, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s leading Republican primary challengers said in recent days that if they are elected, they would pardon the former president should he be convicted of any of the 91 felony charges he’s currently facing.

nikki haley oFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis, above, and former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, right, argued in separate campaign stops last week that extending clemency to Trump would be in the country’s best interest. Both had previously signaled they were leaning toward issuing a pardon, but their recent statements were the most definitive yet and left little room for doubt just weeks before the first nominating contests in January.

djt maga hat“I would pardon Trump if he is found guilty,” Haley told a crowd in Plymouth, N.H., on Thursday.

Ron DeSantis says Trump’s indictments ‘distorted’ GOP presidential race

DeSantis, who has blamed Trump’s dominance in the polls in part on the string of criminal indictments, said Friday that he would pardon a convicted Trump because “we got to move on as a country.” Speaking with reporters after a campaign stop in Elkader, Iowa, DeSantis echoed Haley’s commitment, invoking the only previous time a U.S. president has received a pardon.

“It’s like Ford did to Nixon,” DeSantis said, referencing Gerald Ford’s 1974 pardon of disgraced former president Richard M. Nixon. “Because you just, you know, the divisions are just not in the country’s interest.”

DeSantis and Haley, who are leading a winnowed field of GOP candidates opposing Trump, have for months walked a political tightrope, seeking to distinguish themselves from the former president while continuing to court his substantial bloc of supporters, whose votes will be key in deciding the Republican primary.

Aside from Trump, who has remained the clear leader in polling and campaign fundraising, three of the GOP’s top four candidates have now said unequivocally that they would pardon him, with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy committing to the move in July.

Ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie, meanwhile, has railed against these pledges, calling Trump’s actions a threat to democracy. A pardon for Trump, Christie said on Friday, would signal “two systems of justice: One for all of us and one for the most powerful.”

The Young Turks, WATCH Commentary: 4th-Grader CALLS OUT Nikki Haley For Flip-Flopping On Trump, Jan. 1, 2024. A 9-year-old boy called Nikki Haley a flip-flopper during a town hall in North Conway, New Hampshire. John Iadarola, Rayyvana, and Maz Jobrani discuss on The Young Turks.

"Nikki Haley faced down a surprising critic on Thursday while taking questions during a campaign stop in North Conway, New Hampshire – a very well-spoken 9-year-old boy.

 

December

Dec. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, American democracy is cracking. These forces help explain why, Dan Balz and Clara Ence Morse, Dec. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Many Americans believe the political system is broken. A Post analysis examined the forces fueling the sense that government fails to represent the people.

Faced with big and challenging problems — climate, immigration, inequality, guns, debt and deficits — government and politicians seem incapable of achieving consensus. On each of those issues, the public is split, often bitterly. But on each, there are also areas of agreement. What’s broken is the will of those in power to see past the divisions enough to reach compromise.

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

Politico, The 14th Amendment is the ‘most democratic’ disqualifier, Jamie Raskin says, Kelly Garrity, Dec 31, 2023. The Maryland Democrat said it is the only disqualifier over which the person has control.

politico CustomThe constitutional amendment that election officials in Colorado and Maine are relying on to block former President Donald Trump from the ballot is clear — and isn’t undemocratic, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) argued Sunday.

jamin raskin american university Custom 2“Is it undemocratic that [former California Gov.] Arnold Schwarzenegger and [Energy Secretary] Jennifer Granholm can’t run for president because they weren’t born in the country? If you think about it, of all of the forms of disqualification that we have, the one that disqualifies people for engaging in insurrection is the most democratic because it’s the one where people choose themselves to be disqualified,” Raskin, right, a former constitutional law professor, said Sunday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” (Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, Granholm in Canada.)

“Donald Trump is in that tiny, tiny number of people who have essentially disqualified themselves,” he added.

Officials in Colorado and Maine have blocked Trump from the ballot in their states, on the grounds that he engaged in insurrection via his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and, thereby, is disqualified based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The backlash from Republicans — and some Democrats — has been swift and fierce, and the heated legal debate is expected to soon come before the Supreme Court.

“We have a number of disqualifications in the Constitution for serving as president,” Raskin pointed out Sunday. “For example, age. I mean, I’ve got a colleague who’s a great young politician, Maxwell Frost, he’s 26. He can’t run for president. Now would we say that that’s undemocratic? Well, that’s the rules of the Constitution. If you don’t like the rules of the Constitution, change the Constitution.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The nose knows Trump: he stinks to high heaven, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec 31, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2023. Here at WMR we’ve seen and heard enough. Donald Trump’s campaign will soon sink under the heavy weight of his adult diaper.

wayne madesen report logoConfirmation Trump often reeks of feces, urine, cheap cologne, and an oft-putting hair chemical mixture has come from various sources who include former Illinois Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, one-time The Apprentice production assistant Noel Casler, comedian and Celebrity Apprentice cast member Kathy Griffin, and a host of others who have encountered Trump during his lifetime.

Kinzinger commented on Trump’s smelly aura on a podcast, saying, “I’m genuinely surprised how people close to Trump haven’t talked about the odor. It’s truly something to behold. Wear a mask if you can.” Casler said, “He [Trump] would often soil himself on The Apprentice set. He’s incontinent from all the speed, all the Adderall he does, all the cocaine that he’s done for decades . . . His [bowels] are uncontrollable.”

Accounts that Trump smelled to high heaven are buoyed by various social media posts, mainly from those who claimed they caught Trump’s staggering whiff while doing business with him in the 1980s and 90s.

Dec. 30

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Politico, Special counsel: Trump immunity claim threatens democracy, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Dec. 30, 2023. Special counsel Jack Smith rejected Donald Trump’s contention that the criminal indictment of him is constitutionally invalid.

politico CustomDonald Trump’s bold claims that he’s immune from criminal prosecution over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election “threaten to undermine democracy,” special counsel Jack Smith warned a federal appeals court Saturday.

Justice Department log circularIn a brief filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Smith rejected Trump’s contention that the criminal indictment of him for trying to reverse his loss at the polls three years ago is constitutionally invalid because he was serving as president at the time and also because he was acquitted by the Senate after he was impeached for those actions.

“Rather than vindicating our constitutional framework, the defendant’s sweeping immunity claim threatens to license Presidents to commit crimes to remain in office,” Smith and his team wrote in an 82-page filing. “The Founders did not intend and would never have countenanced such a result.”

While Trump has argued that allowing a prosecution such as the one he faces in Washington would chill future presidents from carrying out their duties due to the prospect of future criminal indictment, Smith contends that fear is overblown.

“Multiple safeguards — ultimately enforced by the Article III courts — protect against any potential burdens on the Presidency that the defendant claims to fear,” prosecutors wrote. “Any burdens of post-Presidency criminal liability have minimal impact on the functions of an incumbent and are outweighed by the paramount public interest in upholding the rule of law through federal prosecution.”

Smith’s argument sets the framework for the most crucial test of his prosecution of Trump for seeking to subvert the 2020 election, the beginning of a must-win legal battle that is likely headed for the Supreme Court as soon as next month.

Smith used his brief to pick apart Trump’s assertion that he’s immune from criminal prosecution for his efforts to seize a second term despite losing the election. On Dec. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan turned down Trump’s motion to dismiss the case on those grounds, prompting the former president’s appeal.

Smith argues that while presidents deserve protection from civil lawsuits, there is no blanket immunity from criminal prosecution, particularly for a former president charged with making grave threats to the transfer of power. Even if presidents did enjoy immunity for their official duties, he argues, Trump’s actions would not qualify for such protection because he was acting well outside the bounds of his proper duties.

Emptywheel, Analysis: What Jack Smith Didn't Say in His Double Jeopardy Response, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Dec. 30, 2023/
JacK Smith repeated some language in his response to Trump's double jeopardy claim that keeps options open regarding an incitement of insurrection charge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two States Ruled Trump Off the Ballot. Will It Help or Hurt Him? Jack Healy, Anna Betts, Mike Baker and Jill Cowan, Dec. 30, 2023. Some critics say the battles over Donald Trump’s ballot status are turning him into a martyr and eroding faith in U.S. elections.

steve hobbsAs the top elections official in Washington State, Steve Hobbs, right, says he is troubled by the threat former President Donald J. Trump poses to democracy and fears the prospect of his return to power. But he also worries that recent decisions in Maine and Colorado to bar Mr. Trump from presidential primary ballots there could backfire, further eroding Americans’ fraying faith in U.S. elections.

“Removing him from the ballot would, on its face value, seem very anti-democratic,” said Mr. Hobbs, a Democrat who is in his first term as secretary of state. Then he added a critical caveat: “But so is trying to overthrow your country.”

Mr. Hobbs’s misgivings reflect deep divisions and unease among elected officials, democracy experts and voters over how to handle Mr. Trump’s campaign to reclaim the presidency four years after he went to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. While some, like Mr. Hobbs, think it best that voters settle the matter, others say that Mr. Trump’s efforts require accountability and should be legally disqualifying.

Challenges to Mr. Trump’s candidacy have been filed in at least 32 states, though many of those challenges have gained little or no traction, and some have languished on court dockets for months.

The decisions happening right now come amid a collapse of faith in the American electoral system, said Nate Persily, a Stanford Law School professor who specializes in election law and democracy.

“We are walking in new constitutional snow here to try and figure out how to deal with these unprecedented developments,” he said.

ICE logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, Maine Law ‘Required That I Act’ to Disqualify Trump, Secretary of State Says, Ernesto Londoño, Dec. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Barring former President Donald J. Trump from the primary ballot was a hard but necessary call, Shenna Bellows said in an interview.

shenna bellowsBefore she decided to bar former President Donald J. Trump from Maine’s primary ballot, Shenna Bellows, left, the secretary of state, was not known for courting controversy.

She began her career in public office as a state senator in 2016, winning in a politically mixed district. She prided herself on finding common ground with Republicans, an approach she said was shaped by growing up in a politically diverse family.

maine mapAs the former head of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union, Ms. Bellows did not shy away from divisive issues. But her ballot decision on Thursday was perhaps the weightiest and most politically fraught that she had faced — and it sparked loud rebukes from Republicans in Maine and beyond.

In an interview on Friday, Ms. Bellows defended her decision, arguing that Mr. Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol made it necessary to exclude him from the ballot next year.

“This is not a decision I made lightly,” Ms. Bellows, 48, said. “The United States Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government, and Maine election law required that I act in response.”

Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, is among many election officials around the country who have considered legal challenges to Mr. Trump’s latest bid for the White House based on an obscure clause of the 14th Amendment that bars government officials who have engaged in “insurrection” from serving in the U.S. government.

After holding a hearing this month in which she considered arguments from both Mr. Trump’s lawyers and his critics, Ms. Bellows explained her decision in a 34-page order issued on Thursday night.

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic News Summary and Pro-Democracy Reform Agenda: In 2024, Americans have a rendez-vous webster tarpley 2007with destiny, with the future of human civilization at stake! Webster G. Tarpley, (right, historian and commentator), Dec. 30, 2023 (130:12 mins). Coming year must see the decisive electoral defeat, conviction, and incarceration of Trump, with the breakup of the moribund Republican Party, and three branches of the federal government entirely controlled by Biden Democrats elected on a strong reform agenda!

Insurrection Clause of Fourteenth Amendment is the sacred embodiment of Lincoln’s new birth of freedom and reflects the sacrifices of the Union dead; As part of Constitution, the Insurrection Clause is an integral part of the supreme Abraham Lincoln (Alexander Gardner via Library of Congress and Getty Images)law of the land and is binding and compulsory for all officials at all levels of government, whatever their preferences;

Alleged aversion to ”patchwork” of election rules and demand for lockstep among states are no argument in a variegated federal system in which election practices have long diverged; Trump is unquestionably guilty of aggravated insurrection; Only an imbecile could suggest that a president is not an officer of United States; Some say they prefer to defeat Trump at polls, but the advanced fascist emergency does not permit this luxury;

Defeatist spirit of McClellan 1864 grips milquetoast Democrats who propose to ignore a clear Constitutional imperative in favor of their own fears and preferences for appeasement of MAGA fascists; Standard fascist seizure of power involves cynical gaming of democratic systems and guarantees to impose totalitarian dictatorship;

”Let the voters decide” is a catchy slogan but collapses utterly when it becomes a direct attack on the Constitution, where some critical points are deliberately placed beyond the reach of majority votes;

gavin newsom headshotGov. Newsom, right, and Dems must understand their only chance to prevail against Trump subversion is to run strong candidates pledged to defend constitution, not populist demagogues pandering to masses by tampering with it;

Corrupt, discredited, bribed, and hated Supremes should contemplate not just the threats of the shrinking MAGA hooligan minority, but also the pro-constitution supermajority who reject a return to the MAGA fascist yoke; Given their claims to represent originalism, textualism, and state’s rights, the only valid choice for Supremes is full implementation of Insurrection Clause against Trump;

scott perryRep. Scott Perry’s phone messages now scrutinized by Jack Smith could implicate other MAGA Hill bigwigs as January 6 co-conspirators, with potential to break legislative logjam and flip chamber as they are brought to justice;

House GOP sabotage of Ukraine military aid facilitates deadly Russian attacks and makes these MAGA bosses accessories to war crimes eligible for prosecution in The Hague, starting with MAGA Mike;

djt maga hatMAGA dirty tricks against Ukraine feed Putin’s hope for new orgy of appeasement on model of 1938 Munich sellout, with himself cast as Hitler, Ukraine cast as Czechoslovakia, and Biden-led NATO cast as appeasers Chamberlain and Daladier!

As their hour of reckoning approaches, Netanyahu, Gallant & Co. are trying harder than ever to embroil US in war with Hezbollah and Iran; These schemers must receive a decisive rebuff;

In US, fratricidal ultra-lefts and assorted squadristi are eager to blame Biden for war crimes committed by Netanyahu, but stubbornly refuse to condemn Putin for the war crimes Putin has unquestionably committed! Reviewing Toni Negri, in whose career postmodern anarcho-syndicalism turned into the ideology of terrorism.; 

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump’s team is preparing to file challenges to the ballot decisions, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Dec. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The cases in Colorado, Maine and other states are requiring former President Donald J. Trump to devote resources already spread thin across four criminal indictments.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s advisers are preparing as soon as Tuesday to file challenges to decisions in Colorado and Maine to disqualify Mr. Trump from the Republican primary ballot because of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“Every state is different,” Maine’s secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, told a local CBS affiliate on Friday morning. “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. I fulfilled my duty.”

Mr. Trump has privately told some people that he believes the Supreme Court will overwhelmingly rule against the Colorado and Maine decisions, according to a person familiar with what he has said. But he has also been critical of the Supreme Court, to which he appointed three conservative justices, creating a supermajority. The court has generally shown little appetite for Mr. Trump’s election-related cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About the Efforts to Remove Trump From the 2024 Ballot, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 30, 2023 (print ed.). There are lawsuits pending in more than a dozen states seeking to have Donald Trump disqualified from appearing on primary ballots.

djt march 2020 CustomThe campaign to have former President Donald J. Trump removed from the ballot over his efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election has kicked into high gear, with decisions in two states, Maine and Colorado, barring him from the primary ballots.

Challenges are still underway in many more states, based on an obscure clause of a constitutional amendment enacted after the Civil War that disqualifies government officials who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.

Over the years, the courts and Congress have done little to clarify how that criterion should apply, adding urgency to the calls for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the politically explosive dispute before the upcoming election.

Dec. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 2024 resolution: Save democracy, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 29, 2023. jennifer rubin new headshotSome approach 2024 with a sense of foreboding. Could this be the year we lose our democracy for good? Will Russia destroy Ukraine while Republicans refuse to lift a hand? What other constitutional rights will the Supreme Court strip away?

Let’s remember the opposite outcomes are within our grasp. The 2024 election provides an opportunity to crush the MAGA movement. Congress can get its act together to support Ukraine. And the Supreme Court’s outrages might continue to fuel an anti-Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization surge that blasts Republicans out of office.

However, rather than play the prognostication game, let me suggest a few ways to navigate through the new year. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Dueling Primary Ballot Rulings on Trump Put Pressure on Supreme Court, Jenna Russell, Ernesto Londoño and Shawn Hubler, Updated Dec. 29, 2023. Maine found Donald Trump ineligible to hold office because of his actions after the 2020 election. California said his name would remain on the ballot there.

maine mapMaine on Thursday became the second state to bar Donald J. Trump from its primary election ballot after its top election official ruled that the former president’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election rendered him ineligible to hold office again.

Hours later, her counterpart in California announced that Mr. Trump would remain on the ballot in the shenna bellowsnation’s most populous state, where election officials have limited power to remove candidates.

The official in Maine, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, left, wrote in her decision that Mr. Trump did not qualify for the ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A handful of citizens had challenged his eligibility by claiming that he had incited an insurrection and was thus barred from seeking the presidency again under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection,” Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, wrote.

Ms. Bellows’s decision follows a Colorado Supreme Court ruling last week to keep Mr. Trump off the state’s Republican primary ballot.

The decisions in Maine and Colorado underscore national tensions over democracy, ballot access and the rule of law. They also add urgency to calls for the United States Supreme Court to insert itself into the politically explosive dispute over Mr. Trump’s eligibility.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said Thursday night that both the Maine and Colorado rulings were “partisan election interference efforts” that were “a hostile assault on American democracy.”

Dec. 28

Politico, Maine kicks Trump off ballot under 14th Amendment, Zach Montellaro, Dec. 28, 2023. Activists and voters have filed numerous lawsuits around the country claiming the former president is barred from office under the “insurrection clause.”

politico CustomMaine on Thursday became the second state to declare former President Donald Trump ineligible to serve as president for his involvement in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows made the decision booting Trump off the state’s ballot under an interpretation of the 14th Amendment that argues Trump cannot serve again because he supported or “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

The decision follows a similar ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court last week, which will almost assuredly end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

maine mapBellows, a Democrat, made the call in Maine because state law requires the secretary to adjudicate ballot challenges to candidates’ eligibility. Her decision can be appealed through the state judiciary.

Residents in the state had challenged Trump’s eligibility to appear on the primary ballot.

“I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bellows wrote in her determination. “I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

The decision will almost assuredly be appealed by Trump. But by becoming the second state to kick Trump off the ballot, it marks a major milestone for the effort by activists to bar Trump from seeking the Oval Office again — breaking out of the confines from an isolated incident in one state to the beginning of a pattern.

Activists and voters have filed numerous lawsuits around the country claiming that Trump is barred from office under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause.” That clause states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to support the Constitution is forbidden from holding any public office.

Bellows’ decision followed an hourslong hearing in the state earlier this month in which Trump’s attorneys argued that she doesn’t have the discretion to make a decision on Trump’s eligibility and that he hadn’t participated or aided in an insurrection.

The challenge to Trump’s eligibility propels Bellows into the spotlight in an unusual way. Many of her secretary of state colleagues across the country have similarly been pressured to kick Trump off the ballot, but they’ve argued that the courts — not election officials — are the proper jurisdiction to make that call.

But Maine state law effectively has Bellows serve in a quasi-judicial role for eligibility challenges that many of her colleagues do not.

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung attacked Bellows as “a former ACLU attorney, a virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat.”

He called it the the push to have Trump disqualified “partisan election interference efforts,” and said the campaign “will quickly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocious decision in Maine from taking effect.”

A second state invoking the 14th Amendment to block Trump from the ballot makes it even more likely that the nation’s top court will step in to adjudicate the dispute. Colorado’s justices pointedly noted that they were unlikely to have the final say.

On Wednesday, Michigan’s state Supreme Court ruled that Trump can appear on the state’s primary ballot, finding that the secretary of state there did not have the power to make that determination.

While a significant legal headache, the Colorado ruling further rallied Republicans to Trump’s side. Following the ruling, President Joe Biden said it was “self-evident” that Trump supported an insurrection, but that “whether the 14th Amendment applies, I’ll let the court make that decision.”

Dec. 26

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Plans to Wield Power in 2025: What We Know, Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage, Dec. 26, 2023. Donald J. Trump and his allies are already laying the groundwork for a possible second Trump presidency, forging plans for an even more extreme agenda than his first term.

Since beginning his 2024 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump has said the “termination” of the Constitution would have been justified to overturn the 2020 election, told followers “I am your retribution” and vowed to use the Justice Department to prosecute his adversaries — starting with President Biden and his family.

FBI logoBeneath these public threats is a series of plans by Mr. Trump and his allies that would upend core elements of American governance, democracy, foreign policy and the rule of law if he regains the White House.

Some of these themes trace back to the final period of Mr. Trump’s term in office. By that stage, his key advisers had learned how to more effectively wield power and Mr. Trump had fired officials who resisted some of his impulses and replaced them with loyalists. Then he lost the 2020 election and was cast out of power.

CIA LogoSince leaving office, Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies at a network of well-funded groups have advanced policies, created lists of potential personnel and started shaping new legal scaffolding — laying the groundwork for a second Trump presidency they hope will commence on Jan. 20, 2025.

In a vague statement, two top officials on Mr. Trump’s campaign have sought to distance his campaign team from some of the plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s outside allies, groups led by former senior Trump administration officials who remain in direct contact with him. The statement called news reports about the campaign’s personnel and policy intentions “purely speculative and theoretical.”

The plans described here generally derive from what Mr. Trump has trumpeted on the campaign trail, what has appeared on his campaign website and interviews with Trump advisers, including some who spoke with The New York Times at the request of the campaign.
Trump wants to use the Justice Department to take vengeance on his political adversaries.

If he wins another term, Mr. Trump has said he would use the Justice Department to have his adversaries investigated and charged with crimes, including saying in June that he would appoint “a real special prosecutor to go after” President Biden and his family. He later declared in an interview with Univision that he could, if someone challenged him politically, have that person indicted.

Allies of Mr. Trump have also been developing an intellectual blueprint to cast aside the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department investigatory independence from White House political direction.

Foreshadowing such a move, Mr. Trump had already violated norms in his 2016 campaign by promising to “lock up” his opponent, Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server. While president, he repeatedly told aides he wanted the Justice Department to indict his political enemies, including officials he had fired such as James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director. The Justice Department opened various such investigations but did not bring charges — infuriating Mr. Trump and leading to a split in 2020 with his attorney general, William P. Barr.

Dec. 23

djt march 2020 Custom

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Analysis: Setting example for other states, Colorado’s High Court disqualifies Trump from GOP primary webster tarpley 2007ballot, defending US Constitution against MAGA fascism! Webster G. Tarpley, (right, historian and commentator), Dec. 23, 2023 (102:22 mins.). 54% of Americans back move, including 24% of Republicans, a number that potentially dooms Don’s bid for power;

Ruling leaves no doubt that Trump was kingpin of insurrection for violent overthrow US government; Corrupt Thomas-Alito court boxed in; Two, three, many states must now disqualify would-be dictator;

Abraham Lincoln (Alexander Gardner via Library of Congress and Getty Images)As monument to epic sacrifices of Union dead, Fourteenth Amendment is essence of New Birth of Freedom foreseen by Lincoln (shown above in an Alexander Gardner photo via the Library of Congress and Getty Images) as second founding of this country; Prime movers Thad Stevens and Sen. Sumner loom as moral giants whose radicalism frightens the cowardly pols, trimmers, and media hacks of today;

Imbecilic and dishonest calls to let the voters decide ignore the wisdom acquired at great cost by the victors in a bloody Civil War; Intent was to bar infamous, hardened traitors from federal office; Trump’s exclusion is objective and Constitutional, just like barring foreign born and teenagers from presidency;

Given sabotage by House MAGA Quislings, Biden should order billions in emergency military aid to Ukraine, shielding Europe from Putin’s aggression; $300 billion in frozen Russian assets must be expropriated now and transferred to Kyiv as combined Lend Lease and Marshall Plan to finance defense and postwar reconstruction;

Federal judge orders texts, emails, and phone records from MAGA Congressman Scott Perry’s phone turned over to Jack Smith -- A first step towards finally indicting the Congressional coup plotters who backed January 6, who are the same clique trying to destroy Ukraine;

US takes step away from Netanyahu’s war crimes by abstaining on UNSC resolution mandating humanitarian aid; Experts question if Israel is losing Gaza war militarily after mauling of elite Golani brigade and suspected heavy losses; US assembles ten-power coalition for freedom of navigation Red Sea, where 12% of world trade is threatened by Iran’s Houthi proxies;

Phone tapes said to depict Trump and RNC’s Ronna McDaniel coercing Detroit election officials to sabotage Wayne County vote count in 2020;

Glorieta March 1862: How Colorado Union regiments stopped Texas troops from extending the slaveholder Confederacy to the Pacific in a neglected battle rightly called The Gettysburg of the West.

Breaking: Renegade Supremes feed Trump delaying strategy, deny Jack Smith’s bid to fast track Don’s absurd claim to blanket immunity as president!

washington post logoWashington Post, Law enforcement investigating threats to Colorado justices after Trump ruling, Maegan Vazquez, Dec. 23, 2023. In the wake of the ruling, law enforcement officials say they’ve become aware of both phone and social media threats to the justices who ruled in favor of barring him from the ballot.

Local and federal law enforcement officials say they are investigating a surge in threats that justices on Colorado’s Supreme Court are facing after their decision this week to bar Donald Trump from running in the state’s presidential primary.
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

djt maga hatIn a 4 to 3 decision Tuesday, the court ruled that Trump should be kept off the ballot because he engaged in an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, violating the part of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits insurrectionists from holding high office.

After the ruling, law enforcement say they’ve become aware of telephone and social media threats to the justices who ruled to bar Trump from the ballot.

“The FBI is aware of the situation and working with local law enforcement,” Vikki Migoya, a public affairs officer for the FBI’s Denver field office, said in a statement. “We will vigorously pursue investigations of any threat or use of violence committed by someone who uses extremist views to justify their actions regardless of motivation.”
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Police also went to a justice’s residence Thursday evening in what appears to have been a “hoax report,” the Denver Police Department said in a statement Friday. Everything was found to be normal at the residence, and an investigation into the incident is underway, they added.

Trump’s GOP presidential rivals join in criticism of Colorado ruling

The Colorado Judicial Department declined to comment on security matters, and the Colorado State Patrol, which is responsible for protecting state officials while they are in state buildings, said in a statement that it would assist with investigations as necessary.

Since Tuesday’s decision by the court, social media and forum posts on several platforms have shown users expressing violent, racist, homophobic and sometimes threatening language targeting the Democrat-appointed judges who ruled in favor of removing Trump from the ballot. The comments have ranged from peaceful protest to calls for executions.

Peter Simi, a Chapman University sociologist who has studied far-right extremism, served as an expert witness in the trial that considered Trump’s ballot eligibility in Colorado this fall. He told The Post that he’s seen an increase in threatening rhetoric from apparent Trump supporters in response to the court’s decision, including “strong accusatory language and calls to have [the judges] arrested.”

“It’s critical we take these very seriously, first, as a public-safety issue and, second, as a threat to democracy,” he added. “I also think we need to look at the most recent threats to the Colorado Supreme Court justices within the context of the much longer pattern of Trump and his supporters promoting political violence.”

messenger logo squareThe Messenger, Trump Captured on Tape Pressuring Detroit County Canvassers Not to Certify 2020 Election Results: Report, Aneeta Mathur-Ashton, Dec. 21-22, 2023. Trump can be heard saying: 'We've got to fight for our country,' and 'We can't let these people take our country away from us.'

michigan mapFormer President Donald Trump was recorded in a phone call telling two Republican members of a Detroit county board of canvassers they would look "terrible" if they voted to certify President Joe Biden, the Detroit News is reporting.

Trump's warning, reviewed by the newspaper and revealed publicly for the first time Thursday evening, was recorded in a call to Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, two members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

The call took place on Nov. 17, 2020, and also involved Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the Detroit News reported.

In the audio, made by a person who was present for the call, Trump can be heard saying: "We've got to fight for our country,” and: "We can't let these people take our country away from us."

McDaniel can also be heard saying: "If you can go home tonight, do not sign it," referring to the certification. "We will get you attorneys," McDaniel promised.

Trump then replied in the recorded call: "We'll take care of that."

Both Palmer and Hartmann left the meeting without signing official statements of votes for the county — and they unsuccessfully attempted to rescind their votes supporting the certification the following day.

A representative for the former president told The Messenger in a statement that "all of President Trump’s actions were taken in furtherance of his duty as President of the United States to faithfully take care of the laws and ensure election integrity, including investigating the rigged and stolen 2020 Presidential Election."

"President Trump and the American people have the Constitutional right to free and fair elections. Crooked Joe Biden and the Democrats are spinning their wheels in the face of devastating polling numbers and desperately leaking misleading information to interfere in the election."

The bombshell leaked audio comes as the former president is already facing four counts of criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States and its voters in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Efforts to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory in the midwest state play a key role in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment.

Dec. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, New Trump Cases Are Shadowed by Rocky Relationship With Supreme Court, Adam Liptak, Dec. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Though former President Trump appointed three justices, his administration had the worst track record before the justices since at least the 1930s.

President Donald J. Trump said on Jan. 6, 2021. “They love to rule against me.”

His assessment of the court, in a speech delivered outside the White House urging his supporters to march on the Capitol, had a substantial element of truth in it.

Other parts of the speech were laced with fury and lies, and the Colorado Supreme Court cited some of those passages on Tuesday as evidence that Mr. Trump has engaged in insurrection and was ineligible to hold office again.

But Mr. Trump’s reflections on the U.S. Supreme Court in the speech, freighted with grievance and accusations of disloyalty, captured not only his perspective but also an inescapable reality. A fundamentally conservative court, with a six-justice majority of Republican appointees that includes three named by Mr. Trump himself, has not been particularly receptive to his arguments.

Indeed, the Trump administration had the worst Supreme Court record of any since at least the Roosevelt administration, according to data developed by Lee Epstein and Rebecca L. Brown, law professors at the University of Southern California, for an article in Presidential Studies Quarterly.

“Whether Trump’s poor performance speaks to the court’s view of him and his administration or to the justices’ increasing willingness to check executive authority, we can’t say,” the two professors wrote in an email. “Either way, though, the data suggest a bumpy road for Trump in cases implicating presidential power.”

Now another series of Trump cases are at the court or on its threshold: one on whether he enjoys absolute immunity from prosecution, another on the viability of a central charge in the federal election-interference case and the third, from Colorado, on whether he was barred from another term under the 14th Amendment.

The cases pose distinct legal questions, but earlier decisions suggest they could divide the court’s conservative wing along a surprising fault line: Mr. Trump’s appointees have been less likely to vote for him in some politically charged cases than Justice Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by the first President Bush, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was appointed by the second one.

In his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump spoke ruefully about his three appointees: Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, suggesting that they had betrayed him to establish their independence.

Politico, Trump advisers and Colorado Republicans huddle after shock ruling, Meridith McGraw and Alex Isenstadt, Dec. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Republicans in the state are hoping the ex-president will make a swing through in a show of support.

politico CustomTop officials with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Colorado Republican Party spoke on Thursday to discuss plans of action after the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to throw the former president off of the Republican primary ballot.

The call, which involved Clayton Henson, a former White House aide who has been a liaison between the Trump campaign and state parties, was confirmed by Dave Williams, the chair of the Colorado GOP.

Williams said that the Colorado GOP will appeal the Colorado court’s decision — holding that Trump was invalidated from appearing on the ballot because he’d incited an insurrection on Jan. 6 — to the Supreme Court. Depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, he said, the party would ask the Republican National Committee for a waiver to hold a caucus instead of a primary election.

“I certainly expressed to Clayton you know, Colorado Republicans would love to see [Trump] come out so that they can, you know, give them a good show of support. And I’m sure he’ll go ahead and pass that on to the president,” Williams said. “We would welcome him to come out but we understand if he needs to focus on Iowa.”

The Trump campaign confirmed the “check up call” to follow up on the Colorado GOP filing an addendum to potentially hold a caucus. The Colorado GOP has also been in contact with the RNC.

It is unclear whether Trump will make a visit to Colorado. The former president is expected to campaign heavily in Iowa in the runup to the Jan. 15 caucuses. He will then be campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of the Jan. 23 primary. Colorado is one of 17 states and territories that will be holding its nominating contest on March 5, also known as Super Tuesday. 

Among Trump’s aides and allies, the Colorado court’s decision has been seen as a legal nuisance and a much larger political gift. Though the widespread expectation is that the ruling will be reversed or put on hold, the former president continues to face deep peril in criminal and civil cases across jurisdictions in Georgia, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C.

Trump’s Republican rivals and critics have rallied to his defense in the aftermath of the Colorado decision. Fresh fundraising pleas were blasted out to supporters. The Trump campaign sent out a list of 55 elected officials, political allies, and Trump-friendly legal experts ranging from House Speaker Mike Johnson to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) criticizing the Colorado court decision. And Trump, as he’s prone to do, leaned into the ruling by playing the victim.

The decision will play into an effort already underway to turn a Biden campaign attack line — that Trump represents a threat to democracy — back on the incumbent president and his party.

 

Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in historic indictment linked to Stormy Daniels hush money probe (Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

Former President Donald J. Trump, in a blue suit, sits with his attorneys shortly before arraignment in New York City's state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to the 2016 presidential campaign season, reportedly involving in part hush money.

 .ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump is floating new protections for the police while also raging against his own criminal cases, Michael Gold, Dec. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Long a loud supporter of the police, Donald Trump is floating new protections for them. At the same time, he is raging against law enforcement officials who have brought felony charges against him.

Former President Donald J. Trump has long spoken admiringly of police officers who use aggressive force on the job. For years, he has pointed to his unwavering support for local law enforcement, presenting himself as a “law and order” candidate who would help the police tackle violent crime.

But now, as Mr. Trump campaigns again for the White House, he has added a new promise to his speeches on the trail: to “indemnify” police officers and protect them from the financial consequences of lawsuits accusing them of misconduct.

“We are going to indemnify them, so they don’t lose their wife, their family, their pension and their job,” he said during a speech this month in New York.

ny times logoNew York Times, 

Dec. 21

 

Colorado Supreme Court Building

The Colorado Supreme Court, with 2021 photos shown below: Top from left: Justice Carlos A. Samour, Jr., Justice Richard L. Gabriel, Justice Melissa Hart, Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter
Bottom from left: Justice Monica M. Márquez, Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright, Justice William W. Hood, III.

The Colorado Supreme Court, 2021 photos shown below: Top from left: Justice Carlos A. Samour, Jr., Justice Richard L. Gabriel, Justice Melissa Hart, Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter Bottom from left: Justice Monica M. Márquez, Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright, Justice William W. Hood, III.

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Colorado court that barred Donald Trump is notably nonpartisan, some observers say, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 21, 2023 (print ed.). The 4-3 decision was harshly criticized by Trump supporters, who called it undemocratic. But some observers say the court is notably nonpartisan.

The Colorado Supreme Court, which barred former President Donald J. Trump from the state’s primary ballot, is composed of seven justices who were all appointed by Democratic governors.

Justices on the court serve 10-year terms, and Democrats have held the governor’s office for the last 16 years, so all of the current justices were appointed by that party, with five appointed by one man: John Hickenlooper, who was governor from 2011 to 2019 and is now one of the state’s U.S. senators.

Still, the chief justice, Brian Boatright, is a Republican, while three justices are Democrats and three are listed in voter registration records as “unaffiliated” with a party.

And the court was not of one mind on whether Mr. Trump should appear on the ballot. The decision was 4-3, with the court ruling that the 14th Amendment forbade Mr. Trump from holding office because he had “engaged in insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021, when his supporters overran the Capitol. (Of the four who voted with the majority, two are registered Democrats and two are not registered with a party.)

The decision was harshly criticized by supporters of Mr. Trump, who said that keeping him off the ballot was undemocratic. The head of Colorado’s Republican Party, Dave Williams, said “out-of-control radicals” in Colorado “would rather spit on our Constitution than let the people decide which candidates should represent them in a free and fair election.”

But some observers of the court say that it is notably nonpartisan, in part because of how the justices are named. The governor must choose from a pool of nominees recommended by a bipartisan commission. The majority of the members on that commission are not lawyers. Still, most are chosen by the governor.

“It’s perceived to be way less political than the U.S. Supreme Court, and I think it’s true that it’s way less political,” said Chris Jackson, a lawyer in Denver whose practice includes election law. “There aren’t really conservative and liberal justices in the way that we describe the U.S. Supreme Court justices.”

Dec. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ruling in Colorado Will Test Conservative Approach to Law, Charlie Savage, Dec. 20, 2023. A ruling that Donald Trump is ineligible for the presidency will test the court’s methodological values.

The ruling by Colorado’s Supreme Court that former President Donald J. Trump is ineligible to be president again because he engaged in an insurrection has cast a spotlight on the basis for the decision: the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which includes a clause disqualifying people who violated their oaths of office from holding government positions in the future.

Mr. Trump has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is dominated by a supermajority of six justices who emerged from the conservative legal movement, which values methods of interpretation known as textualism and originalism. Under those precepts, judges should interpret the Constitution based on its text and publicly understood meaning when adopted, over factors like evolving social values, political consequences or an assessment of the intended purpose of the provision. 

Proof, Investigative Commentary: It’s Almost Certain No Supreme Court Justices Will Recuse Themselves From the Case of the Century. But seth abramson graphicOrdinarily, They Might All Have To, Seth Abramson, left (author, lawyer, professor), Dec. 20, 2023. The United States Supreme Court has innumerable ways to reply to the recent major breaking news in Colorado—which saw the Colorado Supreme Court remove 2024 Republican Party frontrunner and former twice-impeached president Donald Trump from the 2024 GOP primary ballot in Colorado on the basis of him meeting the legal definition of an “insurrectionist” under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

seth abramson proof logoThe Colorado Supreme Court immediately stayed the execution of its order so that the SCOTUS could take up Trump’s inevitable appeal. Which it certainly will.

Anderson v. Griswold is undoubtedly “the case of the century”—given that Bush v. Gore was decided on December 12, 2000, making it technically the last great case of the last century—and more or less every attorney nationwide (this author included) expects the Supreme Court to announce that it is taking up the case sometime before January 4, 2024, the day on which (if SCOTUS hasn’t acted by then) the Colorado Supreme Court stay would be lifted and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold be ordered to remove Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot (which would inevitably lead to a subsequent proceeding removing him from the state’s general-election ballot, also).

The general sense among legal analysts, this one included, is that the Supreme Court will feel that it must act on this issue and do so as quickly as possible. And that’s not just for the sake of those of Americans who know (not as a matter of opinion but fact) that Trump is an active insurrectionist who’s done far more to try to realize a tinpot tyranny in the United States than he’s charged with in his federal criminal case in Washington, D.C. or his state criminal case in Georgia.

If, in the view of one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in American history, Trump isn’t eligible to serve in public office again, the GOP will need to (i) cast about for an alternative, whether it’s Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or another Trump (e.g., Donald Trump Jr. or Eric Trump) who wages an unprecedented MAGA convention “coup” at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in mid-July 2024, and (ii) deal with the certainly dramatic—and potentially even violent—fallout of losing its frontrunner at a time the man commands about 65% of the national GOP-primary vote.

But what SCOTUS can’t do—not after this week—is play at aloofness from the stark consequences of whatever it decides.

And it’s some additional breaking news from this week that explains why that is.

What would the would-be rioters have done if they couldn’t have gotten onto Capitol grounds, let alone inside the Capitol building itself?

Indeed, as a far-right armed rebellion against the United States government unfolded on January 6, it was entirely possible that a sprawling Supreme Court event could have been—had the Capitol been better defended—that horrible day’s main target, instead.

Which brings us to a most uncomfortable question: is it inappropriate for journalists to note that a second Trump term puts every Supreme Court Justice in immediate mortal danger? After all, the justices would invariably have to rule at some point in the future that Trump can’t serve a third term as he aims to do, so there can be no question that the Justices—perhaps even all nine of them—will be aligned against Trump going forward in much the same way most of Congress was on January 6.

Having said all this, judges don’t ordinarily recuse themselves because of their fear of potential future harms emanating from one of the parties before them. If the courts habitually did this, what judge would sit on any case that could end with a displeased party? Indeed, as I know from having practiced criminal law for years, there are even situations in which a judge stays on a case even after he or she has been threatened by a party. But what we’re speaking of in this instance—in Anderson v. Griswold—is quite different.

Why? Because this entire case is about the manner of threat Trump posed on January 6, and because the evidence in play relates not just to what Trump said and did at the end of 2020 and in early 2021 but what he’s already said about 2024 and (yes) 2028—words that implicate the future safety of the very federal judges Trump is about to ask to rule in Anderson v. Griswold.

Putting aside the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas should already be recused from any January 6-related case, including this one—his wife supported Donald Trump’s insurrection publicly and privately—the whole court is implicated within Anderson v. Griswold merely by the fact that an armed attack on, and occupation of, their place of business is part of the evidence relevant to the case.

So why isn’t anyone in American media discussing this unprecedented conundrum?

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Cases Crashing Into Supreme Court Could Reshape 2024 Election, Alan Feuer, Dec. 20, 2023. The ruling that Donald Trump is not eligible for the ballot in Colorado is the latest election-related issue most likely to land before the justices.

It has been obvious for months that politics and the law were going to bump into one another in the 2024 campaign, given the double role that former President Donald J. Trump has been playing as a criminal defendant and leading Republican candidate.

But in a way that few expected, that awkward bump has turned into a head-on collision. It now seems clear that the courts — especially the Supreme Court — could dramatically shape the contours of the election.

The nine justices have already agreed to review the scope of an obstruction statute central to the federal indictment accusing Mr. Trump of plotting to overturn the 2020 election. And they could soon become entangled in both his efforts to dismiss those charges with sweeping claims of executive immunity and in a bid to rid himself of a gag order restricting his attacks on Jack Smith, the special counsel in charge of the case.

The court could also be called upon to weigh in on a series of civil lawsuits seeking to hold Mr. Trump accountable for the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Colorado Ruling, Trump’s Rivals Pull Their Punches, Again, Jonathan Weisman, Dec. 20, 2023. The blockbuster 14th Amendment ruling would seem to give Donald Trump’s challengers an avenue of attack. Instead, they are skirting the issue.

A state high court’s decision that the Republican front-runner for the White House is disqualified from office might seem like a pretty good opening for his ostensible G.O.P. challengers.

But in an era of smashmouth politics, ushered in by former President Donald J. Trump, only Mr. Trump appears capable of smashing anyone in the mouth. So, with under four weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday — that Mr. Trump was disqualified from the state’s primary ballot under a section of the 14th Amendment that holds that “no person shall” hold “any office, civil or military” who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” — was apparently off limits.

Mr. Trump still seems to be the one setting the parameters for legitimate debate in the G.O.P., even if he doesn’t participate in the party’s actual debates.

“We don’t need to have judges making these decisions,” Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who is rising in the polls but still far behind Mr. Trump, told reporters in Agency, Iowa, on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks Supreme Court to Put Off Hearing Case on Immunity Claim, Adam Liptak, Dec. 20, 2023. Former President Trump urged the justices to move slowly in the federal election case against him, an apparent attempt to delay the trial, which is set for March.

Former President Donald J. Trump urged the Supreme Court on Wednesday to put off a decision on a crucial question in his federal prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election: whether he has “absolute immunity” for actions he took as president.

The question, Mr. Trump’s brief said, should be “resolved in a cautious, deliberative manner — not at breakneck speed.” He urged the justices not to “rush to decide the issues with reckless abandon.”

The request appeared to be part of Mr. Trump’s general strategy of trying to delay the trial in the case, which is scheduled to start on March 4. That date, Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote, “has no talismanic significance.”

Last week, Jack Smith, the special counsel, asked the Supreme Court to bypass a federal appeals court and agree to hear the immunity question on a quick schedule. Mr. Trump opposed that request on Wednesday, saying the importance of the matter warranted careful and unhurried deliberation by the appeals court before the justices decide whether to take it up.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’s ‘never read Mein Kampf,’ denies Hitler comparisons, Marianne LeVine, Dec. 20, 2023 (print ed.). In a speech in Iowa, Donald Trump repeated his claim that undocumented immigrants are “destroying the blood of our country.”

Former president Donald Trump denied comparisons to dictators such as Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, as he repeated his claim that undocumented immigrants are “destroying the blood of our country.”

“It’s true, they’re destroying the blood of our country. ... They don’t like it when I said that,” he said.

“I never read ‘Mein Kampf,’” Trump said, referring to Hitler’s political manifesto. “They said, ‘Oh, Hitler said that.’ In a much different way. Now they’re coming from all over the world. People all over the world. We have no idea. They could be healthy, they could be very unhealthy, they could bring in disease that’s going to catch on in our country. But they do bring in crime.”

Trump’s remarks, delivered here at a Commit to Caucus event, come as he has faced backlash from historians, civil rights advocates, immigrant rights groups, some Republicans and the Biden campaign for suggesting undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” That rhetoric has drawn comparisons to Hitler’s fixation on blood purity.

Dec. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Panel Rejects Meadows’s Request to Move Georgia Case to Federal Court, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, Dec. 18, 2023. The judges unanimously ruled against Mark Meadows, a former White House chief of staff and a co-defendant of Donald Trump in the election interference case.

A federal appeals court panel on Monday rejected an effort by Mark Meadows, a White House chief of staff under former President Donald J. Trump, to move a Georgia election interference case against him to federal court.

The decision was made by judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Mr. Meadows and Mr. Trump were among 19 defendants charged in August with racketeering and other crimes related to their efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Meadows has sought from the beginning to move his case out of state court, which would widen the jury pool to a geographic area with somewhat more support for Mr. Trump. He claimed that the allegations against him concerned actions he took as a federal officer, and thus should be dealt with in federal court.

But in September, a federal judge sided with Atlanta prosecutors, writing that Mr. Meadows’s conduct, as outlined in the indictment, was “not related to his role as White House chief of staff or his executive branch authority.”

The appellate judges who heard the case, two Democratic appointees and one Republican, unanimously backed that ruling.
Takeaways From Trump’s Indictment in Georgia.

“At bottom, whatever the chief of staff’s role with respect to state election administration, that role does not include altering valid election results in favor of a particular candidate,” Chief Circuit Judge William Pryor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote.

“I think the opinion will carry a lot of weight,” said Clark Cunningham, a professor of law and ethics at Georgia State University, adding that the Republican-appointed members of the Supreme Court “know Judge Pryor well and, I believe, share his judicial philosophy to a significant degree.”

Among other things, the indictment accuses Mr. Meadows of setting up and participating in a call aimed at pressuring Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, to alter the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump lost narrowly to Joseph R. Biden in the state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump asked the full federal appeals court in Washington to review a gag order in his election case, Alan Feuer
Dec. 18, 2023. The former president is seeking the full court’s review after a three-judge panel upheld a gag order imposed by the trial court but narrowed its scope.

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked the full federal appeals court in Washington on Monday to consider whether a gag order in the criminal case in which he stands accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 election should be further narrowed or thrown out.

The request for a hearing in front of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was Mr. Trump’s latest attempt to challenge the order, which was imposed on him in October by the trial judge handling the case in Federal District Court in Washington. Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the full court to put the gag order on hold as it decided whether to hear his appeal.

Two weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the basic idea of restricting Mr. Trump’s public statements about the case but narrowed the terms of the order in a handful of important ways. As part of its revisions, the panel gave the former president wider latitude to make comments about potential witnesses in the proceeding and to attack Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the prosecution.

In its decision, the panel made an important finding: that Mr. Trump’s remarks did not have to present a “clear and present danger” to anyone involved in the case and the gag order could be used as a pre-emptive measure to prevent people from suffering harm.

ny times logoNew York Times, Planners of the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington lied about plans to march to the Capitol, a report found, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 18, 2023.  Women for America First, which planned the rally on the Ellipse, knew of President Donald J. Trump’s plans to have his supporters march to the Capitol but repeatedly denied it to federal permitting officials.

A pro-Trump group that organized the “Save America” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, lied to federal officials about President Donald J. Trump’s plans to call on the crowd to march to the Capitol, where the protest over his election loss turned into a violent riot, according to a new inspector general investigation.

Nearly three years after the mob laid siege to Congress, halting the certification of Mr. Trump’s electoral defeat and injuring more than 150 police officers, the Interior Department’s inspector general on Monday released a 47-page report examining the permitting process that allowed tens of thousands of Trump supporters to gather in Washington before the violence.

The report found that Women for America First, which organized a rally at the Ellipse about two miles from the Capitol on Jan. 6, “intentionally failed to disclose information” to the National Park Service “during the permitting process regarding a march to the U.S. Capitol.”

According to the investigation, Women for America First, which is run by Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer, a conservative mother-and-daughter team, repeatedly told Park Service officials there would be no march to the Capitol while privately planning for one.

When shown private text messages indicating there would be a march, a park ranger involved in the permitting process told investigators it “bl[ew her] mind,” the report said. The Park Service had repeatedly asked Women for America First whether there would be a march, and the organization “was just adamant there was gonna be no march.”

A White House liaison to the rally organizers sent a text message on Jan. 3 to Women for America First regarding a demonstration at the Ellipse. “POTUS expectations are intimate and then send everyone over to the Capitol,” the message said, according to the report.

Katrina Pierson, a Trump spokeswoman, had sent an email on Jan. 2, 2021, with nearly identical language.

Also on Jan. 3, Women for America First, which had received a permit on Jan. 1 for a 5,000-person rally, expanded the number of attendees to 30,000 while continuing to deny to Park Service officials that there would be a march.

On Jan. 4, Kylie Jane Kremer wrote in a text message: “POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol.” She added: “It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the National Park Service and all the agencies, but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly.’”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ramp up pressure on Clarence Thomas to recuse himself in Trump case, Tobi Raji and Maegan Vazquez, Dec. 18, 2023. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing calls from a growing number of Democrats who say he should recuse himself from a case examining former president Donald Trump’s presidential immunity, with House members now raising concerns about the justice’s ability to remain impartial given his wife’s involvement in the movement to overturn the 2020 election results.

The immunity case is the latest test of the court’s recently released code of conduct. Last month, all nine justices, including Thomas, signed onto the 14-page document outlining how they should behave and perform their official duties.

Trump has been charged with four counts related to conspiring to obstruct the results of the 2020 election. His lawyers argue that presidential immunity shields him from prosecution. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled against him in December. Trump appealed the decision, and special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court last week to expedite the process. Trump’s lawyers have until Wednesday to respond to Smith’s request.

In a new letter, eight House Democrats, led by Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s courts subcommittee, are calling on Thomas to recuse himself in the case, citing the court’s new code of conduct’s guidance on impartiality.

Specifically, they raised concerns about Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, who repeatedly pressed the Trump White House and lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory, attended the Stop the Steal rally before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and told the House committee investigating the attack last year that she still believed the 2020 election was stolen.

The letter, dated Dec. 15, says Ginni Thomas’s actions after the election “raise serious questions” about her husband’s “ability to be or even to appear impartial in any cases before the Supreme Court involving the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection.”

“If you want to show the American people that the Supreme Court’s recent Code of Conduct is worth more than the paper it is written on, you must do the honorable thing and recuse yourself from any decisions in the case of United States v. Trump,” the lawmakers state.

Besides Johnson, the letter was signed by Reps. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), Madeleine Dean (Pa.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), Dan Goldman (N.Y.) and Jasmine Crockett (Texas).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump reprises dehumanizing language on undocumented immigrants, warns of ‘invasion,’ Marianne LeVine and Maria Sacchetti, Dec. 18, 2023.  Former president Donald Trump on Sunday accused undocumented immigrants of waging an “invasion” of the United States, in a speech that highlighted his frequent use of dehumanizing language and exaggerated terms to describe many foreigners seeking to enter the country.

During a campaign event in Reno, Nev., the clear polling leader in the Republican race blamed President Biden for what he portrayed as a dangerous incursion on the homeland — although many migrants detained at the southern border are parents and children seeking protection, and studies show that undocumented immigrants are less likely than U.S. citizens to commit crimes.

“This is an invasion. This is like a military invasion,” Trump said. “Drugs, criminals, gang members and terrorists are pouring into our country at record levels. We’ve never seen anything like it. They’re taking over our cities.”

Trump has drawn renewed criticism over his rhetoric toward undocumented immigrants, and on Saturday, he accused them in a speech and in a social media post of “poisoning the blood” of the country. That language has caused alarm among some civil rights advocates and immigrant groups, who have compared it to the writings of Adolf Hitler.

Immigration remains a vulnerable political area for Biden, with polls showing disapproval of his handling of the border and Democrat-led cities straining to accommodate the newcomers. The Biden administration has struggled to manage a major influx of migrants, including record numbers of parents traveling with children.

Experts disputed the use of the term “invasion” to describe the situation, and advocates for immigrants have criticized Trump and other GOP officials for their use of such words, noting that most are fleeing persecution or poverty and seeking humanitarian protection.

During his speech on Sunday, Trump reiterated that in a second term he would have the “largest deportation operation in American history.” He falsely portrayed immigrants as coming from “mental institutions and insane asylums,” and pledged to “shift massive portions of federal law enforcement to immigration enforcement” and have “strong ideological screening.”

Sidebars, Weekend Wrap White Collar Analysis: Jack Smith as the Grinch, and SCOTUS to review key obstruction law, Randall Eliason, right, Dec. 17, randall eliason2023. Trump Cases: It was a wild week in the D.C. case. Portions of the case are now before all three levels of courts in the federal system: the district court, court of appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court.

District Court: Judge Chutkan granted Trump’s motion to stay the proceedings pending his appeal of his motions to dismiss for presidential immunity and double jeopardy. Prosecutors argued that the judge could still rule on motions that were already pending and some other collateral matters, but Chutkan agreed with Trump that everything has to be paused. She noted that she will retain jurisdiction to enforce Trump’s release conditions and the gag order if necessary.

This ruling was not a surprise. The law is pretty clear that the trial court loses jurisdiction during such an appeal and the defendant is entitled to be free from the burdens of litigation, including responding to discovery and other pretrial matters. But it does highlight how now the clock starts ticking with regard to that looming March 4 trial date. The longer things are tied up in appeals, the more difficult it will be for that date to hold.

Court of Appeals: On Monday Jack Smith moved the D.C. Circuit for expedited consideration of Trump’s appeal on the immunity issues, arguing there is a compelling public interest in preserving the trial date and avoiding delays. As I noted in Monday night’s post, the Court gave Trump until Wednesday to respond. On Wednesday he opposed expedited consideration, arguing there is no good reason for it and that this is all part of the Biden administration’s effort to take out Biden’s main rival in the 2024 election.

And Wednesday evening the Court granted Smith’s motion for expedited review. Trump’s brief is due on December 23, Smith’s opposition on Dec. 30, and Trump’s reply on January 2. Oral argument is not yet scheduled, but I expect it will be in early January, unless the Supreme Court intervenes. (They could summarily affirm Judge Chutkan’s ruling without oral argument, but that’s probably unlikely.) I think we could also expect a decision some time in January.

This is a very good sign that the D.C. Circuit recognizes the urgency of getting the case to trial and is willing to do its part to expedite the proceedings. And they didn’t even make defense counsel work over Christmas.

Dec. 16

djt wind jim watson afp getty

ny times logoNew York Times, Material From Russia Investigation Went Missing as Trump Left Office, Maggie Haberman, Julian E. Barnes, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan, Dec. 16, 2023 (print ed.). A binder given to Donald Trump contained details that intelligence agencies believe could reveal secret sources and methods.

Material from a binder with highly classified information connected to the investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election disappeared in the final days of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, two people familiar with the matter said.

The disappearance of the material, known as the “Crossfire Hurricane” binder for the name given to the investigation by the F.B.I., vexed national security officials and set off concerns that sensitive information could be inappropriately shared, one of the people said.

The material’s disappearance was reported earlier Friday by CNN. The matter was so concerning to officials that the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed about it last year, a U.S. official said.

The binder consists of a hodgepodge of materials related to the origins and early stages of the Russia investigation that were collected by Trump administration officials. They included copies of botched F.B.I. applications for national-security surveillance warrants to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser as well as text messages between two F.B.I. officials involved in the inquiry, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, expressing animus toward Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani plaintiffs used marketing professor to propose damages, Tom Jackman, Dec. 16, 2023. Plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss called a marketing professor from Northwestern University, Ashlee Humphreys, to give the jury a sense of how widely Giuliani’s comments about them spread, and how much it would cost to repair the damage from that.

Humphreys estimated that Giuliani’s defamatory statements beginning in December 2020 were seen as few as 35 million times and as many as 58 million times on social media and mainstream media, by people who were “receptive” to conservative messaging. She said that there were far more searches for Freeman’s name than Moss’s name, possibly because Moss uses both Wandrea and Shaye as first names.

Humphreys said it was possible to repair a damaged reputation, and cited the case of Martha Stewart, imprisoned for lying to federal authorities, who has since restored her marketability. She said using influencers on X, formerly Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and repeating positive messages five times about Freeman and Moss, and purchasing advertising, all in a volume comparable to the negative Giuliani messages, would cost $47.5 million. The women’s lawyers asked the jury to award $48 million in compensatory damages, but did not suggest a figure for punitive damages.

Jurors could not be located after the verdict to explain how they came up with the figures they reached on damages.

Plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss called a marketing professor from Northwestern University, Ashlee Humphreys, to give the jury a sense of how widely Giuliani’s comments about them spread, and how much it would cost to repair the damage from that.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called the plaintiffs in this case “patriots.” John Catsimatidis, owner of WABC Radio, where Giuliani hosts a talk show six days a week, told listeners that the former mayor “got kicked” with this verdict.

Politico, The Trump Hotel turns blue, Lauren Egan, Dec. 16, 2023. The hotel that for six years held Donald Trump’s name is now a favorite place for the Democratic elite.

politico CustomAs members of President Joe Biden’s national finance committee filtered out of their winter meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in downtown Washington, they could hardly contain their glee.

Until last year, the lavish hotel was part of former President Donald Trump’s real-estate empire. No Democratic official would dare step foot inside. But as the hotel struggled to make money after Trump left office, the former president sold his lease on the Old Post Office Building and the hotel was rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria. Now, spending time there has become a way for the Democratic elite to stick it to the former president.

Politico, House GOP reeling after a top recruit blasts Trump on tape, Ally Mutnick and Olivia Beavers, Dec. 16, 2023. In a must-win Ohio race, one Republican candidate is facing allegations of stolen valor — and now another is inviting the former president’s wrath by bashing him. House Republicans are scrambling to fix a potential nightmare that’s unfolding in a must-win race in northwestern Ohio.

politico CustomThe GOP is eager to block J.R. Majewski from winning its nomination to challenge veteran Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski lost his previous bid for Congress last year, after a news report on his military records indicated he lied about combat duty in Afghanistan.

Republicans turned to former state legislator Craig Riedel to beat Majewski in this cycle’s primary. But last week, an audio tape surfaced of Riedel calling Donald Trump “arrogant” and vowing not to endorse the former president. Now the primary looks poised to become a referendum on which is worse in today’s GOP: criticizing Trump or allegedly lying about one’s military valor.

Republican strategists don’t believe Majewski can win a general election against Kaptur, given his record and how purple the district is. Yet the audio of Riedel may have tanked his chances of defeating Majewski.

So Republicans in Ohio and Washington are in damage control mode, holding high-level discussions about trying to find a new candidate before the state’s Dec. 20 filing deadline, according to three people familiar with the effort who were granted anonymity to speak candidly.

“Unless he’s found somebody that knows he was in Afghanistan, and he can have some proof that he was in Afghanistan, I don’t know how he overcomes that issue,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) said of Majewski. “It’s a disqualifier for anybody that does it. I’m not saying he did. But so far, last I heard, he didn’t have a good answer.”

Top party strategists are urging Trump’s team and allies not to rush to endorse Majewski, citing his liabilities. Republican campaign officials are also deploying screenshots of a nearly two-year-old private message that appears to show Majewski calling Trump “an idiot.” Those pictures of the alleged Majewski message were shown to the former president, according to a fourth person familiar with the interaction.

“You could take a self-funder with over half a million dollars to put in that race and win the primary and have a better shot at beating Marcy Kaptur than J.R. Majewski … who will lose by 20 points,” this Republican said.

Recent redistricting turned Kaptur’s Toledo-based district into one of the nation’s most competitive; she is one of just five Democrats who represents a district that Trump carried in 2020. But Majewski’s reported misrepresentation of his service record sank his last bid, and he lost by 13 points.

Politico, Judges dubious of Mark Meadows’ bid to avoid facing charges in Georgia state court, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Dec. 16, 2023. A federal appeals court panel took a skeptical stance Friday toward an effort by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to have a federal court take and potentially dismiss the state charges pending against him for allegedly trying to tamper with the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

politico CustomAll three members of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel raised sharp questions about Meadows’ argument that his role as Donald Trump’s chief of staff requires federal courts — rather than the courts in Fulton County, Ga. — to oversee the case in which he, Trump and 17 others were charged in an alleged racketeering conspiracy.

During a 50-minute oral argument session in Atlanta, the appeals judges expressed particular skepticism about Meadows’ effort to claim that his work to help Trump secure a second term even after states had certified his defeat — conduct at the heart of the charges against him in Georgia — were part of his official chief-of-staff duties.

“That just cannot be right,” said Judge Robin Rosenbaum, an appointee of President Barack Obama. She specifically cited “electioneering on behalf of a specific political candidate” and “an alleged effort to unlawfully change the outcome of the election” as examples of what would fall outside a government official’s duties.

Hutchinson says Meadows warned things 'might get real, real bad' on Jan. 6

The scope of Meadows’ formal duties is important because, under federal law, U.S. officials have the right to transfer a case from state court into federal court if the case is based on their official acts. That process, known as “removal,” also could result in dismissal of the charges if a federal judge agrees that Meadows’ actions were a legitimate exercise of his official responsibilities.

Judge Nancy Abudu, an appointee of President Joe Biden, noted that a different federal law, known as the Hatch Act, prohibits government officials from engaging in political activity in their official capacity.

In a particularly bad sign for Meadows, the staunchly conservative chief judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, William Pryor Jr., signaled he doesn’t believe the removal procedure applies to former officials at all. He said it would have been reasonable for Congress to prefer removal only for current officials because state charges against former officials don’t interfere with “ongoing operations of the federal government.”

Dec. 15

 

arthur engoron djt  New York Justice Arthur F. Engoron, above left, whose decisions in the civil fraud trial are already facing scrutiny as Donald Trump counts on an appeal.

New York Justice Arthur F. Engoron, above left, whose decisions in the civil fraud trial are already facing scrutiny as Donald Trump counts on an appeal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unconventional Trial Judge Could Remove Trump From His N.Y. Empire, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Kate Christobek and William K. Rashbaum, Dec. 15, 2023 (print ed.).

Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, set out to prove that Donald J. Trump had committed fraud. Mr. Trump took the stand to assail Ms. James. Lawyers on both sides screamed that their opponents were out of line and wasting time.

When 11 weeks of chaotic courtroom wrangling ended Wednesday, the fate of Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial began to move behind the scenes and into the hands of Arthur F. Engoron, the unconventional New York judge overseeing the case. And because the judge will decide the verdict — there is no jury — he will determine the future of Mr. Trump’s role in his family business.

Justice Engoron ruled before the trial began that Mr. Trump had fraudulently inflated his net worth, and announced an initial round of punishments. That blow recast the trial as a battle over how steep a penalty the former president would face. Ms. James has indicated that she may press for a fine above the $250 million she originally sought, concluding that he reaped more ill-gotten gains than was once thought. She has also asked the judge to bar Mr. Trump from running a business in the state, banishing him from the world that made him famous decades ago.

The attorney general’s arguments seemed to persuade the judge, and under the powerful New York law underpinning the case, he has broad authority to punish Mr. Trump. His decision is expected as soon as next month, after closing arguments in court.

Dec. 12

 

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court will consider fast-tracking Trump appeal in D.C. trial, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein, Robert Barnes and Rachel Weiner, Dec. 12, 2023 (print ed.). ‘The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,’ special counsel Jack Smith wrote, calling it ‘an extraordinary case.’

The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider special counsel Jack Smith’s request to fast-track consideration of Donald Trump’s claim he is immune from prosecution for alleged election obstruction in 2020 — intensifying the legal jockeying over whether Trump’s criminal trial in D.C. will stay on schedule for early next year.

The decision by the nation’s highest court doesn’t mean that the justices will definitely short-circuit the typical appeals process, but it means they are going to hear arguments from both sides about whether they should act quickly. Trump’s lawyers were told to file briefs on the issue by Dec. 20.

The quick response by the Supreme Court came hours after Smith’s office filed its request seeking to essentially leapfrog an appeals court process that Trump has already started but which could take months to resolve. A lengthy appeal could slow the Justice Department’s push for a March trial for Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

It is unusual for the government to ask the court to disrupt the judicial process, and to do so quickly. “The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,” Smith wrote. “This is an extraordinary case.”

He added that without special intervention, the Supreme Court might not be able to consider the issue before the justices complete their term in June.

The timing of Trump’s four criminal cases is of paramount concern to both prosecutors and the former president’s legal team. Smith has also charged Trump in Florida with allegedly mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them; in addition, Trump faces state charges in New York for alleged hush money paid during the 2016 election, and in Georgia alleging a massive conspiracy to undo the 2020 election results in that state.

In the face of the four indictments, Trump has denied guilt and tried to push his trials beyond Election Day in November. Smith’s latest legal gambit aims to keep the Washington trial on its current schedule. That schedule calls for Trump’s D.C. trial to begin one day before the Super Tuesday primary — underscoring how messy next year’s political and legal calendars could be.

“It is of imperative public importance that respondent’s claims of immunity be resolved by this Court and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected,” the filing from Smith argues.

The Trump campaign in a statement accused Smith of trying to interfere with the 2024 election, saying he “is willing to try for a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the appellate process … There is absolutely no reason to rush this sham to trial except to injure President Trump and tens of millions of his supporters.”

Trump’s legal team had earlier asked U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution over his conduct during his waning days in office. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, ruled against Trump, who plans to appeal that ruling.

That appeal, however, could take months and significantly delay the start of the trial. So Smith — the federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to lead the investigation of Trump — is seeking to speed up the process by taking the highly unusual step of going directly to the Supreme Court after his office prevailed in District Court.

Smith argued in the filing that Trump’s legal claims of immunity “are profoundly mistaken, as the district court held. But only this Court can definitively resolve them.”

He noted that in recent years the court has granted requests to consider cases of “imperative public importance” before an appeals court had completed its review. Among them were challenges to President Biden’s attempt to forgive student loan debts; review of a Mississippi abortion law that led to overturning Roe v. Wade, and the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the census.

In arguing that the justices should take up the issue of Trump’s immunity right away, Smith cited the Supreme Court’s landmark United States v. Nixon decision, which ordered President Richard M. Nixon to deliver White House tapes and other documents to a federal district court. The unanimous ruling said a president does not have absolute immunity from subpoenas or other court actions.

The Supreme Court expedited consideration of the Nixon case, and delivered its opinion three weeks after oral argument.
U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, former president Donald Trump and Smith. (AFP/Getty Images) (Handout/AFP/Getty Images)

Derek Muller, a University of Notre Dame law school professor, described Monday’s filing as rare and said Smith was asking the Supreme Court for “extraordinary relief.”

He said the Supreme Court is often reluctant to get involved when it doesn’t need to, but that there is no harm in Smith making the request as he explores every legal avenue to ensure the case proceeds on schedule.

“March 4th sounds like it is a long ways away — but it’s not. Especially when you have multiple layers of judicial review and pending appeals,” Muller said. “Smith’s team is trying to wrap up things as quickly as possible to eliminate uncertainty.”

Trump picked one-third of the sitting Supreme Court justices during his four years in office. But the former president does not have a winning track record at the high court. The justices turned aside requests from Trump and his supporters to get involved in challenges to the 2020 election results. It ruled against his claims that the presidency protected him from investigation and rejected his efforts to block release of his financial records.

Last year, the court refused Trump’s request to block the release of some of his White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that was trying to heed his calls to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. The justices also denied Trump’s effort to block a congressional committee from examining his tax returns after an extended legal battle.

Dec. 11

djt indicted proof

Politico, Trump the ‘human gumball machine’ will ‘impose his will’ on the nation if elected, Romney says, Kelly Garrity, Dec. 11, 2023 (print ed.). “A thought or a notion comes in and it comes out of his mouth. There’s not a lot of filter that goes on,” he said of Trump.

politico CustomSome Republicans have read former President Donald Trump’s comment last week that would act as a dictator only on “day one,” as just another Trumpian quip. But not Sen. Mitt Romney.

“His behavior suggests that this is a person who will impose his will if he can on the judicial system, on the legislative branch and on the entire nation,” Romney (R-Utah) told NBC’s Kristin Welker during an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“When he called people to come to Washington, D.C., on January 6, that was not a random date. That was the date when peaceful transfer of power was to occur. He called that on purpose. No question he has authoritarian rulings and interests and notions which he will try and impose,” Romney said.

However, Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said he doesn’t necessarily put much stake in the former president’s specific words, describing Trump as a “human gumball machine.”

“A thought or a notion comes in and it comes out of his mouth. There’s not a lot of filter that goes on. … He just says whatever. I don’t attach an enormous amount of impact to the particular words that come out,” Romney said.

Romney, who announced earlier this year that he will forgo a reelection bid in 2024, has become one of the few remaining Republicans in Congress willing to condemn Trump publicly. Many other Trump critics have systematically retired, as Romney plans to do, or be ousted from their seats by candidates backed by the former president and his MAGA base.

Romney was the only Senate Republican to break with his party in a vote to impeach Trump during his first trial in 2020, and has since become somewhat of an outsider in his caucus. On Sunday he joked that his endorsement in the 2024 presidential election would be equivalent to the “kiss of death” for that candidate, though he left the door open to throwing his support behind President Joe Biden down the road.

“The Joe I’d like to vote for is Joe Manchin,” Romney said — but he doesn’t expect the West Virginia Democratic senator, whose name has been thrown around as the possible lead on a bipartisan No Labels ticket, to get in the race.

“I wish he would,” Romney said.

Dec. 9

 

djt threat graphic

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Analysis: Trump’s “vermin” and “dictator for a day” outbursts alert voters to grave risk of MAGA totalitarian dictatorship in webster tarpley 20072024 election! Webster G. Tarpley, (right, historian and commentator), Dec. 9, 2023. Flurry of articles and broadcasts now discusses looming threat of fascism, although in-depth historical understanding of Mussolini and Hitler is often inadequate; Nazi enabling act of March 1933 set up dictatorship by allowing Hitler to rule by decree and approve treaties without parliament (Reichstag) and to violate the Weimar constitution;

MAGA saboteurs in House Traitorville block funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and border personnel; New questions about possible Russian influence on Speaker; Probe MAGA Mike for his obstruction of blurring faces; Why have Garland and Smith not indicted the GOP Congress members complicit in Trump’s January 6 coup?

With ouster of Santos, departure of Qevin, and other changes, House MAGA majority could soon dwindle to a single vote; Dems must prepare for quick and decisive motion to vacate the chair making Hakeem Jeffries the new Speaker, and then repeal the ”debt limit”;

To restore order in House, Garland must enforce federal law against 4 MAGA scofflaws who defied subpoenas from January 6 committee and investigate the half dozen who wanted pardons from Trump; House members must respect their oaths of office;

Israeli Ambassador Pincas denounces Netanyahu’s plan to activate infamous Breakaway Ally scenario, attempting to dump the opprobrium of his own failures on US and Biden; US should promote ouster of desperate demagogue Bibi and his coalition of fascist settlers;

US veto of UNSC ceasefire resolution is tragic blunder leaving this country isolated; Biden must urgently shift policy to favor armistice; US airlift needed to saturate Gaza with humanitarian supplies at rate of 250 truckloads per day, on scale of Berlin airlift;

Hunter Biden is targeted with draconian indictments for many of same offenses for which Trump ally Roger Stone got off scot free; With 199,00 new jobs in November, Bidenomics racks up new record of 14 million jobs created so far during presidency!

 

seth abramson proof coup cover

 This 250-page, Fall 2022 report on the coup plot at the Pentagon is the fourth book in the Proof series. Other books in the series include the national bestsellers Proof of Collusion (Simon & Schuster, 2018); Proof of Conspiracy (Macmillan, 2019); and Proof of Corruption (Macmillan, 2020). The Proof project also includes an international top-ten podcast that ran just before the 2020 election, Proof: A Pre-Election Special (Cineflix/Connect3 Media, 2020)

Proof via Substack and Medium, New Book Released with 'Proof of Coup: How the Pentagon Shaped An Insurrection,' Seth Abramson, left, Dec. 8-9, seth abramson graphic2023. This fourth book in the New York Times-bestselling "Proof" series is a fully sourced 250-page exposé on the January 6 coup plot at the Pentagon — with hundreds of citations, photographs, videos, and more. The first five chapters of this full-length book are free to read right now. But you can read the entirety of the book for free simply by trying Proof for a week. To do so, click the button below.

seth abramson proof logoIn early 2018, as part of his unsuccessful efforts to goose congressional Republicans’ chances in the upcoming midterm elections, then-president Donald Trump signed into law an act designed to bring Hillary Clinton and her name out of retirement and back into mainstream political discussion: as Politico summarizes it, the law Trump signed “stiffened the penalty for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents from one year to five years, turning it into a felony offense.”

That Trump intended the law as a political stunt—one that gave him an excuse to now and again invoke Clinton’s 2015 “email” case three years later—would subsequently be confirmed by facts no American who didn’t work in the White House could’ve known at the time: behind the walls of the People’s House, Trump was himself (though in his case unambiguously) mishandling government records, including classified documents, to a degree that had been unthinkable in the nearly quarter-millennium of American history that preceded Trump taking office. Not only would Trump sometimes literally consume government records, he would routinely flush documents legally required to be preserved down his private toilet. At other times he simply ripped up government records and threw them in the trash, while on still other occasions he had his aides take a large number of such records, put them in “burn bags”, and incinerate them.

One of the many reasons that legal experts—including the DOJ prosecutor who led the investigation into Clinton’s email practices—say that Trump’s conduct exceeded in audacity his 2016 Democratic opponent’s by orders of magnitude is that Trump curated which records he wanted destroyed, suggesting a degree of premeditation and nefarious intent found to be wholly absent in the Clinton case.

But perhaps the best evidence of Trump’s years-long plot to hide his conduct in office from U.S. voters by selectively removing key documents from the public (i.e. taxpayer-owned) record was a means of handling classified documents less spectacular than those listed above but no less troubling: in his final months in office, which included all of his initial preparations (beginning in the summer of 2020) to steal the upcoming presidential election through false claims of election fraud and extended to the period immediately after his failed January 6, 2021 coup attempt, Trump was followed around the White House by a troupe of aides with oversized cardboard boxes of government records he’d commanded be stored in this bizarre fashion. On a regular basis the then-president would order that these boxes be deposited in his private residence in the White House. Throughout the waning months of the Trump presidency—amidst his clandestine effort to hold onto power via stratagems America had never seen before—the president would routinely select certain documents to be secreted in these boxes, with the said material evidence never to be seen again (he seemed to hope) by either the taxpayers who were paying his salary or by the many federal investigators who had in the past and would soon be again investigating him and his conduct in office.

 

Norman Lear (shown in a New York Times file photo by J. Emilio Flores).

Norman Lear (shown in a New York Times file photo by J. Emilio Flores).

Going Deep With Russ Baker via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Norman Lear: The Man with the REAL Family Values, Russ Baker whowhatwhy logoruss baker(right, founder of the WhoWhatWhy investigative site and best-selling author), Dec. 9, 2023. What he was like in person.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up watching All in the Family — with my family. It was a seminal bonding experience, an informal education on the human condition, a chance to laugh at human folly, a chance to dare to see the world differently, to think differently. Many years later, I had the good fortune of meeting and becoming friends with the creator of that show, Norman Lear.  Much has already been said about him and his legacy. I want to add my small piece to the remembrances.

When I heard that Norman had died, one of my first thoughts was how far this man brought America and how far backward we have gone in recent years.

How he helped America become more enlightened and more tolerant — and how tragic it is that he spent his final days seeing just how unenlightened, intolerant, and viciously tribal our society has become.

And yet it is this legacy of Norman Lear that will keep me fighting the good fight until we get back to the progress he helped engineer — and are able to move forward again.

After a career in making a difference through media, Norman turned to the issue arena, founding the nonprofit, 300,000-member People for the American Way (PFAW) to advance tolerance and progress. Besides backing and opposing political candidates in a manner consistent with a vision of a better, more just America, it fostered opportunity through such entities as the Young Elected Officials Network, the African American Ministers Leadership Council, and the Latino Vote program, which played a role in the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

PFAW also took the gloves off — with its Right Wing Watch exposing the ugliness, hypocrisy, and dangerous hate speech of politicians, preachers, and media outlets — and can take credit for, among other things, having Alex Jones’s reckless Infowars removed from several popular distribution sites.

Dec. 8

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Meet the Biden impeachment managers: Larry, Moe and Curly, Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 8, 2023. After House Republicans’ dana milbank newestcaucus meeting in the Capitol basement this week, Speaker Mike Johnson gave the media an update on his release of thousands of hours of security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The release had been slowed, Johnson explained, because “we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day, because we don’t want them to be retaliated against — and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other, you know, concerns and problems.”

It was as clear a statement as there could be on where the new speaker’s allegiance lies: protecting those who sacked the Capitol from being brought to justice for their crimes. Johnson (La.) was openly siding with the insurrectionists and against the United States government he swore an oath to defend.

The Justice Department already has the undoctored footage, as Johnson’s spokesman later acknowledged, so, presumably, the speaker is trying to prevent members of the public from identifying anyone in the violent mob (“persons who participated in the events of that day”) that law enforcement might have overlooked. Sure, they attacked the seat of government in their bloody attempt to overthrow a free and fair election, but let us respect their privacy! After all the yammering from the right about transparency, Johnson is manipulating the footage — not to protect the Capitol’s security but to protect the attackers.

 

ap logoAssociated Press, Appeals court upholds gag order on Trump in Washington case but narrows restrictions on his speech, Alana Durkin and Eric Tucker, Dec. 8, 2023. A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday upheld a gag order on former President Donald Trump in his 2020 election interference case but narrowed the restrictions on his speech.

The three-judge panel’s ruling modifies the gag order to allow the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner to make disparaging comments about special counsel Jack Smith.

But the court upheld the ban on public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the case.
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“By broadly proscribing any statements about or directed to the Special Counsel and the court’s and counsel’s staffs, as well as reasonably foreseeable witnesses or their testimony, the Order sweeps too broadly,” the court said in its opinion. “It captures some constitutionally protected speech that lacks the features or content that would trench upon the court’s proper functioning or ability to administer justice.”

Trump, who has described the gag order as unconstitutional muzzling of his political speech, could appeal the ruling to the full court or to the Supreme Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How an Ohio senator’s stunt proves the Trump dictatorship theory, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. J.D. Vance ruth marcus twitter Customwants Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate my colleague Robert Kagan for allegedly inciting insurrection with his recent essay warning of the “increasingly inevitable” dangers of dictatorship under Donald Trump.

jd vance w gage skidmoreFor good measure, the Ohio Republican, left, wants Secretary of State Antony Blinken to look into whether Kagan’s wife, Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, should have her security clearance revoked because her “close relationship with her husband might compromise her judgment about the best interests of the United States.”

victoria nuland currentRight. The little woman, right, who was George W. Bush’s ambassador to NATO and has decades of foreign policy experience in both Republican and Democratic administrations, must be under her husband’s thumb.

Under ordinary circumstances — that is to say, circumstances in which Trump’s reelection were not a serious possibility — Vance’s missive would be dismissible for what it is: a preening, Trump-toadying stunt. No sane Justice Department would take any action other than tossing Vance’s letter in the trash. No sane State Department would touch Nuland’s clearance.

In the current climate, however, the stunt must be taken seriously as a preview of what life under a Trump presidency — or, to use Kagan’s term, a Trump dictatorship — might entail. Because we know, not from Kagan but from Trump himself, along with his constitutionally illiterate enablers, that this is just the kind of abuse of power they contemplate in a second Trump term.

Dec. 7

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Politico, Trump’s ‘dictator’ remark jolts the 2024 campaign — and tests his GOP rivals on debate day, Adam Wren, Dec. 7, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s remarks came on the eve of what may be the final GOP primary debate of the 2024 campaign.

politico CustomSean Hannity was trying to throw Donald Trump a life vest, and Trump was waving it off.

At a town hall in Davenport, Iowa, on the eve of what may be the final Republican primary debate of the campaign, the Fox News host asked the likely GOP nominee whether he had “any plans whatsoever, if reelected president, to abuse power? To break the law? To use the government to go after people?”

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).Trump parried. Hannity probed. He again asked Trump whether he was indeed “promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”

“Except for Day One,” Trump said.

Were Trump’s initial remarks a Trumpian jest? A threat? A promise?

Whether Trump was smiling and winking at a dictatorship, his declaration marked a pivotal point in the race — coming as he and those who would likely populate his second-term administration spark concerns that they are laying the groundwork for a more authoritarian style of governance.

And the timing could hardly have been more significant — immediately throwing down a gauntlet for his remaining four challengers as they gather in Alabama tonight. Implicitly, his interview served as an invitation for them to either acquiesce or criticize their party’s frontrunner in a primary where they have been reflexively reluctant to do so. His day-one dictator remarks offer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy the opening to either reject or affirm that a thread of authoritarianism is now woven into the fabric of the Republican Party.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Liz Cheney reminds us of the stakes, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 7, 2023. Nowonder MAGA Republicans hate Liz Cheney. jennifer rubin new headshotNo Republican is as articulate, persuasive and passionate as the former Wyoming congresswoman in describing the threat four-time-indicted former president Donald Trump and her own party as currently constituted pose to the future of American democracy and international security.

Her new book Oath and Honor has plenty of bombshells — the congressman who derided Trump as “orange Jesus”; Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s pathetic excuse that he had to visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago because the former president was depressed and not eating. But the jaw-dropping tidbits should not distract from her overarching message, one that Republicans and the media alike need to embrace.

In her characteristically blunt, unvarnished way, she told CBS’s John Dickerson in an interview aired Sunday: “He’s told us what he will do. It’s very easy to see the steps that he will take. … People who say ‘Well, if he’s elected, it’s not that dangerous because we have all of these checks and balances’ don’t fully understand the extent to which the Republicans in Congress today have been co-opted.” She stressed, “One of the things that we see happening today is a sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States.”

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, New Trump appeal launches Jan. 6 trial race that could land at Supreme Court, Washington Post Staff, Dec. 7, 2023. Donald Trump’s lawyers filed a notice in court Thursday saying they’ll appeal Judge Tanya Chutkan’s rejection of his immunity claims

Donald Trump filed notice on Thursday saying he will appeal a D.C. judge’s ruling that he was not immune from being charged with federal crimes for his efforts to undo the outcome of the 2020 election, either by his former role as president or the Constitution’s rules for impeachment.
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The notice is a minor procedural step. But it sets in motion one of the most potentially consequential parts of Trump’s legal saga as the first former president to be charged with crimes. How and when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court handle his appeal could have a huge impact on whether Trump — who is again running for president — goes on trial before voters go to the polls in 2024, or ever.

Trump’s legal team says the charges that he conspired to obstruct Joe Biden’s 2020 victory should be thrown out for two reasons. First, his lawyers contend that he had presidential immunity. Second, they argue that charging him with trying to block the election results violates the legal principle of double jeopardy, because Trump was already acquitted at his congressional impeachment for his conduct leading up to the riot-marred Jan. 6, 2021 formal tabulation of electoral college votes.

Since a grand jury voted to bring the criminal charges this summer, prosecutors have sought to try Trump as quickly as possible. Trump’s lawyers have insisted their client needs and deserves more time, both as a defendant reviewing evidence and as a former president trying to win back the White House.

Appeals courts consider very few legal issues before a criminal case goes to trial and a verdict is reached. But questions of immunity and double jeopardy are often among the exceptions, because if the defendant is right that they cannot be charged, courts have held that they should not be forced to go through a trial at all.

And since the Supreme Court has never grappled with some of the legal questions at issue in Trump’s claims — particularly whether a president is immune from indictment and criminal prosecution for actions undertaken while in office, even after he has left office — many lawyers say they believe the courts will have to wrestle with those aspects of the Trump case.

The key issue, according to legal experts, is how long will the higher courts consider that question. Trump is scheduled to go on trial in Washington, D.C., starting March 4, and potential jurors in the nation’s capital have already received notices that they are being considered for a three-month trial to start on that date. It would be the first of four criminal trials Trump could face, including a federal case involving classified documents in southern Florida; a state-level election-obstruction case in Georgia; and a state-level business fraud case in New York.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s 48-page opinion last week rejected all of Trump’s constitutional challenges, including immunity and that the indictment never should have been filed because it improperly tries to criminalize his constitutionally protected rights to speech and advocacy as a political candidate.

Now that Trump has filed his notice of appeal, the case before Chutkan cannot proceed to trial while the appeals court takes up his claims, legal analysts said. That makes the question of timing especially critical, with the other trials looming and the campaign season soon to be in full swing.

Some veteran trial lawyers estimate that if the appeals court rules against Trump and returns the case to Chutkan, it could take weeks more to complete preparations for trial.

Based on that calculus, some analysts say the three-judge panel that will hear the appeal first would have to rule on it soon after the New Year for a trial to be completed before next summer’s presidential nominating conventions. That is because Trump is expected, if he loses, to appeal to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court, seeking an injunction to stop the trial case from going forward while his arguments are again considered.

Any Supreme Court appeal comes with its own special math: Four of nine justices must agree to consider a case, but five are needed to issue an injunction or ruling.

Much remains uncertain. Experts caution that there are so many variables to how the courts could consider the issues involved in Trump’s appeal that it is difficult to make any predictions about how long it will all take.

“We’re in a bit of procedural no man’s land, because although an immediate appeal on immunity issues is pretty well standard, the question is, this is a new case, and this is the first time we’ve had a former president indicted,” said Stanley Brand, former House general counsel and now an attorney for several former Trump aides including Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro.

Brand, whose law partner is representing Trump’s co-defendant in the classified documents prosecution in Florida, Waltine Nauta, has spent years handling immunity issues in Washington. He put the chances of Trump’s trial occurring by March 4 at “50-50 or less” given the appellate process.

It’s December, “and unless there’s expedited consideration, it’s hard to see how you could have any consideration thoughtful enough to consider these novel issues in three months,” Brand said.

Dec. 6

 

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 washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Special counsel alleges Trump ‘sent’ supporters on path to Jan. 6 violence, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 6, 2023 (print ed.). Jack Smith, shown above in a file photo, accused the former president of a history of election lies and ‘encouragement of violence.’

President Donald Trump officialFederal prosecutors on Tuesday accused former president Donald Trump of a long pattern of lying about elections and encouraging violence, saying he “sent” supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 to criminally block the election results.

In a new court filing, prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith went further than in their August indictment in attempting to tie him to that day’s violence, saying they intended to introduce evidence of his other acts both before the November 2020 presidential election and subsequent alleged threats to establish his motive, intent and preparation for subverting its legitimate results.

“Evidence of the defendant’s post-conspiracy embrace of particularly violent and notorious rioters is admissible to establish the defendant’s motive and intent on January 6 — that he sent supporters, including groups like the Proud Boys, whom he knew were angry, and whom he now calls ‘patriots,’ to the Capitol to achieve the criminal objective of obstructing the congressional certification,” prosecutors alleged in a nine-page filing.

They added, “At trial, the Government will introduce a number of public statements by the defendant in advance of the charged conspiracies, claiming that there would be fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” laying the “foundation for the defendant’s criminal efforts.”

Attorneys for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broad conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election by spewing a gusher of lies about purported election fraud and trying to get state local and federal officials to change the legitimate results to remain in power.

A four-count federal indictment in Washington, D.C., alleges he plotted to defraud the federal election process, obstruct Congress’s certification of the vote in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, and deprive Americans of their civil right to have their votes counted. It is one of four criminal cases charged this year against the former president.

The others include a federal indictment in Florida over Trump’s alleged retention and mishandling of classified documents and obstruction after leaving the White House; a state trial in Georgia that involves similar allegations of trying to obstruct the state’s election results; and a New York state business fraud prosecution accusing Trump of covering up hush money payments made during his 2016 election campaign.

They added, “At trial, the Government will introduce a number of public statements by the defendant in advance of the charged conspiracies, claiming that there would be fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” laying the “foundation for the defendant’s criminal efforts.” Federal prosecutors on Tuesday accused former president Donald Trump of a long pattern of lying about elections and encouraging violence, saying he “sent” supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 to criminally block the election results.

Dec. 6

american flag upside down distress

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump’s 2024 Campaign, in His Own Menacing Words, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Lyna Bentahar, Dec. 6, 2023 (print ed.). Trump’s language has become darker, harsher and more threatening during his third run for the White House.

As he campaigns for another term in the White House, Donald Trump sounds like no other presidential candidate in U.S. history.

He has made baldly antidemocratic statements, praising autocratic leaders like China’s Xi Jinping and continuing to claim that the 2020 election was stolen. “I don’t consider us to have much of a democracy right now,” Trump said.

He has threatened to use the power of the presidency against his political opponents, including President Biden and Biden’s family. Trump frequently insults his opponents in personal terms, calling them “vermin,” as well as “thugs, horrible people, fascists, Marxists, sick people.”

He has made dozens of false or misleading statements. He has advocated violence, suggesting that an Army general who clashed with him deserved the death penalty and that shoplifters should be shot. And he describes U.S. politics in apocalyptic terms, calling the 2024 election “our final battle” and describing himself as his supporters’ “retribution.”

Many Americans have heard only snippets of these statements because Trump makes them on Truth Social, his niche social media platform, or at campaign events that receive less media coverage than when he first ran for president eight years ago. But his words offer a preview of what a second Trump term might look like.

For years, Trump has insulted political opponents, painted a dark picture of the country and made comments inconsistent with democratic norms. But his language has grown harsher, as he admits. “These are radical left people,” Trump said of Democrats in Salem, N.H., in January. “I think in many cases they’re Marxists and Communists. And I used to say that seldom. Now I say it all the time.”

Trump’s stolen-election talk, preoccupation with his criminal indictments and pledges to seek revenge have become organizing principles of his current campaign. He has made the same case — sometimes word for word — in dozens of appearances since announcing his candidacy last year. “He’s not laying out a political agenda,” said Didi Kuo of Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. “His campaign is based purely on stoking division and on attacking our institutions in order to defend himself.”

(In a continuing series of Times stories, our colleagues Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman have previewed a potential second Trump presidency. Among the subjects: legal policy, immigration and the firing of career government employees.)

Many democracy experts are deeply alarmed. “If he says what he means and means what he says, and someday is able to implement it, it’s an existential crisis that the U.S. would face,” said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Special counsel alleges Trump ‘sent’ supporters on path to Jan. 6 violence, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 6, 2023 (print ed.). Jack Smith accused the former president of a history of election lies and ‘encouragement of violence.’

President Donald Trump officialFederal prosecutors on Tuesday accused former president Donald Trump of a long pattern of lying about elections and encouraging violence, saying he “sent” supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 to criminally block the election results.

In a new court filing, prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith went further than in their August indictment in attempting to tie him to that day’s violence, saying they intended to introduce evidence of his other acts both before the November 2020 presidential election and subsequent alleged threats to establish his motive, intent and preparation for subverting its legitimate results.

“Evidence of the defendant’s post-conspiracy embrace of particularly violent and notorious rioters is admissible to establish the defendant’s motive and intent on January 6 — that he sent supporters, including groups like the Proud Boys, whom he knew were angry, and whom he now calls ‘patriots,’ to the Capitol to achieve the criminal objective of obstructing the congressional certification,” prosecutors alleged in a nine-page filing.

They added, “At trial, the Government will introduce a number of public statements by the defendant in advance of the charged conspiracies, claiming that there would be fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” laying the “foundation for the defendant’s criminal efforts.”

Attorneys for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broad conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election by spewing a gusher of lies about purported election fraud and trying to get state local and federal officials to change the legitimate results to remain in power.

A four-count federal indictment in Washington, D.C., alleges he plotted to defraud the federal election process, obstruct Congress’s certification of the vote in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, and deprive Americans of their civil right to have their votes counted. It is one of four criminal cases charged this year against the former president.

The others include a federal indictment in Florida over Trump’s alleged retention and mishandling of classified documents and obstruction after leaving the White House; a state trial in Georgia that involves similar allegations of trying to obstruct the state’s election results; and a New York state business fraud prosecution accusing Trump of covering up hush money payments made during his 2016 election campaign.

They added, “At trial, the Government will introduce a number of public statements by the defendant in advance of the charged conspiracies, claiming that there would be fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” laying the “foundation for the defendant’s criminal efforts.” Federal prosecutors on Tuesday accused former president Donald Trump of a long pattern of lying about elections and encouraging violence, saying he “sent” supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 to criminally block the election results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Defending his 2020 fraud claims, Trump turns to fringe Jan. 6 theories, Rachel Weiner and Isaac Arnsdorf, Dec. 6, 2023 (print ed.). Ever since he was indicted on charges of interfering in the 2020 election results, Donald Trump has relished the chance to use the case in Washington as a venue to air his baseless claims of fraud.

Now he is using it to circulate a new set of falsehoods: that the federal government staged or incited violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to discredit Trump and his supporters.

In court filings last week, the former president revealed that he has been pressing the Justice Department for information on far-right claims often elevated in his speeches, on his social media feeds and by his conservative allies in Congress — further blurring the line between his campaign and his court battles.

Trump’s legal filings typically include a political dimension, as the core of his defense is seeking to position the prosecutions as politicized, advisers said. He has frequently claimed in campaign speeches, without evidence, that President Biden ordered Trump’s arrest to damage his candidacy, and his lawyers have likewise claimed in court that he is fighting “tyranny” and “oppression” by the Biden administration.

These are all references common on right-wing social media, including Trump’s “Truth Social” feed, and among his most conservative supporters in Congress. But they are far outside even many Trump supporters’ view of the Capitol attack and have been repeatedly rejected in federal court by the judges overseeing hundreds of Jan. 6-related cases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: James Comer’s Biden claims do not deserve the benefit of the doubt, Philip Bump, Dec. 6, 2023 (print ed.). There has been a consistent pattern displayed over the 11 months since Republicans regained control of the House majority and, with it, the leadership of the chamber’s investigatory committees.

U.S. House logoThe pattern: House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) will make a claim alleging wrongdoing by President Biden and then, in short order, that allegation will be shown to be incorrect or baseless.

Thanks to his stewardship of the endlessly wolf-crying effort to impugn the president, Comer’s profile has risen dramatically in the past few months. He’s aided in this by the extensive right-wing media universe, in which his claims are immediately celebrated and through which they propagate quickly. But because more objective audiences have not been paying close attention to the claims he’s made since taking over leadership of Oversight, many observers aren’t aware of the extent of his track record of making false or indefensible claims about Biden.

republican elephant logoSo we should put a fine point on it: Comer’s track record makes it obvious that he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Allegations that he offers should not be granted the baseline assumption that they are true.

Dec. 5

djt wind jim watson afp getty

 ny times logoNew York Times, Why a Second Trump Presidency May Be More Radical Than His First, Charlie Savage, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 5, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump has long exhibited authoritarian impulses, but his policy operation is now more sophisticated, and the buffers to check him are weaker.

In the spring of 1989, the Chinese Communist Party used tanks and troops to crush a pro-democracy protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Most of the West, across traditional partisan lines, was aghast at the crackdown that killed at least hundreds of student activists. But one prominent American was impressed.

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Playboy magazine the year after the massacre. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”

It was a throwaway line in a wide-ranging interview, delivered to a journalist profiling a 43-year-old celebrity businessman who was not then a player in national politics or world affairs. But in light of what Mr. Trump has gone on to become, his exaltation of the ruthless crushing of democratic protesters is steeped in foreshadowing.

Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.

As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pro-Trump electors indicted in Nevada, the third state to issue charges, Amy Gardner and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Dec. 6, 2023. A Nevada grand jury on Wednesday charged six Republicans who claimed to be presidential electors in 2020 and submitted certificates to Congress falsely asserting that former president Donald Trump had won the election in their state.

aaron fordNevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford (D), right, launched an investigation earlier this fall, making his the third state after Georgia and Michigan to seek charges against the pro-Trump activists who met and cast ballots for the then-president on Dec. 14, 2020, despite Joe Biden’s victory.

“When the efforts to undermine faith in our democracy began after the 2020 election, I made it clear that I would do everything in my power to defend the institutions of our nation and our state,” Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged. Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”

In all, Trump electors met in seven states that Biden had won that year, with investigations into electors also underway in Arizona and New Mexico. The electors sent official-looking, signed documents to the Senate and National Archives, and Trump’s allies used them to try to prevent the certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, before and after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol that day.

So far, the Nevada grand jury, as in Michigan, has limited its charges to the electors themselves, although it’s unknown if additional charges are possible.

That contrasts with Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) alleged in August that the Dec. 14, 2020, gathering in Atlanta of 16 pro-Trump presidential electors was part of a vast conspiracy to unlawfully overturn the 2020 election result.

In addition to the electors, the Georgia indictment also charges several lawyers with helping to plan the meeting of the electors. And it accuses Trump himself of leading the conspiracy, one of four criminal cases in which the former president is currently a defendant.

The Nevada probe is also on a separate track from a broader election-interference investigation into Trump and his allies conducted by special counsel Jack Smith for the U.S. Department of Justice, in which only Trump has been indicted so far. Smith in June provided limited immunity to two Nevada Republican electors, Michael J. McDonald and Jim DeGraffenreid, according to CNN. Both McDonald and DeGraffenreid were indicted in Nevada Wednesday, along with Jesse Law, Durward James Hindle III, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Trump electors settle lawsuit, agree Biden won in 2020, Patrick Marley, Dec. 6, 2023. In a legal settlement Wednesday, the 10 Republicans who signed official-looking paperwork falsely purporting Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 have agreed to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Joe Biden won the presidency and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot.

Wednesday’s civil settlement marks the first time pro-Trump electors have agreed to revoke their false filings and not repeat their actions in the next presidential election. It comes as Republicans in two other states face criminal charges for falsely claiming to be presidential electors, and investigations are underway in three additional states.

Documents released as part of the settlement revealed one of the Wisconsin Republicans appeared to refer to the attempt to install Trump for a second term as a “possible steal.” That Republican expressed skepticism about the plan but told others he was going along with it in part because he feared he would face blowback from Trump supporters if he didn’t.

The lawsuit, filed last year by two of the state’s rightful electors, alleged the Republicans had taken part in a conspiracy to defraud voters and sought up to $200,000 from each Trump elector. No money is being exchanged as part of the settlement.

The Biden electors are continuing their lawsuit against two attorneys who assisted the Wisconsin Republicans — Jim Troupis, a former Dane County judge who led Trump’s recount efforts in the state, and Kenneth Chesebro, who advised Republicans around the country and pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia.

Republicans in seven states that Biden won — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — filled out paperwork in December 2020 falsely claiming Trump had actually won, and Trump’s supporters used that material to try to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Congress confirmed Biden had won on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Special counsel Jack Smith has been investigating the attempt to overturn the 2020 results for the Department of Justice, while some state and local prosecutors are conducting their probes of the GOP electors. Prosecutors in Michigan and Georgia have filed felony charges against some Republican electors, and state probes are underway in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.

 Dec. 4

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: See you in 2029? Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 4, 2023 (print ed.). If Donald Trump wins the 2024 election, he can’t face a criminal trial in Georgia until at least 2029 — after he leaves the presidency — his Atlanta-based defense attorney argued in a state courtroom Friday. The prosecution team has asked for a trial to start in August 2024 — and strongly rejected the 2029 option.

Now we wait for Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who said Friday that it was too early to set a date, citing, in part, the uncertain schedule in Trump’s three other criminal cases.

In the election-obstruction case in D.C., special counsel Jack Smith has until the end of the week to fire back against Trump’s wide-ranging and at times imaginative demands for information he claims exists at a host of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Capitol Police. The requests are legal long shots, but Trump’s lawyers said last week that the information will help them fight charges that the former president conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Dec. 4

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: See you in 2029? Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 4, 2023 (print ed.). If Donald Trump wins the 2024 election, he can’t face a criminal trial in Georgia until at least 2029 — after he leaves the presidency — his Atlanta-based defense attorney argued in a state courtroom Friday. The prosecution team has asked for a trial to start in August 2024 — and strongly rejected the 2029 option.

Now we wait for Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who said Friday that it was too early to set a date, citing, in part, the uncertain schedule in Trump’s three other criminal cases.

In the election-obstruction case in D.C., special counsel Jack Smith has until the end of the week to fire back against Trump’s wide-ranging and at times imaginative demands for information he claims exists at a host of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Capitol Police. The requests are legal long shots, but Trump’s lawyers said last week that the information will help them fight charges that the former president conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Dec. 3

 

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump is responding to the charge that he’s anti-democratic by accusing President Biden of posing a bigger threat, Michael Gold, Dec. 3, 2023. Indicted over a plot to overturn an election and campaigning on promises to shatter democratic norms in a second term, Donald Trump wants voters to see Joe Biden as the bigger threat.

Former President Donald J. Trump, who has been indicted by federal prosecutors for conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with a plot to overturn the 2020 election, repeatedly claimed to supporters in Iowa on Saturday that it was President Biden who posed a severe threat to American democracy.

While Mr. Trump shattered democratic norms throughout his presidency and has faced voter concerns that he would do so again in a second term, the former president in his speech repeatedly accused Mr. Biden of corrupting politics and waging a repressive “all-out war” on America.

”Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy,” he said. “Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy.”

Mr. Trump has made similar attacks on Mr. Biden a staple of his speeches in Iowa and elsewhere. He frequently accuses the president broadly of corruption and of weaponizing the Justice Department to influence the 2024 election.

Dec. 1

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Politico, New York court reinstates Trump’s gag orders in civil fraud case, Erica Orden, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The gag orders bar Trump and his lawyers from disparaging court staff. politico CustomA New York state appeals court on Thursday reinstated the gag orders issued by the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial, lifting a pause on the orders that was put into effect earlier this month by one of the court’s judges.

In its two-page order, the appeals court didn’t explain its decision for reinstating the gag orders, which bar Trump and his lawyers from commenting on staff working for the trial judge, Justice Arthur Engoron.

The gag orders have been a central focus of the two-month trial, often eclipsing even the testimony. The initial gag order came just days into the trial, after Trump posted a disparaging social media message about the judge’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who sits alongside the judge on the bench. Engoron found that Trump subsequently violated the gag order twice, issuing him two fines totaling $15,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge rejects Trump immunity claim in Jan. 6 criminal prosecution, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Dec. 1, 2023. A federal judge on Friday rejected Donald Trump’s claim of “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for actions taken while he was president, setting a clock ticking on whether the Supreme Court will agree to allow him to face trial in Washington before the 2024 election.

tanya chutkan newerU.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, right, denied Trump’s request to toss out his four-count August indictment on charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government’s election process, to obstruct Congress’s certification of the vote on Jan. 6, 2021, and to disenfranchise American voters.

“Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass,” she wrote in the 48-page opinion. Trump “may be subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office.”

Chutkan said no court or any other branch of government has ever accepted Trump’s contention that former presidents enjoy “absolute immunity from criminal prosecution.” Nor, she said, was there any basis for Trump’s argument that he could not be prosecuted for a crime unless he had been impeached and convicted for those actions while in office. It defied the Constitution’s “plain meaning, original understanding, and common sense,” she wrote.

Attorneys for Trump are expected to appeal immediately to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, potentially delaying Trump’s scheduled March 4 trial.

The decision by the judge, a 2014 appointee of President Barack Obama, was a defeat for Trump, whose defense has said it would raise similar immunity claims in four criminal prosecutions charged this year in which he has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyer: Georgia trial would have to wait if Trump wins in 2024, Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner, Dec. 1, 2023. An attorney for former president Donald Trump told an Atlanta area judge Friday that if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, his trial on charges that he illegally conspired to try to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia could not proceed until after he leaves the White House.

Steven Sadow, Trump’s lead counsel in the sprawling Fulton County racketeering case, objected to prosecutors requesting an August 2024 trial date. Sadow claimed that if Trump wins the Republican nomination and is required to be on trial in the weeks leading up to Election Day 2024, it would be georgia map“election interference.”

“Can you imagine the notion of the Republican nominee for president not being able to campaign for the presidency because he is in some form or fashion in a courtroom defending himself?” Sadow asked. “That would be the most effective election interference in the history of the United States, and I don’t think anyone would want to be in that position.”

Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor leading the case, strongly rejected Sadow’s claim.

“This trial does not constitute election interference. This is moving forward with the business of Fulton County,” Wade said. “I don’t think it in any way impedes defendant Trump’s ability to campaign.”

When Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee asked Sadow whether the proceedings could continue into 2025 if Trump wins the presidency — as Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) has publicly suggested — Sadow argued that the trial would interfere with his client’s duties as president under the Supremacy Clause, which prohibits interfering with constitutional duties, and would have to be postponed until he is out of office.

The back and forth came as McAfee, who is overseeing the case, said it was too soon to set a trial date, pointing in part to the uncertain schedule of Trump’s other pending legal cases.

  • Washington Post, Olympic swimmer Klete Keller avoids prison time for role in Jan. 6 riot, Dave Sheinin, Dec. 1, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy privately recounts terse phone call with Trump after ouster, Jacqueline Alemany and Leigh Ann Caldwell, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.). During the call, former president detailed the reasons he hadn’t intervened during the effort to remove McCarthy as speaker.

kevin mccarthyIn the weeks after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, traveled down to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and threw a lifeline to the former president, who was under a cloud of controversy for provoking the historic assault.

U.S. House logoThe fence-mending session between the two Republican leaders ended with a photo op of the two men, grinning side by side in a gilded, frescoed room. The stunning turnabout of the House GOP leader, who had previously blamed Trump for the deadly attack, paved the way for the former president’s return to de facto leader of the Republican Party.

When the tables were turned almost three years later, however, Trump did not return the favor.

During a phone call with McCarthy weeks after his historic Oct. 3 removal as House speaker, Trump detailed the reasons he had declined to ask Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other hard-right lawmakers to back off their campaign to oust the California Republican from his leadership position, according to people familiar with the exchange who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a private conversation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump co-defendant in Georgia who pleaded guilty could testify in other cases, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Amy Gardner, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  Prosecutors in Arizona and Nevada have reached out to Kenneth Chesebro, who helped organize pro-Trump electors in 2020.

kenneth chesebroKenneth Chesebro, right, one of former president Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election-interference case, plans to meet with investigators in Arizona and Nevada, where similar probes are underway, according to three individuals with knowledge of the arrangements.

Chesebro, who pleaded guilty in the Georgia case to a single felony count of participating in a conspiracy to file false documents, had been charged primarily related to his 2020 role in organizing slates of pro-Trump electors. Those electors met and voted in seven states where Joe Biden had won — actions that they hoped would allow Congress to award those states’ electoral votes to Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.

georgia mapAs part of his pleading, Chesebro avoids prison time but must testify in the case. Separately, he has also been approached by prosecutors in Arizona and Nevada, who are investigating whether the Trump slates of electors who gathered in those states broke any laws, said the individuals, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss secret or sensitive proceedings. One said a grand jury is examining the Nevada case and that Chesebro is expected to testify in front of that panel. He plans to travel to the state this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyer Told Trump Defying Documents Subpoena Would Be a Crime, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Not long after federal prosecutors issued a subpoena last year for all the classified documents that former President Donald J. Trump took with him from the White House to his estate in southern Florida, one of his lawyers told him, in no uncertain terms, that it would be a crime if he did not comply with the demand, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The lawyer, Jennifer Little, this year related the account of her discussion with Mr. Trump to a grand jury overseen by the special counsel Jack Smith. She is one of several witnesses who prosecutors were told had advised Mr. Trump to cooperate.

Her sworn testimony that Mr. Trump was aware that disregarding the subpoena would be a criminal offense could serve as significant evidence of his consciousness of guilt if she ends up being called as a witness when the case eventually goes in front of a jury.

 

November

Nov. 30

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending, Robert Kagan, right, Nov. 30, 2023. There is a clear path robert kagan looking leftto dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. So why is everyone behaving like normal?

Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. In 13 weeks, Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination. In the RealClearPolitics poll average (for the period from Nov. 9 to 20), Trump leads his nearest competitor by 47 points and leads the rest of the field combined by 27 points.

The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense — he is tied or ahead of President Biden in all the latest polls — stripping other Republican challengers of their own stated reasons for existence. The fact that many Americans might prefer other candidates, much ballyhooed by such political sages as Karl Rove, will soon become irrelevant when millions of Republican voters turn out to choose the person whom no one allegedly wants.

President Donald Trump officialFor many months now, we have been living in a world of self-delusion, rich with imagined possibilities. Maybe it will be Ron DeSantis, or maybe Nikki Haley. Maybe the myriad indictments of Trump will doom him with Republican suburbanites. Such hopeful speculation has allowed us to drift along passively, conducting business as usual, taking no dramatic action to change course, in the hope and expectation that something will happen. Like people on a riverboat, we have long known there is a waterfall ahead but assume we will somehow find our way to shore before we go over the edge. But now the actions required to get us to shore are looking harder and harder, if not downright impossible.

djt maga hatThe magical-thinking phase is ending. Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. When that happens, there will be a swift and dramatic shift in the political power dynamic, in his favor. Until now, Republicans and conservatives have enjoyed relative freedom to express anti-Trump sentiments, to speak openly and positively about alternative candidates, to vent criticisms of Trump’s behavior past and present. Donors who find Trump distasteful have been free to spread their money around to help his competitors. Establishment Republicans have made no secret of their hope that Trump will be convicted and thus removed from the equation without their having to take a stand against him.

Robert Kagan, a Post Opinions contributing editor, is the author of “Rebellion: How Antiliberalism Is Tearing America Apart — Again,” which will be published by Knopf in May.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Takeaways From Liz Cheney’s Book Criticizing Trump and His ‘Enablers,’ Peter Baker, Nov. 30, 2023. The former Republican congresswoman’s memoir, to be published next week, is meant as a warning about returning Donald Trump to the presidency.

liz cheney oath coverIt was inevitable that Liz Cheney’s new memoir, right, would cause a splash. An outspoken Republican critic of former President Donald J. Trump in a party that he otherwise dominates, she has shown over the past three years that she is willing to say out loud what most other Republicans say only in private, if at all.

The memoir, Oath and Honor, arrives on bookshelves just as Mr. Trump is poised to reclaim the Republican presidential nomination in primaries beginning in a few weeks. It is meant as a five-alarm warning that returning him to power would endanger American democracy and a damning indictment of his “enablers” and “collaborators” in her own party.

But beyond its top-line arguments, the book offers a rare peek inside the Republican cloakroom at what Ms. Cheney, a former representative from Wyoming, heard from her colleagues about “the Orange Jesus,” as one wryly called Mr. Trump. Here are a half-dozen stories she tells in the book, a copy of which The New York Times obtained ahead of its publication on Tuesday by Little, Brown and Company.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why new Ariz. indictments are key in the fight against election subversion, Aaron Blake, right, Nov. 30, 2023. There has been no aaron blakeshortage of brazen Republican efforts to question and overturn election results since November 2020 — efforts that despite the failure and fallout from the 2020 episode involving Donald Trump have continued. But the late-2022 attempt in Cochise County, Ariz., was subtly among the most potentially pivotal.

Now it’s leading to consequences — a pair of indictments — that could prove significant.

After some local Republican officials balked at certifying election results in President Biden’s 2020 victory, the Cochise County officials went even further in Arizona’s 2022 election. They blew through a Nov. 28, 2022, deadline to certify the county’s election results.

They did so not because they alleged something amiss in that rural county’s votes but apparently in protest over how the much more populous Maricopa County was handling its votes. (To date, there is no evidence of malfeasance in that county, either, and lawsuits have repeatedly failed.) The Cochise County Board of Supervisors ultimately relented and certified the votes on Dec. 1, but only after a court order forced it to.

The county supervisors made their play even as it was obviously legally problematic.Go ahead, go for it, arrest me,’ ” Lake said.

It turns out those officials effectively gave Lake what she wanted.

Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Terry Thomas “Tom” Crosby have now been indicted. They are each charged with a pair of Class 5 felonies for allegedly conspiring to delay the canvass of their county’s votes.

While the indictments are merely the latest in a long line over efforts to overturn elections — federally, in Michigan, in Georgia and now in Arizona — the threat of prosecution in this case could serve as a significant deterrent.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stops helping Big Tech spot foreign meddling amid GOP legal threats, Naomi Nix and Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 30, 2023. Anthony Faiola, Stefano Pitrelli and Louisa Loveluck, Nov. 30, 2023. The federal government has stopped warning Meta about foreign influence campaigns amid a legal campaign against the Biden administration’s communication with tech firms.

The U.S. federal government has stopped warning some social networks about foreign disinformation campaigns on their platforms, reversing a years-long approach to preventing Russia and other actors from interfering in American politics less than a year before the U.S. presidential elections, according to company officials.

Meta no longer receives notifications of global influence campaigns from the Biden administration, halting a prolonged partnership between the federal government and the world’s largest social media company, senior security officials said Wednesday. Federal agencies have also stopped communicating about political disinformation with Pinterest, according to the company.

The developments underscore the far-reaching impact of a conservative legal campaign against initiatives established to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russia manipulated social media in an attempt to sow chaos and swing the vote for Donald Trump.

For months, researchers in government and academia have warned that a barrage of lawsuits, congressional demands and online attacks are having a chilling effect on programs intended to combat health and election misinformation. But the shift in communications about foreign meddling signals how ongoing litigation and Republican probes in Congress are unwinding efforts once viewed as critical to protecting U.S. national security interests.

Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks

Ben Nimmo, chief of global threat intelligence for Meta, said government officials stopped communicating foreign election interference threats to the company in July.

That month, a federal judge limited the Biden administration’s communications with tech platforms in response to a lawsuit alleging such coordination ran afoul of the First Amendment by encouraging companies to remove falsehoods about covid-19 and the 2020 election. The decision included an exemption allowing the government to communicate with the companies about national security threats, specifically foreign interference in elections. The case, Missouri v. Biden, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has paused lower court restrictions while it reviews the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Takeaways From Liz Cheney’s Book Criticizing Trump and His ‘Enablers,’ Peter Baker, Nov. 30, 2023. The former Republican congresswoman’s memoir, to be published next week, is meant as a warning about returning Donald Trump to the presidency.

It was inevitable that Liz Cheney’s new memoir would cause a splash. An outspoken Republican critic of former President Donald J. Trump in a party that he otherwise dominates, she has shown over the past three years that she is willing to say out loud what most other Republicans say only in private, if at all.

The memoir, Oath and Honor, arrives on bookshelves just as Mr. Trump is poised to reclaim the Republican presidential nomination in primaries beginning in a few weeks. It is meant as a five-alarm warning that returning him to power would endanger American democracy and a damning indictment of his “enablers” and “collaborators” in her own party.

But beyond its top-line arguments, the book offers a rare peek inside the Republican cloakroom at what Ms. Cheney, a former representative from Wyoming, heard from her colleagues about “the Orange Jesus,” as one wryly called Mr. Trump. Here are a half-dozen stories she tells in the book, a copy of which The New York Times obtained ahead of its publication on Tuesday by Little, Brown and Company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Bankers Say His Exaggerated Net Worth Did Not Affect Loans, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.)  Bankers whom Donald J. Trump is accused of defrauding testified at his civil fraud trial this week that they did not rely on his embellished claims of wealth, lending support to the central plank of the former president’s defense.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, sued Mr. Trump in 2022 for inflating his net worth on his annual financial statements to receive favorable loans from banks, notably including Deutsche Bank. Before the trial, the judge found that the statements were filled with examples of fraud; the trial will determine any consequences the former president may face.

Mr. Trump has protested the premise of the case, insisting that the banks did their own due diligence and that misstatements in the financial documents would not have affected the overall terms of the loans. It follows, his lawyers have argued, that the alleged fraud had no victim.

The bankers who testified this week supported that argument when asked about the loan process.

“We are expected to conduct some due diligence and verify the information provided, to the extent that is possible,” David Williams, a banker in the wealth management group at Deutsche Bank, said on Tuesday. He said repeatedly that the bank had performed that diligence and factored its own analysis into the relationship with Mr. Trump.

Nov. 29

Politico, Judge key to Jan. 6 cases warns US faces 'authoritarian' threat, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Beryl Howell sees “time of testing” for nation as facts are denied and disputed. The judge who spearheaded the judiciary’s response to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, blamed that event on “big lies” and warned that the country is in danger of turning toward authoritarianism.

politico CustomAs the federal court in Washington that Judge Beryl Howell, right, once oversaw prepares for a historic trial of former President Donald Trump on beryl howellcharges of attempting to fraudulently overturn the results of the 2020 election, the jurist used a rare public speech Tuesday to lament that many of those convicted for their actions on Jan. 6 fell under the sway of falsehoods.

“My D.C. judicial colleagues and I regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, when they disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol,” said Howell, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Howell, who served as chief judge of the District Court from 2016 until March and remains on the bench there, also suggested that the dangers evident on the day of the Capitol riot have not passed — in part because some Americans have become unmoored from facts.

“We are having a very surprising and downright troubling moment in this country when the very importance of facts is dismissed, or ignored,” Howell told the annual gala of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association at a downtown hotel. “That’s very risky business for all of us in our democracy. ... The facts matter.”

Howell did not refer by name to Trump, who is currently the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination next year. She also made no mention of his trial set to open March 4 before one of her colleagues, Judge Tanya Chutkan.

However, Howell approvingly quoted Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s claim in her new book that the U.S. “is at a crossroads teetering on the brink of authoritarianism.” The judge also quoted and echoed Richardson’s warning that “Big lies are springboards for authoritarians.”

Howell received a “champion” award Tuesday night from the women lawyers group, which she urged to help preserve democratic traditions by calling attention to the facts at the center of their work.

Nov. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers seek to probe U.S. handling of 2020 election fraud claims, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 28, 2023. New court filing seeks evidence to relitigate debunked claims that election was ‘stolen,’ investigate DOJ communications with Biden, Biden’s son, and Mike Pence.

Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked a federal judge in Washington to allow them to investigate several U.S. government agencies about their handling of investigations into him and allegations of voter fraud three years ago as the former president moves to defend himself from charges that he criminally conspired to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

In court papers filed Monday, Trump’s legal team sought permission to compel prosecutors to turn over information about the FBI, national security and election integrity units of the Justice Department, as well as the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security’s response to foreign interference and other threats to the 2020 election, in what appeared to be an attempt to resuscitate his unfounded allegation that President Biden’s election victory was “stolen.”

Whether Trump genuinely believed that allegation may be a matter for trial, his lawyers wrote, but prosecutors cannot “suppress and withhold from President Trump information that supports this defense and related arguments regarding good faith and the absence of [his] criminal intent.” It was “certainly not criminal,” they added, “for President Trump to disagree with officials now favored by the prosecution and to rely instead on the independent judgment that the American people elected him to use while leading the country.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Antagonism flares as red states try to dictate how blue cities are run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities — removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices and otherwise limiting local independence.

State lawmakers proposed nearly 700 bills this year to circumscribe what cities and counties can do, according to Katie Belanger, lead consultant for the Local Solutions Support Center, a national organization focused in part on ending the overreach it calls “abusive state preemption.”

The group’s tracking mostly found “conservative state legislatures responding to or anticipating actions of progressive cities,” she said, with many bills designed to bolster state restrictions on police defunding, abortion, and LGBTQ and voting rights. As of mid-October, at least 92 had passed.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed sweeping measures that empower the state attorney general to pursue election-related crimes and that require cities and counties to suspend a local ordinance if someone sues alleging it is preempted by state law. He has removed two elected Democratic prosecutors in as many years, including one who pledged not to charge people seeking abortions or transgender care.

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.

Given the presidential campaign that lies ahead in 2024, Belanger is concerned about states passing election-related laws that affect local authorities.

“Election administration has been a target for abusive preemption in the past,” she said, “and as we go into an election year, that is a trend that will grow.”

The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Nov. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: New Trump defense motions in D.C. case expected on Monday, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). An appeals court in Washington could decide at any time whether to reimpose a limited gag order on Donald Trump in his federal election-obstruction case in D.C. The three-judge panel questioned prosecutors and defense lawyers last week about the issue, and the argument spilled over into Thanksgiving (more on this topic below).

Monday should see new Trump defense motions in the D.C. case — this time related to which witnesses he’d like to subpoena. Since his defense team argues this is a case of politically motivated, selective prosecution, we could see him seek permission from the court to subpoena Democrats and government figures he wants to put on the witness stand.

On Friday, a hearing is scheduled in the Fulton County, Ga., case, where the judge is expected to consider a raft of defense motions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Troubling Trump Pardon and a Link to the Kushners, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A commutation for a drug smuggler had broader implications than previously known, putting a new focus on how Donald Trump would use clemency powers.

Even amid the uproar over President Donald J. Trump’s freewheeling use of his pardon powers at the end of his term, one commutation stood out.

Jonathan Braun of New York had served just two and a half years of a decade-long sentence for running a massive marijuana ring, when Mr. Trump, at 12:51 a.m. on his last day in office, announced he would be freed.

Mr. Braun was, to say the least, an unusual candidate for clemency.

A Staten Islander with a history of violent threats, Mr. Braun had told a rabbi who owed him money: “I am going to make you bleed.” Mr. Braun’s family had told confidants they were willing to spend millions of dollars to get him out of prison.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department and federal regulators, as well as New York state authorities, were still after him for his role in an entirely separate matter: his work as a predatory lender, making what judges later found were fraudulent and usurious loans to cash-strapped small businesses.

Nearly three years later, the consequences of Mr. Braun’s commutation are becoming clearer, raising new questions about how Mr. Trump intervened in criminal justice decisions and what he could do in a second term, when he would have the power to make good on his suggestions that he would free supporters convicted of storming the Capitol and possibly even to pardon himself if convicted of the federal charges he faces.

Just months after Mr. Trump freed him, Mr. Braun returned to working as a predatory lender, according to New York State’s attorney general. Two months ago, a New York state judge barred him from working in the industry. Weeks later, a federal judge, acting on a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, imposed a nationwide ban on him.

A New York Times investigation, drawing on documents and interviews with current and former officials, and others familiar with Mr. Braun’s case, found there were even greater ramifications stemming from the commutation than previously known and revealed new details about Mr. Braun’s history and how the commutation came about.

The commutation dealt a substantial blow to an ambitious criminal investigation being led by the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan aimed at punishing members of the predatory lending industry who hurt small businesses. Mr. Braun and prosecutors were in negotiations over a cooperation deal in which he would be let out of prison in exchange for flipping on industry insiders and potentially even wearing a wire. But the commutation instantly destroyed the government’s leverage on Mr. Braun.

The investigation into the industry, and Mr. Braun’s conduct, remains open but hampered by the lack of an insider.

At multiple levels, up to the president, the justice system appeared to fail more than once to take full account of Mr. Braun’s activities. After pleading guilty to drug charges in 2011, Mr. Braun agreed to cooperate in a continuing investigation, allowing him to stay out of prison but under supervision for nine years — a period he used to establish himself as a predatory lender, making violent threats to those who owed him money, court filings show.

Since returning to predatory lending after being freed, Mr. Braun is still engaging in deceptive business tactics, regulators and customer say.

In working to secure his release, Mr. Braun’s family used a connection to Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, to try to get the matter before Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner’s White House office drafted the language used in the news release to announce commutations for Mr. Braun and others.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Braun said he did not know how his commutation came about.

“I believe God made it happen for me because I’m a good person and I was treated unfairly,” he said, adding that his supporters tried “multiple paths” to get him out of prison but he had no idea which one succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are some takeaways from the investigation into Jonathan Braun’s pardon, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, The New York Times published a story about how one of his last acts as president had been to commute the 10-year sentence of Jonathan Braun, a marijuana smuggler who had ongoing legal problems and a reputation for making violent threats.

In his final weeks in office, Mr. Trump had used his pardon power on behalf of a parade of loyalists, as well as scores of others who were not big political names. But few of them stood out like Mr. Braun, who was still under investigation by the Justice Department in an entirely different matter: for gouging small businesses through high-interest loans.

Mr. Braun was still under investigation by the Justice Department at the time of his pardon. Here are some key points about the case.

Nov. 25

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump DISQUALIFICATION Ruling had FATAL FLAW that can be FIXED NOW, Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok, Nov. 25-26, 2023. On the most recent edition of the Legal AF attorneys and anchors Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok debate what went wrong with the Colorado judge’s 102-page decision on which on the one hand found that Trump “engaged in insurrection and rebellion against” the Constitution, but then declared that the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause didn’t apply to “presidents.”

Nov. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson’s Release of Jan. 6 Video Feeds Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories, Luke Broadwater, Alan Feuer and Angelo Fichera, Nov. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, right, fulfilled a demand of the far right, which has sought thousands of hours of footage to try to rewrite the history of the Capitol attack.

mike johnson oSpeaker Mike Johnson’s decision to publicly release thousands of hours of Capitol security footage from Jan. 6, 2021, has fueled a renewed effort by Republican lawmakers and far-right activists to rewrite the history of the attack that day and exonerate the pro-Trump rioters who took part.

Mr. Johnson’s move last week to make the footage available — something the far right has long demanded — came as he tried to allay the anger of hard-line Republican lawmakers for working with Democrats to keep the government funded. Now, some of the same people who were irate about that decision are using the Jan. 6 video to circulate an array of false claims and conspiracy theories about the largest attack on the Capitol in centuries.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the hard-right Georgia Republican, was among the first lawmakers to post false information about the newly released videos. She claimed on the social media site X that surveillance video showed a rioter holding a law enforcement badge in his hand, suggesting that he was an undercover police officer “disguised as a Trump supporter” and the attack was an inside job.

But the item in the man’s hand in the screen grab she circulated appears, upon closer inspection, to have been a vape pen. And the man who is seen in that image, Kevin Lyons, was in fact a heating-and-cooling technician — not a police officer — who was later convicted at a public trial of multiple federal charges and sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Ms. Greene later edited her post to remove the false claim, but not before it had spread widely among Trump supporters.

Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, recirculated the same clip and false allegation that the man pictured had flashed a badge, adding that he looked forward to questioning Christopher S. Wray, the F.B.I. director, about the matter.

“How many of these guys are feds?” he asked in a separate post that included video of a violent clash between rioters and the police.

“Heads up,” former Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was the top Republican on the special House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack, responded to Mr. Lee. “A nutball conspiracy theorist appears to be posting from your account.”

Still others, such as Donald Trump Jr., have shared video of rioters walking through the Capitol hallways doing nothing violent, suggesting that those who entered the building were entirely peaceful. But other videos from that day show some of the same people at other moments storming the building and attacking police officers.

Nov. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, For Election Workers, Fentanyl-Laced Letters Signal a Challenging Year, Michael Wines, Nov. 23, 2023 (print ed.). As overheated rhetoric and threats rise, people in the United States are leaving election jobs in record numbers.

For the people who run elections at thousands of local offices nationwide, 2024 was never going to be an easy year. But the recent anonymous mailing of powder-filled envelopes to election offices in five states offers new hints of how hard it could be.

The letters, sent to offices in Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, California and Georgia this month, are under investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the F.B.I. Several of them appear to have been laced with fentanyl; at least two contained a vague message calling to “end elections now.”

The letters are a public indicator of what some election officials say is a fresh rise in threats to their safety and the functioning of the election system. And they presage the pressure-cooker environment that election officials will face next year in a contest for the White House that could chart the future course of American democracy.

“The system is going to be tested in every possible way, whether it’s voter registration, applications for ballots, poll workers, the mail, drop boxes, election results websites,” said Tammy Patrick, chief executive for programs at the National Association of Election Officials. “Every way in which our elections are administered is going to be tested somewhere, at some time, during 2024.”

Nov. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Ignore Trump? Democrats Now Want Him Plastered All Over the News, Reid J. Epstein, Nov. 22, 2023 (print ed.). The former president has been relatively quiet, out of the headlines and off mainstream social media. Democrats are hoping that more attention on him can help turn around President Biden’s fortunes.

When Donald J. Trump left the White House, Democrats didn’t want to hear another word from him. President Biden dismissed him as “the former guy.” A party-wide consensus held that he was best left ignored.

Three years later, Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign and Democratic officials across the party’s spectrum have landed on a new solution to his political slump:

More Trump.

Criticizing the news media for giving Mr. Trump a platform is out. Quietly pining for major networks to again broadcast live coverage of Trump campaign rallies is in.

Behind the improbable longing for the former president to gobble up political oxygen again is Democrats’ yearslong dependence on the Trump outrage machine. Since his ascent, Mr. Trump has been a one-man Democratic turnout operation, uniting an otherwise fractured opposition and fueling victories in three straight election cycles.

Now, Democrats worry that the fever of Trump fatigue has passed, and that some voters are softening toward a man they once loathed. Many others may simply be paying little attention, as Mr. Trump’s share of the daily national conversation has diminished, despite the occasional interruption of campaign-trail pronouncements like his recent vow to “root out” political opponents like “vermin.”

Nov. 21

 

Then-President Trump, center left, talks to Chief of Staff John Kelly at veterans gathering on May 29, 2017 (Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Then-President Trump, center left, talks to Chief of Staff John Kelly at veterans gathering on May 29, 2017 (Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

washington post logoWashington Post, Many former Trump aides say he shouldn’t be president. Will it matter? Josh Dawsey, Nov. 21, 2023 (print ed.). Critics are grappling with how they can puncture Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2024, whether they should coordinate and whether their voices can affect the race.

John F. Kelly, the longest-serving chief of staff in President Donald Trump’s White House, watches Trump dominate the GOP primary with increasing despair.

President Donald Trump official“What’s going on in the country that a single person thinks this guy would still be a good president when he’s said the things he’s said and done the things he’s done?” Kelly said in a recent interview. “It’s beyond my comprehension he has the support he has.”

Kelly, a retired four-star general, said he didn’t know what to do — or what he could do — to help people see it his way.

djt maga hat“I came out and told people the awful things he said about wounded soldiers, and it didn’t have half a day’s bounce. You had his attorney general Bill Barr come out, and not a half a day’s bounce. If anything, his numbers go up. It might even move the needle in the wrong direction. I think we’re in a dangerous zone in our country,” he said.

No president has ever attracted more public detractors who were formerly in his inner circle. They are closely watching his rise — cruising in the GOP nomination contest and, in most polls, tying or even leading President Biden in a general election matchup — with alarm. Among them are his former vice president, top military advisers, lawyers, some members of his Cabinet, economic advisers, press officials and campaign aides, some of whom are working for other candidates.

Among their reasons for opposing a second Trump term, they cite the 91 criminal charges against him, his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his false claims of election fraud, his incendiary rhetoric in office, his desire to weaponize the Justice Department, his chaotic management style, his likely personnel choices in a second term, and his affinity for dictators.

Interviews with 16 former Trump advisers — some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their former boss — show they are grappling with how they can puncture Trump’s candidacy in 2024, whether they can or should coordinate with one another and whether their voices will even matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Dire Words Raise New Fears About His Authoritarian Leanings, Michael C. Bender and Michael Gold, Nov. 21, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump is focusing his most vicious attacks on domestic political opponents, setting off fresh worries among autocracy experts.

Donald J. Trump rose to power with political campaigns that largely attacked external targets, including immigration from predominantly Muslim countries and from south of the United States-Mexico border.

But now, in his third presidential bid, some of his most vicious and debasing attacks have been leveled at domestic opponents.

During a Veterans Day speech, Mr. Trump used language that echoed authoritarian leaders who rose to power in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, degrading his political adversaries as “vermin” who needed to be “rooted out.”

“The threat from outside forces,” Mr. Trump said, “is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”

This turn inward has sounded new alarms among experts on autocracy who have long worried about Mr. Trump’s praise for foreign dictators and disdain for democratic ideals. They said the former president’s increasingly intensive focus on perceived internal enemies was a hallmark of dangerous totalitarian leaders.

Scholars, Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans are asking anew how much Mr. Trump resembles current strongmen abroad and how he compares to authoritarian leaders of the past. Perhaps most urgently, they are wondering whether his rhetorical turn into more fascist-sounding territory is just his latest public provocation of the left, an evolution in his beliefs or the dropping of a veil.

“There are echoes of fascist rhetoric, and they’re very precise,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at New York University who studies fascism. “The overall strategy is an obvious one of dehumanizing people so that the public will not have as much of an outcry at the things that you want to do.”

Mr. Trump’s shift comes as he and his allies devise plans for a second term that would upend some of the long-held norms of American democracy and the rule of law.

These ambitions include using the Justice Department to take vengeance on his political rivals, plotting a vast expansion of presidential power and installing ideologically aligned lawyers in key positions to bless his contentious actions.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Court Signals It Could Keep Trump Election Case Gag Order, but Narrow It, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Nov. 21, 2023 (print ed.). A federal appeals court panel is considering how to balance former President Trump’s free-speech rights against the need to protect people involved in the case.

A federal appeals court in Washington appeared to signal at a hearing on Monday that it would keep in place at least some version of the gag order placed on former President Donald J. Trump in the criminal case accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

But a three-judge panel of the court left open the possibility of adjusting the terms of the order or even narrowing the scope of the people covered by it, including by potentially freeing Mr. Trump to attack Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal cases against him.

The trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, imposed the gag order in October in Federal District Court in Washington. It forbid Mr. Trump to publicly maligning any prosecutors, potential witnesses or court employees involved in the case.

But Judge Chutkan explicitly permitted Mr. Trump to criticize the Justice Department, President Biden and herself. She also allowed him to maintain that the prosecution itself was a partisan retaliation against him.

Mr. Trump swiftly appealed, with his lawyers arguing that the order was the “essence of censorship” and infringed on his First Amendment rights in the midst of a campaign — one in which he has repeatedly complained that the cases against him are political persecution. The appeals court has suspended the gag order while it weighs the challenge.

At the hearing, the three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit pushed hard at the argument that Mr. Trump’s social media posts should enjoy absolute protection under the First Amendment as examples of “core political speech.” They questioned whether the posts could in fact be something very different: examples of “political speech aimed at derailing or corrupting the criminal justice process.”

The judges also suggested that a gag order could be imposed on Mr. Trump as a “prophylactic” measure of protecting people involved in the case from threats or acts of harassment that had not yet occurred. The panel cited a longstanding “dynamic,” reaching back to the 2020 election, in which Mr. Trump has mentioned certain people in his posts who later suffered intimidation from others.

“As this trial approaches, the atmosphere is going to be increasingly tense,” said Judge Brad Garcia. “Why does the district court have to wait and see, and wait for the threats to come, rather than taking a reasonable action in advance?”

Each of the three members of the appellate panel assigned to the case was nominated by a Democratic president: Judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard were both Obama appointees, as was Judge Chutkan to the district court. Judge Garcia was appointed by President Biden.

D. John Sauer, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, countered that events three years ago were insufficient to meet the standard for gagging Mr. Trump now. He argued that it would be an impermissible “heckler’s veto” to bar Mr. Trump from speaking freely amid an election on the rationale that his remarks “might someday inspire some random third party” to make threats.

There are few legal guideposts directly on point to the issues raised by the Trump gag order fight. Past Supreme Court cases that have addressed gag orders have focused on lawyers or reporters, rather than defendants. And they have generally centered on keeping juries from being tainted by information about trials rather than on preventing threats and harassment that could jeopardize the integrity of the criminal justice process.

Complicating matters further, Mr. Trump has blurred the lines between his criminal cases and his presidential campaign, using court appearances to deliver political talking points and employing public remarks to assail his prosecutions.

The appellate judges appeared to be seeking a way to balance protecting the integrity of the election interference case and the people involved in it while preserving Mr. Trump’s rights to respond in public to denunciations by his political adversaries or critics. Some of them are likely to be witnesses against him in the case — such as former Vice President Mike Pence.

Underscoring the legal difficulties, the arguments ran far longer than the time they had been allotted. The plan had been that each side would get 20 minutes, but the panel kept grilling Mr. Sauer for nearly four times that. Its questioning of Cecil Vandevender, a lawyer working for Mr. Smith, went on for nearly an hour.

Nov. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A judge says Trump incited insurrection. Other judges have come close, Aaron Blake, Nov. 20, 2023. The Colorado judge is the first to rule that Trump incited an insurrection. She is not the first to lay blame at his feet for Jan. 6.

The effort to get Donald Trump removed from the 2024 ballot over Jan. 6 has thus far failed to achieve its stated objective. But late Friday, it did notch a major victory: A judge ruled that while the former president can’t be disqualified, he did incite an insurrection.

A relatively low-level state court judge in Colorado issued the ruling, but it’s still a remarkable historic document.

And it has been a long time coming.

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace’s ruling said that Trump’s conduct met the standard for disqualification under the 14th Amendment — that he “engaged in insurrection” — but that the amendment doesn’t apply to the president.

Wallace walked through the evidence for the first component of her finding in detail over 102 pages. She focused on the timeline of Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021 — which she said showed that Trump desired this outcome. And she documented his history of promoting and legitimizing political violence — which she said helps prove he incited the riot.

Nov. 19

Philadelphia Inquirer, Opinion: Mike Davis wants to cage kids, put Trump enemies in a ‘gulag.’ He could be our next AG, Will Bunch, Nov. 19, 2023. Lawyer will bunchMike Davis vows to punish Trump's enemies, migrants. No wonder Team Trump is eyeing him as attorney general in 2025.

American democracy was at a near-breaking point on Jan. 3, 2021, as then-president Donald Trump stepped up his efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump’s new plan was to install a fanatical ally named Jeffrey Clark — a virtually unknown Justice Department lawyer — as acting attorney general. Clark had drafted a letter with a blatantly false claim that Justice had found substantial voter fraud in Georgia — with similar letters planned for other key states — in a last-ditch effort to urge state legislatures to replace Biden electors before the Jan. 6 certification.

Trump’s dangerous scheme was thwarted — but only after all of the top career prosecutors in Justice, including the current acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, told the president they would resign en masse and go public with what was happening. “Within 24-48-72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions,” Richard Donoghue, the acting assistant AG who was at that day’s contentious Oval Office meeting, recalled telling the 45th president. “What’s that going to say about you?”

Trump backed down, and — after a violent Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill failed to stop certification of Biden’s victory — slinked away from the White House in defeat.

Flash forward three years, and Trump is the overwhelming front-runner to again become the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, with early polls giving him a chance of defeating Biden in a rematch. And if he does indeed become America’s 47th president on Jan. 20, 2025, Trump seems to have two main goals: revenge against his political enemies, and creating a government teeming with fervent loyalists who won’t block his path the way those career government lawyers did in 2021.

That’s where Mike Davis comes in. Most folks, except for the most politically obsessed, have never heard of Davis, but it’s time for people to learn. The mid-40s-ish Davis takes the abstract warnings that U.S. democracy is on the line in the 2024 election and brings them to life.

Actually, there are two Mike Davises.

mike davisThe first you might call “resumé Mike Davis,” with the Des Moines, Iowa, native hitting all the right marks for rapid advancement in today’s conservative legal movement. A member of the Federalist Society, Davis, right, worked as a consultant to boost the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, then became chief counsel for nominations to the GOP chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fellow Iowan Chuck Grassley. He served Grassley during the contentious hearings over eventual Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the push by Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pack the judiciary with right-wing judges. He now heads two ultraconservative efforts, the Article III Project and the internet Accountability Project.

On paper, it wouldn’t be a stretch for a Republican president to give someone like Davis a top post. But the attorney’s resume doesn’t tell you about the other Mike Davis — now a verbal pit bull for Trump and his MAGA movement, making increasingly outrageous statements seemingly aimed at getting the attention of the boss and his inner circle.

In late September, Davis appeared on a right-wing podcast, the Benny Johnson Show, and described what he might do given three weeks as an interim attorney general by a victorious Trump in 2025. He joked — perhaps — that the new president would have to grant him a pardon as he left town after what Davis described as “a reign of terror” during which he would “unleash hell on Washington, D.C.”

What came next was an agenda very much in line with Trump’s overheated rally rhetoric, the not-secret Project 2025 blueprint, and recent news leaks. Davis claimed he would demolish the “deep state” of career politicians, indict the current president “and every other scumball, sleazeball Biden,” and help to pardon the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

“We’re gonna deport a lot of people, 10 million people and growing — anchor babies, their parents, their grandparents,” Davis added. “We’re gonna put kids in cages. It’s gonna be glorious. We’re gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo.”

“There are a couple people you could put in positions like that, we talk about Mike Davis as attorney general,” Donald Trump Jr. said during his own podcast. “You almost have to, just put them in as interim even, just to send that shot across the bow to the swamp … let Mike Davis and Kash Patel to be like interim AG’s. Put Laura Loomer as press secretary for just a couple of days.”

That’s because Team Trump has coalesced around a worldview that its leader was denied implementing his radical vision — including enforcing the Big Lie of 2020 election fraud — in his first term because too many political functionaries from what it calls “the administrative state” stood in his way. That’s not wrong. In addition to the Jan. 3 revolt among the Justice Department, you had principled leaders like now-retired Gen. Mark Milley, then the Joint Chiefs chair, who stood in the way of improperly calling in troops on Jan. 6 to perhaps block the election certification.

Nov. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Gag order against Trump temporarily lifted in New York fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 17, 2023 (print ed.). An appellate judge on Thursday temporarily lifted a limited gag order issued against Donald Trump and his attorneys in the $250 million civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The temporary pause on the order allows Trump and his defense team to discuss the judge’s law clerk, pending further appellate review. The decision followed a hearing at the Appellate Division’s First Department before Judge David Friedman.

Friedman wrote after hearing arguments that the stay was being imposed in consideration of “constitutional and statutory rights at issue.”

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise argued that security concerns cited by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the fraud trial and issued the gag order against Trump on Oct. 3, are undermined because the judge allows news photographers to take pictures of his clerk.

“If I were concerned about my safety I wouldn’t be sitting there mugging for the camera repeatedly every time the cameras come in,” Kise argued to Friedman, noting that as Trump’s attorney for about a year, he has also received threats.

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Kise also said it is not proper to impose a speech prohibition “based on an audience’s reaction.” He said Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, had a right to free speech for campaign purposes.

Engoron imposed a gag order on the former president for making public comments about the clerk that he believed endangered the clerk’s safety. The order was issued after Trump posted a photo of the employee on social media that the judge said led to threats.

The judge has fined Trump twice for a total of $15,000 for violating the gag order.

Trump celebrated the appellate judge’s order on social media Thursday evening.

“Judge Arthur Engoron has just been overturned (stayed!) by the New York State Appellate Division (Appeals Court), for the 4th TIME (on the same case!),” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social. “His Ridiculous and Unconstitutional Gag Order, not allowing me to defend myself against him and his politically biased and out of control, Trump Hating Clerk, who is sinking him and his Court to new levels of LOW, is a disgrace.”

Trump’s attorneys were placed under a similar gag order barring them from referring to the court employee when making legal arguments about the fairness of the proceeding. Trump’s side has argued repeatedly that the law clerk is biased and that her role as a close adviser to Engoron poisons the lawsuit, which accuses Trump, his two adult sons, two other executives and his company of falsely inflating the values of assets on financial documents to get better terms from lenders and insurance firms. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Lisa Evans, an attorney arguing on behalf of Engoron, told the appeals court that the judge’s clerk is being inundated with messages that are causing concern after her phone number and other personal details were posted on social media by Trump supporters.

The lawyer said Trump does not have to make threats himself because his army of devotees are at the ready to do so, citing an attack on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband and Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection as proof. “It is inciting action on behalf of those individuals who are loyal to Mr. Trump … it’s not political speech,” Evans argued. She said many of the messages aimed at the law clerk are antisemitic.

Daniel Magy, an attorney for James’s office, argued that the gag orders are reasonable because they are so limited. “Any party can make a statement about the judge, any party can make a statement about the attorney general and Mr. Trump has made many statements about [James] online and in the press.”

The two sides are expected to file written arguments this month. It’s not clear when a full appellate panel will rule on the case.

The New York gag order is the second imposed on Trump by a judge that has been suspended while an appeals court considers the issue.

In Washington, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan barred Trump from making statements targeting witnesses, prosecutors or court staff involved with his upcoming trial on charges of conspiring to obstruct the results of the 2020 election. That gag order has been suspended while Trump’s legal team appeals Chutkan’s ruling.

A hearing in that appeal is scheduled for Monday.

Nov. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Truth Social Platform Could Struggle to Survive Without New Cash, Matthew Goldstein, Nov. 16, 2023. Former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company is running on fumes and could be at risk of folding if it doesn’t find new funds in a hurry.

In a regulatory filing this week, auditors for Trump Media & Technology Group expressed doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a “going concern” without new financing. The filing also made clear that Trump Media desperately needs to complete its long-delayed merger with a cash-rich shell company so that it can tap $300 million in cash, especially if its flagship online platform, Truth Social, has any chance of surviving.

The document, which offers the first detailed look at Trump Media’s finances, was filed with regulators as part of the company’s pending deal with Digital World Acquisition Corporation, the publicly traded shell company it agreed to merge with in 2021.

If the transaction goes through, it could value Trump Media at $1 billion based on Digital World’s share price of $16.60. Yet, the rich valuation is no guarantee that the company, which largely relies on advertising revenue from Truth Social — and Truth Social itself — will be a viable business. Trump Media had little cash on hand by the end of June, and it has exhausted most of the $37 million in private financing it has raised since 2021, according to the filing.

“Contrary to the relentless mainstream media campaign peddling false information about Truth Social, we’ve given millions of Americans their voices back using technology operated at a fraction of the cost of the Big Tech platforms,” Shannon Devine, a spokeswoman for Truth Social, said in a statement. Ms. Devine added that “Truth Social continues to move forward toward completing its merger, which we believe will enable important new ventures for the company.”

Since its founding, Truth Social has been a personal megaphone for Mr. Trump, who uses the platform frequently to rail against his critics as he makes another run for president and confronts an array of criminal and civil lawsuits. The platform is popular with some of his most ardent supporters. But on any given day, much of the advertising on the platform comes from weight loss products, gold coins and “natural cures” for a variety of medical ailments.

During the first six months of this year, Trump Media took in just $2.3 million in advertising revenue, according to the filing.

“Truth Social is obviously not surviving on ad dollars,” said Shannon McGregor, a professor of journalism and media at the University of North Carolina who has studied social media platforms. “And the ads that are being sold are not robust or sustainable.”

The former president’s platform of choice remains a relative minnow in the social media universe. This year, the Truth Social app has been downloaded three million times, according to Sensor Tower, a data provider. By comparison Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has been downloaded 144 million times and Meta’s Threads has been downloaded 171 million times in the nearly five months since it debuted.

In all, Truth Social has been downloaded seven million times since its launch in early 2022, according to Sensor Tower.

Mr. Trump has 6.5 million followers on Truth Social, compared with the 87 million he had on Twitter when he was prohibited from posting on the platform after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Mr. Musk, after buying Twitter, let Mr. Trump return to the platform, but the former president has posted only one message on X.

Ms. McGregor said other social media platforms had tried to increase their audience reach by reaching deals with media personalities and influencers who bring with them a ready made group of followers.

If the merger is completed, Trump Media would have the cash on hand to retain the services of conservative media influencers. But Ms. McGregor said some people might be reluctant to join a platform that was so identified with Mr. Trump, whose political future remained uncertain.

“What is the future vision for a platform that is built on being a microphone for one person,” is the obvious question for any social media influencer who might be thinking of joining Truth Social, she said.

The glimmer of good news for Mr. Trump is that this week’s filing of the updated merger document is an indication the deal with Digital World is moving along after being held up for nearly two years because of a regulatory investigation.

The filing of a revised prospectus was one of the requirements Digital World had agreed to as part of an $18 million regulatory settlement it reached this summer with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The settlement resolved an investigation into an allegation that Digital World had flouted securities rules governing special purpose acquisition companies by engaging in early merger talks with Trump Media before its I.P.O.

ny times logoNew York Times, Politics: How Trump and His Allies Plan to Wield Power in 2025, Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage, Nov. 16, 2023 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump and his allies are already laying the groundwork for a possible second Trump presidency, forging plans for an even more extreme agenda than his first term.

Former President Donald J. Trump declared in the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign: “I am your retribution.” He later vowed to use the Justice Department to go after his political adversaries, starting with President Biden and his family.

Beneath these public threats is a series of plans by Mr. Trump and his allies that would upend core elements of American governance, democracy, foreign policy and the rule of law if he regained the White House.

Some of these themes trace back to the final period of Mr. Trump’s term in office. By that stage, his key advisers had learned how to more effectively wield power and Mr. Trump had fired officials who resisted some of his impulses and replaced them with loyalists. Then he lost the 2020 election and was cast out of power.

Since leaving office, Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies at a network of well-funded groups have advanced policies, created lists of potential personnel and started shaping new legal scaffolding — laying the groundwork for a second Trump presidency they hope will commence on Jan. 20, 2025.

In a vague statement, two top officials on Mr. Trump’s campaign have sought to distance his campaign team from some of the plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s outside allies, groups led by former senior Trump administration officials who remain in direct contact with him. The statement called news reports about the campaign’s personnel and policy intentions “purely speculative and theoretical.”

The plans described here generally derive from what Mr. Trump has trumpeted on the campaign trail, what has appeared on his campaign website and interviews with Trump advisers, including one who spoke with The New York Times at the request of the campaign.
Trump wants to use the Justice Department to take vengeance on his political adversaries.

If he wins another term, Mr. Trump has said he would use the Justice Department to have his adversaries investigated and charged with crimes, including saying in June that he would appoint “a real special prosecutor to go after” President Biden and his family. He later declared in an interview with Univision that he could, if someone challenged him politically, have that person indicted.

Allies of Mr. Trump have also been developing an intellectual blueprint to cast aside the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department investigatory independence from White House political direction.

Foreshadowing such a move, Mr. Trump had already violated norms in his 2016 campaign by promising to “lock up” his opponent, Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server. While president, he repeatedly told aides he wanted the Justice Department to indict his political enemies, including officials he had fired such as James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director. The Justice Department opened various such investigations but did not bring charges — infuriating Mr. Trump and leading to a split in 2020 with his attorney general, William P. Barr.

He intends to carry out an extreme immigration crackdown.

Mr. Trump is planning an assault on immigration on a scale unseen in modern American history. Millions of undocumented immigrants would be barred from the country or uprooted from it years or even decades after settling here.

Bolstered by agents reassigned from other federal law enforcement agencies and state police and the National Guard, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement would carry out sweeping raids aimed at deporting millions of people each year. Military funds would be used to erect sprawling camps to hold undocumented detainees. A public-health emergency law would be invoked to shut down asylum requests by people arriving at the border. And the government would try to end birthright citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil to undocumented parents.
Trump has plans to use U.S. military force closer to home.

While in office, Mr. Trump mused about using the military to attack drug cartels in Mexico, an idea that would violate international law unless Mexico consented. That idea has since taken on broader Republican backing, and Mr. Trump intends to make the idea a reality if he returns to the Oval Office.

While the Posse Comitatus Act generally makes it illegal to use federal troops for domestic law enforcement purposes, another law called the Insurrection Act creates an exception. Mr. Trump wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act to use troops to crack down on protesters after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, but was thwarted, and the idea remains salient among his advisers. Among other things, his top immigration adviser has said they would invoke the Insurrection Act at the southern border to use soldiers to intercept and detain undocumented migrants.
Trump and his allies want greater control over the federal bureaucracy and work force.

Mr. Trump and his backers want to increase presidential power over federal agencies, centralizing greater control over the entire machinery of government in the White House.

Nov. 15

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Can Stay on G.O.P. Primary Ballot in Michigan, Judge Rules, Chris Cameron, Nov. 15, 2023 (print ed.). The state judge seemingly left the door open for a future 14th Amendment fight over Donald Trump’s eligibility for a general election.

A state judge in Michigan partly rejected an effort to disqualify former President Donald J. Trump from running for president in the state, ruling that Mr. Trump will remain on the ballot in the Republican primary, and that the state’s top elections official does not have the authority alone to exclude him from the ballot.

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).But the judge appeared to leave the door open for a future battle over Mr. Trump’s eligibility as a candidate in the general election, saying that the issue “is not ripe for adjudication at this time.”

The ruling notches a preliminary victory for Mr. Trump in a nationwide battle over his eligibility to run for president again, even as he faces a wave of legal scrutiny in other cases — including 91 felony charges in four different jurisdictions.

Plaintiffs across the country have argued that Mr. Trump is ineligible to hold office again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after having taken an oath to support it, citing his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Georgia prosecutor leading an election interference case against Donald Trump said it was likely to stretch into 2025, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Nov. 15, 2023 (print ed.). As the prosecutor, Fani T. Willis, discussed the case at a conference, her office sought an emergency protective order to prevent more leaks of discovery materials.

Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta district attorney leading an election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and 14 of his allies, said on Tuesday that a trial would very likely “not conclude until the winter or the very early part of 2025.”

She also defended the scope of the racketeering indictment she brought in August, noting that she had prosecuted far larger racketeering cases in her career. Defendants in such cases “got involved in the criminal enterprise,” she said. “They deserve to be charged. In fact, they earned it.”

Ms. Willis’s office charged Mr. Trump and 18 other defendants with participating in a criminal enterprise aimed at changing the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Four of the defendants have already taken plea deals, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

The timing of a trial for the other defendants is not clear, since a trial date has not been set. But there is growing speculation that the district attorney will seek a summer start.

Ms. Willis’s comments, at a women’s conference held by The Washington Post, came as her office sought an emergency protective order banning the release of discovery materials in the Georgia case. On Monday, videos of private testimony from the defendants who have entered into plea agreements were leaked to several news outlets; Ms. Willis’s office said it did not leak the videos, which it had shared with defense lawyers.

Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court scheduled a hearing on the request for Wednesday.

In one of the videos, obtained by ABC News, Jenna Ellis, a former Trump campaign lawyer who pleaded guilty to a felony charge last month, said she was told in December 2020 by one of Mr. Trump’s longtime aides that he was refusing to leave the White House “under any circumstances” despite losing the election.

In another, first reported by The Post, Kenneth Chesebro, another lawyer who worked with the Trump campaign, disclosed to prosecutors that he met with the president in the White House in mid-December 2020. Mr. Chesebro also discussed a memo he had drafted shortly after the election saying that Jan. 6, 2021, was the “real deadline for settling a state’s electoral votes.”

In the weeks after Mr. Chesebro wrote the memo, the Trump administration deployed fake electoral voters in swing states as part of a plan to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the election results on Jan. 6.

At the conference on Tuesday, Ms. Willis was asked if it was surprising that the videos had been leaked.

“Surprising no, disappointing yes,” she said, adding that such statements — known as “proffers” — from defendants who had pleaded guilty helped prosecutors make their case against more prominent defendants “up the ladder.”

“The D.A. in Fulton County always wants to get to the top of the ladder,” she said, speaking in general terms, but also very likely alluding to Mr. Trump.

Steve Sadow, Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer in Georgia, dismissed the contents of the videos on Monday, saying that “the only salient fact to this nonsense line of inquiry is that President Trump left the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, and returned to Mar-a-Lago.”

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors asked an appeals court to approve a gag order imposed on the former president in his election meddling case, Alan Feuer, Nov. 15, 2023 (print ed.). The filing was the latest volley in the fight over whether the former president should be limited in what he can say about his trial on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Prosecutors asked a federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday to give its approval to a gag order imposed on former President Donald J. Trump in his federal election interference case, saying that Mr. Trump’s “long history” of targeting his adversaries on social media has often led to dangers in the real world.

The gag order on Mr. Trump was suspended this month by the appeals court as it considers whether the trial judge in the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, was justified in imposing it in the first place. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments about the order next week.

In a 67-page filing, Cecil Vandevender, an assistant to Jack Smith, the special counsel leading the federal prosecutions of the former president, told the appeals court that Mr. Trump had received several warnings to curb his aggressive public statements. Still, Mr. Vandevender wrote, the former president has persistently sought to “malign” Mr. Smith and his family, and “target specific witnesses with attacks on their character and credibility.”

Mr. Trump’s attacks on those involved in the election interference case were “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted by the defendant are, as a result of the targeting, subject to harassment, threats and intimidation,” Mr. Vandevender wrote.

Nov. 14

 

jenna ellis source unknown

Proof, Investigative Commentary: A Trump Attorney’s Shocking Proffer to Prosecutors Opens a Major New Front in the Federal January 6 Investigation: seth abramson graphicMembers of Congress, Seth Abramson, left, Nov 13, 2023. A fired thirty-something traffic-court lawyer (shown above) brought on by the former President of the United States as a key player in his coup plot has just materially changed the stakes of feds’ January 6 probe.

The New York Times reports that there were twenty White House Christmas parties in December 2020. The largest of these parties, per the Times, were held on December 11, December 14, and December 16 of that year.

seth abramson proof logoabc news logoWhy do these parties matter? Because ABC News had issued a bombshell report that includes details of the proffer Trump attorney Jenna Ellis—a fired traffic-court lawyer—made to prosecutors in Georgia, where she recently pleaded guilty to the felony of Aiding and Abetting False Statements.

U.S. House logoAccording to Ellis, top Trump adviser Dan Scavino told her at one of the White House Christmas parties in December 2020 that hen-President Trump had no intention at all of leaving the White House—or of leaving the office of the presidency—President Donald Trump officialin 2021, despite having by then lost all his legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election.

And why does what Scavino said to Ellis at a Christmas party matter? Because on December 21, 2020—just before Christmas Day, but almost certainly after all the major White House Christmas parties—Dan Scavino attended a key meeting in the Oval Office with then-President Trump and at least twelve far-right members of Congress.

Scavino has repeatedly risked federal imprisonment to avoid telling anyone what was said in that meeting. (DOJ later shocked Congress by refusing, without any explanation, to indict Scavino or another meeting attendee, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, for ignoring their valid January 6 federal subpoenas.)

Besides Mr. Trump and Mr. Scavino, the members of Congress known to have been at the White House for at least three hours on December 21 are (with asterisks added to mark any former members of Congress, and wedges added for then-members-elect):

Members of Congress (Past or Present) Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)* Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA)* Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)^ [video of Greene post-meeting here] Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)* Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)* [then Chief of Staff] Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)* [retiring] “a handful of others [who] dialed in” [per Cassidy Hutchinson testimony] “possibly [people] from the White House Counsel’s office” [per Cassidy Hutchinson testimony] (emphasis added).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Russia's invasion of legislatures around the world continues sowing chaos in governance, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, Nov. 13, 2023. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has had monumental success in employing its influence operations, disinformation seeding, and other propaganda programs, which are aimed at co-opting members of legislatures and parliaments around the world, to embrace policies favored by Moscow.

wayne madesen report logoThese active measures include cutting off military and other aid to Ukraine, opposing Western sanctions against Russia, and supporting withdrawal from NATO and affiliated programs like the Partnership for Peace.

Astoundingly, Russia’s program of co-opting legislators and political parties has enjoyed its greatest successes in the United States and Canada. Russia exercises control over small but crucial blocs of U.S. Senators and Representatives, Canadian Members of Parliament, and even Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. There are well-established factual reports concerning Russian intelligence’s co-option of national elections in Western democracies, including the 2016 Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Prosecutors Object to Trump Request for Broadcast of Election Trial, Alan Feuer, Nov. 14, 2023 (print ed.). The office of the special counsel said that televising the proceeding would create a “carnival atmosphere” and allow Donald Trump to divert attention from the charges. Federal prosecutors on Monday accused former President Donald J. Trump of trying to turn his trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election into “a media event” with a “carnival atmosphere” by backing calls to have it broadcast live on television.

Even though federal rules of criminal procedure forbid televising trials, Mr. Trump’s lawyers last week asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election subversion case, to agree to requests from news organizations to broadcast the proceedings.

Mr. Trump’s filing was short on legal arguments and relied instead on several dubious claims that he was being treated unfairly in the case and that only the transparency of a televised trial could cure the purported wrongs he had suffered.

But firing back on Monday, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, reminded Judge Chutkan that she had already vowed to treat Mr. Trump like any other criminal defendant. The prosecutors added that despite the former president’s references to “fairness,” he was actually trying to create a circuslike environment “from which he hopes to profit by distracting, like many fraud defendants try to do, from the charges against him.”

“The defendant’s response is a transparent effort to demand special treatment, try his case in the courtroom of public opinion and turn his trial into a media event,” the prosecutors wrote.
Several media organizations had first raised the issue of televising the trial, which is scheduled to start in March in Federal District Court in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers initially told the government that they did not intend to take a position, one way or the other, on whether the federal proceeding should be broadcast, but they changed their minds, submitting one of their most aggressive filings yet on Friday.

The government’s response to Mr. Trump, written by James I. Pearce, an assistant special counsel, was just as forceful. It accused the former president and his lawyers of crafting court filings “with the goal of gathering media coverage rather than lawful relief” and of using their statements in court “to wage a public relations campaign.”

Mr. Pearce pointed in particular to Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York, where he used his recent time on the witness stand to condemn the case as a “political witch hunt,” prompting the judge, as Mr. Pearce noted, to snap back, “This is not a political rally.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Jr. Says Family Properties Show His Father’s Brilliance, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and Kate Christobek, Nov. 14, 2023 (print ed.). In his second appearance in court, Donald Trump’s eldest son testified that the company’s assets were extremely valuable. A judge has found their values were inflated.

Donald J. Trump’s signature properties are at the heart of a sweeping civil fraud case accusing him of manipulating their values and his net worth. But to hear the former president’s eldest son tell it, those properties prove something far rosier: the brilliance of the Trump family business.

Trump Tower, Donald Trump Jr. declared on the witness stand Monday, is admired as “genius.” Mar-a-Lago is “one of the few American castles.” And 40 Wall Street, the family’s towering office building across from the New York Stock Exchange, has vaults that are “a mechanical work of art.”

In a return appearance at a trial that has featured a parade of Trumps on the stand as they fight for the future of their family business, the junior Mr. Trump testified in bursts of hyperbole and platitudes. His rhetoric sounded as though it had been ripped from the pages of an airline magazine or a travel brochure, and he saved the highest praise for the man who he said made it all happen: his father, a “visionary” who is “an artist with real estate” and “creates things that other people would never envision.”

Yet some of his high-flying claims clashed with present-day reality.

In recent years, the Trump Organization has shrunk, as the family name was scrubbed from some of the properties he extolled, taken off buildings in New York, Washington and, soon, Hawaii. Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street have also, at times, lost a number of tenants. Some of the former president’s properties struggled even to turn a profit.

Nov. 12

Forbes, Trump Compares Political Foes To ‘Vermin’ On Veterans Day — Echoing Nazi Propaganda, Sara Dorn, Nov. 12, 2023. Former President Donald forbes magazine l CustomTrump pledged to eliminate political extremist groups that “lie, steal and cheat on elections,” calling them “vermin” during a speech Saturday and in a Truth Social post commemorating Veterans Day—echoing a term Nazis often used in antisemitic propaganda to dehumanize Jews, equating them to parasites who spread disease.

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).Trump made a “pledge” to “root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country” in a Truth Social post Saturday “in honor of our great Veterans on Veteran’s Day.”

Trump accused the groups of doing “anything possible to destroy America, and the American Dream,” adding that “the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave, than the threat from within.”

He repeated the phrasing at a rally in New Hampshire later Saturday, referring to “the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country” and declaring “the real threat is not from the radical right, the real threat is from the radical left.”

The former president’s incendiary rhetoric invokes a term frequently used by Nazis to dehumanize Jews, including a 1939 quote attributed to Hitler: “This vermin must be destroyed. The Jews are our sworn enemies,” he told the Czech foreign minister, according to historical accounts.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Veterans Day Speech, Trump Promises to ‘Root Out’ the Left, Michael Gold, Nov. 12, 2023 (print ed.). The former president said that threats from abroad were less concerning than liberal “threats from within” and that he was a “very proud election denier.”

Former President Donald J. Trump, on a day set aside to celebrate those who have defended the United States in uniform, promised to honor veterans in part by assailing what he portrayed as America’s greatest foe: the political left.

Using incendiary and dehumanizing language to refer to his opponents, Mr. Trump vowed to “root out” what he called “the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.”

“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within,” Mr. Trump said Saturday in a nearly two-hour Veterans Day address in Claremont, N.H.

Mr. Trump accused Democrats and President Biden of trying to roll back his efforts to expand veteran access to health care, causing soaring inflation, pushing the country to the brink of World War III, endangering the troops in Afghanistan and of lying and rigging elections.

He also promised to care for America’s veterans, reviving a hyperbolic claim that he made throughout his 2016 campaign that Democrats “treat the illegal aliens just pouring into our country better than they treat our veterans.”

And he said he would divert money currently earmarked “for the shelter and transport of illegal aliens” to instead provide shelter and treatment for homeless military veterans.

Nov. 11

 

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says on Univision he could weaponize FBI, DOJ against his enemies, Maegan Vazquez, Nov. 11, 2023 (print ed.). During a sit-down interview with the Spanish television giant, the former president also defended migrant family separations at the border.

President Donald Trump officialIn an interview that aired Thursday night on Univision, former president Donald Trump indicated that if he’s elected in 2024, he may use the federal government to punish his critics and he defended his administration’s separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

FBI logoDuring the interview on the Spanish-language TV network, journalist Enrique Acevedo asked Trump if he would weaponize the FBI and Justice Department on his opponents in the same way he claims federal law enforcement agencies have been weaponized against him.

“Yeah. If they do this, and they’ve already done it, but if they follow through on this, yeah, it could certainly happen in reverse,” Trump told Acevedo, according to excerpts of the interview.

“What they’ve done is they’ve released the genie out of the box,” the former president continued, adding, “You know, when you’re president and you’ve done a good job and you’re popular, you don’t go after them so you can win an election.”

“They have done something that allows the next party … if I happen to be president and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say, ‘Go down and indict them.’ They’d be out of business. They’d be out of the election,” Trump continued.

Trump (shown above in a Georgia mug shot) faces 91 combined federal and state charges over alleged election interference, the mishandling of classified documents and falsifying business records. He has denied wrongdoing in each case. Despite his legal issues, the former president’s polling lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination has grown larger in recent months — and the general election is widely expected to be a rematch of the 2020 contest between Trump and President Biden.

The wide-ranging interview comes days after The Washington Post reported that Trump and his allies have been mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to retaliate against his opponents and allies turned critics should he win a second term.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trump Testifies, Republicans Attack Judge in Civil Fraud Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 11, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur Engoron imposed a narrow gag order on Donald Trump, whose allies are going after the judge through official channels and online.

elise stefanik hearingRepresentative Elise Stefanik, right, a member of the House Republican leadership and an ally of former President Donald J. Trump, filed an ethics complaint Friday attacking the judge presiding over Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial, the latest salvo in a right-wing war against the case.

Echoing the courtroom rhetoric of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the letter complains that the Democratic judge, Arthur F. Engoron, has been biased against the former president, who testified this week in New York State Supreme Court. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has accused Mr. Trump of fraudulent business practices, and in a pretrial ruling Justice Engoron agreed, validating the heart of her case.

The letter, to a judicial conduct commission, is unlikely to have any immediate repercussions in the trial, which will determine the consequences Mr. Trump and his company will face as a result of the fraud. But it represents the latest Republican attempt to tar Justice Engoron, and to meddle with Ms. James’s case. The judge has placed narrow gag orders on both the former president and his lawyers, but nothing bars Mr. Trump’s allies from their criticism.

They have taken up the effort with gusto.

“I filed an official judicial complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron for his inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance in New York’s disgraceful lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization,” Ms. Stefanik said in a statement Friday.

Nov. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Ivanka Trump to Testify in Fraud Suit Against Family Business, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 8, 2023. The daughter of former President Trump has tried to distance herself from the Trump Organization and has hired her own lawyer.
Ivanka Trump on Wednesday will become the fourth member of her family to testify in a civil case brought by the New York attorney general, offering her own response to accusations of widespread fraud at the Trump Organization.

The attorney general, Letitia James, accused former President Donald J. Trump of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loans from banks. Ms. Trump, whose testimony follows that of her father and adult brothers, is expected to be questioned about how the former president’s assets were valued.

Ms. Trump was initially a defendant like her father, brothers and the Trump Organization itself, but an appeals court dismissed the case against her. She sought to avoid taking the stand, but the court required her participation.

The testimony will mark Ms. Trump’s first appearance at a trial that threatens the future of a family business she once guided. Although she had been seen as the heir apparent to the family business, Ms. Trump followed her father to the White House, where she became embroiled in his polarizing presidency.

After her father’s election loss in 2020, Ms. Trump sought to distance herself from his company — and his mounting legal problems, which now include four criminal indictments. Ms. Trump also hired her own lawyer, separate from the legal team representing her family in Ms. James’s case, a move that rankled some in the former president’s camp, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

The last time Ms. Trump testified about her father — before a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — it was a major embarrassment for the former president. In the testimony, broadcast at a prime time congressional hearing, Ms. Trump acknowledged that her father had lost the 2020 election, prompting him to lash out at her for being “checked out” in the final days of his administration.

Though their relationship was strained for a time, the two have had something of a rapprochement and speak regularly, the person with knowledge said.

In the New York case, she will appear not as a top executive of the Trump Organization, but as a former employee with intimate knowledge of the company’s practices, albeit one with a highly personal connection to the case.

Ms. Trump played a central role in setting up some of the company’s relationships with financial institutions — particularly Deutsche Bank — and she is likely to be questioned about that, as well as her knowledge of the annual financial statements that are at the heart of the case.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates via Substack, "She's Got the Biggest Set of Balls In The Room, Vicky Ward, Nov. 7-8, 2023. What Will Trump's Former Heir-Apparent, Ivanka, Say in Court About The Family Business?

There’s fever-pitch speculation over what Ivanka Trump will say about the Trump Organization. Her father and her brothers are accused, civilly, of vicky ward kushner bookfraud. Scheduled to testify tomorrow, she’s there as a fact-witness. She was dismissed from the case earlier this year, for timing reasons (she left the organization in 2017, so the New York State appeals court ruled that the Attorney General’s suit was filed too late after that date to be applicable to her).

In case the lawyers are not up to speed, below is an excerpt from Kushner, Inc that details exactly what Ivanka did while she was employed at the Trump Organization. Even I had forgotten the details of the deals she negotiated with shady foreign partners. In fact, her work in the family business impressed her father so much that he believed she ought to be the one to ultimately lead it. His one time Organization senior advisor, Felix Sater told him: “She’s got the biggest set of balls in the room.”

Nov. 7

 

 

Civil fraud defendant Donald Trump, the former president shown at center, testified during the damages phase of his trial in New York's state court surrounded by his attorneys on Nov. 6, 2023 (New York Times photo by Jefferson Siegel).

Civil fraud defendant Donald Trump, the former president shown at center, testified during the damages phase of his trial in New York's state court surrounded by his attorneys on Nov. 6, 2023 (New York Times photo by Jefferson Siegel).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Assails Judge and Acknowledges Role Valuing His Empire’s Property, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 7, 2023 (print ed.). The judge in the case sought to rein in the former president, who railed against him and New York’s attorney general from the stand before wrapping up for the day. Mr. Trump seemed to undercut efforts to distance himself from the property valuations at the heart of the case.

In testimony both ranting and rambling, former President Donald J. Trump said during his civil fraud trial on Monday that he was more of an expert than anyone on real estate and acknowledged helping assemble documents stating the value of his properties.

“I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions,” Mr. Trump said shortly after he took the stand in a Manhattan courtroom. His testimony, which lasted roughly four hours, contained repeated asides and complaints over the case, including about the attorney general who brought it and the judge who will decide it.

The financial statements by the Trump Organization — which a judge has already decided were filled with fraud — are a central element of the suit by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James. She has accused Mr. Trump and other defendants of manipulating the statements to defraud banks and insurers.

The judge in the case, Arthur F. Engoron, became frustrated as he repeatedly sought to rein in Mr. Trump, whose asides included proclaiming the proceeding as “a very unfair trial,” calling Ms. James “a political hack,” and an impassioned ode to his Scottish golf course.

At one point, Mr. Trump complained that the judge had “called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me.” Justice Engoron then suggested that Mr. Trump hadn’t read the order where he found him liable for fraud.

Mr. Trump began his afternoon testimony more subdued, but that soon changed. He said on the stand that the case made no sense because the banks were happy with the deals they struck with him, and he called the case a “disgrace.”

“It’s election interference, because you want to keep me in this courthouse all day long,” he said.

Although Mr. Trump acknowledged participating in valuations, he also testified at times that he did not intervene in such work, including for his Mar-a-Lago resort, which he believed was undervalued by the statements. He also sought to minimize the importance of the financial statements, saying that the bankers he used paid very little attention to them — and promised that the defense would bring in those bankers to say as much.

Mr. Trump — who told reporters after his testimony that the case should be immediately dismissed — was the third member of the family to testify in the case. His two oldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, testified last week. His daughter Ivanka is expected on the stand on Wednesday.

Here’s what else to know:

  • Mr. Trump’s lawyers have already appealed Justice Engoron’s ruling that the statements contained fraud, arguing that valuations are subjective and were in part the responsibility of others. What is left to be determined is any penalty Mr. Trump might have to pay and whether he will be banished from the world of New York real estate that made him famous.
  • Justice Engoron chided Mr. Trump several times, asking him to keep his remarks short and at one point striking part of one monologue from the record. “This is not a political rally,” he told the former president. Read about the judge’s efforts.
  • During the lunch break, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba, criticized Justice Engoron for scolding Mr. Trump over his meandering answers. “The only thing they want are facts that are bad for Trump,” she said outside the courthouse. “That’s why he’s silencing him.”
  • The case differs from other legal challenges facing the former president. It is a civil case, not criminal. There is no jury; the judge will determine the outcome. And although Mr. Trump and his sons could have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against answering questions, doing so would have been risky: In a civil case, a jury or judge is allowed to make a negative assumption when a defendant declines to testify. Read about the differences.
  • Since the trial began Oct. 2, the former president has been a fixture in and around the courtroom — including making statements that Justice Engoron said violated a gag order barring Mr. Trump from attacking court staff. Here’s a look at key moments in the trial.
  • The judge in the case sought to rein in the former president, who railed against him and New York’s attorney general from the stand.
    Donald Trump seemed to undercut efforts to distance himself from the property valuations at the heart of the case.

Nov. 5

 

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).


washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and his allies are mapping out plans to use the government to punish opponents if he wins in 2024, Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 5, 2023 (print ed.). Advisers have also discussed deploying the military to quell potential unrest on Inauguration Day. Critics have called the ideas under consideration dangerous and unconstitutional.

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

Justice Department log circularIn private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.

republican elephant logoIn public, Trump has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” President Biden and his family. The former president has frequently made corruption accusations against them that are not supported by available evidence.

To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations. Critics have called such ideas dangerous and unconstitutional.

“It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia who studies executive power. “It’s hardly something we should aspire to.”

Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington. Dubbed “Project 2025,” the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act, according to a person involved in those conversations and internal communications reviewed by The Washington Post. The law, last updated in 1871, authorizes the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement.

The proposal was identified in internal discussions as an immediate priority, the communications showed. In the final year of his presidency, some of Trump’s supporters urged him to invoke the Insurrection Act to put down unrest after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, but he never did it. Trump has publicly expressed regret about not deploying more federal force and said he would not hesitate to do so in the future.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Leads Biden in 5 Critical States, Times/Siena Poll Finds, Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 5, 2023. Many voters said they trusted Donald Trump over President Biden on the economy, foreign policy and immigration, as Mr. Biden’s multiracial base frays.

President Biden is trailing Donald J. Trump in five of the six most important battleground states one year before the 2024 election, suffering from enormous doubts about his age and deep dissatisfaction over his handling of the economy and a host of other issues, new polls by The New York Times and Siena College have found.

President Donald Trump officialThe results show Mr. Biden losing to Mr. Trump, his likeliest Republican rival, by margins of three to 10 percentage points among registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden is ahead only in Wisconsin, by two percentage points, the poll found.

Discontent pulsates throughout the Times/Siena poll, with a majority of voters saying Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them. The survey also reveals the extent to which the multiracial and multigenerational coalition that elected Mr. Biden is fraying. Demographic groups that backed Mr. Biden by landslide margins in 2020 are now far more closely contested, as two-thirds of the electorate sees the country moving in the wrong direction.

Voters under 30 favor Mr. Biden by only a single percentage point, his lead among Hispanic voters is down to single digits and his advantage in urban areas is half of Mr. Trump’s edge in rural regions. And while women still favored Mr. Biden, men preferred Mr. Trump by twice as large a margin, reversing the gender advantage that had fueled so many Democratic gains in recent years.

Black voters — long a bulwark for Democrats and for Mr. Biden — are now registering 22 percent support in these states for Mr. Trump, a level unseen in presidential politics for a Republican in modern times.

Add it all together, and Mr. Trump leads by 10 points in Nevada, six in Georgia, five in Arizona, five in Michigan and four in Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden held a 2-point edge in Wisconsin.

In a remarkable sign of a gradual racial realignment between the two parties, the more diverse the swing state, the farther Mr. Biden was behind, and he led only in the whitest of the six.

Across the six battlegrounds — all of which Mr. Biden carried in 2020 — the president trails by an average of 48 to 44 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Here’s why President Biden is behind, and here’s how he could come back, Nate Cohn, Graphics by Alicia Parlapiano. Nov. 5, 2023. A polling deficit against Trump across six key states is mainly about younger, nonwhite and less engaged voters. Kamala Harris performs slightly better.

Four years ago, Joe Biden was the electability candidate — the broadly appealing, moderate Democrat from Scranton who promised to win the white working-class voters who elected Donald J. Trump.

There are few signs of that electoral strength today.

With one year to go until the election, there’s still plenty of time for the race to change. In contrast with four years ago, the poll finds a disengaged, disaffected and dissatisfied electorate, setting the stage for a potentially volatile campaign. Many voters only agonizingly support these two disliked candidates. Some will shift as the campaign gets underway. Others simply won’t vote at all.

The poll contains considerable evidence that it shouldn’t necessarily be daunting for Democrats to reassemble a coalition to defeat Mr. Trump, who remains every bit as unpopular as he was three years ago. But even if Mr. Trump remains eminently beatable, the poll also suggests it may nonetheless be quite challenging for Mr. Biden himself.

The survey finds that Mr. Biden enters his campaign as a badly weakened candidate, one running without the strengths on personal likability, temperament and character that were essential to his narrow victories in all six of these states in 2020. Long-festering vulnerabilities on his age, economic stewardship, and appeal to young, Black and Hispanic voters have grown severe enough to imperil his re-election chances.

On question after question, the public’s view of the president has plummeted over the course of his time in office. The deterioration in Mr. Biden’s standing is broad, spanning virtually every demographic group, yet it yields an especially deep blow to his electoral support among young, Black and Hispanic voters, with Mr. Trump obtaining previously unimaginable levels of support with them.
Based on New York Times/Siena College polls of 3,662 registered voters conducted Oct. 22 to Nov. 3 in six battleground states. The 2020 vote is based on how respondents say they voted in 2020, though margins are similar to The Times's estimates of the results. Numbers are rounded.
Why Biden Is Behind, and How He Could Come Back - The New York Times

Mr. Biden barely leads at all among nonwhite voters under 45, even though the same voters reported backing Mr. Biden by almost 40 points in the last election. As a result, the candidates are essentially tied among voters 18 to 29, a group that has reliably backed Democrats by a wide margin for two decades.

Just as strikingly, Mr. Trump has cut Mr. Biden’s lead among nonwhite voters in half, not only with staggering gains among the younger part of that group but with more modest gains among older voters as well. Overall, Mr. Trump earns more than 20 percent support among Black voters, a tally that would be unprecedented in the post-Civil Rights Act era.
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In contrast, Mr. Biden has retained the entirety of his support among older white voters, helping him stay relatively competitive in the older and predominantly white Northern battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, even as Mr. Trump builds a more comfortable lead in the more diverse Sun Belt states.

There’s no reason to assume that next November’s final election tallies will match the results of these surveys. But if they did, it could represent an epochal shift in American politics, one with the potential to reverberate for decades as young and nonwhite voters make up a growing share of the electorate. Many familiar patterns in American politics would be blurred. Racial and generational polarization would fade. It would be the culmination of a decade-long realignment of the electorate along the lines of Mr. Trump’s conservative populism, all while dashing Democratic hopes of assembling a progressive majority around a new generation of young and nonwhite voters.

While all of this raises the specter of catastrophe for Democrats, there is still plenty of time for the electorate’s preferences to gradually come back into alignment with the familiar demographic patterns of the last few decades. The poll suggests that it shouldn’t necessarily be difficult for Mr. Biden to reassemble his winning coalition — at least on paper. To win, he merely needs to reinvigorate voters from traditional Democratic constituencies, groups that the poll finds remain quite open to Democrats in a matchup against Mr. Trump.

In a hypothetical race without Mr. Biden, an unnamed generic Democrat leads Mr. Trump by eight points, 48 to 40 — a wider lead than the three-point edge held by an unnamed Democrat at this time in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Former president to testify at civil fraud trial in New York on Monday, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 5, 2023.  The former president is scheduled to testify at his civil fraud trial in New York on Monday. And other trial news.

Trump — the man himself — is expected to take the witness stand on Monday in the civil fraud trial in New York against him and his family real estate business. He is accused of fraudulently inflating his property values to get better terms on loans and insurance. His son Eric said the former president is “fired up” to testify.

It will be interesting to see Trump’s demeanor on the stand given how contentious the trial has been thus far. Trump has derided the judge — and the judge imposed a gag order after the former president publicly criticized his law clerk.

Ivanka Trump is expected to testify on Wednesday.

This may be the only time Trump is actually is on the witness stand over the next year. Yes, he faces four criminal trials, but criminal defendants cannot be forced to testify.

Nov. 4

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logo New York Times, Trump Is Temporarily Free From Gag Order in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Nov. 4, 2023 (print ed.). A panel of a federal appeals court lifted the order for at least two weeks, freeing Donald Trump to say what he wants about prosecutors and witnesses.

An appeals court in Washington on Friday paused the gag order imposed on former President Donald J. Trump in the federal case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election, temporarily freeing him to go back to attacking the prosecutors and witnesses involved in the proceeding.

In a brief order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the pause of about two weeks was needed to give it “sufficient opportunity” to decide whether to enact a longer freeze as the court considered the separate — and more important — issue of whether the gag order had been correctly imposed in the first place.

The panel’s ruling came in response to an emergency request to lift the order pending appeal that Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed on Thursday night. While the judges — all three of whom were appointed by Democrats — paused the gag order until at least Nov. 20 to permit additional papers to be filed, they wrote in their decision on Friday that the brief stay “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of Mr. Trump’s broader motion for a more sustained pause.

The gag order, which was put in place last month by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in Federal District Court in Washington, has now been frozen, reinstated and frozen again. The protracted battle, with its back-and-forth filings and multiple reversals, has pitted two visions of Mr. Trump against each other.

Nov. 3

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Gag Order in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Nov. 3, 2023. The former president argued that the order restricting what he can say about the case should not be in effect while he seeks to have it thrown out on appeal.

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump filed an emergency request to a federal appeals court on Thursday seeking to lift the gag order imposed on him in the criminal case in which he stands accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Justice Department log circularThe lawyers asked the appeals court to keep the pause of the order in place until it reaches a final decision on whether the order should have been issued in the first place.

“No court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office — let alone the leading candidate for president of the United States,” the lawyers wrote in their 11th-hour petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“That centuries-long practice was broken,” the lawyers added, when a federal judge in Washington put the gag order in place last month, “muzzling President Trump’s core political speech during an historic presidential campaign.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the appeals court to render a decision on their request for a stay by Nov. 10. They suggested that they would seek relief from the Supreme Court if the appellate judges denied their motion.

tanya chutkan newerThe gag order, imposed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, right, of Federal District Court in Washington, was issued against Mr. Trump on Oct. 16 to keep him from targeting members of the court staff, prosecutors working on the case and any people who might appear as witnesses in the proceeding.

It followed a relentless barrage of social media posts by Mr. Trump that threatened not only Judge Chutkan, but also the special counsel, Jack Smith, who is overseeing the two federal prosecutions of the former president.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI director pushes back sharply against critics in new interview, Devlin Barrett, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Devlin Barrett, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Christopher A. Wray, who has been increasingly under attack from congressional Republicans, said the people accusing the law enforcement agency of bias are themselves trying to gain a political advantage at the FBI’s expense.

christopher-wray-o.jpgFBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, who has been increasingly under attack from congressional Republicans, pushed back against his critics in a new interview, saying the people accusing the law enforcement agency of bias are themselves trying to gain a political advantage at the FBI’s expense.

“I have found almost invariably, the people screaming the loudest about the politicization of the FBI are themselves the most political, and more often than not, making claims of politicization to advance their own views or goals, and they often don’t know the facts or are choosing to ignore them,” Wray said in a Wednesday episode of the podcast “FBI Retired Case File Review.”

FBI logoWray pointed out, as he has before, that when President Donald Trump nominated him in 2017 to be the FBI director, not a single Republican senator voted against him. “It’s utterly bewildering to me that I or the FBI would be accused of bias against conservatives or any political party,” he said.

A number of Republican congressmen — particularly lawmakers loyal to Trump — have been on the warpath against the FBI, threatening to cut the agency’s funding and reduce its legal authority over what they claim is a pattern of politically motivated decision-making in cases involving elected officials and President Biden’s son Hunter.

That bad blood was evident Tuesday when Wray appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and was attacked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) over the Hunter Biden investigation.

 Eric Trump began testifying Thursday morning, immediately after his older brother left the stand New York Times photo by Hiroko Masuike).

Eric Trump began testifying Thursday morning, immediately after his older brother left the stand New York Times photo by Hiroko Masuike). 

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Trump Sons Testify in Fraud Case Aimed at Their Family Business, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Nov. 3, 2023 (print ed.). Eric Trump took the stand after his older brother, Donald Jr. They are accused along with former President Trump of inflating the value of business assets.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s two eldest sons took the stand in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday in a civil fraud case against them and their father that threatens the family empire.

On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. was calm but defensive, seeking to blame accountants for errors on financial statements that a judge has already found were fraudulent. His younger brother Eric was more combative — he acknowledged his place at the center of the business, but denied involvement in the financial statements.

The trial will determine consequences for them and their father. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has asked that they be ousted from New York’s business world and for a $250 million penalty.

Ms. James’s lawyers on Thursday were able to expose seeming contradictions and inconsistencies in the testimony of both brothers.

The lawyers showed that Donald Trump Jr. had signed a letter to an accounting firm in which he said there were no misstatements on the financial documents, even after being alerted to errors by Forbes magazine. He dismissed the correspondence as a “cover your butt” letter.

Eric Trump — who also sought to blame the company’s outside accountants for errors — lost his temper after lengthy questioning about his knowledge of the company’s annual financial statements.

“We’re a major organization, a massive real estate organization,” he said, raising his voice and saying that it was obvious that the Trump Organization would have had such statements.

He continued to insist that he had no knowledge of them more than 10 years ago, despite evidence that suggested he was involved in conversations about them.

Their testimony — a full month into the trial — was the first by members of the Trump family. Ivanka Trump, who was a key part of the business before joining her father in the White House, may testify next week. Former President Donald J. Trump is expected on the stand on Monday.

Here’s what to know:

  • Before the trial began last month, the judge found that Mr. Trump, his sons and the other defendants had artificially inflated the values of properties, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have appealed that ruling, arguing that valuations are subjective and were in part the responsibility of others.
  • Donald Trump’s two eldest sons have both spent their careers working in the family business, and expanded their roles during their father’s presidency, with Eric Trump running the Trump Organization’s day-to-day operations. The two men have different roles and different personalities.
  • The case differs from other legal challenges facing the former president. It is a civil case, not criminal. There is no jury; the judge overseeing the case will determine the outcome. And although Mr. Trump’s sons could have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against answering questions, doing so would have been risky: In a civil case, a jury or judge is allowed to make a negative assumption when a defendant declines to testify. Read about the differences.
  • Since the trial began Oct. 2, the former president has been a fixture in the courtroom and outside — including making statements that the judge in the case, Arthur F. Engoron, said violated a gag order barring Mr. Trump from attacking court staff. Here’s a look at key moments in the case so far.

 Nov. 2

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Jr. Denies Responsibility for Company Business Statements, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s son began the Trump family’s parade to the witness stand in the civil fraud case.

Donald Trump Jr. testified on Wednesday that he had no involvement in annual financial statements that his family’s business gave banks and insurers despite language in the statements themselves suggesting that he was partially responsible for them.

His contention, which came during the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, capped an afternoon of otherwise unremarkable testimony from Mr. Trump, who is the first of his family members to testify about the case.

Asked whether he worked on one such statement, from 2017, Mr. Trump was clear: “I did not. The accountants worked on it. That’s what we pay them for.”

He soon clarified that his conversations with others at the company may have informed the financial statement. The attorney general, Letitia James, has said such papers were filled with fraud that helped the company, the Trump Organization, gain favorable treatment from lenders.

 

October

Oct. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump maintains lead in Iowa poll while Haley ties for second with DeSantis, Maegan Vazquez, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump maintains a commanding lead among Republicans running for president in 2024 in the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses, while former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley has pulled into a tie for second place with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a new poll finds.

With less than three months until the caucuses, the latest NBC News-Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa poll shows Trump’s lead among the crowded pack of primary candidates remains strong. Forty-three percent of likely caucus-goers pick Trump as their first-choice GOP presidential candidate. Haley and DeSantis both draw 16 percent support.

Despite Trump’s legal challenges and GOP candidates’ efforts over the last several months to set themselves as a viable alternative for the party, his support is nearly identical to his percentage in an August Iowa poll. DeSantis’s support has slipped three percentage points, and Haley’s support has grown by 10 percentage points, the poll finds.

Spurned by moderates and MAGA: How DeSantis’s coalition has deflated

In the new poll, Haley and DeSantis are followed by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) with 7 percent. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie are both at 4 percent, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is at 3 percent, and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson is at 1 percent.

Oct. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Reinstates Gag Order on Trump in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that her order should stay in effect while the former president’s lawyers pursue an appeal.

A federal judge reinstated a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump on Sunday that had been temporarily placed on hold nine days earlier, reimposing restrictions on what Mr. Trump can say about witnesses and prosecutors in the case in which he stands accused of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

tanya chutkan newerIn making her decision, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, right, also denied a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to freeze the gag order for what could have been a considerably longer period, saying it can remain in effect as a federal appeals court in Washington reviews it.

Judge Chutkan’s ruling about the order was posted publicly on PACER, the federal court database, late on Sunday, but her detailed order explaining her reasoning was not immediately available because of what appeared to be a glitch in the computer system.

Justice Department log circularThe dispute about the gag order, which was initially put in place on Oct. 16 after several rounds of court filings and a hard-fought hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, has for weeks pitted two significant legal arguments against each other.

From the start, Mr. Trump’s lawyers, largely led by John F. Lauro, have argued that the order was not merely a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights. Rather, the order “silenced” him at a critical moment: just as he has been shoring up his position as the Republican Party’s leading candidate for president in the 2024 election.

Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, have countered that even though Mr. Trump is running for the country’s highest office, he does not have permission to issue public statements threatening or intimidating people involved in the election interference case, especially if those remarks might incite violence in those who read or hear them.

When she first imposed the gag order, Judge Chutkan sided with the government, acknowledging Mr. Trump’s First Amendment rights but saying that she intended to treat him like any other criminal defendant — even if he was running for president.

Mr. Trump’s constitutional rights could not permit him “to launch a pretrial smear campaign” against people involved in the case, she said, adding, “No other defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case.”

Soon after Judge Chutkan issued the gag order, Mr. Lauro began the process of appealing it. A few days later, he asked the judge to freeze the order until the appeals court made its own decision, saying that the ruling she had put in place was “breathtakingly overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague.”

djt indicted proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearings begin as Trump critics attempt to kick him off ballots, Patrick Marley, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Lawsuits in Colorado and Minnesota center on the 14th Amendment, which bars those who engage in an insurrection from running for office.

In two courtrooms 900 miles apart, judges next week will begin to weigh an unprecedented and historic question: Is former president Donald Trump eligible to run for office again given his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

Starting on Monday in Denver, a week-long hearing featuring witnesses and legal scholars will explore whether Jan. 6 qualified as an insurrection, which could bar Trump from the ballot in Colorado. On Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether an obscure part of the Constitution might keep Trump off the ballot there. In coming weeks, courts around the country might hold similar proceedings.

The legal strategy, pursued by an unusual mix of conservatives and liberals, is unlike any tried before against a candidate for president. Legal experts are deeply divided on the merit of the theory, but even its backers acknowledge they face stiff challenges.

 

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Cannon Fodder, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). What’s ahead. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, below right, is set to hold a hearing in Florida on Wednesday to discuss scheduling in Donald Trump’s classified-documents case. We will be there, looking for any signs of whether she thinks the current May 20 trial date is going to hold or be pushed back.

aileen cannonOne key issue is how much time Trump and his legal team get to review the piles of secret evidence in the case. Trump’s lawyers have accused the government of being too slow to provide access to the full catalogue of classified papers, and insist they need more time to prepare.

Under the current schedule, both sides have until Friday to file their pretrial motions — arguments for what should be allowed or not allowed at trial.

And in New York, three of Trump’s adult children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are expected to be called as witnesses in the civil fraud trial against their father, Donald Jr. and Eric, and the family business. More on that trial below.

Now, a recap of what you may have missed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jenna Ellis Could Become a Star Witness Against Trump, Norman Eisen and Amy Lee Copeland, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). (Mr. Eisen is a co-author of a Brookings report on the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney’s Trump investigation. Ms. Copeland is a criminal defense and appellate lawyer in Savannah, Ga.),

When Jenna Ellis last week became the most recent lawyer to join in an accelerating series of guilty pleas in the Fulton County, Ga., prosecution of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators, she offered a powerful repudiation of the “Big Lie” that could potentially cut the legs out from under Donald Trump’s defense, make her a star witness for prosecutors and a potent weapon against the former president’s political ambitions.

Ms. Ellis admitted that the allegations of election fraud she peddled as an advocate for the effort to overturn the 2020 election were false. Two other plea deals, from Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, have been important, but Ms. Ellis is in a unique position to aid prosecutors in the Georgia case and possibly even the parallel federal one — as well as Mr. Trump’s opponents in the court of public opinion.

Ms. Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony count of aiding and abetting the false statements made by co-defendants (including Rudy Giuliani) to the Georgia Senate about supposed voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election. These included that “10,315 or more dead people voted” in Georgia, “at least 96,000 mail-in ballots were counted” erroneously and “2,506 felons voted illegally.”

These lies were at the cutting edge of Mr. Trump’s assault on the election. Both the state and federal criminal prosecutions allege that Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators knowingly deployed falsehoods like these in their schemes to overturn the election.

Ms. Ellis emerged from her plea hearing as a likely star witness for prosecutors, starting with the one who secured her cooperation, the Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis. Unlike Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, in pleading guilty Ms. Ellis spoke in detail about her “responsibilities as a lawyer.” Tearing up, she talked about the due diligence that “I did not do but should have done” and her “deep remorse for those failures of mine.” The judge, a tough former prosecutor, thanked her for sharing that and noted how unusual it was for a defendant to do so.

Trials are about the evidence and the law. But they are also theater, and the jury is the audience. In this case, the jury is not the only audience — the Georgia trials will be televised, so many Americans will also be tuned in. Ms. Ellis is poised to be a potent weapon against Mr. Trump in the courtroom and on TVs.

That is bad news for her former co-defendants — above all, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump. Ms. Ellis was most closely associated with Mr. Giuliani, appearing by his side in Georgia and across the country. If her court appearance last week is any indication, she will be a compelling guide to his alleged misconduct. She will also add to what is known about it; she and Mr. Giuliani undoubtedly had many conversations that are not yet public and that will inform the jury. And because Mr. Giuliani was the senior lawyer on the case, her pointed statement that she was misled by attorneys “with many more years of experience” hits him directly.

Ms. Ellis’s likely trial testimony will also hit Mr. Trump hard. She has now effectively repudiated his claims that he won the election — an argument that is expected to be a centerpiece of his trial defense. Coming from a formerly outspoken MAGA champion, her disagreement has the potential to resonate with jurors.

It also builds on substantial other evidence against the former president, which includes voluminous witness testimony collected by the House Jan. 6 committee indicating that many advisers told him the election was not stolen — and that in private he repeatedly admitted as much.

Meidas Touch Network, Judge HITS Trump with 9 PAGES of DOOM to MUZZLE his THREATS, Michael Popok, Oct. 30, 2023. We now have the actual 9 page written order from Judge Chutkan reimposing her gag order against Donald Trump and it’s worse than we thought for Trump. Michael Popok of Legal AF explains how Judge Chutkan has not only increase the likelihood that Donald Trump will lose in his efforts to appeal her gag order, but she also used an explosive racist recent social media post example of Donald Trump to prove a point that her gag order is appropriate and easily understood by all the parties.

Oct. 28

 

Former President Donald Trump, with  defense counsel  Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil  fraud charges for lying about his finances on Oct. 25, 2023 (New York  Times photo by Dave  Sanders).

Former President Donald Trump on Oct. 25, 2023, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances  (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered to Pay $10,000 in New Punishment for Breaking Gag Order, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Outside Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, the former president made comments to reporters that the judge found were an attack on a court employee.

A Manhattan judge briefly ordered Donald J. Trump to the witness stand on Wednesday after accusing him of breaking a gag order with critical comments that seemed aimed at a law clerk, and then fined him $10,000.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, who is presiding over Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial, issued the punishment after finding that Mr. Trump earlier in the day had violated an order that prevents him from discussing court staff. Mr. Trump said that his comments had referred not to the clerk, whom he had previously attacked, but to his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, a witness.

From the stand, Mr. Trump, wearing a navy suit and limiting the duration of his usual monologues, said that while he had not been speaking about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, he thought she was “maybe unfair, and I think she’s very biased against me.”

Mr. Trump left the stand after about three minutes. Justice Engoron said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine.

The episode was remarkable and wholly unexpected: While Mr. Trump has been voluble in his own defense outside the courtroom, he had not testified in open court in more than a decade, and as soon as he did, the judge found against him. For the former president, who is expected to testify later in the civil fraud trial and has been criminally indicted four other times, it was a harsh preview of what may await.

During a break in the proceedings on Wednesday, Mr. Trump had called Justice Engoron partisan — which is allowable under the order. But he continued, saying, “with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him. Perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

After the break, the judge said he was concerned that the overheated environment in the courtroom could result in real danger.

“I am very protective of my staff,” Justice Engoron said, adding, “I don’t want anyone to get killed.”

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, protested that the former president had been referring to Mr. Cohen, his former fixer, who was testifying for a second day. Mr. Trump did clearly refer to Mr. Cohen immediately after the initial comment, calling him a “discredited witness.”

The judge responded that the target of the comments had seemed clear to him and, after lunch, called the hearing.

Mr. Trump trotted to the witness stand and faced the courtroom for his brief questioning by the judge. Justice Engoron asked whether he had in the past referred to Ms. Greenfield as “partisan” and whether he always refers to Mr. Cohen as “Michael Cohen.” His lawyers, from the defense table, assured the judge that Mr. Trump has far more derogatory ways of referring to Mr. Cohen.

After Justice Engoron issued the fine, the trial resumed, with Mr. Trump’s lawyers prompting Mr. Cohen to admit that he had lied on past occasions. Soon, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Clifford S. Robert, called for an immediate verdict, given Mr. Cohen’s contradictions. Justice Engoron denied the request, and Mr. Trump slid his chair back and stormed out of the courtroom.

Oct. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are pushing to reinstate a gag order on former President Trump in the federal election case, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In court filings, the special counsel’s office said the gag order was needed to keep the former president from making “harmful and prejudicial attacks” on people in the federal election case.

President Donald Trump officialFor much of this week, after a federal judge temporarily froze the gag order she imposed on him, former President Donald J. Trump has acted like a mischievous latchkey kid, making the most of his unsupervised stint.

Justice Department log circularAt least three times in the past three days, he has attacked Jack Smith, the special counsel leading his federal prosecutions, as “deranged.” Twice, he has weighed in about testimony attributed to his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who could be a witness in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

Each of Mr. Trump’s comments appeared to violate the gag order put in place less than two weeks ago to limit his ability to intimidate witnesses in the case, assail prosecutors or otherwise disrupt the proceeding. And after the former president was fined $10,000 on Wednesday for flouting a similar directive imposed on him by the judge presiding over a civil trial he is facing in New York, federal prosecutors asked that he face consequences for his remarks about the election interference case as well.

On Friday, the judge who imposed the federal order, Tanya S. Chutkan, put it on hold for a week to allow the special counsel’s office and lawyers for Mr. Trump to file more papers about whether she should set it aside for an even longer period as an appeals court considers its merits.

 

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Should Have Known Better, Jesse Wegman, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). In Fulton County, Ga., three of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers — Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis — have now pleaded guilty to crimes in service of Mr. Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election and stay in the White House.

All three have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the sprawling state RICO case against Mr. Trump. Two other Trump lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and John sidney powell mugEastman, still face criminal charges in the Georgia case. They, along with Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, right, have also been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the related federal prosecution of Mr. Trump, which will probably benefit from the guilty pleas in Georgia.

The charges in the plea agreements vary, but the underlying story is the same: Fifty years after Watergate, the nation is once again confronted with a president who grossly abused the powers of his office, leading to criminal prosecutions. And once again, that abuse relied heavily on the involvement of lawyers. If Mr. Trump’s 2020 racket was “a coup in search of a legal theory,” as one federal judge put it, these lawyers provided the theory, and the phony facts to back it up. In doing so, they severely tarnished their profession.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary:Trump Gets OUTMANEUVERED by Federal Judge in BRILLIANT New Order, Michael Popok, Oct. 28, 2023. Judge Chutkan presiding over the DC election criminal case against Donald Trump has called his bluff.

Trump doesn’t want an unfiltered television feed of the actual trial to go to the American people, or does he?

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the judge’s decision today to have Donald Trump state his position on the record as to whether he wants his trial televised for the American people to make their decision before election day, or whether he wants to continue to hide in the shadows and cowardly attack prosecutors witnesses an judges on social media and in hallway statements to right wing media. Which is it?

Oct. 26

 

Former President Donald Trump, with  defense counsel  Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil  fraud charges for lying about his finances on Oct. 25, 2023 (New York  Times photo by Dave  Sanders).

Former President Donald Trump on Oct. 25, 2023, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances  (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered to Pay $10,000 in New Punishment for Breaking Gag Order, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Outside Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, the former president made comments to reporters that the judge found were an attack on a court employee.

A Manhattan judge briefly ordered Donald J. Trump to the witness stand on Wednesday after accusing him of breaking a gag order with critical comments that seemed aimed at a law clerk, and then fined him $10,000.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, who is presiding over Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial, issued the punishment after finding that Mr. Trump earlier in the day had violated an order that prevents him from discussing court staff. Mr. Trump said that his comments had referred not to the clerk, whom he had previously attacked, but to his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, a witness.

From the stand, Mr. Trump, wearing a navy suit and limiting the duration of his usual monologues, said that while he had not been speaking about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, he thought she was “maybe unfair, and I think she’s very biased against me.”

Mr. Trump left the stand after about three minutes. Justice Engoron said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine.

The episode was remarkable and wholly unexpected: While Mr. Trump has been voluble in his own defense outside the courtroom, he had not testified in open court in more than a decade, and as soon as he did, the judge found against him. For the former president, who is expected to testify later in the civil fraud trial and has been criminally indicted four other times, it was a harsh preview of what may await.

During a break in the proceedings on Wednesday, Mr. Trump had called Justice Engoron partisan — which is allowable under the order. But he continued, saying, “with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him. Perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

After the break, the judge said he was concerned that the overheated environment in the courtroom could result in real danger.

“I am very protective of my staff,” Justice Engoron said, adding, “I don’t want anyone to get killed.”

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, protested that the former president had been referring to Mr. Cohen, his former fixer, who was testifying for a second day. Mr. Trump did clearly refer to Mr. Cohen immediately after the initial comment, calling him a “discredited witness.”

The judge responded that the target of the comments had seemed clear to him and, after lunch, called the hearing.

Mr. Trump trotted to the witness stand and faced the courtroom for his brief questioning by the judge. Justice Engoron asked whether he had in the past referred to Ms. Greenfield as “partisan” and whether he always refers to Mr. Cohen as “Michael Cohen.” His lawyers, from the defense table, assured the judge that Mr. Trump has far more derogatory ways of referring to Mr. Cohen.

After Justice Engoron issued the fine, the trial resumed, with Mr. Trump’s lawyers prompting Mr. Cohen to admit that he had lied on past occasions. Soon, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Clifford S. Robert, called for an immediate verdict, given Mr. Cohen’s contradictions. Justice Engoron denied the request, and Mr. Trump slid his chair back and stormed out of the courtroom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are pushing to reinstate a gag order on former President Trump in the federal election case, Oct. 26, 2023. In court filings, the special counsel’s office said the gag order was needed to keep the former president from making “harmful and prejudicial attacks” on people in the federal election case.

President Donald Trump officialFor much of this week, after a federal judge temporarily froze the gag order she imposed on him, former President Donald J. Trump has acted like a mischievous latchkey kid, making the most of his unsupervised stint.

Justice Department log circularAt least three times in the past three days, he has attacked Jack Smith, the special counsel leading his federal prosecutions, as “deranged.” Twice, he has weighed in about testimony attributed to his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who could be a witness in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

Each of Mr. Trump’s comments appeared to violate the gag order put in place less than two weeks ago to limit his ability to intimidate witnesses in the case, assail prosecutors or otherwise disrupt the proceeding. And after the former president was fined $10,000 on Wednesday for flouting a similar directive imposed on him by the judge presiding over a civil trial he is facing in New York, federal prosecutors asked that he face consequences for his remarks about the election interference case as well.

On Friday, the judge who imposed the federal order, Tanya S. Chutkan, put it on hold for a week to allow the special counsel’s office and lawyers for Mr. Trump to file more papers about whether she should set it aside for an even longer period as an appeals court considers its merits.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Plea Deals in Georgia Trump Case, Fani Willis Is Building Momentum, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Fulton County district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump and his allies often uses her state’s racketeering law to pressure lower-rung defendants to cooperate.

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., had no shortage of doubters when she brought an ambitious racketeering case in August against former president Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies. It was too broad, they said, and too complicated, with so many defendants and multiple, crisscrossing plot lines for jurors to follow.

But the power of Georgia’s racketeering statute in Ms. Willis’s hands has become apparent over the last six days. Her office is riding a wave of momentum that started with a guilty plea last Thursday from Sidney K. Powell, the pro-Trump lawyer who had promised in November 2020 to “release the kraken” by exposing election fraud, but never did.

Then, in rapid succession, came two more guilty pleas — and promises to cooperate with the prosecution and testify — from other Trump-aligned lawyers, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis. While Ms. Powell pleaded guilty only to misdemeanor charges, both Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Ellis accepted a felony charge as part of their plea agreements.

A fourth defendant, a Georgia bail bondsman named Scott Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges.

With Mr. Trump and 14 of his co-defendants still facing trial in the case, the question of the moment is who else will flip, and how soon. But the victories notched thus far by Ms. Willis and her team demonstrate the extraordinary legal danger that the Georgia case poses for the former president.

And the plea deals illustrate Ms. Willis’s methodology, wielding her state’s racketeering law to pressure smaller-fry defendants to roll over, take plea deals, and apply pressure to defendants higher up the pyramids of power.

The strategy is by no means unique to Ms. Willis. “This is how it works,” said Kay L. Levine, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, referring to large-scale racketeering and conspiracy prosecutions. “People at the lower rungs are typically offered a good deal in order to help get the big fish at the top.”

Oct. 25

 

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jenna Ellis, Former Trump Lawyer, Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Ms. Ellis agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progressed against the former president and 15 remaining defendants.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotJenna Ellis, right, a Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty, was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

georgia mapMs. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Prosecutors struck plea deals last week with Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of the effort to deploy fake Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and Sidney Powell, an outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spun wild conspiracy claims in the aftermath of the election.

The charges fall into several baskets. Several of the individual counts stem from false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and two other Trump lawyers made at legislative hearings in December 2020. Another batch of charges concerns a plan to vote for a false slate of pro-Trump electors. A third raft of charges accuses several Trump allies of conspiring to steal voter data and tamper with voting equipment in Coffee County, Ga.

Late last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman charged along with Ms. Powell with taking part in a breach of voting equipment and data at a rural Georgia county’s elections office, pleaded guilty in the case.

fulton county jail

republican elephant logoFani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., obtained an indictment of the 19 defendants in August (shown above) on racketeering and other charges, alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise that conspired to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Ms. Ellis, unlike the other defendants who have pleaded guilty, asked the court to let her give a statement. She cried as she rose from the defense table and said, “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously.”

djt maga hatShe said that after Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020, she believed that challenging the election results on his behalf should have been pursued in a “just and legal way.” But she said that she had relied on information provided by other lawyers, including some “with many more years of experience than I,” and failed to do her “due diligence” in checking the veracity of their claims.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).“If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges,” Ms. Ellis told Judge Scott McAfee, right, of Fulton County Superior Court. “I look back on this experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I’ve taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

In March, Ms. Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado, her home state, that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had occurred and had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement Ms. Ellis made to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado.

Though she is still able to practice law in Colorado, the group that brought the original complaint against her, leading to the censure, said on Tuesday that new action would be coming.

“We do plan to file a new complaint in Colorado based on the guilty plea, so that the bar can assess the matter in light of her criminal conduct,” said Michael Teter, managing director of the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Ms. Ellis’s new misgivings about Mr. Trump and his refusal to accept his election loss were evident before her plea on Tuesday.

Last month, on her Christian broadcasting radio show, she called Mr. Trump “a friend” and added, “I have great love and respect for him personally.” But she said on the show that she could not support him politically again, because he displayed a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

ny times logodavid french croppedNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Are Going Down. Is He? David French, right, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Ellis, Powell and Chesebro guilty pleas represent an advance for both the state election prosecution in Georgia and the federal election prosecution in Washington. While their guilty pleas came in the Georgia case (they’re not charged in the federal prosecution, though Powell and Chesebro have been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in that case), the information they disclose could be highly relevant to Jack Smith, the special counsel investigating Trump.

Perhaps as important or even more important, the three attorneys’ admissions may prove culturally and politically helpful to those of us who are attempting to break the fever of conspiracy theories that surround the 2020 election and continue to empower Trump. At the same time, however, it’s far too soon to tell whether the prosecution has made real progress on Trump himself. The ultimate importance of the plea deals depends on the nature of the testimony from the lawyers, and we don’t yet know what they have said — or will say.

djt maga hatTo understand the potential significance of these plea agreements, it’s necessary to understand the importance of Trump’s legal team to his criminal defense. As I’ve explained in various pieces and as the former federal prosecutor Ken White explained to me when I guest-hosted Ezra Klein’s podcast, proof of criminal intent is indispensable to the criminal cases against Trump, both in Georgia and in the federal election case. While the specific intent varies depending on the charge, each key claim requires proof of conscious wrongdoing, such as an intent to lie or the intent to have false votes cast.

One potential element of Trump’s intent defense in the federal case is that he was merely following the advice of lawyers. In other words, how could he possess criminal intent when he simply did what his lawyers told him to do? He’s not the one who is expected to know election laws. They are.

According to court precedent that governs the federal case, a defendant can use advice of counsel as a defense against claims of criminal intent if he can show that he “made full disclosure of all material facts to his attorney” before he received the advice and that “he relied in good faith on the counsel’s advice that his course of conduct was legal.”

There is a price, though, for presenting an advice-of-counsel defense. The defendant waives attorney-client privilege, opening up his oral and written communications with his lawyers to scrutiny by a judge and a jury. There is no question that a swarm of MAGA lawyers surrounded Trump at each step of the process, much as a cloud of dirt surrounds the character Pigpen in the “Peanuts” cartoons, but if the lawyers have admitted to engaging in criminal conduct, then that weakens his legal defense. This was no normal legal team, and their conduct was far outside the bounds of normal legal representation.

Apart from the implications of the advice-of-counsel defense, their criminal pleas, combined with their agreements to cooperate, may grant us greater visibility into Trump’s state of mind during the effort to overturn the election. The crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege prevents a criminal defendant from shielding his communications with his lawyers when those communications were in furtherance of a criminal scheme. If Ellis, Powell or Chesebro can testify that the lawyers were operating at Trump’s direction — as opposed to Trump following their advice — then that testimony could help rebut his intent defense.

If you think it’s crystal clear that the guilty pleas are terrible news for Trump — or represent that elusive “we have him now” moment that many Trump opponents have looked for since his moral corruption became clear — then it’s important to know that there’s a contrary view. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, a respected former federal prosecutor, argued that Powell’s guilty plea, for example, was evidence that Willis’s case was “faltering” and that her RICO indictment “is a dud.”

“When prosecutors cut plea deals with cooperators early in the proceedings,” McCarthy writes, “they generally want the pleading defendants to admit guilt to the major charges in the indictment.” Powell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Ellis and Chesebro each pleaded to a single felony charge, but they received punishment similar to Powell’s. McCarthy argues that Willis allowed Powell to plead guilty to a minor infraction “because minor infractions are all she’s got.” And in a piece published Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy argued that the Ellis guilty plea is more of a sign of the “absurdity” of Willis’s RICO charge than a sign that Willis is closing in on Trump, a notion he called “wishful thinking.”

There’s another theory regarding the light sentences for the three lawyers. When Powell and Chesebro sought speedy trials, they put the prosecution under pressure. As Andrew Fleischman, a Georgia defense attorney, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter), it was “extremely smart” to seek a quick trial. “They got the best deal,” Fleischman said, “because their lawyers picked the best strategy.”

As a general rule, when you’re evaluating complex litigation, it is best not to think in terms of legal breakthroughs (though breakthroughs can certainly occur) but in terms of legal trench warfare. Think of seizing ground from your opponent yard by yard rather than mile by mile, and the question at each stage isn’t so much who won and who lost but rather who advanced and who retreated. Willis has advanced, but it’s too soon to tell how far.

djt michael cohenPolitico, As Trump glowers, Michael Cohen takes the stand against him, Erica Orden, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Cohen,shown above left in a file photo, testified that Donald Trump directed him to “reverse engineer” the value of Trump’s assets to inflate Trump’s net worth.

politico CustomMichael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime loyal aide turned vocal antagonist, took the witness stand Tuesday to testify against Trump in a $250 million civil fraud trial, telling the judge that the former president ordered Cohen to falsify financial documents.

In measured tones, Cohen testified that when he worked for Trump as his lawyer and fixer, Trump directed him to modify documents that represented Trump’s net worth so that they reflected the number Trump desired.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen said, “and my responsibility, along with [former Trump Organization CFO] Allen Weisselberg, predominantly, was to reverse engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”

President Donald Trump officialAs Cohen delivered that testimony, Trump, who was seated at the defense table, grew red in the face and shook his head. Trump didn’t look at Cohen as he entered the courtroom, but as Cohen spoke on the witness stand, Trump trained his eyes on him and either crossed his arms or leaned forward over the defense table.
Trump calls Michael Cohen ‘a proven liar’ ahead of testimony

Cohen didn’t look at his former boss as he testified, instead directing his attention entirely to the lawyer from the New York attorney general’s office who was questioning him.

Cohen is one of the central witnesses in Attorney General Tish James’ case against Trump, which accuses him, his adult sons and his business associates of inflating his net worth in order to obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

Cohen’s testimony Tuesday marks a fresh front in his efforts to take down Trump after years of defending him. That defense ended five years ago, when Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance crimes that he and federal prosecutors said Trump directed him to commit, and Cohen began speaking publicly.

djt threat graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Files More Motions to Derail Federal Jan. 6 Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers made a series of arguments seeking dismissal of the federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump officialLawyers for former President Donald J. Trump fired off a barrage of new attacks on Monday night against the federal charges accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, filing nearly 100 pages of court papers seeking to have the case thrown out before it reaches a jury.

In four separate motions to dismiss — or limit the scope of — the case, Mr. Trump’s legal team made an array of arguments on legal and constitutional grounds, some of which strained the boundaries of credulity.

The lawyers claimed, largely citing news articles, that President Biden had pressured the Justice Department to pursue a “nakedly political” selective prosecution of Mr. Trump. They asserted that prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, had failed to prove any of the three conspiracy counts brought against the former president.

Justice Department log circularAnd they argued that under the principle of double jeopardy, Mr. Trump could not be tried on the election interference charges since he had already been acquitted by the Senate on many of the same accusations during his second impeachment.

The lawyers also tried to persuade Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, that the allegations against Mr. Trump, accusing him of wielding lies about election fraud in a vast campaign to pressure others to help him stay in power, were based on examples of “core political speech” and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment fully protects opinions and claims on widely disputed political and historical issues,” one of the lawyers, John F. Lauro, wrote, adding, “It confers the same protection on the same statements made in advocating for government officials to act on one’s views.”

Mr. Lauro’s free speech claims, developed in a 31-page brief filed to Judge Chutkan in Federal District Court in Washington, were some of the most substantial arguments he made on Monday night, and they essentially sought to rewrite the underlying narrative of Mr. Smith’s indictment.

Takeaways From Trump’s Indictment in the 2020 Election Inquiry

  • Four charges for the former president. Former President Donald Trump was charged with four counts in connection with his widespread efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment was filed by the special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington. Here are some key takeaways:
  • The indictment portrayed an attack on American democracy. Smith framed his case against Trump as one that cuts to a key function of democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. By underscoring this theme, Smith cast his effort as an effort not just to hold Trump accountable but also to defend the very core of democracy.
  • Trump was placed at the center of the conspiracy charges. Smith put Trump at the heart of three conspiracies that culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to obstruct Congress’s role in ratifying the Electoral College outcome. The special counsel argued that Trump knew that his claims about a stolen election were false, a point that, if proved, could be important to convincing a jury to convict him.
  • Trump didn’t do it alone. The indictment lists six co-conspirators without naming or indicting them. Based on the descriptions provided, they match the profiles of Trump lawyers and advisers who were willing to argue increasingly outlandish conspiracy and legal theories to keep him in power. It’s unclear whether these co-conspirators will be indicted.
  • Trump’s political power remains strong. Trump may be on trial in 2024 in three or four separate criminal cases, but so far the indictments appear not to have affected his standing with Republican voters. By a large margin, he remains his party’s front-runner in the presidential primaries.

 

fulton county jailWashington Post, Here’s who else was charged in the Georgia case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley and Jon Swaine, Aug. 16, 2023 (print ed.). Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman and Sidney Powell are among the 18 others, above, besides Trump who were indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jenna Ellis’s tearful guilty plea should worry Rudy Giuliani, Aaron Blake, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). For the third time in less than week, a lawyer who worked for Donald Trump has pleaded guilty in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case. Jenna Ellis on Tuesday joined Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro in cutting a deal that will require her to testify truthfully about the other defendants, including presumably Trump himself.

djt maga hatHer centrality to the case, relative to the others, is debatable. Ellis often served more as a spokesperson than an actual practicing lawyer, though certain actions clearly involved legal strategizing and proximity to Trump. But her plea came with something the others did not: a tearful statement to the court that suggested she is prepared to cast blame up the chain. Whether and how much that includes Trump is a big question. But it would seem to be bad news for Rudy Giuliani and potentially, by extension, for Trump himself.

Ellis pleaded guilty to illegally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election loss of Trump in Georgia. Specifically, she admitted to aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony that will result in three to five years probation and other penalties. The deal cited false claims from Giuliani, her frequent traveling companion as they worked to overturn the election results, and a Trump campaign lawyer in Georgia, Ray Smith. Both were indicted alongside Trump, Ellis and the others.

Oct. 24

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jenna Ellis, Former Trump Lawyer, Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 24, 2023. Ms. Ellis agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progressed against the former president and 15 remaining defendants.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotJenna Ellis, right, a Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty, was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

georgia mapMs. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Prosecutors struck plea deals last week with Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of the effort to deploy fake Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and Sidney Powell, an outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spun wild conspiracy claims in the aftermath of the election.

The charges fall into several baskets. Several of the individual counts stem from false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and two other Trump lawyers made at legislative hearings in December 2020. Another batch of charges concerns a plan to vote for a false slate of pro-Trump electors. A third raft of charges accuses several Trump allies of conspiring to steal voter data and tamper with voting equipment in Coffee County, Ga.

Late last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman charged along with Ms. Powell with taking part in a breach of voting equipment and data at a rural Georgia county’s elections office, pleaded guilty in the case.

fulton county jail

republican elephant logoFani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., obtained an indictment of the 19 defendants in August (shown above) on racketeering and other charges, alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise that conspired to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Ms. Ellis, unlike the other defendants who have pleaded guilty, asked the court to let her give a statement. She cried as she rose from the defense table and said, “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously.”

She said that after Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020, she believed that challenging the election results on his behalf should have been pursued in a “just and legal way.” But she said that she had relied on information provided by other lawyers, including some “with many more years of experience than I,” and failed to do her “due diligence” in checking the veracity of their claims.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).“If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges,” Ms. Ellis told Judge Scott McAfee, right, of Fulton County Superior Court. “I look back on this experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I’ve taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

In March, Ms. Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado, her home state, that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had occurred and had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement Ms. Ellis made to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado.

Though she is still able to practice law in Colorado, the group that brought the original complaint against her, leading to the censure, said on Tuesday that new action would be coming.

“We do plan to file a new complaint in Colorado based on the guilty plea, so that the bar can assess the matter in light of her criminal conduct,” said Michael Teter, managing director of the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Ms. Ellis’s new misgivings about Mr. Trump and his refusal to accept his election loss were evident before her plea on Tuesday.

Last month, on her Christian broadcasting radio show, she called Mr. Trump “a friend” and added, “I have great love and respect for him personally.” But she said on the show that she could not support him politically again, because he displayed a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

djt michael cohenPolitico, As Trump glowers, Michael Cohen takes the stand against him, Erica Orden, Oct. 24, 2023. Cohen,shown above left in a file photo, testified that Donald Trump directed him to “reverse engineer” the value of Trump’s assets to inflate Trump’s net worth.

politico CustomMichael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime loyal aide turned vocal antagonist, took the witness stand Tuesday to testify against Trump in a $250 million civil fraud trial, telling the judge that the former president ordered Cohen to falsify financial documents.

In measured tones, Cohen testified that when he worked for Trump as his lawyer and fixer, Trump directed him to modify documents that represented Trump’s net worth so that they reflected the number Trump desired.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen said, “and my responsibility, along with [former Trump Organization CFO] Allen Weisselberg, predominantly, was to reverse engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”

President Donald Trump officialAs Cohen delivered that testimony, Trump, who was seated at the defense table, grew red in the face and shook his head. Trump didn’t look at Cohen as he entered the courtroom, but as Cohen spoke on the witness stand, Trump trained his eyes on him and either crossed his arms or leaned forward over the defense table.
Trump calls Michael Cohen ‘a proven liar’ ahead of testimony

Cohen didn’t look at his former boss as he testified, instead directing his attention entirely to the lawyer from the New York attorney general’s office who was questioning him.

Cohen is one of the central witnesses in Attorney General Tish James’ case against Trump, which accuses him, his adult sons and his business associates of inflating his net worth in order to obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

Cohen’s testimony Tuesday marks a fresh front in his efforts to take down Trump after years of defending him. That defense ended five years ago, when Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance crimes that he and federal prosecutors said Trump directed him to commit, and Cohen began speaking publicly about his former boss as a coward and a “con man.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Black prosecutors taking on Trump know what they’re up against, Paul Butler, right, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The former president pulls his paul butlerracist tropes out of an old and deep American well.

Black prosecutors are having a moment in America.

Of the three prosecutors who have charged the former president of the United States with crimes this year, two of them — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani T. Willis — are African American. On top of that, Letitia James, New York’s Black attorney general, is pursuing a civil fraud case with the potential to crush the Trump Organization.

These are historic cases, and the race of the people bringing them shouldn’t matter — except it clearly matters to Donald Trump, who has lambasted them all using racist dog whistles.

To be sure, as my Post colleague Aaron Blake has catalogued, the former president harbors no love for any investigator or prosecutor focused on him. But Trump reserves a particularly race-inflected venom for the Black government lawyers who threaten his liberty and wealth.

He called Bragg a “Soros-backed animal” and James a “political animal.” Quite a word, that. His nickname for James is “peekaboo,” which rhymes with a racist slur.

Trump never stops with the tropes. He lied that Willis was in a relationship with an alleged gang member she is prosecuting. In an email after Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, his campaign said that Willis came from “a family steeped in hate” and highlighted the fact that her first name is Swahili. Trump repeatedly attacks Bragg, Willis and James as “racists.”

 

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: It’s actually worse to overturn an election you know your side lost, Philip Bump, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump wanted to make something very clear over the weekend: Attorney Sidney Powell, who last week pleaded guilty to charges filed against her in Fulton County, Ga., was not his attorney.

It’s a dubious claim, one that deserves the skepticism we should always apply to flat statements of fact from the former president. Powell was introduced with others as “representing President Trump” and “representing the Trump campaign” during the Rudy-Giuliani-hair-dye news conference in November 2020 (shown above) and cited attorney-client protections in response to an inquiry from Axios a few months later. Reporting has indicated that Trump not only appreciated Powell’s efforts to elevate false claims about election fraud in the weeks after the election, but also considered appointing her as special counsel to conduct some sort of investigation.

What Powell did that was problematic for Trump was that she was embarrassing. Her performance at that news conference was bizarre. Her inability to present any evidence despite the friendly urgings of Fox News spurred the channel to publicly chastise her failure to do so. In November 2020, Giuliani distanced the campaign from her; yet less than a month later, Trump was flirting with that special counsel appointment.

Contrast that with Kenneth Chesebro, another Trump lawyer who entered a guilty plea last week in Fulton County.

Over the weekend, his attorney, Scott Grubman, appeared on MSNBC to discuss the termination of the case against his client. Host Katie Phang noted that Chesebro had at one point been described as the “architect” of the effort to introduce alternate slates of electors in states Trump lost. Grubman disputed that, but also wanted to make another point clear.

“Mr. Chesebro never believed in the ‘big lie,’” he said of the false claim that Trump won the 2020 contest. “If you ask Mr. Chesebro today who won the 2020 election, he would say ‘Joe Biden.’”

But note that what Chesebro was “trying to do from a legal standpoint,” per Grubman, was shift the results of the 2020 election in favor of someone that he thought lost.

That is … not good.

ny times logoNew York Times, If Trump Trial Isn’t Broadcast Live, a Plea to Record It for Posterity, Adam Liptak, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A request to broadcast one of Donald Trump’s federal trials made an intriguing argument, one rooted not in the news but in ensuring a historical record.

In a pair of filings this month, news organizations asked a federal judge in Washington to allow live television coverage of the trial of President Donald J. Trump on charges that he conspired to undermine the 2020 election. They face a distinctly uphill fight.

A federal rule of criminal procedure stands in their way, and the Supreme Court has long been wary of cameras in courtrooms, notably its own.

But one of the applications, from the corporate parent of NBC News, made an intriguing backup argument, one grounded in the text of a key roadblock to live television coverage: Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

If nothing else, the application said, Rule 53 allows the court to record the proceedings for posterity.

The rule prohibits “the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.” NBC’s application bears down on the last three words, making the case that audio and video of the trial may be distributed in ways other than by broadcast “from the courtroom.”

Oct. 23

 

djt threat graphic

fulton county jailWashington Post, Here’s who else was charged in the Georgia case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley and Jon Swaine, Aug. 16, 2023 (print ed.). Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman and Sidney Powell are among the 18 others, above, besides Trump who were indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekly roundup: Highlights from the last week and what’s ahead in the Trump trials, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 23, 2023 (print ed.). We are watching to see whether more dominoes fall in the Georgia election-obstruction case, after two last-minute guilty pleas leave the judge with decisions to make about when Donald Trump and his remaining co-defendants should go to trial.

  • D.C.: Federal case on 2020 election
  • Georgia: State case on 2020 election
  • Florida: Federal classified documents case
  • New York: State business fraud case

Former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro requested speedy trials that were supposed to get underway this week, but their plea deals scuttled that plan. (More on the guilty pleas later.)

We’re also watching for Trump to appeal the limited gag order issued last week in the former president’s D.C. election-obstruction case. (It’s on pause for now; again, more details later.) A long appeals fight could push back Trump’s scheduled March 4 trial date.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Chesebro cut a deal and what it means for Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 23, 2023. Lawyer jennifer rubin new headshotKenneth Chesebro peppered now four-time-indicted former president Donald Trump with written advice as to how he might overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, knowing that no court had found evidence of fraud and that no state had withdrawn its delegates for Joe Biden.

kenneth chesebroOn Friday, after previously rejecting a deal, Chesebro, right, pleaded guilty to one felony for conspiracy to submit a false document. In addition to accepting three to five years of probation and payment of restitution and a fine, he agreed to cooperate in other cases. This came after the plea on Thursday from former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, left, (of “release the Kraken” fame) to six misdemeanors; she, too, sidney powellagreed to cooperate.

What became of Chesebro’s arrogant insistence he could not be prosecuted for giving “legal advice”? Simply put, Chesebro lost critical pretrial motions that made this defense practically impossible.

On Wednesday, Judge Scott McAfee “rejected Chesebro’s request to exclude from the trial key evidence in the case — memos in which Chesebro outlined how the Trump campaign could use Republican electors in states Biden won to help overturn the election,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Chesebro argued they should be excluded because they are protected by attorney-client privilege. But in his ruling, the judge rejected that defense, saying the memos are not subject to protection because there is some basis to believe they were used in the commission of a crime.” (That finding echoed U.S. District Judge David Carter’s decision regarding lawyer John Eastman’s documents. Carter ruled that Eastman could not claim attorney-client privilege for emails he had sent to Trump since they likely constituted evidence of a crime.)

On Thursday, Chesebro stood at risk of having other arguments barred. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made four motions to prevent Chesebro from (among other things) advancing his planned defense. Chesebro wanted to argue that he lacked the requisite intent needed to convict because he believed his own legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could throw out electors for Joe Biden. He also wanted to put a legal expert on the stand to testify to the merits of his crackpot legal theory.

In an amicus brief before Chesebro’s plea deal, a slew of former Justice Department lawyers, a state attorney general, U.S. attorneys and a former governor offered support for Willis’s motions, explaining that “the Georgia legislature has made a firm policy determination that individuals are assumed to know the law ... and the Georgia courts have repeatedly and conclusively precluded defendants from introducing evidence of or arguing mistake of law to the jury.” Allowing Chesebro to argue he believed his own crackpot theories would violate that prohibition and confuse the jury.

Likewise, the authors of the brief supported Willis’s demand to exclude expert testimony on Chesebro’s behalf that would lend credence to his crackpot legal theories. Experts testify as to facts, not the law; the judge should decide the legal issues, they argued.

Oct. 16

The Guardian, Russian sources disappeared after Trump declassified ex-spy’s evidence, UK court told, Haroon Siddique, Oct. 16, 2023. Former MI6 officer’s witness statement criticises ‘reckless’ publication of testimony about ex-president’s Russia links.

Donald Trump’s decision to declassify evidence given by a former British spy about the former US president’s alleged links with Russia led to the disappearance of two Russian sources, according to a court document.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedChristopher Steele, who used to run MI6’s Russia desk, compiled the notorious “Steele dossier” investigating Trump’s connections to Russia. In a witness statement released on Tuesday, Steele said publication of his testimony to the Mueller investigation on the matter, originally classified secret, was an “egregious and reckless act” that “served no purpose other than to expose me and Orbis [Steele’s company], our sources and our methods”.

Trump is attempting to sue Orbis Business Intelligence in England over the dossier, which alleged that he engaged in “perverted sexual behaviour” and paid bribes to Russian officials to further his business interests. The former president is claiming breach of his data protection rights and says the dossier’s claims against him were “false” and “phoney” and caused him reputational damage and distress.

In his witness statement, Steele said the decision to declassify his testimony, taken on Trump’s last day in office, resulted in several Russian sources being exposed and suffering “varying consequences”.

He said: “Two of the named Russian sources have not been seen or heard of since. The publication of this document did serious damage to the US government’s Russian operations and their ability to recruit new Russian sources. The claimant’s [Trump’s] actions in this regard were truly shocking and arguably constitute one of the most egregious breaches of intelligence rules and protocol by the US government in recent times.”

The statement was released a day after a hearing at the high court, the result of which will determine whether Trump can proceed with his case against Orbis, which Steele co-founded.

In his witness statement released on Monday, Trump said bringing the lawsuit against Orbis was “the only way that I can fully demonstrate the total inaccuracies of the personal data in the dossier”. The dossier was published by BuzzFeed in 2017 but Trump accepts Orbis was not legally responsible for this and is suing over the company’s dissemination of it to three individuals.

Orbis, which is seeking to have the claim struck out before it goes to trial, argues it has been brought too late and for the “illegitimate” purpose “of harassing Orbis and Mr Steele and pursuing longstanding grievances”.

In his witness statement, Steele suggested Trump’s discovery of Steele’s friendship with Trump’s daughter Ivanka had damaged their father-daughter relationship, “deepened his animus towards me, and [it] is one of the reasons for his vindictive and vexatious conduct towards me and Orbis”.

In his witness statement, Trump said Ivanka was “completely irrelevant” to the case, adding: “Any inference or allegation that Mr Steele makes about my relationship with my daughter is untrue and disgraceful.”

Orbis also argues that any damage to Trump was done by the BuzzFeed publication, for which it was not responsible, and highlights that Trump’s declassification of the Mueller investigation records led “to further public consideration of its [the dossier’s] contents”.

Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election made clear that the Trump campaign was “receptive” to offers of assistance from the Russians but it did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy.

The judge’s decision on whether Trump’s case against Orbis can go to trial will be made at a later date.

Oct. 16 

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates Judge Chutkan issues limited gag order for Trump in D.C. Jan. 6 case, Rachel Weiner, Perry Stein, Tom Jackman, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 16, 2023. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said Monday she will impose a limited gag order on former president Donald Trump in advance of his election interference trial, as requested by prosecutors.

President Donald Trump officialThe gag order, she said in a ruling issued from the bench after a hearing, will prohibit all parties from statements “publicly targeting” special counsel Jack Smith, his staff, her staff or “any other court personnel.” Statements about the families of those individuals are “absolutely prohibited as well.”

Justice Department log circularEven before the order was issued, Trump’s lawyer John Lauro said they would appeal any such order, as it would affect important free speech principles, particularly for a leading candidate for president.

Trump “can argue that this prosecution is politically motivated,” the judge said, but he cannot disparage the prosecutor by calling him a thug or “vilify and implicitly encourage violence against public servants who are simply doing their jobs.”

She is also barring Trump and all parties from making statements about witnesses in the case.

We’ve entered a post-post-Cold War era that promises little of the prosperity, predictability and new possibilities of the post-Cold War epoch of the past 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

There are many reasons for this, but none are more important than the work of four key leaders who have one thing in common: They each believe that their leadership is indispensable and are ready to go to extreme lengths to hold on to power as long as they can.

I am talking about Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. The four of them — each in his own way — have created massive disruptions inside and outside their countries based on pure self-interest, rather than the interests of their people, and made it far harder for their nations to function normally in the present and to plan wisely for the future.

 

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, a former public defender and civil litigator, will be overseeing the first federal trial of former President Donald J. Trump (District of Columbia Circuit Court Photo by Ann Wilkins).

Oct. 7

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary:With fall of Qevin, MAGA death rattle grinds on amid orgy of chaos and anarchy! Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Oct. 7, 2023 (130:32 mins). Republican Party has no platform or unifying ideology and thus stands for absolutely nothing, leaving it a mere battlefield for rival gangs;

Democrats should ready a rapid maneuver to secure 6-8 GOP votes to install Hakeem Jeffries as Speaker on a reform program;

US public will not tolerate a Speaker who voted for Trump’s coup, enabled pedophiles, or supported white supremacy groups; Mobilize XIV Amendment NOW to stop Trump as Speaker of the House today and presidential candidate later;

djt maga hatOrigins of Gaetz’s pseudo-reforms: single-subject spending bills are straight out of Confederate Constitution of 1861; Motion by a single member to oust Speaker recalls the practice of exploding the Polish parliament, when one disgruntled petty nobleman could veto a law or even send everyone home for a few years;

Models of extinction for political parties in US history:

republican elephant logoFor degenerate plutocratic Federalists, end came through New England secessionism after the 1815 Hartford Convention; Monroe enabled an Era of Good Feelings as Federalists collapsed and disappeared;

Whigs disintegrated after splitting over the odious Fugitive Slave Law in the Compromise of 1850 and losing the 1852 election with Winfield Scott;

Xenophobic Knownothings evaporated after losing the 1856 vote with Filmore over Douglas’ squatter sovereignty and the Kansas-Nebraska Act; The 1857 Dred Scott decision and the rise of the Republicans completed the rout;

MAGA GOP spreads chaos in House with Gaetz and the anti-Ukraine clique, in the Senate with Tuberville’s sabotage of miliary personnel, and in the Supreme Court with the corruption of Thomas, Alito, and others;

Voting rights, abortion, gun control, Ukraine, student loan debt, immigration, public health, minimum wage, the social safety net, public Russian Flageducation, low-income housing, law and order: whatever your issue, real solutions must always include liquidating the Republican Party!

Breaking: How will RFK Jr. and Cornel West respond to Russia’s latest war crime, the massacre of Ukrainian civilians at Hroza? Will it be more appeasement?

Oct. 6

 

 

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press). mar a lago aerial Customny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Have Revealed Nuclear Submarine Secrets, Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Oct. 6, 2023 (print ed.). Soon after leaving office, former President Trump is said to have shared information with an Australian businessman, a billionaire Mar-a-Lago member.

President Donald Trump officialShortly after he left office, former President Donald J. Trump shared apparently classified information about American nuclear submarines with an Australian businessman during an evening of conversation at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The businessman, Anthony Pratt, a billionaire member of Mar-a-Lago who runs one of the world’s largest cardboard companies, went on to share the sensitive details about the submarines with several others, the people said. Mr. Trump’s disclosures, they said, potentially endangered the U.S. nuclear fleet.

jack smith graphicFederal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, learned about Mr. Trump’s disclosures of the secrets to Mr. Pratt, which were first revealed by ABC News, and interviewed him as part of their investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents, the people said.

australian flag wavingAccording to another person familiar with the matter, Mr. Pratt is now among more than 80 people whom prosecutors have identified as possible witnesses who could testify against Mr. Trump at the classified documents trial, which is scheduled to start in May in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Mr. Pratt’s name does not appear in the indictment accusing Mr. Trump of illegally holding on to nearly three dozen classified documents after he left office and then conspiring with two of his aides at Mar-a-Lago to obstruct the government’s attempts to get them back.

But the account that Mr. Trump discussed some of the country’s most sensitive nuclear secrets with him in a cavalier fashion could help prosecutors establish that the former president had a long habit of recklessly handling classified information.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's treason, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books and former Navy Intelligence officer, Oct. 6, 2023. House Republicans eye Speaker's chair for wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallTrump. That's not the chair he should get!

wayne madesen report logoAccording to ABC News, after leaving office, Donald Trump disclosed Critical Nuclear Weapons Design Information (CNWDI) on the number of nuclear weapons carried by U.S. submarines, as well as acoustic intelligence information on how close U.S. submarines can approach Russian submarines without being detected.

rosenberg execution headlineAs a former Integrated Undersea Surveillance System warfare specialist in the Navy, I can attest to the seriousness of Trump's damage to national security.

And here is a reminder of what fate has awaited such treasonous action in the past (a fate urged on in this case by Trump's one-time lawyer, Roy Cohn, shown in a later photo with Trump via Getty Images).

djt roy cohn bettman getty

 

Oct. 5

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Announces $45.5 Million Fund-Raising Haul, Tripling DeSantis, Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 5, 2023 (print ed.). The Trump campaign’s total, which cannot be independently verified until later this month, was built in part by an outpouring of money after his mug shot in Georgia was released.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosDonald J. Trump’s campaign announced on Wednesday that it had raised $45.5 million from July through September, an enormous sum that tripled what his closest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, had revealed raising earlier in the day.

The Trump haul, which was built in part by an outpouring of money after his mug shot in Georgia became public following his fourth indictment, gives the former president a critical financial edge at the most important juncture of the campaign.

Mr. Trump’s campaign said that he entered October with $37.5 million on hand, $36 million of which was eligible to be spent on the 2024 primary race. Top aides to Mr. DeSantis’s campaign had said earlier on Wednesday that his operation had raised $15 million in the quarter and entered October with only $5 million on hand that could be spent in the primary.

The Trump campaign said in a statement that the figures were “a grave indication that Ron’s candidacy may not live to see the Iowa caucuses in January, or even the end of this month.”

Oct. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge issues gag order in fraud case after Trump assails judge’s staffer on social media, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, Oct. 4, 2023 (print ed.). The judge overseeing a civil trial over alleged business fraud committed by Donald Trump and his company issued a gag order in the case Tuesday barring the former president from making public comments about his court staff.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Judge Arthur Engoron, right, announced about a day and a half into the trial, came soon after Trump posted on social media about a staffer for the judge and included a picture of the person.

Trump had already spent a significant amount of his time outside the courtroom lambasting officials in the case, repeatedly pillorying Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who brought the lawsuit.

Engoron’s decision amounted to a sharp rebuke of at least some of Trump’s commentary. The gag order applies to all parties involved in the case, though it appeared aimed primarily at Trump.

Speaking in court Tuesday afternoon, Engoron said he had issued a warning about such posts a day earlier. He addressed Trump’s behavior by saying “one of the defendants” had shared a “personally identifying post” about one of his staff members.

Engoron publicly announced his decision following multiple closed-door sessions with Trump and his lawyers as well as James and attorneys with her office. The judge said he had ordered the post deleted, and it appeared to be removed from Trump’s Truth Social site by Tuesday afternoon. Engoron also warned that violating the gag order would lead to “serious sanctions.”

During the midday closed-door meetings involving the judge, Trump’s campaign sent out an email focused on Engoron that sought to portray him as biased, calling him a “far-left Democrat judge.”

In Trump cases, experts say defendant’s rhetoric will be hard to police

Trump’s public response to the fraud lawsuit has continued his long-standing practice of responding to investigations and scrutiny by denigrating officials involved and castigating them by name, often in caustic, inflammatory and bitterly personal terms.

Trump’s tendency to comment on these cases in this manner has triggered a request for a gag order in one of them.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing a federal case accusing Trump of wrongdoing in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is weighing a request for a gag order brought by attorneys for Smith. Attorneys for Trump have previously told Chutkan that he is a presidential candidate who has a right to respond to criticism and his rivals on the campaign trail.

Prosecutors in Trump classified documents case are facing threats

In the New York case, the gag order came on what was otherwise a fairly routine day of legal testimony from an accountan

 Trump sits in the courtroom, flanked by his attorneys. New York AG Letitia James (top left) looks on from the first row. (Associated Press photo by Seth Wenig via Bloomberg News and Getty Images).

Trump sits in the courtroom, flanked by his attorneys. New York AG Letitia James (top left) looks on from the first row. (Associated Press

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump’s Legal Woes Have Escalated, So Have His Violent Remarks, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Nehamas and Alyce McFadden, Oct. 4, 2023 (print ed.). Recent incendiary statements by the former president, including that shoplifters should be shot, come at a time when his supporters are already angry over his indictments.

Former President Donald J. Trump had a lot to say on the first day of the fraud trial against him and his company. Speaking to reporters at a Manhattan courthouse on Monday, he dismissed the judge as a “rogue” justice and said he did not “think the people of this country are going to stand for it.” And he focused on the official who filed the lawsuit against him, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.

“This is a disgrace,” he said, “and you ought to go after this attorney general.”

The remark urging people to “go after” a top elected official in New York, by a former president whose invective has become a familiar backdrop of American life, was part of a pattern of increasingly sharp language from Mr. Trump.

Days earlier, he told hundreds of Republican activists in California that shoplifters should be shot. Not long before that, he insinuated that the military general he personally appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be executed for treason.

Since he first became a political candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump has glorified violence, suggesting he wanted to hit a protester and offering to pay the legal fees if his supporters struck protesters at his rallies. But as Mr. Trump has been indicted four times in four jurisdictions in the last five months, and now faces a civil fraud trial in New York, his violent speech has escalated.

Axios, 1 big thing: Furious Trump faces judge, Zachary Basu, Oct. 2-3, 2023. A livid former President Trump attended the first day of his civil fraud trial today in New York, where he used every free moment as a chance to excoriate the judge who will determine the fate of his axios logobusiness empire.

Why it matters: Trump's palpable anger on social media and at the courthouse offered a sampling of how his combative rhetoric on the campaign trail could play out — and potentially backfire — in his legal defense.

Politically, Trump's grievance campaign in the wake of his four indictments has been a success — catapulting him to a 40-point lead over the rest of the GOP field.

Legally, the wisdom of provoking judges and prosecutors with endless claims of a "witch hunt" will now face a critical test — especially with Trump himself vowing to take the stand.

Driving the news: Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron — who ruled last week that Trump committed fraud by inflating his wealth and assets on financial records — will preside over a non-jury trial to determine damages in the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Depending on the outcome of the trial, Trump could lose control of some of his flagship New York properties — striking at the heart of the real estate empire that vaulted him into the national and political spotlight.
Trump claimed outside the courtroom that he is the one who has been "defrauded," accusing Engoron of drastically undervaluing his properties and failing to account for the prestige of the Trump "brand."

 

Former President Donald Trump blasted prosecutors and the trial judge at his New York trial on civil fraud charges on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 (Photo by Michael Santiago via Getty Images).getty

Former President Donald Trump blasted prosecutors and the trial judge at his New York trial on civil fraud charges on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 (Photo by Michael Santiago via Getty Images and Axios).

What they're saying: "This is a judge that should be disbarred. This is a judge that should be out of office. This is a judge that some people say could be charged criminally for what he's doing," an indignant Trump told reporters at the courthouse.

Between the lines: While this is a civil trial, Trump has made no such distinction when comparing the case brought by James to the 91 criminal charges he faces in New York, D.C., Florida and Georgia.

"It all comes down from the DOJ. They totally coordinate this in Washington," Trump baselessly declared, accusing James and other prosecutors of coming after him for political purposes.

Asked why he decided to attend the trial in person, Trump replied: "Because I want to watch this witch hunt myself."

What to watch: Engoron appears to have ignored Trump's incendiary rhetoric so far. But the former president may not be so lucky at his federal trial in D.C., where prosecutors have again called for a gag order in light of his threatening statements on social media.

 

 A judge could impose an array of punishments on Donald J. Trump, including a $250 million penalty and a prohibition on operating a business in New York (New York Times photo by Jefferson Siegel).

 A judge could impose an array of punishments on Donald J. Trump, including a $250 million penalty and a prohibition on operating a business in New York (New York Times photo by Jefferson Siegel).

Oct. 2

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Civil Trial Starts Today. It Will Spotlight What He’s Really Worth, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 2, 2023. The judge in the New York case has already decided Donald Trump inflated his finances. Now, he will make rulings on Mr. Trump’s future as a businessman.

From his earliest days as a real estate developer to his renegade run for the White House, Donald J. Trump honed a very particular skill: the art of the boast.

“I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion,” he once said, disputing his ranking on the Forbes billionaires list.

After decades of exaggerating with impunity, Mr. Trump will go on trial Monday, facing a lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, that accuses him of inflating his riches by billions of dollars and crossing the line into fraud. It will be the first of several government trials he will face in the coming year, a procession of high-stakes courtroom battles that coincide with his third White House run.

And it will be an avidly scrutinized spectacle that will lift the curtain on Mr. Trump’s reputation as a businessman, a core piece of his identity.

Ms. James’s civil case, separate from Mr. Trump’s four criminal indictments, accuses the former president, his adult sons and their family business of inflating the value of Mr. Trump’s assets to secure favorable loan terms from banks. Mr. Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, is expected to attend the opening day of the trial and eventually will be called to testify.

arthur engoran judgeBefore the trial even begins, Mr. Trump is losing. The New York State Supreme Court judge overseeing the case ruled last week that Mr. Trump had persistently committed fraud, deciding that no trial was needed to determine the veracity of the claims at the core of Ms. James’s lawsuit.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, right, also imposed a heavy punishment, stripping the Trumps of control over their signature New York properties — a move that could crush much of the business known as the Trump Organization.

Oct. 1

Politico, Trump goes to trial in New York before a judge who just ruled he’s a fraud, Erica Orden, Oct. 1, 2023. The $250 million civil trial starts Monday — and Trump may be there in person.

politico CustomDonald Trump is set to go to trial Monday in New York’s civil lawsuit accusing him of extensive business fraud — and while his formal courtroom adversary is the state attorney general’s office, he’ll also be facing off against the judge.

In some ways, the trial is the culmination of months of antagonism between the former president and Justice Arthur Engoron, right, a Democrat arthur engoran judgewho was elected to his current post as a Manhattan trial judge in 2015. The outcome of the nonjury trial will be entirely up to Engoron, who will make his decision on the heels of a series of fierce disputes with Trump.

And in a surprise, Trump may attend the trial in person — a plan revealed by lawyers late last week. If Trump follows through and appears in court, he’ll be sitting just a few feet away from a man he has publicly derided as “deranged.”

Last week, Engoron delivered a ruling that may obliterate Trump’s family business. Engoron found Trump liable for widespread fraud and revoked the licenses for some of his flagship properties, including Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel. The ruling paves the way for much of the trial to focus on the punishments Trump will now face. They could be severe: Attorney General Tish James is asking for $250 million and a ban on Trump running businesses in the state.

Trump and his lawyers — and even the attorney general’s office — were caught off guard by the sweep of Engoron’s pretrial ruling, and they have scrambled in recent days to determine what, exactly, it means for the future of Trump’s business.

In turn, Trump called the judge “unhinged” and a “political hack” who “must be stopped.”

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: One Reason the Trump Fever Won’t Break, David French, right, Oct. 1, 2023. The more I consider the challenge david french croppedposed by Christian nationalism, the more I think most observers and critics are paying too much attention to the wrong group of Christian nationalists.

We mainly think of Christian nationalism as a theology or at least as a philosophy. In reality, the Christian nationalist movement that actually matters is rooted in emotion and ostensibly divine revelation, and it’s that emotional and spiritual movement that so stubbornly clings to Donald Trump.

Three related stories illustrate the challenge.

First, Katherine Stewart wrote a disturbing report for The New Republic about the latest iteration of the ReAwaken America Tour, a radical right-wing road show sponsored by Charisma News, a Pentecostal Christian publication. The tour has attracted national attention, including in The Times, and features a collection of the far right’s most notorious conspiracy theorists and Christian populists.

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged. There, as Stewart reported, you’ll hear a pastor named Mark Burns declare, “This is a God nation, this is a Jesus nation, and you will never take my God and my gun out of this nation.” You’ll also hear him say, “I have come ready to declare war on Satan and every race-baiting Democrat that tries to destroy our way of life here in the United States of America.” You’ll hear the right-wing radio host Stew Peters call for “Nuremberg Trials 2.0” and death for Anthony Fauci and Hunter Biden. The same speaker taunted the Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor Fani Willis by shouting: “Big Fani. Big fat Fani. Big fat Black Fani Willis.”

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged.

 

christopher john worrell

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: MISSING Trump Co-Conspirator GETS CAUGHT and His Life is OVER, Michael Popok, Oct. 1, 2023. A Proud Boy who has been a fugitive from justice for over a month has been arrested by the FBI and will now be brought before a federal judge to be sentenced at least 14 years for his role in pepper spraying and attacking Capitol Police as they valiantly attempted to hold the line to protect democracy.

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the manhunt leading to the arrest this week of “Florida Man” Chris Worrell who will now face additional charges for running.

September

Sept. 30

 

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Retiring Milley warns of ‘wannabe dictator’ in apparent jab at Trump, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The outspoken general, who is retiring over than 40 years in the military, makes way for Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

Department of Defense SealGen. Mark A. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman who clashed with President Donald Trump but found new footing under President Biden, reiterated in his retirement speech Friday that the U.S. military is loyal to the Constitution above anything or anyone else.

“We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, to a tyrant or dictator or wannabe dictator,” Milley said in an apparent reference to Trump. He added that troops did not risk their lives to watch “this great experiment in democracy perish.”

Milley stepped aside Friday as his successor, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., was sworn in to the top military post in front of military personnel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on a day filled with ceremonial traditions. That included Milley inspecting the units lined up in a large field at the base, some in Revolutionary War uniforms, a military band playing the national anthem and the presentation of a retirement certificate. Brown will officially take over the post this weekend.

Biden, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Vice President Harris, praised the general for providing advice that was steady and to the point. Biden also commended him for prioritizing American democracy above all. “When it comes to the Constitution, that is and always has been Mark’s North Star,” Biden said.

Milley’s sometimes-tumultuous four-year tenure as chairman capped a career that spanned more than four decades. His was one of the most consequential and polarizing tenures of any military leader in recent memory. Milley was atop the Pentagon during the Trump administration’s chaotic final months, the Biden administration’s frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing effort to aid Ukraine as the Russian invasion draws close to the two-year mark.

To his frustrated critics, Milley often voiced his opinion on hot-button issues, notably defending a policy, implemented after the U.S. Capitol attack in 2021, that mandated military personnel to study domestic extremism. In one viral moment stemming from Republican attacks, he told members of Congress, “I want to understand White rage, and I’m White.”

Supporters lauded Milley for standing up to what they viewed as Trump’s dangerous ambitions. After the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, when Trump called for clearing demonstrators out of Lafayette Square near the White House, Milley initially walked alongside the resident and other top administration officials as they marched to a church for a photo opportunity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Reassert Need for Gag Order on Trump in Elections Case, Alan Feuer, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors argued that the former president has continued to make threatening statements after their initial request to limit his public discussion of the case.

Federal prosecutors on Friday reasserted the need to impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

They said that even after they first asked a judge three weeks ago to limit his remarks, Mr. Trump has continued to wage “a sustained campaign of prejudicial public statements” against witnesses, prosecutors and others.

The prosecutors cited several threatening statements that Mr. Trump made since they initially asked Judge Tanya S. tanya chutkan newerChutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in Federal District Court in Washington, to impose the gag order. Their request was first filed under seal on Sept. 5 and a public version was released 10 days later. Judge Chutkan has yet to rule on the matter.

Since their request, prosecutors said in their filing on Friday night, Mr. Trump has continued to attack potential witnesses in the case like former Vice President Mike Pence — who, Mr. Trump wrote online, had lied about him and had gone to the “Dark Side.”

The filing noted that Mr. Trump had lashed out at another witness in the case, “the former attorney general” — an apparent reference to William P. Barr — saying he had not done his job after the election “because he was afraid of being impeached.”

djt mug fulton countyMoreover, prosecutors cited a menacing message that Mr. Trump posted on his social media site last week about Gen. Mark A. Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs. After General Milley gave several interviews that were critical of Mr. Trump, the former president suggested that he had committed treason and that in the past he might have faced execution.

“No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors, wrote. “This defendant should not be, either.”

Justice Department log circularAs the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated — he is facing three other criminal indictments beyond the case in Washington — so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats have prompted protective measures, including increased security for many people involved in the cases against him.

In their filing, the prosecutors, who work for the special counsel, Jack Smith, pressed another issue, saying Mr. Trump may have violated the terms of his release in the election interference case by suggesting that he might have purchased a firearm on Monday during a campaign stop at a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

That day, prosecutors noted, Mr. Trump’s spokesman posted a video online of the former president handling a Glock pistol at the store. The spokesman said in the post that Mr. Trump had purchased it, but aides quickly denied that he had actually done so.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

 

 

djt handwave file

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: MAGA faction sinks into abyss of collective insanity, with party extinction fast approaching! webster tarpley 2007Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Sept. 30, 2023 (148:38 mins.). Trump horrifies nation with call to execute Gen. Milley for disloyalty to him; First session of Comer’s impeachment probe dissolves amid guffaws;

Biden speech at McCain Library is clarion call for the defense of constitutional democracy, with direct attacks on MAGA boss: ”Trump says the Constitution gave him the right to do whatever he wants as president”;

President sets new aggressive tone for coming year of campaigning; Biden now joins FDR as the two most pro-labor presidents in US history; At Milley’s retirement, Biden slams Tuberville’s ”outrageous” sabotage of military promotions; In farewell to arms, Milley joins in stressing Constitution as touchstone of American life, noting that American soldiers swear oath neither to a dictator nor to a ”wannabe dictator”;

Looming expropriation of fraudulent oligarch could have ramifications in many directions; Voters should brace for further tantrums;
As shutdown looms, 21 crazed House sectarians torpedo McCarthy’s short-term spending bill with 30% spending cuts, demanding even more killer austerity; Trump wants shutdown to promote chaos, paralyze courts, and smash the state;

MAGA on the wrong side of history: violent reactionary anarchists seek to roll back modern state into dark ages oligarchy, aborting process that began in Italy in 1300s; UAW President Fain starts long-overdue discussion of class as auto workers fight for labor rights;

Breaking: WaPo reports anti-McCarthy putsch plot by MAGA extremists to install Majority Whip Tom Emmer, seen as more likely to deliver killer cuts

 

steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Commentator: Confronting lies about Trump and Jan. 6th: My PBD podcast appearance, Steve Schmidt, Sept. 30, 2023. I appeared on the PBD podcast where we discussed how Donald Trump came to power, the con that he is not part of the establishment, & I confront lies and conspiracy theories on the January 6th insurrection. 

 

Sept. 29

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

 

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020.

A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., georgia mapbecame the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

scott graham hall weiner 9 29 2023Hall, shown at left in court with his lawyer, at right, agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court. Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Prosecutors TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Trump with SURPRISE MOVE, Michael Popok, Sept. 29, 2023. Big news out of Georgia today, with the Fulton County DA announcing PLEA DEALS being offered to Trump lawyers Sydney Powell and Ken Chesebro, AND the Judge, shown above, announcing the possibility that up to 6 MORE TRUMP CO CONSPIRATORS may be tried on 10/23!

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why this just got bad real fast for Trump under either scenario.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Hail to the Fraudster in Chief, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). On Tuesday, Justice Arthur F. Engoron paul krugmanruled in New York that Trump did, in fact, persistently commit fraud by overvaluing his assets, possibly by as much as $2.2 billion.

What’s remarkable about Engoron’s finding that Trump committed large-scale fraud (it’s now a ruling, not a mere accusation) is what it says about the man who became president and the voters who supported him.

Back in 2016, some observers warned conventional political analysts that they were underrating Trump’s chances because they didn’t appreciate how many Americans believed that he was a brilliant businessman — a belief based largely on his role on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that the old joke was, in Trump’s case, the simple truth: He wasn’t a real business genius; he just played one on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

Sept. 27

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

Sept. 29

 

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Jack Smith Files BLISTERING REPLY Calling Out Trump’s Threats, Ben Meiselas, Sept. 29, 2023.
MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on the powerful reply brief filed by Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Washington DC federal criminal case before Judge Tanya Chutkan involving criminal defendant Donald Trump where the government is seeking a limited gag order of Donald Trump. 

Sept. 27

 

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

djt mug fulton county

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump told a gun store he’d like to buy a Glock pistol, which is raising legal questions, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Officials have increasingly voiced concerns about threats of violence related to the former president’s trials, as he faces charges that would make it illegal for a store to sell him a firearm.

A spokesman for former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Monday showing him at a gun shop in South Carolina, declaring that he had just bought a Glock pistol.

The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, included video of Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president who is facing four criminal indictments. He looked over the dullish gold firearm, a special Trump edition Glock that depicts his likeness and says “Trump 45th,” as he visited the Palmetto State Armory outlet in Summerville, S.C. “I want to buy one,” he said twice in the video.

“President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!” his spokesman, Steven Cheung, wrote in his post. The video showed Mr. Trump among a small crowd of people and posing with a man holding the gun. A voice can be heard saying, “That’s a big seller.”

The statement immediately set off an uproar and prompted questions about whether such a purchase would be legal. Mr. Trump is under indictment on dozens of felony counts in two different cases related to his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and to his possession of reams of classified documents after he left office.

There were also questions about whether the store could sell a firearm to Mr. Trump if people there knew that he was under indictment.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge in the case that accuses Mr. Trump of breaking several laws in his efforts to stay in office to impose a limited gag order after he made repeated threats against prosecutors and witnesses in various cases against him. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were under a late-Monday-night deadline to respond to the government’s request for the order.

But within two hours of the initial post on social media, Mr. Cheung deleted his post, and issued a statement saying, “President Trump did not purchase or take possession of the firearm. He simply indicated that he wanted one.”

A man who answered a phone registered to the shop’s owner hung up when a reporter called. A salesperson at the Summerville location, who declined to give her name or answer additional questions, said Mr. Trump had not bought a gun.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan agrees to $75 million settlement over ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). JPMorgan Chase will pay $75 million to resolve a lawsuit with the U.S. Virgin Islands alleging it facilitated disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

jp morgan chase logoThe banking giant admitted no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, a large portion of which will be distributed to charities. It also sets aside $10 million to support mental health services for Epstein’s survivors.
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“This settlement is a historic victory for survivors and for state enforcement, and it should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” USVI attorney general Ariel Smith said in a statement.

Smith also said JPMorgan agreed to “implement and maintain meaningful anti-trafficking measures,” which includes a commitment to elevate and report suspicious activity in the future.

Sept. 25

 ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

 

gop house chairs 2023 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

djt maga hatWhen it comes to his view of the United States government, Representative Bob Good, a right-wing Republican who represents a Virginia district that was once the domain of Thomas Jefferson, doesn’t mince words.

“Most of what Congress does is not good for the American people,” Mr. Good declared in an interview off the House floor as the chamber descended into chaos last week. “Most of what we do as a Congress is totally unjustified.”

Though his harsh assessment is a minority opinion even among his Republican colleagues, it encapsulates the perspective that is animating the hard right on Capitol Hill and, increasingly, defining a historically dysfunctional moment in American politics.

republican elephant logoWith a disruptive government shutdown just days away, Washington is in the grip of an ultraconservative minority that sees the federal government as a threat to the republic, a dangerous monolith to be broken apart with little regard for the consequences. They have styled themselves as a wrecking crew aimed at the nation’s institutions on a variety of fronts.

They are eager to impeach the president and even oust their own speaker if he doesn’t accede to their every demand. They have refused to allow their own party to debate a Pentagon spending bill or approve routine military promotions — a striking posture given that unflinching support for the armed forces has long been a bedrock of Republican orthodoxy.

Defying the G.O.P.’s longstanding reputation as the party of law and order, they have pledged to handcuff the F.B.I. and throttle the Justice Department. Members of the party of Ronald Reagan refused to meet with a wartime ally, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, this week when he visited the Capitol and want to eliminate assistance to his country, a democratic nation under siege from an autocratic aggressor.

And they are unbowed by guardrails that in past decades forced consensus even in the most extreme of conflicts; this is the same bloc that balked at raising the debt ceiling in the spring to avert a federal debt default.

“There is a group of Republican members who seem to feel there is no limit at all as to how you can wreck the system,” said Ross K. President Donald Trump officialBaker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “There are no boundaries, no forbidden zones. They go where relatively junior members have feared to tread in the past.”

 

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Meidas Touch Network, Analysis: Trump Vows to Ban All News Media That Doesn’t Praise Him, Brett Meiselas, Sept. 24-25, 2023. Donald Trump continues to tell us his fascist intentions should he be reelected. Will the mainstream media finally listen?

Donald Trump launched into his most overtly fascist assault on the First Amendment in a Sunday night tirade, promising that he will remove from the airwaves any news media that is not friendly towards him should he be reelected as president of the United States.

NBC News logoTrump specifically took aim at NBC News to make his point t (ironically, NBC is the network that employed and elevated Donald Trump during The Apprentice days, shown above in a publicity photo from the show), writing that the network “should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.’”

Trump then made his intentions crystal clear:

“I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media djt maga hatwill be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”

washington post logoWashington Post, As possible shutdown nears, a disconnect between political rhetoric and budget reality, Jeff Stein and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Lawmakers in both parties have called for getting serious about the rising federal debt. The shutdown fight ignores its key drivers.

Time is running out for Congress to prevent a government shutdown, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tries to defuse the demands of ultraconservatives in the House who are demanding aggressive spending cuts.

When lawmakers return Tuesday, both the House and the Senate will try different tactics to fund the government past the fast-approaching deadline — each looking to jam their preferred legislation through the other chamber in a risky game of brinkmanship. djt maga hatCurrent spending laws expire on Sept. 30, so the government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1 without action.

U.S. braces for costly government shutdown in eight days

In the House, the GOP majority failed several times last week to reach consensus on a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution. Most of the conference says they want to avert a shutdown, but a small group of far-right members who oppose a short-term extension have blocked that option. So Republicans will try to pass some separate bills that would fund the government for the full fiscal year.

senate democrats logoThe Senate will begin work on its own short-term spending bill on Tuesday, aiming to send it to the House by the weekend with hours to go before a shutdown starts — where it would probably have enough votes to pass, but only with support from Democrats, a red line for many in the GOP.

But while the far-right rebels in McCarthy’s caucus say the rising national debt is such a threat that it’s worth forcing the government to close down in pursuit of spending cuts, the uncomfortable fiscal reality is that most of what is driving federal borrowing to record levels isn’t even up for discussion this week.

Conservatives want to pare federal discretionary spending back to 2022 levels, which would mean cutting more than $100 billion from agency budgets each year.

social security administrationThat’s a lot of money, but hitting the goal would require severe cuts to a small portion of the federal budget — mostly programs that provide services like education, medical research and aid for families in poverty. The government’s biggest annual expense, though, and the main projected drivers of U.S. debt, are the retirement programs Medicare and Social Security. The United States spends more than $6 trillion every year. McCarthy’s caucus is tying itself in knots over how to make cuts from domestic discretionary spending, which accounts for less than one-sixth of that total.

Looking at it another way, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the annual federal deficit is expected to rise to nearly $3 trillion per year by next decade, up from roughly $2 trillion this year. If the conservatives in the House GOP get everything they’re seeking now, that number could drop to about $2.8 trillion per year.

“The people back in my district, they’re tired of the way this town works,” said Rep. Elijah Crane (R-Ariz.), who joined other conservatives in the last week to stymie McCarthy’s attempts to move spending bills. “They understand there’s no appetite to spend money we don’t have, and they expect me to do whatever I can to stop it, and to change how we do business. It’s not always the most comfortable thing.”

But the disconnect between the political rhetoric about the shutdown and the reality of the budget math underscores how little lawmakers are doing to try to rein in the long-term federal spending imbalance. Without a deal, the federal government will shut down, hurting economic growth and leading to the suspension of a wide range of essential public services.

Meidas Touch Network, Analysis: Trump Directs House GOP to Shut Down Government and Blame Biden, Ben Meiselas, Sept. 24-25, 2023. This is Trump’s second directive to compliant House Republicans via his social media posts

President Donald Trump officialDonald Trump has issued his latest order to House Republicans: shut down and refuse to fund the United States government and then blame President Biden for the catastrophic fallout.

On September 20, Trump issued his first directive to compliant House MAGA Republicans, telling them that a “very important deadline is approaching at the end of the month” and “this is the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me.”

djt maga hatIn his latest post, Trump orders the House GOP: “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN.

Trump goes on to say that Republicans shouldn’t worry about the damage that will be caused to the country, as he claims President Biden will get blamed for it. Trump also tells House Republicans not to listen to Republican Senate republican elephant logoMinority Leader Mitch McConnell if he wants to make a deal with Democrats, because Trump says McConnell is “weak” and “dumb.”

MAGA Republicans in the House continue to take their orders directly from Donald Trump and do whatever he says. They have followed his directives, bringing the country to the brink of a catastrophic shutdown.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump isn’t as strong as he looks — his GOP rivals are letting him win, E.J. Dionne Jr., Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). To understand why Donald Trump is once again skipping a Republican presidential debate, realize that the conventional way of looking at the GOP’s nomination contest has things largely backward. Trump’s standing in the polls is less about his strength than about the weakness of the rest of the field — and the traditional Republican Party.

Trump wants his foes to stay weak. By not showing up, he reduces them to squabbling bit players trying to bring each other down while the major contenders offer pale imitations of his own message and values.

Republican voters once open to someone other than the former president are concluding that if they’re going to get Trumpism, they might as well go with the guy who invented it. And they’re getting little useful advice from party leaders who — as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told his biographer McKay Coppins — see Trump as a disaster but are too timid to say so publicly.

It didn’t have to be like this, because the strength of Trump’s lock on the party is vastly exaggerated.

Sure, Trump has an unshakable base, those who would stick with him if he were indicted a dozen more times. But that hard core accounts for no more than about 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate. There really is (or was) room for someone else to break through.

But not one of them has inspired real excitement, and the politician who once seemed best placed to take Trump on, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has had a miserable year.

As a result, Trump has been able to combine his base with a fair share of the largest group of Republicans: those with a more or less positive view of the former president but willing to support someone else.

Not so long ago, such Republicans were flocking to others, particularly DeSantis. Trump seemed anything but inevitable at the beginning of 2023. Many in the party blamed him (and the candidates he backed) for its disappointing showing in the 2022 midterms.

Sept. 23

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Request for Gag Order on Trump Raises Free Speech Dilemma, Charlie Savage, Sept. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors are putting the prospect of political violence at the heart of their argument to limit Donald Trump’s statements about the election case.

The request by prosecutors that a judge impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the federal election-subversion case presents a thorny conflict between the scope of his First Amendment rights and fears that he could — intentionally or not — spur his supporters to violence.

Justice Department log circularThere is little precedent for how the judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, should think about how to weigh strong constitutional protections for political speech against ensuring the functioning of the judicial process and the safety of the people participating in it.

It is one more example of the challenges of seeking to hold to account a norm-shattering former president who is being prosecuted in four cases as he makes another bid for the White House with a message that his opponents have weaponized the criminal justice system against him.

“Everything about these cases is making new law because there are so many gaps in the law,” said Paul F. Rothstein, a Georgetown University law professor and a criminal procedure specialist. “The system is held together by people doing the right thing according to tradition, and Trump doesn’t — he jumps into every gap.”

Citing threats inspired by the federal indictments of Mr. Trump, a recently unsealed motion by the special counsel, Jack Smith, has asked Judge Chutkan to order the former president to cease his near-daily habit of making “disparaging and inflammatory or intimidating” public statements about witnesses, the District of Columbia jury pool, the judge and prosecutors.

A proposed order drafted by Mr. Smith’s team would also bar Mr. Trump and his lawyers from making — or causing surrogates to make — public statements “regarding the identity, testimony or credibility of prospective witnesses.” It would allow Mr. Trump to say he denies the charges but “without further comment.”

Sept. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Georgia trial won’t start in October, judge says, Holly Bailey, Sept. 15, 2023 (print ed.). A Georgia judge ruled Thursday that Donald Trump and 16 of his co-defendants won’t have to go to trial in October with two defendants who have sought a speedy trial, effectively denying an Atlanta-area prosecutor’s bid to try all 19 together in the sprawling criminal case alleging interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said in a Thursday order that he could move to sever additional cases but said for now that former Trump campaign attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell will stand trial beginning Oct. 23. He did not issue a trial date for Trump and 16 other associates, but he denied a bid by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and others seeking to pause proceedings while their efforts to move their cases to federal court play out.

McAfee wrote “that severing the remaining 17 co-defendants is simply a procedural and logistical inevitability.”

“Severance is an absolute necessity. Additional divisions of these 17 defendants may well be required,” the judge added. “That is a decision for another day once the many anticipated pretrial motions have been resolved and a realistic trial date approaches.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), whose office is leading the case, has argued that separate trials would be a “logistical quagmire” for the court system, witnesses and anyone else involved in the case. Setting additional court dates will likely be a challenge for McAfee, given an avalanche of motions from the various defendants, each specific to their defense and schedule. Among the challenges: Trump does not want to be tried with anyone seeking a speedy trial and is expected to try to delay his proceedings until after the 2024 election. Meadows wants to stand trial alone, but only after he exhausts his appeals on his request to move his case to federal court.

McAfee presided over a motions hearing Thursday for Chesebro and Powell, the second in a series of what he has said would be weekly hearings to listen to arguments on dozens of pending motions in the overall case — including filings from Trump and several of his co-defendants seeking to dismiss charges. He repeatedly spoke of the scheduling challenges in the case, including plans for a likely expedited jury selection process for Chesebro and Powell so that opening statements in their trial can begin by early November.

Politico, Hunter Biden’s lawyer accuses House Republicans of ‘congressional manipulation,’ Betsy Woodruff Swan,Sept. 15, 2023 (print ed.). The first son’s lawyer said House Republicans’ “improper interference” is more dangerous than Hunter Biden’s prior possession of a gun.

politico CustomHunter Biden’s lawyer said Thursday that prosecutors caved to House Republicans’ political pressure when they secured an indictment of the first son.

Just hours after a grand jury indicted Hunter Biden on charges related to gun possession, his top defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, sent a tranche of documents to three congressional committees. The materials were accompanied by a cover letter lambasting the three Republican committee chairs investigating the Biden family. POLITICO obtained the letter and is publishing it here, along with some of the materials. Those materials include a lengthy letter Lowell sent the Justice Department accusing whistleblowers of committing crimes by revealing protected information about the president’s son. Lawyers for those whistleblowers have long held that they scrupulously followed the law in making disclosures to Congress.

Lowell opened the letter by saying lawmakers were focused solely on trying “to move the needle of political support for the 2024 election” rather than conducting legitimate oversight. And he indicated he believes Hunter Biden’s indictment was the result of their pressure.

“Your blatant efforts achieved your goal as the U.S. Attorney in Delaware today filed gun charges against our client — charges that are unprecedented when not part of some other criminal conduct and have been found unconstitutional by a federal court of appeals — and who reversed his earlier decision that such charges were not warranted,” Lowell wrote. “Your improper interference now affecting a federal prosecutor is a much greater threat to society than the 11 days that Mr. Biden possessed an unloaded gun.”

The letter marks a major escalation in the fight between the president’s son and the Hill Republicans who have made him a focus of their recently announced impeachment inquiry targeting the president.

The letter also accuses the committee’s witnesses of violating “federal laws protecting grand jury and tax information,” and accuses Republicans of misusing their investigation “to dump wholesale protected tax information about Mr. Biden” into public view.

Politico, Prosecutors: No grounds for judge to recuse in federal case against Trump over 2020 election, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Sept. 15, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers contend Judge Tanya Chutkan should step aside due to prior comments.

politico CustomSpecial counsel Jack Smith’s office on Thursday sharply rejected former President Donald Trump’s push for U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to step aside from the federal criminal case related to his bid to subvert the 2020 election.

In a 20-page filing, prosecutors said Trump had failed to show any bias by Chutkan against Trump, despite allusions she made to him in a pair of sentencing proceedings against Capitol riot defendants in 2021 and 2022. Rather, argued senior assistant special counsels Molly Gaston and Thomas Windom, Trump “cherry-picks” from Chutkan’s quotes at those hearings to cast accurate and appropriate statements as inappropriate commentary.

Politico, 'They did it to me': Trump says Biden impeachment inquiry might be motivated by revenge, Kelly Garrity, Sept. 15, 2023 (print ed.). Trump told former Fox and NBC host Megyn Kelly that GOP attempts to indict Joe Biden could be next.

politico CustomFormer President Donald Trump has “no idea” whether Republicans will vote to impeach President Joe Biden.

But he does have a theory on what motivated House Republicans to launch a Biden impeachment inquiry: revenge.

“They did it to me,” Trump told former Fox and NBC host Megyn Kelly during an hourlong interview on SiriusXM radio that aired Thursday. “And had they not done it to me, I think, and nobody officially said this, but I think had they not done it to me … perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them.”

Democrats twice led the charge in impeaching Trump, first on charges of abusing his power and obstructing congressional investigations and later for “incitement of insurrection,” following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.

On Tuesday, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced the decision to open an impeachment inquiry into Biden over allegations of bribery and corruption. Some Republicans have said there is a lack of smoking-gun evidence linking Biden to money his son Hunter received from Ukraine and China.

In the interview with Kelly, Trump warned that attem

Sept. 14

 

Trump georgia defendants booked msnbc

 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Judge in Trump RICO Case make MOST IMPORTANT Order Yet, Michael Popok, Sept. 14, 2023. Georgia Judge McAfee just declared that Trump will not be going to trial in 2023 with his former attorneys Chesebro & Powell, and is most likely to go to in trial until late 2024, as he also ruled that the other 17 conconspirators will NOT be tried together but in groups of several in 2024, and rejected any effort by Meadows or others to delay their cases while they appeal their attempt to get to federal court.

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why the Fulton County DA must change course, propose groups of trials and make sure Trump is in “group 1” in early 2024 before the election.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Hunter Biden STRIKES BACK with MASSIVE Lawsuit Against Trump Aide, Sept. 14, 2023. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on a new federal lawsuit filed by Hunter Biden in California against former Donald Trump aide for hacking and data manipulation.

Sept. 13

owen shroyer

Politico, Owen Shroyer, InfoWars host and colleague of Alex Jones, gets 60 days for Jan. 6 misdemeanor, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 13, 2023 (print ed.). A judge on Tuesday sentenced InfoWars broadcaster Owen Shroyer — who shadowed his boss and ally Alex Jones onto Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — to 60 days in prison for breaching the restricted area.

politico CustomU.S. District Judge Tim Kelly, right, handed down the sentence after contending that Shroyer, who never entered the Capitol building, played a role in “amping up” the mob at a timothy kellysensitive moment during the riot. Shroyer’s foray onto Capitol grounds came even though Shroyer had been ordered to stay away from the area under a court-sanctioned agreement for disrupting a House impeachment hearing in 2019.

The sentence — half of the Justice Department’s call for 120 days in prison — closes a chapter in what all sides agreed was a “unique” prosecution stemming from the mob attack on the Capitol. Shroyer was facing only misdemeanor charges for his conduct that day and pleaded guilty to breaching restricted Capitol grounds earlier this year.

Prosecutors say Shroyer shadowed Jones from the Ellipse, where former President Donald Trump addressed supporters before urging them to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. When they arrived, they witnessed the chaos that had begun unfolding at the building. Jones, who was trailed by a large throng of supporters, a security detail and other leaders of “Stop the Steal” groups, circled the Capitol and asked police for permission to exhort the crowd to deescalate the violence.

Jones has not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, but prosecutors said Shroyer, using a megaphone, delivered chants that further fueled the riot after breaching the protected perimeter of Capitol grounds. They also noted in court filings that Jones and his large cohort continued to traverse the perimeter of the Capitol despite police signaling they wanted people to leave the area.

Shroyer is seeking to frame his criminal case as a national flashpoint for First Amendment speech. He addressed InfoWars viewers and reporters for an hour after his sentence, saying he intends to appeal his case — to the Supreme Court if necessary — and that he has become a “martyr for free speech.”

Shroyer pointed out that prosecutors, in seeking his 120-day jail term, focused heavily on his comments in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and his chants of “1776” on the day of the riot. He contended that he was in Washington in his capacity as an opinion journalist for InfoWars. In remarks to Kelly, Shroyer also argued that when he exhorted the crowd that day, he was trying to capture their attention so he could assist Jones in trying to redirect the mob away from the Capitol.

Kelly rejected that contention, saying his review of the video of Shroyer’s actions did not appear to show Shroyer making an attempt to play a deescalating role. After leaving the courthouse, Shroyer said their disagreement over that episode stemmed from Kelly’s lack of familiarity with managing large crowds.

Kelly also said he paid minimal attention to prosecutors’ arguments about Shroyer’s speech in the lead-up to Jan. 6. “There’s nothing wrong with the phrase ‘1776,’” Kelly said, adding that his main concern was Shroyer “amping up the crowd with a bullhorn.”

Kelly also said Shroyer’s role as a journalist — which he noted the Justice Department challenged — played no role in his ultimate sentence, saying the conduct Shroyer was charged with had nothing to do with his media role.

The case against Shroyer has been pending for more than two years and raised questions about whether Jones was under scrutiny as well. Shroyer and his attorney Norm Pattis — who also represents Jones — noted that Shroyer agreed to turn over his phone to prosecutors and sit for a proffer session after he was charged. They also noted that he agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and be cooperative with the government after being assured it would result in a lenient recommendation from prosecutors.

Sept. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, The team Jack Smith built to convict Trump, Perry Stein, Sept. 12, 2023 (print ed.). Maligned, praised and in the spotlight, these prosecutors are preparing to try Trump on federal charges in D.C. and Florida.

The federal investigations have led to indictments totaling 44 charges, to which Trump has pleaded not guilty. Trump also denies wrongdoing in Georgia, where he faces 13 state-level charges, and New York, where he faces 34 charges of falsifying business records in a state case related to hush money payments during the 2016 election campaign.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department has been reluctant to disclose the names of individual prosecutors on Smith’s team, citing a rise in threats against them that has prompted extensive security precautions. That’s a departure from the practice of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who confirmed which prosecutors were investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential ties to the Trump campaign if reporters asked.

Still, as the Trump investigations have moved into the pretrial phase — and more documents that require prosecutors’ signatures are filed on public dockets — a clearer picture is starting to emerge.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump hearings expected in at least Florida and Georgia this week, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 12, 2023 (print ed.). To help you keep track of the four — yes, four — pending criminal Trump trials, here is a guide to what comes next, followed by a recap of what happened last week.

Looking ahead:

In Georgia, where Trump and 18 co-defendants face state charges for trying to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, the judge schedules weekly hearings to review the many requests he is getting from defendants and prosecutors. At Thursday’s hearing, we may get more insight into when Trump will go on trial there.

Sometimes lawyers and judges decide to argue an issue under seal — meaning the public doesn’t get to see the particulars. One such fight erupted last week in D.C., where Trump faces federal charges of trying to block the election results. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to file court papers in the dispute this week.

The fight is related to Trump’s “daily extrajudicial statements,” prosecutors say. The term sounds cool, but they actually mean it in a bad way — that Trump is speaking out of school on his case, something the Justice Department has complained about before.

That’s not the only legal issue potentially being dealt with behind closed doors this week. Lawyers in the Florida indictment, which involves alleged mishandling of sensitive documents, are overdue for a sealed hearing on the classified evidence the government plans to present.

Sept. 10

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump just stepped in it, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 10, 2023. Any remotely savvy politician knows that attending bill palmera sporting event is a dicey proposition. If the crowd is going to be politically mixed, you’re going to get cheered, but you’re also going to get booed. If you don’t want the optics of everyone sharing footage of you getting booed, you have to limit yourself to specific sporting events where you know the voting demographics are going to heavily lean your way.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is an extraordinarily unsavvy politician. And he doesn’t appear to have any political advisers at this point who have any idea how anything works, or are willing to say “boo” to him about anything. So of course Trump decided to attend the college football game between Iowa and Iowa State on Saturday – and let’s just say it didn’t go well for him.

Various pieces of video footage show that while appearing at the game in Iowa, Donald Trump was subjected to a good amount of cheering and a good amount of booing. He was also subjected to multiple middle fingers from football fans who were situated nearby him.

This was all a strategically dumb move. Trump gained nothing by attending this game. If he were simply trying to show his face in the state of Iowa and get headlines about being in the state, there were plenty of smarter ways to do it.

Earlier this week there were headlines about the “Trump 2024 campaign” barely even existing in Iowa, with minimal infrastructure. Palmer Report pointed out at the time that Trump clearly isn’t running for anything, and is instead just going through the bare minimum motions so that his suckers will keep sending him quasi-campaign donations that he can use for his mounting legal bills.

Donald Trump’s decision to attend this weekend’s Iowa vs Iowa State college football game appears to have been an attempt at pushing back and demonstrating that he does have a presence in Iowa. But it was a lazy, simplistic, and poorly thought out move. All Trump did was help spawn endless viral posts on social media about him getting booed and flipped off. And it demonstrated that he really doesn’t have a serious political operation in Iowa, or else he could have been steered toward a less inept photo op.

Sept. 9

 mark meadows hands out

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Judge Denies Meadows’s Request to Move Georgia Case to Federal Court, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Sept. 9, 2023 (print ed.). Moving the case would have given Mark Meadows, above, a former White House chief of staff, one key advantage: a jury pool that was more favorable to Donald Trump.

Georgia prosecutors leading the criminal election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies notched a victory on Friday when a judge rejected an effort by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, to move his case from state court to federal court.

Mr. Meadows would have faced the same state felony charges had his case been heard by a federal judge and jury, including a racketeering charge for his role in what prosecutors have described as a “criminal organization” that sought to overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state. But removal to federal court would have given him key advantages, including a jury pool that was more favorable to Mr. Trump.

Conducting a trial in federal court would have also increased the likelihood that the United States Supreme Court, a third of whose members were nominated by Mr. Trump, would ultimately get involved in the case.

The setback for Mr. Meadows came in the first of many rulings that are expected for the defendants who are seeking to have their cases moved out of state court. Mr. Trump has not filed for a removal to federal court, but he is widely expected to do so.

steve jones judgeHowever, the ruling, by Judge Steve C. Jones, right, of the Northern District of Georgia, does not bode well for any of those efforts. An early trial is already scheduled to start in state court on Oct. 23 for two defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who have invoked their right for a speedy trial under Georgia law.

The question of where the trials will take place is significant in another way as well. Unlike in federal court, the proceedings in state court will be televised, setting the stage for long-running public trials focused on efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to cling to power.

“There is no federal jurisdiction over the criminal case,” Judge Jones, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, wrote in his ruling. “The outcome of this case will be for a Fulton County judge and trier of fact to ultimately decide.”

A lawyer for Mr. Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Meadows had the strongest of the removal cases,” said Norman Eisen, who was special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment. “If Meadows has failed, then there’s little hope for Clark, or for that matter Trump,” he added, referring to Jeffrey Clark, a defendant and former Justice Department official who has also filed to move his case to federal court.

In a filing this week, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Steven H. Sadow, notified the presiding Fulton County Superior Court judge, Scott McAfee, that Mr. Trump might seek to move his case; he has until the end of the month to decide.

A key issue for Judge Jones was whether Mr. Meadows’s actions, as described in the 98-page indictment, could be considered within the scope of his job duties as White House chief of staff, which would qualify his case for removal under federal law. Removal is a longstanding legal tradition meant to protect federal officials from state-level prosecution that could impede them from conducting federal business; it is rooted in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which makes federal law “supreme” over contrary state laws.

In the hearing on Mr. Meadows’s request, Fulton County prosecutors argued that he had overstepped the bounds of his chief-of-staff duties by acting as a de facto agent of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. They noted that he had arranged and participated in the now-famous Jan. 2, 2021, call between Mr. Trump and Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in which Mr. Trump said he wanted to “find” roughly 12,000 votes, enough to reverse his election loss in the state.

The prosecutors said that with such actions, Mr. Meadows had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while they are on the job. Among the examples they noted was a text message that Mr. Meadows sent on Dec. 27, 2020, to an official in Mr. Raffensperger’s office, in which he offered financial assistance from the “Trump campaign” for a ballot verification effort.

Mr. Meadows’s lawyers emphasized that a chief of staff’s job often occupies a messy place where policy and politics converge — and that was among the reasons that some observers thought he had the best shot at removal to federal court.

But Judge Jones decided that the actions ascribed to Mr. Meadows in the indictment were not within the scope of his federal duties.

The evidence, he ruled, “establishes that the actions at the heart of the state’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.”

lindsey graham npr

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia special grand jury recommended charges for Lindsey Graham in Trump case, Holly Bailey, Sept. 9, 2023 (print ed.). An Atlanta-area prosecutor ultimately declined to seek an indictment against the Republican senator from South Carolina, shown above in a file photo.

An Atlanta-area special grand jury that spent months investigating alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies agreed the former president should be indicted in the case and also recommended charges for one of Trump’s closest associates, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — though a prosecutor ultimately declined to seek an indictment for him in the case.

The recommendations were contained in a 26-page final report presented in January to Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and made public by a judge Friday, Robert McBurney, shown below.

robert mcburney horizontal

The report by the special grand jury, which was an investigative body and did not have the power to issue criminal indictments, largely echoed Willis’s theory of the case, recommending charges for Trump and numerous others alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Name to Come Off Bronx Golf Course After Deal With Casino Bidder, Stefanos Chen and Dana Rubinstein, Sept. 9, 2023 (print ed.). Bally’s Corporation will pay millions to operate the golf course, and hopes that removing the former president’s name from it will help its chances of winning a casino bid.

The sole bidder seeking to build a casino in the Bronx has moved one step closer to realizing its pitch, by buying out the multimillion-dollar lease on a public golf course operated by Donald J. Trump’s company.

The first order of business: removing the Trump name.

Bally’s Corporation, a large casino and entertainment company, has purchased the license to operate the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a 180-acre golf course that the city had tried, and failed, to wrest from the control of Mr. Trump’s company.

The price of the transaction, which required approval from the Parks Department and the New York City comptroller, has not been disclosed, but one person familiar with the deal said the company would pay at least tens of millions of dollars for the remainder of the contract, which is expected to expire in 2035. The deal, which was first reported by The New York Post, is scheduled to close on Tuesday.

The new operator is expected to change the name of the golf course to Bally’s Links, according to people familiar with the transfer, removing the giant Trump sign embossed in stone that greets commuters exiting the Whitestone Bridge.
Bally’s officials said in February that they would seek to strike out the name of the former president, whose association with the project might sour their chances of winning a license.

The change was welcome news to some elected officials. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio, following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, tried to terminate the Trump Organization’s lease of the public golf course, arguing that the city had the right to do so because the former president had engaged in criminal activity. The argument failed in court.
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“I am delighted that Trump’s name will no longer deface city parkland,” Brad Lander, the city comptroller, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

The proposal is expected to be one of at least 11 bids for up to three casino licenses in the New York City area.

mark meadows hands out

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Judge Denies Meadows’s Request to Move Georgia Case to Federal Court, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Sept. 9, 2023 (print ed.). Moving the case would have given Mark Meadows, above, a former White House chief of staff, one key advantage: a jury pool that was more favorable to Donald Trump.

Georgia prosecutors leading the criminal election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies notched a victory on Friday when a judge rejected an effort by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, to move his case from state court to federal court.

Mr. Meadows would have faced the same state felony charges had his case been heard by a federal judge and jury, including a racketeering charge for his role in what prosecutors have described as a “criminal organization” that sought to overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state. But removal to federal court would have given him key advantages, including a jury pool that was more favorable to Mr. Trump.

Conducting a trial in federal court would have also increased the likelihood that the United States Supreme Court, a third of whose members were nominated by Mr. Trump, would ultimately get involved in the case.

The setback for Mr. Meadows came in the first of many rulings that are expected for the defendants who are seeking to have their cases moved out of state court. Mr. Trump has not filed for a removal to federal court, but he is widely expected to do so.

steve jones judgeHowever, the ruling, by Judge Steve C. Jones, right, of the Northern District of Georgia, does not bode well for any of those efforts. An early trial is already scheduled to start in state court on Oct. 23 for two defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who have invoked their right for a speedy trial under Georgia law.

The question of where the trials will take place is significant in another way as well. Unlike in federal court, the proceedings in state court will be televised, setting the stage for long-running public trials focused on efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to cling to power.

“There is no federal jurisdiction over the criminal case,” Judge Jones, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, wrote in his ruling. “The outcome of this case will be for a Fulton County judge and trier of fact to ultimately decide.”

A lawyer for Mr. Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Meadows had the strongest of the removal cases,” said Norman Eisen, who was special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment. “If Meadows has failed, then there’s little hope for Clark, or for that matter Trump,” he added, referring to Jeffrey Clark, a defendant and former Justice Department official who has also filed to move his case to federal court.

In a filing this week, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Steven H. Sadow, notified the presiding Fulton County Superior Court judge, Scott McAfee, that Mr. Trump might seek to move his case; he has until the end of the month to decide.

A key issue for Judge Jones was whether Mr. Meadows’s actions, as described in the 98-page indictment, could be considered within the scope of his job duties as White House chief of staff, which would qualify his case for removal under federal law. Removal is a longstanding legal tradition meant to protect federal officials from state-level prosecution that could impede them from conducting federal business; it is rooted in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which makes federal law “supreme” over contrary state laws.

In the hearing on Mr. Meadows’s request, Fulton County prosecutors argued that he had overstepped the bounds of his chief-of-staff duties by acting as a de facto agent of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. They noted that he had arranged and participated in the now-famous Jan. 2, 2021, call between Mr. Trump and Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in which Mr. Trump said he wanted to “find” roughly 12,000 votes, enough to reverse his election loss in the state.

The prosecutors said that with such actions, Mr. Meadows had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while they are on the job. Among the examples they noted was a text message that Mr. Meadows sent on Dec. 27, 2020, to an official in Mr. Raffensperger’s office, in which he offered financial assistance from the “Trump campaign” for a ballot verification effort.

Mr. Meadows’s lawyers emphasized that a chief of staff’s job often occupies a messy place where policy and politics converge — and that was among the reasons that some observers thought he had the best shot at removal to federal court.

But Judge Jones decided that the actions ascribed to Mr. Meadows in the indictment were not within the scope of his federal duties.

The evidence, he ruled, “establishes that the actions at the heart of the state’s charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures.”

Sept. 8

lindsey graham npr

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia special grand jury recommended charges for Lindsey Graham in Trump case, Holly Bailey, Sept. 8, 2023. An Atlanta-area prosecutor ultimately declined to seek an indictment against the Republican senator from South Carolina, shown above in a file photo.

An Atlanta-area special grand jury that spent months investigating alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies agreed the former president should be indicted in the case and also recommended charges for one of Trump’s closest associates, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — though a prosecutor ultimately declined to seek an indictment for him in the case.

The recommendations were contained in a 26-page final report presented in January to Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and made public by a judge Friday.

The report by the special grand jury, which was an investigative body and did not have the power to issue criminal indictments, largely echoed Willis’s theory of the case, recommending charges for Trump and numerous others alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.

 

cleta mitchellEmptywheel, Analysis: Cleta Mitchell Skates, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right,), Sept. 8, 2023. While grand jurors expressed lukewarm marcy wheelersupport for charging three Senators -- David Purdue, Kelli Leoffler, and Lindsey Graham -- they expressed far more support for charging Cleta Mitchell, above, who nevertheless was not charged.

Judge McBurney has released the report from Fanni Willis’ special grand jury.

The grand jury recommended charges against a number of people who weren’t charged. Most attention has david perdue headshotfocused on the recommendations to charge David Purdue, left, Kelli Loeffler, and Lindsey Graham. I had always thought that Lindsey wouldn’t be charged because he is protected by Speech and Debate (a judgment that may be supported by the DC Circuit’s still-sealed partial reversal of Beryl Howell’s ruling permitting DOJ to access some Scott Perry records from his phone).

But it seemed there was less support for those charges, generally, than for others.

By wide margins, the grand jury voted to charge Cleta in conjunction with the January 2 call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake electors plot, and the RICO charge. But she — a prominent Georgian — was not charged.

Sept. 7

 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia prosecutors in Trump election case estimate four-month trial, Holly Bailey, Sept. 7, 2023 (print ed.). Such a timeline would force Donald Trump to spend a third of a year sitting in an Atlanta courtroom, possibly while also running for president and juggling three other criminal cases.

georgia mapA trial involving former president Donald Trump and 18 others accused of conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia will probably take four months, once a jury is selected, and feature testimony from more than 150 witnesses, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.

Such a timeline would force Trump to spend a third of a year sitting in an Atlanta courtroom with his co-defendants, possibly while running for president and juggling three other criminal cases, including federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election to stay in power.

The estimate came during a hearing over motions by two of the defendants — former Trump campaign attorneys Kenneth J. kenneth chesebroChesebro, right,  and Sidney Powell, below left — who have invoked their rights to a speedy trial. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the matter, granted those motions Wednesday, setting a joint trial date of Oct. sidney powell23 for Chesebro and Powell.

But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), whose office is leading the case, wants all 19 defendants to be tried at the same time starting on that date. Prosecutors on Wednesday reaffirmed that argument, insisting that separating the cases would mean months-long trials for each of the defendants involving the same witnesses and the same evidence — which they said would be burdensome to the court and parties involved.

“One trial or 19 trials, the evidence is exactly the same,” said Will Wooten, a deputy Fulton County district attorney. “The witnesses are exactly the same.”

McAfee did not reject a joint trial of Trump and his 18 co-defendants, but he peppered prosecutors with questions and appeared deeply skeptical that proceedings for all 19 could begin next month. He noted efforts by some of the defendants to move their cases to federal court and existing motions from Trump and others who have said they will not be ready for trial by late October.

“It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days. That’s my initial reaction,” McAfee said.

It was the first major hearing since a Fulton County grand jury last month approved a 41-count indictment charging Trump and 18 associates in what prosecutors allege was a vast criminal conspiracy to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. It was the first time prosecutors had appeared before McAfee since he was assigned to oversee the case, and at times, they appeared unprepared for his intense questioning about scheduling issues in a sprawling case that is facing legal tests in both state and federal court.

McAfee has assumed the role of legal traffic cop in the sprawling racketeering case, tackling the logistical challenge of setting deadlines and trial dates for the 19 defendants who are already at odds over how and when they should be tried. McAfee, who was nominated to the bench this year, previously worked as a state inspector general and a federal and state prosecutor, including under Willis when she ran Fulton County’s complex trial division. He plans to hold a hearing every week to work through the mountain of motions that have already been filed or soon will be.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won a civil suit against him in 2022 in New York City on claims of sexual batery and defamation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Next Defamation Trial Will Skip to What Damages He Should Pay, Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 7, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll’s suit is scheduled for a January trial. The judge ruled she did not have to prove a second time that Donald J. Trump defamed her after she accused him of raping her.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the writer E. Jean Carroll, who won a recent defamation lawsuit against former President Donald J. Trump, doesn’t have to prove again that he defamed her in another lawsuit she has filed against him when it goes to trial in January.

She must show only what damages, if any, Mr. Trump must pay for comments he made in 2019 after she first publicly accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store dressing room decades ago. Mr. Trump called her accusation “totally false,” said he had never met Ms. Carroll and that he could not have raped her because “she’s not my type.”

Ms. Carroll, 79, won a separate defamation lawsuit in May based on comments Mr. Trump posted last October on his Truth Social website calling her claim a “complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie.”

In that case, a Manhattan jury found Mr. Trump, 77, liable for sexually abusing Ms. Carroll and awarded her $2.02 million in damages for the attack. Jurors also awarded Ms. Carroll $2.98 million in damages for defamation.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, said in his ruling Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s statements in 2019 were “substantially the same” as those that prompted the defamation award in May.

“The trial in this case shall be limited to the issue of damages only,” Judge Kaplan wrote.

Lawyers for Ms. Carroll and Mr. Trump issued brief statements after the ruling was filed.

Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, said, “We look forward to trial limited to damages for the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made about our client E. Jean Carroll in 2019.”

Alina Habba, who represents Mr. Trump, said she was confident the earlier verdict “will be overturned on appeal, which will render this decision moot.”

Mr. Trump has also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to delay the pending defamation trial, which is scheduled for Jan. 15, until an appeal by Mr. Trump related to the case is resolved.

Politico, Investigation: The Giuliani aide who ‘vanished,’ Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney, Sept. 7, 2023 (print ed.). Documents reviewed by Politico — and also in the hands of federal prosecutors — offer new details about Rudy Giuliani’s ill-fated efforts to reverse the 2020 election.

politico CustomIn December 2020, an adviser to Rudy Giuliani circulated a draft email addressed to the White House seeking “provisional” security clearances for the former mayor and members of his team as part of their work to keep Donald Trump in power.

rudy giuliani mayorThe adviser, Katherine Friess, also helped Giuliani, right, woo potential donors to finance Trump’s effort to reverse the results of the election. She helped draft a “strategic communications plan” for a final push to keep Trump in office, a document that became a focus for Jan. 6 investigators and that called for placing paid ads on radio and TV alleging widespread voter fraud. At the same time, Friess warned other Trump aides that their claims about dead people voting in Georgia were weak — but Trump continued to trumpet those claims anyway.

Friess, a national security consultant with deep roots in Washington, kept a low profile, but in November and December 2020, she was Giuliani’s jack-of-all-trades. A host of emails and documents exchanged by Friess and other Giuliani aides have been turned over to special counsel Jack Smith, according to a person familiar with the investigation granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive material.

Dozens of those documents, which have been reviewed by POLITICO, add new detail to the public understanding of how Trump’s allies operated after Election Day — and how they grappled with obstacles both immense and quotidian.

Sept. 6djt indicted proofPolitico, Trump’s co-defendants are already starting to turn against him, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Sept. 6, 2023 (print ed.). There’s a nascent courtroom strategy by some people close to Donald Trump: Heap blame on the former president.

politico CustomAs Donald Trump's four criminal cases march toward trials, some of his aides, allies and co-defendants are pointing fingers at the former president. | Dana Verkouteren/AP Photo

The finger-pointing among Donald Trump’s inner circle has begun.

And as his four criminal cases march toward trials, some of his aides, allies and co-defendants are pointing at the former president

Sept. 5

 

enrique tarrio ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Proud Boys leader Tarrio receives 22 years, the longest Jan. 6 sentence yet, Tom Jackman and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 5, 2023. Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was found guilty in May of plotting to unleash political violence to prevent Congress from confirming the results of the 2020 election.

Former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, described by a judge as “the ultimate leader” who “was motivated by revolutionary zeal” in organizing members of his far-right group to spark the breach of the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison, the longest sentence yet among the hundreds convicted of disrupting the peaceful transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2021.
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Tarrio, 39, was convicted of seditious conspiracy and obstructing the congressional proceeding meant to confirm the 2020 presidential election as part of a riot that U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said broke America’s long democratic tradition of peaceful transfers of power. Tarrio was the last of five Proud Boys to be sentenced after all were convicted in May following a 15-week trial.

Tarrio, of Miami, was convicted even though he wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6. He had been arrested two days earlier for burning a “Black Lives Matter” flag torn down from a D.C. church during an earlier protest in the city following President Donald Trump’s defeat. He was banned from the city as a result.

But prosecutors said he had recruited people to join in a violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 to keep Trump in power and messaged them “Don’t f---ing leave” as they led the storming of the building, causing the electoral vote count to stop for about six hours. Kelly cited that message Tuesday in ruling that Tarrio still had a leadership role on Jan. 6, even if he wasn’t in D.C. Tarrio denied planning an incursion into the Capitol and gave interviews after the riot saying he did not endorse that move by multiple Proud Boys, some of whom were among the first to enter the building.

Prosecutors asked for a 33-year sentence for Tarrio, one of the most high-profile defendants who have gone to trial in the Capitol attack. But they also asked for 20 years or more for each of Tarrio’s four co-defendants, and Kelly declined to impose such terms.

From left to right, Proud Boys members and Jan. 6 insurrectionists Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachery Rehl, Enrique Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola.

From left to right, Proud Boys members and Jan. 6 insurrectionists Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachery Rehl, Enrique Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola

The judge agreed that the convictions qualified for an enhanced terrorism penalty under federal law and increased the federal sentencing guidelines for Tarrio and his co-defendants: Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola. The judge, however, declined to sentence each defendant within the advisory ranges, saying repeatedly that “the terrorism adjustment overstates your role in the offense,” and that the Proud Boys did not have the intent to kill or cause mass casualties.

Tarrio apologized for his actions and those of the Proud Boys, saying the police officers who defended the Capitol, some of whom were in the audience Tuesday, “deserve nothing but praise, respect and to be honored as the heroes they are. I am extremely ashamed and disappointed they were caused grief and suffering.” He also said he had early doubts about whether the election was stolen but kept them to himself. “Every medium I turned to told me my anger was justified,” Tarrio said. “It wasn’t. … I do not think what happened that day was acceptable.”

As for Tarrio’s apology, the judge said: “I’m glad he’s sorry for what happened to the law enforcement officers that day. But I think we’re talking past each other in many ways. I don’t have any indication that he is remorseful for the actual things that he was convicted of. … There’s only so much that statement can go toward assuring me that deterrence is not warranted.”

In an orange jail coverall, Tarrio stood with both hands on a lectern and lowered his head briefly as the judge imposed the sentence, and his mother let out a sob in the gallery behind him. As he left the courtroom, he looked back at his family and supporters, held up two fingers, and blew a kiss with a smile.

As for Tarrio’s apology, the judge said: “I’m glad he’s sorry for what happened to the law enforcement officers that day. But I think we’re talking past each other in many ways. I don’t have any indication that he is remorseful for the actual things that he was convicted of. … There’s only so much that statement can go toward assuring me that deterrence is not warranted.”

In an orange jail coverall, Tarrio stood with both hands on a lectern and lowered his head briefly as the judge imposed the sentence, and his mother let out a sob in the gallery behind him. As he left the courtroom, he looked back at his family and supporters, held up two fingers, and blew a kiss with a smile.

After a trial lasting nearly five months, Tarrio and three of his top lieutenants were convicted in May of seditious conspiracy and five other felonies, including obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of federal property. Tarrio didn’t testify in his own defense, but his lawyers argued that he hadn’t planned an incursion of the Capitol.

Sept. 2

 

truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social facing a key funding deadline, Drew Harwell, Sept. 2, 2023. The ‘blank check’ ally of former president Donald Trump’s media start-up was once a stock-market star. It’s now days away from potential liquidation.

When former president Donald Trump’s media start-up announced in October 2021 that it planned to merge with a Miami-based company called Digital World Acquisition, the deal was an instant stock-market hit.

With the $300 million Digital World had already raised from investors, Trump Media & Technology Group, creator of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social, pledged then that the merger would create a tech titan worth $875 million at the start and, depending on the stock’s performance, up to $1.7 billion later.

All they needed was for the merger to close — a process that Digital World, in a July 2021 preliminary prospectus, estimated would happen within 12 to 18 months.

“Everyone asks me why doesn’t someone stand up to Big Tech? Well, we will be soon!” Trump said in a Trump Media statement that month.

Now, almost two years later, the deal faces what could be a catastrophic threat. With the merger stalled for months, Digital World is fast approaching a Sept. 8 deadline for the merger to close and has scheduled a shareholder vote for Tuesday to extend the deadline another year.

If the vote fails, Digital World will be required by law to liquidate and return $300 million to its shareholders, leaving Trump’s company with nothing from the transaction.

For Digital World, it would signal the ultimate financial fall from grace for a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that turned its proximity to the former president into what was once one of the stock market’s hottest trades. Its share price, which peaked in its first hours at $175, has since fallen to about $14.

Digital World’s efforts to merge with Trump Media have been troubled almost from the start, beset by allegations that it began its conversations with the former president’s company before they were permitted under SPAC rules.

August

Aug. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump enters not guilty plea in Georgia election case, waives hearing, Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner, Aug. 31, 2023. The former president had been scheduled by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to be arraigned in Atlanta next Wednesday

Donald Trump entered a plea of not guilty to charges alleging he participated in a vast criminal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia and waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing in the matter, according to a new court filing from his attorney in the Fulton County election interference case.

The written plea was filed Thursday by Steve Sadow, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who was tapped Aug. 24 to lead the former president’s Georgia-based legal team. The filing means Trump won’t return to Atlanta on Wednesday, where Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the proceedings, has scheduled a series of arraignment hearings for Trump and the 18 co-defendants in the sprawling criminal racketeering case.

In the filing, titled “President Trump’s entry of plea of not guilty and enter of waiver of appearance at arraignment,” the former president stated that he was “freely and voluntarily” waiving his right to be present at his arraignment and have his charges read to him in open court.

Trump is facing 13 counts in the Georgia case, including violating the state’s racketeering act, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, conspiring to impersonate a public officer, conspiring to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiring to file false documents. The former president has denied any wrongdoing and has condemned the investigation, led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), as a “political witch hunt.”

Trump surrendered last week at the Fulton County Jail, a notorious Atlanta lockup where he was booked and quickly released on a $200,000 bond that includes restrictions on his conduct, including provisions that bar him from intimidating witnesses or fellow co-defendants or making any “direct or indirect threat of any nature against the community.”

Trump’s attorney has signaled he will vigorously challenge the charges against his client, who he has said should have never been charged in the case. Sadow has said he will file a motion to dismiss the charges and move to sever Trump’s case from other co-defendants, including former Trump campaign attorney Kenneth Chesebro, who are seeking a speedy trial in the matter.

Separately Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) told reporters at a news conference that he would not call a special session of the General Assembly to seek to remove Willis from office, as several conservative lawmakers have requested. Kemp said his concerns about “highly charged indictments” during an election cycle “have been well-documented,” but his intervention would be improper and possibly even unconstitutional.

“We have a law in the state of Georgia that clearly outlines the legal steps that can be taken if constituents believe their local prosecutors are violating their oath by engaging in unethical or illegal behavior,” he said. “Up to this point I have not seen any evidence at that D.A. Willis’s actions or lack thereof warrant action by the Prosecuting Attorney Oversight Commission. But that will ultimately be a decision that the commission will make.”

Trump is expected to follow his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in seeking to move his case from state to federal court. Meadows spent more than four hours testifying on Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones, who is considering Meadows’s petition to move his case to federal court, where he will then seek to dismiss charges.

In his testimony, Meadows sought to portray himself as Trump’s gatekeeper and depicted his involvement in efforts to question Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in Georgia as part of his duties as Trump’s top White House aide and senior adviser. His attorneys have argued that should qualify his case for federal removal since they say he was acting under the “color” of his federal position.

But prosecutors have argued Meadows’s post-election efforts, including a visit to a suburban Atlanta ballot processing center and arranging the now-infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), violated the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their official roles to influence an election. They say Meadows saw “no distinction” between his White House work and the Trump campaign and have pressed Jones to deny Meadows’s petition — an outcome which could have sweeping effect on other current and future removal requests in the case, including Trump’s expected petition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks to Dismiss Suit as A.G. Says He Inflated Worth by $2.2 Billion, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Before Donald J. Trump was indicted four times over, he was sued by New York’s attorney general, who said that for years the former president, his business and members of his family had fraudulently overvalued their assets by billions of dollars.

Before any of those criminal trials will take place, Mr. Trump is scheduled for a civil trial in New York in October. During the trial, the attorney general, Letitia James, will seek to bar him and three of his children from leading their family business, the Trump Organization, and to require him to pay a fine of around $250 million.

On Wednesday, Ms. James fired an opening salvo, arguing that a trial is not necessary to find that Mr. Trump and the other defendants inflated the value of their assets in annual financial statements, fraudulently obtaining favorable loans and insurance arrangements.

The fraud was so pervasive, she said in a court filing, that Mr. Trump had falsely boosted his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, asked a judge to find, without a trial, that former President Trump had fraudulently overvalued his assets.
“Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the court to determine that defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values,” the filing said.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in their own motion, argued that the entire case should be thrown out, relying in large part on a recent appellate court decision that appeared as if it could significantly narrow the scope of the case because of a legal time limit. Mr. Trump had received most of the loans in question too long ago for the matter to be considered by a court, his lawyers argue.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Under Oath, Says He Averted ‘Nuclear Holocaust,’ Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). During a deposition in his civil case, former President Trump offered a series of strange defenses, digressions and meandering explanations.

Under oath and under fire, Donald J. Trump sat for a seven-hour interview with the New York attorney general’s office in April, part of the civil fraud case against him and his company.

But as lawyers from the office grilled Mr. Trump on the inner-workings of his family business, which is accused of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars, he responded with a series of meandering non sequiturs, political digressions and self-aggrandizing defenses.

Asked about his authority at the Trump Organization while he was in the White House, Mr. Trump responded that he considered the presidency “the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives.”

“I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea,” he explained, and then added: “And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.”

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when initially questioned by the office last year, he answered questions from the attorney general, Letitia James, and her lawyers in the April deposition, a transcript of which was unsealed on Wednesday.

The transcript shows a combative Mr. Trump, who was named as a defendant in the case alongside his company and three of his children, at times barely allowing lawyers to get a word in. The former president frequently seems personally offended by the idea that his net worth is being questioned.

Mr. Trump is seeking to have the case thrown out. A judge could rule on that effort next month, but for now, the case appears headed to trial in early October.

Below are some of the highlights from the transcript of his deposition:

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Could Clinch the Nomination Before the G.O.P. Knows if He’s a Felon, Reid J. Epstein, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The federal election interference case — one of four involving Donald Trump — is set to start just before Super Tuesday and a cascade of primaries.

By the time Donald J. Trump is sitting at his federal trial on charges of criminally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, he may have already secured enough delegates to effectively clinch the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

The former president’s trial is scheduled to start March 4, by which point five states are expected to have held nominating contests. The next day, March 5, is Super Tuesday, when 15 states, including delegate-rich California and Texas, plan to hold votes that will determine if any Trump challenger has enough political oxygen to remain a viable alternative.

Primaries in Florida, Ohio and Illinois come two weeks later. Florida and Ohio will be the first winner-take-all contests, in which the top vote-getter statewide seizes all of the delegates rather than splitting them proportionally. Winner-take-all primaries have historically turbocharged the front-runner’s path to the presidential nomination. Mr. Trump’s federal trial, if it proceeds on its current timeline, won’t be close to finished by then.

The collision course between the Republican Party’s calendar and Mr. Trump’s trial schedule is emblematic of one of the most unusual nominating contests in American history. It is a Trump-dominated clash that will define not only the course of the 2024 presidential primary but potentially the future direction of the party in an eventual post-Trump era.

Palmer Report, Analysis, One and done, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 31, 2023.  It’s now been a full week since Donald Trump’s fourth arrest. At this rate he might bill palmerconsider himself lucky that there hasn’t been a fifth one already. But it’s also been a full week since something else: Trump’s one and only tweet since leaving office.

bill palmer report logo headerBack when Trump was reinstated to Twitter, the owner of the platform publicly begged Trump to return. But it never did happen. Instead Trump continued to spend all day every day pandering to his niche base on his own niche social network. The ferocity with which Trump rants and raves on Truth Social, basically talking to no one, suggests that he’d love to be back on Twitter and have a real audience. But even his one tweet last week is now very much looking like a one-off.

President Donald Trump officialWe’ve heard all kinds of speculation about how Trump might have an exclusive contract with Truth Social. But even if so, that doesn’t come within a million miles of adequately explaining why he never returned to Twitter. Deals like that are made to be renegotiated or worked around. And really, what is Truth Social going to do to Trump in retaliation for returning to Twitter? Ban him from his own platform? Truth Social is such a niche failure that there would be no platform without Trump.

Instead, Trump’s failure to return to Twitter is probably the biggest giveaway that he’s not really running for anything. Twitter is a huge marketing and outreach opportunity for any political candidate. Trump in particular has shown an affinity, almost an addiction, to tweeting. It allowed him to speak directly to the general public in real time. And by declining to tweet, he’s throwing away that opportunity.

Is this because Trump is so senile? His incoherently embarrassing rambling on Truth Social is at least mitigated by the fact that so few people are on there reading it. If he were posting these same screeds on Twitter, the general public would see that his brain is now a bag of cats, and his faux-campaign would probably be closer to finished. So are Trump’s handlers trying to protect him from himself by giving him flimsy and misleading excuses about why he shouldn’t tweet?

If you think about it, the only two things Trump ever seemed to enjoy about politics were rallies and tweeting, and now his babysitters have managed to convince him to very rarely do either one of them. Instead they have him tucked away rambling on a failed social media platform that no one uses. Trump’s handlers seem to view him as being so far gone, they have to keep him in a box. And Trump, for his part, seems to be so far gone that his handlers can convince him of anything. Whatever reasons they’ve fed him for why he should do very few rallies and stay off Twitter, he’s swallowed it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Liable for Defaming Georgia Election Workers, Judge Says, Alan Feuer, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling means that a defamation case against Rudy Giuliani, stemming from his role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election, can proceed to a trial.

rudy giuliani mayorA federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, was liable for defaming two Georgia election workers by repeatedly declaring that they had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election.

The ruling by the judge, Beryl A. Howell, below left, in Federal District Court in Washington, means that the defamation case against Mr. Giuliani, a central figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his election loss, can proceed to trial on the beryl howellnarrow question of how much, if any, damages he will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case.

A lawyer for Mr. Giuliani declined to comment.

Judge Howell’s decision came a little more than a month after Mr. Giuliani conceded in two stipulations in the case that he had made false statements when he accused the election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections.

Mr. Giuliani later sought to explain that his stipulations were solely meant to get past a dispute with Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss about discovery evidence in the case and move toward dismissing the allegations outright. But Judge Howell, complaining that Mr. Giuliani’s stipulations “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” took the proactive step of declaring him liable for “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims.”

Politico, Judge rejects Navarro’s ‘executive privilege’ claim for defying Jan. 6 committee, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling paves the way for Navarro’s trial to begin next week on contempt-of-Congress charges.

politico CustomPeter Navarro, a former senior White House adviser to former President Donald Trump, failed to prove that Trump asserted executive privilege to block him from testifying to the House Jan. 6 select committee, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta keeps on track Navarro’s Sept. 5 contempt-of-Congress trial, where he will face jurors on two charges that he defied the committee’s subpoena for testimony and documents related to Navarro’s role in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.

Navarro has long claimed that Trump asserted privilege to block him from appearing before the Jan. 6 select committee in early 2022 when the panel subpoenaed him. But Navarro has never produced direct evidence to back that claim and, more importantly, Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly declined to say whether Navarro was accurately reflecting their conversations.

Mehta cited Trump’s refusal to corroborate Navarro’s claims as the most compelling reason that he found Trump did not, in fact, seek to block Navarro’s testimony to the select committee.

“There was no formal invocation of executive privilege by [Trump] after personal consideration nor authorization to Mr. Navarro to invoke privilege on his behalf,” Mehta said.

Navarro’s trial, which is likely to be brief, will head to jury selection on Tuesday. Mehta’s ruling means the former Trump trade adviser will not be able to argue to the jury that he believed Trump asserted privilege and effectively blocked him from complying with aspects of the select committee’s subpoena.

In addition, Mehta noted that even if he had shown Trump asserted privilege, the select committee had indicated it planned to ask him questions about topics that did not touch on his communications with Trump and therefore wouldn’t be covered by any privilege assertion.

Old Goats, Commentary: She's The Boss,.Jonathan Alter, Aug. 30-31, 2023. Judge Chutkan and Trump’s approaching Day of Judgment.

John Lauro was in a predicament Monday that bodes well for the survival of the Republic.

Lauro is Donald Trump’s lead attorney in the most important trial the former president faces — the one that will resolve whether he is guilty of masterminding a coup against the government and people of the United States.

In federal court, Lauro began talking trash in a loud and aggressive manner. He sounded like he was on a cable show, not standing before the bar of justice.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who next year will become one of the most famous American jurists in American history (even though the trial will not be televised), brought Lauro up short. Twice, she told him to “turn down the temperature.” Lauro finally comprehended that in this courtroom—in front of this judge— properly “representing” Trump will mean more than channeling his indignation. So he complied.

But it was too late. Lauro had asked for a 2026 trial date—a ludicrous bid—and refused to show up this week with a more reasonable proposal. Bad move. With the trial date now scheduled for March 4, 2024, the day before Super Tuesday, Lauro is caught between his client — who wants him to pursue a noisy political case in court — and Judge Chutkan, who made it clear that any such strategy will blow up in the Orange Menace’s face.

Lauro knows he must do it Trump’s way or be fired, which means he’ll put on a blustery MAGA defense in front of a District of Columbia jury that isn’t likely to buy it.

And so in the course of a few days, the notion of the Republican Party nominating a convicted felon for president has gone from liberal fantasy to strong possibility.

While Trump’s attorneys will file various motions to delay, legal experts this week are predicting that these motions will be quickly adjudicated — often by Chutkan herself. And there is no provision in federal law for a higher court to overturn a trial date.

Trump’s best hope — a change of venue — doesn’t seem likely. Efforts by insurrectionists to avoid being tried in the District of Columbia have all failed. So prepare for some momentous history to unfold next spring. The Day of Judgment is nearly upon us.

Politico, Joe Biggs, Proud Boys leader, gets 17-year prison sentence for role in Jan. 6 attack, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2023.  Biggs is the first of four Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy to face sentencing.

politico CustomJoseph Biggs, a Florida leader of the Proud Boys on Jan. 6, 2021, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiring to derail the peaceful transfer of power — the second-longest sentence of the hundreds handed down since the violent assault on the Capitol.

“That day broke our tradition of peacefully transferring power,” said U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly as he delivered his sentence. “The mob brought an entire branch of government to heel.”

Biggs is the first of four Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy to face sentencing. The others include Philadelphia Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl, Seattle Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean and former national Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who will all be sentenced between Thursday and early next week.

A fifth member of the group, Dominic Pezzola, who was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other Jan. 6 felonies, faces sentencing on Friday. He smashed a Senate-wing window of the Capitol with a stolen police riot shield, triggering the mob’s breach of the building.

Kelly, an appointee of Donald Trump, applied a “terrorism” enhancement to Biggs’ sentence, a distinction that so far has only been applied to members of the Oath Keepers similarly convicted of seditious conspiracy. Kelly spoke at length about his decision to apply that label and how it compared to other, more stereotypical acts of terrorism that involve mass casualties or bombings.

“While blowing up a building in some city somewhere is a very bad act, the nature of the constitutional moment we were in that day is something that is so sensitive that it deserves a significant sentence,” Kelly said.

The sentence is an important marker in the fraught aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack. Prosecutors, who had asked for a 33-year sentence for Biggs, said he and his co-conspirators were the driving force behind the violence that unfolded that day, facilitating breaches at multiple police lines and helping the crowd advance into the building itself. A jury convicted the five men of multiple conspiracies in June, after a four-month trial that recounted their actions in painstaking detail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough urged Kelly to severely punish Biggs as a way to deter others who might consider similar actions in the future aimed at disrupting the government. The fear and effect on society caused by Jan. 6 , he said, is “no different than the act of a spectacular bombing of a building.”

“There’s a reason why we will hold our collective breath as we approach future elections,” McCullough said. “We never gave it a second thought before Jan. 6. … They pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis.”

“It’s almost seductive in how tangible a future act like this could be,” the prosecutor added. “It doesn’t take the step of amassing bomb-making equipment to bring the United States government and our society to the brink of a constitutional crisis. It just takes slick propaganda and an environment where you encourage people to basically say, ‘It’s us against them,’ and we’re going to use force to achieve our political ends.”

Prosecutors say the group amassed a force of 200 hand-selected Proud Boys and marched them to the Capitol, where many of them skirmished with police or removed barriers intended to keep the crowd at bay. Nordean and Biggs were convicted of dismantling a black metal fence that was one of police’s last obstacles before the crowd reached the building.

Biggs, who didn’t take the stand during the trial, spoke for the first time about the charges as he pleaded with Kelly for a lenient sentence. He said he had withdrawn from politics and refused to engage in it with other Jan. 6 defendants detained at the D.C. jail where he’s been housed for more than two years. Biggs said he had always planned to quit the Proud Boys after Jan. 6 to focus on his daughter.

“I know that I have to be punished,” he said, but begged Kelly to allow him to “take my daughter to school one day and pick her up.”

The Proud Boys’ trajectory toward Jan. 6 became a major focus of the trial. The group, which had become infamous for street fighting with left-wing activists, had aligned itself with Trump, who famously told the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate with rival Joe Biden.

Prosecutors say the group feared that if Trump lost the election, they would become marginalized and quickly embraced his false claims of election fraud. The group attended two pro-Trump marches in Washington, D.C., that were marred by street violence, including a Dec. 14 event in which four Proud Boys were stabbed outside a bar. That violence fueled the group’s fury at police in Washington, prosecutors said, which the members displayed openly on Jan. 6.

When Trump told supporters on Dec. 19, 2020 to amass in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, Tarrio and the Proud Boys leaders quickly responded and began assembling a new chapter that they described as a group of more disciplined and obedient men who would follow their orders. That group, which they dubbed the “Ministry of Self-Defense,” became the core of the group that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Biggs’ attorney Norm Pattis argued that too harsh a sentence would erode trust in government and have a similarly perverse result: making Americans fearful of attending protests.

“I think we’re an ongoing threat to ourselves in this republic right now,” he said. “Just how, how we are in a situation where a presidential candidate, indicted four times by state and federal officials, is in a statistical dead heat with the incumbent. … The government’s suggestion that [Biggs] is some domestic threat, he’s going to go out and make things worse — you just can’t get much worse than that.”

Aug. 29

 djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Sets Trial Date in March for Trump’s Federal Election Case, Alan Feuer and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected efforts by Donald Trump’s legal team to postpone the trial until 2026.

tanya chutkan newerThe federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election set a trial date on Monday for early March, rebuffing Mr. Trump’s proposal to push it off until 2026.

The decision by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to start the trial on March 4 amounted to an early victory for prosecutors, who had asked for Jan. 2. But it potentially brought the proceeding into conflict with the three other trials that Mr. Trump is facing, underscoring the extraordinary complexities of his legal situation and the intersection of the prosecutions with his campaign to return to the White House.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has proposed taking Mr. Trump to trial on charges of tampering with the election in that state on March 4 as well. Another case, in Manhattan, in which Mr. Trump has been accused of more than 30 felonies connected to hush-money payments to a porn actress in the run-up the 2016 election, has been scheduled to go to trial on March 25.

Justice Department log circularAnd if the trial in Washington lasts more than 11 weeks, it could bump up against Mr. Trump’s other federal trial, on charges of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. That trial is scheduled to begin in Florida in late May.

The March 4 date set by Judge Chutkan for the federal election case at a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington is the day before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses.

Judge Chutkan said that while she understood Mr. Trump had both other trial dates scheduled next year and, at the same time, was running for the country’s highest office, she was not going to let the intersection of his legal troubles and his political campaign get in the way of setting a date.

“Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule,” Judge Chutkan said, adding that “there is a societal interest to a speedy trial.”

Mr. Trump has now been indicted by grand juries four times in four places — Washington, New York, Atlanta and Florida — and prosecutors have been jockeying for position. All of them are trying to find time for their trials not only in relation to one another, but also against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s crowded calendar as the candidate leading the field for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meadows Testifies in Bid to Move Georgia Trump Case to Federal Court, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Meadows, a former White House chief of staff, told a judge he believed his actions regarding the 2020 election fell within the scope of his job as a federal official.

mark meadows small customA battle over whether to move the Georgia racketeering case against Donald J. Trump and his allies to federal court began in earnest on Monday, when Mark Meadows, right, a former White House chief of staff, testified in favor of such a move before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Under questioning by his own lawyers and by prosecutors, Mr. Meadows stated emphatically on the witness stand that he believed that his actions detailed in the indictment fell within the scope of his duties as chief of staff. But he also appeared unsure of himself at times, saying often that he could not recall details of events in late 2020 and early 2021. “My wife will tell you sometimes that I forget to take out the trash,” he told Judge Steve C. Jones of United States District Court.

At another point, he asked whether he was properly complying with the judge’s instructions, saying, “I’m in enough trouble as it is.”

The effort to shift the case to federal court is the first major legal fight since the indictment of Mr. Trump, Mr. Meadows and 17 others was filed by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga. The indictment charges Mr. Trump and his allies with interfering in the 2020 presidential election in the state. Mr. Meadows is one of several defendants in the case who are trying to move it to federal court; any decision on the issue by a judge could apply to all 19 defendants.Lawyers for Mark Meadows made their bid to a judge to move the Georgia case against Donald Trump and his allies to federal court, Aug. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meadows testifies in Atlanta; March trial date for Trump in D.C., Devlin Barrett, Maegan Vazquez, Perry Stein and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has scheduled Donald Trump’s D.C. trial on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election for March 4, 2024.

At a separate hearing in Atlanta, Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been testifying for hours about Trump’s efforts to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia; the purpose of that hearing is to see if Meadows can move his state-level indictment to federal court. Trump is a front-runner in the Republican 2024 presidential contest, and the D.C. trial’s starting date is the day before the Super Tuesday primaries.

Here’s what to know

  • Trump is the only person indicted in the D.C. case so far, but his indictment alleges he enlisted six unnamed conspirators in his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory and hang on to power.
  • Trump is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. He has been indicted in four cases — all while leading the Republican field in the 2024 presidential nomination race. He has denied wrongdoing in each case.
  • Meadows, right, is one of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in a separate, state-level indictment related to efforts t